COVID News: JFK opens first air travel COVID monitoring program

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- John F. Kennedy Airport has opened the nation's first air travel COVID-19 monitoring program.

The CDC is working with several health groups offering free COVID testing to international travelers arriving from select countries.

Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was at terminal 4 Saturday to help get things started.

The goal is to alert local health officials to the potential spread of the omicron variant.

"We in New York state want to be clear, we want to be safe. We have just implemented a mask mandate which will start on Monday and Governor Hochul is very clear that we need to do everything we can to keep the economy open, keep reopening to society, but at the same time be as careful as possible which means tests, vaccinations, and mandates," Benjamin said.

all foreign travelers arriving in the U.S. must be fully vaccinated and show proof.

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



No deaths among initial U.S. omicron cases
New CDC data shows there have been no deaths among the 43 confirmed cases in the U.S. of the omicron COVID-19 variant. From those diagnoses, only one person was hospitalized. Public health experts say there are early signs micron could cause less severe disease than variants we've seen before. But it is still too soon to say for sure because many of the cases are younger adults who have been vaccinated.

CDC considering boosters for younger kids
New studies show that pediatric cases of COVID-19 have jumped nearly 900% since last summer, and kids now make up almost a quarter of all cases in the U.S. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the agency is now considering expanding booster shots to younger kids in the coming months. "We're first starting to get our 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated," she said. "We'll look again at the 12- to 15-year-olds, of course, as with the FDA, in real time." But as health officials work to expand vaccine eligibility, some Americans are refusing to get their shots. Roughly two-thirds of parents of elementary school-aged children are either holding off on getting their younger kids vaccinated or refuse to do so.

2nd omicron case identified in New Jersey
New Jersey has announced a second omicron case. A Monmouth County man who attended Anime NYC at the Javits Center in November became ill on November 24 but was not hospitalized.

The individual experienced mild illness and has since recovered. He was fully vaccinated and had recently received a booster.

Connecticut IDs 9 additional omicron cases, bringing total statewide to 11

The Connecticut Department of Public Health announced that there have been 9 additional cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant identified among Connecticut residents, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 11.

Specimen collection dates in the nine cases ranged from November 28 to December 7. They involve five women and four men between the ages of 20 to 85 years old. They are residents of Hartford County (1), New Haven County (5), and Fairfield County (3). Seven of the affected individuals were fully vaccinated.
NY Gov. Hochul announces indoor masking for places without vax requirement
Governor Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places in New York unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. The governor made the decision based on the state's weekly seven-day case rate as well as hospitalizations. The new business and venue requirements extend to both patrons and staff. It goes into effect from Decenber 13 until January 15, after which the state will re-evaluate the requirement based on current conditions.

FDA authorizes boosters for teens 16 & 17
The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters, ruling that 16- and 17-year-olds can get a third dose of Pfizer's vaccine. The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech -- if it's been six months since their last shot.

South Africa approves Pfizer vaccine booster amid COVID wave
South Africa's regulatory authority has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster shot, opening the way for third doses to be administered to battle the current surge driven by the omicron variant. South Africa's new COVID-19 cases continue to rise. In the last 24 hours, South Africa recorded 22,391 new cases, up from about 200 per day in early November. More than 90% of the new cases are omicron, according to genetic sequencing surveys. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has approved the Pfizer vaccine as a booster shot for people 18 years and older, six months after they received their second dose.

Vaccine makers racing to update COVID shots, just in case
Vaccine makers are racing to update their COVID-19 shots against omicron even before it's clear a change is needed, just in case. Experts doubt today's vaccines will become useless, and the first hints this week suggested boosters likely do offer some protection against the newest variant threat. But further tests are underway to tell if it's enough, or if protection has dropped enough to warrant a recipe change. It's not clear how big a drop would trigger such a drastic move. Pfizer and Moderna have practiced tweaking their shots against earlier mutants so they'd know how but brewing new doses still would take months.

WHO warns fears of omicron could spark new vaccine hoarding

The World Health Organization has expressed concerns that rich countries spooked by the emergence of the omicron variant could step up hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines and strain global supplies again. It said Thursday that could complicate efforts to stamp out the pandemic. The U.N. health agency reiterated its advice to governments against the widespread use of boosters in their populations so that well-stocked countries instead can send doses to vulnerable people in poorer countries that have largely lacked access to them. Months of short supplies of COVID-19 vaccines have begun to ease over the last two months or so and doses are finally getting to needier countries. WHO wants that to continue.
Slovakia to pay people over 60 if they are vaccinated
Slovakia's Parliament has approved a plan to give people 60 and older up to 300 euros ($339) if they are vaccinated against COVID-19. The measure should boost inoculations in the European Union country with one of the bloc's lowest vaccination rates. It should also help the struggling health care system amid a record surge of new infections. So far, only 46.5% of the nation's 5.5 million people have been fully vaccinated. Those people who have received a booster shot by Jan. 15 will receive 300 euros, while anyone who has had at least one primary vaccination will get 200 euros.

Africa CDC: Nations might turn to COVID-19 vaccine mandates
The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says African governments might have to resort to COVID-19 vaccine mandates if their citizens don't hurry to get the increasingly available doses. The warning by John Nkengasong to reporters that governments "will not have a choice" came as the flow of doses to Africa's 54 countries grows. But vaccine hesitancy, and the short shelf life of some donations, create new pressures to get doses into the arms of the continent's 1.3 billion people. Africa remains the world's least vaccinated region against COVID-19, with less than 8% of its population fully jabbed.

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