COVID Omicron News: NY launches more vaccine sites for kids

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced 29 new #VaxForKids pop-up vaccination sites to increase vaccination rates among children and adolescents.

The new sites support the state's goal of ensuring New York children 5 years and older get vaccinated and keep up with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including the booster.

"New York State ranks first among large states in fully vaccinated adolescents, thanks in part to our #VaxForKids program that brings the vaccine directly to communities, with over 222 sites established to date," Hochul said. "The vaccine is doctor-approved and our best tool to keep our families and communities safe from COVID-19. Parents and guardians, please talk to your child's pediatrician or health care provider about getting your child vaccinated if you haven't already."

The State launched the #VaxForKids campaign to increase vaccination rates among New York children 5 - 11 and provide booster doses for eligible adolescents 12 - 17. The State Department of Health is working with localities, community-based organizations, and healthcare centers to establish these sites in all regions of the state. Partners, host sites, and outreach efforts will be tailored to best meet the needs of the communities they serve.

A community-based medical professional will be available at each site to answer any questions parents and guardians may have. CLICK HERE for a list of sites.

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

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



Newark mask mandate announcement expected Thursday
Newark currently requires mask wearing "at all times while indoors at any public facility" through March 4. Another order that requires proof of vaccination for entry into certain indoor locations - like restaurants, bars, clubs, coffee shops, libraries, hotels and convention centers and shared work spaces - expires Wednesday.

Mayor Baraka will meet with top officials Wednesday night and expects to make an announcement Thursday. Any change would be based on cases, which are dropping. Newark's three day positivity is 2.5% and seven day positivity is 2.44% - half of the states positivity rate.

The mandates have been in place, through executive order, since December. New Jersey does not have statewide mask or vaccine mandates for most public buildings, although masks are strongly recommended indoors. Some municipalities, like Newark, adopted their own local requirements.

Hochul says school mask decision contingent on many factors
New York has seen some of its lowest COVID case numbers since late last year, including a 97% drop since January 7. But when it comes to the state's school mask mandate, Governor Kathy Hochul says she's looking at a combination of factors. It includes case numbers, but also vaccination rates for kids ages 5 and up, as well as if emerging variants drive cases up again. But she does not have a specific number.

"The numbers continue to decline, is the rest of the world stabilized, do we have enough hospital capacity and what's the infection rate in the area?" she said. "I believe that will give us the best indicator at that moment at the time to lift it. I know everybody wants an answer. They want it nice and clean. They want to say we're going to hit that, but it's a combination of factors, and I can't ignore that."

She plans to make a decision on masking in schools by March 7.

New York graduation rate up after pandemic cancels exams
New York's high school graduation rate rose slightly last year after the pandemic forced the cancellation of exams normally required for a diploma, education officials said Wednesday. State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said it was difficult to know how much of an impact canceling the stringent Regents exams had on the Class of 2021. Students typically have to pass at least four of the exit exams - in English, math, science and social studies - to graduate. But amid COVID-19 disruptions, the state said, it was enough that students passed the courses.

"This change affected this year's graduation rates, but we cannot say to what extent," Rosa said during a call with reporters, adding that the 1.3 percentage point increase was in line with an upward trend in graduation rates tracked over the past several years.

Germany announces end to most COVID restrictions on March 20
Germany's leaders have announced plans to end most of the country's coronavirus restrictions by March 20. The decision coincided with moves by neighboring Austria and Switzerland to drop many of their virus curbs sooner. A three-step plan was endorsed Wednesday by Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the country's 16 state governors as official figures show Germany's COVID-19 infection rate beginning to drift downward. Scholz said "the peak has now probably been reached." Germany saw infections caused by the omicron variant surge later than in several other European countries. Officials have attributed this to the restrictions that have been in place since December.

Getting vaccinated while pregnant may protect babies from COVID-19, study says
COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy can protect babies after they're born and lead to fewer hospitalized infants, a U.S. government study released Tuesday suggested. The study is the first to show potential benefits to infants born to people who received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines during pregnancy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said during a briefing.

UK to offer COVID vaccine to all children 5-11
British officials say a coronavirus vaccine will be offered to almost six million children from 5 to 11 years old in the U.K. The government said young children will be offered a low-dose COVID-19 shot on a "non-urgent" basis beginning in April in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also announced similar measures. Healthy Secretary Sajid Javid said Wednesday that it is up to parents if they want to take up the offer to increase protection against potential future waves of COVID-19. The U.K. currently offers shots to children 11 and under who have medical conditions that mean they are at serious risk of complications. Around 85% of those 12 and over in the U.K. has been fully vaccinated.

Companies revert to more normal operations as COVID-19 pandemic seemingly wanes
For the first time in two years for many people, the American workplace is transforming into something that resembles pre-pandemic days. Tyson Foods said Tuesday it was ending mask requirements for its vaccinated workers in some facilities. Walmart and Amazon - the nation's No. 1 and 2 largest private employers respectively - will no longer require fully vaccinated workers to don masks in stores or warehouses unless required under local or state laws. Tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook that had allowed employees to work fully remote are now setting mandatory dates to return to the office after a series of fits and starts.

"There has been a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases across the country over the past weeks," Amazon told workers in a memo. "Along with increasing vaccination rates across the country, this is a positive sign we can return to the path to normal operations."

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.

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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