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Omicron variant dominates CDC projections; Biden came in contact with person who tested positive

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Dec. 19 that the city is seeing a “very substantial rise in the number of cases” from the variant. (Video: Reuters)
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An earlier version of this live story misstated the prevalence of the omicron variant in the United States. According to a predictive model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 73 percent of new U.S. coronavirus cases reported Dec. 12-18 were projected to have contained the variant, not 73 percent of all U.S. cases. This live story has been corrected.

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The omicron variant that was first detected in southern Africa last month accounted for 73 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States between Dec. 12 and 18, according to modeled projections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predictions that showcase the highly contagious nature of the variant.

The variant, which has spread to scores of nations, is proliferating in many areas of the United States. It may be responsible for more than 90 percent of last week’s new infections in the Pacific Northwest and the South, according to the CDC model.

Meanwhile Monday evening, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that President Biden had been in close contact last week with a “mid-level staff member” who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Biden tested negative for the virus Monday morning and will be tested again on Wednesday, Psaki said in a statement.

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: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, 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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