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COVID updates: New Zealand imposes restrictions amid omicron outbreak

ABC News logo ABC News 1/24/2022
Fauci predicts US will be past omicron peak by mid-February
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As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.5 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 865,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 63.3% 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

Jan 23, 5:11 PM

More than 60 arrested amid violent COVID-19 protests in Brussels

More than 60 people have been arrested in Brussels after demonstrations protesting COVID-19 mandates turned violent, Belgian Federal Police told ABC News. 

The protests were in response to an announcement made by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo Friday that people would need booster shots after five months after their second shot to maintain COVID-19 passes giving access to bars or cinemas.

The five-month limit is among the strictest COVID-19 mandates in Europe. The European-wide guide for travel is nine months, and France’s mandate is six months. 

Two people help a woman overcome by tear gas during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Jan. 23, 2022. © Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP Two people help a woman overcome by tear gas during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Jan. 23, 2022.

Three police officers and 12 demonstrators were injured amid the chaos. Officers used water cannons and tear gas on demonstrators, police said.

The protests remained mostly peaceful until about 2 p.m. local time, when a group of people started clashing with the police near the European Union Parliament in the Schuman neighborhood. Windows of some EU buildings were smashed, and some vehicles were damaged, police said.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

 
Jan 23, 11:02 AM

New Zealand imposes restrictions amid omicron outbreak, PM postpones wedding

New Zealand announced a new set of COVID-19 restrictions Sunday amid its first omicron outbreak.

The country, which had so far remained one of the few countries in the world without a surge of cases of the new variant, will impose new restrictions under the "Red" traffic light system starting at 11:59 PM local time on Sunday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reported in a press conference Sunday the variant is circulating in Auckland. 

There are nine newly confirmed omicron cases identified in a single family in the last day. The family had just returned from attending a wedding and other events where there were more than 100 people, officials said.

And due to the outbreak, Ardern announced that she and her partner are postponing their wedding.

-ABC News' Christine Theodorou

 
Jan 21, 7:40 PM

Remdesivir approved for use in non-hospitalized patients

The Food and Drug Administration has expanded its approval for remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19, to include people who are not hospitalized. Previously, the approval was limited to patients who were already hospitalized.

The expanded use was based on a study that found high-risk COVID-19 patients who were treated with remdesivir were less likely to be hospitalized than patients who got a placebo.

"Today's actions provide adults and pediatric patients, with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of severe COVID-19, with a treatment option they could receive outside of a traditional inpatient hospital setting, including at skilled nursing facilities, home healthcare settings and outpatient facilities such as infusion centers," Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement Friday.

The intravenous drug, known by the brand name Veklury, is approved for use in patients as young as 12 years old who weigh at least 88 pounds.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

 
Jan 21, 6:39 PM

Biden has no authority to mandate vaccines for federal employees, judge rules

 

A federal judge in Texas shot down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers.

A lawsuit was filed in December by Feds for Medical Freedom, compromised of government employees from various agencies and AFGE 918, a union which primarily represents employees from the Federal Protective Service and Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency.

Citing the Supreme Court’s most recent decision against OSHA, U.S. District Judge Jeffery Vincent Brown ruled there is a difference between public health measures and setting workplace and safety standards.

“The President certainly possesses ‘broad statutory authority to regulate executive branch employment policies,’” the judge wrote. “But the Supreme Court has expressly held that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is not an employment regulation. And that means the President was without statutory authority to issue the federal worker mandate.”

Brown made clear that getting vaccinated is the best protection against COVID-19 and the lawsuit had to do with whether or not a president could issue such a sweeping order with the stroke of a pen.

 

The Justice Department will appeal the ruling, a spokesman said.

 

Following the ruling, a Biden administration spokesperson said "we are confident in our legal authority."

 

"Importantly, as we face the most transmissible variant to date, every leader should be focused on using the tools we know work to protect the American people. Vaccination is our strongest tool against the virus," the spokesperson said in a statement, noting that more than 93% of federal employees have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

-ABC News' Luke Barr

 
Jan 21, 1:40 PM

California lawmaker proposes letting kids 12 and older get vaccines without parental consent

California state senator Scott Wiener has introduced a bill lowering the vaccine age of consent from 18 to 12.

 

"California law already allows 12-17 year olds to access various forms of healthcare without parental consent, eg: HPV & hep B vaccines, abortion care, birth control, mental healthcare, domestic violence-related care," Wiener tweeted Friday. "Let’s let teens protect their health."

San Francisco's director of public health and youth advocates were among those who joined Wiener at a Friday news conference introducing the legislation.

One youth advocate, Nyla, a seventh-grader, said, "We're exposed to so much that we're old enough to have a say so when something will benefit us. … This bill gives me hope for kids whose parents don't always make decisions in their best interest even when they mean well."

 

-ABC News' Izzy Alvarez

 
Jan 21, 12:38 PM

LA County sees highest death toll since March 2021

 

Los Angeles County reported 102 new deaths on Thursday, marking the highest daily death toll since March 10, 2021.

Nurse manager Edgar Ramirez checks on IV fluids while talking to a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dec. 13, 2021. © Jae C. Hong/AP Nurse manager Edgar Ramirez checks on IV fluids while talking to a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dec. 13, 2021.

Daily deaths doubled in just one week, according to county officials.

Of Thursday's 102 fatalities, 90% were residents who tested positive for COVID-19 after Christmas Eve, which means they likely had omicron, county officials said in a statement.

 

"As deaths often lag behind surges in cases and hospitalizations, we may see an even higher number of deaths in the coming weeks," county officials warned.

 
Jan 21, 11:53 AM

New York positivity rate at lowest point since Dec. 20

 

The positivity rate in New York state has dropped to the single digits for the first time since Dec. 20, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Friday, another indicator that the omicron surge is receding in the state.

  

The positivity rate now stands at 9.75%, down from over 23% on Jan. 2, which was the highest rate in New York during the omicron wave. 

 

"This is still to be taken very seriously," Hochul stressed at a Friday briefing, noting that hospitalizations are still high.

People ride ice-bumper cars at the ice rink in Bryant Park on Jan. 14, 2022, in New York City. © Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images People ride ice-bumper cars at the ice rink in Bryant Park on Jan. 14, 2022, in New York City.

-ABC News' Will McDuffie

 
Jan 21, 11:00 AM

Studies underscore effectiveness of vaccines, boosters against severe disease from delta, omicron: CDC

 

The CDC says three new studies show the importance of vaccines and boosters in protecting against severe COVID-19 infection from delta or omicron. 

The first study found that a third shot slashed the risk of an emergency room or urgent care trip by 94% during delta and 82% during omicron. 

The second study found that, during the delta and omicron waves, the unvaccinated were nearly 14-times more likely to be infected and 53-times more likely to die compared to people who are vaccinated and boosted. 

 

The third analysis found that three doses of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine -- as opposed to two doses or none -- provided protection against both delta and omicron against symptomatic infection. However, the protection was greater against delta compared to omicron. 

 

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

 
Jan 21, 10:41 AM

In 1 month US records more than one-quarter of its total cases for the pandemic

The U.S. is now reporting an average of about 745,000 new cases per day, down by about 5% in the last week, according to federal data. It is still unclear whether the nation is experiencing a true plateau or whether data is skewed from the holiday weekend.

 

In the last month alone, the U.S. recorded 18.2 million new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data -- more than one-quarter of the nation's total number of confirmed cases reported since the onset of the pandemic.

  Dr. James Samuel Pope treats a patient who is suffering from COVID-19 in the ICU at Hartford Hospital, in Hartford, Conn. on Jan. 18, 2022. © Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images Dr. James Samuel Pope treats a patient who is suffering from COVID-19 in the ICU at Hartford Hospital, in Hartford, Conn. on Jan. 18, 2022.

There's growing evidence to suggest the latest omicron surge continues to recede in the parts of the country first struck by the variant.

 

In New York, daily cases have dropped by nearly 38% in the last week, and in New Jersey, new cases are down by 45.8%, according to federal data.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

 
Jan 21, 9:09 AM

Non-citizens entering US via land border, ferry terminals must be fully vaccinated

Beginning Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security is requiring non-U.S. citizens entering the U.S. via land or ferry to be fully vaccinated.

 

This rule, outlined in October, applies to people arriving from Mexico's and Canada's borders.

  Road signage is posted just outside of Emerson, Manitoba at the border with the U.S. on Jan. 20, 2022. © John Woods/AP Road signage is posted just outside of Emerson, Manitoba at the border with the U.S. on Jan. 20, 2022.

This requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens traveling over the border. 

-ABC News' Luke Barr

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