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U.S. sets record high for coronavirus infections

Infectious-disease specialist Anthony S. Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky arrive at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington for a video call with President Biden and governors on Dec. 27, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
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The lightning spread of the coronavirus’s omicron variant in the United States pushed the seven-day average of new daily cases to 253,245 as of Tuesday afternoon, surpassing the previous high of 248,209 cases on Jan. 12.

The omicron variant, first identified late last month in southern Africa, has sent infections soaring to levels not seen since last winter, bringing the total number of U.S. coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to more than 63 million, with more than 816,000 deaths.

Many businesses on Tuesday applauded new federal guidance reducing the isolation time for asymptomatic people infected with the coronavirus, but the president of the nation’s largest nursing union predicted that it would increase the spread of the virus.

Here’s what to know:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic coronavirus infections from 10 days to five days.
  • Healthy individuals who have been vaccinated, and especially those who have been boosted, appear unlikely to develop severe infections from the omicron variant that would land them in the hospital, medical experts say.
  • Flight disruptions triggered by weather and coronavirus-related staffing shortages appeared to ease slightly Tuesday, but still amounted to more than 800 cancellations, stranding holiday travelers across the country as many try to return home.
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Here's what to know:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic coronavirus infections from 10 days to five days.
Healthy individuals who have been vaccinated, and especially those who have been boosted, appear unlikely to develop severe infections from the omicron variant that would land them in the hospital, medical experts say.
Flight disruptions triggered by weather and coronavirus-related staffing shortages appeared to ease slightly Tuesday, but still amounted to more than 800 cancellations, stranding holiday travelers across the country as many try to return home.

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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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