The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

By Aditi Sangal, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:24 PM ET, Fri January 14, 2022
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7:16 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Netherlands will relax some lockdown measures despite record high Covid-19 infections

The Netherlands will relax some lockdown measures despite high Covid-19 infection rates driven by the Omicron variant, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday. 

"We are taking a big step and that also means we're taking a big risk," Rutte told a televised press conference from The Hague. 

Nonessential stores, hairdressers, beauty salons and other service providers will be allowed to reopen on Saturday for the first time since Dec. 19. 

Rutte added that the uncertainties meant that bars, restaurants and cultural venues would have to remain closed until at least Jan. 25. 

“In the next 10 days, we will look at exactly what we can learn from abroad and what we can also learn from here in the Netherlands,” Rutte said. 

On Friday, the Netherlands Institute for Health announced a record high of more than 35,000 infections in 24 hours. Infections have continued to rise despite the latest lockdown measures. 

“We have to learn to live with the virus, and so we need a long-term perspective,” Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said at the same news conference. “It is a common problem that we must solve together. Not only in The Hague, not only in the education sector, not only in healthcare, but as a society. With businesses, catering, culture, sports. Together, with all parties, we look for the best way to further open society and keep it open." 

7:12 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

More than 25% of New Jersey schools are remote due to Covid-19 but most plan to reopen next week

From CNN’s Laura Studley

More than 25% of New Jersey schools are remote this week due to Covid-19, down from nearly 35% last week, but most plan to reopen to in-person instruction next week, according the New Jersey Department of Education.

As of Jan. 13, 686 of the 2,679 schools that are monitored by the NJDOE closed their doors, pivoting to virtual learning. NJDOE data includes all public school in the state, in addition to public charter schools, renaissance schools and some private schools for students with disabilities. This does not include most private schools or other non-public schools.

Yet that number is lower when compared to the previous week, when 934 schools were remote, according to the NJDOE.

More than 560 of the schools that are currently virtual plan to reopen next Tuesday, Jan. 18, and about 70 more schools are set to reopen the following Monday, Jan. 24, according to the NJDOE. 

Most schools in New Jersey were in person during the fall semester, with just 33 schools using remote instruction between September and mid-December, according to Mike Yaple, a DOE spokesperson.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told CNN's Jake Tapper on Friday that, overall, the state is still experiencing about 20,000 positive tests with nearly 6,000 hospitalizations, noting that positive tests have begun to decrease.

7:16 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Covid-19 pediatric hospitalizations reach record high in Alabama

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

The state of Alabama is reporting record numbers of Covid-19 hospitalizations for children, and health officials are seeking immediate measures to reduce the spread of the virus within the youth population, according to a statement released Friday.

The news comes from the Alabama Department of Health and the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which notes that Thursday saw 2,091 patients admitted with Covid-19, 71 of which were children. Of the pediatric patients, three were sent to the intensive care unit, and one was put on a ventilator.

Forty-one pregnant women were also admitted, with one in the ICU and one requiring a ventilator.

Guidance from health officials calls for children to avoid public gatherings, and to wear well-fitted masks in an effort to reduce Covid-19 exposure. Eligible children are also urged to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

“In the crisis of higher virus transmission with the Omicron variant, immediate measures are critical,” said ADPH District Medical Officer Dr. Wes Stubblefield in the statement.

“School-wide masking is at the top of the list of preventive steps that need to be implemented. Masks can still make a difference in school settings and allow students to remain in class, if properly used,” she continued.

Alabama schools reported 16,035 cases of Covid-19 this week with 139 of 143 districts reporting. That number represents a massive increase from a week ago, in which the number of reported cases was 2,940.

“The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is extremely contagious and fast-spreading. Pediatric hospitalizations are at record high numbers, and we continue to see children with serious complications of COVID-19 infections such as MIS-C,” said Dr. Katrina Skinner, president of the AAP’s Alabama chapter.

“Parents should take the current COVID-19 outbreak seriously as it poses a very real threat to the health and well-being of their children. Children depend on their parents to protect them by minimizing their exposure to high-risk settings, to teach good masking practices and other preventive measures, as well as getting them vaccinated if eligible,” Skinner added.

According to health officials in Alabama, children under the age of 18 accounted for 12.7% of the 9,2666 total Covid-19 cases reported on Thursday.

6:15 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

France records highest number of school closures since spring 2020

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman

At least 14,380 school classes were canceled on Friday due to Covid-19, according to a statement from France’s Ministry of Education. This marks the highest number of school closures since spring 2020, per reporting from CNN affiliate BFMTV. 

The number of canceled lessons represents 2.73% of all classes in the country, according to the ministry statement. 

The closures are due to the discovery of Covid-19 cases among students or teachers.

France has seen record-high numbers of new daily cases this week, with 1,458,456 cases registered since Sunday.

“We can say that we are at the peak when we have passed it,” Genevieve Chene, director general of Public Health France, told BFMTV Friday. “We’re not yet in that situation,” she added. 

Chene said that “as [the Omicron variant] is more contagious [than Delta], we must expect a rise in hospitalizations in the next weeks.”

6:11 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Less than half of those eligible have gotten a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, CDC data shows

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

A medical worker prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine booster dose at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, on January 6.
A medical worker prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine booster dose at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, on January 6. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s the latest data on vaccination efforts in the United States, published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Fully vaccinated: 62.9% of the total US population (all ages), about 209 million people
  • Not vaccinated: At least 20.5% of the eligible population (age 5+) has not received any dose of Covid-19 vaccine, at least 64 million people.
  • Current pace of vaccinations (7-day average): 1,286,773 doses are being administered each day.
  • Most doses being administered – about 735,000 – are booster doses.
  • Only about 327,000 people are initiating vaccination each day. New Covid-19 case counts (about 786,000 per day, according to Johns Hopkins University) are about 2.4 times as high. 
  • About 78.1 million people have received a booster dose.
  • About 24% of the total US population is now fully vaccinated and boosted.
  • Less than half of those eligible have received a booster dose.

Note: CDC data on Covid-19 vaccinations are estimates. The agency notes that data on people who are fully vaccinated and those with a booster dose may be underestimated, while data on people with at least one dose may be overestimated. 

6:06 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Pentagon announces 3 major contracts totaling nearly $2 billion for Covid-19 test kits 

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The Pentagon announced three major contracts totaling nearly $2 billion for Covid-19 test kits, part of the Biden administration’s efforts to make the scarce kits more readily available to the public.

  • iHealth Labs Inc., based in Sunnyvale, California, was awarded a $1.275 billion contract for Covid-19 rapid antigen tests.
  • Roche Diagnostics Corp., based in Indianapolis, Indiana, was awarded a contract for $340 million.
  • Abbott Rapid Dx North America LLC, based in Orlando, Florida, was awarded a contract for $306 million.

The announcement includes no information about the number of test kits these contracts will purchase, but the contracts all have an estimated completion date of March 14, 2022.

5:26 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

The CDC just updated its mask information for Americans. These are the best ones to wear

From CNN’s Katherine Dillinger and John Bonifield

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask information for the American public on Friday, including clarifying that certain types of masks and respirators offer more protection from the coronavirus than others and offering tips on what consumers should look for when shopping for them. 

The updated information recommends that Americans wear the most protective mask or respirator they can find that fits well and that they will wear consistently. 

“Some masks and respirators offer higher levels of protection than others, and some may be harder to tolerate or wear consistently than others,” the new guidelines say. “It is most important to wear a well-fitted mask or respirator correctly that is comfortable for you and that provides good protection.”

The information was last updated in October. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that the agency was planning to update the information to reflect the options that are available to people and the levels of protection different masks provide. 

“Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting (National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety)-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection,” the CDC says.

The updated information notes that “a highly protective mask or respirator may be most important for certain higher risk situations, or by some people at increased risk for severe disease.”

This includes: 

  • When you are caring for someone who has Covid-19
  • When you’re on an airplane or public transportation, especially for a long period
  • When you’re working at a job where you come into contact with a lot of people, especially when not everyone else is masked
  • When you’re not up-to-date on Covid-19 vaccines
  • If you have a risk factor for severe illness like a weakened immune system or a certain medical condition
  • When you’re in a crowded public place, either indoors or outdoors

Masks still aren’t recommended for children under 2, but the CDC “recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status or the area’s transmission rates.”

The updated information also offer tips for getting a better fit and more protection, such as: 

  • Wear two masks (a cloth mask on top of a disposable one)
  • Combine a cloth or disposable math with a fitter or brace
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of cloth masks where they meet the edge of the mask
  • Fold and tuck extra material on disposable masks under the edges
  • Use masks that attach behind the head and neck with elastic bands or ties (rather than ear loops).

The CDC says consumers looking for masks that meet quality standards can look for certain labels like “meets ASTM F3502” or “meets workplace performance,” and they can go to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website to get more information on personal protective equipment. 

The agency also says certain respirators don’t meet international standards and has links to sites for more details.

Specially labeled “surgical” N95s “should be reserved for use by healthcare personnel,” the CDC says.

You can read more about this here.

5:18 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Philadelphia pushes back vaccine mandate by 10 days as union negotiations continue

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Citing ongoing negotiations with a pair of powerful city unions, Philadelphia is pushing back its vaccine mandate for city workers by 10 days.

Initially slated to go into effect today, the mandate is now delayed as Philadelphia negotiates with both the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 as well as the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22.

The Fraternal Order of the Police's Mike Neilon told CNN the matter is "in limbo" as the union is still before the arbitration panel.

Officials say the first union to agree to the mandate was AFSCME DC 33, which represents trash collectors. AFSCME DC 47, which represents non-profit and higher education workers, followed today.

In a news release, Mayor Jim Kenney noted that “as vaccines continue to be the best way to protect Philadelphians and save lives, we’re proud that nearly 22,000 city employees have gotten vaccinated and at least another 1,300 have an approved exemption to the vaccination mandate for City employees—representing nearly 81 percent of all City employees."

Kenney also shared his approval for those workers who have begun the vaccination process, adding, "we also commend those employees who’ve taken the first steps towards getting vaccinated—receiving at least one dose of the vaccine by today.”

The date of the vaccine mandate could also be pushed back further as arbitration proceedings continue for some union employees.

CNN has reached out the union representing the firefighters, as well as the pair of the unions that have agreed to the mandate already.

CNN’s Laura Studley and Liam Reilly contributed to this alert

3:59 p.m. ET, January 14, 2022

New York is "turning the corner," governor says, citing declining positivity rate and hospitalizations

From CNN’s Mirna Alsharif

A COVID-19 testing location in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn earlier this week.
A COVID-19 testing location in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn earlier this week. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says the state is "turning the corner on the winter surge" of Covid-19.

"So here's the news flash: turning the corner, you heard it here first; I've been waiting to say that," Hochul said in a press conference on Friday afternoon. "Positivity is declining. We're now at 16.3%; again, our peak was a few days ago on Jan. 3 [with] 23% positivity."

Hochul also shared that the state's Covid-19 hospitalizations are starting to decline, reporting 12,207. 

"We are starting to see a decline of our hospitalizations, down about 245 down since the day before," said Hochul. "It is still very high, but this will eventually catch up with the trend that is just beginning."

Hochul reported 49,027 new Covid-19 cases, adding that this "is a very positive trend" as the state reported over 90,000 cases just a week ago. She also shared that there are 177 new Covid-related deaths.

The state has secured 64 million Covid-19 tests that will be given to testing sites, schools, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, Hochul said. The governor also thanked President Biden for sending additional ambulance and medical teams to the state.

"Recap: Cases are tending down, turning the corner and we have to continue being vigilant," said Hochul. "We're not going to spike the football, understand that?"