Coronavirus update: Omicron variant arrives in the U.S.

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Allergy sufferers may be in luck

Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 48,706,636 (48,577,181)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 782,201 (780,443)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 263,750,379 (263,070,422)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,228,635 (5,220,373)‌

First Omicron variant cases identified in the U.S.

Doctors have identified the first official COVID-19 case in the U.S. that involves the Omicron variant. The patient was diagnosed in San Francisco after he returned from South Africa on Nov. 22.

The patient, who is fully vaccinated, is reporting only mild symptoms and is said to be on the road to recovery. He is reportedly self-quarantining at home. While not a lot is known about the Omicron variant, early evidence suggests that it is less severe than other forms of the virus.

Hours later, Minnesota health officials reported a second case. They say the fully vaccinated man had traveled to New York City to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21.

Your allergies may provide some COVID-19 protection

British scientists studying who is most at risk from the coronavirus say they have made a surprising discovery. A small group of the at-risk population in the study -- male, over 65, and having an underlying condition -- were less likely to get infected.

On closer examination, the group had one thing in common -- they suffered from allergies such as hay fever, eczema, and rhinitis. These conditions were associated with a 23% lower risk of COVID-19 infection.

The study found that people who take immunosuppressants to calm overactive immune system reactions, which can be a cause of allergies, had even better resistance to COVID-19. They were 53% less likely to get infected.

Unemployment claims back below pre-pandemic levels

With businesses struggling to hire people, it might not be surprising that fewer people are losing their jobs. The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits were up only slightly last week, but they remained lower than before the pandemic.

There were 220,000 first-time claims last week, higher than the 192,000 claims the week before but lower than the 256,000 jobless benefit claims the week before the economy shut down in March 2020.

Unfortunately, the report was not completely positive. The number of Americans continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose last week to 2,306,353. That’s an increase of 21,564 from the previous week. 

Around the nation

  • California: Unvaccinated health care workers at California hospitals are still facing termination despite a court ruling blocking President Biden’s mandate for people employed at hospitals. That’s because California has passed its own mandate that is unaffected by this week’s court ruling.

  • New Jersey: Republican members of the state legislature have filed a lawsuit that seeks to block new COVID-19 policies. The new rules require everyone, including lawmakers, to show either proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test to enter the New Jersey capital building.

  • Washington: The University of Washington men’s basketball game at number 11 Arizona tonight has been canceled because of COVID-19 issues involving the Huskies. The Washington athletic department provided no additional details but said the team had entered COVID-19 protocols.

  • Utah: The state escaped early impact from the pandemic, but the last few months have not been kind to Utah residents. State health department records show that one out of every six COVID-19 deaths in the state occurred in just the last two months.

  • Indiana: Cases are on the rise, especially in the northern area of the state. An emergency room physician is warning of a spike in the number of people being admitted for COVID-19 throughout the state. "COVID hospitalizations have been ramping up significantly over the past several weeks," Dr. Christian Ross, emergency medicine physician at Community Health Network, told a Chicago TV station.

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