COVID Omicron News: CDC weighs significant update to mask recommendations

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Thursday, January 13, 2022
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Faith Abubey has the latest on the COVID surge in the US.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The CDC is weighing a significant update to its mask information as the highly transmissible omicron variant sweeps across the nation.

Federal health officials are expected to recommend Americans upgrade from cloth masks to KN95 or N95 masks if possible, but they are costly and hard to find.

As a result, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the CDC will continue recommending any mask is better than no mask at all.

"The best mask that you can, that you wear is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long," Walensky said.

The U.S. is currently averaging 750,000 new COVID cases a day. Omicron making up 98% of the new infections.

"Given the sheer number of cases, we may see deaths from omicron, but I suspect the deaths that we're seeing now are still from delta," Walensky said.

Data from a new study suggests those infected with omicron are 91% less likely to die from the virus compared to the delta variant. They are also half as likely to be hospitalized and have shorter hospital stays.

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

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

Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses

The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job. At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court's orders Thursday during a spike in coronavirus cases was a mixed bag for the administration's efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans.

Omicron in NYC

Take a look at cases and hospitalizations in New York City:

Mayor open to changing consent process for NYC in-school COVID testing

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is open to changing the process by which parents give consent for in-school coronavirus testing. Currently, parents must give permission for their children to be tested for COVID-19. The proposed change would instead require them to opt out, possibly significantly increasing the testing pool. Comptroller Brad Lander said there was a positive response to the idea on a call with the mayor and other city officials Wednesday.

Debunking the idea viruses evolve to become less deadly over time

Scientists warn that omicron's whirlwind spread across the globe practically ensures it won't be the last worrisome coronavirus variant. As evidence mounts that the omicron variant is less deadly than prior COVID-19 strains, one oft-cited explanation is that viruses always evolve to become less virulent over time. The problem, experts say, is that this theory has been soundly debunked. The idea that infections tend to become less lethal over time was first proposed by notable bacteriologist Dr. Theobald Smith in the late 1800s. His theory about pathogen evolution was later dubbed the "law of declining virulence."

Military doctors, nurses set to arrive next week in NY, NJ to help with omicron surge

President Joe Biden announced plans Thursday to send military medical teams to the New York and New Jersey area to help with the omicron surge. Military doctors and nurses will soon enter the doors at Coney Island Hospital to help ease staffing shortages. New York is one of six states that will receive help. New Jersey is another, and medical personnel will be deployed to University Hospital in Newark.

New York eviction moratorium set to expire, NYC to announce relief measures

New York will let its eviction and foreclosure moratorium expire at the end of the week but will once again let people apply for eviction protection and rent relief. The state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance reopened the application portal Tuesday, even though the state doesn't have enough money to provide any more rent relief, absent a deluge of federal funding. Applicants get protection from eviction while the state reviews their application. A state judge last week ordered New York to reopen the application portal for now, as the court considers a lawsuit filed by tenants and the Legal Aid Society.

Trump slams politicians who won't say they got booster shots

Former President Donald Trump is slamming politicians who refuse to say whether they have received COVID-19 booster shots as "gutless."

"You gotta say it. Whether you had it or not, say it," Trump said in an interview that aired Tuesday night on the conservative One America News Network.

Trump, who was booed last month by supporters after revealing he had gotten a booster shot, has become increasingly vocal in calling out those who have questioned the vaccines' efficacy and safety. It's a change in posture for Trump as he eyes another run for the White House and faces potential competition from a long list of possible Republican challengers.

Biden to double free COVID tests, make N95 masks available in fight against omicron

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the government will double to 1 billion the rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans, along with the most protective N95 masks, as he highlighted his efforts to "surge" resources to help the country weather the spike in coronavirus cases. Biden also announced that starting next week 1,000 military medical personnel will begin deploying across the country to help overwhelmed medical facilities ease staff shortages due to the highly transmissible omicron variant. Many facilities are struggling because their workers are in at-home quarantines due to the virus at the same time as a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases. The new deployments will be on top of other federal medical personnel who have already been sent to states to help with acute shortages.

Police: Nurse in Italy caught faking shots, ditching vaccine

Police in Italy have arrested a nurse on charges he faked giving coronavirus vaccinations to at least 45 people so they could get a health pass without actually getting the shot. The nurse ditched the vaccines in a bin and even put bandages on his "patients" so the scam would not be detected. Police in Ancona, on Italy's eastern coast, also placed four alleged accomplices under house arrest, accusing them of finding anti-vaccine customers who were willing to pay for a health pass rather than get the shots. Forty-five people who allegedly received the fabricated passes are under investigation.

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.

Stay home or work sick? Omicron poses a conundrum for workers without paid sick days

As the raging omicron variant of COVID-19 infects workers across the nation, millions of those whose jobs don't provide paid sick days are having to choose between their health and their paycheck. While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the beginning of the pandemic, some of those have since been scaled back with the rollout of the vaccines, even though omicron has managed to evade the shots. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure of workers having to decide whether to show up to their job sick if they can't afford to stay home.

"It's a vicious cycle," said Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. "As staffing gets depleted because people are out sick, that means that those that are on the job have more to do and are even more reluctant to call in sick when they in turn get sick."

Federal officials issue warnings about fake COVID-19 testing kits

COVID-19 cases continue to rise dramatically, leading to brutally long lines at testing sites and empty shelves at stores where at-home rapid test kits were once in stock. Now, an additional problem has emerged: The Federal Trade Commission is warning about fraudulent testing kits being sold online to desperate customers.

Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the CDC determined the unvaccinated are 17% more likely to be hospitalized. This article has been updated to say 17 times more likely.

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