January 11 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Rhea Mogul, Adam Renton, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 1:53 AM ET, Wed January 12, 2022
40 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
7:34 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

DC mayor declares limited public health emergency due to Covid-19 until Jan. 26

From CNN's Adrienne Winston

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a limited public health emergency due to Covid-19 beginning immediately until Jan. 26. The emergency powers, announced Tuesday, are intended to help the city’s hospitals and public health facilities that are feeling the strain under the rise in Covid-19 cases. 

“Notwithstanding the large number of persons vaccinated against Covid-19 in the District and the effectiveness of those vaccinations at preventing severe illness and death, stress on the District’s hospitals and healthcare providers has recently increased,” the order says. “The physical capacity of hospitals remains strong, but emergency rooms are overwhelmed. Hospitals cannot use all their bed capacity due to staff shortages. Some hospitals are experiencing 25% staff out on Covid-related leave.”  

The directive says that the emergency posturing will allow the city “to appropriately protect public health and provide the authority necessary to modify administrative procedures, deadlines and standards” while it is in place. The mayor does reserve the right to extend the emergency if she feels it is necessary.  

On Monday, the mayor announced during a press conference that the District was creating six new testing centers dedicated to senior residents and an enhanced system for testing kits for young school children and staff.  

6:58 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Canadian province of Quebec says it will impose a "significant" fine on those who remain unvaccinated

From CNN's Paula Newton

Quebec Premier François Legault speaks during a news conference on January 11.
Quebec Premier François Legault speaks during a news conference on January 11. (CBC)

The Canadian province of Quebec announced Tuesday that residents who have so far refused a Covid-19 vaccine will have to pay a fine in the coming weeks as a way for them to contribute to the overburdened public health care system. 

“Right now, these people, they put a very important burden on our health care network, and I think it’s normal that the majority of the population is asking that there be a consequence,” Quebec Premier François Legault said at a news conference Tuesday. “It’s a question also of fairness for the 90% of the population who made some sacrifices, and I think we owe them this kind of measure.”

The fine would not apply to those with a medical exemption, and no details have been announced, although the premier said the amount to be levied would be “significant.”

The Quebec government says that while nearly 90% of eligible Quebecers have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the unvaccinated remain a burden on the province’s public health system.

Nearly a quarter of all Canadians live in Quebec, and while the province was one of the first in the country to introduce a vaccine passport, public health officials say the vast majority of patients in Quebec hospitals remain unvaccinated. Officials did not give a specific percentage of how many hospitalized Covid patients were unvaccinated.

Last week, Quebec announced that residents would now have to be vaccinated to buy alcohol or cannabis, and the health minister claimed on social media that vaccine appointments spiked as a result. 

“In just a few days, appointments for the 1st dose went from 1.5K per day to over 6K yesterday. Thank you to everyone who decided to get vaccinated. It is not too late to get your 1st dose. Protect yourself,” Christian Dubé, Quebec’s health minister, posted on Twitter after retweeting a newspaper story about the uptick in vaccination appointments. 

Quebec already requires proof of vaccination to eat in restaurants, go to the gym or attend sporting events and has had some of the most restrictive public health measures in North America, including a nighttime curfew that was reimposed for a second time during the pandemic last month.

6:32 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Nevada's largest school district postpones 2 scheduled days of classes due to Covid-19

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Nevada’s largest school district is telling students to stay home this Friday and next Tuesday due to Covid-19.

The Clark County School District – which is one of the largest public school systems in the country with more than 300,000 students – says the calendar change is the result of “extreme staffing shortages based on the high number of positive COVID-19 cases.”

The district says staff members will work from home on those two days, but there will be no school for students. Monday was already scheduled to be a day off due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. The missed days will be made up later in the semester.

“This five-day pause will promote a safe, healthy learning environment in our schools to ‘Stop the Spread’ in order to continue face-to-face instruction,” according to the district.

In a written statement, Gov. Steve Sisolak did not criticize the district’s decision but did emphasize that he intends to keep kids in classrooms.

“There is no substitute for having kids on our campuses, learning in classrooms with their teachers and peers,” said Sisolak. “And I will use every resource I have as Governor of the State of Nevada to keep schools open for in-person learning. I know the School District leadership shares this same goal.”

6:06 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

CDC preparing to update its Covid-19 mask information

From CNN's John Bonifield

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing to update its website to best reflect the mask options available to people and the different levels of protection they provide, a CDC official told CNN.

The agency continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask, the official said. The update is expected later this week, according to the official.

The agency has not indicated if the updated masks page will say that if people can tolerate wearing a KN95 or N95 mask all day, they should. The Washington Post reported Monday that the agency is considering such an update.

What the guidance says now: The current guidance, last updated in October 2021, does not favor N95 or KN95 masks, which require a proper fit and may feel harder to breathe through than a cloth mask, according to the CDC. While the CDC still recommends three-ply cloth masks, many experts say they aren't adequate, especially given how easily the Omicron variant spreads.

6:26 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

At least 1 in 5 eligible people in the US remain unvaccinated against Covid-19, according to CDC data

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a drive-thru site in Tropical Park on December 16, 2021, in Miami.
A healthcare worker prepares to administer a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a drive-thru site in Tropical Park on December 16, 2021, in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Here’s the latest data on vaccination efforts in the United States, published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Fully vaccinated: 62.6% of the total US population (all ages), about 208 million people
  • About two-thirds (66.6%) of the eligible population (age 5+) is fully vaccinated
  • Not vaccinated: At least 20.8% of the eligible population (age 5+) has not received any dose of Covid-19 vaccine, at least 65 million people
  • Current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average): 1,213,113 doses are being administered each day 
  • Most doses being administered – about 678,000 – are booster doses
  • Only about 339,000 people are initiating vaccination each day
  • About 76.4 million people have received a booster dose
  • About 23% of the total US population is now fully vaccinated and boosted 

Remember: CDC data on Covid-19 vaccinations are estimates. The agency notes that data on people who are fully vaccinated and those with a booster dose may be underestimated, while data on people with at least one dose may be overestimated. 

5:51 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

NJ gov announces public health emergency as state sees record Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Kiely Westhoff

New Jersey has reinstated a public health emergency amid another day of record-high Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.  

Effective immediately, Murphy announced the new executive order declaring a public health emergency, in addition to restating the existing state of emergency across all 21 counties in New Jersey.

“COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our State and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the Omicron variant,” Murphy said in a statement.

On Monday, Murphy said the state had more residents hospitalized since April 2020.

The state is currently registering nearly 35,000 new cases a day and more than 10,000 hospitalizations in the past two weeks, marking the highest numbers since spring 2020, the governor said in a video announcement

The measure will help state agencies and departments to utilize resources to assist the state healthcare system and communities, but will not impact day-to-day life, according to Murphy.

Specifically, it will help the state continue vaccine distribution efforts, vaccination or testing requirements in certain settings, Covid-19 data collection, staffing and resource allocation and other measures.  

The order will also allow New Jersey to adopt recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and maintain existing masking requirements in school and daycare settings.  

Unless it is renewed, the public health emergency will expire after 30 days. State officials will reevaluate Covid-19 metrics at the time of expiration to determine if an extension is necessary, according to the statement.  

4:57 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Omicron will eventually "find just about everybody," Fauci says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Chief Medical Advisor and Director of the NIAID, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to Covid-19 and new emerging variants on January 11 at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Chief Medical Advisor and Director of the NIAID, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to Covid-19 and new emerging variants on January 11 at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

With the accelerated spread of the Omicron variant, many more people will find themselves at least exposed to the virus, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

“I think in many respects, Omicron with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody,” Fauci told J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in response to a question on whether the pandemic had entered “a new phase.”

“Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected, but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death,” Fauci said.

“Unfortunately, those who are still unvaccinated are going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of this,” he said.

Fauci said it’s still realistic to aim for a place where the virus is controlled, but the US is not there yet.

“Mainly, getting the level of infection that causes severe disease low enough that we can incorporate this infection – some people have said learning to live with it – that I believe we are possibly approaching that. Now the reason I say possibly is that we still now have close to a million infections a day. We have 150,000 people in the hospital and over 1,200 to 1,300 die,” he said.

“As Omicron goes up and comes down, I do hope that we will see a situation where there be enough protection in community, enough drugs available, so that when someone does get infected and is in a high risk group, it will be very easy to treat that person,” Fauci said.

3:04 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Chicago health department distributing 1.9 million KN95 masks this week

From CNN's Jenn Selva

The Chicago Department of Public Health is distributing 1.9 million KN95 masks into communities this week. 

According to the department's commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, they have more than 100 community-based organizations, such as churches and libraries, helping to distribute the masks, which are an upgrade from many of the cloth masks out there.

“We know a lot of people, frankly even a 50-cent or one-dollar mask is just one extra cost at a time that is difficult,” Arwady said.

Arwady said they made sure Chicago Public Schools had some for staff right when they returned.

3:17 p.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Rapid tests aren't going toward total case count in the US, CDC head says. Here's why they're still useful.

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to Covid-19 and new emerging variants on January 11 at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to Covid-19 and new emerging variants on January 11 at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Shawn Thew/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not including positive rapid tests in its total Covid-19 case counts, the tests are still important for making individual decisions about behavior, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday. 

“We have been using the PCR test — not the rapid test — the lab tests, the molecular tests, to really capture our case counts and really get a good view of where we are in terms of the epidemiology, anticipating what was going to be coming into the hospitals,” Walensky said in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. 

“The self-tests are a really important, valuable tool for people to empower themselves, their own health, to not expose themselves to other people, to get some information about their own health,” she added. 

Walensky said those who feel sick and test positive should talk to a physician, but those who are asymptomatic can use a positive rapid test to figure out whether they need to isolate and how much contact they should have with other people. 

“I think that it's less about the absolute case count of understanding whether you have asymptomatic infection or a runny nose and your rapid test is positive than it is really about empowering you to do the right thing and not be forward-transmitting,” she said.

Walensky said other countries, like the UK, are including rapid tests in their case count, “but they too, while they capture more than we have tried to, they also agree that they're missing some as well.”