Doctor Anthony Fauci, a Friday news conference speaker, urged Americans get their COVID-19 vaccination booster shots. The booster boost increases “the amount of neutralizing antibody against all variants.” 

While there are many unanswered questions about omicron health officials will know more about the transmission and severity of the variant in the next few weeks, said Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser.

Meanwhile, “CDC is providing support to enhance and streamline genomic sequencing nationally, and is expanding surveillance of international travelers,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. 

But while the world is focused on omicron, Walensky said “we should remember that 99.9% of cases in the country right now are from delta.” Walensky said that the anti-omicron virus measures, such as vaccinations and mask wear, can also help to curb the spread.

She stated that “our recommendations to protect against COVID are the same, regardless of which variant”,

World Health Organization officials echoed this sentiment at a Friday news conference from the Philippines.

“The positive news in all of this is that none of the information we have currently about omicron suggests we need to change the directions of our response,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

“But every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” Kasai added.

What symptoms are associated with omicron variant? All you need to know about coronavirus strains

Understanding omicron:What the US’s latest coronavirus variant is doing to spread and mutate

You can also find the latest news here:

►As the emergence of omicron raises concerns over the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in February, Zhao Weidong, spokesperson for the organizing committee, told reporters at a Friday news conference that Olympic participants will live and compete in a bubble while only Chinese residents who have been both vaccinated and tested will be allowed at venues.

►Oklahoma’s attorney general sued the Biden administration Thursday over a requirement that all National Guard members receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

►Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has been cleared from the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols and will be available to play in Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the league announced.

►Workers covered by existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in New Mexico will be required to get booster shots as well, beginning in January. The state Department of Health amended its public health order requiring workers at schools, hospitals and congregate care facilities and the governor’s office to be vaccinated, adding the additional dose to existing requirements.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 785,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global summaries: Over 264 million COVID-19 cases, and more than 5 million deaths. More than 197 million Americans — roughly 59.6% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: The threat of omicron is underscoring the importance of vaccination and boosters against COVID-19, especially for people of color who have disproportionately suffered during the pandemic.

For the most recent news, keep checking this page. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Omicron coronavirus variants found in California, Nebraska and other US states

The first known case of the omicron variant was detected in the U.S. on Wednesday, in San Francisco, California. The variant with a high level of mutation has also been found in many other states.

According to county public health, Thursday was the second confirmed case of omicron in California. This time, it happened in Los Angeles County. The victim, who had traveled to South Africa in the last month, likely caught the virus from another California resident. The omicron variant was found in at least five New York City residents. New York Governor Kathy Hochul spoke at a news conference on Thursday.

She added that a man from Minnesota had been to an anime convention in Manhattan late November and was infected by the variant.

“This isn’t cause for alarm. We knew this variant was coming and we have the tools to stop the spread,” Hochul said on Twitter.

“Get your vaccine. Get your booster. Your mask is required.

Officials have also confirmed another case in an American woman who traveled recently to South Africa. Officials from the state of Hawaii confirmed the same variant in an individual who was not vaccinated and had no travel history.

Friday, Nebraska health officials confirmed six people tested positive for the omicron variant. Officials believe one person contracted the virus on a trip to Nigeria. Five other people were also in the household of the first victim. They were all vaccinated except for one.

The variant was also reported in Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Global vaccine equity:Advocates who have worked for vaccine equity worldwide won’t be surprised that Omicron was mentioned.

South Africa sees ‘steep rise in infections’

South Africa has seen a “steep rise in infections” in the past seven days, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a Friday news conference, adding that the over 2,500 new cases last Thursday when the omicron variant was first detected has jumped to over 11,500 this Thursday. All districts are seeing increases in cases with rapid increases and hospitalizations in Gauteng, a province in northeastern South Africa.

“While we are still dealing with few days and limited data, indications are that this variant is indeed highly transmissible,” Phaahla said.

Phaahla acknowledged that there were cases where vaccinated persons have contracted infections, but most have caused mild illness. The majority of those hospitalized have been unvaccinated under-40-year olds. There are also an increase in hospitalizations for children younger than 4 years old, which highlights the importance of pediatric staff and beds to prepare for these cases.

The omicron variant has also been spreading to older age groups, said Dr. Michelle Groome from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. She added that early evidence indicates this variant is more transmissible than others and that there is a “degree of immune escape,” meaning the variant’s ability to resist an immune response from prior infections or from vaccines.

US COVID-19 mapMonitoring cases and deaths

Congress avoids shutdown following vaccine mandate clash

Both chambers of Congress passed a bill Thursday to fund the government through Feb. 18, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown before a Friday deadline.

After threatening to block passage in the upper chamber of the bill, a group of Republican senators almost forced the shutdown. They wanted language preventing the use of federal money to carry out a Biden administration mandate on workplace vaccinations, but the amendment to do that failed 48-50.

Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican Senator, introduced the amendment, along with Mike Lee, R. Utah. He stated that the president’s orders will lead to the displacement of a large number workers.

This is all about Kansas jobs. “It’s about Texas jobs and Utah jobs across the country,” he said to Capitol Hill reporters before the vote. “An unconstitutional federal vaccine mandate’s going to lead to an economic shutdown, jobs lost back home.”

Biden announced last month a policy that large businesses — those with 100 or more employees — require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested. Noncompliant businesses could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation. The requirement is currently on hold due to several lawsuits.

“I am glad that in the end cooler heads prevailed,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said of the vote to keep the government open. “The government will remain open.”

NYC anime convention attendees encouraged to be tested for COVID

New York Governor Kathy Hochul urged the 53,000 people who attended a November anime convention in New York City to get tested for COVID-19 immediately after an attendee from Minnesota tested positive for the omicron variant. According to Hochul, health officials will contact attendees.

She stated, “This is no cause for alarm.” A Thursday news conference. It was already known that it would eventually reach New York State, even though it had been first reported from South Africa.

According to the website of Anime NYC it required masks and vaccinations in order to hold its conference. Follow us on Twitter One of their attendees was positive for HIV. Organisers said they are in contact with the health agency to inform attendees by email or phone.

According to the organization, “you are advised to be tested.” They also stated that attendees were vaccinated against the flu and have mild symptoms.

Study: There is a greater chance of death in patients who have suffered from severe COVID-19.

According to University of Florida researchers, patients who are cured of severe COVID-19 infection have a three-fold higher chance of dying within one year than those who did not contract the virus.

An earlier study by UF researchers, published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, found patients who had a severe case of the disease were more than twice as likely to need rehospitalization for COVID-19 complications, which underscores the serious effects the virus can have on the body.

For those under 65 with severe COVID-19, the risk is greater than that for people over 65. Patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 did not have a higher risk of dying than those without the disease.

“These findings reinforce that the internal trauma of being sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19 has a big consequence for people’s health. This is a huge complication of COVID-19 that has not been shown before,” said Arch G. Mainous III, the study’s lead investigator.

— Jill Pease, UF Health

Contributing: The Associated Press



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