California has first US Omicron COVID-19 case

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced the United States' first case of COVID-19 caused by the Omnicron (B.1.1.529) variant.

The case-patient traveled to South Africa and returned to the San Francisco area on Nov 22. According to the CDC, the patient is self-isolating at home. The person was fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms of the virus. All close contacts have tested negative.

During a press briefing today at the White House, chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci, MD, said the patient was improving. He said he did not believe the patient had received a booster dose of vaccine, and this is still the only case currently suspected to be caused by the variant in the country.

"We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be detected in the United States," Fauci said.

Fauci advocates boosters

When asked how and if the arrival of Omnicron should change life for Americans, Fauci said the current strategies—vaccines, booster, and masking when appropriate—are sufficient.

He said celebrating the upcoming holidays with vaccinated friends and family was still his plan, and he once again recommended all Americans ages 18 and older to receive a booster dose of vaccine if they have not done so yet.

"Get boosted now," Fauci said. The CDC says all adults who received an mRNA vaccine 6 or more months ago, and adults who received Johnson & Johnson 2 months ago, should be boosted.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 59.4% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 70.2% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 20.9% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose.

Tomorrow President Joe Biden is expected to announce his winter plan for combatting the virus. Part of the plan is likely stricter testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States, including returning Americans, the Washington Post reports. Under the policy, everyone entering the country would need to be tested 1 day before boarding flights, regardless of vaccination status.

Vermont, Arkansas report case jumps

Vermont on Tuesday reported its most hospitalizations from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, the Associated Press reports. A total of 84 people were hospitalized, with 22 in intensive care. Arkansas reported its biggest 1-day jump in cases since September.

The United States reported 116,588 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 1,539 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. The 14-day average of new daily cases is 83,120, with 893 daily deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.

Weekly pediatric cases of COVID-19 continue to surpass 100,000, now for the 16th week in a row. Nearly 132,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported from Nov 18 to Nov 25, according to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

57% of US firms require or plan to require vaccines

A survey of 500 American companies shows that 57% now require or will require COVID-19 vaccines for employees, and that vaccine requirements have resulted in resignations for just 3% of employers.

The vast majority of employers (90%) said they require or plan to require masks to be worn indoors.

In related news, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she is seeking an emergency court order to force Amazon to implement stricter COVID-19 protocols in its warehouses, CNBC reports.

"While case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths rise, Amazon rescinds protections and packs in more workers for its holiday rush," the filing reads.

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