Both chambers of Congress passed a bill on Thursday to fund the government through Feb. 18, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown before a Friday deadline.
A group of Republican senators nearly forced a shutdown after they threatened to delay passage of the bill in the upper chamber. They wanted language preventing the use of federal money to carry out a Biden administration mandate on workplace vaccinations, but the amendment to do that failed 48-50.
Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall, who introduced the amendment along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the president’s order will displace a significant number of workers.
“This is about jobs in Kansas. It’s about jobs in Texas, in Utah, across the nation,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill before the vote. “An unconstitutional federal vaccine mandate’s going to lead to an economic shutdown, jobs lost back home.”
Biden announced last month a policy that large businesses — those with 100 or more employees — require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested. Noncompliant businesses could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation. The requirement is currently on hold due to several lawsuits.
“I am glad that in the end cooler heads prevailed,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said of the vote to keep the government open. “The government will stay open.”
Also in the news:
►Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has been cleared from the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols and will be available to play in Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the league announced.
►Workers covered by existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in New Mexico will be required to get booster shots as well, beginning in January. The state Department of Health amended its public health order requiring workers at schools, hospitals and congregate care facilities and the governor’s office to be vaccinated, adding the additional dose to existing requirements.
?Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 785,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 264 million cases and 5.2 million deaths. More than 197 million Americans — roughly 59.6% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
? What we’re reading: Whether you’re traveling abroad or visiting family for the holidays, health experts say at-home COVID-19 tests can be a convenient way to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Here’s what travelers should know.
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The first known case of the omicron variant was been detected in the U.S. on Wednesday, in San Francisco, California. Since then, the heavily mutated COVID-19 variant has been identified in at least five other U.S. states.
By Thursday, the omicron variant infected at least five people in the New York City metropolitan area, plus a man from Minnesota who had attended an anime convention in Manhattan in late November.
“Let me be clear: This is not cause for alarm. We knew this variant was coming and we have the tools to stop the spread,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Twitter.
“Get your vaccine. Get your booster. Wear your mask.”
Officials reported another case in a Colorado woman who had recently traveled to southern Africa. The variant was also confirmed in an unvaccinated Hawaii resident with no recent travel history, state health officials said.
— Celina Tebor, USA TODAY
Patients who have recovered from severe COVID-19 have more than three times the mortality risk within the year following their illness than people who have not contracted the virus, according to a recent study by University of Florida researchers.
An earlier study by UF researchers, published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, found patients who had a severe case of the disease were more than twice as likely to need rehospitalization for COVID-19 complications, which underscores the serious effects the virus can have on the body.
The risk for those younger than 65 who had severe cases is higher than for those older than 65. But patients who had mild or moderate COVID-19 were not found to be at increased risk of death compared to those who did not contract the disease.
“These findings reinforce that the internal trauma of being sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19 has a big consequence for people’s health. This is a huge complication of COVID-19 that has not been shown before,” said Arch G. Mainous III, the study’s lead investigator and a professor in the department of health services research, management and policy at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.
— Jill Pease, UF Health
Contributing: The Associated Press