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Covid News: Flight disruptions continue as Omicron exhausts staff

Credit…Cheriss May for The New York Times

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention faced yet another backlash on Sunday for their muddled messages on the agency’s new isolation and quarantine guidelines.

New CDC guidelines, released on December 27, say people infected with the coronavirus can end isolation, in most cases, after five days instead of 10 and do not need a result negative on a virus test to do so. But some experts have said five days might be too short, and letting people mingle with others before the first negative test is risky.

Agency director Dr Rochelle Walensky answered questions about his decision to drop the testing requirement on Sunday and argued that antigen testing is less sensitive to the Omicron variant, which is in full swing. boom in the United States, than in previous versions of the virus.

“We have an ever-changing science with an ever-changing variant, and my job is to provide up-to-date advice against the backdrop of a rapidly increasing number of cases,” she told “Fox News Sunday” .

But other experts disagreed with that assessment, saying antigen testing, while flawed, only missed Omicron cases very early in the infection.

“I think they are the foundation of our long-term strategy to manage this virus,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on ABC’s “This Week”.

The testing debate reflects a wider disagreement over how best to deal with a virus that looks like it’s here to stay. With only about 63% of the population fully vaccinated, the virus could cause major epidemics and overwhelm hospitals for the foreseeable future.

Six prominent health experts who advised President Biden’s transition team on Thursday called for a new strategy to help Americans live with the virus long-term. Among the recommendations: easy access to affordable tests, more aggressive use of vaccine mandates, CDC “comprehensive, digital, real-time” data collection and faster vaccine and treatment development.

On Friday, the Supreme Court seemed unlikely to allow a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s plan to fight the virus. While the court could green light a mandate to vaccinate healthcare workers in facilities that receive federal funding, it seemed skeptical of the legal basis for a broader mandate that would affect 84 million American workers. .

This mandate would require all companies with 100 or more employees to require either vaccinations or weekly tests and masks.

“The Supreme Court must recognize that Covid in the workplace is a real threat to health,” said Dr Zeke Emanuel, one of the authors of the proposed pandemic strategy and a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. Vaccination warrants are the best protection against the virus, especially for frontline workers, he said.

“For the Supreme Court to take this out in the middle of an emergency situation seems like a very bad thing to me,” he added.

Dr Walensky did not respond to a question about the usefulness of a vaccination warrant, but noted that unvaccinated children and adults are at a significantly higher risk of contracting the virus than people who are fully vaccinated and stimulated. .

Among children aged 4 and under, who are not yet eligible for vaccination, hospitalizations are at their highest since the start of the pandemic, the CDC reported on Friday.

“The vast majority of hospitalized children are not vaccinated,” Dr Walensky said on Sunday. “And for children who are not eligible for vaccination, we know that they are more likely to get sick with Covid if their family members are not vaccinated.”

Omicron is milder than previous variants, and even young children seem less likely to need ventilators than those admitted in previous flare-ups, doctors said.

Dr Walensky also clarified the confusion over the number of children hospitalized with Covid. Judge Sonia Sotomayor mistakenly said on Friday that 100,000 children with Covid had been admitted to hospitals across the country. The actual number is closer to 3,500, said Dr Walensky.

“While pediatric hospitalizations are increasing, they are still about 15 times less than hospital admissions for the elderly,” she added.