Live updates: Hawaii sets all-time record for COVID cases
HONOLULU — Hawaii set an all-time record for new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the state of about 1.5 million people reported nearly 3,500 new infections.
The daily total of new cases reported by health officials was 3,484, topping the record of 2,205 cases set the day after Christmas. The state was averaging just over 100 new cases a day at the beginning of the month.
The latest surge came about two weeks after the first omicron variant case was confirmed in Hawaii.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said there would be no new restrictions on Oahu over the New Year holiday. He said people should take personal responsibility to curb the disease.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— US children hospitalized with COVID in record numbers
— U.S. health officials press nursing home workers to get booster shots
— New COVID-19 cases in US soar to highest levels on record
— Canadian provinces adopt restrictions amid daily case records
Follow AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico is running short of free at-home rapid tests to detect COVID-19 infections as the state struggles with the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The company that runs the state’s program said Thursday that the state’s supply of tests was overstretched. The announcement came hours after Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote that residents could “order a testing kit today.”
By afternoon “all available tests have been shipped” and Vault Health was offering paid testing instead. The state reported an additional 2,209 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 26 additional deaths.
NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana is setting records for new COVID-19 diagnoses, and the state’s omicron variant surge is just beginning, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.
Thursday’s 24-hour total of 12,467 new cases was more than a third above Wednesday’s 9,378, Edwards said during a news conference livestreamed on Zoom.
He said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday’s figure was itself a state record, topping 7,548 set in August, during the delta variant surge.
Edwards says the number of people hospitalized with the virus has risen 268% since Dec. 17, to 762.
The governor said he would not mandate masks unless such an order is needed to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. But he said people should heed masking recommendations from both the CDC and the state Department of Health.
Wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience “compared to being in a hospital struggling to get oxygen or watching a loved one struggling to get oxygen,” he said.
He and other state and hospital officials around south and central Louisiana repeatedly urged everyone to take precautions such as getting vaccinations and booster shots.
JACKSON, MISS. — Mississippi’s Supreme Court chief justice issued an emergency order Thursday allowing judges to postpone jury trials through mid-January because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph’s order also allows courts to use teleconferencing, videoconferencing and electronic filing to limit in-person contact in courts. Felony plea, felony sentencing and probation violation hearings can be conducted remotely.
The order is an extension of safety regulations that were already in place. Emergency Administrative Order 25 is the fourth emergency order issued by the chief justice since August which allows judges to postpone jury trials.
In his most recent order, Randolph cited the recent uptick in cases — especially the highly contagious omicron variant.
“Unfortunately, circumstances continue to deteriorate,” he said.
As of Dec. 14, there were 575 new COVID-19 confirmed infections in Mississippi. Approximately two weeks later, the number of confirmed cases increased more than eightfold, to 4,885 cases, Randolph said.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With a new and more infectious coronavirus variant sweeping California, attorneys representing inmates say violations of health orders by prison staff risk a repeat of the outbreaks that killed dozens in the first year of the pandemic.
The most recent statistics show large percentages of employees who are required to be tested twice weekly aren’t doing so, and most face no consequences.
Corrections officials say they are updating those figures but have not yet provided new data.
Officials are temporarily shutting down admissions to Wasco State Prison in the San Joaquin Valley where there have been more than 150 new infections in the past two weeks. Starting Monday, officials say inmates statewide must be fully vaccinated to have in-person or family visits, unless they have approved religious or medical exemptions.
The actions come as new cases soar across California and state models predict a gradual increase in hospitalizations and intensive care admissions over the next month.
SEATTLE — A Seattle-area medical system says it will soon limit COVID-19 testing appointments at its community testing sites because of an “astronomically high” positivity rate.
The Seattle Times reports UW Medicine said Thursday appointments will be limited to only those with symptoms or known exposures. Of UW Medicine’s 12 community testing sites, nine will soon start limiting appointments. Three will close temporarily.
The positivity rate is measuring more than 40% at some South King County testing sites and the high rate is slowing scientists’ ability to parse out which samples are actually positive.
MADRID — New coronavirus cases have hit the tenth daily record in Spain, with an unprecedented 161,688 new confirmed infections as the fast-spreading omicron variant takes the reins.
According to figures released by Spain’s Health Ministry, Thursday was the second day in a row when new cases soared over the 100,000 mark.
The 14-day contagion rate, which informs policymakers’ response to the pandemic, rose to 1,775 new cases per 100,000 residents nationally. That’s up from 1,508 the day before. The northern Navarra region recorded more than twice the national average.
Spanish officials have taken pride in a successful vaccination rollout that has led to more than 80% of the country’s 47 million people having gotten two vaccine doses. On Thursday, health officials announced that 80% of those 60 and older had already received a booster shot.
MIAMI — Florida is seeing a sharp rise in coronavirus infections as the omicron variant rages through the state.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 58,000 new cases for Wednesday and revised its tallies to add thousands of cases to the daily counts of previous days, setting new pandemic records.
The new CDC estimate raises the 7-day average in Florida to more than 36,400 new cases. The number was at around 26,600 at the peak of the summer surge in August, which was fueled by the delta variant.
In Miami-Dade County, where cases have been concentrated, one out four people is testing positive for the virus.
Because of the surge, Miami-Dade County Public Schools is requiring all employees, volunteers and visitors to wear face coverings at schools starting Monday. Students will be strongly encouraged to wear them. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in November a measure that prevents school districts from imposing mask mandates for students.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio hospitalizations for COVID-19 have hit a pandemic record high for the second day running.
State data shows 5,466 people in the hospital with COVID-19, or one of every five patients. Gov. Mike DeWine and hospital administrators around the state say the vast majority of those in the hospital are unvaccinated.
Ohio Department of Health data out Thursday also shows coronavirus cases remaining at historic levels. Nearly 20,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday, just below the record set Wednesday.
The case surge has created long lines outside health clinics and at pop-up sites as thousands seek out testing. The governor has ordered a total of 2,400 members of the Ohio National Guard into hospitals to help overwhelmed staff.
JERUSALEM — Israel has approved a fourth vaccine dose for people most vulnerable to COVID-19, becoming the first country to do so as it braces for a wave of infections fueled by the omicron variant.
The director general of the Health Ministry, Nachman Ash, announced the decision at a press conference late on Thursday.
He says the decision is based on early research, and that officials will consider expanding the administration of a fourth dose to more of the public as they assess the situation.
Israel was among the first countries to roll out Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine a year ago and began freely offering boosters last summer. But it still saw a wave of infections blamed on the delta variant, and officials have warned of another driven by the fast-spreading omicron.
Earlier Thursday, Israel received its first shipment of pills that treat the worst effects of COVID-19.
Israel currently has more than 20,000 active patients, including 94 who are seriously ill. At least 8,243 people have died from COVID-19 in Israel since the start of the pandemic.
MILAN — Italy surged to another record of 126,888 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. That’s a 30% increase from a day earlier when the previous record was hit.
With cases skyrocketing, Italy is reducing quarantines on vaccinated people and imposing new restrictions on those who have yet to get inoculated. Anyone with a booster dose or two doses in the last four months will no longer have to quarantine after coming in contact with someone who is positive.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated people will no longer be able to travel on buses, trains, airplanes or ferries starting on Jan. 10, the day Italians return from the Christmas holidays. They are also barred from a host of other leisure activities, including cinemas, theaters and beauty salons. These have so far been accessible with a negative test within the previous 24 hours.
Despite the surge in numbers, Italian hospitals are not under the same level of pressure as in past surges, with 78% of the entire population fully vaccinated. One-third have gotten booster shots.
MOSCOW — Russia’s state statistics agency says that more than 87,500 people with COVID-19 died in Russia in November, the highest monthly tally since the start of the pandemic.
Thursday’s report by Rosstat brought the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 to over 625,000. That is more than twice the widely-cited toll reported by Russia’s state coronavirus task force.
Rosstat uses broader criteria in its tallying system compared to the task force.
Just 51% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, months before most of the world.
Russia in recent months has faced a tide of contagion with record numbers of infections and deaths. The situation has improved over the past few weeks, but the authorities are now bracing up for a new wave of infection caused by the omicron variant.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A study of health workers in South Africa found a booster shot of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine greatly reduced the risk of hospitalization during the omicron surge.
J&J said Thursday the second dose was 85% effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations in November and December. That’s according to preliminary results of a study of 69,000 health workers in South Africa.
Omicron is highly contagious and can evade some of the protection offered by vaccination or prior infection. But earlier studies of other COVID-19 vaccines have suggested vaccination still strongly protects against severe illness. Similar findings about J&J’s vaccine are important data for Africa, where the shot plays a key role in vaccinations.
J&J also announced preliminary results of some U.S. lab testing that suggested its shot could be considered as a mix-and-match booster for people who’ve received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
ISTANBUL — Turkish health ministry statistics show nearly 40,000 new COVID-19 infections Thursday, more than double the number of cases a week ago.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that the rise was due to the extremely contagious omicron variant. This level of infections was last seen at the end of April when Turkey’s strictest lockdown measures were announced.
So far, Turkey has not announced any new restrictions other than urging people to wear masks and practice social distancing.
A little more than 83% of Turkey’s population have received two doses of China’s Sinovac or BioNTech’s vaccine and nearly 18.7 million people have received a third dose. The total death toll from the virus in the country is 82,198, according to official statistics.
NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City will ring in 2022 in Times Square as planned despite record numbers of COVID-19 infections in the city and around the nation.
De Blasio said on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday that he wants to show the world that the city is “fighting our way through this.”
After banning revelers from Times Square a year ago due to the pandemic, city officials announced plans previously for a scaled-back New Year’s bash with smaller crowds and vaccinations required.
The city’s next mayor, Eric Adams, will take the oath of office in Times Square shortly after the ball drop.
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