Omicron variant found in 5 US states: COVID updates


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Both chambers of Congress passed a bill on Thursday to fund the government through Feb. 18, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown before a Friday deadline.

A group of Republican senators nearly forced a shutdown after they threatened to delay passage of the bill in the upper chamber. They wanted language preventing the use of federal money to carry out a Biden administration mandate on workplace vaccinations, but the amendment to do that failed 48-50.

Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall, who introduced the amendment along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the president’s order will displace a significant number of workers.

“This is about jobs in Kansas. It’s about jobs in Texas, in Utah, across the nation,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill before the vote. “An unconstitutional federal vaccine mandate’s going to lead to an economic shutdown, jobs lost back home.”

Biden announced last month a policy that large businesses — those with 100 or more employees — require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested. Noncompliant businesses could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation. The requirement is currently on hold due to several lawsuits.

“I am glad that in the end cooler heads prevailed,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said of the vote to keep the government open. “The government will stay open.”

Also in the news:

►Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has been cleared from the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols and will be available to play in Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the league announced.

►Workers covered by existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in New Mexico will be required to get booster shots as well, beginning in January. The state Department of Health amended its public health order requiring workers at schools, hospitals and congregate care facilities and the governor’s office to be vaccinated, adding the additional dose to existing requirements.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 785,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 264 million cases and 5.2 million deaths. More than 197 million Americans — roughly 59.6% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Whether you’re traveling abroad or visiting family for the holidays, health experts say at-home COVID-19 tests can be a convenient way to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Here’s what travelers should know.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

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