The first known case of the omicron coronavirus variant was detected in the US just days after it spread rapidly in South Africa, sparking worldwide concern, US officials say know on Wednesday.
The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health confirm that a recent case of COVID-19 in an individual in the state was caused by omicrons. The person was a traveler returning from South Africa on 22 November and was fully vaccinated. Health officials said the person had mild symptoms that were improving.
Experts have warned that likely variant was present in the US in the days prior to the announcement.
“When you have a virus that is showing this level of transmission and you’re having travel-related cases that they’ve documented elsewhere, then when you have a virus like this, it almost always goes everywhere,” the president’s medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview with NBC on Saturday.
Fauci welcomed the Biden administration’s move to limit travel from eight African countries, including South Africa, in an effort to slow the spread of this variant to the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US State Department have raised the alert level for the region, having previously advised against travel.
Even with the rapid response to news about omicrons, cases have been reported among travelers in Belgium, Israel, Hong Kong and the UK. Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic also have suspected cases.
There are still many unknowns about the new variant, which has been identified in more than 20 countries. It is not yet clear if it is more contagious, if it makes people sicker, and if it could interfere with vaccines.
Also in the news:
► There is “room for optimism” that fully vaccinated people are protected against the omicron variant, Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told Jerusalem Post. “In the coming days we will have more precise information.”
►With November numbers, several states reported total COVID deaths for the year several times higher than 2020. They include Oklahoma (nearly four times higher), Alaska and Kentucky (three times higher). ) and Maine, West Virginia and Hawaii 2 1/2 times).
►Pfizer has filed a request for FDA to expand its emergency use of COVID-19 booster doses for adults to include adolescents 16 and 17 years of age. “We hope to provide strong protection to as many people as possible, especially for the new variant” CEO Albert Bourla said on Twitter.
► A total of 226 omicron cases have been confirmed in at least 21 countries, including the UK, 11 European Union countries, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Israel.
►Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has placed within the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol and may miss some games. It is not known whether James tested positive. He said pre-season that he was vaccinated.
📈Today’s Number: The United States has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 780,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global total: More than 262.9 million cases and 5.2 million deaths. Nearly 197 million Americans – about 59.4% of the population – are fully immunized, According to CDC.
📘What we are reading: Are travel bans worth it? Experts say they can slow the spread of omicrons but they have an impact.
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Heads of vaccine companies differ in success versus omicron
The executives of the two pharmaceutical giants whose two-shot COVID-19 vaccines dominate the US market are offering different views on the impact of the omicron variant.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the current vaccine for COVID-19 will likely be less effective than the new omicron variant. Bancel said to Financial Times in an interview published Tuesday that he spoke to scientists who told him omicrons “wouldn’t be good.” He said it could take several months before enough vaccine can be produced to crush omicrons.
However, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told The Wall Street Journal The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is effective against severe illness from COVID-19 and will likely continue to be effective against the omicron variant.
“Our message is: Don’t panic, the plan remains the same. Increases third booster shot execution speed,” says Sahin.
As of Wednesday, no omicron cases have been detected in the United States, where almost 100% of infections are caused by the delta variant. New cases rose slightly in November, totaling 2.55 million compared with 2.5 million in October, according to Johns Hopkins University data. However, the death toll from COVID-19 fell by nearly 15,000, from 47,626 to 32,951.
Evangelist Marcus Lamb, a staunch opponent of coronavirus vaccines who founded the conservative Christian Daystar TV Network, Died of COVID-19, his family said. He is 64 years old.
The network announced his death Tuesday on Twitter, saying Lamb “went home to be with God this morning.” His wife, Joni, confirmed online his coronavirus diagnosis and that he had “pre-existing conditions” including diabetes. She said last week her husband tried alternative treatments with no success
One of the two largest Christian television networks in the world, Daystar aired segments and published online disinformation about the virus, vaccines, and unproven treatments. for COVID-19.
In November, Lamb’s son Jonathan said online that his father’s illness was “a mental attack from the enemy” because he was against vaccines and in favor of alternative treatments. .
– Christine Fernando
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is direct airlines to provide contact information for passengers from eight countries in Africa as part of efforts to combat the novel coronavirus omicron variant. The CDC’s Contact Information Collection Order went into effect Tuesday and affects passengers who have been in the Republic of Botswana, Kingdom of Eswatini, Kingdom of Lesotho, Republic of Malawi, Republic of Mozambique, Republic of Namibia, Republic of South Africa or the Republic of Zimbabwe within 14 days of departure to the US
“CDC is issuing this directive to prevent the importation and spread of a communicable disease of public health importance,” the CDC said in a statement to USA TODAY.
– Eve Chen
Saying it was essential to keep future generations safe, the World Health Assembly on Wednesday pledged to begin work on a “pandemic pact,” an international agreement to prevent and respond to a pandemic. with future pandemics. The Council is the governing body of the World Health Organization. Wednesday’s meeting was only the second special session in its 73-year history.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director, said: “The importance of this decision cannot be overstated. The agreement will “provide a platform to strengthen global health security,” he said. The agreement will be signed in 2024.
“It seems like a long process, and it is, but we shouldn’t be naive in thinking that reaching a global agreement on the pandemic will be easy,” Tedros said.
– Elizabeth Weise
To combat the spread of the new omicron variant, CDC is tightening testing requirements for international travelers. Currently, customers who have not recently been to the United States who have not recovered from their illness – including US citizens – must test negative for the virus before boarding their flights. Fully vaccinated travelers must undergo tests no more than three days before departure. But the CDC said it was “working to revise” the global test order to give all non-international customers just one day to take the pre-departure test.
“This reinforces already robust protocols for international travel,” the CDC said in a statement. The United States is also working to prevent the spread of the virus with a new travel ban for eight countries effective Monday.
As the new omicron variant spreads around the world, advocates of more widespread vaccination are “I told you so” moment. In the year since a COVID-19 vaccine first became available, a small but vocal group has warned of the need to protect the most vulnerable around the world. People in richer countries will not be safe, even if fully immunized, until those in poorer countries – which account for more than half of the world’s 8 billion population – also benefit. vaccines, they argued.
“The emergence of the omicron variant, precisely, met the predictions of scientists who warned that the virus’s intense transmission in areas with limited access to vaccines. xin will speed up its evolution,” Dr Richard Hatchett, told a special edition. session of the World Health Assembly this week. Read more here.
– Karen Weintraub
Officials from Rochester Regional Health and the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York state joined a growing list of hospitals across the United States and around the world warning that Facilities are operating at full capacity and emergency departments are under strain. In the Rochester area, hospital leadership said they were considering whether they could continue to perform elective procedures and surgeries. Michael Apostolakos, Chief Medical Officer of Strong Memorial and Highland Hospitals, said the majority of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization were unvaccinated.
“A significant number of people are refusing vaccines and our community is paying the price,” Apostolakos said. “The cases are continuing to increase without end.
– Sean Lahman, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Coronavirus variant omicron could have a moderate impact on the US economy Next year, leading economists say, as it hurts consumer spending and exacerbates labor shortages and supply chain bottlenecks, fuels already high inflation.
It is too early to determine how omicrons will affect economic growth because scientists are only just beginning to assess how much of an impact it will have on global health. But under a medium-likelihood scenario put forward by some of the top economists, this strain is likely to be more infectious but not significantly more virulent than the delta variant. And it could lead to fewer government-imposed restrictions on businesses.
If so, the omicron or another similar variant would cut economic growth for the next year by half a percentage point to 4.3% and result in the creation of a few hundred thousand fewer jobs, Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist estimates.
That would be lower than Moody’s projected growth of 5.5% this year – the highest since the early 1980s – but still a strong historic number as the nation continues to exit from the recession caused by the pandemic.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 905 points, or 2.5% on Friday, largely on worries about omicrons, but it closed up 236 points on Monday before sliding again mid-morning Tuesday.
– Paul Davidson, USA TODAY
Contributors: Mike Stucka; Related press