COVID-19 live updates: WHO warns of rising cases of omicron sub-variant

(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.6 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 868,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 63.4% 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 25, 4:55 pm
Omicron estimated to account for 99.9% of new US cases

The omicron variant is estimated to account for 99.9% of all new cases in the U.S. as of Jan. 22, according to the CDC.

In early December, omicron was estimated to make up just 0.6% of new cases.

Delta now accounts for 0.1% of new cases nationally, forecasters estimate.

These estimates are the results of CDC modeling using recently available data.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 25, 4:40 pm
Weekly reported cases set new record at more than 21 million

Over 21 million new weekly cases were reported across the globe — the most recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.

The U.S. (4,215, 852 new cases — a 24% decrease from the previous week) reported the most, followed by France (2,443,821 new cases — a 21% increase).

The U.S. also recorded 10,795 deaths — the most of any nation.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Jan 25, 4:25 pm
US hospital admissions drop 8% even as 13 states see surges

Nearly 20,000 Americans with COVID-19 are being admitted to hospitals each day — an 8% drop over the last week, according to federal data.

But 13 states saw COVID-19-related hospital admission rates jump by at least 10%: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Emergency department visits for diagnosed COVID-19 cases declined nearly 24% over the last two weeks, according to federal data.

While the U.S. case rate is steadily falling — down by 15% in the last week to an average of 664,000 new cases — case rates still remain higher than any other point of the pandemic, according to federal data.

Wisconsin is leading the nation in new cases per capita, followed by Rhode Island, Utah and South Carolina.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 25, 12:18 pm
Elton John tests positive, Dallas concerts postponed

Elton John has tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to postpone his concerts on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, according to a statement from the venue.

“Elton is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is experiencing only mild symptoms,” the statement said. “Fans should hold on to their tickets as they will be honored at the rescheduled dates to be announced soon.”

Jan 25, 12:02 pm
Florida governor vows to ‘fight back’ against FDA’s ‘reckless’ decision

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed to “fight back” against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “reckless” decision to limit the use of two monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 that were found to be ineffective against the now-dominant omicron variant.

“This is wrong what they are doing, and we have many people now who are very concerned because they were going to go in and get it today or tomorrow,” DeSantis said during a press conference Tuesday.

While the governor acknowledged that the treatments are less effective against omicron, he claimed that people in Florida have seen their COVID-19 symptoms clear up in the last month after receiving the treatments. DeSantis, however, did not offer data to support that claim.

“We’re going to fight back against this,” he told reporters.

When asked whether he plans to take legal action against the federal government, DeSantis said: “I don’t know. We’re going to see what we can do.”

With omicron accounting for more than 99% of COVID-19 infections nationwide, the FDA on Monday revised its authorizations for two of the main monoclonal antibody treatments that have been widely used across the country — one made by Eli Lilly and the other by Regeneron. The FDA said both treatments are no longer authorized for use in any U.S. state, territory or jurisdiction and should not be used for treatment against COVID-19. In the future, the treatments could still be used to help patients who become sick with other variants, according to the FDA.

Following the FDA’s decision, Florida health officials announced that monoclonal antibody treatment sites would be shut down across the state. More than 2,000 appointments for the treatments were canceled statewide on Tuesday alone, according to the governor’s office.

“Unfortunately, as a result of this abrupt decision made by the federal government, all monoclonal antibody state sites will be closed until further notice,” the Florida Department of Health said in a statement late Monday. “Florida disagrees with the decision that blocks access to any available treatments in absence of clinical evidence. To date, such clinical evidence has not been provided by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

-ABC News’ Will McDuffie and Sasha Pezenik

Jan 25, 10:43 am
Kentucky governor’s son tests positive as state’s cases skyrocket

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s son has tested positive for COVID-19 as cases in the state skyrocket.

“My son is generally asymptomatic, we believe because he is vaccinated and boosted,” Beshear said Monday.

The governor and the rest of his family tested negative on Monday, according to Beshear’s office.

Kentucky reported 81,473 cases for the week ending on Sunday — a record high.

Hospitalizations are also approaching a record high, his office said.

Jan 25, 9:18 am
WHO warns of rising cases of omicron sub-variant

The World Health Organization is sounding the alarm over rising cases of a new omicron sub-variant.

In an updated post to its website on Monday, the WHO said the new sub-variant, called BA.2, is a descendant of omicron, the now-dominant, highly contagious variant of the novel coronavirus. Unlike omicron, BA.2 is currently not considered a “variant of concern.” But because it is spreading in many countries, the WHO is asking governments and scientists across the globe to monitor the situation and study the new sub-variant, as many have already been doing.

As of last Friday, BA.2 had already been detected in at least 40 countries, including the United States. It has already spread quickly in Denmark, where early reports indicate it doesn’t appear to be deadlier than its parent variant. The sub-variant is now also spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom.

While BA.2 is a descendent of omicron, it has slightly different mutations. Omicron has several sub-variants, as does the previously dominant, highly transmissible delta variant.

-ABC News’ Sony Salzman

Jan 25, 6:45 am
Pfizer, BioNTech announce clinical studies for omicron-based vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Tuesday they have initiated clinical studies to evaluate an omicron-based vaccine for adults.

The trials will evaluate the “safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity” of the omicron-based vaccine for healthy adults between 18 and 55 years old, the companies said. About 1,400 participants will receive one of three combinations of the companies’ current vaccine and the omicron-based vaccine.

“While current research and real-world data show that boosters continue to provide a high level of protection against severe disease and hospitalization with Omicron, we recognize the need to be prepared in the event this protection wanes over time and to potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future,” said Kathrin U. Jansen, Ph.D., senior vice president and head of vaccine research & development at Pfizer, said in a statement.

The companies said 615 participants will receive a dose of the omicron booster after two doses of the current vaccine. Another 600 participants will receive a dose of the omicron booster after three doses of the current vaccine. The final 205 participants, who have not been vaccinated, will receive three doses of the omicron vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech said they expected to have initial findings in the first half of 2022. ABC News has also learned Moderna is expected to start similar human trials of an omicron-specific vaccine within the coming days.

-ABC News’ Eric Strauss

Jan 25, 6:34 am
London police probe Downing Street lockdown parties

London police said Tuesday they are investigating parties that allegedly took place at British Prime Minister Boris Johnon’s official residence and executive office while England was under strict lockdown because of COVID-19.

In a statement before the London Assembly, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick announced the investigation into “a number of events” at 10 Downing Street.

“The fact that we are now investigating does not, of course, mean that fixed penalty notices will necessarily be issued in every instance and to every person involved,” Dick said. “We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations.”

Johnson is facing growing anger and calls for his resignation over claims he and his staff flouted COVID-19 restrictions imposed by his government. In the latest allegation, ITV News reported that the prime minister attended a surprise birthday party held for him at his office during the first lockdown in June 2020 and later hosted friends in his apartment upstairs that evening. At that time, people in England were barred from meeting more than one individual outside their household.

A spokesperson for Johnson’s office called the claim “totally untrue,” telling ITV News in a statement that, “in line with the rules at the time, the prime minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”

Earlier this month, Johnson acknowledged for the first time that he went to a garden party at 10 Downing Street during the first lockdown in May 2020. While he didn’t explicitly admit that he had broken any rules, the prime minister apologized and said he had considered the garden party to be a work event to thank his staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

It was unclear which events London’s Metropolitan Police Service is investigating.

Jan 25, 5:42 am
Crisis standards of care activated in southern Idaho

Crisis standards of care have been adopted in much of southern Idaho, as hospitals grapple with a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, citing severe staffing and blood supply shortages, activated crisis standards of care on Monday for the southwest, central and south central public health districts, which encompass 18 counties including the Boise, Nampa and Twin Falls metropolitan areas. Crisis standards of care provide legal and ethical guidelines for how health care providers should allocate scarce, life-saving resources, such as ventilators and intensive care unit beds, during an overwhelming public health emergency.

“The highly contagious Omicron variant has thrown us a curve ball,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in a statement Monday. “Once again, the situation in our hospitals and health systems is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients.”

It was the second time amid the coronavirus pandemic that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has activated crisis standards of care. Health care rationing was authorized in northern Idaho last September before being extended to the entire state 10 days later. The guidelines were fully deactivated by the end of December.

The latest activation came in response to a request from Saint Alphonsus Health System, which has hospitals in southwestern Idaho as well as eastern Oregon. Jeppesen convened Idaho’s crisis standards of care activation advisory committee last Friday, and the committee recommended that the guidelines be activated statewide. Jeppesen decided to only make the designation for southern Idaho, but said other parts of the state will likely be added if current COVID-19 trends continue.

Jeppesen urged residents to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and to wear high-quality face masks in public places.

“Omicron is so much more contagious than previous variants, and even though a lower percentage of cases are ending up in the hospital, the record number of cases is still putting strain on our healthcare system,” he said.

Jan 24, 4:05 pm
Pediatric cases sky-high but hospitalizations show decline

More than 1.1 million children tested positive for COVID-19 last week — nearly five times the rate of the peak of last winters’ surge, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

A total of 10.6 million children have tested positive since the onset of the pandemic. A fifth of those children — over 2 million kids — tested positive in just the last two weeks, according to the two organizations.

Pediatric cases in the Northeast are seeing a dramatic drop but new cases in the West, South and the Midwest are still surging.

But there is positive news: COVID-19-related hospitalizations among children fell this week for the first time in one month.

More than 28.4 million eligible children remain unvaccinated.

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