The state of New York sees daily record highs for new Covid-19 cases

New York data also revealed that positive Covid-19 cases in the state rose 154% in less than a week.

The previous highest was January 14, when 19,942 new cases were reported.

“We must not take lightly the winter wave we are facing, and we should continue to encourage everyone we know to be vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a news release on Thursday.

At its peak in mid-April 2020, New York’s total hospitalization for Covid-19 reached nearly 19,000.

The data revelations come as New York City reported the positivity rate from PCR tests doubled over a four-day period. The NYC Health Commissioner says cases have tripled in the past month.

More data is needed on the severity of Omicron, health officials say

The United States will see many cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but it is too early to assume that it will cause milder disease, said National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins on Friday.

“It̵[ads1]7;s clear that Omicron is an extremely contagious variant, that it doubles every two to four days,” Collins told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Collins said that people can limit the consequences of the variant with vaccines and especially with boosters.

Data from two weeks of South African cases appeared to indicate that Omicron was milder in severity. The CDC said last week that it looked at 43 cases and most of these people had mild symptoms. Most were vaccinated and about a third of the total group had received a booster injection.

British epidemiologists said this week that they found no evidence that Omicron causes milder disease there, but the team from Imperial College London also said that there was not much data to go on yet.

“We still do not know – and there is some controversy about this – whether Omicron causes the same type of disease or whether it is a somewhat milder form of the disease,” Collins said.

“We really need to know that. I do not want to assume that it is milder right now, but would not it be nice if it turned out to be the case?” he asked.

With a more contagious variant, although milder, it can still send more people to hospital.

“The problem, of course, is if this is so contagious – and we can see hundreds of thousands of cases every day, maybe even a million cases in a day from Omicron – even if it’s a little less serious, you’re going to have a lot of people in the hospital, and our hospitals are already really stretched with Delta, especially in the northern part of the country, “said Collins.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday that the Omicron coronavirus variant “is growing rapidly” and is expected to “become the dominant strain in the United States, as it has been in other countries, in the coming weeks.”

Andy Slavitt, a former senior pandemic adviser to President Joe Biden, said that while tools such as vaccines are now widely available instead of last winter’s wave, “a very rough January” is ahead because of Omicron.
Preparing for a Delta / Omicron dual surge

“For the health workers, the hospitals, for people who are sick, even sick of things other than Covid, it represents a real danger and a real threat,” Slavitt told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday.

Two indicators have increased by around 40% in the last month, according to data from Johns Hopkins University: the average of seven days for new cases peaked at 120,000; and the total number of hospital admissions is more than 68,000.

The seven-day average for deaths was 1286 as of Thursday, an increase of 8% from a month ago, the data show.

Getting vaccinated or boosted is still the key when millions of Americans are getting ready for the holidays.

Recent laboratory studies of blood taken from vaccinated individuals and exposed to Omicron showed that the variant can avoid some protection offered by two doses of Modernas Covid-19 vaccine, but a booster dose restores much of that immunity, researchers reported on Wednesday. The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine has shown similar results.
'We are devastated:' Minnesota doctors are asking in a newspaper ad that people be vaccinated
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its recommendations for Covid-19 vaccines to make it clear that shots made by Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech are preferred over Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

This means that people who received the J&J vaccine should be looking for a booster syringe, but one made by another company, Collins told CNN.

“They should get a booster from an mRNA vaccine,” Collins said. “NIH did this mix and match study in terms of what was your first vaccine and what did you get boosted with? If you start with J&J and get an mRNA booster, you get a pretty good result from it.

“I’m watching it closely. I have two grandchildren who got J&J. They are now reinforced, and I think they will be fine.”

The daily frequency of vaccinations is up around 22% from a month before, according to CDC data, with more than half of booster doses. At the current rate, it will take more than two months for at least half of adults to get a Covid-19 booster, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.

Biden said on Thursday that vaccinations and boosters are crucial to keep companies and holiday gatherings safe.

“For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter with serious illness and death,” he said. “But it is good news if you are vaccinated and you get a booster injection, you are protected from serious illness and death.”

People are queuing up to receive a Covid-19 test on a mobile test site in Manhattan on December 8, 2021.

Vaccines are still the best way to fight Covid-19, officials said

Even with the potential proliferation of the Omicron variant, former Obama health policy adviser Dr. Zeke Emanuel said the United States has the tools to combat Covid-19, unlike during the outbreak.

“In March 2020, we did not understand much about coronavirus. Secondly, we have vaccines now. We have the opportunity to change these vaccines. We get oral therapies. We have much better tests and test availability. None of it is perfect, but it is much better than it was in March 2020, Emanuel told CNN’s Michael Smerconish on Thursday.

Continued research on additional drugs to fight the coronavirus is ongoing.
Omicron is coming, but boosters should fight it, say federal health officials
Merck’s Covid-19 antiviral drug, molnupiravir, reduces the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk unvaccinated adults by 30%, according to a statement issued after publishing clinical trial data in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Among people who received treatment, the risk of hospitalization and death was 6.8%, compared with 9.7% among people who received placebo, the study said. There was one death in the treatment group, compared with nine deaths in the placebo group.

We are at war, says Fauci

The United States can win the war against the coronavirus if people continue to fight and use weapons by hand, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.

Fauci compared the fight against Covid-19 to World War II, which raged for years.

Is it worth gathering for the holidays if not everyone is vaccinated?  Experts weigh in

“We want to win this war with this virus, but we want to win it just because we use the things we have: the interventions,” said Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We are so lucky that we have a very effective and safe vaccine. We know what public health restrictions work. We just have to keep up. We can not give up.”

Fauci said Americans should be fine for the coming holidays if people follow the CDC’s recommendations on vaccinations and mask use.

And Collins said people should avoid cramped, indoor spaces and should consider not being near unvaccinated.

“After all, this is a very clever virus, but it still has the same way of being transmitted by people who are close together in a close place,” he said.

CDC Director: Test-to-stay works

Walensky said Friday that new evidence shows that “test-to-stay”, which involves testing instead of quarantining students who may have been exposed to the virus at school, works to keep children safe at school, even if they have been exposed to coronavirus.

“Test-to-stay is an encouraging public health practice for keeping our children in school,” Walensky said during a virtual White House briefing.

In recent months, the CDC has partnered with certain school districts to evaluate test-to-stay programs. Two of the communities that partnered with the CDC are Lake County, Illinois and Los Angeles County, California.

Pfizer adds third dose to pediatric vaccine trial

Pfizer's child-sized vaccine does not provide expected immunity in younger children;  the company is adding a third dose to the trial

Pfizer said Friday that temporary data indicated that the child-sized doses of the vaccine did not provide the expected immunity in 2- to 5-year-olds. The company said it added a third dose, given two months after the second dose, to the clinical trial regimen for these children.

The company said it expects to apply for authorization for emergency use from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the second quarter of 2022 (instead of the first quarter).

Fauci said the delay in the authorization is necessary.

“You really want to get the right dose and the right diet for your kids,” he told CNN. “So even if you do not like it being a delay, you want to do it right, and that’s what they’re talking about.”

CNN’s Jen Christensen, Deidre McPhillips, Jacqueline Howard, Naomi Thomas, Virginia Langmaid, Allie Malloy, John Bonifield, Katherine Dillinger, Laura Studley, Steve Almasy, Amy Simonson and Kay Jones contributed to this report.

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