COVID Omicron News: Canada threatens arrest for those who help 'Freedom Truck Convoy'

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Canada's capital city declared a state of emergency over the "Freedom Truck Convoy."

Police in Ottawa are warning they will arrest anyone who tries to bring supplies to the truckers.

The truckers have blared their horns and clogged up streets for more than a week, rallying against the vaccine mandates.

Meantime, the US daily case average has plunged, driving discussions about easing restrictions, even as deaths still rise.

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

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



CDC on mask mandates: Up to local officials
In a new statement, the CDC says it's up to local officials to make the rules on mask mandates, but that their recommendation remains masks for everyone, ages 2 and up.

"CDC guidance is meant to supplement-not replace-any federal, state, tribal, local, or territorial health and safety laws, rules, and regulations. The adoption and implementation of our guidance should be done in collaboration with regulatory agencies and state, tribal, local, and territorial public health departments, and in compliance with state and local policies and practices," the CDC said in a statement.

Gov. Lamont recommends ending CT statewide mask mandate
Governor Ned Lamont on Monday recommended an end to the Connecticut statewide mask mandate effective February 28. He says it will be up to local districts and schools to make the decision in their community on whether to keep masks or not.

US figure skater Zhou out after COVID test
U.S. men's figure skater Vincent Zhou has tested positive for the coronavirus, and is out of the individual competition. In a five-minute video posted to Instagram on Monday night, a teary Zhou announced that he would have to withdraw. He had initially tested positive as part of a routine COVID-19 screening, and underwent additional testing. The 21-year-old had struggled through a poor free skate for the eventual team silver medalists a day before, and was due to compete in the individual competition that begins with the men's short program on Tuesday.

NJ lifting school mask mandate
Governor Phil Murphy tweeted that effective March 7, New Jersey's statewide mask mandate in schools will be lifted. He said in the tweet, "Balancing public health with getting back to some semblance of normalcy is not easy. But we can responsibly take this step due to declining COVID numbers and growth in vaccinations."

Group of New York City workers march over Brooklyn Bridge against vaccine mandate
A group of New York City employees marched across the Brooklyn Bridge Monday morning ahead of their possible termination this Friday due to their vaccination status.

They marched from Metro Tech in Downtown Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and then made their way over to City Hall. Some 4,000 municipal employees still need to submit their vaccination cards by Friday to keep their jobs.

Germany eyes easing COVID rules; pharmacies to offer shots
Germany is working on plans to relax coronavirus restrictions after the peak in new cases has passed, likely by the end of February. Unlike some of its European neighbors, Germany still has many pandemic restrictions in place that exclude unvaccinated people from restaurants, public venues and some stores.

A government spokeswoman said Monday the measures would be discussed at a meeting of federal and state officials on Feb. 16. But she said they would only take effect when authorities can be sure that Germany's health system won't be overwhelmed.

CDC 4th booster guidance
The CDC has shortened the amount of time people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised need to wait before getting a fourth COVID vaccine booster dose. They now recommend that the severely immunocompromised can get an additional Pfizer or Moderna shot three months after their third dose instead of five months. The CDC also encourages people with weakened immune systems who originally got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine to take two additional doses, instead of just one.

Medicare benefits to cover up to 8 free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month
The Biden administration, seeking to fill a frustrating gap in coverage for COVID-19 tests, announced that people with Medicare will be able to get free over-the-counter tests much more easily in the coming weeks.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Medicare will cover up to eight free tests per month, starting in early spring. The tests will be handed out at participating pharmacies and other locations. They'll be available to people who have Medicare's "Part B" outpatient benefit, which about 9 in 10 enrollees sign up for.

US death toll hits 900,000, sped by omicron
Propelled in part by the wildly contagious omicron variant, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 900,000 on Friday, less than two months after eclipsing 800,000. The two-year total, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Indianapolis, San Francisco, or Charlotte, North Carolina. The milestone comes more than 13 months into a vaccination drive that has been beset by misinformation and political and legal strife, though the shots have proved safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness and death.

Scientists study why some never catch coronavirus
Scientists are trying to unlock the mystery of why some people seem never to catch COVID. While there is no clear-cut answer, one factor may lie in our DNA, giving people with certain genetic traits more pre-existing protection. Researchers in London have also found that people with higher levels of T-cells generated from other previous coronavirus infections like a common cold were less likely to get COVID. "If there are overlapping sequences that are shared between the common cold coronaviruses and the sarscov2, that T-cell can react very quickly to mount a defense against sarscov2," said Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunology, Yale University.

More vaccinations will lead to lifting mask rules: Hochul
Records show 80% of 12-to 17-year-olds in New York State have gotten their first dose of the COVID vaccine, and Gov. Kathy Hochul says more vaccinations will lead to the lifting of mask mandates in schools. "The more children we have vaccinated, the safer they will be in school," she said, explaining vaccination rate will be a factor in decisions on mask rules. "And they wont need a mask anymore," Hochul promised. "But we are just not there yet. It is all based on data." Data shows 40% of 5-to 11-year-olds have gotten their first dose.

How many times can I reuse my N95 mask?
How many times can I reuse my N95 mask? It depends, but you should be able to use N95s and KN95s a few times. The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says health care workers can wear an N95 mask up to five times. But experts say how often the average person can safely wear one will vary depending on how it's used. Using the same mask to run to the grocery store, for example, is very different than wearing it all day at work.

When am I contagious if infected with omicron?
When am I contagious if infected with omicron? It's not yet clear, but some early data suggests people might become contagious sooner than with earlier variants - possibly within a day after infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the few days before and after symptoms develop. But that window of time might happen earlier with omicron, according to some outside experts. That's because omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants - about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, that means people with omicron could start becoming contagious as soon as a day after infection.

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