COVID Updates: Biden tests negative after being exposed to virus

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Omicron variant accounts for more than 70% of cases in U.S.
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Jim Dolan has the latest on the surge in COVID cases across the U.S. as the omicron variant spreads.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- President Joe Biden has tested negative for COVID-19 after being exposed to a White House staffer who was infected with the virus.

That staff member had spent approximately 30 minutes in proximity to the president on Air Force One Friday on the way from Orange, South Carolina, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The president is speaking to Americans Tuesday about the omicron-fueled COVID surge across the country, with that variant now dominant and accounting for 73% of all new infections.

The CDC numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron's share of infections in only one week, and the first omicron-related death in the U.S. has been reported in the Houston area.

The victim was an unvaccinated man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions.

RELATED: What are the symptoms of the COVID omicron variant?

Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:

MTA announces pop-up booster vaccine sites at 3 stations

The MTA announced three pop-up vaccination sites for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. The sites are offering the Moderna booster at Times Square-42nd St and Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Av/74 St. The New York State-funded program provides anyone, including those visiting New York, the opportunity to get their booster shot without an appointment.

The operation at Times Square-42nd St is running each day until Friday Dec. 31 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., except Saturday, Christmas Day, Dec. 25. The Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Av/74 St site will be open from Tuesday, Dec. 21 to Thursday, Dec. 23 between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Additionally, the MTA will offer booster shots at Grand Central Terminal starting Monday, Dec. 27 through Dec. 30, from 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

NYC DOC suspends in-person visits across city jails

The New York City Department of Corrections has announced immediate, temporary measures to prevent the spread of COVID in the city's jails, including the suspension of in-person visits, and congregate programs and services, including religious services. Beginning on Wednesday the DOC will offer virtual visits in place of in-person visits.

Teacher accused of faking COVID-19 vaccine card to get job

A former Westchester Community College assistant teacher was arraigned Tuesday on charges she altered a COVID-19 vaccination card to obtain a full-time position at the school. Sonya Tarter Wilson, 50, of Mount Vernon, was charged on December 21, 2021, in Greenburgh Town Court with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis tests positive for COVID

New York Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis has tested positive for COVID-19.

"After experiencing mild symptoms and a slight fever, Congresswoman Malliotakis, who is vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday (Monday)," a statement read. "She is quarantining at home and is feeling well."

NY Regents exams for January 2022 canceled

The January 2022 Regents examinations are canceled due to coronavirus concerns, State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa announced.

"Once again, the January Regents Exams cannot be safely, equitably, and fairly administered across the state," she wrote. The state will ask the Board of Regents "to adopt emergency regulations regarding the assessment requirements students must ordinarily meet to earn a diploma."

There is no decision yet about the June or August exams.

Met limiting capacity

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will begin limiting capacity starting Thursday, capping attendance to roughly 10,000 visitors a day. Reduced capacity will limit density at the entrances, typically the densest gathering points of publicly open buildings. The Met will also end food services starting on Thursday, and beginning December 27, visitors age 12 and older must show proof that they have received two doses of an accepted two-dose series vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"Please prepare for longer lines and wait times outside the Museum," the museum posted on its web site

At-home test price gouging warning

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a consumer alert to New Yorkers Tuesday concerning potential price gouging of over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 testing kits, as well as other in-demand essential products. The alert comes in light of a surge of COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, which has resulted in the rise of New Yorkers seeking to use at-home testing kits before gathering with friends and loved ones for the holidays.

"As New York sees an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, more and more New Yorkers are looking for at-home tests and other tools in the fight against the coronavirus," James said. "If New Yorkers see exorbitant price increases on testing kits or other goods vital and necessary for health, safety, and welfare, they are encouraged to report it my office immediately. And fraudsters are on notice that if they attempt to price gouge during this new surge, we will not hesitate to take action."

NYC Mayor-elect Eric Adams postpones inauguration due to rising COVID cases

New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams says he is postponing his inauguration come January 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The inauguration had been planned for the evening of January 1 at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn.

"I don't need an inauguration, all I need is a mattress and a floor to execute being the mayor of the City of New York," he said. "I don't need an inauguration."

48 test positive for COVID on world's biggest cruise ship

Despite stringent measures supposed to keep ocean cruises COVID-free, operator Royal Caribbean says at least 48 people on board one of its ships that docked in Miami over the weekend have tested positive for the virus. The Symphony of the Seas, the world's biggest cruise ship, was carrying more than 6,000 passengers and crew on a week-long journey around the Caribbean when a guest tested positive, prompting wider contact tracing, according to Royal Caribbean.

NYC offering $100 COVID booster incentive

New York City is now offering people $100 to get their COVID booster shots. The incentive will be available through the end of 2021 at all city-run vaccination sites, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. The incentives will also be available at sites operated by SOMOS, which has partnered with the city.

New COVID test sites open in NYC amid rising tide of omicron

New COVID testing sites are open in New York City, as officials across the region and the country scramble to meet a rising tide of cases fueled by the omicron variant. The testing site openings in NYC come one day after city officials reported a new single-day record for positive cases, as more shows on Broadway were forced to cancel performances, and as the NHL paused its season. With ballooning wait times, de Blasio said the demand for COVID tests is "unlike anything we've ever seen before."

More NYC schools closed

Seven public schools are closed due to coronavirus cases, Mayor de Blasio said, up from four on Monday. The mayor seemed to acknowledge staffing problems in the situation room, which provides real time reporting of cases in schools. He says they have "doubled the staffing."

New Jersey ramps up COVID rapid testing

New Jersey is seeing its highest number of COVID cases since last January, which includes rising case numbers in schools. All of that is leading to long testing lines. In Paramus, people waited for hours to get tested, with the site even turning people away three hours before closing time because of the high demand. Governor Phil Murphy says the state is trying to meet testing needs.

"We are significantly ramping up our rapid testing capacity throughout the state and folks should go out to get a free rapid test if they are visiting others," he said. "To do that, we currently have over 100 free testing sites throughout the state."

Newark facemask mandate begins

Newark is now requiring facemasks indoors in all public settings, and will "probably" mandate vaccinations in the coming days if positivity rates do not drop, according to Mayor Ras Baraka. Baraka said if the city has over 15% positivity for three consecutive days, he will require proof of vaccination to enter businesses.

"You have to wear your mask," he wrote in a Facebook post. "We are coming around with our task force once again and checking. We are checking. If the establishment allows you in without a mask, the establishment will be penalized. It's important that you go into these establishments with a mask."

COVID continue to ravage Broadway

Many stages on Broadway have been forced to go dark once more as the live theater community grapples with new backstage outbreaks of the coronavirus and its variants, and particularly the more virulent omicron. More than half a dozen theaters are dark due to breakthrough cases of COVID-19, including the announcement that "Jagged Little Pill" would close for good. Still, the curtain is still rising for 25 plays and musicals, at least for now, while six others have canceled performances at least through Christmas. Here's where each show stands now.

Hochul promises 10M at-home tests

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new strategy to combat this COVID winter surge, that also provides testing help to schools. It includes sending out 10 million free at-home tests.

Biden to announce plan to mail 500M free rapid tests to Americans next month

President Joe Biden will announce a plan on Tuesday to distribute 500 million free at-home rapid tests to Americans beginning in January as part of an attempt to double down on the spread of a transmissible variant that has hit the U.S. distressingly close to the holidays. Biden's new efforts come as the omicron variant became the most dominant COVID strain in the country Monday, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all cases, and just as travel kicks off at nearly pre-pandemic levels for the holiday season. The free at-home rapid tests will be delivered by mail to Americans who request them, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday night in a preview of the speech, marking a slightly different approach from European countries that chose to send tests to all residents.

Mount Vernon schools to go virtual starting Wednesday

The Mount Vernon School District announced Monday that they will be switching to 100% virtual learning starting on Wednesday. That means no in-class instruction. The superintendent says in-person classes will resume on Tuesday, January 18.

What we know about the Omicron variant

Alarmed by a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and the increasing prevalence of the omicron variant, New York City and the Tri-State are taking action to try to curb the spread. While only a few cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed so far in the city, federal health officials are estimating that it already accounts for around 13% of virus cases in the region that includes New York and New Jersey. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it's clear omicron is "in full force" and spreading. Here's what we know.

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