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As omicron fuels surge of new cases, Americans face more travel woes and dashed plans

Jessica Andrijauskas, from Buenos Aires, rests as she awaits the results of her coronavirus test at Reagan National Airport on Wednesday. (Alex Brandon/AP)
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The United States on Thursday surpassed 550,000 covid-19 cases newly reported by states, underscoring the lightning spread of the coronavirus across the country, with the highly transmissible omicron variant triggering a familiar round of restrictions, disruptions and uncertainty heading into the pandemic’s third year.

The number of new cases reported nationwide totaled 562,111, even with five states (Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina) not reporting, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

The spike in infections continues to snarl travel plans. Train and air passengers saw cancellations on Amtrak and across major airlines Thursday as infection rates worsened crew shortages; by Thursday evening, about 1,300 flights in the United States were canceled, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. Travelers looking to escape aboard a cruise ship faced equally dire news after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised vacationers to avoid cruises after a spike in cases on U.S.-based ships.

Here’s what to know

  • Eric Adams, New York’s mayor-elect, vowed to keep city’s first-in-nation vaccine mandate for private-sector employees.
  • The number of daily pediatric covid hospital admissions in the United States surpassed 1,200 on Wednesday, according to Post data, approaching highs last seen in the summer. However, doctors have said that despite record positive results from children’s coronavirus tests, the vast majority of cases have been mild.
  • With students set to return to classrooms after the holiday break, schools are grappling with how to stay open as omicron surges.
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Here's what to know:

Eric Adams, New York’s mayor-elect, vowed to keep city’s first-in-nation vaccine mandate for private-sector employees.
The number of daily pediatric covid hospital admissions in the United States surpassed 1,200 on Wednesday, according to Post data, approaching highs last seen in the summer. However, doctors have said that despite record positive results from children’s coronavirus tests, the vast majority of cases have been mild.
With students set to return to classrooms after the holiday break, schools are grappling with how to stay open as omicron surges.

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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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