Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Getty Images).
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Half of all U.S. states, including Pennsylvania, have identified cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19, federal officials said Friday, as they released new data on the first 43 U.S. cases, according to Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson.
Food for thought as Americans start gathering for holiday parties: Of those initial, confirmed cases, more than half were among people between the ages of 18 and 39, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Olson reported.
About a third of those infections were among people who had recently returned from international travel, Walensky told reporters during a news briefing on Friday. And 80% of those cases, or 34 people, were fully vaccinated, including some who had recently received a booster, Olson reported, citing the federal data.
Most of the omicron infections so far have resulted in only mild symptoms, Walensky said. That’s in line with what would be expected among individuals who were fully vaccinated, Olson reported.
On Dec. 3, public health officials in Philadelphia said a city resident had tested positive for the omicron variant, marking the first confirmed case in Pennsylvania, the online news outlet, Spotlight PA reported last week
Speaking to reporters last week, Walensky and other public health officials said early data suggests that getting a vaccine booster could bolster protection against the new variant, Olson reported. Officials further urged anyone who is currently eligible — including the 16- and 17-year-olds who became eligible this week — to get a follow-up shot.
But even as the omicron variant gets all the headlines, officials warned that the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus remains the main threat.
“Over 99% of cases in this country right now are caused by the delta variant, which is driving increases in cases and hospitalizations,” Walensky told reporters.
What else you need to know, from Olson:
- The seven-day average of infections nationally increased by 37% over the last week, while hospitalizations increased by 16% and deaths rose by 28% over that same time period.
- Those rising numbers come after families gathered for Thanksgiving last month, and many are preparing for holiday gatherings this month.
When asked for any guidance for those wondering if they should reassess holiday travel plans, Walensky said gathering together this season will require Americans to be “vigilant” about safety precautions.
She reiterated the need to ensure those getting together are fully vaccinated and boosted if possible, as well as wearing masks in the weeks leading up to any gatherings and taking a COVID-19 test, Olson reported.
The case over the release of Pennsylvania voters’ identifying information — driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers — as part of a taxpayer-funded election investigation by state Senate Republicans heads to court this week. Marley Parish has the details.
Efforts to change Pennsylvania’s fireworks law haven’t fizzled out. House and Senate committees will hear feedback this week on legislative proposals currently making the rounds, Marley Parish also reports.
In this week’s edition of the Numbers Racket, Cassie Miller dives into some alarming data on food insecurity in Pennsylvania — and the rest of the nation.
State Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, jumped into the very crowded 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary field over the weekend. Cassie Miller has what you need to know.
And while you were thinking about happy hour on Friday afternoon, the state Supreme Court tossed the Wolf administration’s K-12 mask mandate, I report.
In today’s installment of Helping the Helpers, our friends at the Uniontown Herald-Standard profile the efforts of the good folks at Special Olympics of southwestern Pennsylvania — and let you know how you can support their work.
En la Estrella-Capital: La DCNR busca solicitantes para un nuevo consejo de aportes públicos. Y los bancos de alimentos de Pa. recibirán una asignación de $11.4M para ampliar la infraestructura de almacenamiento.
On our Commentary Page this morning: Rumbo a Washington por un camino a la ciudadanía, nuestros amigos de Make the Road Pennsylvania escriben (You can read the English-language version here). With Roe on the line, opinion regular Dick Polman says Democrats have failed to protect abortion rights. And on the ninth anniversary of the murders at Sandy Hook, a University of Connecticut expert says conspiracy theories are meaner, more personal, and more mainstream than ever.
Pennsylvania’s state employees’ pension fund has followed PSERS’ lead and revised its staff and travel rules, the Inquirer reports.
The lack of a statewide tele-health law is harming the patients who need it most, Spotlight PA reports (via the Tribune-Review).
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is gearing up to collect tolls on nine bridges across the state, the Post-Gazette reports.
In a new lawsuit, a Pennsylvania mom says the lack of medical care led to her 19-year-old son’s death in jail, PennLive reports.
Lancaster City’s visitors’ center was damaged by an arson fire, LancasterOnline reports.
Two people were killed during a Sunday night shooting in Allentown, the Morning Call reports.
The Citizens’ Voice highlights the work of an organization that supports single mothers during the holidays.
WHYY-FM takes listeners inside a rural Pennsylvania school district that is suing for more equitable funding.
Stateline.org profiles hospitals nationwide that are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
Roll Call explains how threatened cuts to Medicare helped put the debt limit debate back on track.
Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:
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What Goes On
The House comes in at 12 p.m., the Senate convenes at 1 p.m., kicking off three whole, scheduled days of voting sessions before the two chambers pack it in for the year.
8 a.m., 523 Irvis: House State Government Committee
9 a.m., 515 Irvis: House Health Committee
10 a.m., Senate Rules Room: Center for Rural Pennsylvania
10 a.m., 205 Ryan: House Children & Youth Committee
10 a.m, B31 Main Capitol: House Commerce Committee
The Senate Appropriations, Rules, and Communications & Tecnology committees all meet at the call of the chair.
What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
11 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Frank Farry
5 p.m.: Reception for Reps. George Dunbar, Eric Nelson, and Eric Davazo
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Marty Flynn
6 p.m.: Reception for the House Democratic Campaign Committee
Ride the circuit, and give at the max at every event, and you’re out an absolutely preposterous $15,000 today.
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.
You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to Tara Curtis Mead at Widener Law School, and former Associated Press Harrisburg Bureau Chief Peter Jackson, both of whom celebrated on Sunday. Up to date best wishes go out to Carl DeFebo, of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, who celebrates today. Congratulations all around, friends.
Here’s one from Teleman to get your Monday morning started, it’s ‘Right as Rain.’
Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Carolina Hurricanes lost a close one, 2-1, to the Vancouver Canucks during a late game on Sunday night. The loss puts the ‘Canes just a point behind the division-leading Washington Capitals.
And now you’re up to date.
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