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Hospitalizations rise across the U.S. ahead of holidays

People wait in line at a coronavirus testing site in New York on Dec. 13. (Seth Wenig/AP)
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Hospitalizations are rising across much of the United States, leading public health officials to warn that a winter surge caused by both the delta and omicron variants could have devastating outcomes.

“For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm,” Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said at a news conference Friday.

Nationwide, hospitalizations increased by about 3 percent and deaths rose by about 7 percent over the past week. But some regions are seeing a much steeper rise.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have reported increases of more than 5 percent in new covid-19 admissions at hospitals in the past week. D.C. leads the nation with a 39 percent increase in hospitalizations. Connecticut’s covid-19 admissions have risen by 24 percent in the past week. New Jersey, Illinois, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia each reported an increase of 11 percent or more.

Here’s what to know

  • A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccination policy for large private businesses, reversing an earlier court ruling that had halted one of the White House’s signature efforts to reduce transmission and drive down case counts.
  • On Friday, five states — including Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine and Wyoming — reported their first cases of omicron. The rapidly spreading variant has already been detected in 44 states.
  • Students who have been exposed to the coronavirus can safely continue in-person learning if they are regularly tested for the virus at school, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they are modifying their clinical trial to include a third shot at least two months after the initial two-dose regimen for children under age 5.
  • The sudden surge of new cases has jolted some parts of the U.S. economy that depend most on face-to-face interactions.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: For people under 50, second booster doses are on hold while the Biden administration works to roll out shots specifically targeting the omicron subvariants this fall. Immunizations for children under 5 became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

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