December 28 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 1:24 AM ET, Wed December 29, 2021
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7:58 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

CDC investigating 86 cruise ships for Covid-19 outbreaks

From CNN’s Kay Jones

At least 86 cruise ships are being investigated for Covid-19 outbreaks by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while another three are being monitored after reporting positive cases onboard.

The CDC’s website shows that 86 ships are being investigated for coronavirus outbreaks under the yellow status while another three ships have orange status, which means they have reported Covid-19 cases on board but do not meet the agency’s threshold for investigation at this point.

Yellow status for cruise ships under the CDC guidelines means that at least one of the following criteria are being met: “at or above the investigation threshold for crew COVID-19 cases; at or above the investigation threshold for passenger COVID-19 cases; or state or local health department notified CDC of passenger COVID-19 cases occurring within 5 days of disembarkation.”

No ships are in the red status area, which the CDC classifies as “at or above the CDC investigation threshold for passenger and crew.”

The color-coding system is for foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in US waters, the CDC says.

7:44 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

Indonesia records its first locally transmitted Omicron case

From CNN's Akanksha Sharma

Indonesia has recorded its first locally transmitted case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, state news media Antara reported Tuesday.

"The Omicron case from local transmission was reported in a man, with no history of foreign travel nor having come in contact with foreign travelers," Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the Director of Prevention and Control of Vector and Zoonotic Diseases at the Health Ministry, said in a virtual news conference in Jakarta, according to Antara's report.

The 37 year-old man had traveled from Medan and arrived in Jakarta on Dec. 6. Two weeks later, when he was going back to Medan, his antigen test came back positive, Tarmizi said.

The PCR test a day later also came back positive.

“On December 26, 2021, based on laboratory results, it was confirmed that the patient was exposed to the Omicron variant”, Siti Nadia Tarmizi said, adding that the infected man is asymptomatic and currently isolated. 

Contact tracing is ongoing and his wife who accompanied him in his travels, has tested negative for Covid-19, Tarmizi added.

Indonesia reported its first case of the Omicron variant on Dec. 16.

Since then the government says it has upped security at the country’s borders, urged people not to travel abroad and expedited vaccination to meet the national target, Antara's report said.

7:40 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

Covid-19 cases surge in Sydney, Australia

From CNN's Angus Watson

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), announced a near doubling of its daily Covid-19 case tally Wednesday with 11,201 new cases – up from 6,602 the previous day.

Most of the cases were found in state capital Sydney. 

Three new deaths were also announced by NSW Health in its Wednesday statement.

“There are currently 625 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital, with 61 people in intensive care, 23 of whom require ventilation,” NSW Health said.

Speaking to Sydney radio station 2GB Tuesday NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet defended his decision to relax restrictions earlier this month, including reintroducing broad freedoms for unvaccinated people.

“We’ve always said as we open up, case numbers will increase,” Perrottet said. “These are the difficulties we’ll go through.”

“I think NSW, despite this, is in a very strong position, and I’m very confident about 2022,” Perrottet added.


7:29 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

NYC Ballet cancels all remaining performances of "The Nutcracker" due to Covid-19 concerns

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai

The New York City Ballet announced it will cancel all remaining performances of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” through Jan. 2, 2022, due to Covid-19 concerns, according to an announcement on the organization’s website on Tuesday. 

“The Nutcracker” has been performed by the NYCB every holiday season in New York City since its premiere in February 1954, with the exception of the 2020 season, during which all performances were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Performing our beloved holiday tradition live on our home stage this season has brought us much joy, but as has been the case throughout the pandemic, we remain committed to the health and safety of our audiences, artists, and staff,” a tweet from the New York City Ballet states. 

“The Nutcracker” was originally scheduled to be performed from Nov. 26 to Jan. 2 with a total of 47 performances at Lincoln Center in New York City. All audience members were required to be fully-vaccinated and to wear masks during performances, the New York City Ballet said. 

The ballet company said it looks forward to welcoming guests back at the Lincoln Center for future performances.

7:22 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

NFL modifies its Covid-19 protocols in line with updated CDC guidance

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

The National Football League has reduced the amount of time that players who test positive for Covid-19 may have to isolate from their team, according to a league memo that was distributed to teams Tuesday and obtained by CNN.  

NFL players who test positive for Covid-19 and are asymptomatic will now have to isolate for five days rather than the previous period of 10 days. The new protocols are in line with updated guidance provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday.

The memo clarifies that fully vaccinated players may “test out” of isolation in less than five days if they return multiple negative tests as outlined under previous protocols. Non-fully vaccinated players will not be able to rejoin the team in less than five days under any circumstances, the memo explains.

All players cleared to return to the team after five days of isolation as described in Tuesday’s memo will be required to wear a KN-95 or N-95 mask “at all times other than when actively engaged in physical activity at practice or in a game” for an additional five days.

Other changes to the NFL’s protocols announced Tuesday include that all team meetings must be held either virtually or outdoors or in a team’s “practice bubble” with all individuals physically distanced. The memo explained that teams have the option to meet indoors in person if their meeting spaces have been approved by the league. All players and staff must wear masks indoors at team facilities regardless of vaccination status. No more than 15 players will be allowed in the weight room at one time, and group dining at team facilities has been prohibited.

All changes take effect immediately and will remain in place through the conclusion of the regular season, according to the memo.


6:39 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

NHL postpones 10 additional games due to Covid-19 issues

From CNN's David Close

The National Hockey League (NHL) has postponed an additional 10 games due to issues caused by the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday, the NHL revealed nine of the games were being postponed due to attendance restrictions in host cities within Canada. The tenth game, Wednesday's Detroit Red Wings at New York Islanders contest, was postponed due to Covid-related issues impacting both teams. 

The NHL says upcoming games hosted in Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg will be rescheduled when attendance restrictions "may be eased or lifted."

The league has postponed a total of 80 games this season.

Specific games impacted within Canada are outlined within Tuesday’s league announcement here

6:32 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

Many Latin American countries are outpacing the US on vaccines

From CNN's Tim Lister

Many countries in Latin America were hit with soaring Covid-19 death rates early in the pandemic, as coronavirus raged throughout the region. The tide is turning in many Latin American nations today, where vaccination rates are outpacing countries in Europe and North America and helping drive down deaths.

The vaccine rollout was slow at the start, with just getting the vaccines in hand a major issue. Just six months ago, Latin America and the Caribbean were reporting just under half of all Covid-19 related deaths worldwide. Now, the region accounts for about 10% of Covid-19 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

That's due to the accelerated delivery of European, American, Chinese and homegrown vaccines that a number of Latin American nations have received in the second half of this year, according to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) data. 

Cuba, Chile and Brazil are among the top ten countries globally in terms of those fully vaccinated, according to statistics compiled by PAHO. 

One reason for those successful vaccination campaigns can be chalked up to history: Many countries in Latin America have long-standing and trusted national inoculation drives against other diseases, such as polio.

Cuba has, perhaps, fared best in this regard, with its bet on its homegrown vaccines – approved for emergency use by its drug regulators this summer – paying off.

The country has the highest rate of vaccination in the region – and one of the highest in the world – with 84.1% of its inhabitants fully vaccinated, according to PAHO. In September, Cuba became the first in the world to begin the mass vaccination of kids as young as 2 against Covid.

Scientists say the Cuban-made vaccines are safe and effective in preventing serious illness and death. The government applied for World Health Organization approval for its vaccines in September. 

Meanwhile Brazil, home to one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world, has emerged from its darkest days of the pandemic with a successful vaccination drive. Major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have seen more than 99% of the adult population receive at least one dose of the vaccine, Reuters reports.

Brazil has administered more than 315 million doses, with 65.7% of the population fully vaccinated, according to PAHO data up to Dec. 23.

Chile's record is even better – with 85.6% of the population fully vaccinated. Uruguay has vaccinated 76.6% of its inhabitants and Argentina's vaccination rates sit at 70%. 

In Ecuador, 69.1% of its eligible population is already fully vaccinated. There, Covid-19 vaccinations will be made mandatory for people who are eligible for the vaccine from ages five and older, the Ecuadorian health ministry said on Thursday, becoming the first country in Latin America to impose such measure for the entire eligible population. The vaccination will not be mandatory for those with pre-existing medical conditions, the health ministry statement said. 

And in Peru, which has suffered the highest rate of Covid-19 deaths anywhere in the world, 63.9% of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated.

Regionally, over 868 million doses have been administered as of December 22 in Latin America and the Caribbean, PAHO reported, with around 57% of Latin America and the Caribbean's population fully vaccinated. That compares to 67.8% in Europe and 61.3% in the United States.

6:14 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

Mexico will allow cruise ships with Covid-19 positive passengers to disembark

From CNN's Michelle Velez, Matt Rivers and Valentina Di Donato

Cruise ships with Covid-19 positive passengers will be allowed to disembark in Mexico and the country will provide medical assistance to passengers, according to a news release Tuesday from the Mexican Government. 

“In accordance with the biosafety protocols established in the national and international spheres, the Government of Mexico will receive in its maritime ports cruise ships that request to dock in our country,” the statement said. 

“The Secretaries of Health and Tourism of the Government of Mexico reiterate the commitment to respect the provisions of the International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO), for which cruises will be received in ports maritime of the country,” the statement continued.

Mexico has no testing requirement for entry into the country. “People who do not present symptoms will be able to carry out their tourist activities with respect to the basic prevention measures,” the release said. 

6:32 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

More than 67 million people in the US have received a Covid-19 booster shot

From CNN's Maggie Fox

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

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

  • Fully vaccinated: 61.9% of the total US population (all ages) – more than 205 million people.
  • Not vaccinated: 22.3% of the eligible population (age 5+) have not received any dose of Covid-19 vaccine – at least 65 million people.
  • Current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average): 1,091,279 doses are being administered each day. 
  • An average of 722,888 million booster doses are being administered each day.
  • An average of 120,289 people are becoming fully vaccinated each day. 
  • More than 67 million people have received an additional dose, or booster.
  • 35.6% of fully vaccinated adults (18+) have received a booster.
  • 47.5% of fully vaccinated people age 50 and older have received a booster.
  • 57.6% of fully vaccinated seniors (65+) have received a booster. 
  • 32.7% of the fully vaccinated population is boosted. 

Note: 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 the number of people with at least one dose may be overestimated.