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Biden, states and other nations brace for rush of omicron infections

President Biden addressed the nation on Dec. 21, urging Americans to take precautions to fend off the fast-spreading omicron variant. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
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As the omicron variant charged through the United States on Tuesday, California’s governor ordered health-care workers in his state to get booster shots, others extended emergency declarations and President Biden announced new plans to send federal aid.

A “national surge” in omicron cases could peak as soon as January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted as it urged Americans to brace for a massive wave of coronavirus infections.

Elsewhere, Israel announced plans to “become the first country in the world” to give a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines, and Britain shortened self-isolation requirements for much of England in an attempt to alleviate strain on hospitals, according to Reuters.

Here’s what to know

  • The omicron variant accounted for 73 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States between Dec. 12 and 18, according to modeled projections from the CDC, showcasing the highly contagious nature of the variant, which has been detected in 106 countries.
  • People traveling within the European Union must receive their booster coronavirus shots to be considered fully vaccinated if they received their first doses more than nine months ago, according to rules adopted Tuesday by the European Commission.
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Here's what to know:

The omicron variant accounted for 73 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States between Dec. 12 and 18, according to modeled projections from the CDC, showcasing the highly contagious nature of the variant, which has been detected in 106 countries.
People traveling within the European Union must receive their booster coronavirus shots to be considered fully vaccinated if they received their first doses more than nine months ago, according to rules adopted Tuesday by the European Commission.

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Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

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. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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