COVID Live Updates: Supreme Court Vaccine Mandate Decision was a 'Mistake', Biden Says

Live Updates
  • Starbuck ends vaccine mandate for all employees after the Supreme Court's ruling.
  • The Biden administration marks one year in office by highlighting the progress made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The official website to order free at-home COVID test officially launched Wednesday.
  • The White House also announced it will make 400 million N95 masks available for free next week. The masks will come from the government's Strategic National Stockpile and will be available to pick up at pharmacies and community health centers.
  • President Joe Biden held a press conference Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
  • The Supreme Court vaccine mandate decision was a 'mistake', Biden says.
COVID Testing California
People wear face masks as they wait in line to receive testing for both rapid antigen and PCR Covid-19 tests at a Reliant Health Services testing site in Hawthorne, California on January 18, 2022. Patrick T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Biden says Supreme Court vaccine mandate decision was a mistake

In response to a question asked by a White House reporter Biden said he thought the Supreme Court decision which struck down his vaccine-or-testing requirements on most employers was a "mistake" but insisted that thousands of corporations have implemented the policy anyway.

"I think we've seen an increase, not a decrease," he said.

Biden says 95 percent of schools are open

President Biden challenged a question asking about school closures.

The reporter said "parents are at odds about closing schools and remote learning" as schools are closing in some areas. She asked Biden what he would say to parents and teachers and what the administration can do to "make up for that learning loss."

Biden said he should put the question "into perspective" because "very few schools are closing" because of COVID-19.

He said the reporter phrased the question so that anyone watching will thing "all these schools must be closing."

In reality, Biden said 95 percent of schools are open.

He said his administration will make sure schools have funding through the Recovery Act to ensure buildings are safe with ventilation systems and means for disinfecting spaces.

Biden added that not every school district has used that funding "as well as it should be used."

President Biden says COVID-19 created alot of economic complications

"COVID-19 has created a lot of economic complications, including rapid price increases across the world economy, people see it at the gas pumps, the grocery stores, and everywhere", President Biden said.

Biden noted that the federal reserve provided support during the COVID crisis. He also stated that it's important to recalibrate the support.

The president laid out a three part plan to fix the economic crisis which inlcudes fixing the supply chain, build back better plan will lower cost for working families, and promoting competition.

Biden says the pandemic is 'a job not yet finished'

While the U.S. continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Biden said the country is in a better place now than it was one year ago.

He assured that the U.S. is not going back to COVID lockdowns and noted the increase in testing, vaccinations and funding to keep schools open and develop new COVID treatments.

"COVID is not going to give up or go away immediately," he said. "But I'm not going to give up."

Biden said this is not "the new normal" but "a job not yet finished."

"We're moving toward a time when COVID won't disrupt our lives and won't be a crisis," he added. "We're not there yet, we will get there."

Biden announces increase in COVID tests

During a White House press conference, President Biden announced that his administration is increasing COVID-19 testing.

Biden also stated that they should have done more in reference to the COVID testing efforts.

"Should we have done more testing earlier, yes", Biden said.

Biden highlights economic boost, job creation

During his press conference, President Joe Biden said this has been "a year of challenges" but his administration made "enormous progress."

Biden boasted the economic achievements, including creating more than six million new jobs, which is "more in one year than any time before."

Many of those jobs were created through his Infrastructure and American Rescue Plans.

Biden said unemployment has decreased to 3.9 percent and the bottom 40 percent of Americans who got a raise this year saw their income go up.

Japanese government will place Toyko areas under new COVID restrictions

The Japanese government will place Tokyo and a dozen other areas under new restrictions effective Friday. This includes shorten hours for eateries during the Omicron surge.

A government-commissioned experts' panel on Wednesday approved a plan to put the 13 areas under a three-week restraint through Feb 13, said Economy Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, who is also in charge of virus measures.

"We have decided that it is now necessary to prepare so that medical systems can firmly function, take appropriate measures and slow rising case numbers," Kishida said.

How to watch Biden's press conference

President Joe Biden will soon hold a news conference at the White House, marking his first year in office.

The East Room event will serve as the backdrop of Biden's first formal press conference in months, set to begin at 4 p.m. ET.

Biden says he will answer questions and highlight progress made over the past 365 days.

Watch live:

CDC study finds vaccinated people who previously had COVID are the best protected against new infection

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found vaccinated people who were previously infected with COVID-19 have the best protection against new infections.

The study examined infection data from New York and California from last year to compare the protection from prior infection with the protection from vaccines.

Overall, the CDC found getting vaccinated is still the best protection against infection and hospitalization.

But after the rise of the Delta variant, the rates were "substantially lower" among people with previous COVID diagnoses.

At that time, vaccinated people who were previously infected with COVID had the best protection followed by unvaccinated people who were previously infected with COVID.

"These results demonstrate that vaccination protects against COVID-19 and related hospitalization, and that surviving a previous infection protects against a reinfection and related hospitalization," the researchers wrote.

The CDC notes there are caveats to the data. The study was conducted before the Omicron surge or the rollout of booster doses. Protection from previous infection and from vaccination can both wane over time and there are many other factors that can affect infections.

"Although the epidemiology of COVID-19 might change as new variants emerge, vaccination remains the safest strategy for averting future SARS-CoV-2 infections, hospitalizations, long-term sequelae, and death," according to the CDC.

Starbucks ends vaccine mandate after ruling by the Supreme Court

In early January, Starbucks told its roughly 228,000 employees that they must disclose their vaccination status by Jan. 10 and must be fully vaccinated by Feb. 9 or submit to weekly testing.

In a memo sent Tuesday to employees, the coffee company said it will no longer require the COVID vaccine in response 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.

Nearly half of all inmates test positive at Mississippi prison

Nearly half of all inmates at a federal prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

BOP reports 740 inmates and six staff members have currently tested positive for COVID-19 at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Yazoo City's medium-security prison, according to the most recent data available Wednesday.

FCI Yazoo City Medium currently has the highest number of inmate cases among all federal prisons, according to BOP data.

BOP states operations at FCI Yazoo City Medium have been modified due to COVID-19, with "Level 3 Operations" in place, the most stringent, including cohorting changes and strict masking and social distancing rules.

"Inmates with known or suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection should be provided a face covering, POC tested, and placed in medical isolation for 10 days," BOP's website reads.

Republican Representative will not comply with COVID testing request

Republican Representative Mike Turner of Ohio said he won't comply with a request for committee members to get COVID tested.

Turner said Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asked committee members to present negative COVID-19 tests in order to convene.

During a House Republican press conference Wednesday, Turner said this is an unfair request to make while Americans face testing shortages and risk exposure to COVID every day.

"Chairman Schiff believes that members of Congress should be tested just to show up for work," Turner said. "The American public does not have this privilege and we will not comply."

Turner blames the Biden administration for failing to provide enough tests to deal with the recent Omicron surge.

Newest report gives 'hope' latest surge is ending, WHO says

The number of COVID-19 cases increased by 20% globally last week, with 18 million new cases reported, but the World Health Organization (WHO) says cases are slowing amid the latest Omicron surge.

"In some countries, cases seem to have peaked which gives hope the worst of this latest wave is done with," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during Tuesday's media briefing.

"But no country is out of the woods yet."

In its most recent weekly report, WHO says cases increased in every region except Africa last week, where cases were down about 30%.

Southeast Asia reported the largest increase globally of 145%, followed by the Middle East with a near 70% increase.

The Americas and Europe reported the smallest increases of 17% and 10%, respectively.

Worldwide, the number of deaths remained similar to the week prior, around 45,000, WHO reported.

Ghebreyesus said the next few weeks will remain "critical" for health workers, urging individuals to get vaccinated to lessen the burden on strained health systems.

"This pandemic is nowhere near over and with the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge," he warned.

UK lifts COVID restrictions starting next week

Most restrictions in place to fight the latest wave of the COVID-19 surge in the UK will be lifted starting next week, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

England's Plan B measures which include guidance to work from home, the use of the COVID pass and mandatory mask wearing in stores and on public transport are all set to expire on January 26.

"Because of the extraordinary booster campaign, we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire," Johnson said.

Biden to address progress made during pandemic

President Joe Biden is set to give his first press conference in 10 months Wednesday afternoon to mark one year in the White House.

Biden is expected to touch on the economy, the coronavirus pandemic and key legislation stalled in Congress.

The president will likely highlight the progress the administration made in the last year, including passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill, lowering the unemployment rate, creating jobs and expanding COVID testing and vaccinations.

"During the President's first year, we saw the most dramatic change in our economy of anywhere in the world," White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki said during a press briefing Tuesday.

Biden will also face tough questions amid a declining approval rating. He may be asked to address the state of his voting rights legislation and the Build Back Better Act, rising COVID cases and hospitalizations and supply shortages leaving grocery store shelves sparse.

This will be the president's sixth solo press conferences during his first year in office. There will be a limited number of reporters in attendance who must all wear a mask and be COVID tested, according to the Associated Press.

Free N95 masks available starting next week

The Biden administration is rolling out its latest effort in the fight against COVID-19, providing 400 million N95 masks to Americans for free.

The masks will begin shipping across the country this week with distribution set to begin late next week, a White House official said Wednesday.

The free masks, from the government's Strategic National Stockpile, will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the U.S.

The program is set to be fully up and running by early February, the White House official added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance Friday, saying N95 respirators are "more effective" at preventing transmission of COVID-19 than other masks.

Amid the updated recommendations, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky again reiterated, "any mask is better than no mask."

White House officially launches website for free at-home COVID tests

The White House has officially launched the website to order free at-home COVID tests just one day after its soft launch.

The website, COVIDtests.gov allows four free COVID-19 tests to be ordered per residential address.

Once ordered the rapid tests will be delivered by the United States Postal Service and are estimated to arrive in 7-12 days.