America’s tally of new cases ticked down slightly for the first time since Christmas, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
The country reported 5.23 million cases in week ending Tuesday, down from 5.28 million cases in the seven-day period ending Monday. The earlier tally likely included tests deferred into that week from a long holiday weekend.
U.S. case counts are up 34% from a week ago, and on Tuesday 47 states reported higher case counts than a week earlier; 21 states set records for cases in a week; 48 states reported more COVID-19 patients in hospital beds; and 41 states reported more COVID-19 patients in intensive-care units, data from Johns Hopkins and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show.
At the latest rate the country is reporting about 8.6 cases per second, or 750,000 cases per day. That’s more than double the highest pace of cases seen in any previous wave of coronavirus.
– Mike Stucka
Also in the news:
►West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has tested positive for COVID-19 and is “experiencing moderate symptoms,” the governor tweeted Tuesday night. Gov. Justice is fully vaccinated and boosted.
►Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19′s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain. The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect.
►The United States is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade, largely as a result of a drop in blood drives due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Red Cross said.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 62 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 842,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 313 million cases and nearly 5.5 million deaths. More than 207 million Americans – 62.6% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we’re reading: Omicron hit the U.S. hard and fast in the past month, but modeling by several universities shows the wave of infections may have crested — and hospitalizations and deaths should follow.
The White House announced plans Wednesday to send an additional 5 million rapid tests to schools each month, at no cost, as some districts struggle to return to in-person learning amid a record surge in COVID-19 infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will work with states to submit requests for school districts in need of additional rapid tests. Once the initial requests are submitted, the first shipments will be delivered later this month, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.
The Department of Health and Human Services will also expand lab capacity to support up to 5 million additional PCR tests per month. Schools can gain access to the additional PCR tests by submitting requests to three federally-funded regional providers that offer testing materials, supplies, and lab results through four regional hubs.
The Oregon Department of Justice and the Better Business Bureau have launched investigations into an Illinois-based company that runs COVID-19 testing sites across the nation.
The Oregon Department of Justice opened a civil investigation into the Center for COVID Control this week for Unfair Trade Practices Act violations, spokesperson Kristina Edmunson said.
The company operates testing sites across the nation – some as “pop-ups” run out of sheds and mobile storage units. Many Americans have rushed to the sites amid a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant and a national shortage of tests. But dozens of people nationwide have reached out to USA TODAY expressing concerns about the company.
Many said they discovered the sites by searching for nearby testing options on Google and were surprised by how the sites were run. Some said they received their test results later than promised or not at all.
At least two people filed complaints about the Center for COVID Control testing sites to the Oregon Department of Justice in October, USA TODAY reported last week. The individuals expressed concerns about the safety and legitimacy of the sites, alleging the sites offer “fake testing.” One said they were given a test labeled as having expired in June of 2021.
— Grace Hauck, USA TODAY
This means nearly 1 million COVID-19 tests that the federal government considered expired will now be made available to Floridians who have been struggling to find tests.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried alleged in late December that Gov. Ron DeSantis stockpiled COVID-19 tests that were “set to expire imminently,” despite the high demand for such tests as omicron surged.
During a news conference with DeSantis Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida, Kevin Guthrie, the director of the state Division of Emergency Management, confirmed that Florida had between 800,000 and 1 million COVID-19 tests that expired between Dec. 26-30.
According to Guthrie, they had originally expired in September, but the state received a three-month extension on those test kits from the manufacturer and federal regulators.
— Frank Gluck, Fort Myers News-Press
Contributing: The Associated Press