COVID-19 live updates: Fauci predicts most states will be past omicron peak by mid-February

(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.5 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 853,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 63% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jan 19, 4:10 pm
Fauci predicts most states will be past omicron peak by mid-February

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts that most states will be past the omicron peak by mid-February.

“I would imagine as we get into February, into the middle of February, first few weeks of February, it is very likely that most of the states in the country will have turned around with their peak and are starting to come down with regard to cases, and then obviously hospitalizations,” Fauci said at a Blue Star Families event.

“Right now, there’s no doubt that in New York City and other parts of New York state and in New Jersey, it has already peaked and is rather dramatically on its way down,” Fauci said. “We’re seeing that also in bigger cities such as Chicago, where as in cities in the South, it has not yet peaked and likely will have more of a slower incline and a slower decline, such as in places like New Orleans and in other cities in Louisiana.”

Fauci said he expects data on vaccines for kids under 5 will be delivered to the FDA in the next month.

“They’re determining now that for children within that age group, it is likely that it will be a three-dose vaccine. And that being the case, it’s going to take a little longer to get those data to the FDA and approved,” he explained. “My hope is that it’s going to be within the next month or so and not much later than that. But I can’t guarantee that because I can’t out guess the FDA, I’m gonna have to leave that to them.”

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Jan 19, 3:33 pm
Pennsylvania nurse opens up about ‘overflowing’ hospital

On average, about 21,000 virus-positive Americans are being admitted to hospitals each day — a figure that has more than doubled over the last month.

WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has more patients now than any point in the pandemic, according to nurse Erin Hammond.

“Our emergency rooms are full to overflowing. Our critical care unit has now doubled up rooms. We’re taking more patients — sicker patients — than we ever have before,” Hammond told ABC News.

She noted that she’s seen people in their 20s, 30s and 40s “ending up very sick and dying.”

“It’s incredibly difficult seeing patients die day after day after day,” she said. And after a patient dies, the hospital must “refill their beds as quickly as they emptied.”

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 19, 2:50 pm
New Mexico asks state workers, National Guard to be substitute teachers

New Mexico leaders are asking state employees and National Guard members to volunteer as substitute teachers and child care workers due to “extreme staffing shortages” amid the COVID-19 case surge.

“Many schools are being forced to shift to online learning and child care facilities are being forced to temporarily close when staff members test positive,” state officials said in a statement Wednesday.

Since the holidays, about 60 school districts and charter schools switched to remote learning and 75 child care centers partially or completely closed due to staffing shortages, according to the state.

“The additional staffing will allow schools to avoid the disruptive process of switching between remote and in-person learning and prevent child care programs from having to shut down,” state officials said.

The volunteers would have to complete the requirements necessary to be licensed as a substitute, including a background check and an online workshop.

Jan 19, 11:45 am
27 million visits so far to USPS order form from COVIDTests.gov

While it’s not clear how many people have placed an order for free COVID-19 tests since the White House’s site launched Tuesday, the order form on the U.S. Postal Service website — special.usps.com/testkits — has been visited over 27 million times so far.

This initiative from the Biden administration’ allows Americans to order up to four free at-home rapid tests per household.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Jan 19, 10:37 am
US deaths expected to increase after weeks of surging cases

Following weeks of increasing cases, forecast models used by the CDC suggest that U.S. death totals will likely continue to increase over the next four weeks.

The models predict about 32,000 more Americans could die from COVID-19 over just the next two weeks.

By Feb. 12, about 931,000 total lives could be lost in the U.S. to the virus.

The CDC obtains the forecasts from the COVID-19 Forecast Hub at UMass Amherst, where a team monitors and combines forecasting models from the nation’s top researchers. The team then creates an ensemble — displayed like a hurricane forecast spaghetti plot — usually with a wide cone of uncertainty.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 19, 9:28 am
England to end many COVID-19 restrictions, including mask wearing

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday the end of all COVID-19 measures in England that were imposed to combat the highly contagious omicron variant.

Effective immediately, secondary school students will no longer be required to wear face masks in classrooms. Starting next week, masks will not be compulsory anywhere, including on public transport and in shops. However, Johnson said his government will continue to advise people to wear masks in indoor or crowded settings.

The work-from-home guidance will also be lifted next week, along with mandatory COVID-19 passes at large venues, though business are allowed to use them if they wish.

People will still be required to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19, but the prime minister said there will “soon be a time” when that won’t be mandated. The measure is due to expire in March, but Johnson said that date could be brought forward.

So-called Plan B restrictions were introduced in England last December amid a surge of COVID-19 cases as omicron quickly spread across the United Kingdom. The country’s daily number of new cases remains high but appears to be dropping over the past week along with hospital admissions, while deaths are increasing.

Jan 19, 2:22 am
Global new cases increased 20% last week, WHO says

Newly reported COVID-19 cases increased 20% last week, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

More than 18 million new cases were reported in the week ending Jan. 16, up from about 15 million in the previous week, according to the United Nation’s health agency’s weekly epidemiological update.

Last week’s increase marked a decline from the 55% increase reported the previous week, the agency said.

“Nonetheless, a combination of the increased and rapid spread of the Omicron variant, increased population movements and social mixing during and after the end of year holiday period and challenges with ongoing adherence to public health and social measures (PHSM) are expected to lead to increased number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks,” Tuesday’s report said.

About 45,000 new deaths were reported worldwide last week, up from about 43,000 the previous week, the agency said.

Jan 18, 7:11 pm
White House to make 400 million N95 masks available for free

The Biden administration will make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks available for free at tens of thousands of pharmacies and community health centers, a White House official said Tuesday.

The administration will start shipping out the masks, which are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile, at the end of this week. Masks will start to be available at pharmacies and community health centers by late next week, with the program “fully up and running” by early February, the official said.

President Joe Biden had announced last week that the administration would be launching a program to provide high-quality masks to Americans for free, but did not provide details.

The announcement comes on the heels of updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stated that loosely woven cloth masks provide the least amount of protection against COVID-19, and that Americans in some cases might want to opt for higher quality masks like KN95 and N95 respirators.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Jan 18, 5:47 pm
75% of Americans have received at least 1 vaccine dose: CDC

Three-quarters of all Americans — nearly 250 million people — have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to updated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On average, around 296,000 Americans daily are receiving their first shot, down by about 35% since mid-December, federal data shows.

Some 62.7 million eligible Americans — those ages 5 and up — are unvaccinated.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 18, 5:35 pm
Nearly 1 million US children tested positive for COVID-19 last week

Around 981,000 children in the United States tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

This “dramatic” uptick is a nearly 70% increase over the 580,000 added cases reported the week ending Jan. 6, and a tripling of case counts from the two weeks prior, the organizations said.

With nearly 9.5 million children having tested positive for the virus since the onset of the pandemic, that means 10% of those cases were in the past week alone.

In recent weeks, there has been a significant increase in demand for coronavirus tests as more Americans are exposed to the virus. Many students have also been tested as they return to school, which can lead to an increase in these numbers.

The organizations said there is an “urgent” need to collect more age-specific data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as potential longer-term effects, and noted in their report that a small proportion of cases have resulted in hospitalization and death.

The rising number of pediatric cases has renewed the push for vaccination. Nearly 19% of children ages 5 to 11 and about 55% of those ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

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