NYC Weighs Remote School; Goldman Delays Return: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s push to get more people vaccinated, rejecting an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required 80 million workers to get shots or periodic tests.
Boris Johnson’s government cut the self-isolation period in England to five days from seven amid staff shortages at hospitals, schools and businesses.
- Virus Tracker: Cases top 319 million; deaths pass 5.5 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 9.6 billion shots administered
- U.S. Spotlight: Covid hospital admissions show omicron spreading to West Coast
- Westchester runs out of home listings in rush to NYC suburbs
- China’s Covid absolutism is making it a no-go zone for airlines
- Vaccine mandates and backlash in U.S., Austria, Italy: QuickTake
Nebraska AG Challenges Omaha Mask Rule (3:48 p.m. NY)
As the omicron variant sickens people across the U.S., the attorney general of Nebraska filed a lawsuit challenging an indoor mask mandate in Omaha.
Attorney General Doug Peterson says the local order “conflicts with applicable state law,” the Omaha World-Herald reported Thursday. The indoor mask mandate will remain in effect until a court hearing Monday, the newspaper said. The state’s positive-test rate is above 36%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NYC Mayor Weighs Remote Schooling (3:38 p.m. NY)
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he is considering a temporary remote option for the city’s public schools, in a stark reversal of his position to keep kids learning in person.
“The safest place is in school and I’m going to continue to push that,” Adams said during a press briefing on Thursday. “But we have to be honest. A substantial number of children’s parents aren’t bringing them to school. I have to make sure children are educated.”
Only about 70% of the city’s 1 million students have been attending classes since schools reopened after the winter break on Jan. 3. On Wednesday, attendance was about 76% and schools reported over 6,500 cases among students and 1,000 among staff, according to city data.
Top Court Blocks Biden Vaccine Rule (2:34 p.m. NY)
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s push to get more people vaccinated amid a Covid-19 surge, rejecting an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required 80 million workers to get shots or periodic tests.
The court allowed a separate rule to take effect requiring shots for workers in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments from the federal government.
Delta Air Lines Cuts Regional Service (2:25 p.m. NY)
Delta Air Lines Inc. has trimmed regional flying by as much as 25% for the first half of this year because of a pilot shortage, a lingering effect for several carriers from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
When airlines moved to replace thousands of pilots who took incentives to retire early in 2020, the carriers turned first to their traditional hiring pool at regional partners. Pandemic-related disruptions to training at those smaller airlines contributed to the shortage by preventing first officers from being promoted to captain.
Norway Eases Curbs (2:23 p.m. NY)
Norway is scaling back some of its infection restrictions as it moves into a new phase of the pandemic.
The omicron variant has pushed infection rates to records, and the country now needs to ready itself to tolerate living with the virus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters on Thursday.
Restaurants and bars will be able to serve alcohol again before 11 p.m., while high schools and colleges can allow more interaction between students.
Omicron Hits U.S. Small Firms (1:54 p.m. NY)
The surge of omicron cases is having a direct hit on U.S. small businesses, which employ almost half of the country’s private-sector workforce.
The share of small firms that reported a decrease in revenue rose to 33% in the week ended Jan. 9, according the U.S. Census Small Business Pulse Survey. That’s the highest since February last year.
Millions of Vaccine Doses Risk Going to Waste (1:40 p.m. NY)
Hundreds of millions of vaccine doses purchased by wealthy countries are at risk of going to waste, a new analysis shows, while large parts of the world remain unprotected amid the spread of the omicron variant.
About 240 million doses purchased by the U.S., U.K., Japan, Canada and the European Union are expected to go unused and expire by March, London-based analytics firm Airfinity Ltd. said Thursday in a report. The number of potentially wasted doses could climb to 500 million by that point if other countries receiving donated doses don’t have enough time to administer them, it said.
Cases Hit Record for U.S. Nursing Home Staff (1 p.m. NY)
Covid-19 cases among U.S. nursing-home workers jumped almost tenfold in recent weeks as the omicron variant raced through America’s senior-care facilities.
A record 57,000 nursing-home workers tested positive during the week ending Jan. 9, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from about 6,000 the week ending Dec. 19.
Cases are also spiking among nursing-home residents. About 32,000 residents tested positive last week, close to the previous peak in late 2020. While deaths have also increased, much of the nursing-home population is vaccinated, and the death rate is about one-tenth what it was last winter.
Africa Needs Sixfold Rise in Shots: WHO (12:25 p.m. NY)
The number of Africans being inoculated against Covid-19 needs to climb to 34 million people a week, from 6 million currently, if the least vaccinated continent is to reach the World Health Organization’s target of 70% of its people fully covered by mid-year.
While vaccine supplies to the continent have improved recently, slow rollouts are hindering efforts to reach this goal, Alain Poy, head of the WHO’s vaccine preventable disease program in Africa said in a briefing Thursday.
Biden Doubles Order for At-Home Tests (11:38 a.m. NY)
President Joe Biden said his administration will double its order of rapid tests to send to Americans, while also distributing “high quality” masks to help fight a surge of cases of the omicron variant.
The plan to buy another 500 million at-home tests comes as the U.S. is facing a shortage, leading to long lines at testing centers across the country. At the same time, consumer prices for masks offering the highest protection are rising.
Biden said his administration is deploying military doctors, nurses and others to six hospitals in six states, including New York and New Jersey, to grapple with record hospitalizations.
Goldman Delays Return to Office (8:57 a.m. NY)
Goldman Sachs delayed its return to office for staff in the U.S. by another two weeks, with employees told they could delay returning to Feb. 1, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The bank’s management, aggressive champions of having its offices filled, had to check their desire after an about turn last month amid a deluge of omicron cases sweeping across New York and beyond.
EU Tightens Travel Restrictions (8:52 a.m. NY)
Travelers from Canada, Australia and Argentina will no longer be exempted from the European Union’s travel restrictions. Member states agreed on Wednesday to remove the trio from a list of countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the bloc under the same conditions as in pre-pandemic times, officials said.
The change means that non-EU citizens won’t be allowed to travel from those countries if they’re not vaccinated, unless it’s for essential reasons.
England Cuts Isolation Time (8:50 a.m. NY)
Boris Johnson’s government cut the Covid-19 self-isolation period in England to five days from seven as the surge in omicron infections sparked staff shortages at hospitals, schools and businesses. The reduction will take effect from Jan. 17.
The premier has relied on light-touch restrictions to manage the new virus wave, and his spokesman has pointed to early signs that U.K. cases and hospitalizations are starting to fall.
U.K. PM Family Member Tests Positive (5:28 p.m. HK)
Boris Johnson has canceled a visit to a vaccination center in Burnley after a family member tested positive for Covid-19, according to ITV. The U.K. Prime Minister won’t have to isolate but is taking advice not to travel.
Johnson bought some breathing space by apologizing for attending a party at his Downing Street office during the first pandemic lockdown, but anger in his ruling U.K. Conservative Party means his grip on power is precarious.
Astra Touts New Booster Data (5:07 p.m. HK)
AstraZeneca touted fresh data supporting the use of its vaccine as a booster, potentially brightening the outlook for a shot that’s been sidelined in the U.S. and Europe.
A preliminary analysis showed a third dose of Astra’s shot increased immune response against the beta, delta, alpha and gamma variants. The results were valid for both people who had previously received the company’s shot or messenger-RNA vaccines. A separate analysis showed increased antibody response against omicron.
Italy Readies Small Pandemic Aid (3:17 p.m. HK)
Italy’s government is working on a spending package to bring relief to sectors hit by the surge in infections, such as tourism, and refinance furlough programs, people familiar with the matter said. The measures could be announced as early as next week and would rely on existing resources, currently estimated at around 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion), the people said.
Germany Hits Another Record (1:30 p.m. HK)
Germany registered 81,417 new cases, a record for a second straight day, as the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly in Europe’s biggest economy. The seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed to 428, closer to the all-time high of 452 scaled at the end of November.
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