COVID News: US deaths top 800,000

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Latest on Pfizer COVID pill, NYC vaccine mandate for children
Dr. Jen Ashton joins Eyewitness News to discuss the Pfizer COVID pill and the efforts in New York to fight the virus.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The United States has surpassed 800,000 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The death toll currently sits at 800,266 confirmed deaths.

The update comes as concerns grow over rising cases in our area.

In New Jersey, hospitalizations are up 25% and new cases 20%.

In New York, the number of cases is up statewide over 58% since Thanksgiving, and the number of hospitalizations is up 70% over the same time period.

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

NYU to require booster shots

NYU announce Tuesday that it will require all members of the NYU community (excluding those with approved exemptions) who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster vaccination by January 18, 2022, and upload proof of the vaccination. NYUers may receive the booster shot through NYU or through any other care provider offering the booster, either in NYC, in NY State, or elsewhere. NYU employees who get their booster during work hours are entitled to four hours of absent time that will not be charged against their bank of sick time.

NYC vaccine mandate expands to kids ages 5-11

New York City's "Key to NYC" vaccine mandate expanded to children ages 5 to 11 on Tuesday. Children ages 5 and up now need to show proof they've received at least one dose of vaccine to enter most businesses -- including theaters, gyms and restaurants -- in the city. The mandate also includes some extracurricular activities. The rule expands again on December 27, when anyone over the age of 12 will be required to show proof of a full two-dose vaccination.

"We want to protect everyone," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We want to protect our youngest New Yorkers. We know omicron had a lot of impact on younger folks. We know we need a whole family to be safe, and if the youngest kids are safe that also helps protect our seniors."

Hochul defends mask rules

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is defending her indoor mask mandate, citing a holiday surge of COVID happening now to defend the most recent order. The number of cases is up statewide over 58% since Thanksgiving, and the number of hospitalizations is up 70% over the same time period. Hochul said she made "many, many calls" to individual county government officials, as well as to business leaders, before the mandate took effect.

New COVID-19 nasal spray therapy aims to 'reduce viral load in the lungs by 100-fold'

A new type of COVID-19 therapy is showing promise as a new tool to hijack the virus and slow down variants. It's a new weapon that could be added to the arsenal against COVID-19. Unlike many others, this therapy is proving its efficacy with one dose.

"With a single administration, a single dose in the nose with these therapeutic interfering particles which are and mRNA therapeutic very much like the vaccines," said Leor Weinberger, PhD, senior investigator for the Gladstone Institutes.

Nurse Sandra Lindsay reflects on 1-year anniversary of 1st COVID vaccine

One year ago, the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine was administered in the United States. It was given to Sandra Lindsay, a nurse for Northwell Health on Long Island. Lindsay reflected Tuesday on the momentous occasion of getting the shot.

"It's the one-year anniversary and I'm feeling great, thank you!" Lindsay said. "We didn't know at the time that I would make history as the first person in the United States to be vaccinated. Since then, it's been somewhat of a whirlwind."

Federal judge denies injunction, lets stand NYC vaccine mandate for school employees

A federal judge in the Southern District of New York declined to impose a preliminary injunction on the city's vaccine mandate for public school employees. The injunction would have prevented the city from requiring public school employees to be vaccinated while the court heard other arguments for religious exemptions. Public school employees claimed to have religious objections to the vaccine and sought the injunction after their first appeal was denied.

Apple reinstates mask mandate

Apple will once again require anyone inside its US retail stores to wear a mask as concerns mount over rising COVID-19 cases and the spread of the omicron variant.

"Amid rising cases in many communities, we now require that all customers join our team members in wearing masks while visiting our stores," Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy said in a statement Tuesday.

The iPhone maker had gradually relaxed mask requirements in some cities and regions over time, based on local regulations. Masks were mandatory at about half its stores prior to this week's policy change, Leahy said.

Biden still plans to restart federal student loan payments in February

President Joe Biden still plans to restart federal student loan payments in February, resisting pressure from some fellow Democrats who continue to call for an extension of coronavirus pandemic relief benefits.

"We're still assessing the impact of the Omicron variant, but a smooth transition back into repayment is a high priority for the administration," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki when asked Friday whether the administration would consider extending the student loan payment pause.

Pills to treat COVID-19 could be authorized by end of the year, Pfizer says

A new COVID-19 treatment could potentially be authorized by the end of the year, according to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Bourla said the company is submitting data to the FDA on its COVID-19 pills, which likely also work against the omicron variant. Pfizer's own research found that its pills reduce the risk of a COVID-19 patient being hospitalized or dying by 89 percent. To be most effective, the pills must be taken within three days of the patient being diagnosed with COVID-19.

'Alarming jump:' Cases and hospitalizations in NY up since last week

Highlighting what she called an "alarming jump," NY Gov. Katherine Hochul Tuesday released updated COVID case and hospitalization numbers for the state. The 7-day rolling average number of cases across the state is now up 58% since Thanksgiving, more than double what it was last week. And hospitalizations are now up 70% since Thanksgiving, Hochul said. The highest percentage of case increases are being reported in the Southern Tier, the Mohawk Valley and on Long Island.

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