Omicron pushes US daily Covid-19 infection rate above 900,000

Washington, Jan 8 (EFE).- Health authorities in the United States, which leads the world in Covid-19 cases and deaths, are detecting more than 900,000 new infections a day due to the more-contagious Omicron variant of the virus.

New cases totaled 900,832, while the US death toll from coronavirus increased by 2,615 to 835,000, according to figures compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Omicron now accounts for 95 percent of new infections.

The administration of Democratic President Joe Biden continues to emphasize the importance of vaccination. With 62 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated and 33 percent having also gotten a booster, the US trails behind most other advanced countries.

“Over the last several weeks and over the holidays, we have seen a significant and rapid increase in COVID-19 cases,” the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said this week.

“This increase reflects both cases caused by the Delta variant and, more importantly now, cases surging from the Omicron variant,” she said Wednesday during a pandemic news briefing at the White House.

Reporters questioned Walensky about the CDC’s revised guidance shortening the length of quarantine recommended for infected people from 10 days to five.

And while the new standard leaves it up to infected people to decide whether to take another Covid-19 test before returning to work, the CDC has urged people who test negative to wear a mask around others for at least five days beyond the quarantine period.

“So, if one is to take an extra step and perform a test at the end of their five-day isolation period, we wanted to make sure people understood how they should be interpreted,” Walensky said.

“If that test is positive, people should stay home for those extra five days. And if that test is negative, people really do need to understand that they must continue to wear their mask for those extra five days … to complete a 10-day isolation period,” she said.

Despite the massive increase in infections, the future of the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-weekly-test mandates affecting some 100 million people is in the hands of a Supreme Court where judges appointed by Republican presidents are in the majority.

The court heard arguments Friday in two separate cases brought by the National Federation of Independent Business and 27 Republican state governments.

The litigants contend that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exceeded its authority when it ordered every firm with 100 or more employees to require that workers get vaccinated or undergo weekly Covid-19 testing.

They are also challenging an employee-vaccine mandate from the federal Department of Health and Human Services applying to some 50,000 health care institutions that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Questions and comments from the justices during the hearings indicated that the court’s six conservative members were skeptical about the OSHA mandate, as several suggested that the matter was for Congress and the individual states to decide.

The Republican justices appeared more sympathetic to the Biden administration’s position on regulating federally subsidized health care facilities. EFE


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