COVID cases spike amid omicron, Biden to address nation: Updates

January 4, 2022
3,000 flights disrupted today; new NYC mayor keeps edicts: COVID news


President Joe Biden will address the American public Tuesday about the omicron variant as COVID-19 cases continue multiplying to record levels following the holidays. 

Nearly 1 in 100 Americans have tested positive for the virus in just the last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Over one million cases were reported in the U.S. on Monday alone, although many of the cases were likely backlogged from the New Year’s weekend. 

While the holidays have likely muddled daily COVID-19 case counts, the spike in coronavirus cases nationwide shows a clear trend of yet another wave of the virus — and it’s likely that not all cases are being reported due to at-home COVID-19 tests. Just before the new year, Biden put $137 million toward expanding production of at-home tests.

Before addressing the nation, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with the White House COVID-19 Response Team.

They’ll be briefed on resources being sent to states and local communities to help with staffing needs and hospital capacity, expanding access to COVID-19 treatments, and the latest data on the omicron variant.

Also in the news:

► Facebook barred Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from posting or commenting on the social media platform for 24 hours after sharing misinformation about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.    

► A winter storm that hit the mid-Atlantic on Monday, combined with pandemic-caused shortages of airline workers, pushed flight delays and cancellations to a holiday-season high. Flights to, from, and within the U.S. on Monday saw over 10,000 delays or cancellations according to FlightAware.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 56 million confirmed COVID-19 cases — or one for every six people in the country — and more than 827,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 292 million cases and 5.4 million deaths. More than 205.8 million Americans — 62% — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC

📘 What we’re reading: In anticipation of steep challenges reopening schools amid an omicron-driven surge of COVID-19 infections, districts plan to ramp up coronavirus testing when classes resume in January. Leaders are still scrambling to work out the details — leaving big questions about safety and logistics.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

COVID-positive employees can work after Rhode Island hospital declares staffing ‘crisis’

A state-run hospital in Rhode Island has declared a staffing crisis and notified employees with “mild symptoms” of the virus that causes COVID-19 that they can work.

A memo obtained on Monday by The Providence Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, advised employees that “we have officially notified [the Rhode Island Department of Health] that we are in such a staffing situation.”

The memo went out on New Year’s Day, at a point when the Department of Health was publicly stating that no hospital in Rhode Island had declared the need to bring back infected employees.

“No, no facility has reported to us yet that they are in a position that requires COVID-19 positive healthcare providers to be working,” Health Department spokesman Joseph Wendelken told The Journal over the weekend. “If a facility does reach that point, that information would be posted publicly so patients and families would be aware,”

On Monday, Wendelken told The Journal that information was accurate then, but fluid. 

Lynn Blais, president of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals, representing more than 7,000 nurses and health professionals, said her union “is unequivocally opposed” to the state’s decision to allow COVID-19 positive healthcare workers to work. 

“First and foremost, we believe that it’s critically important to ensure a healthy workforce in which healthcare workers are not spreading the virus to other workers and, more importantly, to at-risk patients who are susceptible to the most harmful effects of the virus,” she said.

— Katherine Gregg, The Providence Journal

COVID-19 cases, test shortages are closing schools across the country

A majority of schools opened in-person Monday for their spring semester start, but a growing number have shifted abruptly to remote learning again amid the omicron-fueled surge in COVID-19 infections and subsequent staffing shortages.

Public and scientific sentiment is on the side of in-person learning, and parent groups nationwide called Monday for schools to stay open. But districts in and around Detroit, Atlanta, Newark, New Jersey, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well as individual schools elsewhere, nonetheless reverted to virtual learning for days or weeks, mostly because of staff shortages due to illness or quarantine. 

“We recognize there may be some bumps in the road, especially this upcoming week when superintendents, who are working really hard across the country, are getting calls saying that some of their schools may have 5 to 10% of their staff not available,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on Fox News Sunday.

Some districts that aimed to increase rapid testing for COVID-19 as a layered mitigation tactic are also struggling to secure the necessary supplies.

“There definitely is a problem right now with testing supplies, and that certainly does impact mitigation,” Linda Mendonca, president of the National Association of School Nurses, said Monday. Read more here.

— Erin Richards, USA TODAY

Tested positive for COVID-19? Do you need to isolate or quarantine? 

Testing positive for COVID-19 starts a confusing, disruptive and at times frightening process – one that millions of Americans will likely go through in the coming weeks.

There is a difference between isolation and quarantine. Quarantine means keeping someone who was in close contact with someone who has COVID away from others. Isolation means keeping someone who is sick or tested positive for COVID-19 without symptoms away from others, even in their own home, according to the CDC.

If you are fully vaccinated you do not need to quarantine unless you have symptoms. But the CDC says isolating is a necessary step if you test positive whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, and whether you have symptoms or feel fine.

The CDC in late December shortened the time it recommends people isolate, saying: “People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.” 

Read the CDC’s updated guidance on isolating and quarantining.

Contributing: The Associated Press


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