COVID live updates: Omicron variant makes up 95% of all COVID cases in US

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(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.4 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 827,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 62% 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:

Jan 04, 7:53 pm
FDA: Do not swab your throat with at-home COVID-19 tests

The FDA is warning people not to swab their throats as part of an at-home COVID-19 test.

In a statement obtained by ABC News, the FDA said that is not how the tests were designed and it could pose a safety concern.

“The FDA advises that COVID-19 tests should be used as authorized, including following their instructions for use regarding obtaining the sample for testing,” the statement said.

Social media posts promoting at-home COVID-19 rapid test swabbing techniques claim that throat swabs collect a better sample. However, this hasn’t been proven for currently authorized tests.

– ABC News’ Sony Salzman

Jan 04, 5:58 pm
Biden doubles Pfizer antiviral pill purchase

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday afternoon that he was doubling the federal government’s purchases of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill, from 10 million to 20 million treatment courses.

“They’re a gamechanger and have the potential to dramatically alter the impact of COVID-19, the impact it’s had on this country and our people,” Biden said.

He also warned that those who remain unvaccinated “will die” during the ongoing omicron surge.

“So there’s no excuse, no excuse, for anyone being unvaccinated,” Biden said.

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Jan 04, 5:47 pm
US now averaging nearly 500,000 daily cases, data shows

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the weekend shows that the U.S. is now averaging nearly half a million new cases a day.

About a year ago, the U.S. was reporting an average of about 216,000 new cases a day. However, compared to last winter, hospital admissions and daily deaths are notably lower.

Over the last week, the U.S. reported more than 3.4 million new cases — roughly averaging out to nearly six Americans testing positive every second.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 04, 3:42 pm
Florida hospitals say half of COVID patients admitted for other reasons

At least three major health systems in Florida said half of their COVID-19 patients were originally admitted to hospitals for other reasons.

During a briefing about the pandemic in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said about 50% of COVID hospitalizations at Orlando Health and Miami Jackson Health and 60% at Tallahassee Memorial were being treated for other reasons and learned were positive for the virus during their stays.

In a tweet, Miami Jackson Health said its exact figure is 53%.

DeSantis called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to change the way it reports COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“It really isn’t instructive if you have something that is very widespread and mild, and it’s catching people as they go into the hospital with positive tests, but they’re not actually having any clinical diagnosis,” he said.

It comes one day after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said hospitals in her state would be surveyed about how many patients were being admitted to hospitals for COVID as opposed to with COVID.

-ABC News’ Will McDuffie

Jan 04, 2:15 pm
Daily COVID deaths in US up 10% in last week

The U.S. is recording 1,200 new COVID-19 deaths every day, up by about 10% in the last week, according to federal data.

Nearly 828,000 Americans have now died due to the virus. Just three weeks ago, the death toll surpassed 800,000.

Additionally, more than 112,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with just under a fifth of those patients — nearly 20,000 — in intensive care units.

On average, more than 12,700 people in the U.S. are being admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 daily, a figure which has nearly doubled over the last month.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 04, 2:13 pm
COVID vaccines not linked to premature births: CDC study

COVID-19 vaccines do not increase the risk of premature or low-weight birth among babies born to pregnant vaccinated women compared with those born to unvaccinated women, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Tuesday.

Researchers from Yale looked at electronic health data from more than 40,000 pregnant women from the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink.

There were 7.0 premature births for every 100,000 babies born among unvaccinated women compared to 4.9 births per 100,000 for babies born to women who received a COVID vaccine while pregnant.

Additionally, rates of low-birth weight were 8.2 per 100,000 in both the unvaccinated and vaccinated groups.

The team said the findings add to a growing body of evidence that getting vaccinated against COVID is safe for pregnant people and for their babies.

Pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, but only 40% have been vaccinated, CDC data shows.

Jan 04, 1:19 pm
Omicron variant makes up 95% of COVID cases in US

The omicron variant accounts for 95% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday.

In early December, the highly transmissible variant made up 0.6% of new infections.

Meanwhile, the delta variant — responsible for the summer surge — makes up 4.6% of new cases, the CDC said.

The data also showed the omicron variant is dominant in all regions of the country. In the New York-New Jersey region and in the Southeast, the variant is linked to 98% of new infections.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 04, 12:27 pm
UK records more than 200,000 COVID cases

The United Kingdom recorded more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

The 218,724 new infections is the highest figure ever reported in a single day and an increase of nearly 60% from the number of cases reported on the same day last week.

However, there has been a backlog of data due to the holiday weekend so the number includes four days of data from Northern Ireland and two days of data from Wales, the UKHSA said.

-ABC News’ Mike Trew

Jan 04, 10:20 am
Sen. Rob Portman tests positive for COVID

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, tested positive for COVID-19 last night, according to a press release.

Portman took an at-home COVID test which came back positive. The senator said he is asymptomatic and feels fine.

“I have been in contact with the Attending Physician and my personal doctor. I am following their medical advice and following CDC guidelines and isolating for the recommended five days,” Portman said in the statement.

He will be working remotely this week, but will not be able to be in Washington, D.C., for votes.

Jan 04, 9:54 am
Sweden’s King and Queen test positive for COVID-19

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia tested positive for COVID-19 last night, according to a palace statement.

Both are fully vaccinated and have received a third booster shot.

The king and queen said they have mild symptoms and are feeling well, in the statement.

They are isolating at home and contact tracing is ongoing.

Jan 04, 6:36 am
US reports 1 million new daily COVID cases

More than 1 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The 1,082,549 new infections were about double last week’s record daily cases, according to the university’s data. It was unclear whether the newly reported cases included backlogs from holiday testing.

The US recorded 1,688 deaths related to COVID-19 on Monday, below the record high of 4,442, set on Jan. 20, 2021, according to the university’s data.

Jan 04, 6:32 am
US reports record 325,000 new pediatric COVID infections last week

A record 325,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 last week amid the nation’s most significant COVID-19 infection surge yet, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

Children accounted for about 17.4% of last week’s reported COVID-19 cases, down from previous weeks, when children accounted for more than a quarter of all new cases.

A total of nearly 7.9 million children have tested positive for the virus, since the onset of the pandemic.

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 03, 4:02 pm
New York looking into COVID-19 hospitalizations that began for other reasons

New York’s hospitals will be required to report a breakdown of how many COVID-19 patients were admitted due to the coronavirus and how many were admitted for other needs and only discovered they were infected during their stays.

During a COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul cited anecdotal reports of as many as 50% of patients at some hospitals testing positive for the virus who were actually admitted for other reasons, such as car accidents.

“I just want to always be honest with New Yorkers about how bad this is,” Hochul said. “Yes, the sheer number of people infected are high, but I want to see whether or not the hospitalizations correlate with that.”

She continued, “And I’m anticipating to see that at least a certain percentage overall are not being treated for COVID.”

Hospitals will begin reporting their breakdowns Tuesday, but it’s unclear how soon the data will be publicly available.

-ABC News’ Joshua Hoyos and Will McDuffie

Jan 03, 3:11 pm
Surgeon general warns next few weeks ‘will be tough’

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will continue to increase as the omicron variant rapidly spreads across the country.

“The next few weeks are going to be tough for us,” he told ABC’s “The View” on Monday. “We’re already seeing record levels of cases, and we’re seeing hospitalizations starting to tick up. We’re seeing some of our hospital systems getting strained at this point.”

Information from South Africa and the United Kingdom indicates omicron could be less severe than previous COVID-19 variants, Murthy said.

“We’re still going to see a lot of people get sick and a lot of hospitalizations, but the overall severity may end up being significantly lower,” he said.

Murthy said both South Africa and the U.K. “had a very rapid rise, but then they had a very steep fall” in cases

“I’m hoping that that’s what happens here too,” he added.

-ABC News’ Joanne Rosa

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