Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

NEW YORK (WABC) – The CDC is instructing airlines to collect contact information on all passengers en route to the United States from South African nations.

The directive follows President Biden’s order, which prevents most foreign nationals from entering the country if they have recently been to southern Africa.

The information includes a passenger’s full name and date of birth, where to stay in the United States, an email address they check regularly, and primary and secondary phone numbers. Airlines must also provide the passenger’s flight number, departure and arrival cities and their seat number.

Here are several of today’s COVID-19 headlines:

1st omicron case in USA
A person in California became the first in the United States to have an identified case of the omicron variant of COVID-19, a U.S. official told the Associated Press on Wednesday. It comes as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new strain of the virus. The Biden administration moved at the end of last month to restrict travel from southern Africa, where the variant was first identified and had been widespread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in about two dozen other nations. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

US moves to tighten COVID test requirement for travelers due to omicron concerns
The Biden administration is moving to tighten test requirements for international travelers to the United States, including both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, amid the spread of the new omicron variant of coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday statement that it was working towards requiring all air travelers to the United States to be tested for COVID-19 within a day before boarding their aircraft. Currently, those who are fully vaccinated can present a test taken within three days of boarding.

More than 1,000,000 New Yorkers boosted
More than one million New York City residents have now received a COVID-19 booster shot, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. 89% of the city’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 81% of 12- to 17-year-olds and 16% of 5- to 11-year-olds have received at least one dose, the mayor said. As of Wednesday morning, no cases of the omicron variant have been reported in New York City. But more confirmed cases in Western European countries are “a real concern,” de Blasio said.

Some NY hospitals close to capacity
Five hospitals in NYC and Long Island have less than 10% capacity left and can have elective surgeries canceled as soon as Friday. Two are in New York City: Long Island Jewish Forest Hills and Queens Hospital Center, both in Queens. There are three on Long Island: Long Island Community Hospital and Southside Hospital in Suffolk County and North Shore University Hospital in Nassau County. The five are on a state list currently showing 37 hospitals in the state with 10% capacity or less. According to a decree signed by Governor Hochul last week, any hospital with 10% or less capacity will have to shut down most elective surgeries by 15 January 2022 by Friday.

Pfizer requests FDA approval for boosters for older teens
Pfizer will soon ask the FDA for permission to extend its booster shots to 16- and 17-year-olds. It is already approved for adults 18 years and older. Pfizer vaccines were approved for adolescents in May, so some are approaching their six-month limit. The drug manufacturer is also studying the omicron variant. Pfizer’s CEO says the company is ready to develop a new vaccine if needed.

The FDA approves the Merck COVID pill, paving the way for US approval of the first home remedy for viruses
A panel of U.S. health advisers on Tuesday narrowly supported the benefits of a closely monitored COVID-19 pill from Merck, which set the stage for a probable approval of the first drug that Americans could take at home to treat the virus.

A panel from the Food and Drug Administration voted 13-10 that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks, including potential birth defects if used during pregnancy.

Health experts say the omicron variant is a result of COVID-19 vaccine inequality
The emergence of the new omicron variant and the world’s desperate and probably futile attempt to keep it in check are reminders of what scientists have warned for months: the coronavirus will thrive as long as large parts of the world lack vaccines.

The rich countries’ hoarding of limited COVID-19 shots – creating virtual vaccine deserts in many of the poorer – means not only risk for those parts of the world that experience shortages; it threatens the entire globe.

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