COVID-19 live updates: CDC working to modify international travel testing guidelines

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(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 780,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 59.4% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 01, 5:32 pm
CDC orders airlines to share contact info for travelers from southern Africa

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is directing airlines to provide the agency with the names and contact information of passengers who have entered the United States since Nov. 29 and had been in southern Africa the prior two weeks. Airlines must turn the information over within 24 hours of the flight’s arrival into the U.S.

The directive, in effect indefinitely, applies to travelers from the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Zimbabwe.

The order, which does not mention the omicron variant specifically, is to “prevent the importation and spread of a communicable disease of public health importance.”

Delta and United are currently the only two carriers that offer flights between the U.S. and countries covered by the CDC order.

ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett, Sam Sweeney and Mina Kaji

Dec 01, 3:23 pm
California governor on omicron case: ‘This is not surprising’

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the first detected case of the omicron variant in the U.S. being found in California “is not surprising” due to the state’s “aggressive testing protocols” and genomic sequencing.

During a previously scheduled press briefing Wednesday afternoon, he shared a timeline on the San Francisco resident who tested positive for the case. The person left South Africa on Nov. 21 and landed in the U.S. on Nov. 22, developed symptoms a few days later around Nov. 25 and got tested on Nov. 28, he said. The test came back positive on Nov. 29, he said.

On Nov. 30, initial lab testing determined the sample could be omicron, and a full sequencing confirmed it was early Wednesday morning, San Francisco health officials said.

Newsom encouraged Californians to get vaccinated and receive a booster shot as the winter approaches.

Dec 01, 3:02 pm
California omicron case ‘not a cause for us to panic,’ health director says

The individual who tested positive for the first case of the omicron variant detected in the U.S. had received a full dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine but was not yet eligible for a booster dose, according to San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax.

The person developed symptoms upon returning from South Africa, got tested in San Francisco and has since recovered, Colfax told reporters during a briefing Wednesday.

“They did the right thing and got tested and reported their travel history,” he said.

Colfax said the case is “not a cause for us to panic,” and that San Francisco “is prepared” for this.

The health department has no plans at this time to change its current COVID-19 health orders, Colfax said.

Dec 01, 1:57 pm
1st omicron case in US identified in California

The first case of the omicron variant in the U.S. has been identified in California, the California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health said.

The CDC said the person traveled from South Africa on Nov. 22.

The individual tested positive on Nov. 29, Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a briefing Wednesday.

The individual, who was fully vaccinated, had mild symptoms that are improving, the CDC said.

“All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative,” the CDC said.

“We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of omicron would be detected in the United States,” Fauci said.

Fauci cautioned not to read into the mild symptoms of this single case and said the person was fully vaccinated but not boosted.

Dec 01, 1:38 pm
US hospital admissions up 20%

COVID-19-related hospital admissions in the U.S. are up by 20% since the beginning of November, according to federal data. About one-quarter of the patients are between the ages of 18 and 49.

Nearly 58,000 Americans are in the hospital with COVID-19, including more than 1,300 children, according to federal data.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 01, 10:32 am
Hospital admissions, deaths predicted to increase in weeks to come

Forecast models used by the CDC — the COVID-19 Forecast Hub at UMass Amherst — predict weekly death totals and hospital admissions to increase over the next four weeks.

The model predicts that more than 15,000 Americans will die over the next two weeks, with a total of nearly 810,000 deaths recorded by Christmas.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 01, 8:57 am
South Korea confirms 1st cases of omicron variant

South Korea on Wednesday confirmed its first cases of the omicron variant.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the new variant was initially detected among three people — a couple who arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 24 and their friend who drove them home from the airport. Since then, the variant was found in two other people who also traveled to Nigeria and returned to South Korea on Nov. 23, bringing the total of confirmed cases to five.

Health authorities are conducting genetic sequencing tests on the couple’s child and relatives of the friend who drove them home to determine if they were also infected, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

In an effort to fend off the omicron variant, which was first identified in southern Africa last week, South Korea has banned foreign short-term travelers from eight southern African nations. South Korean citizens arriving from those countries must quarantine for at least 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

South Korea’s daily tally of newly diagnosed COVID-19 infections exceeded 5,000 on Wednesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The surge, which officials attributed to the highly contagious delta variant, has pushed COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the country to record highs.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the 5,123 new cases were reported in the capital, Seoul, and its surrounding metropolitan region, where officials said earlier that more than 80% of intensive care units designated for COVID-19 patients were already filled.

-ABC News’ Joohee Cho

Dec 01, 8:07 am
Nigeria confirms 1st cases of omicron variant

Nigeria confirmed on Wednesday its first cases of the omicron variant.

The new variant was detected among three people with a recent history of travel to South Africa who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control.

“These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week,” Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, director-general of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, said in a statement Wednesday. “Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced. Arrangements are also being made to notify the country where travel originated according to the provisions of the International Health Regulations.”

Following confirmation of the variant on Nigerian soil, the national travel advisory was revised and now requires all inbound travellers to present proof of pre-booked day 2 and day 7 COVID-19 tests as well as a a negative test result that was taken no more than 48 hours before departure. All outbound passengers, regardless of the requirements of the destination countries, are expected to present evidence of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result done no later than 48 hours before departure.

“The NCDC assumes Omicron is widespread globally given the increasing number of countries reporting this variant,” Adetifa said. “Therefore, it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases.”

The cases of omicron in Nigeria are also the first to be confirmed in West Africa.

-ABC News’ James Bwala

Nov 30, 9:41 pm
CDC working to modify international travel testing guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it is working to change its international travel guidelines to require COVID-19 testing one day before departure to the U.S. in light of the omicron variant.

“CDC is working to modify the current Global Testing Order for travel as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States,” the CDC said in a statement. “This strengthens already robust protocols in place for international travel, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated.”

The CDC continues to recommend that all travelers get a COVID-19 viral test three to five days after arrival in the U.S. and that unvaccinated travelers quarantine for seven days even if they test negative.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

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