New Omicron Variant Cause For Concern, ���not Panic,��� President Biden Tells US

Share on TwitterView Comments

Doctors treat COVID-19 patients connected to ventilators at the hospital of the Ministry of Interior and Administration in Warsaw, Poland, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Poland’s doctors and medics are expecting huge strain on the health care system from the rising 5th wave of COVID-19 infections.
Doctors treat COVID-19 patients connected to ventilators at the hospital of the Ministry of Interior and Administration in Warsaw, Poland, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Poland’s doctors and medics are expecting huge strain on the health care system from the rising 5th wave of COVID-19 infections.Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press
div contentScore="422"">>

COVID-19 cases have sharply risen again across the US and around the world, with the new Omicron variant accounting for most new cases. The winter surge has prompted many experts and officials to reemphasize the importance of masking indoors and social distancing, in addition to getting vaccinated, including booster shots.

Below, we’re gathering all the latest news and updates on coronavirus in New England and beyond.


 

Jan. 19, 2022

 

Yes, that’s a primal scream you hear from mothers of young kids — 8:35 p.m.

Beth Teitell, Globe Staff

On a cold night on a desolate field in Charlestown last week, 20 moms gathered to treat themselves to one of the only pleasures still left — a long, deep, primal scream.

Advertisement



AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!

Word of the scream had spread in local mothers’ groups and online, and at the appointed time the moms started arriving. They were fleeing footed pajamas and bedtime stories, and, in the case of one mom, a 6-year-old who was so unhappy her mother was leaving that she herself started to scream (albeit not as part of a Facebook group).

US is weary of COVID but has made progress, Biden says — 6:13 p.m.

Associated Press

President Joe Biden acknowledged Wednesday that the pandemic has left Americans exhausted and demoralized but insisted at a news conference marking his first year in office that he has “outperformed” expectations. He said he would likely have to settle for “big chunks” of his signature economic package to break an impasse in Congress.

He said he believes important parts will be passed before the 2022 midterm elections and voters will back Democrats if they are fully informed — an assignment he said he will pursue by traveling the country.

The president began the news conference by reeling off early successes on coronavirus relief and a bipartisan infrastructure deal. But his economic, voting rights, police reform and immigration agenda have all been thwarted in a Democratic-controlled Senate, while inflation has emerged in the past year as an economic threat to the nation and a political risk for Biden.

Advertisement



Mass. reports 14,647 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 199 confirmed deaths reported over four days — 5:58 p.m.

Globe Staff

Massachusetts on Wednesday reported 14,647 new confirmed coronavirus cases and said 36,886 vaccinations, including booster shots, had been administered. The Department of Public Health also said 199 new confirmed deaths were reported on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

The state also reported that 3,187 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19. On Wednesday, the seven-day percent positivity was 16.70 percent.

Starbucks nixes vaccine mandate after Supreme Court ruling — 4:43 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Starbucks is no longer requiring its U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a plan it announced earlier this month.

In a memo sent Tuesday to employees, the Seattle coffee giant said it was responding to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6-3 vote, the court rejected the Biden administration’s plan to require vaccines or regular COVID testing at companies with more than 100 workers.

“We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in the memo.

Starbucks’ reversal is among the most high-profile corporate actions in response to the Supreme Court ruling. The company employs 228,000 people in the U.S.

Boston-based General Electric Co. also suspended its vaccine mandate last week, according to IUE-CWA Local 201, a union that represents machinists, electricians and other GE employees. GE, which employs 56,000 people in the U.S., had initially called for employees to get fully vaccinated no later than Feb. 11.

But other companies have kept their mandates in place. Citigroup Inc., one of the largest U.S. banks, announced in October that employees needed to be vaccinated or receive an accommodation by Jan. 14. New York-based Citi said Wednesday that 99% of its employees have complied so far.

Advertisement



Work clothing maker Carhartt also stuck to its vaccine mandate. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company, which has 3,000 U.S. workers, told employees in an email last Friday that the Supreme Court decision wouldn’t impact its own mandate, which went into effect this month.

Florida public health official put on leave after urging vaccination — 4:06 p.m.

By The New York Times

Florida’s top public health official in Orlando has been placed on administrative leave after sending an email to his employees noting their lackluster coronavirus vaccination rates and urging them to get the shots.

The official — Dr. Raul Pino, the administrator for the Florida Department of Health’s office in Orange County — sent the email Jan. 4, in the thick of a surge in cases caused by the omicron variant.

In the email, Pino said that he had asked a staff member to pull out the vaccination rates for the office and that the figures were alarming: Of the office’s 568 employees, only 219 — fewer than half — had completed a full vaccination series, and just 77 of them had received a booster shot, a number he called “SUPER LOW.”

“I am sorry, but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons, it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated,” Pino wrote in the email, which was first reported by WFTV, the local ABC News affiliate. He called the office’s vaccination rate “pathetic.”

Advertisement



“I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it,” he added.

Jeremy T. Redfern, the press secretary for the Department of Health, confirmed in a statement that Pino was on administrative leave and that the department was “conducting an inquiry to determine if any laws were broken in this case.”

The decision to get vaccinated “is a personal medical choice that should be made free from coercion and mandates from employers,” Redfern wrote.

Florida has enacted a law banning coronavirus vaccine mandates, including for government employees. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has raised his national political profile by curtailing virus restrictions of all kinds in the state.

It is unclear whether Pino was placed on leave for urging employees to get vaccinated, for compiling their vaccination status, or for both. The Department of Health did not respond to specific questions about the matter, including whether Pino’s leave is paid or unpaid. Pino did not respond to calls seeking comment.

NHL sets new dates for Bruins games postponed because of the pandemic — 3:57 p.m.