The latest on coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

By Aditi Sangal, Rhea Mogul, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Hannah Strange, Meg Wagner and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 8:21 PM ET, Fri January 7, 2022
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7:51 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

NYC Covid-19 sample testing in schools reveals almost 13% of students are positive, new data shows

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Nearly 13% of New York City students have tested positive for Covid-19, according to sample testing from the New York City Department of Education Thursday.

The testing, which includes only about 18%, or 332, of the approximately 1,875 city schools, is a sample snapshot that was taken during a 24-hour period Thursday, according to the data. 

According to the data, 12.9%, or 1,892 students, tested positive out of 14,623 tested.

By comparison, only 5.85%, or 140, of the 2,392 staff members tested positive during the same time period, according to DOE data.

No schools are closed at this time due to Covid-19 cases, according to additional DOE data, but six school classrooms remain closed. 

CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia and David Shortell contributed to this alert

5:11 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

CDC director urges parents to surround young children with vaccinated people

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

With hospitalizations in children under 5 reaching the highest they’ve been over the course the pandemic, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged parents to surround their young children with people vaccinated against Covid-19.

“I would say the best way to keep those children protected is to vaccinate them as they're eligible and surround them by siblings and parents who are vaccinated themselves,” she said in a media briefing Friday. 

An average of 4.3 children under 5 per 100,000 have been hospitalized for Covid-19 as of the week ending Jan. 1, up from 2.6 the week previous, according to data from the CDC’s COVID-NET surveillance system. 

This is a 48% increase from the week ending Dec. 4, and the largest increase in hospitalization rate this age group has seen over the course of the pandemic. 

According to data from the CDC and the US Department of Health and Human Services, new hospital admissions for children under 18 with confirmed Covid-19 are already at a record level, at an average of 797 each day. 

This is the highest this rate has ever been and an 80% increase over the previous week.  

“For our youngest children, those who are not yet eligible for vaccination, it's critically important that we surround them with people who are vaccinated to provide them protection,” Walensky said.

4:33 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Spain passes 7 million Covid-19 cases since start of pandemic

From CNN’s Al Goodman

Spain surpassed 7 million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 242,440 new cases registered since Wednesday, the country's health ministry reported Friday.

The figures on Friday cover the last two days as Thursday was a national holiday in Spain.

The highest number of single-day new cases remains 161,668 on Dec. 30.

There have been at least 97 deaths since Wednesday and 22.06% of intensive care unit beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients, according to Friday's report, up from 21.58% on Wednesday. 

4:03 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

National Hockey League postpones more than 100 games due to Covid-19

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

(Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
(Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The National Hockey League (NHL) postponed two upcoming games due to attendance restrictions in Canada. They mark game 100 and 101 to be postponed by the NHL over Covid-19-related issues this season.

The Ottawa Senators�� road games against the Vancouver Canucks scheduled for Jan. 8 and against the Winnipeg Jets scheduled for Jan. 15 are the latest games to be postponed.

The NHL says it plans to reschedule those games for later in the season when attendance restrictions in Canada "may be eased or lifted."

Read the full statement from the NHL here.

4:00 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Nearly 30 New York lawmakers urge mayor to provide a remote option for schools

From CNN's Kiely Westhoff 

A student walks to her classroom at Yung Wing School in New York on January 5.
A student walks to her classroom at Yung Wing School in New York on January 5. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Nearly 30 New York lawmakers are urging the New York City mayor to provide a remote option for all schools for two weeks to slow the spread of Covid-19, according to an open letter to the mayor Thursday.  

"We urge you to provide a remote option for all schools for about two weeks, until Tuesday, January 18th for parents to test and vaccinate their children to slow down the spread of COVID,” the lawmakers said in the letter to Mayor Eric Adams. 

The proposed schedule will provide schools with more time to receive shipments of masks, testing kits, and other tools to execute universal weekly and baseline Covid-19 testing, they say in the letter obtained by CNN. It was also posted on social media. 

In a statement issued separately from the letter, New York State Rep. Jessica González-Rojas also raised concerns that the city has not been able to meet the requirement of testing 20% of all students. 

“Last night we learned that the number of students the New York City Department of Education is testing is less than 20% of all students,” she said in the statement. 

However, the Education Department said testing 20% of all students was never the policy. 

“The goal is 20% of unvaccinated students,” said Nathaniel Styer, first deputy press secretary for the New York City Department of Education. 

This is double the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirement of testing 10% of unvaccinated students, he said. 

The department has distributed 1.8 million rapid test kids and have doubled in-school testing, according to Styer.  

“The data shows the safest place for children is inside a school and all of our schools across the city have their doors open for the hundreds of thousands of families who rely on them as a lifeline every day,” Styer said.  

While Adams has not directly responded to the lawmakers’ letter, he maintained that students should be in the classroom at a news conference on Friday.  

The mayor’s office did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment on the letter, deferring to the city's Education Department.

3:23 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Biden administration signs first contract for free rapid test distribution

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

The Biden administration has signed its first contract with a test manufacturer as part of President Biden's efforts to distribute half a billion free rapid tests throughout the country, a White House official confirms to CNN.

The Department of Defense awarded a $51 million contract to Goldbelt Security, LLC, “for delivery of over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits.” With this contract, the administration is purchasing existing tests that the company has, according to a White House official.

The administration plans to sign other contracts for manufacturing.

Officials have offered few details since Biden announced the endeavor to send free test kits amid a nationwide shortage and surge in new cases. But they expect to launch a website this month where people can sign up for the tests online and then ship them out. 

The first contract has been signed and more are expected in the coming weeks, officials said. 

1:53 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

New York governor announces testing and mask requirements for nursing home visitors

From CNN's Laura Dolan

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that all nursing home visitors must test negative for Covid-19 within 24 hours of visitation and also wear a surgical mask.

Hochul called it a “point of vulnerability” while noting an increase in Covid-19 cases in nursing homes.

“The last thing we want to do is create a situation where visitors are coming in and now getting people that they love — or their neighbors in the next room — sick from the pandemic,” the governor said during a news conference.

Hochul said the state will provide Covid-19 tests to nursing homes to make sure they have the supply for visitors.  

She noted that she was limited in what she could mandate at nursing homes because of a federal requirement “that there can be no restrictions whatsoever on visitors.”

Hochul also spoke about the increase in the rate of child Covid hospitalizations, saying it “is an area of anxiety” for her.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said the rate of hospitalizations is increasing fastest among children. The rate of hospitalizations among children under the age of 5 has increased nearly eight-fold. It has increased ten-fold for children ages 12-18. Children under the age of 5 are not eligible for vaccination. This is faster than the rate for adults.

But she noted that the overall number is still fairly small. Currently, 571 children are hospitalized with Covid, she said. 

“It’s the rate of increase more than the numbers that have made us very concerned about these children,” Bassett said, adding that “many of these children are admitted with Covid, not for Covid.”

She urged parents to vaccinate and boost their children, saying, “the vast majority of children who are hospitalized are unvaccinated.”

2:05 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

CDC director connects child hospitalization rates with high Covid-19 case counts and increased testing

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

While Covid-19 hospitalization rates in children are higher than they have been at previous points in the pandemic, that might not be a signal that the Omicron variant is inherently more severe in children, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday. 

“This very well may be the fact that there are just more cases out there and that our children are more vulnerable when we see that they have more cases surrounding them,” she said. 

“We are seeing a rise in hospitalizations, both because they are coming in with Covid but also because they're screening in for Covid. And so I would say we don't yet, have not yet, seen a signal that there is any increased severity in this age demographic,” she said.  

Walensky said while hospitalizations are increasing in children, they’re increasing in other populations as well. She presented data from the CDC COVID-NET surveillance system tracking Covid-19-related hospitalizations. According to CDC data, in the week ending Jan. 1, children under 4 had 4.3 Covid-19-associated hospitalizations per 100,000. This number fell to 1.1 in children ages 5 to 17, but both are well under the rate of 14.7 in adults over 65.

“So rates are higher, again, in the pediatric population than we've seen previously, but they're also higher in many of our other populations and many populations that are also vaccinated,” Walensky said. 

The CDC director also said this is the typical time of year for other types of illnesses to land children in the hospital. 

"When we talk to our colleagues in these pediatric hospitals, what we're hearing is, yes, there's a lot of pediatric admissions associated with many things and other respiratory viruses. We’re seeing more than ... we generally do,” she said. 

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, close to 82,000 children have been hospitalized with Covid-19, according to most recent data from the CDC.

1:41 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

CDC study: Pfizer's Covid vaccine is 91% effective in preventing rare condition in adolescents age 12-18

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Teens receive their vaccination cards after being vaccinated in Los Angeles in May 2021.
Teens receive their vaccination cards after being vaccinated in Los Angeles in May 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is 91% effective in preventing multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) in adolescents age 12 to 18, according to a study published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

MIS-C is a rare but serious condition that involves the inflammation of various organs and generally occurs two to six weeks after infection with Covid-19. 

The CDC study found that the vast majority — 95% — of adolescents hospitalized with MIS-C were unvaccinated, and all that required respiratory or cardiovascular life support were unvaccinated. 

“This analysis lends supportive evidence that vaccination of children and adolescents is highly protective against MIS-C and COVID-19 and underscores the importance of vaccination of all eligible children,” the researchers wrote. 

For this study, CDC researchers analyzed data for 283 adolescents ages 12 to 18 who were hospitalized between July and December 2021, a period during which the Delta variant was dominant. The cohort included 102 patients with MIS-C and 181 control patients. Children under 12 were not included in this analysis, as they were not yet authorized to receive a Covid-19 vaccine during the time that the study was conducted. The median age of patients included in the study was 14.5 years and more than half had at least one underlying medical condition. 

There have been more than 6,400 cases of MIS-C reported to the CDC, including 55 deaths. 

About 54% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, and 16% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the latest data from the CDC. 

This specific study does not assess the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine against MIS-C attributed to the Omicron variant. Also, the researchers note that the timing in which protection against MIS-C is conferred is unknown. The study does not evaluate protection after one dose of vaccine or the potential effects of waning immunity or protection.