UK reports first known omicron death; California mandates masks indoors; US tops 50M cases: Today's COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday reported the first known omicron death after saying the country faces a “tidal wave” of cases from the new variant that has shown a higher resistance to vaccines.
Long lines formed at vaccination centers across England after the news Monday, with Johnson also announcing booster shots would be available to all adults. The British government raised the country’s coronavirus threat level on Sunday, warning that the rapid spread of omicron “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and health care services.”
“I’m afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need,” Johnson said in an address to the U.K. announcing a new timeline for the country’s booster rollout.
With the spread of the omicron variant looming, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday told ABC News that preliminary data about omicron show the variant can “evade” some of the protection that vaccines offer but a booster dose “raises the level of protection high enough that it then does do well against the omicron.”
“If you want to be optimally protected, absolutely get a booster,” Fauci added.
When asked whether yearly boosters will be required, Fauci said he hoped the current boosters would increase the durability of protection beyond six months but that it remains unclear for how long they will offer protection. If another dose is necessary, “then we’ll just have to deal with it when that occurs,” Fauci said.
Monday also marks the one year anniversary of the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine rolling out of Pfizer’s production facilities and heading toward hospitals around the country to launch U.S. vaccination efforts. 
More than 239 million people have since received at least one dose and 60.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated since the rollout of vaccines, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. However, only 26% of the population has received a booster dose.
Also in the news:
► California will mandate wearing masks indoors across the state beginning Wednesday and going until Jan. 15 due to a 47% rise in COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving and the looming threat from the omicron variant, California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. 
► The Supreme Court on Monday permitted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers to continue in New York despite it not having a religious exemption, the latest instance in which the nation’s highest court has declined to wade into the issue of vaccination requirements imposed due to the pandemic.
►Virginia has become the 16th state to report at least 1 million coronavirus cases, Johns Hopkins University data shows. 
►Philadelphia health officials said Monday the city will require proof of vaccination for indoor dining at bars and restaurants.
►More than a third of Americans are very or extremely worried about getting COVID-19 or a family member getting COVID-19, according to a new poll from The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s up from about 25% who felt similar fears in late October.
►Omicron was newly reported in Alaska, North Carolina and Ohio. The CDC says the new variant has now been detected in more than half of the 50 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 50 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 798,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 270.7 million cases and 5.3 million deaths. More than 201.9 million Americans — 60.8% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC
📘 What we’re reading: A year ago, trucks rolled out of Pfizer’s Portage, Michigan, plant carrying the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered in the U.S. For many who work in the field of immunology and infectious diseases, the realization that humanity had a chance against the virus was surreal. 
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.
Keith Smith, whose wife had gone to court to have his COVID-19 infection treated with ivermectin, died Sunday evening, a week after he received his first dose of the controversial drug. He was 52. 
Smith was in a hospital in Pennsylvania for nearly three weeks and had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit in a medically induced coma on a ventilator since Nov. 21. He had been diagnosed with the virus on Nov. 10. 
His wife of 24 years, Darla, had gone to court to compel the hospital, UPMC Memorial, to treat her husband with ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that has not been approved for treatment of COVID-19. 
York County Court Judge Clyde Vedder’s Dec. 3 decision did not compel the hospital to treat Keith with the drug, but it did allow Darla to have an independent physician administer it. He received two doses before Keith’s condition grew worse, and the doctor halted the treatment. 
“Tonight, around 7:45 p.m., my precious husband breathed his last breath,” Darla wrote on the website  
He died with Darla and their two sons, Carter and Zach, at his bedside. Darla wrote they had time to speak to Keith, separately and as a group, before he passed away. “My boys are so strong,” she wrote. “They are my rock of solace.” 
– Mike Argento, York Daily Record
Some young people ages 21 and younger who developed a form of heart inflammation suspected to have come from the COVID-19 vaccine tend to have mild conditions and recover quickly, according to new research described by officials from Intermountain Healthcare last week.
The new study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal “Circulation,” compared data and medical records from patients at 26 pediatric medical centers across the U.S., including in Utah, and found that one in five patients were admitted to intensive care units, largely with the same symptoms, but none had died and most were released after two or three days.
“As the COVID vaccine came out worldwide, early on we started to hear reports in the spring of cases of heart inflammation or myocarditis,” said Dr. Dongngan T. Truong, associate professor of pediatrics in the division of cardiology at the University of Utah Health and a pediatric cardiologist at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, in a news conference about the study.
The majority of patients, more than 90%, were male, and nearly every case was diagnosed after the patient had received an mRNA vaccine. Chest pain was the most common symptom, found in more than 99% of patients, while about a third of patients also experienced fever or shortness of breath.
“Recovery in the hospital was quite short with minimal medication to treat the myocarditis,” Truong said.
– Elle Cabrera, St. George Spectrum & Daily News
Gov. Kathy Hochul last week announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places in New York unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement for entry.
The new mask and vaccine mandates come as COVID-19 cases spiked statewide more than 43% since Thanksgiving, straining the health care system amid staffing shortages, according to the governor’s office.
The new mask requirements extend to both patrons and staff. The measure takes effect Monday and will remain in place until Jan. 15, after which the state will re-evaluate based on current conditions.
– David Robinson, USA TODAY Network New York
Contributing: The Associated Press


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