December 30 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:57 AM ET, Fri December 31, 2021
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7:57 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

New York state records 74,000 new positive Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Taylor Romine

New York reported more than 74,000 new positive Covid-19 cases across the state, once again breaking its single-day record.

Cases rose by 82% since Monday when the state reported a total of 40,780 new Covid-19 cases, according to a statement from Gov. Kathy Hochul's office. 

The daily percent positivity is 22.05% with the 7-day average at 16.21%.

Hospitalizations also continue to rise with a reported 7,373 total hospitalizations, up by almost 20% since Monday, state data showed.

7:34 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Covid-19 cases soar as Sydney prepares New Year's Eve party 

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) announced 21,151 Covid-19 cases Friday, a jump of close to 10,000 from the previous day’s count. 

The skyrocketing caseload comes as state capital Sydney prepares its famous New Year��s Eve fireworks show with no Covid-19 restrictions imposed on the public.

Ticketed spaces on the Sydney Harbour foreshore will host a reduced number of guests, but no caps will be enforced on private gatherings.

NSW police have asked the public to avoid overcrowded areas of the city unless they have a ticket to view the fireworks display from a particular vantage point. 

“With most vantage points for the fireworks ticketed this year, we are urging people not to head into the central business district (CBD) or harbour foreshore areas unless they have a ticket to a vantage point or a reservation at a restaurant or other venue,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell wrote Thursday in a statement. 

Some context: The 21,151 cases detected in the 24-hour period leading into Friday are the highest reported by any Australian jurisdiction since the pandemic began.

The positive results came from 148,410 tests conducted, NSW Health stated. 

The majority of NSW cases were found in Sydney. 

7:14 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Canadian province of Ontario will offer a fourth vaccine shot to vulnerable residents

From CNN’s Paula Newton

Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, will now offer a fourth shot of an mRNA vaccine to its most vulnerable residents, just three months after their third dose. 

This will apply to residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, Elder Care Lodges and other congregate care settings, health officials said.

In another significant move, Ontario announced it would no longer offer free, public Covid-19 testing to all residents, instead reserving tests for high-risk individuals who are symptomatic and are at risk of severe illness from Covid-19, and workers and residents in the highest risk settings, as well as vulnerable populations.

Some context: About two in every five Canadians live in Ontario which means beginning Friday, daily case counts alone will no longer be a reliable indicator of the progression of the virus in Canada as even those who are symptomatic will not be tested for the virus.

"We have to pivot. We know there's ongoing community activity. We know we'll have transmission risk, that data has to focus to screen those who need treatment and to protect those in high-risk settings," said Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, adding that more than 90% of the cases in Ontario are now caused by the Omicron variant.

Moore said those who are symptomatic and do not qualify for testing should assume they are infected with Covid-19 and isolate according to provincial health guidelines.



6:09 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Biden administration urges Supreme Court not to block vaccine mandate for large employers 

From CNN's Dan Berman

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

The Biden administration on Thursday told the Supreme Court it shouldn’t block its vaccine mandate and testing requirement for companies with more than 100 people, citing the continued spread of Covid-19 and potential dangers going forward. 

The rule is “saving thousands of lives and preventing hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations in the next six months alone,” the Justice Department wrote in a filing. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration — an agency that falls under the US Labor Department and is charged with ensuring safe workplaces — unveiled the new rule on Nov. 4. It said that it had the authority to act under an emergency temporary standard meant to protect employees if they are exposed to a "grave danger." It requires businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. 

Should the court choose to block the vaccine requirement, the Justice Department said justices should leave the rest, including the testing and mask mandates, in place. 

“Although vaccination is the most effective means of mitigating the grave danger of Covid-19 in the workplace, OSHA specifically found that masking and testing is ‘essential’ for employees who remain unvaccinated to ‘reduce the risk’ of employees’ ‘transmit[ting]’ the virus to other employees at work,” the Justice Department wrote.

5:30 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

NBA postpones 11th game this season due to Covid-19 issues

From CNN's David Close

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has postponed Thursday night’s Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets game due to Covid-19 issues within the Nuggets team.

The league said Denver did not have the league-required minimum of eight players available to proceed with the game.

The Nuggets listed 11 players on Thursday's injury report with either an injury, illness (non-Covid-19) or who are in health and safety protocols.

According to the NBA, the league has postponed 11 games this season due to Covid-19 issues.

4:55 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Israel will only administer a fourth Covid-19 shot to immune suppressed people

From CNN's Andrew Carey

Israel will begin administering a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people with suppressed immune systems starting Friday.

A decision by the director general of the health ministry, Nachman Ash, to make a fourth dose available to anybody 60 and older, as well as to medical staff, remains on hold, despite it being hailed as a done deal by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last week.

In response to the announcement Thursday evening, Bennett said in a statement, “Israel will lead the way in administering a fourth vaccine to the Israeli people. Israel’s strategy for overcoming omicron is clear: the greater the wave, the greater the protection we will need to overcome it.”

That more temperate message contrasted with the prime minister’s almost celebratory response just moments after the panel of coronavirus experts announced their initial recommendation for a wider roll-out of the fourth dose ten days ago.

“This is wonderful news … the State of Israel is continuing to stand at the forefront of the global effort to deal with the pandemic … I call on everyone who meets the criteria that the members of the committee have set: Go and get vaccinated,” he had said in a statement on Dec. 21.

Some context: Since that recommendation last week, Ash has been weighing the advice from his coronavirus experts (in favor of a fourth dose,) against data from South Africa and the UK regarding the severity of the omicron variant.

His decision-making also takes place in the knowledge that the Israeli government is desperate to avoid introducing any sort of lockdown measures and has made vaccination the overwhelming priority of its pandemic policy.

In a second decision Thursday, Ash approved shortening the gap between the second and third doses from five to three months because, “in light of the omicron wave, the need to raise the level of immunity among the entire population is growing as fast as possible.”

The number of new cases of the virus in Israel continues to grow steeply, topping 4,000 on Wednesday, more than five times the number two weeks ago.

3:59 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

US pediatric hospital admissions reach record high, CDC data shows

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Pediatric hospital admissions in the US are the highest they’ve ever been over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

On average, 378 children were admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 on any given day over the week that ended Dec. 28, according to data published Thursday from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

This is an increase of more than 66% from the previous week, and it breaks the previous record average of 342 children admitted to the hospital that was seen at the end of August and early September.

More than 76,000 children ages 17 and younger have been hospitalized with Covid-19 since August 2020.

Currently, 0.52 children are hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 children in the population. This breaks the previous record of 0.47 children hospitalized, set on Sept. 2. 

Pediatric hospital admissions are up by more than 50% in the past week in HHS regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9, which includes the East Coast, South and Southwest. 

4:05 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Daily Covid-19 cases top 189,000 in the UK, a new record

From CNN's Nada Bashir

A medical worker prepares to take a sample from a person at a coronavirus testing center in London on December 18.
A medical worker prepares to take a sample from a person at a coronavirus testing center in London on December 18. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom has, once again, registered a record-breaking number of new Covid-19 cases reported within a 24-hour period, with 189,213 cases reported Thursday. 

This latest increase surpassed Wednesday’s daily tally of new cases which stood at 183,037.  

Another 19,544 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK as of Thursday, bringing the total Omicron case count to 229,666. 

“Data has shown that Omicron cases now constitute more than 90% of all community Covid-19 cases in England,” the Health and Security Agency said. 


4:14 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Canada's Ontario province will offer a fourth Covid-19 shot to vulnerable residents

From CNN’s Paula Newton

In a significant update to vaccine distribution, Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, will now offer a fourth shot of an mRNA vaccine to its most vulnerable residents three months after their third dose. 

This will apply to residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, elder care lodges and other congregate care settings.