Concerns about public safety in L.A.

Luke 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Important Takeaways:

  • More than 1,000 L.A.-area police officers, firefighters, paramedics ill or home quarantining due to COVID
  • More than 500 employees of the Los Angeles Police Department — including 416 sworn officers
  • The Los Angeles Fire Department had 201 employees out due to the coronavirus
  • Sheriff’s Department had 552 employees out, including 389 sworn deputies
  • A spokesman for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti called it an “unprecedented surge”

Read the original article by clicking here.

Report new variant of COVID

Luke 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Important Takeaways:

  • New COVID-19 variant found in France nicknamed IHU: report
  • The ‘IHU’ variant, or B.1.640.2, has 46 mutations
  • The first patient identified with the variant returned to France from visiting Cameroon
  • Infected individuals in the southern Alps region in the country.

Read the original article by clicking here.

During Covid Freedom is Suppressed

Rev 6:7, 8 NCV When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse. Its rider was named death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill people by war, by starvation, by disease, and by the wild animals of the earth.

Important Takeaways:

  • How These Western Countries Suppressed Freedom During COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Dennis Prager “Looking at the government overreach and abuses of power in virtually every other Western nation, one can only conclude that America truly is the last free man standing.”
  • Canada – Canada is one of the only countries in the world that bans the unvaccinated from all public transportation—airplanes, trains, and buses. And no Canadian home can entertain more than three non-household visitors—a ban that prevented families and friends from getting together for Christmas.
  • Europe – most European countries introduced the so-called health pass or “European COVID-19 Pass.”
  • Netherlands – anti-lockdown protest was banned by the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, because people would “not be adhering to social distancing rules.” Thousands of people nevertheless showed up. They were met with drones, water cannons, and huge numbers of police. Footage capturing a police dog biting down on a peaceful protester’s arm has gone viral.
  • France – Starting next week, working from home will become compulsory for those who can. So, too, wearing a mask is compulsory throughout the country for everyone aged 11 and over in enclosed spaces and on public transport, on pain of a fine.
  • Australia – Australia placed most of its citizens under house arrest for much of 2021. Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, described by the Voice of America on Oct. 21 as “officially the world’s most locked down city,” was locked down 260 days.  Residents were prohibited from traveling more than 5 kilometers from their homes. Schools were, and remain, closed, and international travel was, and remains, prohibited. Needless to say, all shops, bars, and restaurants were closed.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Some COVID-positive essential workers to continue working in Canada’s Quebec -minister

(Reuters) – Quebec, the second most populous Canadian province, has “no choice” but to allow some essential workers to continue working even after testing positive for COVID-19 to prevent staff shortages from impeding its healthcare services, Health Minister Christian Dube said Tuesday.

Quebec, which has been setting daily records since the Omicron variant started a new wave of rapidly rising infections, recorded 12,833 new cases on Monday – the highest one-day count of any region in Canada during the pandemic.

“Omicron’s contagion is so exponential, that a huge number of personnel have to be withdrawn – and that poses a risk to the network capacity to treat Quebecers,” Dube told reporters at a briefing.

“We made the decision that under a certain condition positive staff will be able to continue working according to a list of priority and risk management,” he said, adding that more information would be provided in the coming days.

Dube said Quebec would also offer a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to everyone above the age of 18 from Jan. 4.

Last week, Quebec ordered bars, gyms and casinos to shut and directed people to work only from home. It also limited the size of gatherings at private homes and restaurants to six people.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Alistair Bell)

CDC cuts quarantine time for all Americans with COVID-19 to 5 days

(Reuters) -U.S. health authorities on Monday shortened the recommended time for isolation for asymptomatic Americans with COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said the people who test positive after quarantining should follow five days of wearing a mask when around others.

Omicron accounts for 73% of U.S. coronavirus infections, the federal CDC had said last week.

Breakthrough infections are rising among the fully vaccinated population, including those who have had a third booster shot. However, Omicron appears to be causing milder symptoms in those people, some of whom have no symptoms at all.

Reducing the CDC’s 10-day quarantine recommendation would help asymptomatic people return to work or school, with proper precautions, White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci had told CNN last week.

The CDC on Monday also gave guidance for people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose or more than two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and not yet boosted. It recommended quarantine for them for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional six days.

Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure should wear a mask for 10 days, the CDC said.

(Reporting by Dania Nadeem in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Fauci suggests air travel vaccine mandate as Omicron grounds U.S. flights

By Gabriella Borter and Aishwarya Nair

(Reuters) -Skyrocketing COVID-19 cases hobbled U.S. airline staff on Monday, causing hundreds of flight cancellations, and prompted the country’s top infectious disease expert to suggest the government consider a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel.

Monday’s air travel woes capped a glum Christmas weekend for thousands of stranded passengers waiting in airport queues and on customer service phone lines to re-book flights, often days after originally planned.

Rising infections from the Omicron variant forced airlines to cancel flights as pilots and cabin crew fell sick and needed to quarantine.

A total 1,130 flights into, within or out of the United States were canceled by Monday afternoon, according to the flight tracking website flightaware.com. Airlines said the virus and bad weather both were to blame.

The average number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has risen 55% to over 205,000 per day over the last seven days, according to a Reuters tally.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top U.S. infectious disease expert, on Monday recommended the federal government consider a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel.

“That is just another one of the requirements that I think is reasonable to consider,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official and a member of the White House COVID-19 response team, told MSNBC in an interview.

U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters on Monday, declined to say whether he endorsed a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel.

He did say he was open to reducing quarantine times for other Americans after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week said healthcare workers could isolate for seven instead of 10 days.

In another instance of Omicron-induced travel misery, the CDC said on Monday it was investigating 68 cruise ships after reports of COVID-19 cases on board.

SEVEN-HOUR HOLD TIME

On Monday, snowy weather in the Pacific Northwest was also part of the reason for more than 90 canceled flights that were due to land at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

A representative for Alaska Airlines, which canceled more than 140 flights on Monday due partly to snowy conditions in Seattle, told a passenger on Twitter that it would be hours before someone from customer service could speak by phone, signaling the extent to which airline phone lines were overwhelmed with frustrated passengers.

“The hold time is about 7 hours. I am so sorry,” Alaska Airlines wrote on Twitter in response to a customer complaint.

Harley Garner, a 27-year-old creative strategist from Portland, and his brother from Seattle were staying with their parents in Pahrump, Nevada, over the holidays and had planned to fly home on Sunday evening. Both brothers’ respective flights -to Portland via Alaska Airlines and to Seattle via Allegiant Airlines – were canceled on Sunday afternoon. Both managed to book seats on later flights – Garner’s brother got one late Sunday night, and Garner booked one for 6 a.m. on Monday.

Then their second flights were canceled. They decided to drive and got on the road shortly after 3 a.m. on Monday. Garner’s father was driving his sons to Bakersfield, California, where they planned to rent a car and then drive up to Portland and Seattle, totaling some 17 hours on the road.

Garner said the most frustrating part of the travel nightmare, which Alaska Airlines said was weather-related, although Portland was not experiencing severe weather on Monday, was the last-minute notification of cancellations.

“If you know a plane isn’t going to leave one place and that’s a connector flight, then just cancel that flight,” he said. “Don’t play these games like you don’t know that there’s a staff shortage because of the coronavirus.”

Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines said on Monday that their cancellations were due to weather. Delta Airlines said in a statement that its 200 Monday cancellations were due to weather and the Omicron variant. JetBlue said crew shortages were behind its dozens of Monday flight cancellations.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter, Aishwarya Nair, Jonathan Allen and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Dan Grebler and Howard Goller)

France’s COVID-19 cases reach national record while deaths also rise

PARIS (Reuters) -France had its worst-ever day in terms of new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with more than 91,000 new cases being recorded while the number of deaths also climbed, as the country battles against a fifth wave of the virus.

“Today’s figures are not good,” said Health Minister Olivier Veran.

Veran had earlier told reporters that the case number would stand at around 88,000 for Thursday, but the final official tally from the health ministry showed 91,608 new cases.

Veran had already warned earlier this week that France would soon be at 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day.

Data from the health ministry also showed that France registered a further 179 COVID-19 deaths in hospitals over the last 24 hours, while the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units reached 3,208, up by 61 from the previous day.

President Emmanuel Macron is hoping France’s COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign will help to contain the fifth wave of the coronavirus to hit the country.

He is aiming to avoid imposing tough, new restrictions, although the French government has said all options will be considered to tackle any rapid deterioration in France’s COVID-19 situation.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Juliette Jabkhiro, editing by Mark Heinrich, Barbara Lewis and Aurora Ellis)

U.S. population grew at record low rate in 2021, in part due to COVID-19

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – The United States’ population grew at a slower rate in 2021 than in any other year on record as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the more subdued growth the country has experienced in recent years, the U.S. Census Bureau said.

“The slow rate of growth can be attributed to decreased net international migration, decreased fertility, and increased mortality due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Census Bureau said on Tuesday.

The year 2021 is the first time since 1937 that the U.S. population grew by fewer than 1 million people, reflecting the lowest numeric growth since at least 1900, when the Census Bureau began annual population estimates.

The population of the United States increased in the past year by 392,665, or 0.1%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Vintage 2021 Population Estimates released on Tuesday.

Slower population growth has been a trend in the United States for several years, the result of decreasing fertility and net international migration, combined with increasing mortality due to an aging population.

Between 2020 and 2021, the population of 33 U.S. states increased. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia lost population. Eleven of those 18 areas that lost population had losses of 10,000 people or more, the figures released on Tuesday showed.

“Apart from the last few years, when population growth slowed to historically low levels, the slowest rate of growth in the 20th century was from 1918-1919 amid the influenza pandemic and World War One,” Luke Rogers, chief of the Census Bureau’s population estimates branch, said.

Since April 1, 2020 (Census Day), the nation’s population increased from 331,449,281 to 331,893,745, a gain of 0.13%, the figures showed.

The United States’ official death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has been by far the highest in the world with over 800,000 deaths recorded in the country from the disease, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Rise of Omicron dashes New York’s Christmas cheer as COVID surges

By Maria Caspani and Gabriella Borter

NEW YORK (Reuters) -COVID-19 cases surged in New York City and around the United States over the weekend, dashing hopes for a more normal holiday season, resurrecting restrictions and stretching the country’s testing infrastructure ahead of holiday travel and gatherings.

The spike is alarming public health officials, who see the Omicron variant of the coronavirus fast becoming dominant in the United States and fear an explosion of infections after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

With the new variant in circulation, COVID-19 cases are now doubling in one and a half to three days in areas with community transmission, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

Lines for COVID-19 tests wrapped around the block in New York, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities over the weekend as people clamored to find out if they were infected before celebrating the holidays with family.

“I just want to make sure before seeing my wife’s 70-year-old mom that I’m negative,” said David Jochnowitz while waiting for a test in Washington.

With a rapid rise in infections, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday reinstated an indoor mask mandate until the end of January and required government workers to get vaccinated, including a booster shot.

“I think we’re all tired of it,” Bowser told reporters. “I’m tired of it too, but we have to respond to what’s happening in our city and what’s happening in our nation.”

In New York City, COVID-19 cases rose 60% in the week that ended on Sunday as the Omicron variant spread rapidly around the U.S. northeast. New York has set records for the most new cases reported in a single day since the pandemic started for three consecutive days.

“It is a predictor of what the rest of the country will see soon, and the minimum – since NYC is highly vaccinated – of what other parts of the country will experience in under-vaccinated cities and states,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director for American Public Health Association.

Many Broadway productions canceled performances as cast and crew have become infected. The popular “Hamilton” production on Monday extended cancellations until after Christmas due to breakthrough COVID-19 infections.

Breakthrough infections are rising among the 61% of the country’s fully vaccinated population, including the 30% who have gotten booster shots.

Omicron appears to be causing milder symptoms in vaccinated populations, and health experts remain optimistic this wave might not cause the same spikes in hospitalizations and deaths as previous surges.

‘JUST STAY HOME’

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi on Monday said that while new COVID-19 cases have “increased sharply,” hospitalizations have not jumped at the same rate. He credited vaccinations and booster shots, which help prevent severe illness, and urged that more were needed to build a “sea wall” against the variant.

The rise of Omicron prompted Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday to require all students, faculty and staff to get a COVID-19 booster shot for the upcoming spring semester.

On Monday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced he tested positive for COVID-19. U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren said the same on Sunday. All three said they had been vaccinated and boosted.

Nationally, cases rose 9% in the past week but are up 57% since the start of December, according to a Reuters tally. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients have increased 26% this month, with hospitals in some areas already strained by the Delta variant.

While cases climbed in the U.S. Northeast, Midwest hospitals are still dealing with a surge in patients from a Delta wave this fall. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio have the nation’s most hospitalized COVID patients per 100,000 residents, a Reuters tally found.

In New York City, the daily test rate reached an average of 130,000 per day, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Monday, more than double three weeks ago.

With demand for tests exceeding capacity, de Blasio said the city was working with the White House and private sector to help increase testing availability.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Monday she was ramping up the state’s testing program, with 1 million kits arriving this week and the same amount in each of the next two weeks.

“More and more people are going to be testing positive from this,” she said. For those who do, she advised: “Just stay home, do not go out. Don’t go to work. Don’t go see your family.”

Omicron’s arrival is a headwind for an economic revival in New York that already lags the rest of the country, especially where employment is concerned.

The pandemic delivered an even larger body blow to the city than the country because of the outsized role played by tourism, leisure and hospitality, which suffered the worst under lockdowns and travel restrictions. New York’s jobless rate topped out at 20% in the spring of 2020 – more than 5 percentage points above the U.S. average, and is still 9%, more than twice the national rate.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Additional reporting and writing by Gabriella Borter in Washington and Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Carl O’Donnell in New York and and Greg Savoy in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

WHO sounds warning over fast-spreading Omicron

By Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) -The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the COVID-19 disease, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan added it would be “unwise” to conclude from early evidence that Omicron was a milder variant that previous ones.

“… with the numbers going up, all health systems are going to be under strain,” Soumya Swaminathan told Geneva-based journalists.

The variant is successfully evading some immune responses, she said, meaning that the booster programs being rolled out in many countries ought to be targeted towards people with weaker immune systems.

“There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the briefing.

“And it is more likely people vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or re-infected,” Tedros said.

Their comments echoed the finding of study by Imperial College London, which said last week the risk of reinfection was more than five times higher and it has shown no sign of being milder than Delta.

WHO officials said however that other forms of immunity vaccinations may prevent infection and disease.

While the antibody defenses from some actions have been undermined, there has been hope that T-cells, the second pillar of an immune response, can prevent severe disease by attacking infected human cells.

WHO expert Abdi Mahamud added: “Although we are seeing a reduction in the neutralization antibodies, almost all preliminary analysis shows T-cell mediated immunity remains intact, that is what we really require.”

However, highlighting how little is known about how to handle the new variant that was only detected last month, Swaminathan also said: “Of course there is a challenge, many of the monoclonals will not work with Omicron.”

She gave no details as she referred to the treatments that mimic natural antibodies in fighting off infections. Some drug makers have suggested the same.

ENDING THE PANDEMIC

In the short term, Tedros said that holiday festivities would in many places lead to “increased cases, overwhelmed health systems and more deaths” and urged people to postpone gatherings.

“An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled,” he said.

But the WHO team also offered some hope to a weary world facing the new wave that 2022 would be the year that the pandemic, which already killed more than 5.6 million people worldwide, would end.

It pointed towards the development of second and third generation vaccines, and the further development of antimicrobial treatments and other innovations.

“(We) hope to consign this disease to a relatively mild disease that is easily prevented, that is easily treated,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, told the briefing.

“If we can keep virus transmission to minimum, then we can bring the pandemic to an end.”

However Tedros also said China, where the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was first detected at the end of 2019, must be forthcoming with data and information related to its origin to help the response going forward.

“We need to continue until we know the origins, we need to push harder because we should learn from what happened this time in order to (do) better in the future,” Tedros said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge; Editing by Alison Williams)