Live updates: 2,300 US flights canceled amid outbreak

DALLAS – For air travelers, the new year began where the old one left off – with much disappointment. As of mid-Saturday, more than 2,300 US flights to the East Coast had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. This is the highest single-day toll ever as airlines started blaming staff shortages on rising COVID-19 infections among employees just ahead of Christmas. However, Saturday’s disruptions were not solely due to the virus. The chilly weather made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers, with 800 flights at O’Hare Airport and over 250 at Midway Airport. Southwest had canceled more than 450 flights, or 13% of its schedule. SkyWest, which operates flights as American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, halted more than 400 flights, or 21% of its schedule. American, Delta, United and JetBlue all scrubbed more than 100 flights each.

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Here’s what else is happening today:

Lisbon, Portugal – A cruise ship carrying more than 4,000 people has been held up in the Portuguese capital Lisbon after a COVID-19 outbreak infected crew members, German news agency DPA reported on Saturday.

German company Aida Cruz told the DPA that it discovered positive coronavirus cases during routine health checks and accommodated those infected in coordination with Portuguese authorities in Lisbon.

Portuguese media reported that 52 crew members of more than 1,000 workers tested positive. None of the nearly 3,000 passengers had tested positive. Everyone aboard the ship passed a screening test and was vaccinated with two doses before the ship’s departure from Germany.

The ship awaits the arrival of new crew members to continue the voyage to Spain’s Canary Islands, the DPA said.

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BOSTON – As cases of COVID-19 rise as students return from winter break, dozens of US colleges are taking online classes again for at least the first week or semester – and some have warned that This can drag on for a long time if the wave transition does not subside quickly.

Harvard is moving online classes for the first three weeks of the new year, with a return to campus scheduled for late January, “conditions permitting.” The University of Chicago is delaying the start of its new term and is holding the first two weeks online. Some are inviting other students back to campus but starting online classes, including Michigan State University.

Many colleges expect an extra week or two to overtake the peak of a nationwide spike driven by the highly contagious Omron version. Still, the surge is casting uncertainty over a semester many expected it to be the closest to normal since the start of the pandemic.

For some American students, starting term remotely is becoming routine – several colleges used the strategy last year. But some fear the latest change could extend beyond a week or two.

Jake Maynard, a student at George Washington University in the nation’s capital, said he’s fine with a week of online classes, but beyond that, he expects officials to rely on booster shots and a traditional college experience provided.

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TOKYO – Japan’s Emperor Naruhito prayed for those who died during the pandemic, taking video for the second straight year of his New Year’s greetings on Saturday, canceling public palace gatherings to prevent coronavirus infections.

Sitting in front of a bonsai tree with his wife Masako, Naruhito praised and thanked doctors and other health care workers, and expressed concern for countries lacking access to vaccines and adequate hospital systems.

“By cherishing the relationship between people more than ever, by sharing our pain and supporting each other, I hope from the bottom of my heart that we will overcome these difficult times,” he said.

Japan has recorded more than 18,000 COVID-19-related deaths, but the pace of deaths has been declining in recent months. Naruhito also expressed concern about the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

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LAS VEGAS – The annual CES gadget conference will take three days instead of four, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and the return of some of its most famous tech presenters.

Convention organizer Consumer Technology Association announced Friday that CES will run from January 5-7, a day less than planned. The event still has more than 2,200 exhibitors confirmed to show their products at the Las Vegas convention, said spokeswoman Jean Abella.

The announcement follows the tech giant’s withdrawal from CES last week, citing the health risks of the Omicron version, including cellphone carriers like T-Mobile, whose CEO was slated to deliver the keynote address.

Computer maker Lenovo and social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook’s parent company Meta also canceled plans to participate. News outlets, including CNN, said they would cancel or reduce coverage.

CES was held solely last year. Abela said it will be a hybrid of online and in-person this year, with organizers offering digital registration, which allows access to about 40 livestream events.

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Tampa, Fla. – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 75,900 new cases of COVID-19 in Florida on Friday.

This raises the tally to a daily 7-day average of 42,600, which peaked this summer when the delta version fueled a surge of infections in the state.

Friday’s report sets a single-day record for the number of new cases in Florida. This breaks the record set a day earlier when over 58,000 cases were reported in the state. The Omicron version of the coronavirus has spread across Florida and across the country in the past few weeks.

Rising numbers during the holiday season have sent thousands of people to COVID-19 testing centers across Florida, resulting in long lines in many areas.

Three people collapsed while waiting in line at the Tampa testing site on Friday morning.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Hundreds of unaffiliated employees working at public colleges and universities in Nevada were fired Friday, a day after the State Board of Regents voted to keep the staff vaccine mandate in effect.

The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents stunned 6-6 on Thursday over a measure to repeal the staff vaccine mandate and then rejected the measure to push back the effective expiration date by two weeks. Without majority support for repeal, the mandate—which Governor Steve Sisolak and the Nevada Faculty Alliance support—remained in effect.

Higher education officials said on Friday that 379 employees were being sacked, 188 attribution employees terminated their contracts and 18 others had resigned voluntarily. Regents said employees who have been fired can seek reinstatement if they show proof of vaccination in January.

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PARIS – Describing himself as “absolutely optimistic”, French President Emmanuel Macron has used the final New Year’s address of his current term to express the hope that, with vaccination, an end to the coronavirus pandemic in 2022 Will happen.

Macron stopped short of saying he would run for re-election in April. He only said that he wanted to continue serving the French “whatever my place and circumstances”.

The president appealed to the 5 million illiterate but deserving people in France to get coronavirus jabs, saying: “All of France is counting on you.”

France has lost 123,000 people to COVID-19 and new cases are at unprecedented levels, with the highly contagious Omicron variant rising. France reported a record 232,200 new cases on Friday, its third day running above the 200,000 mark.

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ROME – Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, has used the last New Year’s Eve speech of his term to challenge those who “ruin” their chances of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, saying that The option is called a “crime” for all those who haven’t been able to receive the injection.

In a televised speech to the nation on Friday night, the head of state, Mattarella, noted that he was serving the final days of his seven-year term with parliament to elect his successor in the first weeks of 2022. Referring to the recent COVID-19 in Italy and several other countries driven by virus variants, Mattarella noted a “sense of despair” over the failures.

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ALBANY, NY – Federal ambulance crews and additional National Guard members are headed for New York City, and hospitals in western New York are receiving more federal aid as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations keep rising.

State officials announced the new postings on Friday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul also said that students at state universities and the City University of New York must be on campus in the spring semester to receive coronavirus vaccine booster shots and test negative before returning from vacation leave.

The new confirmed cases are breaking records day by day in the state, Hochul said at a news briefing, rising above 76,500 on Thursday.

An average of 53,000 New Yorkers tested positive in the week ending Thursday, compared to 13,000 per day two weeks ago. More than 7,900 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized across the state, a 67% increase in a week.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas officials on Friday requested federal aid to increase COVID-19 testing and treatments, following reports that the state is running low on antibody treatments that have proven most effective against the Omicron variant. Has happened.

In a statement, Governor Greg Abbott said the Texas Division for Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services had made the request.

They are seeking federal resources for additional COVID-19 testing locations in six counties, an increase in medical personnel and more sotrovimab, the monoclonal antibody treatment that has been shown to be most effective against the more-infectious Omicron.

Abbott called on the Biden administration to “step up in this fight and provide necessary resources to help protect Texans.”

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. – Novavax Inc. said it filed data Friday with the Food and Drug Administration to support approval of its long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine, a different kind of shot than current US options.

Novavax said the data package is the final requirement before the company formally submits its emergency-use application next month to become the fourth US COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement came soon after the European Commission and the World Health Organization approved the use of the Maryland-based company’s two-dose shot.

Novavax developed a protein vaccine, similar to shots used for years against other diseases and a strategy that may appeal to people hesitant to use COVID-19 vaccines made from newer technologies. But Novavax, a smaller biotech company, faced months of delay in finding manufacturers to mass-produce its vaccine.

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ROME – Italian health officials are warning that the rate of occupancy by COVID-19 patients of hospital beds in intensive care units and routine wards has exceeded “critical levels” nationally.

A top health ministry official, Gianni Rezza, also said on Friday evening that the incidence of cases was rising, with Italy having 783 confirmed COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents. The country hit another high for daily new caseloads – 144,243 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours.

About 12% of some 1.234 million swab tests conducted since Thursday have been positive, according to the ministry, which urged vaccinated individuals to get a booster shot if they are eligible.

The government banned public New Year’s Eve celebrations, in large part driven by the Omicron version.

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DALLAS – Flight cancellations spiked again on the last day of 2021, with airlines attributing it to crew shortages related to the spike in COVID-19 infections.

As of Friday morning, airlines have cleared more than 1,300 flights on the East Coast, according to tracking service FlightAware. This compared with about 1,400 cancellations for all Thursdays.

The remnants of the Delta variant and the rise of the new Omicron variant have pushed the rate of new infections in the US to more than 200,000 per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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