U.S. Retail Sales Fell by 1.9 Percent in December

As the Omicron variant surged across the U.S., retail sales dipped 1.9% during the final month of 2021, according to information released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

Data shows that holiday shoppers took warnings about shipping delays seriously and shifted their holiday shopping schedule up last year. On the whole, consumer demand led sales to grow by 16.9% in 2021.

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Whitmer to Deliver State of the State Address Remotely, Cites Safety Concerns

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the annual State of the State address remotely, according to a release from her office.

The top executive detailed the event, scheduled for January 26, will be held virtually “to ensure everyone can safely partake” during the coronavirus pandemic.

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University of Florida Report: Omicron Will Peak Around Mid-January in Florida

Young girl getting vaccine

New findings from the University of Florida (UF) show the omicron variant’s sweep through Florida will likely peak around mid-January 2022. The findings also showed the newest variant will likely result in fewer deaths due to being the least severe of the COVID variants.

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Private Job Growth Surges in December, Doubling Expectations

Private firms’ payrolls increased by 807,000 in December, more than doubling expectations as COVID-19 cases rise, according to a major employment report.

The 807,000 jobs added marks a significant increase from the 505,000 jobs added in November, according to the ADP National Employment Report. December’s figure far exceeds the Dow Jones estimate of 375,000, according to CNBC.

“December’s job market strengthened as the fallout from the Delta variant faded and Omicron’s impact had yet to be seen,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, CNBC reported. “Job gains were broad-based, as goods producers added the strongest reading of the year, while service providers dominated growth.”

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Discrepancies in Ohio’s Official COVID-19 Data and Data from Other Sources

There are discrepancies in COVD-19 data provided by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and other prominent sources of information, The Ohio Star has learned. 

“According to our data, 1,704 Ohio residents died from COVID-19 in December,” Michelle Fong, a Public Information Officer for ODH said Wednesday. “Our report information is based on date of death when reported residence was inside Ohio.”

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United Offers Pilots Triple Pay to Cover Flights Amid Ongoing Omicron Disruptions

United Airlines plane on runway

United Airlines is offering its pilots a whopping threefold increase in pay to help cover employee shortfalls as the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 continues to wreak havoc on multiple industries around the country.

The Air Line Pilots Association announced this week that it had reached a payment agreement with the company for covering flights throughout the month of January.

“Due to the rapid spread of the COVID Omicron variant, we are currently seeing record levels of pilot sick calls,” the union wrote to members. “The impact on the operation is clear and United has experienced a correspondingly large number of cancellations over the past week.”

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Wisconsin Department of Health Encourages Return to Masking for Students Amid COVID Surge

Mother putting mask on child

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Thursday urged students to return to masking amid a surge in positive coronavirus cases.

As most classes are scheduled to begin in January, DHS recommended wearing a mask, even if it is not required by the school district. Furthermore, the officials advocated for vaccinations and a quarantine period if exposed.

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Pennsylvania State University Pledges to Continue In-Person Learning

Penn State University (PSU) on Thursday announced that all students and staff members will return to campus and begin the semester on time.

Citing mitigation measures that are in currently place, Penn State President Eric Barron pledged to continue in-person learning for students at the university.

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Researchers Find Silver Lining in Rise of Omicron Variant

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 worldwide “may have positive implications in terms of decreasing the Covid-19 burden of severe disease,” according to a new study funded by the Gates Foundation and South African, U.S. and U.K. government agencies.

Led by researchers in South Africa, where the variant was first identified, it’s the latest study to suggest the pandemic is approaching endemic status, calling into question the benefits of strict mitigation policies beyond high-risk groups.

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DeWine’s Office Declines to Comment on COVID Plan as Cases Surge

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s office told The Ohio Star Thursday that it will not address concerns about whether the current protocols in place to end the COVID-19 are actually working. 

The Star asked DeWine’s office if, amid the surge of Omicron variant COVID-19 cases, the governor’s office had any plan to implement new measures other than mandating mandates and encouraging vaccines that might help control the pandemic. 

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Richmond City Health Department Contradicts Northam Claim That COVID Tests are ‘Widely Available’

The Richmond City Health Department on Thursday seemingly contradicted a claim made by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam that coronavirus tests are widely available throughout the state.

In a statement addressing the statewide rise in positive COVID-19 cases, Northam contended that individuals would be able to easily obtain a PCR test. 

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Two Minnesota Colleges Requiring Booster Shots for Spring Semester

Two Minnesota colleges have joined a handful of schools across the country who will require students to receive a COVID-19 booster shot in order to attend spring semester classes.

“News about the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is undoubtedly on all of our minds, particularly as we spend more time indoors and in close proximity with loved ones over the winter break. While we don’t yet know how this new variant might impact our community, we are paying close attention to its development and will be ready to adjust plans on campus if needed,” Carleton College said on its website. 

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Tennessee Hospital Limits Visitor Policy as COVID-19 Cases Increase

A Nashville-area hospital announced new limits to the number of visitors a patient is allowed to have as coronavirus cases continue to increase.

TriStar Summit Medical Center will implement a mandate that will only allow one visitor per inpatient, according to a release from the group.

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New York Times Editor Dies of Heart Attack Day After Moderna Booster Shot

Just a day after taking the Moderna booster shot, a New York Times editor unexpectedly died of a heart attack. 

“This is Carlos’s wife, Nora. It’s with deepest sorrow that I have to share with you that Carlos passed away last night of a heart attack. I’ve lost my best friend and our kids lost a truly great dad. I will be off social media for awhile,” Carlos Tejada’s wife announced on his Twitter account on Dec. 18.

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Biden Says Fully Vaccinated Can Feel Free to Celebrate the Holidays, but Unvaccinated Face Hospitalization and Death

During a speech Tuesday afternoon, Joe Biden said fully vaccinated Americans should feel comfortable celebrating the holidays with their families, while warning unvaccinated Americans that they are at a higher risk of ending up in the hospital and dying. Biden repeatedly urged vaccine holdouts to get the jab, saying it is the patriotic duty of every American, and stressing that the shots are “free.”

Biden announced that starting next month, insurance will start covering at-home COVID tests, and the government will provide free tests to those who don’t have insurance. He also said the government would set up emergency testing sites in COVID hot spots around the country.

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U.S. Army Disputes Report Which Inaccurately Claimed COVID-19 Vaccine Under Development Was Tested on Omicron

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) said in a Wednesday statement that some information in a report about its vaccine production is inaccurate. 

“Some recent reports about Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s COVID-19 Vaccine Development have led to inaccurate representations which require clarification,” WRAIR said in a statement provided to The Star News Network. “Last week, the preclinical results of the Army COVID-19 vaccine, SpFN, were published in Science Translational Medicine. The Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle platform is designed to protect against an array of SARS-CoV-2 variants and SARS-origin variants but was not tested on the Omicron variant.”

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Multiple Cases of Omicron Variant Detected in Tennessee

Person with mask on holding COVID vaccine

Officials in multiple jurisdictions throughout Tennessee have detected cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Shelby County reported the first case of the new variant. New cases were discovered on Thursday by both the Metro Nashville Public Health Department and the Hamilton County Health Department.

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All Star Panelist Roger Simon Weighs in on Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines Bait and Switch

Friday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Roger Simon in studio to discuss the discrepancies between the FDA-approved COMIRNATY and the EUA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.

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CDC: About 75 Percent of Omicron Cases Are Fully Vaccinated People

The Omicron variant has been detected in at least 19 states in the U.S., and is striking mainly fully vaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Forty-three people in 19 states have tested positive for omicron, according to remarks made to the Associated Press by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 75 percent of those cases are in people who are fully vaccinated, and one person has been hospitalized. One-third of those individuals had traveled internationally; one-third had received a booster. The cases so far have been “mild,” she said.”

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Commentary: Global Access to Effective Coronavirus Treatments Is Important as the Vaccine

While the science community researches the newly discovered Omicron variant of Covid-19, treatments will become even more necessary where breakthrough cases are detected and those who choose to be unvaccinated are infected. What we already know from the Covid-19 variants is that they are not going away leading to the reality that we will be living with this virus for a long, long time. A vaccine focused approach misses the fact that treatments are going to be needed as a backstop.

The facts surrounding the Omicron variant are emerging day-by-day. CNN reported on November 30, 2021, “there is still a lot we don’t know about the Omicron variant, but scientists are racing to determine its severity, transmissibility and whether it evades current vaccines.” The report indicates that 70 countries have imposed travel restrictions from hot zones in Africa and a growing number of countries outside of Africa are reporting cases. Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, worries that the new variant may have an impact on vaccine efficacy while Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, said that the company is working on an updated vaccine if one is needed. The bottom line is that vaccines have proven to be helpful, yet the Covid-19 pandemic must be fought with vaccines and therapeutics.

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Biden Admin Rolls Out More COVID Measures, Says Vaccine Requirements for Domestic Flights Not ‘off the Table’

President Joe Biden unveiled a new set of executive actions to address the Omicron variant Thursday, though how serious the threat of the variant will be remains unclear.

Biden gave an address from the White House Thursday where he urged a nationwide effort to up vaccinations and booster shots for Americans. The administration said it will extend the mask requirement for domestic flights to March 18 while increasing restrictions on inbound international travelers, requiring they receive a negative COVID test within 24 hours of departure.

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