News Headlines 12/24/21

OMICRON IS NOW DOMINANT VARIANT: The Omicron variant is spreading faster than any coronavirus variant yet, with cases surpassing the worst of the previous Delta wave. Daily cases reached 168,409 on Wednesday, according to The New York Times. There is some evidence that the Omicron causes milder symptoms than previous variants. However, it is so easily transmitted that officials fear it could overwhelm the healthcare system in many communities.

  • Chicago and most of the surrounding towns in Cook County will begin requiring proof of vaccination for customers aged five and older to enter indoor public spaces like bars, restaurants and gyms in the new year. Illinois has recorded its two millionth coronavirus diagnosis since the pandemic began, according to Chicago’s NBC Channel 5.
  • New York City has scaled back plans for the traditional New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. The crowd will be limited to 15,000, a fraction of the usual turnout. Proof of vaccination will be required, and everyone must wear masks. New York State reported 38,835 positive tests yesterday. Of those, 22,208 were in New York City, a far greater daily number than has been recorded before the new variant appeared.
  • United Airlines has canceled more than 100 Christmas Eve flights, citing a shortage of staff and crew due to the omicron variant.
  • Some European nations are imposing stricter restrictions than have been seen in the U.S. so far. Italy and Spain have reimposed rules mandating mask wearing even outdoors. Northern Ireland will shut down nightclubs starting Sunday. COVID-19 cases had been leveling off in Europe until the Omicron variant sent the numbers soaring again.
  • China’s government put all 13 million residents of one city under lockdown after a cluster of coronavirus cases was found there. The virus, which is the Delta variant, is believed to have arrived on a flight from Pakistan earlier this month.
  • Former President Donald Trump is doubling down on his positive comments about the coronavirus vaccine, despite being booed by a recent crowd in Dallas after revealing that he had gotten a booster shot. “The vaccine is one of the greatest achievements of mankind,” he told commentator Candace Owens on Fox News. “I came up with a vaccine, with three vaccines. All are very, very good,” he said.

FORMER POLICE OFFICER GUILTY OF MANSLAUGHTER: The former police officer who drew a gun instead of a Taser and fatally shot a young Black man to death at a traffic stop has been found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter. Daunte Wright, who was 20, was pulled over for having an expired tag and an illegal air freshener. The jury deliberated for 27 hours before returning the verdict yesterday. Kim Potter, then a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was ordered held without bail before sentencing. Demonstrators, some carrying Black Lives Matter signs, applauded the verdict outside.

STOCKS HITS RECORD CLOSE: After a three-day selloff, stocks rebounded yesterday. The Standard & Poor’s Index rose 0.62% to close at a record 4,726. The Dow Jones rose 197 points to 35,951. Both show gains for the week. The markets are closed for the holiday today.

TRUMP ASKS SUPREME COURT TO WITHHOLD RECORDS: Former President Donald Trump has appealed to the Supreme Court to block the release of White House records demanded by the House committee investigating the January 6th Capitol riot. The House committee in turn has asked the Court to expedite the matter. The committee is investigating the role of the former president and his aides in attempting to overturn the results of the presidential election.

5 CHARGED IN CONGRESSWOMAN’S CARJACKING: The FBI has charged five teenagers with carjacking a vehicle owned by a member of Congress in broad daylight. U.S. Representative Mary Gay Scanlon was approached at gunpoint as she left a meeting in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The car was later located in Delaware.