COVID Omicron News: Pediatric cases rise, scientists study new French variant

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Tuesday, January 4, 2022
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Reena Roy has the latest on the battle against the coronavirus in the US.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Pediatric cases are at an all-time high, with 325,000 more children testing positive in the last week.

This as scientists are tracking a new variant in southern France where at least 12 people have been infected. Doctors are calling it a "highly mutated" variant.

"We'll just have to track of it. It has been around for about a month and we haven't seen it make a big impact so I'm cautiously optimistic," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University.

The variant, dubbed B16402, has mutations that scientists are paying attention to, but this variant has not been deemed a variant of concern nor a variant of interest.

The seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate at the US Capitol jumped from 1% to 13% with more than half of those infections linked to the omicron variant.

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

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

Governor Lamont wants to keep kids in classrooms safely

As students in Connecticut return to school, Governor Ned Lamont said Tuesday he wants to keep them there and avoid remote learning. The plan for Connecticut schools is similar to what New York City public schools are doing: vaccinated students who have an exposure and are asymptomatic can stay in school but need to test. Those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and are asymptomatic must quarantine at home for five days and test after five days.

"I'm going to do everything I can to keep kids in the classroom safely," Lamont said. "There's nothing that compares to a great teacher in a classroom."

Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID-19?

Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID-19 lately? A couple of factors are at play, starting with the emergence of the highly contagious omicron variant. Omicron is more likely to infect people, even if it doesn't make them very sick, and its surge coincided with the holiday travel season in many places. People might mistakenly think the COVID-19 vaccines will completely block infection, but the shots are mainly designed to prevent severe illness, says Louis Mansky, a virus researcher at the University of Minnesota. And the vaccines are still doing their job on that front, particularly for people who've gotten boosters. Here's what you need to know.

Rutgers announces spring semester changes

Rutgers announced changes to how the university will start the spring 2022 semester on January 18, including:

--The requirement of booster shots for all eligible students.

--The requirement of booster shots for all eligible employees.

--Where possible, in-person classes will temporarily convert to remote classes through Sunday, January 30.

--Employees, when possible, should work remotely until January 31.

--The requirement of vaccination proof or a COVID-19 negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of an on-campus event to attend all in-person activities and events, which are expected to resume on January 31.

--Quarantine/isolation time for COVID-exposed or COVID-positive employees changed in accordance with new CDC guidance.

--Move-in to student housing postponed from January 16-17 to January 29-30.

--Dining halls will serve meals on a to-go basis only until January 31.

CDC moves Pfizer booster interval to 5 months

The CDC has updated its recommendation for when many people can receive a Pfizer booster shot, shortening the interval from six months to five. The booster interval recommendation for people who received the J&J vaccine (2 months) or the Moderna vaccine (6 months), has not changed. Additionally, the CDC is recommending that moderately or severely immunocompromised 5- to 11-year-olds receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second shot. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for children aged 5 to 11.

"As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to update our recommendations to ensure the best possible protection for the American people," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. "Following the FDA's authorizations, today's recommendations ensure people are able to get a boost of protection in the face of Omicron and increasing cases across the country, and ensure that the most vulnerable children can get an additional dose to optimize protection against COVID-19. If you or your children are eligible for a third dose or a booster, please go out and get one as soon as you can. Additionally, FDA took action this week to authorize boosters for 12-15 year olds, and I look forward to ACIP meeting on Wednesday to discuss this issue.

Mayor Adams: 'We have to open up'

New York City Mayor Eric Adams pushed back on companies starting to delay their planned reopenings to most of their employees in response to the omicron variant. Some have already pushed back previously set start dates for at-home employees to resume returning to their desks. Over the weekend, Goldman Sachs joined a growing list of Wall Street firms advising employees already back at work to stay at home until January 18.

"We have to open up," Adams said on CNN Tuesday, in the face of increasing cases. "What we must understand is the resiliency of returning back to a normal life. If we don't open our cities, there are almost a million people that are behind in their rents right here in this city. We have low skilled employees who cant do remote employment from home or telecommuting. That's not a reality in a city like New York and America. I need my cities to open."

NYC school attendance lags, NY studying hospitalizations

Many New York City public schools are staying home amid mounting concern over the omicron surge, this as the state is adjusting the way patients are admitted to hospitals and COVID cases are counted. Classrooms may be open, but city officials but many student aren't showing up -- and Governor Kathy Hochul is telling hospitals to start reporting how many COVID patients are being admitted because they had symptom versus how many cases are being discovered after admission for other reasons.

"Yes, the sheer numbers of people infected are high, but I want to see if the hospital numbers correlate with that," she said. "I'm anticipating seeing a certain percentage overall are not related to being treated for COVID."

That's why the governor is ordering hospitals to change their reporting, with more data suggesting many of these cases are not that severe. As of January 2, more than 9,500 people were hospitalized with COVID in New York -- the the most since May of 2020 and beyond the peak of last winter's surge. But a smaller percentage of those patients are going to the ICU -- 13% now versus 28% in April of 2020. Still, COVID fears are keeping kids at home. Just 67% of public school students actually showed up to class on Monday.

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.

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