Many scientists who have studied the Omicron virus believe that the fast-spreading COVID variant was mistakenly or perhaps purposefully released from a lab.
Investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson spoke with several such scientists who told her that Omicron is unlikely to be a product of a natural evolution of SARS-Cov-2 in infected people because of the vast number of mutations that had to occur in order to create the new virus.
The number of Americans who filed new unemployment claims increased to 248,000 in the week ending Feb. 12, the Labor Department announced Thursday.
The Labor Department’s figure showed an increase of 23,000 compared to the week ending on Feb. 5, when claims decreased to 225,000.
The U.S. economy recorded an increase of 467,000 jobs in January while unemployment increased to 4.0%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday.
Total non-farm payroll employment increased to 467,00 in January, according to the BLS, and the number of unemployed Americans increased to 6.5 million. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal projected the economy to have added 150,000 jobs in January and unemployment to have fallen to 3.9%.
The omicron variant may be nearing its peak in some states, but across the country it’s produced a dizzying array of conflicting signals on whether the nation should remain under a COVID national emergency or move on to an endemic “new normal.”
Comedian Bill Maher’s “I don’t want to live in your mask-paranoid world anymore” monologue went viral last week, just days after the Atlantic, the standard-bearer journal for the liberal intelligentsia, ran a story headlined: “COVID Parenting Has Passed the Point of Absurdity.” Accompanying the article was a black-and-white photo of a woman frozen in a more desperate and primal state of panic than the subject of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”
Omicron, for most people without co-morbidities, produces much milder symptoms than do the coronavirus’s previous variants, but it’s far more infectious, racing through schools, shutting down classrooms and forcing parents to consult their district’s ever-shifting COVID “decision trees” on a seemingly daily basis.
The U.S. economy grew at a faster rate than was anticipated pace in the fourth quarter of 2021, benefiting from solid consumer demand before the slowdown caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant and supply chain disruptions.
U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 6.9% on a year-over-year basis in the fourth quarter of 2021, a 2.3% increase from the third quarter figure, the Commerce Department announced Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimated that U.S. GDP would grow at a just 5.5% annual rate.
Officials in Beijing have urged for an end to overseas deliveries, saying that the Omicron coronavirus variant can spread by opening packages that originate in other countries, BBC News reported.
The officials calling to end overseas deliveries cited the case of a woman who contracted the Omicron variant after opening a parcel later found to have traces of the variant on it, BBC News reported. The officials noted that the woman had no prior travel history.
The virus was discovered on the surface of a letter the woman received from Canada as well as on the inside of an unopened letter, health official Pang Xinghuo told reporters on Monday, BBC News reported. Dozens of letters from the same batch were tested, with five reportedly containing traces of COVID-19.
As the Omicron variant surged across the U.S., retail sales dipped 1.9% during the final month of 2021, according to information released by the Commerce Department on Friday.
Data shows that holiday shoppers took warnings about shipping delays seriously and shifted their holiday shopping schedule up last year. On the whole, consumer demand led sales to grow by 16.9% in 2021.
Private firms’ payrolls increased by 807,000 in December, more than doubling expectations as COVID-19 cases rise, according to a major employment report.
The 807,000 jobs added marks a significant increase from the 505,000 jobs added in November, according to the ADP National Employment Report. December’s figure far exceeds the Dow Jones estimate of 375,000, according to CNBC.
“December’s job market strengthened as the fallout from the Delta variant faded and Omicron’s impact had yet to be seen,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, CNBC reported. “Job gains were broad-based, as goods producers added the strongest reading of the year, while service providers dominated growth.”
United Airlines is offering its pilots a whopping threefold increase in pay to help cover employee shortfalls as the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 continues to wreak havoc on multiple industries around the country.
The Air Line Pilots Association announced this week that it had reached a payment agreement with the company for covering flights throughout the month of January.
“Due to the rapid spread of the COVID Omicron variant, we are currently seeing record levels of pilot sick calls,” the union wrote to members. “The impact on the operation is clear and United has experienced a correspondingly large number of cancellations over the past week.”
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 worldwide “may have positive implications in terms of decreasing the Covid-19 burden of severe disease,” according to a new study funded by the Gates Foundation and South African, U.S. and U.K. government agencies.
Led by researchers in South Africa, where the variant was first identified, it’s the latest study to suggest the pandemic is approaching endemic status, calling into question the benefits of strict mitigation policies beyond high-risk groups.
Just a day after taking the Moderna booster shot, a New York Times editor unexpectedly died of a heart attack.
“This is Carlos’s wife, Nora. It’s with deepest sorrow that I have to share with you that Carlos passed away last night of a heart attack. I’ve lost my best friend and our kids lost a truly great dad. I will be off social media for awhile,” Carlos Tejada’s wife announced on his Twitter account on Dec. 18.
During a speech Tuesday afternoon, Joe Biden said fully vaccinated Americans should feel comfortable celebrating the holidays with their families, while warning unvaccinated Americans that they are at a higher risk of ending up in the hospital and dying. Biden repeatedly urged vaccine holdouts to get the jab, saying it is the patriotic duty of every American, and stressing that the shots are “free.”
Biden announced that starting next month, insurance will start covering at-home COVID tests, and the government will provide free tests to those who don’t have insurance. He also said the government would set up emergency testing sites in COVID hot spots around the country.
The Omicron variant has been detected in at least 19 states in the U.S., and is striking mainly fully vaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Forty-three people in 19 states have tested positive for omicron, according to remarks made to the Associated Press by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 75 percent of those cases are in people who are fully vaccinated, and one person has been hospitalized. One-third of those individuals had traveled internationally; one-third had received a booster. The cases so far have been “mild,” she said.”
While the science community researches the newly discovered Omicron variant of Covid-19, treatments will become even more necessary where breakthrough cases are detected and those who choose to be unvaccinated are infected. What we already know from the Covid-19 variants is that they are not going away leading to the reality that we will be living with this virus for a long, long time. A vaccine focused approach misses the fact that treatments are going to be needed as a backstop.
The facts surrounding the Omicron variant are emerging day-by-day. CNN reported on November 30, 2021, “there is still a lot we don’t know about the Omicron variant, but scientists are racing to determine its severity, transmissibility and whether it evades current vaccines.” The report indicates that 70 countries have imposed travel restrictions from hot zones in Africa and a growing number of countries outside of Africa are reporting cases. Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, worries that the new variant may have an impact on vaccine efficacy while Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, said that the company is working on an updated vaccine if one is needed. The bottom line is that vaccines have proven to be helpful, yet the Covid-19 pandemic must be fought with vaccines and therapeutics.
President Joe Biden unveiled a new set of executive actions to address the Omicron variant Thursday, though how serious the threat of the variant will be remains unclear.
Biden gave an address from the White House Thursday where he urged a nationwide effort to up vaccinations and booster shots for Americans. The administration said it will extend the mask requirement for domestic flights to March 18 while increasing restrictions on inbound international travelers, requiring they receive a negative COVID test within 24 hours of departure.