NEW YORK (WABC) -- The COVID surge fueled by the omicron variant continues, but experts say we're nearing the peak.
There are 138,000 Americans hospitalized with COVID right now, nearing a pandemic high, and the U.S. has seen an average of more than 668,000 new cases every day.
It's a six-fold increase from just five weeks ago, but medical experts say this surge could be nearing its end soon.
"I expect this surge to peak in the next couple of weeks," said Dr. Ashish Jha, with Brown University. "It will peak at different places in America at different times, but once we get into February, I really do expect much, much lower case numbers."
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to make a decision on the federal vaccination mandate that would require companies with 100 employees or more to require vaccination or weekly testing.
Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:
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."
2 pediatric deaths as NJ COVID hospitalizations surge
New Jersey is in the middle of an "omicron tsunami," Governor Phil Murphy said during his weekly COVID-19 briefing Monday, this as the state reported a spike in hospitalizations and more concerning, in pediatric cases.
Murphy said more residents are hospitalized right now than at any point since the end of April 2020, and over the past week alone, both the ICU and ventilator numbers are up significantly and have roughly doubled since Christmas.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported the highest number of pediatric COVID hospitalizations since the pandemic began, and she said there have sadly been two pediatric fatalities, though she did not offer any more information.
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.
Broadway extends COVID policies, will require vaccination for children under 12
The Broadway League announced Monday that the owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theatres in New York City are extending mask and vaccine requirements through April 30, 2022, along with the Buy With Confidence program that allows for flexible exchanges and refunds. The theatres will also require full vaccinations for children ages 5 -11 years old for all performances beginning January 29, 2022, in accordance with New York City's Key to NYC Guidelines. CLICK HERE for more detailed information.
"We're proud to continue setting the gold standard of COVID health protocols in all our Broadway theatres in New York," Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said. "We're equally proud to assure our ticket buyers' purchases are secure with our flexible Buy With Confidence refund and exchange policies. Our theatres and world class shows are open for business, ready to welcome and enrapture our audiences, as we've done every day for the past five months. Come join us."
Newark vax requirement takes effect
Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka reminded residents, visitors, and businesses that beginning Monday, proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is required for customers age five and older to enter certain establishments and facilities. The city said it will continue to monitor the impact that the rise in the positivity rate is having on its residents, and it will revisit the impact and effectiveness of the mandate on February 1.
"Most recently, our three-day test positivity rate has risen to more than 36%, and we can't afford for COVID-19 to exponentially spread throughout our community if everyone is not vaccinated," Baraka said.
Orange, NJ closes municipal buildings due to COVID
The mayor of Orange, New Jersey said that due to the increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the area, all municipal buildings will be closed to employees and the public through Friday, January 14, 2022, and will reopen Monday, January 17, 2022, safety permitting. Buildings closed to the public will include: City Hall, the Orange Police Station, The Orange Municipal Court, The Orange Fire House, the Orange Public Library, and The Brook Alley Public Works Facility.
National Guard helping hospitals
The National Guard has been called in to help alleviate strain at hospitals caused by the wave of COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant. National Guard medical teams are now deployed in 10 states, helping in hospitals and medical facilities, according to the Army Northern Command. Some 13,000 Guard members have helped across the country at vaccine sites and more, according to Maj. Gen. Jill Faris, director of the Office of the Joint Surgeon General at the National Guard Bureau.
"We've done just about anything affiliated and associated with COVID support," Faris said. "We've seen it happen in all of our states and territories."
Submit a News Tip or Question