Quintyne Lawrence, 32, of San Francisco receives a Johnson and Johnson vaccine from Jojie Gooselaw, RN, at the SFO Medical Clinic at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Calif.
JC Cullars, of Atlanta, and daughter Nina shop for records at Amoeba Music in San Francisco, Calif.
California health officials are reinstating indoor mask mandates in public spaces for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Find everything you need to know about the upcoming mandate here. People in offices and gyms in the Bay Area must mask up again starting Wednesday. Early lab results from around the world show a potentially dramatic drop in the body’s antibody response to the omicron variant among people who are fully vaccinated or previously infected.
Nevada confirms its first omicron case: State health officials confirmed Nevada’s first case of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant on Tuesday, in a fully vaccinated woman in her mid-20s who had not yet received a booster shot. They did not say whether she had recently traveled. The highly mutated coronavirus variant has now been identified in 35 states.
Vaccines prevented 1 million COVID deaths in US, study suggests: In the absence of a vaccination program, there would have been approximately 1.1 million additional COVID-19 deaths and more than 10.3 million additional COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. by November, according to a report published Tuesday by the Commonwealth Fund. The study comes a year after the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the country. It adds that if no one had been vaccinated, daily deaths from COVID-19 could have jumped to as high as 21,000 per day — nearly 5.2 times the level of the record peak of more than 4,000 deaths per day recorded in January 2021.
Fauci says omicron will “ for sure ” become dominant variant: Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the rapid spread of the omicron variant will likely pose a “challenge” to the nation’s progress against the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to CNN Tuesday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said that the highly contagious coronavirus variant will “for sure” become the dominant variant nationwide but hoped it would cause less severe disease. He said people should get booster shots as soon as possible. “The regular two-dose mRNA don’t do very well against infection itself,” Fauci said. “But particularly if you get the boost, it is pretty good.”
Omicron cases tripled in California over the weekend: State health officials said there are 39 confirmed cases of the highly mutated coronavirus variant in California as of Monday. That is up from 13 cases reported on Friday. “The recent emergence of the omicron variant emphasizes the importance of getting a vaccine, booster and taking prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Being fully vaccinated ‘not enough anymore’ to protect against omicron: Early data shows the omicron variant is likely two to three times as contagious as delta, and that being fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson is no longer enough protection, Contra Costa County Public Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano told county supervisors Tuesday. “Two doses give you some protection, but early studies are showing that’s not enough anymore,” he said. “You need to (have received a booster) to have strong protection against omicron. If you thought you were safe with just two doses, that is no longer enough. Get your booster.” Only 25% of county residents have gotten boosters so far.
Omicron detected in Contra Costa County wastewater: The omicron variant has been detected in Contra Costa County’s wastewater samples, Health Services Director Anna Roth told county supervisors Tuesday. “Though we haven’t sequenced a (omicron) sample, we are assuming that we will be seeing cases coming soon,” Roth said. Delta is still the prominent strain, representing 97% of the samples sequenced.
Cornell University shuts down due to an omicron outbreak: The university abruptly shifted all finals online, canceled in-person events and closed its facilities Tuesday due to a surge of omicron cases on campus. “Our surveillance testing has continued to identify the rapid spread of COVID-19 among our student population,” Martha Pollack, the president of Cornell, said in a statement. “While faculty and staff case numbers currently remain low, just last evening our COVID-19 testing lab team identified evidence of the highly contagious Omicron variant in a significant number of Monday’s positive student samples.” There are 469 active student cases at the school, according to the Cornell Sun. The CDC reports that the new coronavirus variant is spreading four times as quickly in New York as in other regions of the United States.
Moderna exec says omicron is a ‘real threat’: The chief medical officer at Moderna cautioned British health officials Tuesday to not buy into claims that omicron is a “milder, less severe version” of the coronavirus, the Guardian reports. Dr. Paul Burton said Moderna officials are working to determine how well a booster shot of its vaccine will protect against the new variant but urged them not to underestimate its potency. “The idea it will push delta out of the way and take over may occur in the future, but I think in the coming months these two viruses are going to co-exist, and omicron, which I would maintain is actually a severe disease, will now infect people on a background of very, very strong delta pressure,” Burton said. He added, “We certainly don’t have to panic, we have many many tools at our disposal, we’ve learnt so much about this virus over the last two years, and we can continue to fight it, but I think Omicron poses a real threat.”
Omicron spreading steadily in the US: The highly contagious coronavirus variant accounts for 3% of all cases in the United States, less than three weeks after it was identified in South Africa, according to data published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week, omicron accounted for approximately 0.4% of new cases in the nation. The new variant has been detected in 34 states so far.
WHO sounds the alarm over omicron: World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in 77 countries but is likely in more. “Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant,” he said during a Tuesday briefing. Ghebreyesus also cautioned against the widespread assumption that omicron causes “mild” illness. “Even if omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.
Fifth & Mission podcast — What to expect from COVID 2022: UCSF’s Dr. Bob Wachter and Dr. Monica Gandhi talk about the omicron variant, holiday plans, and the future. Listen to the podcast here.
California 7-day average COVID case rate up 47% since Thanksgiving: The seven-day average COVID-19 case rate in California has risen 47% since Thanksgiving, state health officials said, and hospitalizations have increased by 14%. The increase could presage another winter surge, driven by people gathering over the holidays, especially given the onset of the omicron variant.
50 million COVID-19 infections and counting in the US: The United States has now surpassed 50 million COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The country accounts for about one-fifth of the worldwide toll of 271 million cases.
How you can help end global vaccine inequity with $5: Worldwide vaccine inequity has been a topic of conversation almost since the moment the first doses were being offered to the public. And still, a year later, the world’s poorest countries are struggling to secure shots for their citizens. Without worldwide coverage, health officials say, the pandemic will continue. Still, it can be hard as individuals to know what or how to help; some have wondered whether it’s ethical for a healthy person to get a booster at all. To that end, the WHO Foundation has launched the Go Give One campaign. Read the full story here.
Cases among children surge 24% in a week: After a steady decline, there were 164,289 child COVID-19 cases reported for the week ending Dec. 9, according to a report published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. That represents a 24% jump from the prior week. Hospitalizations and deaths among children remain stable.
Bay Area says goodbye to mask-free offices and gyms: People in offices and gyms in the Bay Area must mask up again starting Wednesday, after California reimposed an indoor mask mandate in public settings for all residents, regardless of their vaccination status. The state mandate will override mask exemptions in San Francisco, Marin and all other jurisdictions in the region, local officials said. Read the full story here.
California issues new travel advisory as COVID case rates rise: State health officials said Monday that, in addition to following CDC guidance on traveling, anyone arriving in or returning to California from other states should get a COVID-19 test three to five days after they arrive. The advisory comes as COVID cases rise in California and ahead of the upcoming holiday season, in which people from multiple households are widely expected to mingle.
Pfizer says COVID pill prevents severe illness: The drugmaker said Tuesday that the results of a recent clinical trial showed its COVID-19 pill reduced severe illnesses and hospitalizations in COVID patients by 90% when taken no more than five days after the onset of symptoms. The company said tests to date show the pill, called Paxlovid, is also effective against the omicron variant, though further study was needed.
What you need to know about California’s mask mandate dates and details: With coronavirus cases climbing statewide amid growing concerns about the highly mutated omicron variant, California made a sweeping decision Monday to reimpose a universal indoor mask mandate this week.The new requirement comes with the holiday season in full swing, with gatherings that could further fuel transmission of the virus. Find out what you need to know here.
Sen. Feinstein says return to indoor mask mandates “make sense”: Sen. Dianne Feinstein tweeted her support for the decision by California health officials to bring back indoor mask mandates amid the spread of the omicron variant. “As the nation nears 800,000 COVID deaths and the omicron variant spreads, California’s decision to reinstate an indoor mask mandate makes sense. Vaccinations, boosters and masks can protect us this holiday season, but we must stay alert if we’re going to avoid another spike,” she said.
No more mask-free offices or gyms: The state indoor mask mandate that takes effect Wednesday will override Bay Area mask exemptions. That means that people in offices and gyms in San Francisco, Marin and all other Bay Area jurisdictions must mask up again, local officials said — even if everyone is vaccinated.
California to reimpose statewide indoor mask mandate as omicron spreads: California will reimpose indoor mask mandates in public settings for all residents, regardless of vaccination status, starting Wednesday until Jan. 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Monday. Read the full story here.
How effective are today’s vaccines against omicron?: Less than three weeks after omicron was identified and given a name, scientists already have the first evidence that the highly mutated coronavirus variant may be better than any of its predecessors at evading immunity from vaccines or previous infection. Read the full story here.
Risk from omicron “ very high, ” says WHO: Omicron will overtake the delta variant of the coronavirus in areas where community spread happens, according to a technical brief published by the World Health Organization, yet there are still many unknowns about the mutation. The report also said that available vaccines appear to be less effective against it. “The overall risk related to the new variant of concern … remains very high for a number of reasons,” the technical brief said. “First, the global risk of COVID-19 remains very high overall, and second, preliminary evidence suggests potential humoral immune escape against infection and high transmission rates, which could lead to further surges with severe consequences.”
Aidin Vaziri is a staff writer at The San Francisco Chronicle.
Dominic Fracassa is an assistant metro editor overseeing breaking news and criminal justice in San Francisco. He previously covered San Francisco City Hall as a staff writer.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort