The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

By Adrienne Vogt

Updated 4:04 p.m. ET, January 8, 2022
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3:29 p.m. ET, January 8, 2022

Chicago Teachers Union offers a new proposal, but mayor says she and schools CEO "will not relent"

From CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Keith Allen 

The Chicago Teachers Union presented a proposal to Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Saturday that they say will provide clarity on a return to the city’s public-school classrooms, create increased safety and testing protocols and restart the education process for students who have been out of class since before the holiday break.

The latest proposal announced Saturday calls for a resumption of in-person work for union members on Monday with virtual learning beginning for Chicago Public Schools students on Wednesday, Jan. 12. The CTU proposes to resume in-person instruction on Tuesday, Jan. 18, “unless CDPH [Chicago Department of Public Health] of the State of Illinois determine that public health conditions are not safe for in-person school at the time,” according to the text of the proposal.

Chicago public school students have had their first three days of school canceled this past week due to surging Omicron cases.

Saturday’s proposal also includes certain thresholds for a district-wide or school-by-school return to virtual learning should cases continue to spike, according to the document. The union also calls on CPS to provide KN95 masks for students and staff for the remainder of the school year and asks CPS to implement Covid-19 screening test systems for students and staff. 

Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez fired back at the union in a joint statement shortly after the proposal was announced Saturday.

“CTU leadership, you’re not listening. The best, safest place for kids to be is in school. Students need to be back in person as soon as possible. That’s what parents want. That’s what the science supports. We will not relent," they said in the statement.
4:02 p.m. ET, January 8, 2022

Photos posted on social media show tennis star Djokovic at events in mid-December

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser and Hannah Ritchie

Photos posted on social media show tennis champion Novak Djokovic at three events with other people in mid-December 2021, which coincide with the date he tested positive for Covid-19.

Multiple images posted by the Novak Foundation's official social media accounts show Djokovic, who wasn't wearing a mask, participating in a panel discussion in front of an audience. The images are dated Dec. 16, which is the same date Australian court documents show he tested positive for Covid-19. None of the other participants were wearing masks.

On Dec. 17, the Belgrade Tennis Association's Facebook page posted various photos of Djokovic posing with a group of young people at a tennis awards ceremony. One photo shows at least 26 people, mostly young, posing with him. Local Serbian media widely reported that Djokovic participated in the youth awards event.

It is unclear if Djokovic was aware of his test results before appearing at any of these events. CNN has reached out to Djokovic's representatives for comment.

On Dec.17, Djokovic also posted a photograph of himself with a plaque on his official Instagram account. The caption reads:

"An honor to receive my very own Serbian stamp. Thank you to my generous country for this rare gift! I’m humbled!! Excited to share we’ll partner with the Serbian National Postal Service on @novakfoundation projects for every child to have the opportunity to attend preschool 🙏🏼. Gratitude for everyone that brought this together. Now @jelenadjokovicndf and I will take some stamps home for the kids to write to Santa."

Some background:

New court documents published on Saturday by the Federal Circuit revealed that Novak Djokovic tested positive for Covid-19 on Dec. 16, 2021.

“Mr Djokovic had received, on 30 December 2021, a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia recording that he had been provided with a “Medical exemption from COVID vaccination” on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID," the document said.

Djokovic's first Covid-positive PCR test was recorded on Dec. 16, and after not showing signs of a fever or "respiratory symptoms," he applied for a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open, according to the document.

Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open unvaccinated “on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID,” his lawyers said in a court submission Saturday.

The documents, which have been submitted to the court ahead of Djokovic’s hearing Monday, confirmed the men’s tennis No.1 was unvaccinated when he arrived in Australia on Jan. 5.

2:49 p.m. ET, January 8, 2022

Italy registers threefold increase in vaccines administered to people over age 50 after mandate announced

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Livia Borghese

A nurse prepares doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Turin, Italy, on January 3.
A nurse prepares doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Turin, Italy, on January 3. (Diego Puletto/Getty Images)

Italy registered a threefold increase of Covid-19 vaccines administered daily to people over age 50 on Friday, according to its vaccination campaign commissioner.

A total of 15,239 vaccine doses were administered to those in the age group on Friday, compared to the average of 5,500 registered in the past week, the commissioner, Gen. Francesco Figliuolo, said Saturday in a press release.

The increase comes after the government announced Wednesday it will make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for anyone over 50 years old as cases in the country rise.

Unvaccinated workers in the age group risk being fined between 600 and 1,500 euros under Italy's new coronavirus decree, a government source told CNN on Thursday.

Meanwhile, 65,000 first doses were administered across all age groups Friday, a 60% increase of the daily average recorded in the previous week (Dec. 31 - Jan. 6), Figliuolo said.

Starting Monday, all people who are eligible for a vaccine but remain unvaccinated in Italy will not be allowed to access a vast number of activities, such as entering a hotel, getting a ride on a city bus, participating in religious or civil ceremonies, or entering gyms and cultural venues.

The country is registering a "drastic worsening of the epidemic," the country's Ministry of Health said Friday.

The national weekly incidence has doubled since the end of December and stands at 1,700 cases per 100,000 inhabitants (compared to the 783 cases per 100,000 inhabitants registered between Dec. 24-30), the ministry said in its weekly report published Friday.

Italy surpassed 200,000 Covid-19 cases in a single day on Thursday. The country reported 197,552 new Covid-19 daily cases and 184 deaths on Saturday, according to government data.

Additionally, the percentage of occupied beds in intensive care units in Italy has doubled since the beginning of December due to Covid-19, according to the Italian National Institute of Health.

The Italian Federation of Medical Associations (FNOMCeO) has asked the government to delay of schools reopening by two weeks due to the worsening of the situation in hospitals.

The increasing number of intensive care beds occupied by Covid patients is "limiting the possibility of using them for emergency patients," FNOMCeO's President Filippo Anelli said, urging those who can to get vaccinated.

Anelli warned that the measures put in place by the government may not be sufficient to stem the spread of the epidemic.

"The past two years have taught us that a truly effective measure is to limit, with the peak in sight, contacts between people. The reopening of schools, at a time when students have just begun to get vaccinated or to do the booster shots, depending on the age group, worries us, as well as the principals," Anelli said.

1:27 p.m. ET, January 8, 2022

40 New York hospitals required to stop nonessential surgeries due to low bed capacity

Forty hospitals across New York State are required to stop nonessential, non-urgent elective surgeries for at least two weeks because of low patient bed capacity, the state’s health department said in a statement Saturday.

In late November, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order outlining a plan to address the Covid-19 winter surge. Part of that order requires that statewide hospital capacity is able to meet regional needs “while maintaining the long-term resiliency of the State’s healthcare infrastructure,” the statement said. 

“Criteria used to determine 'high risk regions' includes low current regional bed capacity with 90% or more beds occupied based on the previous 7-day average; or 85-90% occupancy rate based on the previous 7-day average AND a new COVID-19 hospital admission rate for the region (previous 7-day average per 100,000 population) greater than 4%,” according to the health department.

Most of the 40 hospitals are located in northern and central New York. Because of increasing Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Mohawk, Finger Lakes and Central regions, “all hospitals in those regions are being included on the Impacted List,” the state said.

“We will use every available tool to help ensure that hospitals can manage the COVID-19 winter surge," acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in the statement. "I want to remind New Yorkers that getting vaccinated and boosted remain the best way to protect against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. Vaccination also protects our hospital system. We cannot return to the early months of the pandemic when hospitals were overwhelmed."  
12:43 p.m. ET, January 8, 2022

Boston superintendent who stepped in to teach class amid staff shortages: It's "all hands on deck here"

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius speaks with CNN on Saturday.
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius speaks with CNN on Saturday. (CNN)

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius taught a fourth-grade class this week as the city deals with staffing issues due to Covid-19.

Her chairwoman also filled in as a substitute for a kindergarten class, she said. All week, secretaries, accountants and other staff members helped with recess and lunch duty so teachers could get a break, she added.

"We stepped in because it is all hands on deck here," she told CNN.

Cassellius said the district "could certainly use more testing."

While the state of Massachusetts has been providing and working with schools on Covid-19 testing, "we need more tests available," she said. 

"We need our teachers to be included in those tests, because right now, vaccinated students and teachers are not included in those tests. So we do need some shifts in policy, particularly when we are in times of surge," she said.

Cassellius said the fourth graders she taught on Wednesday "had a great day" and students across the city had "a bit of joy" from a snow day yesterday, but "overall, the strain of the past two years have been very difficult for the adults and the children."  

11:55 a.m. ET, January 8, 2022

UK records more than 150,000 Covid-19 deaths since pandemic began

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

More than 150,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

A further 313 deaths were reported in the government's daily figures on Saturday, taking the total to 150,057.

According to figures from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the UK is the seventh country to pass 150,000 deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru.

10:58 a.m. ET, January 8, 2022

Negotiations between Chicago and teachers union must wrap up this weekend, mayor says

From CNN's Raja Razek and Steve Almasy

Bargaining sessions between city officials and the teachers union on a return to the classroom remain productive but must wrap up this weekend, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told CNN Friday night.

The Chicago Public Schools system, which has canceled classes since Wednesday, said it hoped to have in-person learning again Monday.

"CPS is committed to working toward an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union throughout the weekend, and we are dedicated to working day and night so we can get our students back to school next week, hopefully on Monday," the statement said. "We know families need to plan ahead and we will be sending additional communication over the weekend with a status update regarding classes on Monday."

Lightfoot told CNN's Anderson Cooper that she wants a deal this weekend.

"Our kids need to be back in school. Schools are safe," she said.

With classes just having resumed Monday after winter break, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to teach remotely, but the school district canceled classes, saying they want in-person learning.

The union has called conditions for in-person learning unsafe, citing inadequate staffing and testing as new Covid-19 cases and new hospitalizations among children in the city reached record highs.

Lightfoot told CNN if there is a need to shut down individual schools, the city will do that.

Read more:

10:50 a.m. ET, January 8, 2022

Here's how to spot fake Covid-19 testing kits

From CNN's Alaa Elassar

Covid-19 cases continue to rise dramatically, leading to brutally long lines at testing sites and empty shelves at stores where at-home rapid test kits were once in stock.

Now an additional problem has emerged: The Federal Trade Commission is warning about fraudulent testing kits being sold online to desperate customers.

"It's not a surprise that, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, fake and unauthorized at-home testing kits are popping up online as opportunistic scammers take advantage of the spike in demand," the FTC said in a press release this week.

Coronavirus self-tests — also known as home tests or over-the-counter tests — are one of several risk-reduction measures that can protect people by reducing the chances of spreading coronavirus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These tests can be taken at home or anywhere, regardless of vaccination status or symptoms, and are easy to use for quick results, the CDC says.

However, testing kits are in short supply and getting more expensive, forcing some people to search online or anywhere to find them.

But buyers should be wary of scammers selling fake kits.

The FTC suggests following four steps before buying and using a testing kit.

Read more here:

9:04 a.m. ET, January 8, 2022

Djokovic has requested to be moved from hotel detention facility, according to his lawyers

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has repeatedly requested to be moved to a “more suitable place of detention that would enable him to train” ahead of the Australian Open, court documents published Saturday revealed.  

Djokovic’s lawyers said the 20-time Grand Slam champion has made several “requests to be moved to a more suitable place of detention that would enable him to train and condition for the Australian Tennis Open,” while he awaits the outcome of his pending legal case. 

Djokovic has been temporarily held at the Park Hotel Alternative Place of Detention (APOD) since Thursday, following the cancellation of his temporary visa to enter Australia.

Djokovic was granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia to compete in the Australian Open unvaccinated “on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID,” his lawyers said in a court submission Saturday. New court documents published on Saturday revealed that Djokovic tested positive for Covid-19 in December 2021.