Covid-19 live updates: Omicron will infect ‘just about everybody,’ Fauci says


imageThe omicron coronavirus variant will infect “just about everybody” regardless of vaccination status, top U.S.infectious-disease expert Anthony S.Fauci said Tuesday.But those who have been vaccinated will “very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well,” and avoid hospitalization and death, said Fauci, speaking at a virtual “ fireside chat ” with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.Fauci also said in a Senate hearing the same day that the unvaccinated are 20 times likelier to die, 17 times likelier to be hospitalized and 10 times likelier to be infected than the vaccinated.“Those who are still unvaccinated are going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of this,” he said, referring to the omicron surge.“And although it is less severe on a case-by-case basis, when you quantitatively have so many people who are infected, a fraction of them … are going to die,” he said.A World Health Organization official on Tuesday predicted that the omicron variant will have infected more than half of the population in the European region in the next six to eight weeks, if current trends hold.

Here’s how fast the omicron variant is spreading around the world.Here’s what to know A health official gathering information from people at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Houston last week discovered what appeared to be a child inside the trunk of one of the vehicles.The driver of the vehicle, Sarah Beam, a 41-year-old high school teacher, confirmed that her 13-year-old son was in the trunk, according to the health official.

Beam said her son had tested positive for the coronavirus, so she put him in the trunk to avoid exposure on her way to the site to have him tested again, the official said.Beam is facing a felony charge of endangering a child, according to court records.On Sunday, she was released on a $1,500 bond.Beam did not immediately return a message seeking comment late Monday, and court records do not list her attorney.She is due in court Thursday.

Advertisement Updates continue below advertisement A top Democrat says lawmakers who ignore mask mandate should sit in ‘isolation boxes’ in House chamber Return to menu By Jaclyn Peiser 9:51 a.m.Link copied Link

As the omicron variant threatens the halls of Congress and some GOP lawmakers continue entering the House chamber maskless, despite racking up tens of thousands of dollars in fines, Assistant House Speaker Katherine M.

Clark (D-Mass.) suggested a more tangible solution to thwart the rule-breaking: “isolation boxes.”In a letter to the House sergeant-at-arms on Tuesday, Clark requested that lawmakers who flout the mask mandate be cordoned off in a plexiglass-enclosed section in the House gallery to help protect other members from exposure to the coronavirus .“This commonsense step will not only protect our dedicated House staff from Members who refuse to follow House rules, but it will also allow those Members to continue to fulfill their constitutional duty to vote on matters before the House,” Clark wrote.

Advertisement Updates continue below advertisement New Orleans revives mask mandate ahead of Mardi Gras Return to menu By María Paúl 9:33 a.m.Link copied Link

New Orleans will reinstitute an indoor mask mandate in an attempt to curb the highly contagious omicron variant as the city prepares for Mardi Gras visitors.Starting 6 a.m.

Wednesday, face coverings will be required in all indoor public spaces, including stores, offices and restaurants, the city’s health director, Jennifer Avegno, announced in a news conference Tuesday.

Avegno said the mandate would also apply to participants in the annual Mardi Gras balls that take place in the city.Mardi Gras — also known as Fat Tuesday — falls on March 1 this year.But parades, which draw large crowds of locals and visitors to city streets, begin in the last two weeks of February.Celebrations last year were largely canceled because of covid-19 — especially after the festivities in 2020 turned into a “superspreader” event .This year, however, officials are determined to proceed with Mardi Gras events by enforcing vaccine and testing requirements.Starting on Feb.1, everyone above the age of 5 has to show proof of being fully vaccinated or have a negative test to enter restaurants, bars and other businesses.“We are on track for the return of Mardi Gras in 2022!!” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted in October .“Unless we see a dramatic turn for the worse in our COVID numbers, Mardi Gras will roll once again!”The city became an early omicron hot spot, with the variant being detected on Dec.

3 — just two days after the first case was confirmed in the United States.Since then, infections have increased starkly while daily hospitalization numbers in Louisiana have grown in three weeks “by a factor of seven,” Avegno said.With Mardi Gras usually bringing a spike in party-related medical emergencies, Avegno said there are concerns about hospitals becoming too strained.“We are going to be starting off at a much higher threshold,” she said.“That’s why it behooves us right now to take every step we can.”

The White House has appointed epidemiologist Tom Inglesby as its new coronavirus testing coordinator, responsible for building on testing capacity in the United States as the omicron variant spreads rapidly through the country.The testing capacity in the United States has already grown to about 300 million a month, up from 50 million in September, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, in announcing Inglesby’s appointment.“We’re going to keep moving at this speed, and faster, to get volume up on a monthly basis,” Inglesby, who is on leave from his post as director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Bloomberg News .The news comes as demand for both PCR and rapid antigen coronavirus tests has intensified, and when many people have found it difficult or impossible to find testing as coronavirus cases surge.“Obviously, it has not been enough, but omicron has put demand on testing all around the world,” Inglesby told Bloomberg about testing availability in the United States.The White House this week promised to provide 10 million free coronavirus tests each month to schools, in an effort to keep in-person schooling open.

Global health experts are casting doubt on the strategy of giving people coronavirus vaccine boosters every few months, warning there’s not enough data to support the unsustainable policy — especially given the extreme demand in many parts of the world for first shots.The European Union’s drug regulator is also questioning whether repeated boosters could risk overloading people’s immune systems.While one booster dose is needed to extend vaccine protection over time and additional doses can be part of contingency plans, “repeated vaccinations within short intervals would not represent a sustainable long-term strategy,” the European Medicines Agency’s head of vaccines, Marco Cavaleri, said during a briefing Tuesday.

He said the regulator was waiting for more information to better understand how vaccines interact with the omicron variant and whether adapted shots would be necessary.World Health Organization experts echoed some of those concerns , saying in a statement that “a vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate.”Health experts have said a combination of two vaccine doses along with a booster provides protection against severe disease, including from omicron.A few countries including the United States, Chile and Greece are offering a fourth vaccine dose to people with weakened immune systems, while Israel was the first to give the shot to anyone 60 and older whose last dose was at least four months ago.Israeli officials had predicted “ the world will follow us ,” but some key experts describe the move as premature.“Booster after booster in a small number of countries will not end the pandemic while billions remain completely unprotected,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month.He also warned the booster campaigns could give the virus opportunity to mutate by diverting doses to mainly richer countries with already high vaccination rates, rather than others still waiting for their first shots.“No country can boost its way out of the pandemic,” he said.

MEXICO CITY — Things were looking bad for the Holland America cruise liner as it glided up Mexico’s Pacific coast just before New Year’s Day.

Twenty-eight crew members had tested positive for the coronavirus.Two of the country’s ports had refused to let the ship dock.Then it reached the seaside city of Guaymas — and a warm welcome from the government.Mexico has declared tourists should be allowed to embark from such ships, with quarantine or medical care for those with signs of infection.“Our country maintains its policy of solidarity,” the government said in a statement .As the coronavirus swept the globe, nervous countries imposed bans on flights, cruise ships and border crossings.But from the beginning, Mexico has stayed open.Radically open.New arrivals here aren’t required to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test, or to quarantine.

When the omicron variant was detected, the United States slapped a temporary ban on visitors from eight African countries .Mexico didn’t stop a single flight.The government estimates covid-19 has caused more than 450,000 deaths.Yet perhaps no other large country so acutely represents the difficult trade-offs involved in trying to slow the spread of the virus.Mexico has tens of millions of poor citizens and an economy dependent on trade and tourism.It shares the world’s busiest land border.

With omicron now taking off, it’s one of many nations asking: How much can you seal yourself off?

Advertisement Updates continue below advertisement South Korea approves Novavax coronavirus vaccine Return to menu By Andrew Jeong 7:31 a.m.Link copied Link

SEOUL — South Korea’s drug regulator on Wednesday granted final authorization to Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine for use in adults, health officials said in a news release , making it the fifth coronavirus vaccine available in the country.Though the authorization is conditioned on the Maryland-based company’s submission of the final results of clinical studies regarding its vaccine, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine has received “final” approval in Korea.The vaccine, which will be produced locally, is effective and safe, the regulator said.The AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines have been in use in South Korea, where 84 percent of the country’s 52 million people are fully vaccinated.Pfizer-BioNTech’s has been most commonly used, according to government data.

Advertisement Updates continue below advertisement Australian TV anchors curse Djokovic, who appears to admit breaking isolation rules Return to menu By Rachel Pannett 7:02 a.m.Link copied Link

They said what many Australians were thinking, and in a very Australian way: salty, outspoken and definitely not suitable for family television.A “hot mic” moment in which two television anchors sharply criticized tennis star Novak Djokovic and Australian officials for their involvement in the standoff over his arrival in Melbourne for the Australian Open was widely circulated online Wednesday.The foul-mouthed conversation, apparently recorded as they prepared for a nightly news bulletin on Tuesday, was not intended for public viewing.

Seven, the TV network, said Wednesday it has launched an investigation into how a “private conversation between two colleagues” was leaked.Separately Wednesday, Djokovic appeared to admit breaking Serbia’s coronavirus management policies by meeting a journalist for an interview in December, while he was supposed to be isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Advertisement Updates continue below advertisement Chicago Mayor Lightfoot tests positive for coronavirus; schools reopen Return to menu By Ellen Francis and Andrew Jeong 6:29 a.m.Link copied Link

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said she had “cold-like symptoms” after contracting the coronavirus and would follow pandemic guidelines.“I am experiencing cold-like symptoms but otherwise feel fine which I credit to being vaccinated and boosted,” she wrote in a tweet Tuesday.A growing list of public figures including lawmakers and governors have been infected in recent weeks as a surge fueled by the omicron variant sweeps the United States.Lightfoot’s announcement came just before Chicago schools were set to reopen Wednesday, as a standoff ended between the city and the teachers union that led to the cancellation of classes for 340,000 students in the nation’s third-largest district.The deal they reached expands measures such as testing and contact tracing, as well outlining criteria for providing KN95 masks and allowing unpaid leave for employees at higher risk of severe illness from covid-19.

NEW DELHI — As the omicron variant blazed through the Indian capital this week, Naresh Gautam’s intensive care ward, inside one of India’s largest public hospitals, went from half empty Monday afternoon to almost full by Tuesday morning.But the steady stream of new patients in his ward did not worry Gautam as much as who was missing: nearly half of his colleagues, who had tested positive for the coronavirus.Eight months after a delta surge ravaged India, a shortage of medical staff is posing a looming problem as authorities seek to avoid a repeat of last spring, when the health-care system buckled, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

While health-care workers and government officials say they have learned lessons and have prepared far more hospital beds and oxygen tanks ahead of the current wave, hospitals are facing a pinch in personnel as authorities in several cities begin a soft lockdown to slow transmission rates.


Key update White House promises schools 10 million free coronavirus tests per month Return to menu By Laura Meckler and Dan Diamond 5:17 a.m.

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The White House is promising to provide 10 million free coronavirus tests each month for schools, aiming to help keep classes in person at a time when testing across the country is uneven and, in some cases, virtually nonexistent.President Biden has pushed schools to open and stay open for in-person learning, mindful of the academic and social-emotional damage wrought by remote learning, as well as the political risks among frustrated parents who crave normalcy and fully functioning schools.Last year, the administration said it was providing $10 billion for school-based testing.Nonetheless, before the omicron variant began racing across the country, relatively few districts even attempted testing for students and employees absent symptoms of covid-19.


Key update Key coronavirus updates from around the world Return to menu By News Services and Staff Reports 4:59 a.m.Link copied Link

Here’s what to know about the top coronavirus stories around the globe.

TORONTO — For several months, Quebec has required residents to show proof of coronavirus vaccination to enter venues such as gyms, bars and restaurants.Last week, it expanded the list of spaces to include government-run liquor and cannabis stores.Now, Premier François Legault is considering a novel way to boost vaccination numbers and slow a growth in hospitalizations that has severely strained the health-care system: a “health contribution” — or fee — imposed on unvaccinated adults.“The vaccine is the key to fight the virus,” Legault said at a news conference Tuesday.He provided few details about how his proposal would work or when it could take effect.The premier did not specify the fee amount but said it would be “significant” and probably exceed $100.Residents who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons would be exempt.As of Jan.

7, more than 78 percent of people in hard-hit Quebec were fully vaccinated, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada .Provincial officials have said that although the unvaccinated make up a small percentage of the population, they are overrepresented in hospitalization figures.“Right now, these people put a very important burden on our health-care network,” Legault said.“I think it’s normal that a majority of the population is asking that there be a consequence.”He said that the province was seeking legal advice on the plan and that more information would be available in the “coming weeks.”No other Canadian province or territory has announced similar measures.Some nations, including Greece, have slapped fines on some of the unvaccinated.

Students from the Oakland Unified School District have threatened to strike and not attend in-person classes unless the district reverts to remote learning or complies with a list of health and testing demands that include KN95 masks for each student, more testing and expanded outdoor space for lunchtime.“There’s a lot of concerns regarding safety measures and how to protect us from COVID-19, especially the highly contagious Omicron variant.We must go back to distance learning until the cases go down again,” reads the online petition, which as of late Tuesday was signed by more than 900 Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) students.If the district doesn’t respond to their demands, the students said they would strike “until we get what we need to be safe.”Oakland students gave the district one week, until Monday, to meet the demands before boycotting classes the following day and holding an in-person strike outside district headquarters on Jan.21, according to the online petition..

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