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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1:45 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

New York governor to require all health care workers to get a Covid booster shot

From CNN's Laura Dolan

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that she is mandating all health care workers get a Covid-19 booster shot within two weeks of eligibility.

“Healthcare workers will be asked to do this with no exemptions other than a medical exemption and no test-out options,” Hochul said at a press conference Friday. 

Hochul said New York is the first state in the nation to require a booster shot for health care workers and called it an important priority to prevent healthcare workers from getting sick amid breakthrough Omicron cases.

Hochul said she discussed the mandate with acting Health Commissioner of New York Dr. Mary Bassett.

Bassett will make the recommendation to the state's Public Health and Health Planning Council at a special meeting being held on Jan. 11. Hochul said she “anticipates swift approval” and the mandate will take effect “immediately.”

The council advises the health commissioner on issues related to public health and also has decision-making responsibilities for state's public health and health care delivery system, according to the New York State Department of Health.

All health care workers were previously required to be fully vaccinated in September.

As of Friday, there were more than 11,500 people hospitalized for Covid-19 in New York, Hochul said. 

Hochul added that she believes the state is reaching the beginnings of a plateau, although she cautioned it’s not official yet.

12:51 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

CDC director: Before considering fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose, US has to get more people a third shot

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht

People are vaccinated at Los Angeles International Airport on December 22, 2021.
People are vaccinated at Los Angeles International Airport on December 22, 2021. (Ringo H.W Chiu/AP)

Although Israel has moved to give fourth doses of coronavirus vaccines to certain people, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday the United States has to focus first on getting third shots to more people.

Walensky noted the United States has boosted about 35% of the eligible population — including 60% of people over 65, who are especially vulnerable to severe Covid-19.

“Right now, I think our strategy has to be to maximize the protection of the tens of millions of people who continue to be eligible for a third shot before we start thinking about what a fourth shot would look like,” Walensky said during a CDC telebriefing.

Walensky said CDC is in touch with scientists in Israel to track booster data there.

“We will be following our own data carefully, as well, to see how the boosters are working in terms of waning effectiveness, not just for infection, but importantly for severe disease. So more to come as those data emerge,” she said.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said at a Goldman Sachs health care conference on Thursday that more people may need a fourth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine this fall as booster doses are likely to become less effective over time.

A preliminary Israeli study found that a fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine raises coronavirus antibodies five-fold in a week’s time. People who are 60 and older, health care workers and those with weakened immune systems are eligible for fourth doses in that country.

The Canadian province of Ontario will offer fourth doses to people in some high-risk settings such as long-term care homes and retirement homes.

12:09 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Biden: "Covid as we're dealing with it now is not here to stay"

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden said he doesn't think Covid-19 is "here to stay" in its current iteration after making remarks about the economy and the latest US jobs report.

"I don't think Covid is here to stay. But having Covid in the environment here and in the world is probably here to stay. But Covid as we're dealing with it now is not here to stay. The new normal doesn't have to be. We have so many more tools we're developing and continuing to develop that can contain Covid and other strains of Covid," Biden told reporters.

The President said the country is in a very different place than it was a year ago in dealing with Covid-19, touting that many schools are open and the administration is ordering more tests.

"The new normal is not going to be what it is now. It's going to be better," he said.

On Thursday, a group of former Biden health advisers wrote that the US strategy on the Covid-19 pandemic needs to be updated to face a “new normal” of living with the virus, rather than aiming to eliminate it.

11:57 a.m. ET, January 7, 2022

South Africa's Omicron surge was shaped like an "ice pick," CDC head says. What that could mean for the US.

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht

The wave of Omicron Covid-19 cases in South Africa was an “ice pick” rather than a wave, and the United States may see a similar precipitous rise and fall in cases, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a CDC telebriefing on Friday.

There are some reasons to expect the surges will look the same — and reasons they may differ, she said.

“There are many things about South Africa that make it a little bit different than the United States. For example, they do have a huge proportion of their population with previous disease. We have a larger proportion of our population that is vaccinated and boosted,” Walensky said.

“I do think in places that we are seeing this really steep incline, that we may well see also a precipitous decline,” she said. “But we're also a much bigger country than South Africa, and so it may very well be that we see this ice-pick shape, but that it travels across the country. Right now, we're of course seeing it in the Northeast in the highest burden.”

12:07 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

CDC recommends people get Moderna booster after five months

From CNN’s Ben Tinker

(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

During a telebriefing on Friday, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said she has signed off on a recommendation by the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that people who have received the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine get a booster shot at the five-month mark, as opposed to six months, as previously recommended.

More on this: Earlier Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, shortening the period of time between initial vaccination and the booster shot to at least five months for those over the age of 18. 

The FDA has already shortened the time needed before receiving a booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from six to five months. The Pfizer booster is authorized for everyone age 12 and older.

11:48 a.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Germany tightens Covid-19 restrictions as Omicron cases increase rapidly

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses a press conference following a meeting on measures to curb the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic with the heads of government of Germany's federal states at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 7, 2022.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses a press conference following a meeting on measures to curb the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic with the heads of government of Germany's federal states at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 7, 2022. (John MacDougallAFP/Getty Images)

Germany will impose tougher Covid-19 restrictions in order to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant, the country's Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Friday. 

Fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered from Covid-19 will be required to show proof of a negative lateral flow test to enter restaurants, cafes and bars. Only those who have received their booster dose will be exempt. 

“The new Omicron variant will lead to a rise in Covid infections'', Scholz told reporters following a virtual meeting with Germany's 16 federal state premiers, adding that “many new patients will be admitted to hospitals because of Omicron'' in the weeks ahead. 

Scholz also announced a shortened required period for quarantine or self-isolation from 14 days to 10 days, without undergoing a PCR test, and seven days with a negative PCR test. This applies to those infected with Covid-19 or who had close contact with an infected person. 

Those who have received a booster shot will be exempt from quarantine when they come into contact with a positive case. 

The chancellor said that Germany is currently seeing fewer Covid-19 infections compared to many of its European neighbors because of the stringent coronavirus measures already in place. 

Scholz said that there would be no easing of contact restrictions — those who are vaccinated are allowed to hold private gatherings with up to 10 people; the unvaccinated are allowed to meet with one other household.

Scholz went on to say that Germany's vaccination rate is still ''not high''. Data from the country's public health body, the Robert Koch Institute, showed Friday that 71.6% of the population is fully vaccinated and 41.6% have received a booster shot.

11:43 a.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert enters NBA's Covid-19 protocols 

From CNN's Homero De La Fuente

Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz dunks during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on December 09, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz dunks during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on December 09, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has been placed on NBA’s Health & Safety protocols, the team announced on Thursday.   

The NBA’s Health & Safety protocol requires coaches, players and staff to isolate if they have tested positive Covid-19 or been in contact with people who have tested positive. Players on the protocols list are not allowed to play and must quarantine for a minimum of five days or test negative for Covid-19 two times in a 24-hour period.

Gobert was infamously the first NBA player to test positive for Covid-19 in March 2020, a case that was followed by the shutdown of the 2019-20 season and subsequently all professional sports in the United States.

The three-time defensive player of the year drew backlash at the time, after joking about the Covid-19 pandemic at a news conference days prior by rubbing his hands on microphones as he walked away. 

The 29-year-old is the second Jazz player to be placed on the protocols list, joining forward Joe Ingles. Prior to the two players being placed on the protocols, the Jazz were the only team in the NBA to not have had a player placed on the list this season. 

This season, the NBA has had to postpone 11 games due to Covid-19 outbreaks within teams across the league. As of Thursday, 56 players were on the league’s Health & Safety list.

11:40 a.m. ET, January 7, 2022

CDC director says she's committed to improving the agency's communications with public

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Younger children across the U.S. are now eligible to receive Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, after the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week granted the final clearance needed for shots to begin.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Younger children across the U.S. are now eligible to receive Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, after the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week granted the final clearance needed for shots to begin. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

In what she said might be the first of many independent media briefings by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said that she is working to improve the quality of the agency’s communication with the public.

“We're in an unprecedented time with the speed of Omicron cases rising, and we are working really hard to get information to the American public, and balancing that with the reality that we're all living with,” Walenksy said Friday.

“This is hard, and I am committed to continue to improve as we learn more about the science and to communicate that with all of you.”

Friday’s briefing was the first solo CDC media briefing since July 2021.

“For the last year, I've taken your questions at about 80 – over 80 – briefings since I took office, and oftentimes multiple times a week. But I hear that you are interested in hearing from the CDC independently, and we are eager to answer your questions, and I will continue to engage with you. So I anticipate that this will be the first of many briefings, and I very much look forward to them,” she said.

11:33 a.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Austria's chancellor tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Nadine Schmidt

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents the new COVID19- regulations at a press conference after a meeting of the federal government in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents the new COVID19- regulations at a press conference after a meeting of the federal government in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/AP)

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer has tested positive for Covid-19, he confirmed in a tweet on Friday. 

“I have tested positive today for Covid-19 using a PCR test,” he wrote.

He said the infection had come through a member of his security team.

The chancellor said he was quarantining and conducting official business via video and telephone conferences.

On Thursday, Austria announced a host of tougher Covid-19 restrictions on its citizens and businesses in order to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The new rules will be enforced starting Saturday and include:

  • A compulsory wearing of European standard FFP2 (filtering face piece) masks outdoors if a distance of more than two meters (6 feet) is not possible.
  • Whenever possible, people should work from home.
  • Proof of vaccination or recovery to enter trade businesses, restaurants and cafes – supermarkets excluded – will apply upon entering these facilities. If businesses are not adhering to those control measures, they will be closed down.
  • Austria will also shorten quarantine times to five days, require people to wear masks outdoors when in crowds and limit the validity of vaccine certificates to six months.  

The Austrian chancellor said that he expects infections rates to rise sharply in the next few days and weeks, with 17,000 new cases per day by next week and more than 20,000 new daily cases forecast for the week after next.