Several Common Rapid Antigen Tests Work Well For Omicron According To A New Study
Several rapid antigen tests that are widely used in the United States Abbott BinaxNow, BD Veritor At-Home and Quidel QuickVue are effective in detecting the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to a new real-world study that eases concerns about possible false negative test results.
The tests performed similarly for Omicron and the Delta variant in the study, which was released on Monday but has not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal. Among people who tested positive for the virus on a P.C.R. test, 61 percent of those with Omicron infections also tested positive on a rapid antigen test within 48 hours, compared with 46 percent of those with Delta infections, according to the research, a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and UMass Chan Medical School. The difference between variants was not statistically significant.
The tests performed better among people with the highest viral loads, detecting more than 90 percent of Omicron and Delta infections in this group, the researchers found.
This study adds to the body of evidence that says that Omicron can be detected with the home tests that we have, said Nathaniel Hafer, a molecular biologist at the UMass medical school and an author of the study.
But experts had noted that the tests still needed to be evaluated in large, real-world studies.
Gov Ron Desantiss Surgeon General Gives His Pandemic Policies A Seal Of Approval
Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo has come out strongly against mask mandates and lockdowns, supports vaccination campaigns only if the shots are voluntary and will not say whether he himself has been vaccinated.
But in pushing for State Senate confirmation of Dr. Ladapo as Floridas next surgeon general, Gov. Ron DeSantis has found a partner in fighting what Dr. Ladapo calls the policies of fear.
For a Republican governor whose brash opposition to conventional public health wisdom has helped fuel obvious presidential ambitions, the appointment of Dr. Ladapo signals Mr. DeSantiss determination to continue powering through a pandemic that has already cost 68,000 lives in Florida this time, with what the governor can claim is a medical seal of approval.
Florida ranks among the 20 worst states in the country for its pandemic death rate and among the 10 worst for its case rate, but Mr. DeSantis has argued that the state also suffers when its economy and schools are restricted.
The Florida Senate confirmed Dr. Ladapos appointment on Wednesday by a 24-15 vote, with all Republicans voting in favor over strong objections from Democrats.
On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis and Dr. Ladapo issued new virus guidelines that they characterized as a way to buck the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We have no need for any theater in Florida, Mr. DeSantis said in a video announcement.
Kitty Bennett and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
Restrictions Lifted In Kentucky
The Kentucky General Assembly passed a controversial proposal Sept. 9 that gets rid of the state’s mask mandate for public schools. Masks are back in Kentucky state offices following an advisory July 27 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people should wear them indoors in areas of “substantial and high transmission.” Gov. Andy Breshear on June 11 signed an executive order rescinding all of his previous restrictions.
Stay-at-home order:Started March 26, 2020
Affected sectors:Health, Restaurants
Caseload:The number of confirmed new cases is growing, with 15,726 for the seven days ending December 22 compared to 15,289 the seven days prior.
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Lagging Vaccine Campaigns Are Leaving Caribbean Nations Imperiled Who Officials Say
Though new coronavirus cases and deaths are declining across the Americas, the Caribbean remains particularly vulnerable to the virus, in part because of vaccination struggles, World Health Organization officials warned on Wednesday.
Out of 13 countries and territories in the Americas that have not yet reached W.H.O.s goal of 40 percent coverage, 10 are in the Caribbean, Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, said at a news conference, referring to shares of their populations that have been vaccinated. The organization Dr. Etienne heads is a regional arm of the W.H.O.
There are vast differences in vaccination rates within the region. The stable, prosperous Cayman Islands has vaccinated 91 percent of its residents, according to P.A.H.O., while turbulent, low-income Haiti has managed to vaccinate just 1 percent.
Some Caribbean countries are hampered by shortages of health care workers and have set up vaccination sites only in central areas, which may be far from many of the people who need them, Dr. Etienne said.
There can also be a significant segment of the population that is resistant to being vaccinated, she said, noting that some may have questions and fears about the vaccines and others may think the coronavirus is no longer a serious threat to them. The spread and death toll of Omicron have shown that underestimating this virus only fuels the pandemic and leads to more suffering, Dr. Etienne said.
Manitoba Ending All Covid
Manitoba has announced it is speeding up the relaxing of public health orders in the province, with a plan to have all orders in the province, including proof of vaccination requirements and the mask mandate, removed by March 15.
Premier Heather Stefanson and Dr. Brent Roussin made the announcement Friday morning, noting the first stage of lifting restrictions will take place on Feb. 15.
Manitobans have put their lives on hold, and its time that we give them their lives back, she said.
Roussin said based on provincial data, Omicron has peaked in the province and is beginning to subside.
Just like many times in this pandemic, weve had to shift our response based on what were seeing with the virus, he said. As a result of what were seeing now, with the trends and the modelling, we are in a very important transitional phase for the COVID-19 response here.
Provincial data was not provided during the press conference, but was uploaded online later Friday. It can be found below.
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Restrictions Lifted In Michigan
Michigan health officials have instituted a mask advisory in late November, recommending everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, when at indoor gatherings. The State Senate previously approved a series of bills aimed at curtailing or banning COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates for students and others participating in activities pertaining to K-12 schools. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed two bills Sept. 10, including another GOP-backed effort to curtail powers used by the administration to combat COVID-19. That legislation attempted to prevent the Whitmer administration from using the public threat alert system to send out notifications regarding new mask rules, gathering restrictions or similar health and safety orders. Michigan ended all restrictions to masking and gathering requirements June 22.
Stay-at-home order:Started March 24, 2020 ended on June 5, 2020
Affected sectors:Outdoor recreation, Retail
Caseload:The number of confirmed new cases is growing, with 45,899 for the seven days ending December 22 compared to 45,889 the seven days prior.
Italy Says It Will End Its Pandemic State Of Emergency On March 31
Italy will allow its coronavirus-related state of emergency to expire on March 31, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, because the success of the vaccine campaign had greatly improved the situation in the country.
The state of emergency, first introduced Jan. 31, 2020, gave national and regional authorities special powers to cut through red tape and act swiftly on public health measures. It was renewed several times as Italy was hit with successive waves of coronavirus cases.
About 78 percent of Italys residents are fully vaccinated. Though the most recent surge of coronavirus cases, driven by the Omicron variant, has receded significantly, the country is still averaging roughly 50,000 new cases a day, more than at any time before the surge took hold in December, according to a New York Times database.
Speaking to local authorities and entrepreneurs in Florence on Wednesday, Mr. Draghi said that Italy needed to emerge from the pandemic to prosper. He said his government was aware of the fact that the soundness of the recovery depends above all on overcoming the emergency of the moment.
The time had come, he said, for a gradual return to normal conditions, with schools kept open and quarantine rules relaxed. He said Italys color-coded system of coronavirus restrictions, which limited access to a wide array of activities, would be dropped when the emergency ends.
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Restrictions Are Easing In Hawaii
Since Dec. 1, Hawaii counties no longer need the governor’s approval to institute emergency orders, but the statewide indoor mask mandate remains. Capacity requiremements for events on Oahu were lifted the same day, and gyms can operate at full capacity. Hawaii reopened to fully vaccinated international travelers Nov. 8. Gov. David Ige said the state would follow federal guidelines as international travelers must show both their vaccination record and a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the U.S.
Stay-at-home order:Started March 25, 2020 ended on May 31, 2020
Affected sectors:Beaches, Health
Caseload:The number of confirmed new cases is growing, with 5,379 for the seven days ending December 22 compared to 1,363 the seven days prior.
Restrictions Have Been Lifted In Missouri
Missouri lifted its mask mandate for everyone in outdoor areas in April and for fully vaccinated people in indoor areas in May. Gov. Mike Parson enacted a law June 15 limiting the duration of local public health restrictions and barring governments from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to use public facilities and transportation. Parson let his statewide social distancing order lapse June 9, 2020, leaving it to local governments to impose limits on public life amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Stay-at-home order:Started April 6, 2020 ended on May 3, 2020
Affected sectors:Restaurants, Retail
Caseload:The number of confirmed new cases is growing, with 20,606 for the seven days ending December 22 compared to 18,527 the seven days prior.
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Ontario Lifts Nearly All Major Covid
Ontario lifted nearly all of its COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday, bringing the province the closest its been to a pre-pandemic state since spring 2020.
Effective Tuesday, Ontario lifted its proof of vaccination requirement for indoor non-essential settings. Capacity limits in all other indoor public settings were also lifted.
The limit for indoor social gatherings has been increased to 50 people, while limits on outdoor social gatherings have been removed altogether.
Masking requirements remain in place. While the Ontario government hasnt set a date for when mask mandates will be lifted, Premier Doug Ford said Monday the province isnt far away from removing the restrictions.
Vaccine requirements in industries such as long-term care and health care remain in place for now.
The province has also said that businesses are permitted to keep proof of vaccination requirements in place if they so choose something some Ontario businesses have already expressed interest in doing.
After the Omicron variant hit Ontario, resulting in another wave of strict public health measures, the province began reopening in late January, allowing gyms and indoor dining to resume at 50 per cent capacity.
Each part of Ontarios three-step plan was supposed to be separated by at least 21 days in order for the province to monitor public health trends. However, the province announced an expedited timeline in early February, a move that would see Ontario almost fully reopened fourteen days earlier.
Pei Implementing ‘hopeful’ Three
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King says the province will be implementing a three-step plan to loosen COVID-19 restrictions in phases, with hopes to have most restrictions lifted around the beginning of April.
King says Step 1 is scheduled to take effect on Feb. 17, when some restrictions will be loosened. More restrictions will be further reduced in Step 2, which is scheduled to take effect in mid-March, while Step 3 has a target date to take effect around April 7.
“This not a declaration that COVID is over, or that COVID will disappear and that we are standing here and saying, ‘Mission accomplished,'” said King. “COVID is with us and it will be with us.”
“I think we are at a point … when the epidemiology and the trends across the country, the region and the province kind of allows us to look a little more firmly at our long-awaited return to a life without COVID restrictions,” said King during a news conference in Charlottetown on Tuesday.
Prince Edward Island Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison says Tuesday is a time for Islanders to look forward with hope and optimism.
“Although COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, we certainly have tools and information now much more than we did before,” said Morrison. “This plan really highlights how we will plan to ease out of current measures and live with this virus as COVID-19 becomes endemic, not only here, but across the country.”
The P.E.I. Vax Pass will remain in effect during Step 1.
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Almost All Covid Restrictions To Be Lifted From 6am Tomorrow
Almost all COVID restrictions will be lifted tomorrow morning.
Almost all COVID restrictions will be lifted tomorrow morning, under plans being considered by Cabinet.
Government party leaders met this morning to discuss the latest advice from NPHET, which cleared the way for almost all restrictions to be lifted as soon as Government saw fit.
While there were calls for the restrictions to end this evening, the plan going before Cabinet would see them lapse from 6am tomorrow.
Restrictions on hospitality, live events, household visits, caps on weddings, social distancing, Covid passes and sporting fixtures to end at 6am tomorrow under plans gone to Cabinet
The changes include an end to the 8pm curfew, the use of COVID certs for hospitality, the ban on bar service and social distancing in bars and restaurants.
Capacity restrictions for events and weddings are also set to be scrapped alongside the limits on household visits.
The return to the office can begin on a phased basis from Monday, under the proposal.
Reporting from Sean Defoe.
Ramping Up Supply Of Ppe
In Maryland, a multi-agency task force has been working around the clock to ramp up our supply of personal protective equipment , with large deliveries of N95, KN95, and surgical masks beds and bed packages face shields gloves and other critical resources coming into the states warehouses on a daily basis. The State of Maryland has distributed millions of units of PPE to hospitals, state agencies, local health departments, and front line workers.
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Ontario Didn’t Lift Covid
Premier Doug Ford said he doesnt believe Ontario lifted COVID-19 restrictions too early, despite a recent uptick in hospitalizations and other indications the virus is spreading quickly.
I dont think so, considering we were one of the last in North America, Ford told reporters in Ottawa when asked if the province ended restrictions too soon.
Ive been accused of being the most cautious leader in North America. Everyone else in the whole country has taken their masks off.
Ford also suggested he doesnt think the government would have to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions if the numbers surge as they did in previous waves.
Lets talk about thatif God forbid that ever happensat the time. But were prepared, he said. Weve learned a tremendous amount over the last two years.
The Ontario government lifted masking rules in most places on Monday, despite some public health experts suggesting they should remain in place for a few more weeks. The province has also lifted all capacity limits.
Quebecs mask mandate remains in place, although it has lifted masking requirements in schools. Prince Edward Island also requires masks, which Ford mentioned later in the news conference.
Health Minister Christine Elliott added that the government expected an uptick in COVID-19 wastewater data, which has been reported in recent weeks, as restrictions lifted.
This is something that was suggested we would see in any event, so its not surprising to us at all.
Restrictions Lifted In Alaska
There is no mask requirement in Alaska, however the state recommends mask wearing in public spaces where physical distancing isn’t possible. This summer the state also opened its borders to all travelers and is offering visitors a free COVID vaccine. The state’s emergency declaration expired in February. Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced life could go back to the way it was “prior to the virus” on May 22, 2020, but local governments could still offer health guidance.
Stay-at-home order:Started March 11, 2020 ended on April 21, 2020
Affected sectors:Health, Cosmetology
Caseload:The number of confirmed new cases is shrinking, with 1,062 for the seven days ending December 22 compared to 1,255 the seven days prior.
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Restrictions Lifted In New York
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that starting Dec. 13, masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places in New York unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement for entry. The measure will remain in place until Jan. 15. A universal mask requirement is also in place for all schools. The state lifted many of its remaining safety restrictions in June.
Stay-at-home order:Started March 22, 2020 ended on May 15, 2020
Affected sectors:Outdoor recreation, Health
Caseload:The number of confirmed new cases is growing, with 153,909 for the seven days ending December 22 compared to 75,109 the seven days prior.
Phase 2 Starts March 7
Nova Scotia is scheduled to enter Phase 2 of its reopening plan on March 7.
“Phase 2 will last for two weeks and we will be monitoring our usual indicators closely during that time, and if everything remains stable, we will move to Phase 3 on March 21,” said Strang. “At that point, restrictions and mandates will end.”
In Phase 2, the following restrictions will be in place:
- The informal gathering limit will be 25 people from the same household or close social group indoors and 50 outdoors.
- The formal gathering limit will be 75 per cent capacity, with physical distancing as much as possible. This applies for gatherings hosted by a recognized business or organization such as special events, sports, receptions, performances, movie theatres, meetings, training, weddings, funerals and faith gatherings.
- Large venues can operate at 75 per cent capacity, with a maximum of 5,000 people, with physical distancing as much as possible.
SPORTS, ARTS AND CULTURE
- Sports teams can have practices, games, competitions and tournaments with up to 60 participants, including players and officials. Spectators are allowed, following the formal gathering limit.
- Performing arts can have rehearsals, performances and competitions with up to 60 participants, including performers and crew. Spectators are allowed, following the formal gathering limit.
- Libraries and museums can operate at full capacity, with physical distancing.
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