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Omicron live updates: Variant found in 6 people in Nebraska, 1 traveled to Africa

ABC News logo ABC News 12/5/2021
© Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 785,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 59.6% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Latest Developments

Dec 4, 6:04 PM

UK expands pre-travel COVID-19 testing

All international travelers to the UK ages 12 and up must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within two days of departure, officials announced Saturday.

The changes go into effect at 4 a.m. Tuesday and apply to all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, coming from countries that are not on the "red list," according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Previously, travelers to the UK did not have to take a COVID-19 test if they were fully vaccinated and had not been in a red list country.

UK officials also announced that Nigeria will be added to the red list, effective 4 a.m. Monday.

The changes are to "slow the incursion of the Omicron variant," Javid said on Twitter.

 
Dec 3, 5:44 PM

Over 97% of CDC employees vaccinated

Over 97% of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees are vaccinated, according to data released Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, 99% of the agency's employees are "in compliance," meaning they have either initiated vaccination or have submitted a request for a medical or religious exemption.

In other HHS divisions, 96% of Food and Drug Administration employees are vaccinated and 99% are in compliance. At the National Institutes of Health, 97% are vaccinated and 99% are in compliance.

The data release comes as some Republican senators have pushed CDC Director Rochelle Walensky for vaccination rates at her own agency as she defends Biden's federal workers vaccine mandate, which is being challenged in federal court.

-ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett

 
Dec 3, 4:57 PM

1st monoclonal antibody treatment for young kids, newborns authorized by FDA

 

The FDA has expanded its emergency authorization for Eli Lilly's monoclonal treatment for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 to children under 12, including newborns, who have tested positive and are at risk for getting severely ill. This expansion also includes preventative use in young kids who may have been exposed and who are at high risk of getting severely ill. 

This is the first time a monoclonal treatment has been authorized for children under 12.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

 
Dec 3, 3:28 PM

3 omicron cases detected in Maryland

 

Three cases of the omicron variant have been detected in Maryland, all among Baltimore area residents, Gov. Larry Hogan said.

 

One of these people, who is vaccinated, recently traveled to South Africa. The second case is someone in their household who is not vaccinated, Hogan said.

The third case is unrelated; this person, who is vaccinated, has no recent travel, Hogan said.

No one required hospitalization, he said.

 
Dec 3, 3:30 PM

Omicron identified in Nebraska

 

Six cases of the omicron variant have been detected in Nebraska, health officials announced.

 

The first individual was likely exposed during travel to Nigeria, officials said. The individual returned to the U.S. on Nov. 23 and developed symptoms the next day.

  A healthcare worker administers a COVID-19 test at a Nomi Health testing site in Omaha, Neb., Nov. 10, 2021. © Bloomberg via Getty Images A healthcare worker administers a COVID-19 test at a Nomi Health testing site in Omaha, Neb., Nov. 10, 2021.

The five other people were "likely exposed" through household contact with the first case, health officials said.

 

Only one of the six individuals was vaccinated, officials noted, and none have required hospitalization.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

 
Dec 3, 1:05 PM

Hospital admissions up by 26%

 

Daily COVID-19-related hospital admissions have jumped by 26% since the beginning of November, according to federal data.

 

Nearly 60,000 patients with COVID-19 are currently in hospitals.

 

The Northeast and the Midwest are seeing the biggest jump in cases and hospitalizations, according to federal data.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

 
Dec 3, 12:06 PM

'It's better to be vaccinated than unvaccinated,' CDC says

With several cases of the omicron variant confirmed in the United States, officials have learned that "many" of those infected are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But many of the patients experiencing mild symptoms from omicron are also vaccinated, Walensky said, indicating that the current COVID-19 vaccines are fending off severe disease.

"We've seen omicron in about five states now and we're continuing to do investigations in other states as probable cases emerge. But what we can say, based on what these cases are showing -- some have mild disease, some may have more severe disease, many of them are vaccinated -- and what we're seeing now is that many of the people with mild disease were the vaccinated people," Walensky told ABC News' Cecelia Vega in an interview Friday on "Good Morning America."

"So we still have a lot of science to do to understand how these vaccines are working against omicron, except to say that we know for every variant that we've had it's better to be vaccinated than unvaccinated," she added.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being interviewed about omicron on "Good Morning America," Dec. 3, 2021. © ABC Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being interviewed about omicron on "Good Morning America," Dec. 3, 2021.

Walensky emphasized that, despite the global frenzy around omicron, delta remains the dominant variant in the U.S.

"We have 90,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day and about 99.9% of them continue to be delta," she said. "So we can't lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of what we have here in the United States is delta, and we know how to tackle delta with vaccines, with boosters, with masking and all of our prevention measures we have been using all along."

Walensky acknowledged that there are still many unknowns about omicron, including the severity of disease, transmissibility and vaccine effectiveness.

"I think we really do need to follow the science here and understand how our vaccines are going to work against omicron," she said. "It may very well be that our vaccines actually work quite well and continue to work quite well against severe disease, and those are the studies that are ongoing."

Video: CDC director talks concerns over omicron variant in US

 
Dec 2, 9:08 PM

Hawaii latest state to confirm omicron case

Hawaii became the fifth state to detect the omicron variant, after confirming a case through expedited genomic sequencing Thursday, health officials said.

The individual is an unvaccinated resident of Oahu who had a previous COVID-19 infection, the state health department said. The person is experiencing "moderate symptoms," the department said.

The resident has no recent travel history, indicating that this is a case of community transmission, health officials said.

 
Dec 2, 8:44 PM

LA County detects 1st omicron case

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Thursday evening it has confirmed its first case of the omicron variant.

The county resident had recently traveled to South Africa, returning via London on Nov. 22, and the infection "is most likely travel-related," the department said.

MORE: What is known about the omicron variant that's arrived in the US

The person is fully vaccinated and their symptoms are improving without medical care, health officials said. Several close contacts have all tested negative.

This is the second confirmed case of omicron in California, following identification Wednesday in a resident of San Francisco who had recently traveled to South Africa.

 
Dec 2, 7:38 PM

Preliminary analysis suggests omicron might be more likely to lead to reinfection

A new study from South Africa suggests that the new omicron variant might be more likely to lead to COVID-19 reinfection than prior variants, though more research is needed. 

The study, which is not peer-reviewed, found that in November, there was an uptick in the rate of reinfections seen within three months of a primary infection, compared to prior surges driven by the delta and beta variants. 

Researchers, who reviewed records of over 2.7 million people in South Africa with COVID-19 infections in 2020 and 2021, assumed many cases in November were caused by omicron, even though the first cases of the variant were not detected there until late November. 

The vaccination status of individuals with suspected reinfections was unknown in the study, so it is unclear if they had immunity from prior infection or vaccination.  

 

-ABC News' Dr. John Brownstein, Dr. Esra Demirel and Sony Salzman

Click here to read the rest of the blog.

Video: South Africa not imposing new restrictions after omicron variant (ABC News)

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