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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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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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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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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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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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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