January 5 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2:03 a.m. ET, January 6, 2022
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12:24 p.m. ET, January 5, 2022

Booster dose decreases Covid mortality by 90% compared to primary vaccine series, Israel studies suggest

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

An Israeli health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Maccabi Health Service in Jerusalem on August 20, 2021 when Israel launched its campaign to give booster shots to people aged over 40, in a bid to stem spiking infections driven by the Delta variant. 
An Israeli health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Maccabi Health Service in Jerusalem on August 20, 2021 when Israel launched its campaign to give booster shots to people aged over 40, in a bid to stem spiking infections driven by the Delta variant.  (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Getting a booster shot decreases Covid-19 mortality by 90% compared to being fully vaccinated, according to data highlighted Wednesday by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

During a White House coronavirus briefing, Walensky shared data on booster dose efficacy from studies conducted in Israel while the Delta variant was dominant.

The data Walensky presented indicated that a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine:

  • decreased infection by 10 times compared to those who were fully vaccinated
  • decreased severe disease by 18 times in people over age 60
  • decreased severe disease by 22 times in people ages 40 to 59
  • decreased mortality from Covid-19 by 90% compared to those who were fully vaccinated

“While these studies were done when Delta was the dominant variant in Israel, we expect to see a similar trend of increased protection over those who are boosted with Omicron,” Walensky said.

11:56 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

Less than 1% of NYC public school students out with Covid-19 after results from tests mostly taken last week

From CNN's David Shortell

Less than 1% of students in the New York City public school system were out with cases of Covid-19 as of Tuesday evening after receiving positive results on tests that were mostly taken last week, according to data from the city’s Department of Education released Wednesday.

Eighty-five percent of the 8,743 positive student cases were identified before or during winter break, when the district encouraged testing, the department said. 

In-school PCR testing as part of the city’s new effort to double surveillance began when classes resumed on Monday, according to a DOE spokesman, and results are expected as early as today. The school system has also been handing out rapid tests to students since classes resumed, the spokesman said.

The total number of confirmed cases amounts to nearly 22% of all registered positive cases in the school system since classes began in September.

No schools or classrooms are currently closed in the public system, according to city data. 

11:37 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

Biden administration is launching additional testing sites in 6 states

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The Biden administration is opening additional federally run free Covid-19 testing sites in six states across the country as the Omicron variant continues to surge in the US.

 “We have the tools we need to manage the surge in Omicron cases,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters during Wednesday’s briefing, citing vaccinations and boosters, funding from the Covid relief package to help schools implement prevention measures, and federal support for treatment and prevention.

The Biden administration, Zients said, “is deploying every available measure to help states communities and hospitals confront this Omicron challenge. Military doctors, nurses and EMTs are now in place assisting local hospital staff and states across the country, with additional teams ready to deploy as needed.”

Zients said that additional new testing sites would be “opening soon” in Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Delaware, Texas and Washington state.

A White House official told CNN Wednesday that 13,546 National Guard personnel are currently deployed to support Covid-19 efforts, including approximately 700 medical personnel.

The administration has shipped 2.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment in the last two weeks, Zients added.

He also touted Covid treatments, including President Biden’s announcement that the federal government is working with Pfizer to accelerate delivery of its antiviral pill. 

“The coming weeks are going to be challenging,” Zients said, echoing comments from Biden on Tuesday that cases will continue to rise.

11:34 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

FDA cautions against using self-collected throat swabs for Covid-19 tests

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Volunteers explain how to use a rapid at-home Covid-19 test in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on December 17, 2021. 
Volunteers explain how to use a rapid at-home Covid-19 test in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on December 17, 2021.  (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

The US Food and Drug Administration cautioned against using self-collected throat swabs for Covid-19 tests, saying that people should use the tests as they are authorized. 

“The FDA advises that Covid-19 tests should be used as authorized, including following their instructions for use regarding obtaining the sample for testing,” an FDA spokesperson told CNN Wednesday. “The FDA has noted safety concerns regarding self-collection of throat swabs, as they are more complicated than nasal swabs – and if used incorrectly, can cause harm to the patient. The CDC recommends that throat swabs be collected by a trained healthcare provider.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that most self-tests require nasal specimen collection, although there are a few that require a saliva specimen. 

The CDC also says that people performing self-tests should follow instructions exactly, cautioning that if specimens aren’t collected as directed, test results may be inaccurate. 

In December, the FDA said that quick antigen home tests may be less sensitive to picking up the Omicron variant, but health officials said that they are still a useful tool.

11:32 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

Covid-19 is "wreaking havoc" on the US Capitol Police department, chief says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger testifies during a Senate Rules and Administration Committee oversight hearing on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in Washington.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger testifies during a Senate Rules and Administration Committee oversight hearing on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in Washington. (Elizabeth Frantz/Pool/AP)

The US Capitol Police department has been "hit hard" by Covid-19, US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said as he testified before the Senate ahead of the one-year anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 riot.

"We've got dozens of officers that are out on isolation. We've got dozens of officers that have been out long-term with the impacts of Covid. It has affected our staffing levels. And again, with ... all the other staffing challenges that we have, Covid is wreaking havoc as well," he told the lawmakers.

Over 70% of the staff is vaccinated, he added.

11:06 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

Chicago teachers locked out of remote platforms, union says, after vote to go virtual due to Covid concerns

From CNN's Omar Jimenez

A sign is seen on the fence outside of Lowell elementary school on January 5 in Chicago, Illinois. Classes at all of Chicago public schools have been canceled today by the school district after the teacher's union voted to return to virtual learning, citing unsafe conditions in the schools as the Omicron variant continues to spread.
A sign is seen on the fence outside of Lowell elementary school on January 5 in Chicago, Illinois. Classes at all of Chicago public schools have been canceled today by the school district after the teacher's union voted to return to virtual learning, citing unsafe conditions in the schools as the Omicron variant continues to spread. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Chicago Teachers Union tweeted Wednesday they are “being inundated with calls and emails this morning from educators who attempted to log into their platforms to connect with their students” but “are being locked out by Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot.”

The district canceled classes for more than 340,000 students Wednesday after the teachers union voted Tuesday night to refuse to show up for in-person work, citing concerns over Covid-19 safety.

While Chicago Public Schools did not specifically confirm that they had locked teachers out of their remote platforms, the district reiterated to CNN Wednesday morning that “the vote was a work stoppage.”

Additionally, the district said Tuesday night that CTU members that do not report to school Wednesday won’t be paid. The school district said they expect to update the plan for resuming learning to families and students by the end of Wednesday.

Earlier this morning, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said educators want to teach, and "we are prepared to do that remotely starting today."

Sharkey said the city has “failed to deliver a whole number of basic demands that we need in the schools, has failed to provide adequate staffing, adequate cleaning in the schools, has failed to provide adequate testing, has failed to address our concerns as people going to the schools.”

CNN’s Carma Hassan contributed to this post.

10:34 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

Covid-19 positivity rate shoots up as Delhi and Mumbai register thousands of new cases

From CNN’s Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment are seen inside a makeshift facility created inside a sports complex, amidst the spread of coronavirus cases, in New Delhi, India on January 5, 2022.
Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment are seen inside a makeshift facility created inside a sports complex, amidst the spread of coronavirus cases, in New Delhi, India on January 5, 2022. (Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto/AP)

The cities of Mumbai and New Delhi have collectively recorded at least 25,831 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, according to officials.

On Tuesday evening, both cities had recorded a total of 16,341 new cases.

Delhi currently has a positivity rate of 11.88% with 10,665 new cases.

The positivity rate is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus of those overall who have been tested.

India recorded its first death due to the Omicron variant Wednesday. According to the health ministry, the individual had diabetes and other pre-existing conditions and was confirmed to have contracted the Omicron variant.

The Mumbai municipal corporation confirmed Wednesday that 15,166 new cases were recorded in the city in the past 24 hours. The city currently has more than 61,000 active cases.

India is expected to start administering booster shots on Jan. 10 to health care workers, frontline workers and people above the age of 60 years with pre-existing medical conditions.

10:14 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

Data shows 1 in 15 people in England had Covid-19 in the last week of 2021

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

 Shoppers walk along Oxford Street on December 24, 2021 in London, England.
 Shoppers walk along Oxford Street on December 24, 2021 in London, England. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

An estimated 1 in 15 people across England tested positive for Covid-19 in the week ending Dec. 31, 2021, the Office for National Statistics reported Wednesday, up from 1 in 25 the week before. 

This is around 3,270,800 people, with London having the highest percentage of cases at a rate of 1 in 10, according to the data.

“There were some early signs in the last few days of 2021 that infections may no longer be increasing in London, but it is currently too early to suggest if this is a continuing change in trend,” the ONS said in Wednesday's online statement.

Infections increased “rapidly” across the UK, with Omicron as the dominant variant, according to the ONS. Scotland and Wales recorded 1 in 20 people with Covid-19 and Northern Ireland recorded 1 in 25.   

The statistics account for infections occurring in private households and exclude infections reported in hospitals, care homes and other communal establishments, the ONS noted.

10:04 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022

France will slightly ease travel restrictions with the UK

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

Passengers board a Eurostar train at St Pancras International station in London on December 17, 2021.
Passengers board a Eurostar train at St Pancras International station in London on December 17, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

France will widen the list of “compelling reasons” required for travel between the UK and France, easing travel between the two countries, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told journalists Wednesday.

At the moment, travelers cannot go for merely tourist reasons.

This new widening would impact professional travel across the Channel, Attal said, without providing additional details.  

He added that the Defense Council had agreed to discuss a wider loosening of border restrictions with the UK at the council’s next meeting. Those meetings are typically held weekly.