Dr. Fauci says travel restrictions to be reviewed daily
First omicron cases discovered in Russia, Thailand
EU weighs canceling travel restrictions
White House prepares to order new jabs to treat omicron (if necessary)
17 US states report at least one case of omicron
Omicron nears 1,000 confirmed cases
South Africa considers vax mandate
Omicron involved in Hong Kong quarantine outbreak
Two hippos in Belgium catch COVID
More than a dozen COVID cases identified on cruise ship docked in Louisiana
China warns travel won't restart for a long time
US averages more than 100K COVID cases per day for first time since Oct. 6
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After telling Americans over the weekend that omicron would likely be milder than delta, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's de facto COVID czar, also said the US will re-evaluate its latest travel restrictions on South Africa daily until they're eventually withdrawn.
South Africa, which first warned the world about omicron over the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, was infuriated by the flurry of retaliatory travel bans imposed by western nations. Increasingly, these nations are beginning to rethink their decision-making and whether they might have jumped the gun. After all, we have frequently heard it will be another 10 days or so before we learn more about omicron as researchers analyze the new variant.
That hasn't stopped international health authorities from identifying new cases of omicron in Russia and Thailand, or NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio from moving ahead with his latest attempts to coerce all New Yorkers to get the jab.
De Blasio on Monday officially imposed his vaccination mandate to apply to private employers, while extending the requirement that patrons show proof of vaccination to all children between the ages of 5 and 11, who have only recently been approved by the FDA. Both measures won't take effect until Dec. 27.
Over in Brussels, the EU's top bureaucrats are mulling whether to ease travel restrictions on southern African nations inspired by the omicron variant fears. That would be a major victory for political correctness over "the science".
Just in case the world does eventually need them, the White House is preparing to fast-track authorization of revamped COVID vaccines, even if omicron does turn out to be more of a dud than the "COVID-21" scenario that many fear. Vaccine makers have said they won't know if new jabs are necessary until they have had a closer look at the data.
CDC Director Walensky said that omicron has been found in at least 15 US states, although delta remains the most dominant variant in terms of sheer numbers, since practically every new case diagnosed in the US today is from delta.
Data out of South Africa hasn't shown the uptick in hospitalizations and deaths that epidemiologists have touted as a potential sign that omicron does pose a threat, which should come as a relief to anybody panicking about omicron's potential impact: if anything, the next wave of COVID is looking to be about as mild as the flu.
Churches, schools and other organizations have started cancelling planned events in South Africa as case numbers continue to rise, as they have since before omicron was discovered. All told, South Africa has confirmed 228 cases of omicron of the 984 confirmed cases of omicron globally. The US has confirmed 40 cases in 17 states, while the Brits have confirmed 248 cases of omicron - even more than South Africa - so far.
Back in South Africa, President Ramaphosa's government is considering a nationwide vaccination mandate. But some companies are going ahead with the mandate plans without the president's push. On Monday, the South African telecom conglomerate MTN announced that it would require all employees to be fully vaccinated by January or they would be fired.
Circling back to the Sunday Shows in the US, the CDC's Walensky echoed Dr. Fauci's cautious comments about omicron, saying "what we don’t yet know is how transmissible it will be, how well our vaccines will work, whether it will lead to more severe disease" on ABC’s "This Week" on Sunday.
Here are some more omicron-related headlines from around the world:
- Thailand has detected its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in a U.S. citizen who had travelled to the country from Spain late last month, a health official said on Monday, per Reuters. Russia has also discovered its first case of omicron.
- With infections in 17 states, according to the CDC, omicron has spread to more than one-third of US states.
- The omicron variant has been identified in two coronavirus cases in a Hong Kong quarantine hotel where scientists believe the virus spread through the air in a hallway.
- Two hippos in Belgium that vets noticed were “expelling snot” have been placed in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, the Antwerp zoo said.
- More than a dozen COVID cases have been identified on a cruise ship that docked in New Orleans on Sunday, health officials said, underscoring the obstacles the cruise-line industry continues to face after more than a year of restrictions and setbacks.
- As part of its effort to maintain its "Zero COVID" policy, China announced that international flights would be kept at 2.2% of pre-COVID levels during the winter. Since August, it has almost entirely stopped issuing new passports, and it has imposed a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals. Returning to China also requires mountains of paperwork and multiple COVID-19 tests.
Finally, the US is averaging more than 100K new COVID cases each day for the first time in two months as delta remains dominant despite all this talk of omicron. On Sunday, the 7-day average was more than 118K new cases per day. The last time this number topped 100K was Oct. 6, when the country was averaging over 101K new cases a day.