COVID-19 Live Updates: San Francisco Exempt from California Indoor Mask Mandate

Live Updates

The COVID death toll in the U.S. has topped 800,000 - the highest reported toll of any country in the world. Figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University yesterday confirmed the total number of virus-related deaths is about equal to the population of Minneapolis and Cleveland combined.

It comes almost a year after the country started its vaccination campaign and amid the uncertainty of the new Omicron variant, which early studies have found can evade antibodies in double-vaccinated people. Information so far has led experts to speculate that this variant spreads more rapidly than Delta but symptoms are milder. These same experts are keen to emphasize that it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.

Meanwhile, in Europe, countries are grappling with how to react to the variant, with some opting for lockdowns and others introducing vaccine passports. In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under significant pressure after a major rebellion from his own party last night on new restrictions, as Omicron sweeps the country.

California exempting San Francisco from new mask mandate

California is exempting San Francisco from a new indoor mask mandate put in place by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.

"It's a recognition of all of the thought and care that San Francisco residents have been putting into staying as safe as possible," said Dr. Susan Philip, San Francisco's health officer.

White House officials are confident schools will remain open despite omicron increase

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she expected reports of Omicron cases in the U.S. to increase in the coming days.

The cases are expected to spike, White house officials remain confident that schools will remain open.

More than 20 U.S. colleges now requiring students to be vaccinated with boosters

As the new omicron variant is spiking across the U.S. more than 20 colleges are now requiring college students to get covid boosters in the spring.

Chancellor of Syracuse University Kent Syverud, said that the fall semester with few COVID-19 cases left school officials "feeling pretty good" about the upcoming spring semester, but "Omicron has changed that."

"It has made us go back and say, 'Until we know more about this variant for sure, we're going to have to reinstate some precautions,'" he said.

FULL STORY: More Than 20 Colleges Requiring Students to Get COVID Booster for Spring as Omicron Looms (

Unvaccinated people are more likely to be hospitalized with Covid

According to White House officials unvaccinated people are 8 times more likely to be hospitalized and 14 times as likely to die from COVID compared to those fully vaccinated.

Officials are still urging those who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated also stating, "don't wait to get protected, shots are free and available at 80K+ sites.

Experts say omicron will dominate EU by mid-January

Amid concerns of a new covid variant surge, experts say the Omicron variant will dominate Europe by mid-January in 2022.

"Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. We are concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild." WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "surely we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril."

Dr. Fauci says there's no need for 'variant specific booster shots'

Wednesday during a media briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said there's no need for a variant specific booster.

"Our booster vaccine regimens work again omicron. At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster," Fauci, also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.

U.S. Covid death toll reach 800,000

According to new data from John Hopkins University, the coronavirus death rate in the U.S. has recently worsened reaching 800,000.

"This will be a defining tragedy of our generation," David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told ABC News. "We've gotten to the point where our eyes glaze over on these numbers. But by now, almost every one of us knows someone who has died of COVID-19."

California Governor has reinstated mask mandates statewide

California Governor Gavin Newsom reinstated indoor mask mandates after a recent surge in the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.

The new mandate will last until January 15.

"We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too," California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday. "That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work."

Over 650,000 booster doses given in U.K. yesterday

The number beats an already record 550,0253 top-up jabs which were administered on Saturday.

A total of 656,711 booster and third doses have been reported in the past 24 hours, meaning 24.7 million booster and third doses have now been delivered in the country - 3.4 million of them in the past seven days.

One in three Londoners are unvaccinated - reports

Despite a significant spike in the number of COVID cases - the majority of them now the Omicron variant - a third of people have yet to receive a single shot, according to a report in The Times.

ZOE's COVID study lead Professor Tim Spector said the U.K. capital is "accelerating more than we've really seen it any time since the very first wave" and that the variant "will be at 100% very soon".

So that's, you know, that's happened just in a matter of days. And that's why so many people are going down with infections. The majority of symptoms are just like a common cold, so we're talking about headaches, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, and things like sneezing. So, things like fever and cough and loss of smell are now actually in the minority of the symptoms that we're seeing.

Major COVID outbreak at Cornell University sparks campus shutdown

Its main campus in Ithaca is now closed, all final exams will move online, and graduation for December students has been canceled after moving to "Alert Level Red", Cornell President Martha Pollack has confirmed.

The college's COVID dashboard shows there are 469 active student cases - 94 percent of them confirmed this week.

FULL STORY: Huge COVID Outbreak at Cornell Main Campus Prompts Virtual Finals, Graduation Cancellation

WATCH: Why the National Guard has been deployed to help with COVID

When thinking of a National Guard soldier, you may not think of somebody driving a bus full of schoolkids to help with a driver shortage - but that is exactly what happened in Massachusetts.

During the COVID pandemic, they have been deployed across many states to help assist schools, hospitals, and communities cope with the impact of the virus - the video below explains why.

Which states have mask mandates?

Each state has its own set of laws when it comes to mask mandates, which has caused a serious divide among state lines and political lines.

The rules vary massively depending on where you live, with masks required only for unvaccinated individuals in certain settings in California, but face coverings mandatory for all people (regardless of vaccination status) in counties "experiencing substantial or high transmission levels" in Nevada.

Variations of the rule are also in place in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

READ MORE: In Which U.S. States Are Face Masks Mandatory? New COVID Rules Explained

Apple tells all staff and customers to wear masks

The tech company has issued the mandate to all of its U.S. store staff, who will also be asked to ensure customers are doing the same.

Apple had begun relaxing restrictions in some cities and regions over time, with only about half of stores requiring face coverings, but the rising concern over the Omicron COVID variant has seen the company revert to its original policy.

EU approves Johnson & Johnson boosters

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which regulates medicines for the E.U., has approved the booster shot - also known as the Janssen vaccine.

It was initially intended to be a single-dose shot but now over-18s will be eligible for a follow-up booster two months after their first injection.

It can also be given after two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the EMA confirmed.

Antony Blinken aide tests positive for COVID

An aide to the secretary of state has caught the virus in Malaysia during Blinken's trip to the Indo-Pacific region.

He met with the Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday, before the test result came back.

Kroger clamps down on unvaccinated staff

The grocery store chain is changing the benefits it offers employees starting next year, with unvaccinated workers required to pay an additional $50 monthly for their company health insurance plan.

Starting January 1, unvaccinated managers and non-union salaried workers will pay an extra $50 a month for their insurance, but those who work hourly and have company healthcare will not be affected.

Additionally, unvaccinated workers will no longer be able to take two weeks of emergency paid sick leave if they become infected with COVID-19, a company spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press on Tuesday.

FULL STORY: Some Kroger Employees Without COVID Vaccine to Pay $50 a Month Surcharge On Health Plan

Omicron 'most significant threat to public health since start of pandemic'

Top health officials in the U.K. have warned that COVID is now more likely than a cold in London as the variant storms through the capital.

Dr. Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, has just told MPs in a committee hearing that Omicron "is probably the most significant threat [to public health] since the start of the pandemic".

The numbers and data coming out in the next few days will be "staggering" in comparison to other variants, including Delta, she added.

Omicron totals three percent of all U.S. cases - CDC

The variant is rapidly becoming dominant and is expected to overtake Delta as the main cause of COVID infections in the coming weeks.

'We must remember all those we have lost' - Biden

The president urged people to "pray for their loved ones" as the U.S. marks its 800,000th death during the pandemic.

Why is Boris Johnson facing a backlash over COVID restrictions?

The British Prime Minister suffered a major rebellion from 99 of his own MPs last night in a vote to introduce tough new measures, prompting questions about his leadership.

Lawmaker Charles Walker, one of those who opposed, said the vote was "a cry of pain from the Conservative Party" that Johnson must listen to after weeks of scandal surrounding the alleged Downing Street party held last year which broke the rules at the time.

Critics like Walker suggest the new mandates are economically damaging, are too limiting on individual freedoms, and create a tiered system for the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Controversially, some have compared it to the apartheid regime in South Africa or life in 1930s Nazi Germany, prompting much criticism.

FULL STORY: Boris Johnson's New COVID Restrictions Set Off Backlash From His Conservative Party

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a significant backlash from his own party over new COVID restrictions voted through last night, as the U.S. and many other countries grapple with what action to take against Omicron.

Follow Newsweek's liveblog throughout Wednesday for all the latest.