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By Siddharth Cavale
(Reuters) -Oreo cookies maker Mondelez International Inc and drug-store chain CVS Health joined a growing list of U.S. firms to put off their return-to-office plans as COVID-19 cases surge across the country due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
The new coronavirus variant has become the dominant strain in the United States, accounting for 73% of cases and prompting some cities and states to impose new measures aimed at protecting the public.
A Mondelez spokesperson said "concern and uncertainty" caused by the Omicron variant has led the company to postpone the planned reopening of its global headquarters in West Fulton Market, Chicago to a later date from Jan. 10.
CVS has also decided to delay plans for its U.S. corporate employees to return to a hybrid work format on Jan. 10, spokesperson Erin Shields Britt said in an e-mailed statement.
Earlier this year, CVS, which employs nearly 300,000 workers in the United States, began requiring COVID‑19 vaccinations for clinical and corporate employees. Britt said CVS has now extended the policy to all employees.
"The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority as we continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and emerging variants," she said.
While the rapid rise of infections is once again disrupting life across the country, canceling events from Broadway shows to professional sports, President Joe Biden said Americans would be able to travel and enjoy the holidays as long as they are inoculated and follow masking guidelines.
Mondelez headquarters would remain open to fully vaccinated employees on a voluntary basis, with plans for a full reopening to be announced at a later date, spokesperson Tracey Noe said in an email.
The company requires employees at its offices in Chicago, Miami and East Hanover, New Jersey to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment.
In 2019, Mondelez announced it was shifting its global headquarters from Deerfield, Illinois to Chicago's Fulton Market neighborhood, and said at the time it would relocate 400 employees to the new offices in April 2020.
It was not immediately clear how many employees currently work at the location.
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Ananya Rajesh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Anil D'Silva)