Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 COVID-19 News from Around the Web

Omicron casts a new shadow over economy’s pandemic recovery

AP - December 22, 2021

Just as Americans and Europeans were eagerly awaiting their most normal holiday season in a couple of years, the omicron variant has unleashed a fresh round of fear and uncertainty — for travelers, shoppers, party-goers and their economies as a whole.

Parents, schools face another reckoning over COVID-19 cases

AP - December 22, 2021

The quick spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has stirred another angst-ridden reckoning about whether in-person schooling is worth the risk. Malara and other teachers worry about endangering their health by entering crowded schools. Frustrated parents wonder how to keep their children safe and whether campuses could become superspreader sites.

Covid Omicron: European nations reinstate restrictions

BBC - December 22, 2021

A surge of Omicron cases will push European health systems towards the brink, the WHO’s top official in the continent has warned. Hans Kluge said "another storm" was coming and governments should brace for significant increases in cases. His warning came as several countries re-imposed social distancing restrictions.

Case drop may show South Africa’s omicron peak has passed

AP - December 22, 2021

South Africa’s noticeable drop in new COVID-19 cases in recent days may signal that the country’s dramatic omicron-driven surge has passed its peak, medical experts say. Daily virus case counts are notoriously unreliable, as they can be affected by uneven testing, reporting delays and other fluctuations. But they are offering one tantalizing hint — far from conclusive yet — that omicron infections may recede quickly after a ferocious spike. South Africa has been at the forefront of the omicron wave…

800,000 Americans have died of COVID. Now the U.S. braces for an omicron-fueled spike

NPR - December 15, 2021

The coronavirus has now killed more than 800,000 people in the U.S., just two years after the first COVID-19 cluster was reported in Wuhan, China, and a year after vaccines were first rolled out. … With surges fueled by more transmissible variants of the coronavirus, the U.S. hit the tragic new record Tuesday, shortly after surpassing 50 million COVID-19 cases — by far the most in the world.

Omicron appears more resistant to Covid vaccines but is causing less severe illness in South Africa, major study finds

NBC News - December 15, 2021

The analysis, released Tuesday by the country's largest health care administrator, found that on average 29 percent fewer people were being admitted to hospital in the region than previously with the delta variant. However, the study also found that two Pfizer jabs gave 70 percent protection against hospitalization from the new variant, compared with 90 percent seen in the delta wave.

Kroger to End Some Covid-19 Benefits for Unvaccinated Workers

The Wall Street Journal - December 15, 2021

The Cincinnati-based grocery chain told employees last week that it will no longer provide two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract Covid-19, unless local jurisdictions require otherwise. Kroger will also add a $50 monthly surcharge to company health plans for unvaccinated managers and other nonunion employees, according to a memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Minnesota Doctors Beg People to Get Vaccinated in Full-Page Ad: ‘We’re Overwhelmed’

PEOPLE - December 15, 2021

"We're heartbroken. We're overwhelmed." … the hospital staffers took out a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune with those words in bold font and emphasized that "the situation is critical." "Our emergency departments are overfilled, and we have patients in every bed in our hospitals," they said. "This pandemic has strained our operations and demoralized many people on our teams." The ad was signed by executives at North Memorial Health, the Mayo Clinic, Fairview Health Services, Children's Minnesota and five other health systems.

How a Kennedy built an anti-vaccine juggernaut amid COVID-19

AP - December 15, 2021

An investigation by The AP finds that Children’s Health Defense has raked in funding and followers as Kennedy used his star power as a member of one of America’s most famous families to open doors, raise money and lend his group credibility. … Since the pandemic started, CHD has expanded the reach of its newsletter, which uses slanted information, cherry-picked facts and conspiracy theories to spread distrust of the COVID-19 vaccines. The group has also launched an internet TV channel and started a movie studio.

Cornell University reports more than 900 Covid-19 cases this week. Many are Omicron variant cases in fully vaccinated students

CNN - December 15, 2021

Cornell University reported 903 cases of Covid-19 among students between December 7-13, and a "very high percentage" of them are Omicron variant cases in fully vaccinated individuals, according to university officials. … "Virtually every case of the Omicron variant to date has been found in fully vaccinated students, a portion of whom had also received a booster shot," … As of result, the school has decided to shut down its Ithaca, New York, campus, where it has about 25,600 students.

Covid booster is ‘optimal care,’ but fully vaccinated definition stays put, Fauci says

CNBC - December 13, 2021

Covid booster shots provide “optimal care” as the deadly virus continues to mutate and spread. The U.S. government is staying firm for the time being on the definition of fully vaccinated, however, top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday. The push for booster shots comes in tandem with the rise in cases of the omicron variant.

Health officials ratchet up calls for boosters amid threat of omicron wave

The Hill - December 13, 2021

Health officials are intensifying their calls for all American adults to get booster shots amid the threat of the omicron variant, a strain of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa. Data released by Pfizer this week showed a significant drop in the antibody response to the omicron strain with two doses, but that response, according to the pharmaceutical company, was restored with a third dose. Even before the discovery of omicron, many experts pointed to evidence of waning immunity over time from two doses…

U.S. Surgery Rates Rebounded Quickly After Pandemic Shutdowns

HealthDay - December 13, 2021

As expected, the investigators found a significant (48%) decline in surgeries during the seven weeks after mid-March 2020, … By July 2020, U.S. surgery rates began to return to, or even surpass, 2019 levels. By the end of 2020, the overall total volume of surgeries was only 10% below the 2019 volume, according to the study published online Dec. 8 in JAMA Network Open.

South African doctors see signs omicron is milder than delta

AP - December 13, 2021

As the omicron variant sweeps through South Africa, Dr. Unben Pillay is seeing dozens of sick patients a day. Yet he hasn’t had to send anyone to the hospital. That’s one of the reasons why he, along with other doctors and medical experts, suspect that the omicron version really is causing milder COVID-19 than delta, even if it seems to be spreading faster.

US expands Pfizer COVID boosters, opens extra dose to age 16

AP - December 10, 2021

U.S. health authorities again expanded the nation’s booster campaign Thursday, opening extra doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to several million 16- and 17-year-olds. … On Thursday, the FDA gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech — once they’re six months past their last dose. And hours later, the CDC lifted the last barrier …

Effectiveness of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Lower at ≥120 Days

HealthDay - December 10, 2021

The vaccine effectiveness (VE) of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines declined at ≥120 days after the second dose, with higher VE and antibody levels for Moderna than Pfizer-BioNTech recipient…