BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonia is preparing to become the first Spanish region to reinstate serious limitations given the latest spike in infections in a country that is among the world leaders in vaccination.
Health authorities have asked the courts to authorize a battery of measures including a new nightly curfew from 1-6 a.m., a limit of 10 people per social gathering, the closure of night clubs, and capping restaurants at 50% of seating indoors and stores, gyms and theaters to 70% capacity.
If approved by the courts, they would take effect on Friday and last for 15 days in the northeast region surrounding Barcelona.
Regional health chief Josep Argimon said that the measures are needed because of the arrival of the more contagious omicron variant. “Infections have grown 100% over the past week,” he said.
Spain’s prime minister is meeting via video with the heads of Spain’s regions on Wednesday to discuss new measures for the country that has seen cases rapidly increasing having given two doses of vaccines to over 80% of its entire population of 47 million.
Spain has been relying on administering booster shots and mandatory face mask use indoors for the past months.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— Biden to urge Americans to get vaccinated as Christmas nears
— Explainer: Boosters key to fight omicron, lot still to learn
— Feeling powerless, families bring elderly home in pandemic
— British nurses warn the health care system at a breaking point as omicron cases soar
— German military gives hospital an edge in treating COVID-19 patients
Go to https://APNews.com/coronavirus-pandemic for updates throughout the day.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
WASHINGTON — The White House says President Joe Biden had close contact with a staff member who later tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
Press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Monday night that the staff member tested positive earlier in the day. Psaki says the staff member spent about 30 minutes around the president on Air Force One on Friday during a trip from Orange, South Carolina, to Philadelphia.
Psaki says the staff member is fully vaccinated and boosted and tested negative before boarding Air Force One. She says the staffer began experiencing symptoms Sunday night.
Psaki says the 79-year-old Biden is tested regularly for the virus and has had two negative tests since Sunday. She says he will be tested again Wednesday.
HOUSTON — An unvaccinated man with health issues has become the first person in the Houston area whose death has been linked to COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the death of the man in his 50s during a news conference Monday.
One Houston hospital system has reported the omicron variant is accounting for 82% of new COVID-19 cases it is treating.
The medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist Hospital said in a tweet Sunday that the omicron variant became the “cause of the supermajority” of new Houston Methodist cases in less than three weeks. In comparison, the delta variant took three months during the summer before it was the cause of more than 80% of cases.
ATLANTA -- The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen almost 50% in Georgia in the last month, and the number of infections detected continues to accelerate.
More than 1,200 patients were hospitalized statewide Monday with the respiratory illness. That’s well below the record of roughly 6,000 that was reached in early September at the peak of Georgia’s fourth surge of virus cases. But it is well above the recent low of 824 patients recorded on Nov. 22.
Among those who have tested positive for the virus is Atlanta-mayor elect Andre Dickens, who has put himself in self-isolation though he reports feeling well with mild symptoms. Dickens, says he is fully vaccinated.
EUGENE, Ore. — As the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads across the country, University of Oregon students, faculty and staff will be required to get a coronavirus booster shot as soon as they are eligible.
Currently the university and the state’s six other public universities require vaccinations for those on campus.
As of Monday afternoon, the University of Oregon is the only public university in the state to publicly announce a booster requirement.
University President Michael Schill says in a letter posted online that “boosters are the next step in the evolving public health strategy in which we have adapted and responded as a community during the pandemic,”
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s governor has issued his strongest public health warning yet heading into the Christmas holidays.
Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that officials expect the omicron variant of the coronavirus to soon severely strain hospitals and lead to the highest daily case counts since the pandemic hit the state in March 2020.
Cooper also says he will not reimpose any statewide mandates or roll out any financial inducements for residents to get a booster shot of coronavirus vaccine. In place of mandates, North Carolina will rely on additional resources for at-home test and an informational campaign to encourage the roughly 62% of vaccinated residents to get a booster shot.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is starting to see growing numbers of COVID-19 cases months after emerging from a fourth surge of the coronavirus outbreak, with the state at risk of another spike as the omicron variant spreads.
Data released Monday by the Louisiana Department of Health shows the number of new coronavirus cases reached more than 2,300 since Friday — and more than 4,800 over the last week. That’s more than double the amount of new cases from the prior week.
And the health department warned those numbers are expected to balloon as dozens of cases of the fast-spreading omicron variant have been confirmed in Louisiana.
Still, the number of people hospitalized in Louisiana with COVID-19 remains low so far, reported at 241 patients Monday. That continues to be among the lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since March 2020 and well below the state’s peak of more than 3,000 in August.
BOISE, Idaho — State health officials have deactivated crisis guidelines for rationing care at northern Idaho hospitals as COVID-19 cases have dropped.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said Monday that the number of COVID-19 patients remains high but no longer exceeds available health care resources.
The crisis standards for the state’s five most northern counties had been in place since Sept. 7.
Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen says the situation remains precarious because of the omicron variant that appeared in Idaho last week. Jeppesen says getting vaccinated, getting booster doses and wearing masks in crowded areas could help prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed again.
NEW YORK — “Hamilton” and “Aladdin,” two of Broadway’s biggest musicals, are shuttering their doors during the busy Christmas week after finding breakthrough COVID-19 cases in their companies.
All matinee and evening performances of “Aladdin” from Tuesday through Friday were canceled. Performances are scheduled to resume Sunday. “Aladdin” had previously canceled its Dec. 19 performance.
“Hamilton” canceled shows on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday and performances are scheduled to resume Dec. 27. The production had previously canceled its Dec. 17 through Dec. 19 performances, as well as its Dec. 15 show due to the detection of positive results.
The two hit shows join “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “MJ” and “Ain’t Too Proud,” among others, in announcing multi-day cancellations due to the virus. Shows often add performances around Christmas week and the holidays are usually the most lucrative shows of the year.
MISSION, Kan. — Rural Kansas hospitals are struggling to transfer patients as COVID-19 numbers surge, with some patients left stranded in emergency rooms for a week while they wait for a bed.
Space also was in short supply last winter and again over the summer when the delta variant first hit the state. The situation improved slightly this fall, but according to Motient, a company contracting with Kansas to help manage transfers, the situation now is worsening again.
And it isn’t just rural hospitals looking for beds. Overwhelmed hospitals as far away as Minnesota and Michigan have been calling looking for beds in larger Kansas hospitals. Often there simply isn’t room.
Dr. Richard Watson, founder of Motient, said Friday that the long-distance transfers and long waits for beds are sadly becoming commonplace as the pandemic ends its second year.