The Omicron variant is now dominant in the US

By Jack Guy, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Aditi Sangal

Updated 7:20 a.m. ET, December 21, 2021
47 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
6:05 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

London cancels New Year’s Eve event in Trafalgar Square over Covid-19 concerns

From CNN’s Lauren Kent and Samantha Beech

A planned New Year’s Eve event in London has been canceled over Covid-19 concerns, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted on Monday. 

“Due to the surge in Covid cases, we’ve taken the difficult decision to cancel our NYE event in Trafalgar Square,” said the tweet from Khan’s verified account. “The safety of all Londoners must come first. A spectacular NYE celebration showcasing our city will still be shown on midnight on BBC1 – I urge all Londoners to tune in.” 

A statement attached to the tweet said the planned celebration was expected to host 6,500 people in Trafalgar Square. 

“This will be very disappointing for many Londoners, but we must take the right steps to reduce the spread of the virus,” Khan said. “I’m proud that we will still have an incredible broadcast spectacular to watch on our screens, which will showcase our great city to the rest of the world.”

Some context: London isn’t the first European city to cancel or amend New Year’s Eve celebrations over Covid-19 concerns. On Saturday, Paris canceled its traditional fireworks display over the Champs-Elysées Avenue to welcome the New Year due to the renewed Covid-19 surge. In Italy, Rome is among several cities which have decided to cancel New Year's festivities over Covid-19 health concerns.

6:16 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Kentucky governor urges residents to get Covid-19 home tests now

From CNN's Claudia Dominguez 

Kentucky Governor's office
Kentucky Governor's office

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear urged residents to get their at home tests before a “holiday run” on the kits, as Covid-19 cases increase in the state, 

During a news conference on Monday, Beshear said, “at home tests, right now, are sold in convenience stores and pharmacies but there’s going to be a huge run on them before the holidays and you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to be able to get one before this holiday.” 

Beshear also insisted that residents get vaccinated.

“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, please consider doing it now,” he pleaded to Kentuckians. 

Kentucky is still reeling from several tornado outbursts that left at least 76 dead, according to Beshear’s latest count. No hospitals are limiting elective procedures at the moment, Beshear said, except the hospital in Mayfield, which was devastated by a tornado and currently does not have running water. 

Beshear reported the state’s first case of the Omicron variant on Friday, and assumes that the variant is probably “in every county by now.”

More than 10,300 Kentuckians received their first vaccination this weekend and more than 32,700 had a booster shot, the governor said. 

54% of Kentuckians are vaccinated according to Johns Hopkins University. 

6:04 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Ohio National Guard will staff a free Covid-19 testing site in Cleveland

From CNN's Raja Razek

A free drive-thru Covid-19 testing site will open on Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio. 

"The site, which is located at the W.O. Walker Building will be staffed by the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Department of Health," read a joint news release. Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals will support the community Covid-19 testing site.  

The site will open Tuesday and initially operate through Sunday of this week, but will be closed on Dec. 25, according to the release. 

"The testing is free, open to everyone and individuals do not need a doctor’s order to obtain a test. The site will offer PCR tests, and individuals will receive their results in approximately 2-3 days," the release said. 

Additionally, the Ohio Department of Health is offering free rapid at-home antigen testing kits at many sites across Ohio, according to the release, including local health departments, public libraries, and community health centers. 

Due to a surge in Covid-19 infections and an increased demand in healthcare services, particularly in emergency departments, Greater Cleveland’s hospital systems said it will limit coronavirus testing in emergency departments to patients who are going to be admitted to the hospital, according to the release. 

On Friday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that he had mobilized the state's National Guard to "help meet critical needs at hospitals and testing locations," according to a news release from his office.

The governor mobilized 1,050 members of the Ohio National Guard to "help relieve the hospital staffing strain caused by the rising number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients," according to the release. 

"Of the total mobilized guard members, approximately 150 are highly-trained medical professionals and will deploy to help meet critical needs at hospitals and testing locations," the release said. "The remaining 900 guard members will help with patient transport, housekeeping, and food services."
5:46 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

30 Covid-19 cases tracked to a local nightclub in Honolulu 

From CNN's Michelle Watson  

The Hawaii Department of Public Health has tracked at least 30 new Covid-19 cases to a local night club, according to a Sunday news release.  

The cases were tracked to concerts held at the Republik nightclub on Dec. 10 and 11, the department said. 1000 people attended the sold-out Dec. 10 concert and 900 people attended the Dec. 11 concert, according to Matty Hazelgrove, one of the club's co-founders.  

Masks and negative tests taken within 48 hours were required for each concert, Hazelgrove said.  

"Our business has been closed since March 15, 2020. December 10th & 11th was our first weekend back in operation, and we followed all guidance given to us by the City and County of Honolulu to re-open safely," Hazelgrove said. "Maybe it is time to re-evaluate the guidelines so people can gather together while minimizing the potential spread of the virus."   

The positive cases were among concertgoers and staff, Hazelgrove added.  

There are currently 31 cases of the omicron variant in Hawaii, according to Brooks Baehr, Covid-19 & Pandemic Response Administrative Assistant for the department of health.  

5:28 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

NY state calls on federal government to help increase supply of Covid-19 test kits

From CNN's Laura Ly

New York’s Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia
New York’s Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia New York Governor's office

New York’s Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia said the state needs more partnership with the federal government on making sure necessary supplies, like test kits, are available.

“We do call upon the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act to get manufacturers producing more over-the-counter tests,” Garcia said Monday

New York state will allocate $65 million to give to counties to help them with costs associated with fighting Covid-19, such as buying masks or paying staffers working at vaccination or testing sites, Governor Kathy Hochul said. 

Additionally, the state’s homeland security department will be giving six million masks to county emergency managers to distribute within their counties, Hochul said. 

10 million more at-home test kits are expected to arrive in New York state in the coming weeks, the governor said.

Garcia said that at least five million of those tests kits are expected to arrive before the new year and will be allocated as follows:

  • Two million will go to school districts across the state
  • One million will go to county emergency managers
  • 1.6 million will go to New York City
  • 400K will go to various vaccination sites to be given to people when they receive their vaccine

Seven new state testing sites are expected to open next week, in addition to the state’s existing 1,800 testing sites. Also, more healthcare teams, including 30 ambulance and EMS teams, will be added to assist hospitals with patients, Hochul added. 

4:25 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Quebec will close schools and bars and return to teleworking as Covid-19 cases increase

From CNN's Raja Razek 

Quebec will implement new restrictions, closing schools, bars and casinos as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations increase, Quebec's Health Minister Christian Dubé said during a news conference on Monday.

"The situation is critical," he said. "With the increase of cases and hospitalization, we must put in place new measures, starting at 5 p.m. today, we are closing bars, casinos, movies theaters, and performance venues. Teleworking is now mandatory."

"Regarding schools, we are closing elementary and high schools," he said. "The return to class in attendance will be on Monday, January 10."

Gyms and spas would also be closed, "with the exception of personal care," according to the health minister. 

Additionally, professional, and amateur sports performances "will have to be behind closed doors," according to Dubé, and restaurant hours would be limited from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"I know the situation is tough, but now is the time again not to get discouraged and to be strong. I ask everyone to be part of the effort again. It can make all the difference," Dubé said. 

4:35 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Panama detects first case of Omicron Variant

From CNN's Karol Suarez and Ana Cucalon

Panama's Health Ministry said the first Omicron coronavirus case has been detected inside the country. 

"We inform the population that through epidemiological, genomic, and traceability surveillance at the national level, the presence of the new variant of the coronavirus named by the World Health Organization, Omicron, was detected," the ministry tweeted Monday.

"[The case] was detected in a 50-year-old citizen, whose immigration status is foreigner residing in the country, who arrived on December 8 with recent travel history to South Africa to work on a mining project," the ministry added. 

The health ministry said the worker is isolated in the mine and had no contact with other people or other workers. The worker remained asymptomatic during the quarantine and isolation. They added that he will have another PCR test on Monday.

4:17 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

WHO: "An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled" this holiday season

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

 World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference on Monday, December 20, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.
 World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference on Monday, December 20, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images  

The spread of Covid-19, particularly the Omicron variant, might mean holiday gatherings need to be cancelled, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

“There can be no doubt that increased social mixing over the holiday period in many countries will lead to increased cases, overwhelmed health systems and more deaths,” Tedros said in a media briefing for Geneva-based journalists.

“All of us are sick of this pandemic. All of us want to spend time with friends and family. All of us want to get back to normal. The fastest way to do that is for all of us – leaders and individuals – to make the difficult decisions that must be made to protect ourselves and others.”

Tedros said this might mean cancelling in-person events, “but an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled.”

“It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later, than to celebrate now and grieve later. None of us want to be here again in 12 months’ time, talking about missed opportunities, continued inequity, or new variants.”

Some context: Stricter Covid-19 measures have come into effect across Europe, as several nations rush to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. Omicron has also been identified in at least 45 US states as of Sunday, according to state officials in their respective states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. And with the Delta variant still present, Covid-19 cases in some areas are rising. Health experts are urging people to get vaccinated or boosted to protect themselves and others before they face greater chances of infection.

You can read Tedros’ full statement here.

3:52 p.m. ET, December 20, 2021

Costa Rica detects first case of Omicron variant

From CNN's Karol Suarez and Ana Cucalon

The first case of the Omicron variant has been detected in Costa Rica, the Institute for Nutrition and Health Research (INCIENSA) said on Sunday.

"It's a minor male, Costa Rican, eight years old; his sample was taken in a private hospital and sent for genomic surveillance. The patient had a fever, body aches, and general ill feeling. He's currently in stable condition and is in isolation in his house in the province of San José," the statement reads.

Authorities said they are aware of a family trip the child had during the first week of December to the United States, adding that "we are working on the epidemiological investigation of the case and its contacts."

According to the statement, Costa Rica's President Carlos Alberto Quesada said this finding doesn't imply changes in the current measures.

He called on the population to follow self-care protocols: ventilated spaces, correct use of face masks, hand washing, and completing the vaccination scheme against Covid-19.