Update (1545ET): The French government has continued to tighten restrictions on the public, driven by the rising wave of infections.
In Paris, the people will need to wear masks in public even when they are outdoors. The new restriction will start Dec. 31.
The decision comes after the government reported more than 200K new cases, following roughly 180K the prior day. The information was attributed to French Health Minister Olivier Veran.
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Update (0845ET): CDC chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during an interview on Wednesday that the agency is making progress on providing boosters for children. The FDA is currently looking at boosters for children between 12 and 15, and the CDC will "act swiftly" once the FDA approval is granted.
Boosters for minors in the 12-15 age group likely won't be approved within the next month. But the scientists are "getting there."
As for all this talk about requiring vaccines for domestic travel? It's not going to happen, she said.
Confused? Well, let's clear things up:
Fauci: travel vax mandate is on the table...
Fauci next day: no travel vax mandate
Biden day after that: travel vax mandate will happen when docs say
Yesterday late CDC Walensky: no travel vax mandate being discussed
Walensky also claimed the US is seeing a growing number of kids in hospitals.
She also provided some clarity on the latest CDC guidelines. Those who are exiting quarantine no longer need a PCR test showing they are negative because some people can stay negative for as long as 13 weeks after infection. "So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs," she said.
Walensky also addressed Tuesday's news from the FDA that, according to early data, rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive when it comes to the omicron variant. "We do know that the most sensitive test you can do is a PCR test...So if you have symptoms and you have a negative antigen test, we do ask you to go and get a PCR to make sure those symptoms are not attributable to COVID."
However, she added, the rapid tests work "quite well" especially in environments where people are tested frequently, like schools. "They may not work as well as they have for the delta variant...we still are encouraging their use," Walensky said.
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Since seemingly everybody in the US either knows somebody who is sick, or is sick themselves, millions of Americans are about to start loudly questioning why they bothered to get three shots if it wasn't enough to stop them from eventually getting sick.
Many assumed this latest wave was all omicron, but as we reported last night, the CDC has lowered its estimate for omicron's prevalence from 70%+ all the way down to 59%. That's the percentage of sequenced COVID cases that were confirmed to omicron during the past week.
It looks like Dr. Fauci is going to have a lot more explaining to do.
Globally, the number of newly confirmed COVID cases topped 1M for a second straight day as the hyper-infectious omicron has helped to drive the latest seasonal wave.
As a result, countries are tightening restrictions on international travel targeted at Americans, while Dr. Fauci exhorts Washington to respond with restrictions on domestic travel for all Americans, along with more restrictions on foreigners traveling to the US, per BBG.
The Netherlands will now require travelers arriving from the US to self-quarantine for up to ten days.
Hospitalizations are spiking from New South Wales to New York State (although Australia is still nowhere near the level of virality seen in the US).
As cases surge to record levels down under, the Australian government is scrambling to change its testing rules to clear up congestion at test sites.
Their problem isn't so different from what's happening in the UK and the US, per Reuters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday Australia needed "a gear change" to manage overburdened laboratories and get people out of isolation. He called a snap meeting of the national cabinet on Thursday.
"We just can't have everybody just being taken out of circulation because they just happen to be at a particular place at a particular time," Morrison said during a media briefing.
Morrison's plan would prioritize urgent cases while relying more on rapid antigen tests, which are being used in the US.
Since cases are surging, omicron has proven it has a lower hospitalization rate than previous variants. The only problem is that with so many new cases, inevitably, there are going to be more hospitalizations as well.
Elsewhere, the government of Tokyo confirmed 76 new coronavirus cases in the capital on Wed., the most since Oct. 9 (although the number of serious cases dropped from 2 to 1).
Here's some more COVID news:
- Malaysia has become the latest country to lift a travel ban on the eight south African countries that the US also imposed restrictions upon after the discovery of omicron.
- Vietnam plans to initially limit the resumption of regular international flights to routes between the Southeast Asian country and Japan and the U.S. in early January.
- More than 1.2 billion Chinese people, or about 86% of the country’s population, were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 28, an official at the National Health Commission said during a briefing on Wednesday. Some 465M doses were administered to minors aged 3 to 17.
- India is stepping up defenses against a possible third wave of coronavirus infections caused by omicron by implementing a slew of measures, including approving two more vaccines as well as Merck's COVID-19 pill, and expanding its inoculation drive to those aged 15 to 18.
- In the UK, a sharp rise in NHS staff absences due to sickness because of COVID is threatening to hamper patient care, health leaders have warned, as the number of hospitalizations in England hit the highest level in 9 months.
And as we reported yesterday, France has decided to require more people to work from home. As for when the winter wave might peak, scientists are looking to last year's wave, and estimating that the surge in cases will peak some time between early January and early February.