(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 842,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
About 62.6% 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 12, 9:50 am
22,000 more Americans may die from COVID over next 2 weeks
A forecast model used by the CDC suggests COVID-19-related deaths will significantly increase over the next four weeks.
The model forecasts that 22,000 more Americans could die from COVID-19 in just the next two weeks.
The CDC obtains these 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 12, 8:51 am
British prime minister apologizes for attending lockdown party
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized Wednesday for attending a party during England’s strict lockdown in 2020.
It was the first time that Johnson acknowledged he went to a garden party at his official residence and office on London’s Downing Street in May 2020. He is facing growing anger and calls for his resignation over claims he and his staff flouted COVID-19 restrictions by holding a “bring your own booze” party. At the time, Johnson’s government had imposed restrictions barring people in England from meeting more than one individual outside their household.
During the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday, Johnson said he had considered the garden party to be a work event to thank his staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
“I want to apologize,” Johnson told lawmakers. “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside.”
The prime minister urged people to await “the full conclusion” of an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray into several alleged parties by government staff. Gray will report her findings by the end of the month.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson’s defense was “the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road” and demanded he “do the decent thing and resign.”
The prime minister declined to resign and didn’t explicitly admit that he had broken any rules, but said he understood “the rage.”
“I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months,” he added. “I understand the anger, the rage that they feel at the thought that people in Downing Street were not following those rules.”
-ABC News’ Guy Davies, Ian Pannell and Joseph Simonetti
Jan 12, 7:56 am
Russia sounds alarm over imminent wave of omicron infections
Russian officials are warning that an omicron-fueled wave of COVID-19 infections will soon hit, amid fears about how deadly a surge of the highly contagious variant — even if milder — might be in a country with a low vaccination rate.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, who is overseeing the COVID-19 response, and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said Wednesday that the situation could be “more critical” than previous waves of infections in Russia — a worrying prospect since earlier waves led to a high number of deaths.
Russia has reported more than 312,000 fatalities from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, the country registered just under 1 million excess deaths in 2021.
The Russian government has said the country will soon see six-figure daily cases. Less than 50% of Russians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, amid widespread reluctance across the nation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has largely tried to downplay the scale of his country’s COVID-19 outbreak, warned Wednesday of the imminent increase in infections. Putin said Russia is “on the threshold of possible new outbreaks.”
Meanwhile, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said the country is at a “turning point,” which will decide how bad the wave will be. Russian authorities are calling for people to take precautions and observe social distancing measures. However, there are relatively few restrictions in most parts of the country.
Denis Logunov, deputy director of Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, said Tuesday that the nationwide number of omicron cases is expected to rise considerably in late January and early February. The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, also warned Tuesday that omicron is expected to infect more than half of Europe’s population within the next two months.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Jan 12, 5:00 am
US government to send schools millions more COVID-19 tests
As U.S. President Joe Biden vows to keep all schools safely open for full-time in-person learning amid the pandemic, his administration announced Wednesday that it will provide schools with an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests per month.
The federal government will send 5 million more rapid tests and 5 million more lab-based PCR tests to schools nationwide each month, at no cost. The rapid tests will be delivered starting later this month, while the PCR tests will be available immediately. The additional tests every month will allow the country’s schools to “more than double the volume of testing that took place in schools across the nation in November,” according to a fact sheet from the White House.
Moreover, as the Biden administration continues to surge testing sites to hard-hit and high-risk communities, the federal government will also “consider how these sites can support the safe operations of K-12 schools,” the White House said.
The U.S. Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also help connect schools with testing providers so they can use money allocated to them last year through the $1.9-trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. Later this week, the CDC will provide new training, resources and materials to help schools implement “test-to-stay” policies, according to the White House.
-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson
Jan 12, 4:21 am
West Virginia’s governor says he feels ‘extremely unwell’ after testing positive for COVID-19
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday evening that he tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing moderate symptoms.
Justice, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and has received a booster shot, said he has started a course of monoclonal antibody treatment, as recommended by his physicians. Everyone who has been in close contact with the governor over the past few days is being notified. His wife, Cathy Justice, tested negative for the virus on Tuesday evening, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The governor was scheduled to deliver his State of the State address that night but was forced to do so via a written statement to the West Virginia Legislature instead.
“I feel extremely unwell at this point, and I have no choice but to postpone my State of the State address to the Legislature,” Justice said in a statement Tuesday evening. “I woke up this morning with congestion and a cough. A little while later, I developed a headache and fever, so I decided to get tested right away.”
“The rapid test that I took came back negative, but by the late afternoon, my symptoms were still getting much worse,” he continued. “My blood pressure and heart rate were extremely elevated, and I had a high fever. Finally, my PCR test results this evening confirmed I was positive. Because of all this, I began receiving my antibody treatment and I hope this will lessen these symptoms.”
Jan 12, 3:53 am
‘Most people are going to get COVID,’ FDA head warns
The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration warned Tuesday that most people in the United States will contract COVID-19, as the country grapples with record levels of infections and hospitalizations.
“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get COVID,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the FDA, said while testifying before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. “What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, [and] transportation, you know, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens.”
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