By The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has reached a pandemic record high in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday as he ordered additional members of the state National Guard into hospitals to help with the surge. The state also saw another record number of new coronavirus cases.
Ohio had 5,356 people in the hospital with the coronavirus Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began in March 2020, accounting for more than one of every five hospital beds. That’s also the highest per-capita hospitalization rate in the country, said Robert Wylie, chief medical operations officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
More than nine of every 10 people hospitalized with COVID-19 since June have been unvaccinated, DeWine said.
“If you’re vaccinated, the chances of you ending up in the hospital are pretty darn slim,” the governor said.
DeWine is ordering the deployment of 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard to help hospitals. That’s on top of the more than 1,000 members of the Guard that DeWine called up earlier this month.
A total of 20,320 new coronavirus cases were reported Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 7,592.86 new cases per day on Dec. 13 to 12,525.57 new cases per day on Dec. 27, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— Asia keeps omicron at bay, but a surge may be inevitable
— WHO: Global COVID cases up 11% last week, omicron risk high
— California 1st US state to top 5M cases amid omicron surge
— Stricter Canadian rules complicate NHL push through pandemic
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
NICOSIA, Cyprus — New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cyprus will be muted after the government banned dancing and ordered bar, restaurant, reception hall and nightclub patrons to remain seated amid a third day of record daily COVID-19 infections.
Cyprus’ Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela said Wednesday that the daily infection rate now hovers at a record high of around 2.5% as the omicron variant has now taken a firm hold on the country and is projected to increase infections as well as hospital admissions.
Hadjipantela said that as of Thursday, the maximum number of patrons at bars, restaurants and nightclubs will be capped at 300 vaccinated persons. Anyone who hasn’t received a booster shot is required to have a negative rapid test 24 hours prior to attending any function.
Between Jan. 4 and Jan. 15, all inbound travelers will be required to undergo a PCR test 48 hours prior to their departure which they will pay for themselves.
Also next month, 40% of all staff at offices will be required to work from home, while attendance at sports stadiums will be capped at 50% capacity with all fans needing to wear masks. All visits to hospitals, hospices and nursing homes are also banned, while additional PCR testing will be required for health sector professionals who haven’t been fully vaccinated.
The Cypriot Health Ministry said nearly 83% of those receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19 are not vaccinated.
JACKSON, Miss. — COVID-19 outbreaks in Mississippi nursing homes have almost doubled in the past week, an indicator that the state is likely heading into another major surge of virus cases and hospitalizations, a top health official said Wednesday.
There were 63 outbreaks in Mississippi nursing homes Monday, around twice the number of nursing home outbreaks reported in the state last week, state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers wrote in a memo to Mississippi hospitals and health care providers. There were 8,344 new COVID-19 cases reported last week, an 80% increase from the week before. Byers said a growing proportion of Mississippi cases are fueled by the omicron variant of the virus.
The data points to “very rapid growth of COVID-19 infection and transmission and indicate that we have now entered our 5th wave of COVID-19 in the state,” Byers wrote.
Last week, the omicron variant accounted for around 13% of all samples sequenced in the state, up from around 8% in the previous week.
“This likely represents an underestimate of the impact of Omicron on the state, with samples collected in the last two weeks still pending sequencing,” the state epidemiologist said, noting that the omicron variant is significantly more infectious than the delta variant.
LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia’s main cities canceled any public activities for New Year’s Eve after the country reached a record 4,939 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number for one day in all the pandemic in the South American nation.
The celebrations were called off for the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and El Alto after local authorities said it would be irresponsible to allow public festivities.
“The pandemic is escalating, and life is first,” said Iván Arias, mayor of La Paz. “It’s preferable to be safe than sorry.”
Bolivia has not detected the omicron variant, but the health authorities have said that the surge in cases can be attributed to people not following some measures such as social distancing or wearing masks.
President Luis Arce issued a decree requiring people to show a vaccination certificate before entering some public places, like restaurants. The measure will take effect on Jan. 1.
Only a little bit more than 38% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to online research website Our World in Data. Bolivia, a country of 11.5 million people, has reported more than 585,000 infections and more than 19,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas judge has struck down the state’s law prohibiting schools and other government entities from requiring masks.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued the ruling on Wednesday, months after he temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the ban.
More than 100 public charter schools and school districts imposed mask mandates following Fox’s ruling in August, though many have since eased or lifted them altogether.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the ban into law in April, though he has since said he regretted that decision.
Judge Fox found the law unconstitutional, including on grounds that it discriminates between children in public and private schools. Private schools were not barred from requiring masks under the law.
LONDON — The U.K. reported a record 183,037 confirmed new coronavirus infections on Wednesday — a jump of 32% percent from the previous day.
Public health authorities hadn’t reported complete data from all parts of the country since Dec. 24, giving more attention to the numbers as the government weighs whether to impose further restrictions to stop the spread of the omicron variant. The figure reported Wednesday is somewhat inflated because it includes five days of data from Northern Ireland, the government said.
Britain has expanded its booster program this month, reopening sports stadiums and cathedrals as inoculation hubs, after research showed that two doses of the vaccine weren’t enough to protect against the highly transmissible omicron variant. While infections continue to rise, public health authorities are waiting to see whether those numbers result in a similar jump in hospitalizations and deaths.
The number of beds in English hospitals alone occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients rose to 10,462 on Wednesday from 7,366 on Dec. 24.
Across the U.K., almost 58% of people 12 and over have received a booster dose after 325,087 received a third shot on Tuesday.
PHOENIX — Arizona on Wednesday reported 3,411 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 27 more virus deaths as several pandemic metrics showed decreases.
The state’s coronavirus dashboard reported that Arizona’s pandemic totals increased to over 1,368,000 cases and 24,171 deaths. Virus-related hospitalizations statewide dipped for the first time this week, with 2,280 COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds as of Tuesday.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, Arizona’s seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths both decreased over the past two weeks.
MILAN — Italy surged to a record 98,030 new cases of COVID-19 infections Wednesday, an increase of 25% in one day.
The government was meeting later to consider reducing the quarantine for vaccinated people, amid forecasts that the increasing number of infections could place more than 2 million people in quarantine after close contact with infected people.
The commuter train line in hard-hit Lombardy — which recorded one-third of all new cases — had to cancel about 100 trains Wednesday, due to lack of personnel.
Health Ministry statistics showed nearly 500 people have been hospitalized, with 126 new arrivals in intensive care units. Officials say 71% of those hospitalized are not vaccinated. The death toll rose by 136 to 137,091.
More than 1 million tests were performed in the last 24 hours, with long lines hundreds deep forming in centers around the country. Army teams are set to arrive in the coming days in two towns in Italy’s first red zone, Codogno and Lodi, to help with testing.
WASHINGTON — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that average coronavirus cases in the U.S. this week have increased 60% over the previous week, a reflection, she said, “of the exceptionally transmissible omicron variant.”
“This virus has proven its ability to adapt quickly and we must adapt with it,” Walensky said during the Biden administration’s COVID-19 task force briefing.
She pointed in particular to the CDC’s decision to reduce the quarantine time for individuals who test positive for coronavirus but don’t have symptoms to 5 days from 10 days. After five days, the risk of transmission “substantially decreases,” she said, and the reduced quarantine period reflected an effort to “provide updated recommendations using science to ease the burden of lengthy isolation and quarantine recommendations.”
Walensky also noted the decision to reduce the quarantine time for healthcare workers to seven days reflects in part a desire to address staffing shortages at overburdened hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. She emphasized the need for those who test positive to strictly adhere to masking guidelines.
“How well each of these prevention measures is implemented, as well as adherence to isolation and quarantine recommendations, will determine the outlook in the coming weeks,” Walensky said.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister received his booster jab with Turkey’s domestically made vaccine, Turkovac, live on camera on Wednesday — a day before it was scheduled to be made available for general use.
The vaccine, which uses the “inactivated virus” technology, was granted emergency use approval last week, becoming the third vaccine on offer in Turkey after jabs developed by China’s Sinovac and by Pfizer-BioNTech.
Fahrettin Koca, the health minister, said Turkey was dedicating the vaccine to all who have died of COVID-19 in the country. Members of Turkey’s coronavirus advisory council also took turns to receive their Turkovac booster jabs.
Turkey has so far administered close to 130 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — including nearly 19 million booster shots. Around 82% of the adult population has received two doses.
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s Interior Minister says police forces will begin implementing strict measures ahead of New Year’s Eve to limit the spread of coronavirus in the small country.
Bassam Mawlawi’s comments on Wednesday came as the daily cases of the virus reached 3,153, a figure not seen in Lebanon in months.
After last year’s New Year’s Eve, Lebanon witnessed a sharp increase in coronavirus cases and deaths that overwhelmed hospitals. The medical sector has been hit hard by the country’s economic meltdown that began two years ago.
Mawlawi told reporters that police will be present in hotels, night clubs and restaurants to make sure they are working at 50% capacity and all clients present are either vaccinated or have a PCR test that was taken in less than 48 hours. He added that staff will either have to be vaccinated or undergo a PCR test twice a week.
Health Minister Firass Abiad said there has been no decision yet for a nationwide lockdown.
Lebanon, a nation of 6 million people including a million Syrian refugees, has registered 715,000 cases and more than 9,000 deaths since the first case was reported in February last year.
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