COVID Live Updates: White House Provides Update On Biden Administration's COVID Response

Live Updates
  • Coronavirus cases continue to climb across the United States and in countries abroad.
  • Last week, global COVID-19 cases increased 11 percent from the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. Nearly 4.99 million new cases were reported Tuesday from the week of Dec. 20-26.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shortened the recommended time for COVID-19 isolation and quarantine from 10 days to five.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), defended the CDC's decision, despite criticism that this change was a business decision.
  • CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN's Kaitlan Collins the shortened isolation period "really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate."
  • The surge in coronavirus cases has impacted professional and college sports, air travel and New Year's Eve celebrations.

The live updates for this blog have ended.

COVID Testing D.C.
Coronavirus cases have surged across the country over the last two weeks. A healthcare worker administers a COVID-19 PCR test at a free test site in Farragut Square on December 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Yesterday the CDC announced that people should self-isolate for five days, instead of ten, after they've tested positive for Covid-19 if they don't have symptoms. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Biden administration provides an update on the surge response to the pandemic

The White House issued a statement Wednesday detailing the Biden administration's response to the COVID-19 surge during the current holiday season.

Georgia to spend $100 million to boost hospital staff

Georgia will spend $100 million toward health care staff to support the medical community across the state, Gov. Brian Kemp announced during a news conference Wednesday.

He explained it could result in 1,000 additional personnel for hospitals, with assignments that would span 13 weeks.

In addition, 200 National Guard troops will deploy starting Jan. 3. About half will support testing efforts and half will support hospitals.

"On this morning's call with nine different health systems from around the state, they emphasized they're being inundated with people who need to be tested but aren't experiencing severe symptoms," Kemp said.

"The number one ask for them was to tell people don't come to the emergency room to get tested."

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday.

Connecticut senator calls for cruise ship travel to be halted amid COVID surge

The CDC reported Wednesday that 88 cruise ships are currently under investigation or observation, with another four being monitored as COVID cases spike throughout ships.

In a tweet, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, has called for a halt to cruise ship travel.

"Our warnings have proved sadly prescient and continuously compelling," Blumenthal wrote. "Time for CDC and cruise lines to protect consumers & again pause—docking their ships."

30 percent of NYC emergency responders out sick

A rising number of emergency responders in New York City are out sick as the Omicron variant spreads.

ABC News reports 30 percent of emergency medical workers and 17 percent of firefighters in New York City are out on leave, tied to COVID-19.

As New Year's Eve approaches, FDNY tweeted a video urging New Yorkers to only dial 911 in the event of a "real emergency."

"If you are not severely ill, allow first responders to assist those most in need," FDNY said in the video posted Wednesday.

Arkansas judge rules on state's mask mandate

An Arkansas judge on Wednesday struck down the state's law blocking schools and other government entities from requiring masks.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued the ruling months after he temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the ban.

NYC Ballet cancels remainder of 'Nutcracker' performances

The New York City Ballet has canceled all remaining performances of "The Nutcracker" through Jan. 2 at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater.

The company said the "difficult decision" was made due to positive tests of COVID-19 among production members.

New York City Ballet will automatically refund ticket purchases by Jan. 10.

Smithsonian temporarily closing 4 museums over staff shortages

The Smithsonian is temporarily closing four of its museums for the rest of the week, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases among its staff.

"Over the last few days, the Smithsonian has seen an increase in positive covid cases and associated quarantine periods among our essential and operational staff," a statement reads on the Smithsonian website.

As of Wednesday, the National Museum of African Art, the National Postal Museum, the Anacostia Community Museum and the National Museum of Asian Art will be closed.

"The closures of these four museums will allow the Smithsonian to reallocate staff and keep all other museums open for the remainder of the week," Smithsonian said.

The museums are scheduled to reopen Monday, Jan. 3.

France requiring new vaccine pass as COVID cases surge

France is enforcing its vaccination pass as the country's COVID numbers surpassed 208,000 new cases Wednesday.

The new European government strategy for the vaccine pass will be used to help contain the outbreaks with vaccinations rather than new lockdowns.

Health minister Olivier Véran said of the latest surge, "...24 hours a day, day and night, every second in our country, two French people are diagnosed positive for the coronavirus. We have never experienced such a situation." He called the increase "dizzying."

WHO leaders optimistic pandemic will slow in 2022

Despite the "tsunami" of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant spread, World Health Organization (WHO) officials are optimistic the virus will "settle down" next year.

"I'm highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference Wednesday.

Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, said it will be a "bumpy road" to low COVID levels.

"The pandemic that's been associated with the tragedy of deaths and hospitalizations, that can end in 2022," Ryan said. "The virus itself is very unlikely to go away completely and will probably settle down into a pattern of transmission at a low level."

Tedros asked WHO members to make a "new year's resolution" to get 70 percent of countries' population vaccinated by next July. This comes after 92 of the 194 member countries failed to meet the target to vaccinate 40 percent of their population by the end of 2021.

He also asked government leaders to improve the collective response to COVID and "walk the talk" on vaccine equity next year.

"Ending health inequity remains the key to ending the pandemic," he said.

Tedros added that he is "optimistic" that in the next year, "we can not only end the acute stage of the pandemic" but "chart a path to stronger health security."

READ MORE: High Levels of Death, Hospitalizations From COVID Could End in 2022: WHO

More urgent care centers close in NY, NJ amid staffing concerns

More urgent care centers are closing in New York and New Jersey to preserve staffing levels as Omicron continues to spread.

CityMD has temporarily closed 31 of its locations in New Jersey, Brooklyn, Bronx, Long Island, Manhattan, Queens and Westchester, as of Wednesday.

"To preserve our ability to staff our sites, we have temporarily closed certain locations," the CityMD website reads.

"It is our hope that closing sites now will best allow us to avoid future closures as this surge continues."

There was no date given for when these sites would reopen; CityMD operates a total of 150 locations.

U.S. breaks record for new COVID cases amid Omicron surge

The United States has broken its record for daily COVID cases, as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant has become the dominant variant.

According to Johns Hopkins University data released Wednesday, the seven-day average of U.S. cases exceeded 265,000 on Tuesday, beating the January 2021 record of 251,232. The swift-moving Omicron variant now accounts for 59 percent of new infections, up from 23 percent a week earlier.

New Year's fireworks show canceled in San Francisco

San Francisco's New Year's Eve fireworks show has been canceled due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and the impact on staffing levels.

Mayor London Breed and public safety leaders made the announcement Tuesday.

"While we are all understandably eager to ring in a new year with San Francisco's customary New Year's Eve fireworks show, we must remain vigilant in doing all we can to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant," Breed said in a statement.

"After closely monitoring local health indicators, the decision to cancel is a proactive measure that will best protect SF & essential front-line workers," the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM) tweeted Tuesday.

According to SFDEM, 84 percent of eligible San Franciscans are fully vaccinated and 55 percent have received a booster dose.

This is the second year in a row the New Year's Eve fireworks show at the Embarcadero has been canceled.

Fauci gives an update on vaccine mandates for air travel

In a press briefing Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is chief medical advisor to the president, said that as of today, it doesn't look like a vaccine mandate for air travel is coming anytime soon.

Fauci also noted that if there is a need to do something beyond the mask mandate, they will consider that.

"So it's just keeping an open mind that the situation may change but at this particular time, we do not feel that is necessary to make that a requirement for domestic flights."

Fauci suggests skipping large New Year's gatherings

Dr. Anthony Fauci "strongly" recommends skipping large New Year's Eve gatherings this year, as the Omicron variant quickly spreads.

"If your plans are to go to a 40- to 50-person New Year's Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing... I would strongly recommend that this year, we do not do that," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci said family settings in a home where everyone is vaccinated and boosted is "low risk."

COVID cases spike 60 percent across U.S., fewer deaths reported

COVID-19 cases are up 60 percent this week across the U.S., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

Walensky gave an update on case numbers during the White House COVID-19 Response Team press briefing.

The 7-day daily average of new cases is 240,400, an increase of 60 percent from the week prior.

"In a few short weeks, Omicron has rapidly increased across the country and we expect it will continue to circulate in the coming weeks," she said.

The 7-day average of hospitalization admissions is about 9,000 per day, up 14 percent from the week prior.

The 7-day average of new deaths is about 1,100 per day, a decrease of 7 percent from the previous week.

While cases are up, hospitalizations and deaths are comparatively low. Walensky said hospitalizations tend to lag behind cases by about two weeks, but it could be an early indication Omicron is a more mild disease, especially among the vaccinated and boosted.

CDC director gives update on guidelines for people who test positive

During a White House COVID news briefing Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained the science of the new isolation guidelines for a person who tests positive for the coronavirus.

"We know that after five days, people are much less likely to transmit the virus, and that masking further reduces that risk."

Walensky stated that people can remain PCR positive up to 12 weeks after infection.

She said if you have COVID, you can prevent transmission to others by wearing a mask, and if you are exposed to COVID, prevent further spread in time before symptoms develop by quarantining for the recommended five days.

"We are standing on the shoulders of two years of science, two years of understanding transmissibility," Walensky said of the updated isolation guidance.

The CDC explains COVID test use

During a television interview with Good Morning America on Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky gave an in-depth overview of the new COVID tests and their effectiveness against Omicron.

Walensky stated, "We do know the most sensitive test you can do is a PCR test. If you have symptoms and you have a negative antigen test then we do ask you to go get a PCR to make sure that those symptoms are not attributable to COVID."

Walensky also said the antigen tests work "quite well" in detecting COVID and that the CDC is still encouraging the use of the antigen tests.

FDA considers expanding booster shots to ages 12 to 15

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could soon make a decision on booster shots for Americans between 12 and 15 years old.

In an interview Tuesday morning on CNN, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said the FDA is currently looking into the issue.

"Of course, the CDC will swiftly follow as soon as we hear from them, and I'm hoping to have that in the days to weeks ahead," she said.

In early December, the CDC recommended booster shots for everyone 16 and older.

Global COVID cases up 11%, WHO reports

Global COVID-19 cases were up 11 percent last week from the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

Nearly 4.99 million new cases were reported worldwide from Dec. 20 to 26, WHO said.

Europe reported 2.84 million cases, a 3 percent increase over the previous week.

In the United States, new cases were up 34 percent to reach about 1.18 million cases.

New cases in Africa increased 7 percent to nearly 275,000.

The WHO said the risk from the Omicron variant "remains very high."