Federal and state officials are warning of an oncoming wave of coronavirus infections fueled by the omicron variant that could bring the highest level of cases yet during the pandemic in the United States — and New York, as it did in the pandemic’s early months, is feeling the effects first.
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “unfortunately” he believes the nation will see record numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. He added during an appearance on ABC that the omicron variant is “really something to be reckoned with.”
For the third day in a row, New York reported a record daily level of new coronavirus cases. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who said in a news conference Sunday that “we are seeing a very substantial rise in the number of cases in a way we haven’t seen previously,” called on President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act, a wartime law, to provide supplies of testing kits and treatments to New York City and the rest of the country.
More than 70 percent of people in New York state have been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, about 10 percent more than the national rate. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said that more than 94 percent of New York adults have had at least one dose.
Here’s what to know
- The World Economic Forum has postponed the annual Davos meeting which was scheduled to take place in Switzerland next month, citing coronavirus health and safety fears. The gathering of global leaders, billionaires and executives will now be held in the summer, the group said Monday.
- Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Sunday that they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Both were fully vaccinated, with boosters, and were experiencing mild symptoms.
- Health officials in the United States and around the world have signaled in recent days that the definition of being fully vaccinated could be expanded to include booster shots, as the omicron variant’s spread alters the world’s path to recovery.
MORE ON THE OMICRON VARIANT
European regulatory agency grants conditional authorization for Novavax vaccine
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has granted conditional authorization for the Novavax coronavirus vaccine for people 18 and older, the company announced Monday.
The recommendation comes after the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) — Europe’s main regulatory body for medicines — concluded that the vaccine meets E.U. standards for efficacy, safety and quality, the company said in a news release.
Once approved, Novavax will be the first protein-based coronavirus vaccine available in Europe, and the fifth vaccine in the bloc.
Novavax said the vaccine showed 90.4 percent efficacy in a trial of more than 30,000 participants in the United States and Mexico.
It differs from other mRNA vaccines, such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna, which trick body cells into creating part of the virus that can trigger the immune system. Novavax instead contains the spike protein of the coronavirus, a tiny part formulated as a nanoparticle, which cannot cause disease, and which prompts a strong immune response.
Given its more traditional technology, company executives have long hoped that it would be more accepted among vaccine-hesitant people. The fact that it does not need to be kept in extremely low temperatures would also give the U.S.-based company an advantage in logistics and distribution.
“An authorization from the Commission would deliver the first protein-based vaccine to the E.U. during a critical time when we believe having choice among vaccines will lead to increased immunization,” said Stanley C. Erick, president and chief executive of Novavax, in a news release.
Novavax recently received emergency use authorization in Indonesia and the Philippines, where it will be commercialized by the Serum Institute of India under the name Covovax. The companies also received emergency use listing from the World Health Organization.
The vaccine is also under review by multiple regulatory agencies around the world and is expected to submit its data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year.
Britain’s omicron cases soar as new lockdown party allegations at Boris Johnson’s residence come to light
LONDON — Scientists are pushing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take tougher measures to slow the exploding number of new infections driven by the omicron variant — as more photos emerge of more alleged parties held at his 10 Downing Street office during lockdown last year.
It is an almost surreal split screen Monday on the BBC.
Coronavirus cases are surging, especially in London, where Mayor Sadiq Khan declared an emergency amid fears that so many essential workers will become infected and need to isolate that health and security services may be threatened.
Meanwhile, Johnson finds himself at the center of another mini-scandal. The Guardian newspaper on Sunday published a photograph depicting a “wine-and-cheese party” in the garden of Downing Street. Bottles and glasses can clearly be seen — and so can Johnson and his wife Carrie, alongside 17 other attendees.
Rafael Nadal tests positive for the coronavirus, complicating his comeback
Rafael Nadal said he is “having some unpleasant moments” after testing positive for the coronavirus after playing in an exhibition tournament last week in Abu Dhabi, a diagnosis that complicates the tennis champion’s return to the sport from a nagging foot injury.
A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test delivered the result when Nadal returned home to his native Spain, he announced on social media Monday, and the news further muddles his plans for a comeback from injury by playing in the Australian Open, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 17 in Melbourne.
“I am having some unpleasant moments, but I hope that I will improve little by little. I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me,” he said, according to a Google translation of the tweets he posted in Spanish.
Dow plunges, global markets reel on omicron fears
Global markets reeled Monday as the omicron variant hit investors with a dose of sad deja vu, in the form of renewed lockdowns, and business and travel restrictions just in time for the holidays.
The Dow Jones industrial average slid more than 600 points, or 1.7 percent, in early trading. The S&P 500 index fell 1.4 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 1.2 percent.
Asian markets were red across the board, led by Japan’s Nikkei 225, which shed more than 2 percent. The mood is also grim in Europe, where indexes were negative in midday trading, with the benchmark Stoxx 600 index down 1.3 percent.
At-home coronavirus tests: when to take them, how to get them and more
“You have the result in 15 minutes, and you don’t need to go anywhere,” said Clare Rock, an infectious-disease physician and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She added: “People have the autonomy to take some of this into their own hands.”
A number of at-home coronavirus test kits have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and can be purchased without a prescription online or from drugstores. Public health officials are urging Americans to get tested before traveling or gathering with friends and family members, making rapid tests an important tool for curbing a variant that is expected to cause record-high covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States.
Some schools provide kids with at-home coronavirus tests as shortages recorded across U.S.
Some school districts across the United States are sending students and staff home for the holidays with coronavirus tests, as Americans report increasing difficulty securing them just days away from Christmas.
Marin County Schools in California, Chicago Public Schools and San Diego Unified School District are among those to provide students with at-home coronavirus test kits ahead of the holidays, in an effort to help identify infections and allow children to return to school in the new year, CNN reports.
Nearly 50 people test positive on Royal Caribbean cruise
At least 48 people have tested positive for the coronavirus on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas cruise ship that docked Saturday in Miami, the company said, as the omicron variant continues to spread around the world.
The sprawling ship, which boasts a nightclub and royal theater, left Miami on Dec. 11 for a seven-day trip and made a handful of stops, including St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
Regulations stipulated by the company meant that all travelers over the age of 12 had to be fully vaccinated and had to produce a negative coronavirus test result before the voyage.
Omicron has already been a concern for the company. Regarding a separate cruise, “we were notified by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] that a guest on board our [December] 4th cruise tested positive and it was identified as omicron,” company spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro told USA Today.
The CDC said it was aware of the outbreak on the ship and said it was working with Royal Caribbean to “gather more information about the cases and possible exposures.” Officials said specimens would be taken for genetic sequencing.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spike in D.C. region, stirring holiday travel angst
If her coronavirus test came back positive, Janet Schaffer knew, she risked spending Christmas in the basement.
With less than a week to go until the holiday, the 72-year-old joined a throng of people outside a testing clinic the size of a storage shed in Arlington, Va. Schaffer had decided to get swabbed on the drive from her home in Beaufort, S.C., to New Jersey, where her three grandchildren live. While the older children were vaccinated, the youngest was not. And so on Sunday morning, Schaffer finished her test and hoped for a negative result.
“We’re all traumatized from last year,” she said. “We thought we were over this. It’s very scary — scary for the old, scary for the young. I’m angry we’re at this point.”
Lawmakers, business leaders begin to raise alarms about dwindling federal aid
The swift arrival of a new coronavirus variant has rekindled economic anxieties in Washington, as congressional lawmakers, business leaders and consumer advocates begin to worry whether there is enough federal aid to shield Americans from another round of financial despair.
Over the course of the nearly two-year pandemic, Congress has committed nearly $6 trillion toward combating the contagion and bringing a battered economy back from the brink. But some of the most significant programs to keep businesses afloat and help households pay bills have expired or run out of funds, raising new risks for the future of the country’s recovery, particularly as the omicron variant wave begins to take hold.
There’s no federal money left to keep restaurants open. The aid for concert halls and other customer-starved performance spaces has nearly gone dry. Federal officials ended their primary effort that pumped money into small businesses with sagging balance sheets, and they stopped paying out extra sums to workers who are out of a job.
About 30 percent of the fully vaccinated in the U.S. have gotten boosted. Omicron could speed things up.
Officials and public health experts are strengthening their calls for people to get booster shots as the omicron variant proliferates across the United States, where less than a third of the fully vaccinated population has received an additional coronavirus vaccine dose.
In public remarks in recent days, federal and state officials have implored people to get boosted as soon as they can. But public health experts and behavioral scientists say uncertainty about who needs boosters and how they help may explain why uptake isn’t higher. Still, they say booster numbers can rise, especially as messaging strengthens amid concern about the omicron variant.
Omicron is fueling lockdowns in some countries just as others start to loosen restrictions
The Netherlands imposed a snap lockdown starting Sunday. Officials in Ireland declared a nightly curfew from Monday. France banned New Year’s Eve fireworks amid new travel restrictions. Other European countries, including Germany, also imposed new travel constraints. Israel has urged people to work from home when possible and is weighing tightened travel restrictions to and from the United States, among other countries.
But in Australia — once dubbed the “Hermit Kingdom” for the way it sealed its international borders against the virus — officials in the country’s most populous areas have loosened nearly all limitations in recent days, even though case numbers have soared to fresh records.
New Zealand, too, has been easing restrictions. The country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is set to celebrate her pandemic-delayed wedding next month with dozens of guests and a performance by the singer Lorde, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen dies after battling covid-19
The lawmaker told his Republican colleagues he tested positive while on a trip to El Salvador in November, according to local media reports, and asked them for guidance in securing monoclonal antibodies, a treatment for covid-19 that has been shown to be effective at preventing severe disease.
A Taylor Swift fan party in Australia became a coronavirus superspreader event
At least 97 people who attended a Taylor Swift-themed party in Sydney last week have tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities said, adding that it’s likely some of the revelers were infected with the omicron variant.
The event, dubbed “On Repeat: Taylor Swift Red Party,” took place Dec. 10 at the Metro Theatre, a live music venue with a capacity of 1,100 people, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. It was billed as a celebration of the rerelease of Swift’s 2012 album “Red.”
Sens. Warren and Booker test positive for coronavirus
“I regularly test for COVID & while I tested negative earlier this week, today I tested positive with a breakthrough case,” Warren wrote on Twitter.
Warren, who had received three shots of a coronavirus vaccine, added that she was experiencing only mild symptoms and was “grateful for the protection provided against serious illness that comes from being vaccinated & boosted.”