This Week in COVID-19: Biden Administration Vaccine Mandate Goes Into Effect

COVID-19 updates and news to know as of January 11, 2022.

As of January 9, there have been 59,521,277COVID-19 cases in the United States. In the last 7 days, there have been 4,679,480new cases identified. (CDC

Starting January 15, private health insurers must reimburse customers for up to 8 over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month, according to guidance issued by the Biden Administration. (Politico)

The Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate went into effect on January 10, affecting more than 80 million workers across the United States. Businesses with more than 100 employees must now adhere to requirements including maintaining a database of employee vaccination status, posting their company vaccine policy, providing paid leave to employees receiving the vaccine, and requiring unvaccinated employees to wear a mask at work. The mandate goes into effect after the Supreme Court failed to rule on the legality of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard. (The Hill)

A group of former health advisors to President Biden released a series of articles that call of a “new normal” in the strategy to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. These articles, published in JAMA, provide “dozens” of recommendations and are both explicitly and implicitly critical of the current federal response. (Washington Post)

At the same time, federal health officials find themselves in the position of having to defend the administration’s Omicron response, describing it as a “massive, unprecedented surge.” At a recent Senate hearing, however, lawmakers made clear their feelings that "the government failed to grasp the nation’s need for virus tests,” among other issues. (New York Times)

As COVID cases continue to surge, lifesaving COVID-19 treatments are being rationed, with hospitals turning patients away and health officials across the country working—unenviably—to determine which patients receive these potentially lifesaving drugs. (New York Times)

In Europe, World Health Officials cautioned that more than half of all Europeans could be infected with Omicron in a “west to east” tidal wave. More than 7 million COVID-19 cases were reported during the first week of 2022. (World Health Organization

And back in the United States, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union reached a deal on Monday, bringing to an end a dispute over COVID-19 safeguards that canceled a week of classes. The deal includes provisions for additional testing and closures for schools with major viral outbreaks. (ABC 7 Chicago)

Hospitalizations have reached a new pandemic peak as of January 11, with 145,982 patients hospitalized across the country. Roughly 30% of ICU beds are filled with COVID-19 patients, and health care workers are warning that these conditions may lead to a rise in “avoidable deaths” due to capacity, staffing, and infection rates. (NPR)

The American Red Cross has also been impacted by the pandemic, announcing today that the United States is currently facing its worst blood shortage in over a decade, likely driven by a decrease in blood drives due to the pandemic. (NPR)

Check back next Monday for the latest updates and COVID-19 news you need to know.