COVID Omicron News: NY AG gets $400k refund for residents after false rapid COVID testing

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The New York Attorney General's office recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by residents for expedited COVID-19 tests from companies that did not deliver on their promises.

Attorney General Letitia James says Clear MD Health and Same Day Health have refunded customers more than $400,000.

That's after she warned them to stop misrepresenting turnaround times for test results at the height of the omicron surge.

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

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



Court won't stop Murphy jail mandate
New Jersey state and county correctional employees must get their first vaccine dose by Wednesday after the State Supreme Court declined to intervene in Gov. Phil Murphy's vaccine mandate.

The state's highest court rejected 5-2 an emergency request brought by several police unions to halt Murphy's mandatory vaccination order, requiring staff at county jails and state prisons to get a first shot by Wednesday and be fully vaccinated by the end of March. Failure to comply could result in termination.

Justice Stuart Rabner wrote the unions, led by the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association, did not show that blocking the vaccine mandate was consistent with the public interest and needed to prevent irreparable harm. An appeals court last week dismissed the union's lawsuit challenging the mandate.

More than 1,400 unvaccinated NYC employees terminated over mandate
Approximately 1,430 unvaccinated New York City employees were terminated Friday, as the city instituted its first round of eliminations of municipal workers who defied the vaccine mandate. Virtually all of the employees dismissed Friday had been on unpaid leave for more than three months, a city official said, so residents should not see a disruption in city services. The city was pleasantly surprised to learn that another 939 employees who were unpaid leave decided to vaccinated and keep their jobs- nearly 40% of those who were on leave without pay.

Free at-home COVID tests now available at NYC cultural sites, libraries
New York City is beefing up its push to get more people tested for and vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as working to help small businesses get a boost in their receipts. The city is handing out free at-home testing kits across the five boroughs, which can be picked at landmark cultural sites like the American Museum of Natural History. In fact, there are 14 landmark city cultural sites and 27 branches of the New York Public Library, Queens Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library where weekly walk-up distributions began Monday.

Ottawa's police chief resigns amid truck protest in Canada
Trucks and other vehicles in Canada are rolling out of a southern Alberta town and ending a blockade that paralyzed a United States border crossing into Montana for more than two weeks. The convoy left Tuesday one day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to try to break the siege there and elsewhere around the country. Meanwhile, a Canadian official says the police chief in Ottawa has resigned amid criticism of inaction against COVID-19 protests that have paralyzed Canada's capital. Ottawa police have failed to quell the protests. Canada's top safety official says it's time for police to begin using their authority.

Senate confirms Biden's FDA pick despite political divisions
The Senate has narrowly confirmed President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Food and Drug Administration, filling a position that had been open for more than a year. Most Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans to overcome political obstacles that threatened to sink his nomination. Dr. Robert Califf, a cardiologist, briefly headed the FDA during the Obama administration. Biden nominated him again, in part, because he was expected to easily win Senate approval. But political controversies on the left and right slowed his path. Some Democrats voted against him due to his past consulting work with drugmakers and concerns about FDA's oversight of opioids.

With COVID rules eased, Barcelona embraces festival's return
Crowds gathered in Barcelona's historic downtown to watch in awe and snap cellphone photos as teams of people in colorful garb formed human towers rising into the air like the spires on the nearby medieval cathedral. A giant figure in bright blue dress and a floral crown paraded through the streets in representation of St. Eullia, the city's patron, a 13-year-old girl who was crucified by Romans in the early fourth century for refusing to renounce Christianity. After two years of canceled or muted celebrations due to the pandemic, this Mediterranean city went all-out this past weekend to mark the Feb. 12 feast, or "festa" in the Catalan language, of its longest-celebrated patron.

Zimbabwe to stop paying unvaccinated government workers
Zimbabwe's government says it will stop paying salaries of staff who are unvaccinated against COVID-19, while ordering those who have received jabs to report for work at their offices "with immediate effect," after more than a year of most government employees working from home, state media reported Tuesday. The southern African country has in recent weeks relaxed restrictions on public gatherings as cases of the omicron variant appear to have started receding.

Staff without proof of vaccination will be barred from their workplaces, face "disciplinary proceedings" and forfeit their pay, the state-run Herald newspaper reported, citing a government notice seen by The Associated Press. Those who cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds should provide an exemption certificate from a medical practitioner, according to the notice by the Public Service Commission, which is in charge of employment conditions for government workers. Government departments have been operating with skeleton staff while most employees worked from home as part of COVID-19 prevention measures since 2020.

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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