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The Biden administration reportedly will recommend Americans get booster shots eight months after they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Charles Krupa / Associated Press
Vials of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine are seen in this undated photo.

Live Blog: The Postal Service is now taking orders for free COVID-19 test kits

This is a breaking news blog for all of the latest updates about the coronavirus pandemic. Get our complete coronavirus coverage here → .

The Postal Service is now taking orders for free COVID-19 test kits
– 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022

The U.S. Postal Service has begun taking orders for free at-home coronavirus test kits.

The website COVIDtests.gov was originally slated to begin taking orders on Wednesday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the site is in the "beta testing" stage and "will be launched formally tomorrow morning [Wednesday]."

Each household order will contain four rapid tests, which the Postal Service says will be shipped for free "in late January." — Brian Naylor, NPR

White House soft-launches COVID-19 test request website
– 10:11 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022

The Biden administration on Tuesday quietly launched its website for Americans to request free at-home COVID-19 tests, a day before the site was scheduled to officially go online.

The website, COVIDTests.gov, now includes a link for Americans to order four at-home tests per residential address, to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. It marks the latest step by President Joe Biden to address criticism of low inventory and long lines for testing during a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the website was in "beta testing" and operating at a “limited capacity” ahead of its official launch. The website will officially launch mid-morning Wednesday, Psaki said.

San Diego County sees rise in COVID hospitalizations
– 9:59 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022

The number of COVID-positive patients in San Diego County hospitals has increased by four people to 1,260, according to the latest state data released Tuesday.

Of those patients, 193 were in intensive care, up four from the previous day.

San Diego County had the second-most COVID-positive patients in California, behind only Los Angeles County.

Some of those patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.

San Diego County reported 9,878 new COVID-19 infections and five additional deaths on Friday.

Friday's data from the county Health and Human Services Agency increased the county's cumulative totals to 568,212 cases and 4,545 deaths since the pandemic began.

The county doesn't release information on tests, infections or deaths on weekends or holidays. – City News Service

Amid low COVID vaccine rates, more California children hospitalized in omicron surge
– 5:12 p.m., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

COVID-19 hospitalizations among California’s children — especially those too young to go to school — are the highest they have been since the pandemic began.

Chalk it up to the highly contagious omicron variant, kids exposed during in-person instruction at school and other public places, and infants and preschoolers being ineligible for vaccination.

The state has tallied nearly 850,000 cases of COVID among kids 0 to 17 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those, 44 have died — equivalent to an entire school bus filled with kids. — Elizabeth Aguilera, Calmatters

San Diego Councilman Chris Cate, community groups to open COVID-19 testing sites
– 8:05 a.m., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate has partnered with local community organizations to open a new COVID-19 testing site at Zion Market on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard at 9 a.m. Monday.

The site — in Zion Market's parking lot — will offer free COVID-19 tests to members of the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday. Additional days may be added based on demand.

"With the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases, it's more important than ever to stay vigilant in protecting one's own health and the health of those around you," Cate said. "Folks shouldn't have to drive all over town to find a free COVID-19 test or pay out of pocket to get tested.

Cate is partnering with the Asian Business Association of San Diego and Broadwell Health to establish free COVID-19 testing sites across City Council District 6 in the coming weeks. – City News Service

Federal testing website launches next week, 4 tests per home
– 12:48 p.m., Friday, Jan. 14, 2022

The federal website where Americans can request free COVID-19 tests will begin accepting orders on Wednesday as the White House looks to address nationwide shortages, but supplies will be limited to just four free tests per home.

Starting on Jan. 19, the website COVIDTests.gov will provide tests at no cost, including no shipping fee, the White House announced Friday.

As he faced criticism for low inventory and long lines for testing, President Joe Biden announced last month that the U.S. would purchase 500 million at-home tests to launch the program and on Thursday the president announced that he was doubling the order to 1 billion tests. – Associated Press

San Diego County reports 14,437 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths
– `10:34 a.m., Friday, Jan. 14, 2022

San Diego County reported 14,734 new COVID-19 infections and 11 deaths in its latest data as an "unprecedented" rate of cases and hospitalizations continue to roll in.

Thursday's data increased the county's cumulative totals to 558,356 cases and 4,540 deaths since the pandemic began.

COVID-related hospitalizations in San Diego County increased by 76 to 1,226 on Thursday, which follows a record-setting weekend when hospitals struggled to keep up. Hospitalizations have increased at a steeper rate than when the county reached its peak — 1,725 on Jan. 11, 2021, according to the latest state figures.

Of the hospitalized patients reported Wednesday, 173 were in intensive care, up four from the previous day. – `City News Service

Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses
– 12:06 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022

The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.

The court’s orders Thursday during a spike in coronavirus cases was a mixed bag for the administration’s efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans. – Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko, Associated Press

San Diego County reports 14,734 new COVID-19 cases, nine deaths
– 8:55 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022

San Diego County reported 14,734 new COVID-19 infections and nine deaths in its latest data as an "unprecedented" rate of cases and hospitalizations continue to roll in.

Wednesday's data increased the county's cumulative totals to 550,639 cases and 4,529 deaths since the pandemic began.

COVID-related hospitalizations in San Diego County increased by 89 to 1,150 on Wednesday, which follows a record-setting weekend when hospitals struggled to keep up. Hospitalizations have increased at a steeper rate than when the county reached its peak — 1,725 on Jan. 11, 2021, according to the latest state figures. – City News Service

San Diego doctors continue fight against COVID-19 misinformation as omicron surges
– 7:25 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022

COVID-19 cases are surging like never before and so is misinformation, which is forcing county officials and physicians to continue their frustrating fight to provide people with the facts of the pandemic.

"It's just not true, it's not true," said San Diego County's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric McDonald responding to public comments regarding children made during Tuesday's board of supervisors meeting.

Supervisors declared COVID-19 misinformation a public health crisis last year. Since then, McDonald and other doctors from around San Diego have been hosting panels to combat it. – Matt Hoffman, KPBS Health Reporter

The White House will distribute 10 million more COVID tests per month to schools
– 10:51 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022

With schools all over the country struggling to deal with a surge of coronavirus cases from the omicron variant, the White House on Wednesday announced it is increasing the supply of COVID-19 tests for schools to help keep facilities open for in-person learning.

President Biden and others in his administration insist schools should stay open, even with the omicron wave making it harder than ever to manage.

The administration will increase the number of COVID tests available to schools by 10 million per month — 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests. — Alana Wise, NPR

California National Guard enlisted for help at test sites around the county, state
– 3:06 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

The California National Guard is being deployed in San Diego to help with COVID-19 testing. It is part of a request from the governor to help shorten lines throughout the state.

COVID-19 testing lines have been backing up at test sites around San Diego County since the emergence of the omicron variant.

“Either they are getting their test for work. Getting their test for school or just getting their test for sanity's sake," said Master Sgt. Jose Mercado, spokesman for California National Guard. "It’s such a vulnerable time for us. We don’t know if we have just a cold or we’re really transmitting something to our families.” — Steve Walsh, KPBS Military and Veterans Reporter

Rady Children's Hospital sees record pediatric COVID infections
– 3:07 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

"This omicron variant is spreading like wildfire in the community," said Dr. John Bradley, the director of infectious diseases at Rady Children's Hospital during a news conference on Monday morning outside their emergency room.

The number of children testing positive for COVID-19 is the highest it’s ever been at the hospital, he said. That's following a nationwide trend.

"Omicron, compared to delta, we are probably twice the number of hospitalizations that we had compared with last winter. But again the kids aren’t as sick," Bradley said. "The number of positive tests is through the roof. That’s ... five times more positive cases are being reported now since last year." — Kitty Alvarado, KPBS General Assignment Reporter

Holiday delays plague transit COVID-19 testing sites in San Diego
– 3:07 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

Demand for COVID-19 testing has been high, but some free testing sites are not measuring up.

Most San Diego County testing turnaround times have been efficient, with results on average completing tests in 1.8 days, but not everyone is getting their results quickly.

Some people have encountered issues at testing sites at San Diego transit stations. — Matt Hoffman, KPBS Health Reporter

San Diego County sees another rise in COVID-positive hospital patients
– 3:08 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

COVID-19 related hospitalizations in San Diego County increased by 73 to 1,061 Tuesday, an "unprecedented pace" that follows a record- setting weekend where hospitals struggled to keep up.

Hospitalizations have increased at a steeper rate than when the county reached its peak — 1,725 on Jan. 11, 2021, according to the latest state figures.

Of the hospitalized patients reported Tuesday, 166 were in intensive care, down two from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds increased by four to 187. — City News Service

U.S. COVID hospitalizations hit new record high, raising risks for patients
– 3:09 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

The omicron-driven surge has sent COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocketing across the U.S., reaching a new pandemic high this week with 145,982 patients hospitalized.

This exceeds the previous high recorded in January last year, according to data tracked by the Department of Health and Human Services, from more than 5,400 hospitals in the country.

Patients with COVID now fill about 30% of ICU beds in the nation and pediatric COVID hospitalizations are also at the highest rate of the pandemic. — Will Stone & Carrie Feibel, NPR

Welcome to the era of omicron rules and regs
– 3:10 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

The unwanted arrival of the omicron variant of COVID has been accompanied by an unwanted new set of social restrictions in many parts of the globe.

Starting next week, diners in Germany will not only have to show proof that they're vaccinated against COVID but that they're fully boosted to sit down at a restaurant.

Students in Ontario, Canada who had just recently returned to school have been ordered back to their virtual classrooms. — Jason Beaubien, NPR

US hospitals letting infected staff members stay on the job
– 1:56 p.m., Monday, Jan. 10, 2022

Hospitals around the U.S. are increasingly taking the extraordinary step of allowing nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus to stay on the job if they have mild symptoms or none at all.

The move is a reaction to the severe hospital staffing shortages and crushing caseloads that the omicron variant is causing.

California health authorities announced over the weekend that hospital staff members who test positive but are symptom-free can continue working. Some hospitals in Rhode Island and Arizona have likewise told employees they can stay on the job if they have no symptoms or just mild ones. — Associated Press

San Diego medical military team help hospital on brink of collapse
– 1:03 p.m., Monday, Jan. 10, 2022

San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico serves a vast area in the Four Corners. Dr. Brad Greenberg, medical director of emergency preparedness at the hospital, said they care for all people no matter who they are or where they come from.

"We serve a mixture of urban, rural and frontier areas and also a referral center for many of the facilities that exist on the Navajo Nation," said Greenberg.

COVID has not been kind to the region. They’ve had five COVID waves and the last 13 weeks have been especially tough. — Kitty Alvarado, KPBS General Assignment Reporter

San Diego County's COVID hospitalizations increase to 943
– 1:00 p.m., Monday, Jan. 10, 2022

The number of COVID-positive patients in San Diego County hospitals has increased to 943 from 889 on Saturday, according to the latest state figures.

Of those patients, 169 were in intensive care, up nine from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds decreased by one to 169.

Because of a massive influx in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, San Diego County public health officials are urging residents to not only get all vaccinations and the booster shot, but to only seek testing for the illness if necessary. — City News Service

Ambulances forced to wait longer as COVID fills up emergency rooms
– 12:52 p.m., Monday, Jan. 10, 2022

There’s little to no room in many emergency rooms across San Diego County. COVID infections are spreading faster than ever because of the more contagious omicron variant.

Jeff Behm is the managing director of Falck San Diego, the city’s emergency services contractor. He said he’s never seen COVID calls as high as now — and he went through the surge on the East Coast in 2020.

"This is the worst situation that we’re seeing because of the call volume because there’s no lock down everybody's out and about doing their thing," said Behm. — Kitty Alvarado, KPBS General Assignment Reporter

FDA shortens the wait time between Moderna vaccine and booster to 5 months
– 3:55 p.m., Friday, Jan. 7, 2022

The period between getting the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and the first booster shot has been shortened to five months from six for people ages 18 and up, the Food and Drug Administration says.

The FDA's announcement Friday comes as the highly contagious omicron variant is spreading rapidly around the country and immunity from the first round of vaccines is fading. Over the weekend, more than 1 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with COVID-19.

"Vaccination is our best defense against COVID-19, including the circulating variants, and shortening the length of time between completion of a primary series and a booster dose may help reduce waning immunity," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement. – Deepa Shivaram, NPR

More than 500 SDPD employees have filed requests to be exempt from COVID vaccinations
– 3:53 p.m., Friday, Jan. 7, 2022

Nearly 1,100 city of San Diego employees have so far filed requests to be exempt from the city’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement — and more than half of those requests have come from San Diego Police Department (SDPD) employees, according to city records reviewed by KPBS.

As of Wednesday, the city had received 525 exemption requests from the SDPD, which accounts for more than 20% of the department’s workforce, the records show. Other city departments with high numbers of requests include fire, transportation, storm water and environmental services. Those departments, including the police, account for nearly 75% of all requests, the records show.

The numbers are particularly concerning to public health experts because employees of these departments have the most frequent interactions with the public, especially the police. And people don’t always have a choice about whether they come in close contact with police officers, said Rebecca Fielding-Miller, an epidemiologist at UC San Diego.

“It’s not like you can just walk away from a police officer if you don’t feel safe,” she said. “If it's mandatory that you have to spend time with somebody face to face, then that other person should have to be vaccinated because it's an airborne infectious disease.”

The police and fire unions did not return requests for comment. – Claire Trageser, KPBS Investigative Reporter

San Diego Unified pauses hunt for new superintendent amid COVID-19 spike
– 12:18 p.m., Friday, Jan. 7, 2022

Citing rising COVID-19 infections rates in the county, San Diego Unified School District board leaders announced Friday that during the month of January, they would pause all activities related to the search for the district's next superintendent.

Public forums planned for the coming week have been postponed. The State of the District Address, which was scheduled for Jan. 18, will also be postponed.

Christopher Rice-Wilson, chair of the district's Superintendent Search Advisory Committee, said he supported the board of trustees in the decision to postpone events.

"Dealing with this current COVID-19 surge should be the number one priority of school and district staff," he said in a statement. "There is no need to rush this search process and endanger our school community and stakeholders. Everyone's efforts should be focused on getting our district and community safely through yet another surge of this devastating pandemic." – City News Service

Official: California COVID surge could ease next month
– 9:04 a.m., Friday, Jan. 7, 2022

The California surge in coronavirus cases has shut down schools and sidelined thousands of police, firefighters, teachers and health care workers but officials are hoping it will be short-lived.

“My hope is that, you know, by the time we get to February, we’re on the downside of seeing that massive amount of community transmission,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.

California's number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has soared five-fold in two weeks and hospitalizations have doubled. LA County, the state's largest with 10 million residents, reported more than 37,000 new cases on Thursday, which was the highest level since the pandemic started. – Associated Press

County residents without severe COVID symptoms urged to stay away from ERs
– 3:10 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022

San Diego County residents were being urged Thursday to avoid emergency rooms for COVID-19 testing, amid increases in both hospitalizations and staffing shortages exacerbated by a surge in coronavirus infections.

The county Health and Human Services Agency recommended that people worried about COVID-19 infection and others seeking COVID-19 testing only go to a hospital to be tested if they have severe symptoms.

"Do not go to an emergency department just to get tested, and only go when you have symptoms that need emergency care," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer. "If you're experiencing no COVID-19 symptoms, have mild illness or have not been exposed to someone who tested positive, go to one of the many testing locations available in the region."

Together, all testing sites in the county have the capacity for around 45,000 tests daily. The HHSA said rapid antigen tests, which are available at many local pharmacies, are a good option if a testing site is unavailable. Those who test positive on a rapid should follow the healthcare guidance and generally do not need a confirmatory PCR test unless instructed by a doctor. — City News Service

State COVID kit delivery falls short for many San Diego school districts
– 3:07 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022

Several San Diego County school districts and charter schools received relief Wednesday in their desperate search for COVID-19 home test kits.

The State Department of Public Health delivered 193,000 at-home antigen rapid test kits to the County Office of Education late Tuesday. Based on Gov. Newsom’s December promise to provide 6-million rapid tests to public schools across the state, the county had requested 500,000 tests to cover every public school student.

The much smaller supply forced a distribution Wednesday of first-come, first-served to districts quick enough to respond to the email alert sent out.

All the districts and charters that did not get supplied are now on a waiting list for the next shipment. It is unknown when that shipment will come from the state or how many home tests will be included. – M.G. Perez, KPBS Education Reporter

Omicron surge hitting San Diego County employers hard
– 3:00 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022

The San Diego region’s employers are finding it hard to keep staffing levels up in the midst of the current surge of COVID-19 infections.

Health officials say the omicron variant is now the region’s dominant COVID-19 strain and the virus is driving record numbers of infections.

Big employers — like Sharp HealthCare — are being buffeted by the disease.

“At present, we have 510 Sharp COVID team members that are COVID-19 positive and currently not working,” said Chris Howard, Sharp Healthcare CEO. “And without a doubt, the current omicron surge is exacerbating what has already been a difficult situation in terms of staffing.”

UC San Diego’s Medical complex is also feeling the crush of new infections. That hospital facility has had more than 600 positive COVID cases among staff members in the past week.

“From the very first patients that we took from Wuhan China when the first planes landed at Miramar and to now, this has been where I’ve been the most concerned about where we sit and it's just because every day so many staff are going out,” said Patty Maycent, UC San Diego Health CEO.

Officials say 196 UC San Diego Health staffers had positive tests in just a 24-hour period early this week. – Erik Anderson, KPBS Environment Reporter

With omicron driving COVID surge, California extends indoor mask mandate
– 2:57 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022

A statewide mandate requiring people to wear masks in indoor public settings will remain in place until at least Feb. 15, the state's Health and Human Services secretary announced Wednesday, pointing to rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

The state-imposed the mandate on Dec. 15, and it had been scheduled to expire on Jan. 15.

Among the indoor public spaces affected are retail stores, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers and government offices that serve the public. — City News Service

SDSU makes temporary shift to remote learning
– 11:05 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022

San Diego State University (SDSU) announced a temporary shift to online instruction for the first two weeks of its spring semester. The decision comes as San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency anticipates a mid-January spike in coronavirus cases.

Most classes will be virtual from Jan. 19 to Feb. 4 with a plan to return to in-person instruction on Feb. 7. Students in courses with in-person activities scheduled will receive an email from their professor with further instruction.

During this two week period, the campus will remain open. On-campus residences will reopen Jan. 17 as planned. However, SDSU is encouraging residential students to delay their return to campus.

Campus services such as Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services and the University Library will remain open as well.

“The temporary start in the virtual space will allow the January case spike to subside, and also provide a window for those who recently received their COVID-19 booster an additional two-week period for it to take full effect,” read a statement from SDSU leadership. – Lara McCaffrey, KPBS web producer

San Diego County Reports 7,786 New COVID-19 Cases, 11 Deaths
– 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022

The number of coronavirus cases continues to increase at an alarming pace in San Diego County, with the county's Health and Human Services Agency reporting 7,786 positive cases and 11 deaths in its latest data.

Tuesday's numbers increased the county's cumulative totals to 457,504 cases and 4,487 deaths since the pandemic began. The county reported 13,587 new cases of the virus on Monday.

A total of 18,903 tests were reported Tuesday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 24.1%, up from 23.3% on Monday. — City News Service

More COVID home test kits to be distributed starting Wednesday to San Diego schools
– 2:31 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) on Tuesday received 200,000 COVID-19 home test kits and will start distributing them to schools Wednesday. Parents will be contacted by their district on how to receive testing kits.

Local school districts and charter schools will begin to pick up test kits from the Office of Education’s warehouse. Because SDCOE has only received part of its promised allocation of 300,00 kits, tests will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each San Diego County K-12 student will receive one to two at-home antigen (rapid) tests to use as they return to school from winter break.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Dec. 22 that the state would provide 6 million rapid tests to California’s schools. The kits are intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 among students as they return to in-person classes. – Lara McCaffrey, KPBS web producer

WATCH LIVE: President Biden addresses the nation as omicron cases surge, inundating hospitals
– 11:18 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

President Biden & Vice President Harris Meet with Members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team

These are the numbers health officials are watching at this point in the pandemic
– 11:32 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

The U.S. is now averaging more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. This comes after a week where new case counts shattered the previous day's records again and again. And even those staggering numbers are probably an undercount.

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NPR last week that with so many people testing at home, it is hard to capture the true number of cases.

Many people are wondering how meaningful the case numbers are at this point in the pandemic, but Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at Emory University, says they're still useful because they reflect how much infection is in a community. — Mary Louise Kelly, Megan Lim, Christopher Intagliata, NPR

Congress' doctor urges lawmakers to work remotely and upgrade masks as omicron rages
– 11:29 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

The chief doctor for Congress is urging lawmakers and staff members to take greater precautions in protecting themselves from the coronavirus as the U.S. Capitol grapples with an explosive spike in COVID-19 cases.

The Capitol's attending physician, Brian Monahan, said Monday that the Capitol COVID-19 testing center's seven-day "positivity rate went from less than 1 percent to greater than 13 percent" since the end of November.

In a letter to congressional offices, Monahan advised members to shift toward remote work, noting that hundreds of people have been infected. For those choosing to remain on the Hill, he suggested cloth face coverings should be swapped out with more robust N95 or KN95 masks. — Vanessa Romo, NPR

CDC signs off on Pfizer extra dose measures
– 11:28 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on two measures to increase access to additional doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

The CDC on Tuesday recommended shortening the recommended interval of time between when people who had an initial series of Pfizer vaccinations and when they receive a Pfizer booster shot, from six months to five months.

The agency has not changed the recommended booster interval for people who got other vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson booster interval is two months and the Moderna vaccine can be given six months after initial doses. — Associated Press

More than 1 million Americans were diagnosed with COVID over the long holiday weekend
– 11:25 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

The U.S. reported a record 1,082,549 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It's the latest in a series of staggering milestones brought on by the highly transmissible omicron variant, which is sweeping across the U.S. and around the world.

The U.S. has broken several of its own COVID-19 records in recent days. Last week Johns Hopkins reported more than 480,000 new cases in a single day, more than double the number of daily cases reported during the peak of the delta surge. The seven-day average topped 280,000.

For reference: The country was averaging about 70,000 cases a day in early November. — Rachel Treisman, NPR

The CDC now recommends Pfizer boosters after 5 months, not 6
– 10:14 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

People who were initially immunized with two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should receive a booster shot after five months, rather than six, according to a new recommendation from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The move comes after the Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the change in the Pfizer booster interval, saying that a third shot after five months may "provide better protection sooner for individuals against the highly transmissible omicron variant."

In a statement, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said urged eligible Americans to receive a booster as soon as possible. – Associated Press

Officials are determined to keep schools open, despite omicron
– 5:05 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, 2022

Updated January 3, 2022 at 7:05 PM ET
As the pandemic slides into a fifth school semester, there is less appetite than ever among U.S. leaders for schools to go remote, even though cases – and with them, pediatric hospitalizations – are rising. According to Burbio, an organization that tracks individual school and district websites, the vast majority of U.S. schools are staying open for in-person learning this week.

Still, Burbio reports that at least 3,229 schools around the country announced they were cancelling in-person learning as of Monday evening. Some announced closures for one week. That includes Atlanta and Fulton County in Georgia and Ann Arbor, Mich. Others are closing for two weeks, including schools in Newark, Paterson and Elizabeth, N.J.; Mount Vernon, N.Y.; Pontiac, Mich.; and Prince George County in Maryland. — Anya Kamenetz, NPR

The FDA authorizes a Pfizer booster shot for children ages 12 to 15
– 9:41 a.m. Monday, Jan. 3, 2022

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of a Pfizer-BioNTech booster in adolescents 12 to 15 years old.

The agency on Monday also shortened the time between the completion of primary vaccination of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and a booster dose to five months from six.

Finally, the FDA allowed for a third dose of vaccine in immunocompromised children 5 to 11 years of age.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, must still weigh in with a recommendation on the FDA's announcement before the changes can take effect.

"Throughout the pandemic, as the virus that causes COVID-19 has continuously evolved, the need for the FDA to quickly adapt has meant using the best available science to make informed decisions with the health and safety of the American public in mind," acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., said in a statement. — Scott Hensley and Joe Hernandez, NPR

CDC could add a negative test to its new isolation guidelines, Fauci says
– 9:37 a.m. Monday, Jan. 3, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering altering its recommendations for people with COVID-19 after it got pushback on its new guidelines, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

President Biden's chief medical adviser said there was "some concern" that the CDC told people to isolate for five days but did not recommend that they get a negative test before leaving isolation.

"That is something that is now under consideration," Fauci said Sunday during an interview on ABC's This Week.

On Monday the CDC cut the number of days it recommends COVID-positive people remain in isolation from 10 days to five if they are no longer showing symptoms. People are urged to wear masks for another five days after that to avoid infecting others.

The CDC said transmission generally occurs one or two days before symptoms begin and two to three days after. Health officials were also concerned that the high number of people testing positive with the virus and being forced to isolate — particularly essential workers — could cause major disruptions to the economy. — Joe Hernandez, NPR

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KPBS Staff