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Coronavirus update: New cases continue a downward spiral

The pandemic did nothing to slow employment last month

COVID-19 declining concept
Photo (c) Anton Petrus - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 76,008,495 (75,682,712)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 897,586 (894,334)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 389,158,188 (385,782,566)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,716,459 (5,703,607)‌

U.S. cases dropped sharply this week

New cases of COVID-19 are in a significant decline across much of the U.S. this week. Health officials say the January surge caused by the Omicron variant is declining at a rapid pace.

On Thursday, the U.S. counted 330,128 new COVID-19 cases and 3,546 deaths. An analysis of data from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker shows that the seven-day average of new daily cases is 385,425, with 2,658 daily deaths.

But there are areas of the country where the virus is not in retreat. Fourteen states are struggling with intensive care unit (ICU) capacity of 15% or less, according to ABC News. Those states include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas.

U.S. added 467,000 jobs in January

A surge in COVID-19 cases last month, fed by the Omicron variant, did nothing to dampen hiring activity. In a pleasant surprise for economists, the Labor Department reports that the economy added 467,000 jobs in January.

Leisure and hospitality led the way, adding 151,000 jobs during the month. Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 54,000 in January, providing hope for a beleaguered supply chain. Jobs in that sector total 542,000 more than in February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic.

In more good news, the labor participation rate rose three-tenths of a percent as more people entered the labor force. Because more people were seeking jobs last month, the nation’s unemployment rate edged up to 4%.

CDC: Too soon to toss the mask

With the second anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic approaching and new cases declining in most areas, many people may be wondering if they still need to wear a mask in indoor public settings. They do, health officials say.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not changed. It recommends indoor masking for areas with either an average of 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents or a test positivity rate of at least 8%.

According to NBC News, 99.9 percent of U.S. counties still meet that criteria for indoor masking.

Around the nation

  • Minnesota: In its first action of the 2022 session, the state legislature has passed the “COVID-19 presumption law.” It states that if a health care worker or first responder is infected with COVID-19, it is presumed that they contracted the virus while on the job and are covered by workers' compensation.

  • Florida: Two people have been sentenced to federal prison after being convicted of fraud relating to the 2020 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was designed to protect jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. The jury found the pair guilty of seeking $3.3 million in fraudulent PPP loans and obtaining nearly $2 million in PPP loan proceeds.

  • Washington: COVID-19 cases are declining on a statewide basis, but there are exceptions. Franklin, Benton, and Whitman counties reportedly have some of the worst COVID-19 infection rates in the nation, according to an independent analysis of government health data.

  • Indiana: State health officials have announced that all COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites around the state will be closed today as a major winter storm dumps snow and freezing rain on the region. The sites were also closed on Thursday.

  • Arkansas: Stephen Walker of Conway was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sept. 1 and entered the hospital two days later. He stayed there until this week, when he was finally discharged. Doctors say his survival was a miracle. “He came in respiratory failure ended up having to be intubated, required a trach, went into kidney failure, organ failure, on dialysis. Just about everything bad that could happen to him, happened to him,” Baptist Health’s Dr. Jamie Pinto told KARK-TV.

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