January 4 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Rhea Mogul, Adam Renton, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 4:53 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022
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4:01 p.m. ET, January 4, 2022

Covid-19 cases in US children reach record level, data from pediatrics organization shows 

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

In an “alarming increase,” new Covid-19 cases in children in the US increased nearly 64% over the prior week, according to data published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

For the week ending Dec. 30, there were more than 325,000 new cases among children. The prior week saw more than 126,000 new cases. This is the highest case count ever reported in children over the course of the pandemic and nearly double the case count from two weeks earlier, according to AAP.

Nearly 7.9 million children have tested positive over the course of the pandemic, more than 10% of all US children, according to AAP. In the most recent week, children were just below 18% of all new Covid-19 cases.

The week ending Dec. 30 was the 21st week of more than 100,000 new cases in children. 

In the 24 states and New York City that report hospitalizations, children accounted for between 1.7 and 4.1% of cumulative hospitalizations. 

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” the report authors wrote. 

“However, there is an urgent need to collect more data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects,” they wrote.

1:30 p.m. ET, January 4, 2022

Covid-19 cases are rising in the Netherlands again despite strict lockdown

From CNN's Mick Krever

After a month of falling coronavirus cases in the Netherlands, and despite a strict national lockdown, the Omicron variant is causing new SARS-CoV-2 infections to rise once again, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said on Tuesday.

New infections are up 35% in the past week compared to the week before that. 

“The latest reproduction number for 20 December 2021, based on the number of positive COVID-19 tests, is now entirely above 1 for the first time since mid-November 2021,” the RIVM said in a statement. 

Last month, citing the danger of the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Mark Rutte put the country into a strict lockdown, beginning Dec. 19. All hospitality venues and non-essential shops have been closed since then, the government has advised people to stay at home as much as possible and has said that people should receive no more than two visitors per day. Primary and secondary schools are currently expected to reopen next week.

Even before that strict lockdown, the country had been in partial lockdown since the end of November, with all non-essential businesses closed between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The RIVM said people ages 18 to 29 account for most of the positive tests. It said that an increase in testing was not to blame, as it conducted roughly the same number of tests week on week.

“In the next few weeks, as infections rise rapidly due to Omicron, the number of hospital admissions may start increasing again,” the RIVM said. “This could happen even if the Omicron variant causes serious illness in a lower percentage of people who have a SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

1:22 p.m. ET, January 4, 2022

Covid-19 hospitalizations in the US have surpassed Delta September peak, HHS data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

US Army Critical Care Nurse, Captain Edward Rauch Jr., left, tends to a Covid-19 patient on a ventilator at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, on December, 17, 2021.
US Army Critical Care Nurse, Captain Edward Rauch Jr., left, tends to a Covid-19 patient on a ventilator at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, on December, 17, 2021. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States have surpassed September’s peak during the Delta surge and are quickly approaching the record high from last year, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

There are nearly 113,000 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19 – jumping nearly 10,000 since Monday. During the Delta surge over the summer, Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 104,000 on Sept. 1, 2021.

Hospitalizations reached a record high about a year ago, with more than 142,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Jan. 14, 2021. Current hospitalizations are nearly 80% of the way to that peak.

There have been only 43 days since the beginning of the pandemic that there have been more than 110,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 at one time, HHS data shows.

There have been about 3.7 million total hospital admissions for Covid-19 since August 2020, and there were about 13,000 new admissions each day over the last week of December, according to data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

12:58 p.m. ET, January 4, 2022

CDC study: No link between Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy and preterm or low-weight births

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Women who are vaccinated against Covid-19 during pregnancy face no increased risk for preterm or low-weight births, according to a study published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It’s the latest in a series of studies that have shown the Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women.

The findings are consistent for those who received either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines and for those who were vaccinated during the second or third trimester. There was not enough data to analyze risk among those vaccinated with during the first trimester or with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The CDC study included about 46,000 pregnant women, including about 10,000 who received at least one dose of Covid-19 during vaccination. A preterm birth was defined as less than 37 weeks gestation and low-weight births are those where the baby’s birthweight was below the tenth percentile for gestational age. 

Pregnant women who experience a symptomatic case of Covid-19 face a two-fold risk for intensive care unit admission and ventilation and an even higher increased risk for death compared with non-pregnant women who experience a symptomatic infection, according to the researchers. 

The CDC recommends vaccination for all women who are pregnant, recently pregnant, those who are trying to become pregnant or may become pregnant in the future. Yet, vaccine uptake among pregnant women is low – only about a third of pregnant women have been vaccinated, according to the latest CDC data. 

“Evidence of the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy continues to accrue, including the detection of antibodies in cord blood,” the researchers wrote. That suggests the vaccinating pregnant women can also protect their newborns.

“Together, these findings reinforce the importance of communicating the risks for Covid-19 during pregnancy, the benefits of vaccination, and information on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy,” they added.

The study does not account for potentially confounding factors, including a pregnant woman’s previous history of preterm or low-weight births or a prior Covid-19 infection. Also, the group studied does not include those who may have been eligible for additional vaccine doses or booster shots during pregnancy. 

4:27 p.m. ET, January 4, 2022

CDC director: If you test positive after 5 days in Covid-19 isolation — stay home

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

People who get a positive result on a rapid test after five days in isolation for Covid-19 should stay home, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.

“If you have access to a test, and if you want to do a test at day five, and if your symptoms are gone and you're feeling well, then go ahead and do that test,” Walensky said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

“But here's what I how I would interpret that test. If it's positive, stay home for another five days. If it's negative, I would say you still really need to wear a mask. You still may have some transmissibility ahead of you. You still should probably not visit grandma. You shouldn't get on an airplane. And you should still be pretty careful when you're with other people by wearing your mask all the time,” she said.

Some more context: The CDC is expected to update its guidance on the recommended isolation period imminently, according to a source familiar with the plan.

The agency, which could provide the update as soon as Tuesday, has faced pressure over the last week from outside medical experts to include a testing component in its new shortened isolation period. But it remains to be seen what the final language from the CDC will look like.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins contributed reporting to this post. 

12:53 p.m. ET, January 4, 2022

UK prime minister recommends that mandatory indoor mask measures be kept in place due to surging cases

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference in the Downing Street briefing room in London on January 4.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference in the Downing Street briefing room in London on January 4. (Jack Hill/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will recommend to his Cabinet that so-called "Plan B" measures be kept in place for the time being, he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

These measures include mandatory use of face masks in most indoor spaces and the recommendation for people to work from home.

“As our NHS moves to a war footing I will be recommending to Cabinet tomorrow, that we continue to Plan B,” Johnson said, adding that the country’s battle against Covid-19 was not over.

“Carry on observing those measures for now,” Johnson said.

The British prime minister said the UK was seeing the fastest growth in the number of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic started, but thanking evidence suggesting Omicron is milder than other variants and the ongoing vaccination campaign, Johnson said no further restrictions would be introduced.

“We have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again,” he said. “We can keep our schools and businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”

“The weeks ahead are going to be challenging both here in the UK and across the world,” he cautioned nonetheless.

Johnson also announced new measures to keep schools and businesses open, namely the return of teachers who had left the profession and daily lateral flow tests for key workers.

“We’ve identified 100,000 critical workers in areas from food processing to transport, to our border force, and from the 10th of January we will be rolling out lateral flow testing for all these workers, available every working day,” he said.

 

12:15 p.m. ET, January 4, 2022

US is still "woefully undertesting" for Covid-19, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

People get tested at a mobile Covid-19 testing van in Times Square on January 4, in New York City.
People get tested at a mobile Covid-19 testing van in Times Square on January 4, in New York City. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the US still doesn't have enough tests at this point in the Covid-19 pandemic, especially as the Omicron variant spreads.

"I think the original problem still here ... is that we don't have enough tests. I think that is fundamentally what is still driving this. I think it just makes total sense if we had enough tests, people would get tested before they come out of isolation," he told CNN's Kate Bolduan.

The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention will be clarifying the shortened isolation period guidance and will "speak to the role that testing will play," US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN this morning.

"As you're listening to these recommendations, keep in mind that at one point we thought we should be doing 20 to 30 million of these tests a day in this country, and obviously we're closer to a million or so. So we're still woefully undertesting here," Gupta said.

Gupta also spoke about the rise in child hospitalizations because of Omicron.

"A highly contagious virus that is causing significant uptick in pediatric hospitalizations and a significant 86% [under age 12] not yet vaccinated, that's a bad mix," he said.  

11:40 a.m. ET, January 4, 2022

No need for further Covid-19 restrictions in England, UK Health Secretary says

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid reiterated “no further restrictions” are needed in England to curb the spread of Covid-19, despite rising hospitalizations.

The numbers are rising among older age groups, he told reporters on Tuesday, but “thankfully” the number of people in intensive care is “broadly flat.”

It is “too early to say” if this pattern will continue, he also said, adding that the sheer number of infections across the country could lead to “severe hospitalizations.”

Despite this, “there is nothing in the data at this point that suggests that we need to move away” from the current measures in England, which include wearing a mask in public places and working from home where possible.

He spoke ahead of a Downing Street press conference due to be held by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as at least six National Health Services Trusts have declared critical incidents due to staff absences. A National Health Services Trust covers a geographical area and can be made up of multiple hospitals and specialized services such as an ambulance service.

Despite this, the government is “not looking” to cut England’s self-isolation period from seven days to five, in line with the US, Javid said.

11:16 a.m. ET, January 4, 2022

Omicron now accounts for 95% of new US Covid-19 infections

From CNN’s Ben Tinker

The Omicron variant caused 95.4% of new Covid-19 cases in the US last week – significantly higher than the previous week, according to estimates posted Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the past four weeks, Omicron has risen rapidly in estimates, accounting for:

  • 8.0% of cases the week ending Dec. 11
  • 37.9% of cases the week ending Dec. 18
  • 77.0% of cases the week ending Dec. 25
  • 95.4% of cases the week ending Jan. 1

The Delta variant makes up nearly all of the rest.

Note: Not every Covid-19 test is sent for the extra genetic sequencing needed to detect which variant has infected someone. The CDC works off samples and extrapolates its estimates based on that extra testing.