The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Mahtani, Helen Regan, Joshua Berlinger and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 7:30 PM ET, Fri December 24, 2021
29 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
3:25 p.m. ET, December 24, 2021

Harris tests negative for Covid-19

From CNN's DJ Judd

Both Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff tested negative for Covid-19 today, just two days after a staffer and close contact tested positive for coronavirus in Washington, DC.

“This morning, the vice president and second gentleman received an antigen test and tested negative,” the White House told the pool of reporters traveling with them. “The vice president also received a PCR test and we will have results later this afternoon.”

The vice president is in Los Angeles for the Christmas holiday.

2:49 p.m. ET, December 24, 2021

About 600 flights have been canceled within, into or out of the US on Christmas Eve

Travelers check for flight information at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, on December 24.
Travelers check for flight information at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, on December 24. (David McNew/AFP/Getty Images)

About 600 flights have been canceled within, into or going out of the US on Christmas Eve so far, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.

As of 2:30 p.m. ET, exactly 602 flights were canceled and more than 1,800 were delayed.

Globally, there were nearly 2,300 flight cancellations in total, according to FlightAware.

More than 180 United Airlines flights, 165 Delta flights and 72 JetBlue fights have been canceled, according to FlightAware.

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 2.19 million people at airports across the country on Thursday, the highest figure since the uptick in holiday travel started a week ago.

1:55 p.m. ET, December 24, 2021

Biden says there are no plans to shorten Covid-19 isolation period for everyone

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Joe Biden speaks during a signing ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC on December 23.
President Joe Biden speaks during a signing ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC on December 23. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden told reporters Friday there are no plans to shorten the isolation period for everyone testing positive for Covid-19.

“Well, I just listen to my team, the docs, and they think we should keep it the way it is for now,” Biden told reporters at the White House, adding he tested negative for Covid-19 Thursday.

Some context: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the isolation time for health care workers who test positive for Covid-19, as it anticipates a surge in hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant.

The agency's new guidelines say health care workers with Covid-19 may return to work after seven days if they are asymptomatic and test negative, and that the "isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages," according to a statement Thursday.

1:41 p.m. ET, December 24, 2021

Italy reports more than 50,000 new daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Livia Borghese

Italy reported a record-breaking 50,599 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began, according to health ministry data, an increase from Thursday's record of 44,595 cases.

The country also reported 141 more deaths on Friday.

Research from Italy's Superior Health Institute published Thursday shows that the Omicron variant is "rapidly increasing" across the country.

1:38 p.m. ET, December 24, 2021

France reports record-breaking number of new daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Xiaofei Xu

France reported a record-breaking 94,124 Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily number since the pandemic began, according to health ministry data. 

That is up from Thursday's record of 91,608 daily cases. 

France also recorded 169 more coronavirus deaths in hospitals on Friday.

The French government announced that President Emmanuel Macron will host a virtual meeting with ministers on Monday to discuss the pandemic.

1:15 p.m. ET, December 24, 2021

Rio de Janeiro reinstates New Year's Eve fireworks after previously canceling them

From CNN's Maija Ehlinger

Fireworks are seen on Copacabana beach during New Years Eve Celebration on January first, 2020, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Fireworks are seen on Copacabana beach during New Years Eve Celebration on January first, 2020, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Wagner Meier/Getty Images)

The Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro will go ahead with its New Year's Eve fireworks celebration, according to a news conference Thursday from Mayor Eduardo Paes. This comes after the mayor had previously canceled celebrations nearly three weeks ago due to rising Covid-19 concerns. 

“We want the celebrate the end of the year in a calm, safe and organized manner. We met with the scientific committee, which confirmed that it would be safe to hold the city’s New Year’s celebrations under the previsions presented by the city government. We also got authorization from the state’s scientific committee. We’re doing all we can in order to avoid large displacements or gatherings,” Paes said.

The city’s famous fireworks display is set to last for 16 minutes over Copacabana Beach. The area will be restricted to residents of the beachfront neighborhood. Paes said traffic and public transportation to the area will be blocked during evening hours on Dec. 31.

Revelers are encouraged to stay close to their homes to “avoid unnecessary travel.” 

“We’re putting a special plan in place for Copacabana because it is traditionally the largest gathering place for the city. Copacabana’s New Year’s Eve celebration is shown on television screens around the world. It’s going to be a beautiful New Year’s celebration and I hope it will be inspirational and bring us hope. We hope 2022 will be a better year,” Paes added. 

1:12 p.m. ET, December 24, 2021

New York governor announces shortened quarantine period for essential workers

From CNN's Evan Simko-Bednarski

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that fully vaccinated essential workers who have tested positive for Covid-19 can return to their job after a shorter quarantine time.

Fully vaccinated workers can return to work after five days if they present no symptoms and have had no fever for 72 hours, Hochul said Friday. Those workers will still be expected to wear a mask, she added. 

While Hochul did not explicitly define who counts as an essential worker, she said it includes those who work in healthcare, sanitation, grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. 

“We want to make sure that our critical workforce, who we’ve relied on from the beginning – and my heart goes out to them filled with gratitude – that our workers can get back. And that includes our healthcare, eldercare, home healthcare, sanitation, grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants – you know who you are,” Hochul said. “You know you’re the ones who got us through the first many months of anxiety. We need you again, we need you to be able to go to work.”

The governor said the new guidance is a state application of recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance about Omicron and its differences from prior variants. 

“This is not Delta; this is not the first variant. This is Omicron, which thus far…has demonstrated, as we’ve watched around the globe and other places where it hit first, that it’s not as severe in its impact,” Hochul said. 

Hochul also announced a milestone in the Empire State's vaccine drive. The governor said 95% of New Yorkers over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. She urged all New Yorkers to get full initial vaccines and booster shots, saying three shots is more effective against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

11:57 a.m. ET, December 24, 2021

Allegiant Air cancels about 20 Christmas Eve flights

From CNN’s Andy Rose

An Allegiant Airlines plane on the runway at McCarran International Airport, on February 14, 2020 in Las Vegas.
An Allegiant Airlines plane on the runway at McCarran International Airport, on February 14, 2020 in Las Vegas. (Kirby Lee/LEEKI/AP)

Allegiant Air has canceled about 20 Christmas Eve flights so far due to staffing issues related to the Omicron coronavirus variant surge.

“Like other businesses and airlines across the nation, we are experiencing staffing issues related to the rapid increase in Omicron cases. As a result, we have regretfully had to cancel some flights this week. We’re very sorry for the disruption to our customers’ travel plans and have issued full refunds to those impacted, as well as up to $300 in additional compensation and $150 credit vouchers that can be used towards future travel,” spokesperson Sonya Padgett told CNN in an email.  

More flight cancellations: United Airlines canceled more than 170 flights today, while Delta has canceled 150, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware. There have been more than 500 flights canceled within, into and going out of the US.

11:32 a.m. ET, December 24, 2021

UK breaks another record number of new daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Lauren Kent

The United Kingdom reported 122,186 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily number since start of the pandemic, according to government data.

That is up from the previous day's record of 119,789 new cases.

The UK Health Security Agency reported 23,719 new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant across the UK on Friday, with the country’s confirmed Omicron cases now totaling 114,625.

A further 137 Covid-19 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported by the government on Friday. 

The Health Security Agency noted that government figures would not be updated on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, with the next coronavirus data update expected on Monday, Dec. 27.