New York brings back mask mandate as cases spike: COVID-19 updates

December 12, 2021
Omicron variant in more states; delta surge continues: COVID updates
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Masks will be required starting Monday in all indoor public places across New York unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement for entry.

The mandates come as COVID-19 cases spiked statewide more than 43% since Thanksgiving, straining the health care system amid staffing shortages, Gov. Kathy Hochul said. New cases have been rising steadily across most of the nation in recent weeks.

New York’s requirements extend to both patrons and staff, with businesses facing a maximum $1,000 fine per violation. The measure will remain in place until Jan. 15, after which the state will re-evaluate.

New York City is also tightening requirements. Beginning Tuesday, children ages 5 to 11 will be required to have proof of vaccination for most indoor activities in the city. And starting Dec. 27, city residents ages 12 and older participating in public indoor activities will be required to show proof they have been fully vaccinated.

The city is also mandating all private sector employees be vaccinated by year’s end.

“Omicron is here, it’s all over the country,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “This variant moves fast. We have to move faster.”

Also in the news:

►Cornell University said it found almost 300 new COVID cases among students tested Friday and Saturday, including some of the new omicron variant. Most cases involved off-campus student social gatherings where masking and other public health measures were not followed, the school said.

►A New Jersey jail is under lockdown this week because of a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 30 people, the third such outbreak at the correctional facility since the pandemic began nearly two years ago. 

►Navy Cmdr. Lucian Kins has been fired from his job as the executive officer of a warship because he refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine and refused to be tested for the coronavirus.

►Amid a rising number of cases in Japan of the omicron variant of coronavirus, all ski jumping World Cup events there this season were canceled Saturday.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 49.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 797,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 269.6 million cases and 5.3 million deaths. More than 201.6 million Americans – 60.7% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC

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

43 omicron cases identified in US in first week of December

The CDC said it identified 43 lab-confirmed cases of the omicron variant in 22 states between Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. The variant was first identified in late November and reported by South African health agencies. It quickly spread globally, prompting new travel restrictions and prevention methods. Of the first cluster of cases identified the U.S., just one resulted in hospitalization and no deaths were reported, the CDC said in a report. The country saw its first identified case of the newest “variant of concern” Dec. 1.

Since then, the variant has been located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

More than half of the identified variant cases were in people age 18-39. Seventy-nine percent of those infected had been vaccinated prior to two weeks before testing positive for the variant. Despite low hospitalization and no deaths so far, the CDC is urging vaccination, mask-wearing and distancing to prevent spread

Sen. Ron Johnson: Mouthwash can kill COVID-19. Experts: Get vaccinated.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said mouthwash is one way to protect from COVID-19, but the manufacturer of Listerine and medical experts say studies of the idea haven’t yet concluded it’s a proven antidote. Johnson in a town hall event on Wednesday said a “standard gargle” of mouthwash “has been proven to kill the coronavirus” or may reduce viral replication to help protect from a serious surge of COVID-19 cases. 

“Why not try all these things?” he said, including mouthwash in a list of alternatives to COVID-19 vaccines and face masks, like taking supplements of vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc.

In a statement to the Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, Johnson said he was not suggesting vitamins or mouthwash was a replacement for COVID-19 vaccines. Johnson regularly promotes unproven remedies for COVID-19 and expresses doubt in proven ways to combat the pandemic like vaccines. Ali Mokdad, chief strategy officer of population health at the University of Washington, said Johnson’s suggestion to turn to vitamins and mouthwash “is not appropriate for any virus.”

-Molly Beck, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Contributing: The Associated Press

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