Health workers diagnosed 166,209 new cases, which came close to Wednesday's one-day record of 171,451 and represented more than a 37-fold increase from daily levels in mid-January, when omicron first emerged as the country's dominant strain.
Omicron has so far seemed less likely to cause serious illness or death than the delta strain that hit the country hard in December and early January. But hospitalizations and deaths are beginning to creep up amid a growing outbreak that is stretching worn-out health and public workers.
More than 86% of the country's population of more than 51 million have been fully vaccinated and around 60% have received booster shots.
RELATED: What are the symptoms of the COVID omicron variant?
Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:
No increase in cases in NY since indoor mandates lifted
New York Governor Kathy Hochul says elective surgeries can resume statewide. She had put restrictions in place at the start of the omicron surge. The governor also said the number of new COVID cases has not increased since she lifted the indoor mask or vaccination requirement. The future of requiring mask-wearing in schools, the next mandate that could be lifted, will be evaluated early next month. Hochul said the timeline for that decision remains the same.
CDC to significantly ease pandemic mask guidelines
Most Americans live in places where healthy people, including students in schools, can safely take a break from wearing masks under new U.S. guidelines released Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined the new set of measures for communities where COVID-19 is easing its grip, with less of a focus on positive test results and more on what's happening at hospitals. The new system greatly changes the look of the CDC's risk map and puts more than 70% of the U.S. population in counties where the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals. Those are the people who can stop wearing masks, the agency said.
Mayor Adams promises return to normalcy
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is promising a return to normalcy after the CDC announced it is easing indoor mask requirements as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. The CDC announced a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at COVID case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. Under previous guidelines, masks were recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission - roughly 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data. Adams said that after the announcement, the city will start easing up on mandates that are in place "to allow people to get back to normalcy."
Target lifts mask mandate for shoppers, employees
Target stores no longer require employees or customers - vaccinated or unvaccinated - to wear masks inside. The message on the company's website says its mask mandate has been dropped due to declining COVID infections across the country.
"We continue to believe that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against the COVID-19 virus," the company said.
COVID-stricken mom reunites with baby 2 months after birth
A 20-year-old New Hampshire woman has reunited with her new baby after fighting for her life against COVID-19 for two months. Macenzee Keller gave birth by emergency cesarean section in November but had to be kept under sedation, breathing with the help of machines. She spent 47 days having her blood pumped in and out of a machine that removes carbon dioxide. Keller wasn't vaccinated against COVID-19 when she got sick, saying she wanted to wait until after giving birth. The doctors and nurses who treated her say her recovery is amazing.
"It was very emotional because I was like, 'Oh, I got to finally see my baby that I was waiting for so long to see,'" Keller said.
NYC students can remove masks outdoors
Schools Chancellor David Banks announced that beginning Monday, masks or face coverings will no longer be required when outside on school grounds. Masks will still be required for all students, staff and visitors inside schools.
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.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 COVERAGE
Omicron variant symptoms: what to know even if you are vaccinated
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New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus
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