The Omicron variant is now dominant in the US

By Jack Guy, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Aditi Sangal

Updated 7:20 a.m. ET, December 21, 2021
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7:43 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Biden had close contact with Covid-19-positive staff member

From CNN's NikkI Carvajal 

President Joe Biden walking towards the Oval Office after returning to the White House via Marine One on Monday, December 20.
President Joe Biden walking towards the Oval Office after returning to the White House via Marine One on Monday, December 20. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)

A member of the White House staff who is a close contact of the President tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, the White House revealed in a statement. 

The individual, who the White House described as a “mid-level staffer,” tested positive on Monday morning after experiencing Covid symptoms on Sunday. 

“Three days earlier, on Friday, that staff member had spent approximately 30 minutes in proximity to the President on Air Force One, on the way from Orange, South Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” the statement from press secretary Jen Psaki said. “This staff member is fully vaccinated and boosted, and tested negative prior to boarding Air Force One, as is required for everyone traveling with the President. This staff member did not begin to experience symptoms until Sunday, and was tested on Monday.” 

The President received a negative PCR test on Monday and will take another one on Wednesday, the White House said. 

“As CDC guidance does not require fully vaccinated people to quarantine after an exposure, the President will continue with his daily schedule,” the statement reads. 

Earlier Monday, Psaki told reporters that breakthrough cases of Covid-19 are expected in response to a question about whether there had been recent outbreaks of the virus at agencies within the administration or the White House itself

“The President has a full schedule today and is not in need of quarantine,” Psaki said, answering specifically whether President Biden had been a close contact of any Covid-positive staffers. “We will provide information to all of you as outlined with our commitment from just a few months ago about being transparent about close contacts. I don't have any updates for you at this point in time.”

She said that Covid protocols within the White House “go above and beyond CDC guidelines.”   

“We expect there to be breakthrough cases across the country, and certainly in the federal government," Psaki continued, stressing that the important factor is that 99% of White House staff is vaccinated.

Pressed on if there had been outbreaks Psaki responded: “I point you to different agencies to give any additional information but I would just note that we do expect there to be breakthrough cases.”

Later, Psaki said the President was “regularly” tested, but did not know offhand when he was last tested. She added that anyone in close contact with Biden must be tested daily.

7:06 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Only these 2 states have no cases of the Omicron variant so far

From CNN's Dave Alsup

The Covid-19 Omicron variant has been identified in at least 48 US states, in addition to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, according to public statements from hospital systems and state officials in their respective states.

Only Oklahoma and South Dakota have not yet reported cases of the variant.

The Omicron variant causes over 73% of new coronavirus cases in the US, according to estimates posted Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The week ending Dec. 18, Omicron accounted for 73.2% of cases, with Delta making up an additional 26.6%.

The week prior, ending Dec. 11, Omicron was estimated at 12.6% of circulating virus, versus Delta’s 87%. Previously, the CDC estimated Omicron accounted for about 3% that week.

The week ending Dec. 4, Omicron caused less than 1% of new cases.

It's been just 20 days since the US detected its first case of Omicron.  


6:42 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Omicron responsible for more than 73% of new US cases, CDC data shows

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

The Omicron variant causes over 73% of new coronavirus cases in the US, according to estimates posted Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The week ending Dec. 18, Omicron accounted for 73.2% of cases, with delta making up an additional 26.6%.

The week prior, ending Dec. 11, Omicron was estimated at 12.6% of circulating virus, versus Delta’s 87%. Previously, the CDC estimated Omicron accounted for about 3% that week.

The week ending Dec. 4, Omicron caused less than 1% of new cases.

Omicron is even more prevalent in certain parts of the country — making up over 95% of circulating virus in parts of the northwest and southeast.

6:05 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

London cancels New Year’s Eve event in Trafalgar Square over Covid-19 concerns

From CNN’s Lauren Kent and Samantha Beech

A planned New Year’s Eve event in London has been canceled over Covid-19 concerns, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted on Monday. 

“Due to the surge in Covid cases, we’ve taken the difficult decision to cancel our NYE event in Trafalgar Square,” said the tweet from Khan’s verified account. “The safety of all Londoners must come first. A spectacular NYE celebration showcasing our city will still be shown on midnight on BBC1 – I urge all Londoners to tune in.” 

A statement attached to the tweet said the planned celebration was expected to host 6,500 people in Trafalgar Square. 

“This will be very disappointing for many Londoners, but we must take the right steps to reduce the spread of the virus,” Khan said. “I’m proud that we will still have an incredible broadcast spectacular to watch on our screens, which will showcase our great city to the rest of the world.”

Some context: London isn’t the first European city to cancel or amend New Year’s Eve celebrations over Covid-19 concerns. On Saturday, Paris canceled its traditional fireworks display over the Champs-Elysées Avenue to welcome the New Year due to the renewed Covid-19 surge. In Italy, Rome is among several cities which have decided to cancel New Year's festivities over Covid-19 health concerns.

6:16 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Kentucky governor urges residents to get Covid-19 home tests now

From CNN's Claudia Dominguez 

Kentucky Governor's office
Kentucky Governor's office

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear urged residents to get their at home tests before a “holiday run” on the kits, as Covid-19 cases increase in the state, 

During a news conference on Monday, Beshear said, “at home tests, right now, are sold in convenience stores and pharmacies but there’s going to be a huge run on them before the holidays and you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to be able to get one before this holiday.” 

Beshear also insisted that residents get vaccinated.

“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, please consider doing it now,” he pleaded to Kentuckians. 

Kentucky is still reeling from several tornado outbursts that left at least 76 dead, according to Beshear’s latest count. No hospitals are limiting elective procedures at the moment, Beshear said, except the hospital in Mayfield, which was devastated by a tornado and currently does not have running water. 

Beshear reported the state’s first case of the Omicron variant on Friday, and assumes that the variant is probably “in every county by now.”

More than 10,300 Kentuckians received their first vaccination this weekend and more than 32,700 had a booster shot, the governor said. 

54% of Kentuckians are vaccinated according to Johns Hopkins University. 

6:04 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Ohio National Guard will staff a free Covid-19 testing site in Cleveland

From CNN's Raja Razek

A free drive-thru Covid-19 testing site will open on Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio. 

"The site, which is located at the W.O. Walker Building will be staffed by the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Department of Health," read a joint news release. Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals will support the community Covid-19 testing site.  

The site will open Tuesday and initially operate through Sunday of this week, but will be closed on Dec. 25, according to the release. 

"The testing is free, open to everyone and individuals do not need a doctor’s order to obtain a test. The site will offer PCR tests, and individuals will receive their results in approximately 2-3 days," the release said. 

Additionally, the Ohio Department of Health is offering free rapid at-home antigen testing kits at many sites across Ohio, according to the release, including local health departments, public libraries, and community health centers. 

Due to a surge in Covid-19 infections and an increased demand in healthcare services, particularly in emergency departments, Greater Cleveland’s hospital systems said it will limit coronavirus testing in emergency departments to patients who are going to be admitted to the hospital, according to the release. 

On Friday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that he had mobilized the state's National Guard to "help meet critical needs at hospitals and testing locations," according to a news release from his office.

The governor mobilized 1,050 members of the Ohio National Guard to "help relieve the hospital staffing strain caused by the rising number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients," according to the release. 

"Of the total mobilized guard members, approximately 150 are highly-trained medical professionals and will deploy to help meet critical needs at hospitals and testing locations," the release said. "The remaining 900 guard members will help with patient transport, housekeeping, and food services."
5:46 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

30 Covid-19 cases tracked to a local nightclub in Honolulu 

From CNN's Michelle Watson  

The Hawaii Department of Public Health has tracked at least 30 new Covid-19 cases to a local night club, according to a Sunday news release.  

The cases were tracked to concerts held at the Republik nightclub on Dec. 10 and 11, the department said. 1000 people attended the sold-out Dec. 10 concert and 900 people attended the Dec. 11 concert, according to Matty Hazelgrove, one of the club's co-founders.  

Masks and negative tests taken within 48 hours were required for each concert, Hazelgrove said.  

"Our business has been closed since March 15, 2020. December 10th & 11th was our first weekend back in operation, and we followed all guidance given to us by the City and County of Honolulu to re-open safely," Hazelgrove said. "Maybe it is time to re-evaluate the guidelines so people can gather together while minimizing the potential spread of the virus."   

The positive cases were among concertgoers and staff, Hazelgrove added.  

There are currently 31 cases of the omicron variant in Hawaii, according to Brooks Baehr, Covid-19 & Pandemic Response Administrative Assistant for the department of health.  

5:28 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

NY state calls on federal government to help increase supply of Covid-19 test kits

From CNN's Laura Ly

New York’s Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia
New York’s Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia New York Governor's office

New York’s Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia said the state needs more partnership with the federal government on making sure necessary supplies, like test kits, are available.

“We do call upon the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act to get manufacturers producing more over-the-counter tests,” Garcia said Monday

New York state will allocate $65 million to give to counties to help them with costs associated with fighting Covid-19, such as buying masks or paying staffers working at vaccination or testing sites, Governor Kathy Hochul said. 

Additionally, the state’s homeland security department will be giving six million masks to county emergency managers to distribute within their counties, Hochul said. 

10 million more at-home test kits are expected to arrive in New York state in the coming weeks, the governor said.

Garcia said that at least five million of those tests kits are expected to arrive before the new year and will be allocated as follows:

  • Two million will go to school districts across the state
  • One million will go to county emergency managers
  • 1.6 million will go to New York City
  • 400K will go to various vaccination sites to be given to people when they receive their vaccine

Seven new state testing sites are expected to open next week, in addition to the state’s existing 1,800 testing sites. Also, more healthcare teams, including 30 ambulance and EMS teams, will be added to assist hospitals with patients, Hochul added. 

4:25 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Quebec will close schools and bars and return to teleworking as Covid-19 cases increase

From CNN's Raja Razek 

Quebec will implement new restrictions, closing schools, bars and casinos as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations increase, Quebec's Health Minister Christian Dubé said during a news conference on Monday.

"The situation is critical," he said. "With the increase of cases and hospitalization, we must put in place new measures, starting at 5 p.m. today, we are closing bars, casinos, movies theaters, and performance venues. Teleworking is now mandatory."

"Regarding schools, we are closing elementary and high schools," he said. "The return to class in attendance will be on Monday, January 10."

Gyms and spas would also be closed, "with the exception of personal care," according to the health minister. 

Additionally, professional, and amateur sports performances "will have to be behind closed doors," according to Dubé, and restaurant hours would be limited from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"I know the situation is tough, but now is the time again not to get discouraged and to be strong. I ask everyone to be part of the effort again. It can make all the difference," Dubé said.