New York COVID cases 'going up exponentially'; 'SNL' will have no live audience: Latest COVID updates – USA TODAY

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New York state, hit hard in the earliest wave of the coronavirus pandemic, has now tallied a record number of COVID cases in a single day.
The state reported Friday that over 21,000 people tested positive the previous day, the highest single-day total since testing was widespread. The total tops the previous record of just under 20,000 on Jan. 14, 2021.
Cases are also spiking in New York City, the epicenter of the nation’s first coronavirus wave. On Saturday, the city reported over 5,000 new cases and over 200 new hospitalizations, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter. City data shows cases have been rising – at first slowly and now rapidly – since late October, when the city was reporting less than 1,000 cases per day.
A slew of performances from the Rockettes to Broadway shows were cancelled due to outbreaks among cast members, causing tourists to cancel their plans to visit. “Saturday Night Live” announced Saturday there would be no live audience for that night’s show, which will also have a limited cast and crew.
New York has seen a steady increase in new cases that began in the western part of the state and has taken off in New York in the last week, in part due to the newest variant of concern, omicron.
“This is changing so quickly. The numbers are going up exponentially by day,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday on CNN.
While New York has seen the highest number of new cases out of any state in the past week, Ohio and Illinois follow closely behind, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Cases are climbing in about half of U.S. states, and in some places – including Hawaii, Washington D.C. and Florida – they have been rising at a faster rate than in New York.
Also in the news:
►Amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and concerns about the omicron variant, Harvard University announced Saturday it will move to remote learning when classes resume in January.
►The Netherlands will be under a nationwide lockdown starting Saturday as infections from the omicron variant surge. Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not outline the terms of the lockdown but said it will build on a partial lockdown already in place.
►Washington, D.C., shattered a COVID-19 record that stood since January, reporting 2,517 cases in the week ending Friday, according to USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. The city is reporting cases at a rate about 3.6 times higher than the level the Centers for Disease Control says represents high levels of community transmission. The pace of new coronavirus cases is about four times higher than a month ago.
►Nearly 100 NFL players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Monday, the league’s most significant outbreak since the pandemic started in spring 2020. At least 39 NBA players were in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols by Thursday evening, while the NHL shut down three teams through the holiday break to curb the spread.
►All of the U.S. military services have now begun disciplinary actions and discharges for troops who have refused to get the mandated coronavirus vaccine, officials said, with as many as 20,000 unvaccinated forces at risk of being removed from service.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 50.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 806,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 274.1 million cases and 5.3 million deaths. More than 203.4 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC
📘 What we’re reading: Stressed hospitals, weary nurses brace for another COVID winter surge. Here’s how hospitals are doing as cases rise again.
Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen, a staunch conservative who openly criticized Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 emergency orders, died Friday. He was 52.
The former leader of Donald Trump’s campaign in Washington, Ericksen said last month he had tested positive for the coronavirus after a trip to El Salvador, where current COVID-19 levels are “high.” The state Senate Republican Caucus confirmed his death on Saturday, though the cause wasn’t immediately released.
Ericksen, who served six terms in the state House before being elected in 2010 to the Senate, had recently introduced legislation aimed at protecting the rights of people who did not wish to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It was unclear if Ericksen himself was vaccinated.
Current flu vaccines may be a bad match for the dominant strain this flu season and, as a result, may not provide as much protection as hoped for, according to new research.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests the U.S. is in for a bad flu season, on top of what is already becoming a devastating COVID surge.
TWINDEMIC:US enters flu season amid rising COVID-19 cases
Before each flu season, scientists design a flu shot that matches what they expect to be the most common strains. While the vaccines protect against four flu strains, the study only covers H3N2, the most widely circulating strain this season.
But researchers say the vaccines no longer match up with this strain.
“From our lab-based studies, it looks like a major mismatch,” Scott Hensley, a professor of microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania who led the study, told CNN.
Employers will be given more time to comply with a federal requirement that workers get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be regularly tested, the U.S. Department of Labor announced after a federal appeals court allowed the rule to go forward.
Workers who are not fully vaccinated won’t have to be regularly tested until Feb. 9, more than a month after the original Jan. 4 deadline.
The department said it is exercising enforcement discretion to “account for any uncertainty” caused by the legal challenges that had blocked the rule.
The news comes after a federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a Biden administration rule requiring large companies to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or implement testing, though the ruling is unlikely to be the final word on the matter.
The Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit lifted another court’s order from November that blocked the mandate from taking effect. Businesses with 100 or more employees would be required under the rule to stand up vaccine or regular testing requirements by Jan. 4 or face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.
A 2-1 majority of the court found that OSHA was likely within its legal authority to implement the “emergency temporary standard” requiring vaccines or testing.
— Maureen Groppe and John Fritze, USA TODAY
An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed their preference for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccines over Johnson & Johnson’s jab.
Members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said they were persuaded by new data showing that while blood clots linked to J&J’s vaccine remain rare, they’re still occurring, and not just in younger women as originally thought.
The CDC quickly endorsed the panel’s recommendation Thursday and released a statement saying the updated guidance followed similar recommendations from other countries, including Canada and the U.K.
J&J said in a statement it’s confident the benefits of its vaccine outweigh the risks, and it remains an “important choice” for Americans who can’t or won’t return for multiple vaccinations.
Read more about what the news means for you.
— Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press


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