By The Associated Press
MADRID — New coronavirus cases have hit the tenth daily record in Spain, with an unprecedented 161,688 new confirmed infections as the fast-spreading omicron variant takes the reins.
According to figures released by Spain’s Health Ministry, Thursday was the second day in a row when new cases soared over the 100,000 mark.
The 14-day contagion rate, which informs policymakers’ response to the pandemic, rose to 1,775 new cases per 100,000 residents nationally. That’s up from 1,508 the day before. The northern Navarra region recorded more than twice the national average.
Spanish officials have taken pride in a successful vaccination rollout that has led to more than 80% of the country’s 47 million people having gotten two vaccine doses. On Thursday, health officials announced that 80% of those 60 and older had already received a booster shot.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— Hospitalization of children with COVID-19 in U.S. approaches record
— U.S. health officials press nursing home workers to get booster shots
— New COVID-19 cases in US soar to highest levels on record
— Do at-home COVID-19 tests detect the omicron variant?
— Canadian provinces adopt restrictions amid daily case records
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
MIAMI — Florida is seeing a sharp rise in coronavirus infections as the omicron variant rages through the state.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 58,000 new cases for Wednesday and revised its tallies to add thousands of cases to the daily counts of previous days, setting new pandemic records.
The new CDC estimate raises the 7-day average in Florida to more than 36,400 new cases. The number was at around 26,600 at the peak of the summer surge in August, which was fueled by the delta variant.
In Miami-Dade County, where cases have been concentrated, one out four people is testing positive for the virus.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department says Florida hospitals were treating about 4,000 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, compared to 3,400 the previous day. Those numbers are still well below the 17,000 hospitalized patients seen during the summer.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio hospitalizations for COVID-19 have hit a pandemic record high for the second day running.
State data shows 5,466 people in the hospital with COVID-19, or one of every five patients. Gov. Mike DeWine and hospital administrators around the state say the vast majority of those in the hospital are unvaccinated.
Ohio Department of Health data out Thursday also shows coronavirus cases remaining at historic levels. Nearly 20,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday, just below the record set Wednesday.
The case surge has created long lines outside health clinics and at pop-up sites as thousands seek out testing. The governor has ordered a total of 2,400 members of the Ohio National Guard into hospitals to help overwhelmed staff.
JERUSALEM — Israel has approved a fourth vaccine dose for people most vulnerable to COVID-19, becoming the first country to do so as it braces for a wave of infections fueled by the omicron variant.
The director general of the Health Ministry, Nachman Ash, announced the decision at a press conference late on Thursday.
He says the decision is based on early research, and that officials will consider expanding the administration of a fourth dose to more of the public as they assess the situation.
Israel was among the first countries to roll out Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine a year ago and began freely offering boosters last summer. But it still saw a wave of infections blamed on the delta variant, and officials have warned of another driven by the fast-spreading omicron.
Earlier Thursday, Israel received its first shipment of pills that treat the worst effects of COVID-19.
Israel currently has more than 20,000 active patients, including 94 who are seriously ill. At least 8,243 people have died from COVID-19 in Israel since the start of the pandemic.
MILAN — Italy surged to another record of 126,888 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. That’s a 30% increase from a day earlier when the previous record was hit.
With cases skyrocketing, Italy is reducing quarantines on vaccinated people and imposing new restrictions on those who have yet to get inoculated. Anyone with a booster dose or two doses in the last four months will no longer have to quarantine after coming in contact with someone who is positive.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated people will no longer be able to travel on buses, trains, airplanes or ferries starting on Jan. 10, the day Italians return from the Christmas holidays. They are also barred from a host of other leisure activities, including cinemas, theaters and beauty salons. These have so far been accessible with a negative test within the previous 24 hours.
Despite the surge in numbers, Italian hospitals are not under the same level of pressure as in past surges, with 78% of the entire population fully vaccinated. One-third have gotten booster shots.
MOSCOW — Russia’s state statistics agency says that more than 87,500 people with COVID-19 died in Russia in November, the highest monthly tally since the start of the pandemic.
Thursday’s report by Rosstat brought the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 to over 625,000. That is more than twice the widely-cited toll reported by Russia’s state coronavirus task force.
Rosstat uses broader criteria in its tallying system compared to the task force.
Just 51% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, months before most of the world.
Russia in recent months has faced a tide of contagion with record numbers of infections and deaths. The situation has improved over the past few weeks, but the authorities are now bracing up for a new wave of infection caused by the omicron variant.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A study of health workers in South Africa found a booster shot of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine greatly reduced the risk of hospitalization during the omicron surge.
J&J said Thursday the second dose was 85% effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations in November and December. That’s according to preliminary results of a study of 69,000 health workers in South Africa.
Omicron is highly contagious and can evade some of the protection offered by vaccination or prior infection. But earlier studies of other COVID-19 vaccines have suggested vaccination still strongly protects against severe illness. Similar findings about J&J’s vaccine are important data for Africa, where the shot plays a key role in vaccinations.
J&J also announced preliminary results of some U.S. lab testing that suggested its shot could be considered as a mix-and-match booster for people who’ve received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
MIAMI — Some of Florida’s New Year’s Eve 2021 celebrations are proceeding as planned, while others have been adjusted to fit the rapidly changing COVID-19 environment.
There are no plans for the neon Big Orange to rise up the side of the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami this year. City officials said the annual countdown had been canceled and instead “a digitized laser Big Orange will be created with the traditional countdown clock.” Last year’s Big Orange countdown also was canceled because of coronavirus.
In the northeast town of St. Augustine Beach, a massive fireworks show was still planned, but an accompanying festival with food trucks and performers was canceled because of the recent COVID-19 surge.
Then in Key West, the well-known drag performer Sushi will drop from above a Duval Street bar in a giant maroon, high-heeled shoe. The shoe drop continues a two-decade tradition in the continental United States’ southernmost town.
Florida hit a new record for daily cases on Tuesday with 46,900 new cases in a day. Since Christmas, the state’s 7-day average of daily cases has surpassed previous records set during last summer’s surge, rising to 29,400 infections.
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — A tourism-dependent area in Colorado’s mountains has reinstituted a mask mandate because of a growing number of COVID-19 cases.
Starting Thursday, people will have to wear masks in public indoor spaces in Summit County, home to several popular ski resorts.
The county’s public health department says the decision was made in response to an “alarming” increase in cases during the past week.
Officials believe that’s due to the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant, likely at indoor holiday gatherings. The county has among the highest incidence rates in the United States, as does the Aspen area.
ISTANBUL — Turkish health ministry statistics show nearly 40,000 new COVID-19 infections Thursday, more than double the number of cases a week ago.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that the rise was due to the extremely contagious omicron variant. This level of infections was last seen at the end of April when Turkey’s strictest lockdown measures were announced.
So far, Turkey has not announced any new restrictions other than urging people to wear masks and practice social distancing.
A little more than 83% of Turkey’s population have received two doses of China’s Sinovac or BioNTech’s vaccine and nearly 18.7 million people have received a third dose. The total death toll from the virus in the country is 82,198, according to official statistics.
NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City will ring in 2022 in Times Square as planned despite record numbers of COVID-19 infections in the city and around the nation.
De Blasio said on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday that he wants to show the world that the city is “fighting our way through this.”
After banning revelers from Times Square a year ago due to the pandemic, city officials announced plans previously for a scaled-back New Year’s bash with smaller crowds and vaccinations required.
The city’s next mayor, Eric Adams, will take the oath of office in Times Square shortly after the ball drop.
NEW DELHI — India is going ahead with a legislative election in its most populous state despite daily COVID-19 infections more than doubling nationwide within a week.
India reported 13,154 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a jump from 6,000 daily cases on Dec. 24.
Thousands of people without masks have been crowding the election rallies of top politicians across Uttar Pradesh state.
Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra says all political parties in the northern state of 200 million want the election held by March.
Chandra rejected a state High Court’s suggestion to postpone the election in light of an expected surge in infections fueled by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Dr. K.K Paul, a top government official, said the World Health Organization’s warning of a COVID-19 tsunami was not India-specific and referred to the global situation.
PARIS — Residents and tourists in Paris will be required to wear face masks outdoors starting Friday as France sees a surge of COVID-19 infections fueled by the omicron variant.
The Paris police prefecture said the mask rule will apply to people ages 12 and over, although individuals will be exempt while riding bicycles or motorcycles, traveling in vehicles and doing exercise.
Those who do not comply face fines of 135 euros ($153).
Masks already are mandatory in shops, public facilities and office buildings and on public transportation in France.
The French government announced measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus this week, when France reported a daily record of 208,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
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