COVID Omicron News: New cases in US soar to highest levels on record

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- More than a year after the vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average.

The surge has been driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant. The previous mark was 250,000 cases per day, set in mid-January.

The number of Americans now in the hospital with COVID-19 is running at around 60,000, or about half the figure seen last January.

With New Year's Eve approaching, Dr. Anthony Fauci says there is no need to cancel small home gatherings among vaccinated and boosted family and friends. But he is strongly recommending against 40- and 50-person parties with lots of hugging and kissing.

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

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



JetBlue to reduce schedule through Jan. 13
JetBlue says they are now proactively reducing their schedule through January 13. They say they also expect crew cases and cancellations will surge in the coming weeks.

"While the new CDC guidelines should help get crewmembers back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast - where most of our crewmembers are based - to continue to surge for the next week or two. This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down," a statement from JetBlue read.

Westminster Kennel Club postpones dog show
Due to the surge of the omicron variant in New York City, the West Minster Kennel Club has announced the decision to postpone the 146th annual dog show. A new date will be announced when confirmed, according to the Westminster Kennel Club president.

13 NY state-run COVID testing sites open as CityMD shutters more locations
As New Yorkers flock to get tested for COVID-19 amid the omicron surge, new state testing sites are opening across the area. Thirteen new New York state-run testing sites opened Wednesday, at least one in every borough of New York City. It's part of a larger plan to increase testing in preparation of students returning to schools next week, and it is especially necessary since 31 CityMD sites have temporarily closed due to staffing shortages. New York set another daily record with 67,000 positive tests Tuesday, Governor Kathy Hochul said, out of about 362,000 tests.

Queen Mary 2 cruise ship won't return to NYC amid omicron COVID concerns
A luxury cruise ship that departed from Red Hook, Brooklyn, on December 22 with 1,575 passengers on board won't return to New York City after COVID-19 concerns prompted a call for extra crew. The Queen Mary 2, the the flagship of Cunard Line since succeeding Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2004, remains anchored outside Barbados and is expected to stay there until January 2. The ship is currently on a 28-night itinerary that originally left Southampton on December 13, 2021, and the extended stay means that it will be unable to call in New York on January 3 if it is to maintain the arrival back in Southampton on January 10. All guests will be able to stay on board for New Year's Eve, and flight arrangements from Barbados will be made for guests due to disembark in New York.

Hoboken implements mask mandate as COVID cases soar statewide
Hoboken on Wednesday implemented a face mask requirement at all indoor facilities of public accommodation due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the city and across the state. New Jersey reported another daily record Wednesday with 20,483 new cases, along with 50 additional deaths to bring the statewide total to 26,118. There are 3,273 hospitalizations in the state, nearing the 3,765 patient count from this date last year, but still roughly half the total at the peak of the pandemic.

The CDC doesn't require testing at end of isolation. Here's why
The newly updated CDC guidelines don't require testing at the end of isolation because PCR tests can stay positive for up to 12 weeks, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told "Good Morning America" on Wednesday.

"So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs," Walensky 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.

Jets get coach Robert Saleh, six players back from COVID-19 protocols
After seven days in quarantine, New York Jets coach Robert Saleh cleared the COVID-19 protocols Wednesday morning and returned to the team.

"It's like the first day of school," Saleh said. "(I'm) ready to go another 18 weeks."

On Wednesday, the team activated six to the active roster, including defensive line starters John Franklin-Myers and Folorunso Fatukasi and starting nickelback Michael Carter II. Also activated were backup quarterback Joe Flacco, tight end Kenny Yeboah and linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen.

What to do if your flight is canceled as omicron-related crew shortages leave thousands stranded
A rise in cancellations during the busy holiday travel season has left thousands of passengers around the country stranded in airport lounges as they attempt to get back home. Airline representatives said that the recent surge in omicron COVID-19 cases has grounded flight crews, and as a result, they don't have enough people to fly their scheduled flights. While such a predicament is hard to plan for, travel experts say affected passengers still have options to reach their destination, or in the worst-case scenario, ride out their extended stay with as little hassle as possible.

Exposed to COVID at a holiday gathering? What to know about quarantining, testing
So many families gathered this weekend, but COVID-19 didn't hide as Santa Claus was coming to town. The U.S. is now averaging 198,404 new coronavirus cases each day as of Sunday, the day after Christmas, according to new data from Johns Hopkins University. That's 47% higher than a week ago and the highest such number since Jan. 19. Those who were exposed to COVID-19 while attending a holiday gathering or visiting loved ones should get tested five to seven days after the day of exposure, said ABC News' contributor Dr. Darien Sutton. Here's what you need to know.

New easy-to-use COVID pills come with a catch: Who should take them and when
Newly infected COVID-19 patients have two new treatment options that can be taken at home, but that convenience comes with a catch: The pills have to be taken as soon as possible once symptoms appear. The challenge is getting tested, getting a prescription and starting the pills in a short window. U.S. regulators authorized Pfizer's pill, Paxlovid, and Merck's molnupiravir last week. In high-risk patients, both were shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, although Pfizer's was much more effective. Here's a closer look.

How will Biden's COVID home test kit giveaway work?
President Joe Biden says the federal government will buy half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distribute them free of charge to people to use at home. But despite the high public demand for tests, it will still be several more weeks before these kits are available to be shipped. The administration is still working on details for how the program will work.

Omicron variant symptoms: What to know even if you are vaccinated
The omicron variant is leading to a significant surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States and across Europe. The World Health Organization said 89% of those with confirmed omicron infections in Europe reported symptoms common with other coronavirus variants, including cough, sore throat, fever. The variant has mostly been spread by young people in their 20s and 30s in the region, WHO Europe regional director Dr. Hans Kluge said. Although much remains unknown about omicron, Kluge said it appears to be more infectious than previous variants, leading to "previously unseen transmission rates" in countries with a significant number of omicron cases. In those countries, cases of the variant are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days. Here's what to know.

What to know about breakthrough COVID infections as cases among vaccinated rise
As Americans brace for the possibility of another difficult winter ahead in the nation's fight against coronavirus, there is a renewed sense of urgency to get as many people inoculated and boosted as quickly as possible, given the emergence of the highly contagious omicron variant -- now dominant in the U.S. An ABC News analysis of federal and state data found that since July, there has been an acceleration of the number of breakthrough coronavirus cases, thus, of individuals who test positive after being fully vaccinated.

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Omicron variant symptoms: what to know even if you are vaccinated
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