TORONTO — Canada has confirmed a third case of the omicron COVID-19 variant.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé confirmed the new case on Monday.

Canada announced Sunday it has two cases of omicron COVID-19 variant among two people who had recently visited Nigeria. The two are isolating in Ottawa. The province of Ontario is also further investigating four COVID cases to see if the are omicron.

CDC says ages 18 and up should get booster shot

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday broadened its recommendation for COVID-19 booster shots for all adults as the new omicron variant is identified in more countries.

The agency had previously approved boosters for all adults, but only recommended them for those 50 years and older or if they live in a long-term care setting.

CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance reflects the emergence of the omicron variant, which has not yet been identified in the U.S. but that officials say will inevitably reach the country.

“Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine,” she said in a statement.

Walensky also encouraged Americans feeling unwell to seek out a COVID-19 test, saying “Increased testing will help us identify Omicron quickly.”

Oklahoma’s bid to exempt its National Guard from vaccine mandate is denied

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday rejected a request by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt that his state’s National Guard be exempt from a Pentagon requirement that all military members be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Stitt, a Republican, had asked Austin in early November to suspend the mandate for members of the Oklahoma Guard.

A spokesman for Stitt, Charlie Hannema, said in response to Austin’s rejection letter that the governor “maintains his position” that he is commander in chief of the Oklahoma Guard while they are on Title 32 status, meaning while they are on active duty under state control but with pay and benefits provided by the federal government.

The dispute is the first critical test of the military’s authority to require National Guard troops to get the shot, and it could lay the groundwork for legal battles with states that oppose the vaccine requirement.

So far, Stitt is the only governor to publicly challenge the military mandate.

Read the full story here.

Judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A federal judge on Monday blocked President Biden’s administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement.

The court order said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.

The preliminary injunction by St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp applies to a coalition of suing states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Similar lawsuits also are pending in other states.

The federal rule requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers nationwide in about 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers that get funding from the government health programs. Workers are to receive their first dose by Dec. 6 and their second shot by Jan. 4.

Read more here.

COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record high in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s number of hospitalized adults with confirmed COVID-19 cases reached a new pandemic high Monday, near 4,200, as the state continued to confront surging infections.

The total of 4,181 surpassed the previous record of 4,158, which was set seven months ago during the state’s third wave.

Only Minnesota had a higher seven-case case rate than Michigan as of Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State health officials are urging people to get vaccinated and to wear masks in public settings to limit the spread of the coronavirus amid the fourth surge. The federal government has deployed military medical staffers to help Michigan hospitals cope.

Biden urges booster shots in face of omicron coronavirus variant

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Monday described the omicron variant of the coronavirus as a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic” as cases continue to emerge around the globe.

In an address from the White House, the president pressed Americans to get the coronavirus vaccines and boosters, calling the shots “the best protection against this new variant or any of the various out there.”

The comments came a day after the variant was detected in Canada, making its first identification in North America. Omicron, designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, has also been found in countries ranging from Australia to Israel and Botswana to Britain.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s leading COVID-19 adviser, said there were still no cases of the variant identified in the U.S. but that it was “inevitable” that it would make its way into the country eventually.

Read the full story here.

WHO warns variant is likely to spread internationally

The World Health Organization is warning countries that the omicron coronavirus variant poses “very high” global risk — and is likely to spread internationally.

“The likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said Sunday in a preliminary technical brief. It recommended that governments worldwide enhance their ability to sequence coronavirus variants, report any local cases of omicron to the global health body and speed up their vaccination drives.

The newly identified omicron variant has 26 to 32 spike mutations, the WHO brief states, “some of which are concerning” in that they could make it more transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune defenses.

“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of COVID-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,” the report says. “The overall global risk related to [omicron] is assessed as very high.” It added that “evidence for this assessment contains considerable uncertainty” and is subject to change.

Spain confirms its first case of the omicron variant

MADRID — One of Madrid’s major public hospitals says it has detected the first confirmed case of the omicron variant in Spain in a traveler who arrived from South Africa.

In a tweet on Monday, the microbiology and infectious disease service of the Gregorio Marañón hospital said that the sequencing of samples from the patient earlier in the day showed that the infection corresponded with omicron.

The hospital said that the patient is in good condition.

In a statement, health authorities in the Madrid region identified the patient as a 51-year-old man who had returned from South Africa on Nov. 28 after having made a stopover in Amsterdam.

He had first tested positive for coronavirus in a screening with antigen tests at the Madrid airport, the statement said, adding that authorities are watching other passengers who came in close contact with him on the plane from the Netherlands.

South African doctors report mild symptoms amid rapid increase of cases

JOHANNESBURG — South African doctors say that the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant cases is resulting in mostly mild symptoms.

Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province where 81% of the new cases have been reported, says he has seen a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in the past 10 days.

He said that so far the cases have been very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms, dry coughs, fever, night sweats, a lot of body pains. He said most have been treated at home.

He also said that the vaccinated are faring much better than the unvaccinated.

The recent surge in South Africa has been among people in their 20s and 30s and doctors emphasize that COVID-19 symptoms are often mild in that age group.

 


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