COVID Omicron News: US averaging nearly 500,000 new cases a day

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The United States is reaching new heights in the fight against the coronavirus with new COVID cases averaging nearly a half a million a day.

The CDC says 95% of new cases are now omicron.

Meantime, President Joe Biden says he'll double his order of the new COVID-19 antiviral pill used to treat those with positive infections.

The CDC is under scrutiny for shortening the isolation period after testing positive for COVID. They are recommending that asymptomatic people end isolation after five days, instead of 10, and without a test.

The agency is adding that Americans who can and want to test should opt for a rapid test but stopped short of mandating it.

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

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



Every U.S. cruise with passengers has coronavirus cases on board
COVID-19 cases have been reported on every cruise ship operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters with passengers, according to the CDC's latest update. More than 90 ships are currently being investigated by the CDC or have been investigated and are still being observed by the agency.

California extends indoor mask mandate
California announced that the state will extend its indoor mask mandate until at least February 5. The mandate had been originally set to end on January 15. Also, beginning on January 17, employers will need to provide well-fitting medical grade N-95 or KN-95 masks to all employers who work indoors in close contact with others.

Novak Djokovic denied entry to Australia after initial COVID exemption
Novak Djokovic was denied entry into Australia and had his visa canceled after arriving in Melbourne late Wednesday to defend his title at the season-opening tennis major. The Australian Border Force issued a statement early Thursday local time saying Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet entry requirements and "has visa has been subsequently canceled."

CDC panel votes yes on boosters for ages 12-15
Boosters for children ages 12 to 15 are one step closer after a panel of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Wednesday to recommend the third Pfizer shots for adolescents, leaving the final step to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. The vote was nearly unanimous at 13 yeses and 1 no. Walensky is likely to sign off later Wednesday, and shots could go into arms as soon as Thursday morning.

Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden postponed again
Billy Joel's concert that was set for January 14 has been postponed due to COVID-19. The concert was originally supposed to take place May 2, 2020. It has been rescheduled for August 24, 2022 and all tickets will be honored.

Grammy Awards postponed
Officials with the Grammy Awards announced Wednesday that the show, set for the end of January, would be postponed.

"After careful consideration and analysis with city and state officials, health and safety experts, the artist community and our many partners, the Recording Academy and CBS have postponed the 64th Annual Grammy Awards Show," organizers said. "The health and safety of those in our music community, the live audience, and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly to produce our show remains our top priority. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant, holding the show on January 31 simply contains too many risks. We look forward to celebrating Music's Biggest Night on a future date, which will be announced soon."

Gov. Hochul announces return of alcohol to go for NY bars, restaurants
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced during her State of the State address Wednesday that bars and restaurant would once again be able to sell alcohol to go, an allowance that was popular as businesses struggled to stay afloat during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. To-go cocktails and alcohol delivered to your door ended suddenly in June with the lifting of the state of emergency, but establishment owners have been clamoring for its return.

Dr. Jen Ashton, FDA warn against swabbing throat for at-home COVID test kits
Should you take your COVID tests by swabbing your throat instead of your nostril? ABC's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton says it really depends on the test.

Dr. Ashton joined Eyewitness News to set the record straight on a recent trend that has surfaced on social media of people promoting an at-home COVID rapid test swabbing technique that includes swabbing the back of the throat. The trend prompted the FDA to release a statement that warns people not to swab their throats during an at-home COVID test saying that it's not how the tests were designed, and it could pose a safety concern.

New study finds no risk of preterm, low-weight birth with COVID-19 vaccine
A new study has added to the body of research showing the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant people. The study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found no increased risk of preterm or low-weight birth among babies born to pregnant people who got a COVID-19 vaccine shot, compared to babies born to unvaccinated pregnant people.

CDC tries to clarify COVID guidelines on isolation, negative tests after pushback
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clarifying its guidelines around what to do when you get COVID-19, a move that comes after criticism last week that their newest guidance to shorten the isolation down to five days without calling for a negative test was confusing and lax. The latest update still does not include a recommendation for people to get a negative COVID test before leaving isolation, but gives guidance for people who "have access" and "want to test" -- language that reflects the challenges many Americans have faced in recent weeks trying to get their hands on them - while still holding ground that a negative rapid test isn't an all-clear.

Chicago Public Schools cancels classes after union backs remote learning
Leaders of Chicago Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday after the teachers union voted to switch to remote learning due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the latest development in an escalating battle over pandemic safety protocols in the nation's third-largest school district. Chicago has rejected a districtwide return to remote instruction, saying it was disastrous for children's learning and mental health. But the union argued the district's safety protocols are lacking and both teachers and students are vulnerable. The Chicago Teachers Union's action, approved by 73% of members, called for remote instruction until "cases substantially subside" or union leaders approve an agreement for safety protocols with the district. Union members were instructed to try and log into teaching systems Wednesday, even though the district said there would be no instruction and didn't distribute devices to students ahead of the union votes, which were announced just before 11 p.m. Tuesday.

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