January 10 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Aditi Sangal and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0748 GMT (1548 HKT) January 11, 2022
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1:01 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Omicron-specific Pfizer vaccine will be ready by March, CEO says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

(Ariana Drehsler/AFP/Getty Images)
(Ariana Drehsler/AFP/Getty Images)

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on CNBC Monday that an Omicron-specific vaccine from the company will be ready by March. 

“We are working on a new version of our vaccine, a version that will be effective against Omicron as well, it’s not that it will not be effective against the other variants, but against Omicron as well,” Bourla said. “The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection, particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and severe disease, it is reasonable right now with the current vaccine, as long as you are having, let’s say, the third dose.”

“This vaccine will be ready in March. I don’t know if we will need it, I don’t know if and how it will be used, but will be ready,” Bourla said. “In fact, we already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk, so if there is a need for that vaccine that we will have some immediately because there are a lot of governors that would like to see it immediately.” 

More context: Leaders of the US Food and Drug Administration said last Monday that while vaccine manufacturers are all working toward the possibility of a Omicron-specific vaccine, but it might not be necessary.

“We don’t know yet whether Omicron will take hold as the dominant variant over time. It could be that we have a very quick wave of Omicron and something else will be left behind it. Until we understand that, we can’t say with certainty what we will do with a variant vaccine,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “In other words, we don’t know yet whether it will have to be deployed, but we’ll be ready in case it does need to be deployed.”

If a booster shot of the current vaccine appears to offer sufficient protection, there is less need for a variant-specific vaccine, said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock.

CNN's Deidre McPhillips contributed reporting to this post.

12:05 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Covid-19 cases in US military have tripled since just before Christmas

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The number of Covid-19 cases in the US military has nearly tripled since just before Christmas, according to Defense Department statistics.

On Dec. 22, the department reported 5,285 cases among all military service members. By Jan. 5, it skyrocketed to 13,940 according to published statistics. 

The jump reflects, to some extent, what is happening in civilian society as the Omicron variant has taken hold and case rates have risen in many communities across the country, defense officials say. The Defense Department does not test specifically for the Omicron variant but officials say there is every reason to believe the highly contagious variant has hit the military force. Updated statistics will be published Wednesday by the department. 

Defense officials point out that even with the tripling, it’s a small percentage of the more than two million in the active duty, National Guard and reserve forces.

This comes as the military is increasing health restrictions in several places. Wright Patterson Air Force Base has moved to the highest level of health protection measures which includes now allowing only 15% of the workforce in the office at a time.

The move comes as positivity rates have increased in the region, the Air Force said. It is currently the only major US military installation rated as Delta.

In Japan, US forces are now largely confined to base except for mandatory travel circumstances. And at the Pentagon, stronger health protection measures have also been put into place.

The military also saw a rise in deaths due to Covid-19 in September and October as the Delta variant surged according to Defense Department statistics. As of Sept. 1, there were 40 military member deaths due to Covid-19. By Jan. 5 the total was 86. 

Defense officials note that most occurred in September and October, 18 and 13 respectively. The assessment is that is due not only to the Delta variant but services had not yet reached the final requirement for mandatory vaccination. By November, there were only four military member deaths, seven in December, and four so far in January according to a defense official. 

One base that has seen a post holiday surge is Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which currently has an estimated 50% positivity rate among those being tested. The base hospital, Womack Army Medical Center, was at 100% capacity at the end of last week, a military official there told CNN.

Fort Bragg is headquarters for much of the Army’s rapid response capability in a crisis. So far those units have not been impacted to the point they cannot deploy, but commanders are prepared to supplement with other troops if needed.

11:04 a.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Fourth Covid-19 shots for immunocompromised will start this week in the US 

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Under the latest guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fourth doses of a Covid-19 vaccine can begin this week for the severely immunocompromised. 

In early August, the agency recommended a third shot of an mRNA vaccine be added to the primary vaccination regimen for the severely immunocompromised. Later, in October, the CDC moved to recommend a booster dose for the severely immunocompromised age 12 and older at least six months after their third primary vaccination. 

But the CDC recently shifted to urge boosters five months after primary vaccinations. For immunocompromised people, this means a fourth shot will be available to some as early as this week, five months after the third shot was authorized.

According to CDC data, more than 2 million people received an additional dose in the first week they were authorized, starting Aug. 13.

Vaccination rates right now are generally lower than they have been at previous points in the pandemic, but the average number of people starting vaccination, becoming fully vaccinated, or receiving a booster dose has increased in recent days. 


10:20 a.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Chicago Teachers Union still in negotiations about in-person return to school

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson 

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) bargaining team and members of the mayor’s Chicago Public Schools (CPS) team were at the bargaining table until around 10 p.m. local time Sunday, Jesse Sharkey, president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), said during a news conference on Monday. 

The bargaining is at a “serious phase,” Sharkey said, but both sides are still apart on key issues. 

“I'm sure the mayor feels strongly about in-person instruction, but the mayor is in a position where the mayor needs to help actually compromise and land a deal,” Sharkey said. “The mayor saying that she's going to be relentless in prosecuting a case, but the mayor is not a prosecutor and I'm not a criminal being prosecuted. Our members are not people who've done anything wrong,” he continued. 

Sharkey said teachers have been in schools during the pandemic and want to be there again, but they want a metric that would allow them to pause in-person learning at schools that have a majority of classes in quarantine. 

The news conference took place at Spry Elementary where 15 of the 18 classrooms are in quarantine until Jan. 18, according to a press release from CTU. 

The CTU proposal would see individual school in-person instruction switch to virtual learning if more than 25% of school staff, more than 30% of elementary school children or 25% of high school students are absent because of Covid-19, according to a CTU release.

“The mayor is being relentless, but she’s being relentlessly stupid. She is being relentlessly stubborn. She is relentlessly refusing to seek accommodation, and we’re trying to find a way to get people back to school,” Sharkey said. 

“I mean, if you say school is open its all good, and half the students don't show up, you're not doing any learning for half the students, right? And so if remote learning is half as good, it's the same difference, isn't it?” Sharkey added. 

Some background: Monday is the fourth consecutive school day students will miss amid a disagreement over how schools should handle the city's Covid-19 surge.

The union wants a period of remote learning, while the city wants kids in classrooms.

As of Friday, Chicago was averaging more than 5,200 new cases a day, a 16% increase over the prior week, according to the city health department's Covid tracker. The city's Covid-19 test positivity rate had a daily average of 21.1%.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the third-largest school district in the country, serving more than 340,000 students.

Read more about the dispute here.

3:35 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine booster should be in clinical trials "very soon," Moderna CEO says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A pharmacist prepares a booster shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, last month in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
A pharmacist prepares a booster shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, last month in Lawrence, Massachusetts. (Charles Krupa/AP)

An Omicron-specific Covid-19 Moderna vaccine booster should be in clinical trials soon, company CEO Stéphane Bancel said on CNBC Monday. 

“As you know, we’re working very actively on an Omicron-specific vaccine as a booster,” Bancel said. “That should be in the clinic very soon and we are discussing with public health leaders around the world to decide what we think is the best strategy for a potential booster for the fall of 2022.” 

“We believe it will contain Omicron mRNA but do we need to add any other components. That has to be discussed because we need to be careful to try to stay ahead of a virus and not behind the virus,” he said. 

9:36 a.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Around 36 million people in the UK have been boosted, prime minister says

From Nina Avramova in London

Some 36 million people in the UK have received a booster Covid-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday.

In people over the age of 50, 90% have been boosted, said Johnson at a vaccination center. 

However, the National Health Service (NHS) is still under a lot of pressure, cautioned the prime minister. There are 18,000 Covid-19 patients in the NHS, he said.

“That’s massively up, the numbers are increasing," he said.

Johnson added that a sizable percentage — perhaps 30% or more — of those 18,000 have contracted Covid-19 in hospital.

“To me that is just not acceptable, you shouldn’t go into hospital and then contract Covid. So, it is very important that our NHS staff should be properly protected, should be properly vaccinated,“ he replied to a question about the anger from some workers over mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff. 

Johnson said the tests will be used as “long as they’re very important,” when asked about when lateral flow tests could be phased out.

“There's a similar argument to be to be had about the quarantine period — whether to come down from seven days to five days. And the thing to do is to look at the science.” 


9:39 a.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Bars and restaurants will shut in Delhi as Omicron cases rise

From Manveena Suri in New Delhi

A policeman directs pedestrians to return home during weekend curfew imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in New Delhi, India, on Saturday.
A policeman directs pedestrians to return home during weekend curfew imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in New Delhi, India, on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Restaurants and bars in India’s capital Delhi will shut as the country grapples with a steep rise in Covid-19 cases amid the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The decision was made by Delhi government officials following a meeting on Monday.

Restaurants and bars will only be allowed to offer takeaway orders, according to Anil Baijal, the lieutenant governor of the national capital region of Delhi who represents the federal government. 

In addition, restrictions have been imposed on weekly markets with regional officers advised to ensure members of the public wear protective face coverings and follow social distancing guidelines, Baijal said in a statement posted on Twitter.

On Monday, Delhi reported at least 19,166 new cases of Covid-19 with the positivity rate currently at 25%, according to the Delhi Health Department.

More than 44,000 people who have tested positive are in home isolation while around 2,600 have been admitted into hospitals, Covid-19 facilities and community health centers.


8:41 a.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Pope Francis calls for "reality therapy" on vaccines 

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher in Rome

Pope Francis lamented the misinformation and politicization of vaccines and called for “a sort of ‘reality therapy’ that makes us confront the problem head on.”  

“Vaccines are not a magical means of healing,” the Pope said on Monday during a speech to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican, but they are “the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease.” 

Unfortunately, Francis said, people are influenced by “baseless information or poorly documented facts” which distort reality. 

“Each of us has a responsibility to care for ourselves and our health…health care is a moral obligation,” the Pope said. 

The Pope said that the vaccines have effectively decreased “severe repercussions” of Covid-19 and efforts to vaccinate the general population should continue.  

Francis reiterated his appeal to the international community to guarantee everyone access to medical care and vaccines. 

“It is appropriate that institutions such as the World trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization adapt their legal instruments lest monopolistic rules constitute further obstacles to production and to an organized and consistent access to health care on a global level,” the Pope said.

9:14 a.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Travel industry continues to suffer due to Omicron wave with ongoing cancellations

From CNN's Pete Muntean

George Bush Intercontinental Airport last week in Houston.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport last week in Houston. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

US airlines canceled thousands more flights over the weekend and a major cruise ship company canceled four cruises on Friday due to the continued fallout from the fast-moving Omicron wave of coronavirus which is hitting the travel industry hard.

Data from FlightAware shows that airlines canceled another 1,334 flights nationwide on Sunday – that’s on top of tens of thousands of cancellations since Christmas. Southwest Airlines canceled 239 flights, 6 % of its total schedule for Sunday, and delayed another 833 flights. 

Monday cancellation numbers could be rounding a corner after airlines were dealt near back-to-back winter storms last week and continue to struggle with workers calling out sick with coronavirus. FlightAware said airlines have canceled 705 flights as of 7:45 a.m. ET Monday.

On Friday, Royal Caribbean International announced it has canceled voyages on four ships because of "ongoing Covid-related circumstances around the world."

"In abundance of caution, Royal Caribbean International is pausing operations" on some ships, the company said in a statement.

The cruise line said it moved forward with the cancellations despite its health and safety measures, including vaccination and testing requirements for guests and crew.

Earlier last week, Norwegian Cruise Line canceled the voyages of eight ships.