New York’s latest vaccine mandate begins Monday as Omicron spreads

“As we come home from holiday gatherings, it is as important as ever to take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 this season,” Hochul said in a statement. “The vaccine is the best tool we have to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe as we head into the new year.”

The highly contagious Omicron variant was a factor in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to implement a vaccine mandate for private sector employees, he said earlier this month.
The updated rules require workers to have at least one vaccination dose by Monday and will not allow employees to opt out of vaccination through regular testing.

Children ages 5-11 in New York are now also required to show proof of at least one shot before being allowed access to indoor dining, fitness or entertainment, and adults will be required to show proof of two vaccinations for those areas.

The private-sector requirements align with those already in place for the city’s public-sector employees, and similar tightening restrictions in major cities around the country.

“We need to take very bold action. We’re seeing restrictions starting to come back. We’re seeing shutdowns,” de Blasio said. “We can not let those restrictions come back. We can not have shutdowns in New York.”

The changes come as the city is planning a “scaled back” New Year’s Eve celebration and tracking interruptions for several Broadway shows.

Nationally, the seven-day average of new daily cases was 198,404 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Experts continue to stress vaccination

As cases spread across the US, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking steps to ease staffing shortages among health care workers.

The agency has shortened its isolation length recommendations for fully vaccinated health care workers who test positive for Covid-19 but don’t have symptoms.
The workers may return to work after seven days if they are asymptomatic and test negative, and the “isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages,” according to a statement from the CDC Thursday.

The agency also specified that health care workers don’t need to quarantine “following high-risk exposures” if they’ve gotten all recommended vaccinations, including a booster shot. Quarantine refers to when people who have been exposed to the virus but have not yet been diagnosed with an infection need to avoid others.

The CDC stressed that the new guidelines don’t extend to the general public and only apply to the health care workforce.

The change was spurred by the expected surge in hospitalizations from the Omicron variant, and the case loads already stressing the health care system.

Currently, about 75% of all ICU beds in the country are in use and 21% are occupied by Covid-19 patients, data from the US Department of Health and Human Services shows.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday the Omicron variant poses a big threat to the health care system in the US, despite evidence it may not cause as severe an infection as previous variants.

“Even though we’re pleased by the evidence from multiple countries that it looks like there is a lesser degree of severity, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t get complacent about that because it might still lead to a lot of hospitalizations in the United States,” Fauci told ABC “This Week” Sunday.

“We’re particularly worried about those who are in that unvaccinated class, that you know, tens and tens of millions of Americans who are eligible for vaccination who have not been vaccinated, those are the vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people and effecting them the way Omicron is,” Fauci said.

Currently, 72.7% of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, 61.7% are fully vaccinated with two doses, and 31.5% have received a booster, according to CDC data.

Coronavirus brings holiday travel woes and obstacles for sporting events

Along with some wintry weather in parts of the country, travelers hitting the road after Christmas are faced with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and its effect on the nation’s transportation system.
Thousands of flights canceled on Christmas weekend
Thousands of flights were canceled during the holiday weekend, due in part to the virus affecting flight crews and airline ground staff. Some passengers are still in the process of being rebooked to get them on their way. About 1,500 flights were canceled Sunday according to flight tracking website FlightAware, and more than 500 were reported canceled early Monday morning.
And at least four ocean cruise ships were turned away from ports or prohibited from letting passengers disembark in the past week because of Covid-19 cases on board.

The altered cruises represent a small fraction of the dozens of cruise ships underway in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the wider Atlantic and the Pacific at any given time this month.

Experts are urging travelers to get vaccinated or boosted to avoid serious illness.

In addition to impacts on travelers, sporting events have also been postponed or canceled due to increased spread of Covid-19.

2 more college football bowl games canceled because of Covid-19
So far, five college football bowl games have been affected, including two games called off over the weekend.

The Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland, featuring Boston College and East Carolina University, will not be played Monday, officials said. Neither will the inaugural Fenway Bowl in Boston between the University of Virginia and Southern Methodist University, which had been set for Wednesday.

The Miami Hurricanes have withdrawn from the Sun Bowl, set for Friday in El Paso, Texas. Their opponent, the Washington State Cougars, are working with the Pac-12 conference and the Sun Bowl Association to find a replacement opponent.

Pro sports have been slowed by the virus as well, affecting the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association in the midst of their seasons.

CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian, Jacqueline Howard, Forrest Brown, Veronica Stracqualursi, Pete Muntean, Aaron Cooper, Wayne Sterling and Jill Martin contributed to this report.

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