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Coronavirus update: Encouraging news about Omicron variant

Is a vaccine against all variants possible?

Omicron variant concept
Photo (c) Andrii Yalanskyi - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 51,376,316 (51,127,557)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 810,707 (808,128)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 276,640,160 (275,666,580)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,373,685 (5,365,183)‌

Some encouraging news about Omicron

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is quickly spreading around the U.S., but there is emerging evidence that its symptoms are less severe. A study by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases found that in South Africa, where the variant was first discovered, people infected with it are 80% less likely to be hospitalized.

The researchers compared the results of Delta variant infections in South Africa between April and November and found that Omicron infections were associated with a 70% lower risk of severe disease. 

Health officials say the Omicron variant is apparently fueling a sharp rise in U.S. cases. In what may have been a television first, Dan Nathan, a regular panelist on the live broadcast of CNBC’s Fast Money, announced Tuesday night that he had tested positive for the Omicron variant. Nathan, as well as the other panelists, appeared remotely.

U.S. Army developing universal vaccine

Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are reportedly on the cusp of developing a new vaccine that would be effective against all variants of COVID-19. The publication Defense One reports that the announcement of a successful universal vaccine could come “within weeks.”

According to the report, the vaccine is the result of extended research at the military installation. Scientists began work in early 2020, long before the full extent of the pandemic was known. 

“It's very exciting to get to this point for our entire team and I think for the entire Army as well,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch.

Rare praise for Donald Trump

Since the 2020 election, President Biden hasn’t had much good to say about his predecessor, Donald Trump. But that softened a bit during Tuesday’s address to the nation on COVID-19 when Biden noted that Trump revealed publicly that he had gotten a booster – a remark that drew boos from a few supporters.

"It may be one of the few things he and I agree on," Biden said. "People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us."

Biden also praised the previous administration’s efforts to develop vaccines under “Operation Warp Speed,” noting that it made the vaccine rollout happen sooner than most people expected.

Around the nation

  • Ohio: The sudden rise in serious coronavirus cases is putting a strain on hospitals in some parts of the country. Six Ohio hospital systems placed an ad in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer with the headline “Help.” The bottom of the ad said, "We need your help. We now have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before. And the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated."

  • California: Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced that state officials will require health care workers in the state to get a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine. Newsom said it is important that people working in health care stay healthy due to current staff shortages.

  • Pennsylvania: Tuesday night’s National Hockey League game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center was postponed just hours before faceoff. The league announced the postponement was due to COVID-19 issues affecting the Capitals.

  • Georgia: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has told city residents to mask up, reinstating a mask requirement inside stores and other businesses. The Mayor said she acted in the face of rising COVID-19 infections and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

  • Idaho: An Idaho Falls woman entered a plea of not guilty in court this week to charges of misdemeanor abuse of a teacher and misdemeanor providing a false identity to law enforcement. Her arrest stemmed from a reported incident in which the woman burst into her son’s classroom and confronted the teacher over school COVID-19 policies.

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