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US Sets COVID-19 Records Stoked by Omicron Variant 


Vehicles wait in line to receive Covid-19 PCR tests at a Long Beach Public Health Department testing site in the parking lot of a former Boeing aircraft factory on Jan. 10, 2022 in Long Beach, California.

The United States set a new single-day record of 1,483,656 new COVID-19 infections Monday, according to figures compiled by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The world leader in the total number of COVID-19 infections and deaths — with over 61.5 million and 839,500, respectively — is also poised to break another pandemic record as the number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent days is close to surpassing the peak of 142,315, set on January 14, 2021.

The recent omicron-driven wave of new infections has pushed health care systems in parts of the U.S. past the breaking point, with some hospitals already dealing with a critical shortage of doctors and nurses either due to emotional exhaustion brought on by the two-year-old pandemic or because they have tested positive for COVID-19 themselves.

Many hospitals are operating under a “crisis standards of care” designation, which allows them to limit the number of patients they admit and delay treatment and surgeries for various non-COVID-19 related issues.

The new surge has also impacted the reopening of scores of public schools after the Christmas and New Year holidays, with thousands of students and teachers infected with COVID-19, forcing school districts to briefly return to online instruction.

The union representing public school teachers in Chicago, the third-largest school district in the U.S., announced Monday its teachers would be returning to work this week after reaching a deal with city officials to increase coronavirus testing and create new metrics to determine if a school dealing with a major COVID-19 outbreak should close.

The teachers refused to resume in-person classes last week because of coronavirus safety concerns, leading to a dispute with administrators who cancelled classes altogether instead of agreeing with the union’s request to temporarily resume online instruction for more than 340,000 students.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday placed Canada on its list of destinations that pose a “very high” risk for travelers of exposure to COVID-19. The CDC designates as “Level 4” any destination with more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days. The federal health agency also placed the Caribbean island of Curacao on its list of Level 4 destinations Monday.

More lockdowns in China

Meanwhile, the number of residents forced into strict lockdowns across China is growing amid a threat of new coronavirus infections. Officials in the central city of Anyang have ordered its 5.5 million residents to stay home Monday after it confirmed two omicron cases. The infections are believed to be linked to at least one person, who had traveled to the port city of Tianjin, located about an hour from the capital, Beijing.

As the lockdown of Anyang begins, residents in the neighboring city of Xi’an, home of the world-famous Terracotta Warrior sculptures, remain under strict lockdown protocols first imposed in December following a wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the delta variant. The city’s 13 million citizens are banned from leaving their homes unless they have essential jobs.

The surge of new COVID-19 outbreaks across China could pose a challenge to Beijing’s stringent “Zero COVID” effort, while also casting a pall over the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin February 4.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.

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