The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

By Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:23 p.m. ET, December 22, 2021
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11:25 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

UK reports more than 100,000 daily Covid-19 cases for the first time since pandemic began

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

The United Kingdom reported 106,122 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, crossing the 100,000 threshold for the first time since the pandemic began, according to government figures. 

The UK has seen a 58.9% increase in confirmed cases in the last seven days. 

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there will be no further Covid-19 restrictions brought in for England before Christmas, adding that there is not currently "enough evidence" to justify tougher measures.

He did not rule out bringing in any further measures after Christmas, however, adding “if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.”

CNN's Livvy Doherty and Lauren Kent contributed reporting to this post. 

11:25 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

Miami-Dade mayor announces new measures to address "very alarming rise in cases" of Covid-19

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks to the media about the need for South Floridians to be safe during the holidays at a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site on December 16, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks to the media about the need for South Floridians to be safe during the holidays at a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site on December 16, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The mayor of Miami-Dade announced “new and expanded measures” to address “the very alarming rise in cases” of Covid-19.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters during a press conference Wednesday that the county is expanding testing by extending hours and opening three to five additional sites.

“Over the last several days we’ve seen over 200% increase in the demand for testing across the county,” Levine Cava said, adding the county is testing between 40,000 and 50,000 people a day.

Levine Cava also announced she is reimplementing the indoor mask mandate in county buildings, effective immediately.

“Taking this extra step, given the surge in Omicron, is a common-sense measure that will reduce transmission especially around the holidays,” she said. 

Additionally, the mayor said she has requested more monoclonal antibody treatments from the state health department and the federal government. Levine Cava said the county will distribute thousands of at-home testing kits and is laying the groundwork to provide Pfizer’s antiviral pills as soon as they are approved and available.

The mayor said the county will continue measures such as on-site vaccinations for nursing home residents, testing wastewater, and requiring hospitals to report on daily Covid-19 case counts.

11:16 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

Serious adverse effects from Covid-19 vaccines are rare, another study affirms

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Most people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 experience some side effects, but most are mild or very mild, and serious adverse effects are rare, according to a study published Wednesday in the medical journal JAMA Open Network.

After receiving a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, about 80% of people reported some side effects – the most common being fatigue, muscle pain, headache and chills. But only 0.2% of people reported experiencing an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis after full vaccination – a total of 27 people out of more than 11,000 responses.

For this study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, conducted daily, weekly and monthly surveys about health and Covid-19-related events among an online cohort of adults between March 26 and May 19, 2021. The survey included nearly 20,000 participants, though not all participants responded to all questions. 

The study also found that there was a “strong association” to adverse reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine among those who reported being infected with Covid-19 prior to being vaccinated.

People who received the Moderna vaccine were about twice as likely to report experiencing side effects than those who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, as were women. Those who received the J&J vaccine had lower odds of adverse effects, along older people and those with asthma.

More on the study: The researchers note that while the surveyed group was diverse, rural residents and people reporting lower subjective social status are underrepresented. Also, not all participants responded to all surveys, which may affect results.

11:22 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

New York senator says he's asking FEMA for 100 more mobile testing sites for his state

From CNN's Laura Ly

People walk by a COVID 19 testing center on Times Square on August 30, 2021 in New York City.
People walk by a COVID 19 testing center on Times Square on August 30, 2021 in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress/Getty Images)

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said he’s sending a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting 100 more Covid-19 mobile testing sites for New York.

Schumer made the announcement during a Wednesday morning press conference with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

He said that although FEMA has announced that they are sending six additional testing sites, New York needs more.

“Today they said they’re sending six, that ain’t close to enough,” Schumer said. “We can beat this crisis if we’re smart and right on the ground…we need these 100 mobile sites and we need FEMA to do it ASAP.”
11:26 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

Another member of US Congress tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Manu Raju

Rep. Antonio Delgado, a Democrat from New York, announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for Covid-19, one of several members of Congress to announce they are positive in the past several days.

Delgado said he is vaccinated and boosted.

GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, her communications director Natalie Baldassarre tells CNN.

On Sunday, three other Democratic members of Congress announced that they have breakthrough coronavirus infections.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey as well as Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado shared that they had tested positive for Covid-19 via tweets from their official accounts.

The House and Senate are not in session at this moment.

See Rep. Delgado's full statement:

CNN's Greg Clary and Annie Grayer contributed reporting to this post.

11:10 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

New York City is adding additional testing capacity and hospitals are limiting visitors following outbreak

From CNN's Kristina Sgeuglia

New York City is adding additional testing capacity to grapple with the demand, and hospitals are tightening restrictions on visitation as Omicron continues to spread at a rapid pace, officials said Wednesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is adding seven additional city-run Covid-19 testing sites — bringing the total up to 119 city-run locations — and adding an additional five sites for the sole purpose of handing out at-home tests kits beginning Thursday.

This comes as the head of NYC’s 11 public hospitals says they are restricting visitors following an “outbreak” that they believe is connected to a visitor.

The 119 testing sites include fixed sites and mobile distribution all around the five boroughs, de Blasio said.

At the city-run testing locations, de Blasio says “lot of them do not have big lines thankfully and are very good at getting you a quick turnaround time.”

These locations are in addition to partner and private sites. The goal is to minimize lines, he said.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer said he’s sending a letter to FEMA requesting 100 more Covid-19 mobile testing sites for New York.

CEO of Health + Hospitals Mitch Katz acknowledged “some challenges in meeting the demand,” with regards to testing.

“Today we are expanding hours on all our health and hospitals sites from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” he said.

This has been made possible by going virtual for ambulatory care visits so that nurses and staff from clinics can be available in testing areas, he said.

Katz also said they have acquired a significant number of testing kits to distribute to those who feel comfortable testing at home.

For a temporary period, the city’s 11 public hospitals will also “be tighter about restricting visitors,” Katz said.

“We’ve had a recent outbreak in one of our hospitals that we think is related to visitors, not of course their fault, theres so much transmission going on in NYC now because of Omicron, and so for a short while, while we get the situation under control, we’re going to have limited visitation,” Katz said.

Certain exceptions will be made, he said, including for women in labor who will be able to bring someone with them.

He also noted for end of life hospice situations and in the case of sick children, family will be permitted.

“In order to make sure we don’t cause more disease we need to limit the number of visitors,” Katz said.

 

11:01 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

University of California campuses delay winter in-person instruction, encourage or require boosters

Royce Hall on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as UCLA lecturers and students celebrate after a strike was averted Wednesday morning. Lecturers across the UC system were planning to strike Wednesday and Thursday over unfair labor practices. UCLA on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
Royce Hall on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as UCLA lecturers and students celebrate after a strike was averted Wednesday morning. Lecturers across the UC system were planning to strike Wednesday and Thursday over unfair labor practices. UCLA on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Several University of California campuses will require Covid-19 boosters and will move the start of the winter session online, as Covid-19 cases tick up during the holiday break. 

The president of the university system, Michael Drake, encouraged chancellors at each campus to implement a plan for the next term.

“The emergence of this new and fast-moving variant, coupled with student travel to and from campus and the prevalence of gatherings over the holidays, will present our campuses with a unique set of public health challenges as we begin the New Year,” according to a letter from Drake.

UCLA will begin the winter quarter as planned on Jan. 3, but classes will be held remotely for the first two weeks. Booster shots will be required for all eligible students, faculty and staff.

UC Irvine encourages boosters and testing before returning to campus. “At the present time, however, we know it is not prudent to return to in-person instruction immediately after winter break,” according to a letter from UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. 

UC Riverside, in addition to an online start, says its approach will be aggressive. “All students must take a COVID-19 test before returning to campus, or immediately upon their arrival, then sequester and test again five days after arriving on campus. If you test positive before returning to campus, do not come to campus until you have completed your home isolation period and your symptoms have improved,” said an announcement from Chancellor Kim Wilcox. Boosters are “strongly” encouraged for those who are eligible but are required for all health care workers and medical students by Jan. 31. 

“This shift in instructional delivery will give us two weeks to identify COVID-19 cases and take appropriate measures to mitigate further spread through our campus community,” said an online update to UC Santa Cruz students.

UC San Diego, shifting to an online start for the winter quarter, will require testing twice a week of those who are unvaccinated or did not receive a booster shot. The tests must be three to five days apart, according to a note to students on its website. 

UC Santa Barbara recommends a booster ahead of the winter session. “The decision to delay in-person teaching is related to supporting students and instructors, particularly those who either test positive over winter break and cannot travel back to campus on time, or who test positive upon arrival and need to isolate,” said the campus announcement.

UC Davis will start classes remotely for one week instead of two and will require booster shots for all students, staff and faculty. The school will also continue to test everyone – every two weeks for vaccinated and every four days for those who are not vaccinated. Anyone without an exemption will be required to get a booster shot.

UC Berkeley will plan for an in-person spring semester, which starts mid-January. It is one of the UC’s two campuses that uses a semester system rather than quarters. The university said on its website that remote instruction during the fall semester was challenging for students and instructors.

CNN has requested more information from UC Merced about its January instruction plans. 

The UC system has more than 285,000 students, 227,000 faculty and staff across 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program.

10:23 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

CDC forecast predicts US Covid-19 deaths to have a stable or uncertain trend over the next 4 weeks

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Following a week of predicted increases, an ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that new Covid-19 deaths in the US will have a stable or uncertain trend over the next four weeks.

The CDC forecasts also include caution about the Omicron variant for the first time, with all three saying: “Current forecasts may not fully account for the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant and should be interpreted with caution.”

The latest forecast predicts that there will be a total of 838,000 to 844,000 Covid-19 deaths reported in the US by Jan. 15, 2022.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been 810,164 Covid-19 deaths in the United States.

For the fifth straight week, hospitalizations are predicted to increase, with 5,400 to 27,500 new confirmed hospital admissions likely reported on Jan. 14.

According to US Department of Health and Human Services data, there were 69,037 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on December 21.

The forecast for cases did not predict an increase or decrease.

“More reported cases than expected have fallen outside the forecast prediction intervals for 3- and 4-week ahead case forecasts. Case forecasts at those horizons and assessments of likely increases or decreases will not be shown until sustained improvements in performance are observed,” the CDC said.

10:48 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth's daughter, quarantining after husband tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Max Foster in London

 Princess Anne, Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence at The Gatcombe Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park on September 14, 2019 in Stroud, England.
 Princess Anne, Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence at The Gatcombe Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park on September 14, 2019 in Stroud, England. (Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom's Princess Anne is quarantining after her husband, Sir Tim Laurence, tested positive for Covid-19, a royal source told CNN on Wednesday. 

Laurence is isolating and following the appropriate coronavirus rules, the source added. 

The Covid-19 exposure means that Princess Anne and her husband will not attend Christmas Day celebrations at Windsor Castle. 

Princess Anne, officially known as The Princess Royal, is the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II.