You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Covid-19 live updates: Biden to push boosters for all adults as omicron detected

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 12/2/2021 Bryan Pietsch, Adela Suliman

President Biden is expected to detail Thursday an array of measures to protect the United States this winter against the widespread delta variant of the coronavirus and the newly detected omicron variant — including ensuring that the 100 million eligible Americans who have not yet gotten their booster shot get one as soon as possible.

“As we face the Omicron variant, boosters are more important than ever. Boosters increase the strength of your antibody response, so when the virus mutates, a booster makes it more likely that your antibodies can protect you against the new variant,” the White House said in a release. Biden is expected to outline his plans in a speech Thursday afternoon at the National Institutes of Health.

The administration also plans to launch “family mobile vaccination clinics,” where all eligible members of a family can simultaneously get first shots or boosters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance earlier this week recommending that every adult get a booster. So far, more than 41 million Americans have received one. Expanding availability in pharmacies as well as a new public education campaign, with a focus on seniors, will also be among the measures announced.

Here’s what to know

  • People will be required to wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses and other transportation through March 18, according to senior Biden administration officials. The White House is also expected to confirm that all international travelers must take a coronavirus test one day before their flight to the United States.
  • The first case of the omicron variant in the United States was identified in California in a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22, the CDC said Wednesday.
  • Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious-disease expert, said the Biden administration is preparing for a possible “variant-specific boost” of vaccinations.

8:02 AM: U.S. airports will aid effort to monitor omicron variant

Newark Liberty International Airport is one of the virus testing sites. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images Newark Liberty International Airport is one of the virus testing sites.

Federal health officials are expanding a program at key U.S. airports that offers free coronavirus testing, part of stepped-up efforts to monitor international arrivals amid growing concerns about the omicron variant.

Under the program, visitors from eight African nations, including those connecting through Europe, who arrive at New York’s John F. Kennedy International, Newark’s Liberty International, San Francisco International and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airports, will be given the option of taking a test when they arrive. Those who volunteer also will be given the option of an at-home test to take three to five days after arrival.

The effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is among the latest this week to address the threat of a variant that has caused global alarm, with the first U.S. case confirmed Wednesday in California.

Read the full story

By: Lori Aratani

7:37 AM: Where the omicron variant has been detected around the world

France, India and Singapore are among the latest nations to confirm cases of the omicron coronavirus variant.

Here’s where else around the globe cases have been reported, so far:

North America

  • Canada
  • United States

South America

  • Brazil

Europe

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • The Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Scotland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland (suspected cases)

Africa

  • Botswana
  • Ghana
  • Nigeria
  • Reunion Island (France)
  • South Africa

Middle East

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Israel

Asia and the Pacific

  • Australia
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • South Korea

By: Adela Suliman

7:12 AM: 9 questions about the omicron variant and travel, answered

© iStock/Washington Post illustration

As countries around the world react to the new and little-understood omicron variant of the coronavirus, travelers are once again facing unexpected border closures, evolving entry rules and a dark cloud of potential cancellations.

The United States on Wednesday joined a list of more than 20 countries that have detected cases of the new variant, health authorities said. It wasn’t immediately clear if that would trigger new restrictions for Americans traveling to other countries.

According to reporting from The Washington Post, U.S. officials plan to lay out new requirements later this week that will ratchet up testing — and potentially require a controversial quarantine period — for anyone coming back into the country. That would add wrinkles to already complicated foreign travel plans.

Read the full story

By: Hannah Sampson

7:01 AM: Utah hospitals suspend vaccine requirement after court blocks federal mandate

A sign for a vaccination clinic in Utah, where about 55 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. © Kim Raff/FTWP A sign for a vaccination clinic in Utah, where about 55 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

A major health-care system in Utah has paused its vaccine requirement for employees after a mandate pushed by the Biden administration was blocked by a federal judge.

Intermountain Healthcare, which operates about two dozen hospitals, mainly in Utah, is “temporarily pausing enforcement of the vaccine requirement for caregivers until there is clearer direction from the courts,” said spokesman Jess Gomez, adding that 95 percent of Intermountain’s health-care workers have complied with the requirement.

A federal judge in Louisiana who was appointed by President Donald Trump blocked the vaccine mandate issued for health-care workers at facilities that receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid. District Judge Terry A. Doughty said that the injunction — which is subject to appeal — was needed to protect the “liberty interests of the unvaccinated.”

The Biden administration issued the vaccine mandate — for health-care workers at facilities that receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid — in early November through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It was estimated to apply to some 1.7 million workers at 76,000 facilities across the country, including hospitals and nursing homes.

By: Bryan Pietsch

6:31 AM: World grapples with mixed messaging on omicron amid quick policy changes


Video: US opens COVID-19 booster doses to all adults (Associated Press)

As news of omicron spread, borders slammed shut and booster shot eligibility widened seemingly overnight — all while people around the world struggled to grasp the few, sometimes unclear, available details about the danger posed by the variant.

Scientists have cautioned that much about omicron remains unknown and that it will be weeks before its exact risks — or lack thereof — are understood. In the meantime, details of reported omicron cases have provided some promise that it may not be more severe than the delta variant, although cases are rising in South Africa, which was among the first countries to identify the virulent new variant.

New daily cases roughly doubled on Wednesday in South Africa, with more than 8,500 new infections reported, up from more than 4,300 the previous day, according to government data. The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said Wednesday that the omicron variant overtook other virus variants in November, accounting for 74 percent of the genomes sequenced last month. Delta had previously been dominant.

As Western pharmaceutical companies start to prepare omicron-specific booster shots, Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious-disease expert, was asked at a Wednesday news conference whether Americans should wait for a booster that targets the variant.

In response, Fauci urged people to get their shots as soon as possible. “If you are eligible … get boosted now,” he said, adding that a “variant-specific boost” might not be needed.

Among the relatively small number of confirmed omicron cases, preliminary information indicates that the variant’s symptoms may not be as severe as had been feared. (Many of the early reported infections were in relatively young, vaccinated people.)

The European Union said Wednesday that among its 59 confirmed omicron cases, all were asymptomatic or mild. No severe cases or deaths among those cases have been reported, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said.

In the United States, the first person confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant had mild symptoms, and the person’s close contacts had tested negative as of Wednesday. And in Israel, the first person with a confirmed case of the variant there — a cardiologist who had received three shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — had so far infected only one of his close contacts, he said in interviews with the New York Times and the Guardian.

Vaccinations, if they remain effective against the variant, will likely continue to impact the severity and transmissibility of infections. The infected person in California was fully vaccinated but had not received a booster.

Fauci cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the “breadcrumbs” of information available. “Be careful about breadcrumbs — it may not tell you what kind of loaf of bread you have,” he said.

By: Bryan Pietsch

6:00 AM: White House details strategies to combat delta, omicron variants

President Biden delivers remarks on the authorization of the coronavirus disease vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington on Nov. 3. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters) President Biden delivers remarks on the authorization of the coronavirus disease vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington on Nov. 3. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Within hours of the first confirmed infection from the new omicron variant in the United States, the Biden administration on Thursday announced an array of measures to protect Americans, including campaigns to increase vaccinations and booster shots, additional testing requirements for travelers arriving in the country and plans to make rapid at-home coronavirus testing free for more people.

While some of the measures are new — such as a plan to launch “family mobile vaccination clinics,” where all eligible members of a family can simultaneously get first shots or boosters — others build on existing tactics, such as President Biden’s plan to urge businesses to institute vaccination or testing requirements for workers.

Biden’s package of coronavirus strategies comes as the nation grapples with mounting infections and deaths driven by the delta variant and braces for the emergence of the still-mysterious omicron. Scientists caution that it will take days, if not weeks, to understand whether the new variant can evade vaccines and cause more severe symptoms in infected people.

Read the full story

By: Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun and Tyler Pager

5:12 AM: Federal mask mandate for transportation extended through March 18

Passengers at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 24 November 2021 as they join thousands of other travelers hitting the roads and airways for the Thanksgiving holidays. © Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Passengers at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 24 November 2021 as they join thousands of other travelers hitting the roads and airways for the Thanksgiving holidays.

The Biden administration will extend a requirement that people wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses and other modes of transportation through March 18, according to senior administration officials.

The extension of the federal mask mandate, which had been set to expire next month, is one of a series of actions the White House is expected to announce Thursday aimed at allaying concerns about the emergence of the new omicron coronavirus variant. The U.S. reported its first case of the variant Wednesday.

The White House is also expected to confirm that all international travelers will be required to take a coronavirus test one day before their flight to the United States. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the administration would announce stricter testing requirements Thursday for international travelers, including returning Americans.

Read the full story

By: Lori Aratani

4:42 AM: Analysis: The things we don’t know about the emergence of the omicron variant

Passengers sit in their seats aboard KLM Flight 598 on the tarmac at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam after it landed from Cape Town, South Africa on Nov. 26. © AP/AP Passengers sit in their seats aboard KLM Flight 598 on the tarmac at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam after it landed from Cape Town, South Africa on Nov. 26.

As Flight KL592 was in the air between Johannesburg and Amsterdam on Friday, the rules of the pandemic changed. The spread of an alarming new coronavirus variant soon to be named omicron, first reported by South Africa, had prompted an abrupt reappraisal of the risks of international travel. The Netherlands banned entry to travelers from southern Africa; suddenly, those onboard KL592 were persona non grata.

The Dutch government was following a familiar instinct, eventually taken by more than 30 nations. By shutting down travel from southern Africa, it hoped to keep this new variant out. But that was futile. Not only did the chaotic, crammed scenes involving KL592 and another flight by Dutch airline KLM apparently become a Petri dish for spreading the variant — it later emerged that the virus was already in the Netherlands.

Dutch officials said Tuesday that they had reviewed genetic sequencing data and detected the variant in a sample collected on Nov. 19 and another on Nov. 23, several days before the now infamous flights took off. And the Dutch aren’t alone in finding the variant was in their country before South Africa raised the alarm.

Read the full story

By: Adam Taylor

4:03 AM: Trump tested positive for coronavirus before first debate with Biden, three former aides say

Then-President Donald Trump departs the White House with then-chief of staff Mark Meadows on Oct. 21, 2020. (Alexander Drago/Reuters) Then-President Donald Trump departs the White House with then-chief of staff Mark Meadows on Oct. 21, 2020. (Alexander Drago/Reuters)

President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus days before he shared the debate stage with then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in late September 2020, according to his former chief of staff and two others familiar with the former president’s test — a stunning revelation that illustrates the dismissive approach to the dangers posed by the virus in Trump’s inner circle.

Trump’s positive test for the virus was Sept. 26, 2020, according to an account by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in a new book obtained by the Guardian newspaper. The Meadows account of the positive result was confirmed Wednesday by two former aides who requested anonymity to discuss their knowledge of the former president’s health.

The timing means Trump would have had reason to believe he was infected with the coronavirus three days before the Sept. 29 presidential debate and six days before he was hospitalized for covid-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The disclosure also provides new evidence of Trump’s often reckless and cavalier approach to his health and the health of those around him as he struggled through a chaotic response to the pandemic.

Read the full story

By: Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Annie Linskey and Dan Diamond

3:19 AM: First omicron variant case identified in U.S., found in California

In this Dec. 7, 2020, file photo, a person wearing a protective mask walks in front of the skyline on Bernal Heights Hill during the coronavirus pandemic in San Francisco. © Jeff Chiu/AP In this Dec. 7, 2020, file photo, a person wearing a protective mask walks in front of the skyline on Bernal Heights Hill during the coronavirus pandemic in San Francisco.

The omicron variant of the coronavirus — which has sparked concern across the world — has landed on U.S. shores, with the nation’s first case identified in a San Francisco resident who recently returned from South Africa. Amid uncertainty surrounding the potential threat of omicron, health officials said the discovery was both expected and a sign that precautions for travelers are working to keep tabs on the new variant.

The San Francisco resident, who arrived Nov. 22 from South Africa, began feeling ill around Nov. 25 and got tested for the coronavirus Nov. 28, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday at a news conference.

The previously healthy patient, who was fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine but had not received a booster shot, tested positive Nov. 29, officials said.

The person had received a second vaccine dose in August and had not yet reached the six-month mark to become eligible for a booster, according to a state health official briefed on the case. The individual — who is between the ages of 18 and 49, according to San Francisco’s health department — has mild symptoms that are improving and is in self-isolation. Genetic sequencing was performed by the University of California at San Francisco and confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the full story

By: Lena H. Sun, Katie Shepherd and Alissa Greenberg

3:09 AM: Information on passengers traveling from southern Africa must be provided to airlines, CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requiring airlines to share contact information on travelers to the United States who have recently been in southern Africa as officials seek to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

Last month, the CDC ordered airlines and aircraft operators to collect contact details of all passengers entering the United States and asked that they retain the information for 30 days and share it with federal health authorities “upon request.” The policy was meant to help locate and follow up with people exposed to disease, the agency said.

Now the CDC says that, which took effect Tuesday, it should get the contact information of all passengers who have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the two weeks before their flight to the United States.

The omicron variant of the coronavirus — which scientists fear could be more transmissible and more resistant to vaccines — spurred a new wave of travel restrictions over the past week, even as experts warned that the variant’s global spread was only a matter of time.

Health officials said Wednesday that the first U.S. case was identified in California, in a traveler who had spent time in South Africa.

By: Hannah Knowles

3:08 AM: Fauci says Biden administration is preparing for possible ‘variant-specific boost’

Anthony S. Fauci joins White House press secretary Jen Psaki during the daily news briefing in the James Brady Room at the White House on Dec. 1. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post) Anthony S. Fauci joins White House press secretary Jen Psaki during the daily news briefing in the James Brady Room at the White House on Dec. 1. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease expert, described the first case of the new omicron variant in the United States on Wednesday, telling reporters that the individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive Nov. 29.

“The individual is self-quarantining, and all close contacts have been contacted, and all close contacts thus far have tested negative,” Fauci said in the White House briefing room. He added that the person was fully vaccinated but had not received a booster shot, and that they “experienced mild symptoms, which are improving at this point.”

Fauci also urged Americans to get their coronavirus booster shot as soon as they are eligible, and said that the Biden administration is examining whether a variant-specific booster shot eventually may be necessary.

“We may not need a variant-specific boost; we’re preparing for the possibility that we need a variant-specific boost,” Fauci said. “And that’s what the companies are doing. We have been — the administration has been in contact with the pharmaceutical companies to go ahead and take the steps in case we need it. But the mistake people will make is to say, ‘Let me wait and see if we get one.’ If you’re eligible for boosting, get boosted right now.”

By: Felicia Sonmez

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Washington Post

The Washington Post
The Washington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon