Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 49,669,827 (49,554,373)
Total U.S. deaths: 794,685 (793,475)
Total global cases: 268,750,160 (268,127,375)
Total global deaths: 5,291,645 (5,284,165)
New York governor sounds the alarm
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is sounding the alarm as cases of the coronavirus rose across the Empire State this week. Hochul said the Omicron variant is responsible for the spread and that it’s coming from community transmission, not from travelers.
Hochul said her primary concern is that more serious cases could create a strain on the state’s hospitals. She announced that 32 hospitals have been forced to suspend non-essential elective procedures effective immediately. She said the increase in hospitalizations appears to be driven by the Delta variant, not the Omicron variant.
The governor said the sudden surge in new cases amounts to “an alarm going off,” and she has expanded the medical resources available to hospitals. Medical personnel of the New York National Guard have been activated to help out.
Hospitalizations surge in Michigan
Hospitals in Michigan are dealing with a sharp rise in seriously ill COVID-19 patients, and one hospital, in particular, is seeing rising deaths. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing is reporting a pandemic-high in both hospitalizations and deaths.
"Since January, we've had about 289 deaths and 75% are unvaccinated people," Jim Dover, the CEO of Sparrow Health System, told CNN.
Dover said vaccinated people who died were all at least six months from their shots. He also said there were no deaths among people who had received a booster shot.
Fauci: Omicron-specific vaccine ‘probably not necessary’
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser, has sounded an optimistic note amid a sudden surge in new COVID-19 cases. In an interview with STAT, Fauci said currently available vaccines will probably be sufficient to protect people from the Omicron variant if they are vaccinated and have a booster.
Fauci said he based his view on how the vaccines have performed against other variants. He called for further studies as vaccine manufacturers test their vaccines on the Omicron variant.
“The companies are going to be making variant-specific boosters,” Fauci said. But “what I think is something that we need to keep our eye on [is] it could be that things turn out better than we expected.”
Around the nation
Connecticut: Several cities have reinstated public mask requirements amid a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases. "Unfortunately, like the rest of the state, just in the last couple of weeks, we've seen a substantial increase in cases to where we're back in high community transmission," said Laurence Burnsed, health director for the town of East Hartford.
Illinois: State health officials report that all counties in the state are now classified as areas of “high transmission.” Federal health agencies consider a county to be in that category if 100 or more residents per 100,000 people have contracted the virus in a given week.
Wyoming: A top aide to Gov. Mark Gordon held a virtual town hall meeting this week to discuss how the state will use its share of federal COVID-19 relief funds. The proposal will be sent to the state legislature in February. Wyoming has received $534 million and will get the same amount in early 2022.
Idaho: State Board of Education President Kurt Liebich expressed relief that a federal judge has blocked a federal vaccination mandate, saying it removes a lot of pressure. “Since the mandate was issued, our institutions have been struggling to develop plans to comply, and the preliminary injunction gives us breathing room to chart a proper path forward without forcing employees to choose between getting vaccinated or potentially losing their job,” Liebich said in a statement.
Texas: An Apple store in Southlake has closed until Monday because of an outbreak of COVID-19 among employees. Twenty-two employees at the store have tested positive for the virus since Black Friday.