NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are rising concerns about the new omicron variant, as cases have now been confirmed in more than half the U.S.
Early anecdotal reports seem to indicate those infected are experiencing mild illness, but scientists have cautioned it's too soon to know for sure what the long term impacts will be.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says the omicron variant appears to be able to evade some of the immune protection like monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, and vaccines.
"That's the sobering news," he said. "The somewhat encouraging news is that preliminary data showed that when you get a booster for example, the third shot of an mRNA, it raises the level of protection high enough that it does do well against the omicron."
Health experts continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated and getting a booster, and more than 50 million Americans have already opted for those extra shots.
Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:
Supreme Court declines health care workers' appeal
The Supreme Court has declined injunctive relief for health care workers challenging New York State's vaccination mandate on religious grounds.
Westchester Exec confirms COVID
Westchester County Executive George Latimer tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, with officials saying he sought out a test after hearing that he was exposed at a community event. Latimer is home in isolation and is continuing to carry out the work of the government from his residence. He reportedly has only mild symptoms, which he attribute to his vaccination.
Omicron in New York
New York's statewide positivity rate was reported to be 5% on Monday and Gov. Kathy Hochul said there are 38 omicron cases in the state. Of those, 23 are in NYC, 3 are in Nassau and 4 are in Suffolk.
NYC Vaccination Rates
Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of COVID vaccines being made available to the public. In August, 60% of adults in New York City had at least one dose of the vaccine. As of today, the number is up to 90%.
NY indoor masking for places without vax requirement begins
Masks are now 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 will remain in effect until January 15, after which the state will re-evaluate the requirement based on current conditions.
JFK Airport opens COVID monitoring program
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.
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.
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