January 6 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 1:59 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022
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6:36 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Chicago public school classes canceled for third day as clash over Covid-19 safety concerns continues

From CNN’s Rachel Burstein Parks

A sign is displayed on the front of the headquarters for Chicago Public Schools on January 5, in Chicago.
A sign is displayed on the front of the headquarters for Chicago Public Schools on January 5, in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) informed parents Thursday evening that classes will be canceled again on Friday for the third consecutive day as the district and Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement. 

"CPS classes are cancelled on Friday, Jan. 7. In-person learning and activities may be available at a small number of schools tomorrow. Please do not plan on sending your child to school unless you hear from your child's principal," the district said in the message to parents.

Some context: The decision comes as CPS, the third-largest school district in the country, canceled classes for more than 340,000 students Wednesday and Thursday after the Chicago Teachers Union voted Tuesday night to refuse to show up for in-person work, citing concerns over Covid-19 safety.

4:52 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

National Guard deployed again to help New Hampshire hospitals deal with Covid-19 

From CNN's Sharif Paget

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced the deployment of another 100 National Guard members to help the state's healthcare system amid a rise in Covid-19 cases.  

About 30 guard members will be deployed to long term care facilities and 70 will be sent to hospitals that provide critical care, Sununu said on Thursday at a Covid-19 news briefing.

Thursday's decision comes as new daily cases over the past seven days averaged 1,766 new infections, a 55% increase compared to the previous seven-day period, according to data obtained by the state's health department. 

In early December: Sununu announced that 70 National Guard members would be deployed to help hospitals where the need is most severe, assisting with tasks that will allow for a smoother operation. 

 

4:48 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Lousiana sets a new record number of daily Covid-19 cases for the state

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

Louisiana reported at least 14,077 Covid-19 cases in the state Thursday, a record number of cases in a 24-hour period, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference. 

Louisiana State Health officer and Medical Director Dr. Joseph Kanter said that to avoid further burdening hospitals, don’t go to the emergency room for Covid-19 testing.

He acknowledged that take-home tests can be difficult to obtain in the state, but said PCR testing centers are open and available, but if someone has symptoms and can’t get a test, they should assume they have Covid-19.

“If someone is looking for an antigen test, a take-home test, and they can't find it, but they have symptoms, in the context of the surge we're in right now, they should just assume that they have Covid and isolate accordingly,” Kanter said. “When you're in a surge like we are right now and Covid is everywhere- and it is everywhere right now- if you have trouble getting a test, a take-home test particularly, and you do have symptoms, the prudent thing to do is just assume you have Covid and isolate away from other people. That's the safest thing to do right now.”

Some context: There are 1,412 people hospitalized across the state of Louisiana with Covid-19, an increase of 125 since Wednesday, the governor said.

“The percentage of emergency department visits related to Covid-like illness remains at an all-time high. The average daily incidence of Covid has exceeded its Delta surge peak across the state of Louisiana,” the governor said. “What is not captured on our Covid dashboard currently are reinfections, which we are seeing more of because of the Omicron variant than we saw before.”

Of those hospitalized with Covid-19, 76% of them are not vaccinated, Kanter said at the news conference.

4:37 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

CDC to hold independent Covid-19 briefing Friday

From CNN's Katherine Dillinger and Michael Nedelman

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold a briefing Friday to give updates on the Covid-19 pandemic.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. ET.

It's been a few months since the agency had held a briefing like this: The CDC usually participates in joint briefings with officials from the White House or the National Institutes of Health, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Its last independent Covid-19 briefing was July 27, 2021.

The agency has faced renewed criticism this month over confusion surrounding its guidelines on testing and isolation for people who test positive for Covid-19.

5:13 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Omicron makes up around 90% of Covid-19 cases in Maryland, officials say

From CNN's Amy Simonson 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, right, speaks during a briefing in Laurel, Maryland, on January 6.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, right, speaks during a briefing in Laurel, Maryland, on January 6. (WJZ)

Sample test results confirm that Omicron makes up approximately 90% of the Covid-19 cases that health officials are seeing surge throughout the state, according to state officials.

“Every 24 hours as part of our aggressive sequencing program, we are analyzing more samples to detect the Omicron variant, which as of today, we now estimate accounts for approximately 90% of all of our lab-confirmed cases in the state as well as 90% of all hospitalized cases,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a briefing Thursday.

Hogan, who spoke from a new testing site at the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center, announced the launch of 20 additional testing locations across the state that will be set up outside hospitals in an effort to divert people from going to emergency rooms for Covid-19 tests.

According to Hogan, officials are already seeing dramatic drops in emergency room visits in hospitals where testing sites are set up outside.

Hospitals across the state are seeing a rapid rise in patients arriving with Covid-19, according to president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System Dr. Mohan Suntha, who also spoke at the briefing.

“Our hospitals in the state of Maryland are under incredible stress,” he said.

Suntha said that in a span of one month, Covid-19 patients across the medical system rose from 200 to 800.

“Seventy-five percent of the patients who are currently admitted in our hospitals with Covid-19 across the medical system are unvaccinated,” he said.

Less than 5% of all patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19 are vaccinated and boosted, according to Suntha. 

Some context: Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency earlier this week, mobilizing 1,000 members of the National Guard to assist state and local health officials with the state’s emergency pandemic response and to provide operational support to help open and operate testing sites.

3:06 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Peru tightens Covid-19 restrictions in 25 provinces

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam

People stand in line to wait for PCR tests in Lima, Peru, on Wednesday, January 5.
People stand in line to wait for PCR tests in Lima, Peru, on Wednesday, January 5. (Martin Mejia/AP)

Peru raised its coronavirus pandemic alert level to high and will implement new restrictions starting Friday, including a curfew in 25 provinces, according to state news agency Andina.  

Peru detected its first four cases of the Omicron variant in the country on Dec.19 and is dealing with a "third wave" of infections, state media said.

The new restrictions include a curfew from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time and new capacity limits for businesses and commercial activities. 

In addition to Lima and Callao, the provinces that will move to the high alert level are Ica, Pisco, Cusco, Cajamarca, Jaén, Piura, Sullana, Sechura, Talara, Trujillo, Pacasmayo, Chiclayo, Santa, Puno, Huaura, Bagua, Chachapoyas, Tacna, Huancayo, Satipo, Mariscal Nieto, Ilo, and Tumbes, Andina reported.

2:12 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

White House expects to share details on Covid-19 testing contracts within the next day

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The White House expects to share details over the next day about contracts between the federal government and manufacturers to produce the 500 million rapid Covid-19 tests President Biden had said Americans would be able to order for free.

"I expect we’ll have more in the next 24 hours. As soon as we do, and as soon as there are more details to report we will let you all know," press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Some background: Biden announced last month a plan to order half-a-billion at-home rapid tests that Americans could order online for free. The White House said they would be available in January, though didn't specify an exact date.

Psaki said the administration would "absolutely" be able to meet the January goal, saying that efforts to stand up the program had been ongoing.

"A lot of these things are happening simultaneously," she said, noting the request for proposals to companies had closed this week and the contracting process was underway.

"We don’t want to put the website up before we know we can provide, even through pre-orders, tests as people want them," she said.

2:12 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

1% of Mayo Clinic employees fired for not complying with Covid-19 vaccination program

From CNN’s Carma Hassan 

(Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)
(Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

The Mayo Clinic said 1% of its employees have been terminated for not complying with its required Covid-19 vaccination program. 

The health system said “the needs of the patient come first” in a statement emailed to CNN.

“This is a time when Mayo Clinic must stand firmly behind the evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines to help protect the health and safety of our patients, workforce, visitors, and communities,” it said in the statement. 

The Mayo Clinic has 73,000 employees, according to its website

Complying with the program means receiving at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and not being overdue for a second dose if taking the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. Nearly 99% of employees met the program’s Jan. 3 deadline at all the Mayo Clinic’s locations, according to the statement. 

“While Mayo Clinic is saddened to lose valuable employees, we need to take all steps necessary to keep our patients, workforce, visitors, and communities safe. If individuals released from employment choose to get vaccinated at a later date, the opportunity exists for them to apply and return to Mayo Clinic for future job openings,” the statement said. 

The Mayo Clinic has campuses in Rochester, Minnesota; Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona; and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as dozens of locations in other states, according to its website.

1:55 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

More than 800 Los Angeles fire and police tested positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Stella Chan

The city of Los Angeles is safe, assured Mayor Eric Garcetti, despite Covid-19 infections hitting over 800 fire and police department staff.

“I’m here today with a clear message when it comes to public safety,” said Garcetti outside of a downtown L.A. fire station. “Both LAPD and LAFD have maintained staffing levels that are needed to keep Angelenos safe and we have maintained staffing levels to make sure you, your family, our communities are safe. ”

Garcetti announced 505 police officers and 299 fire department sworn and civilian employees are in quarantine at home, as of Wednesday. “These are big numbers, numbers that are reflecting the staffing challenges that we all face,” said Garcetti. 

He says five out of six members in both departments are fully vaccinated, while about 82% of workers citywide are in compliance with the mandate, requiring full vaccination by mid-December. Garcetti has authorized overtime funds to cover police and fire staffing in addition to enhancing recruiting to fill out staffing levels. 

“Our continued response time will see some delay in routine calls,” said LAPD Chief Michel Moore but stressed 911 services are fully staffed. 

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said the number of firefighters off-duty due to the virus is “the highest we’ve seen at any one time,” noting that a few weeks ago, it was 24. Adequate daily staffing for the fire department is a combination of those on assigned shifts, voluntary overtime, and those who are force hired – employees notified as they are headed home for the day that they need to continue to work. "Our response time have been impacted by our lack of staffing due to Covid," said Terrazas. Critical life support calls increased by 13-seconds from 2020-2021 while structure fire calls have increased by six-seconds, he said. 

During the news conference, a man in the crowd repeatedly interrupted speakers, calling attention to the shooting death of a teen in a Burlington department store in late December. Garcetti, on his 100th Covid address to the city, switched topics and said he’s been laser-focused on the investigation into the LAPD’s fatal shooting of Valentina Orellana-Peralta. He promised “maximum transparency, sensitivity, and accountability.” 

“We are sworn to protect and serve and there is no greater circumstance than to lose an innocent victim and to lose a child while we’re trying to come to the aid of the very people in that store, in this crisis moment, it is just unimaginable,” said Moore heavily. Like the mayor, he reiterated transparency and commitment to the investigation. Moore said the attorney general’s office has full access to the police department’s investigation.