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Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that he ‘strongly recommends’ against going to large New Year’s Eve gatherings this year as the highly contagious Omicron variant causes massive case surges nationwide.

‘If your plans are to go to a 40 to 50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing,’ Fauci said during the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, ‘I would strongly recommend that this year, we do not do that.’

He claimed that smaller gatherings with everyone fully vaccinated and boosted against coronavirus is low risk, despite the massive number of breakthrough cases with the Omicron variant’s emergence.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert also had a sobering message about COVID on Wednesday – COVID likely isn’t ever going away.

‘We’re never going to stop counting, tests – but we’re looking forward, as everyone I think feels is appropriate, that ultimately we’re going to have to live with something that will not be eradicated and very likely would not be eliminated,’ he said.

More than a year after the vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to the highest level on record at more than 265,000 per day on average as the Omicron variant takes hold of the nation.

Despite saying earlier this week that the mask mandates for domestic flight travel ‘should seriously be considered’, he said Wednesday that this provision is not needed.

‘At this particular time, we do not feel that it’s necessary to make that a requirement for domestic flights,’ Fauci said after President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that he would consider the provision if his ‘medical team’ advised it.

‘Right now we feel that the masking requirements and the degree of filtration on a plane is sufficient to keep people safe,’ he added.

Even though Omicron is the most contagious variant yet, Fauci agrees with other medical professionals that it is a less severe case of COVID.

‘All indications point to a lesser severity of Omicron versus Delta,’ Fauci said, citing preliminary data.

He added: ‘Final conclusion about the level of severity in children remains to be determined.’

Despite record number of cases due to the spread of the Omicron variant, Anthony Fauci said the strain is of 'lesser severity' when compared to Delta

Despite record number of cases due to the spread of the Omicron variant, Anthony Fauci said the strain is of 'lesser severity' when compared to Delta

Despite record number of cases due to the spread of the Omicron variant, Anthony Fauci said the strain is of ‘lesser severity’ when compared to Delta 

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that Americans should only have small New Year's Even gatherings if everyone is vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and shut down the idea of big celebrations this year

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that Americans should only have small New Year's Even gatherings if everyone is vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and shut down the idea of big celebrations this year

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that Americans should only have small New Year’s Even gatherings if everyone is vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and shut down the idea of big celebrations this year

Fauci, 81, will get largest-ever retirement package in federal government when he steps down

Anthony Fauci is set to rake in the highest-ever federal government retirement package in U.S. history with his annual payment exceeding $350,000, according to a Forbes estimate.

The White House’s top COVID adviser, who is 81, has shown no indications that he will retire any time soon after 55 years as a federal employee. Since 1984, Fauci has served as the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health.

If he retired today, Fauci would still earn $350,000 per year on retirement and his pension and benefits would continue to increase with cost-of-living adjustments, auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found in the Forbes review.

Fauci is somewhat of a celebrity among Democrats after becoming the point person on the White House coronavirus response under Trump and continued with Biden. He was often praised by the left for rebuking Trump in the early days of the pandemic.

On the other hand, Republicans have called for Fauci to be fired and have slammed the doctor for his agency giving a gain-of-function grant to the Wuhan lab, which they claim led to the development of the COVID-19 virus.  

In 2019, Fauci had a salary of $417,608 and in 2020 was bumped to $434,312 – giving him two consecutive years of being the highest compensated federal employee. Fauci even out-earned the president, four star generals and the rest of his roughly 4.3 million colleagues in the federal government.

As president, Joe Biden, 79, earns $400,000 annually.

Information has not yet been released for Fauci’s 2021 salary, but Forbes filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to receive all financial disclosures, which a federal judge required be produced starting February 1, 2022.

The Office of Personnel Management notes that federal employees with such a lengthy service like Fauci can retire and still earn 80 per cent of their average salary from the last three salaries they earned – plus any credit they have left for sick leave that wasn’t taken.

Using 2018, 2019 and 2020 salaries, which equates to $1.252 million in earnings over three years, Fauci would have started raking in an 80 per cent pension payment of $333,745 if he had retired at the end of 2020.

In this calculator Forbes also factored in a cost-of-living increase through the three years.

Since Fauci’s 2021 and 2022 salaries are still unknown – but likely similar or slightly higher – it’s safe to say his retirement pay should he choose to end his tenure soon would be closer to $347,500 or higher.

Fauci started in his most high-profile role yet as the second-ever Chief Medical Advisor to the President in January 2021, when Biden took office.

His biggest pay bump, however, came in 2004 under President George W. Bush when Fauci got a ‘permanent pay adjustment’ for biodefense work. 

Since Fauci has also far-exceeded the 10-year-minimum work requirement to receive an annuity in retirement, his annual payout would increase by 2 per cent of his average three-high salary, meaning if he were to leave at the end of December, he could earn around $8,500 more per year in retirement.  

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Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, was the highest-paid federal employee in 2019 and 2020 – even above the president. And a Forbes analysis found this week that if he retired today, Fauci would earn an annual pension of upwards of $350,000, which is the highest-ever in U.S. history.

In 2019, Fauci had a salary of $417,608 and in 2020 was bumped to $434,312 – and the 81-year-old has shown no indications that he will step out of his role any time soon after 55 years of federal government work.

Omicron has become the dominant COVID strain in the U.S., now accounting for 59 percent of cases. There were 377,014 recorded new cases on Tuesday and 2,377 deaths in 24 hours.

The country recorded a seven-day average of 264,546 cases on Tuesday, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. The country’s previous record was about 247,503 average daily cases, reported on January 11. Coronavirus deaths have climbed over the past two weeks from an average of 1,200 per day to around 1,500. 

Coronavirus deaths have climbed over the past two weeks from an average of 1,200 per day to around 1,500.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted Tuesday that there had been a serious error in calculating the prevalence of the Omicron variant, overblowing the figure recorded in mid-December by as much as 50 percentage points and sowing confusion as the nation breaks records for new cases.

The agency released a revised chart on Tuesday showing that the new variant accounted for 23 percent of all COVID-19 cases for the week ending on December 18, as opposed to the 73 percent it originally reported. 

The chart showed that the Omicron variant accounted for 59 percent of all new cases for the week ending on December 25, meaning the Delta variant has been accounting for far more infections than the agency initially thought, though Omicron is gaining ground quickly. 

‘There’s no way around it, it is a huge swing that makes it seem like something went really wrong,’ Dr. Shruti Gohil, the associate medical director for epidemiology and infection prevention at UC Irvine’s School of Medicine, told NPR

Despite the CDC’s astonishing error, data from the UK suggest that Omicron will soon account for nearly all new cases in the US. 

In England, which is several weeks ahead of the US in the Omicron wave, the new variant went from zero to 92 percent of all new cases in the four weeks leading up to December 27, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency. 

The CDC corrected its error, to the confusion of many, on the same day that the nation broke its record for the most daily COVID-19 cases. On Monday, 512,553 new cases were reported in the US, marking the country’s largest single-day tally since the beginning of the pandemic. The record-breaking figure was in part the product of a multi-day build up of unreported cases over the Christmas holiday on Saturday, which finally were logged to start the week. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in a round of television interviews on Wednesday morning, said she was watching the nation’s case load and its potential impact on health care providers. 

Meanwhile, the White House COVID-19 Response Team is scheduled to hold a news conference at 11am. 

While there was some data from other countries that showed less severe illness with Omicron, it was too early to say what the impact might be across the United States, particularly given its uneven vaccination rates, Walensky told MSNBC. 

‘We may have many, many more cases and so we may still very well see a lot of severe disease in the hospitals,’ Walensky said. 

‘What I am focused on now is making sure that we can get through this Omicron surge, that we do so with minimal amount of hospitalization and severe disease,’ she added, pointing to vaccines and booster shots as top tools to curb infections.

‘We are seeing and expecting even more cases of this Omicron variant,’ even if many are mild, she said separately on CNN.

States showing the highest daily infection numbers on Tuesday included New York, which reported as many as 40,780 cases, and California, which reported over 30,000. Texas reported more than 17,000 cases and Ohio over 15,000. 

Global COVID-19 infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period, according to new data Wednesday. 

Almost 900,000 cases were detected on average each day around the world between December 22 and 28, with myriad countries posting new all-time highs over the past 24 hours, including the United States, Australia and many European nations. 

Updated chart: The CDC's revised chart, above, shows that the Omicron variant (purple) accounted for 23 percent of all cases in the week ending on December 18 and 59 percent of all new cases for the week ending on December 25

Updated chart: The CDC's revised chart, above, shows that the Omicron variant (purple) accounted for 23 percent of all cases in the week ending on December 18 and 59 percent of all new cases for the week ending on December 25

Updated chart: The CDC’s revised chart, above, shows that the Omicron variant (purple) accounted for 23 percent of all cases in the week ending on December 18 and 59 percent of all new cases for the week ending on December 25

Previous chart: The CDC's original chart (above) claimed that Omicron cases accounted for 73 percent of all infections in the US for the week ending on December 18

Previous chart: The CDC's original chart (above) claimed that Omicron cases accounted for 73 percent of all infections in the US for the week ending on December 18

 Previous chart: The CDC’s original chart (above) claimed that Omicron cases accounted for 73 percent of all infections in the US for the week ending on December 18

Previous chart: The CDC estimated that the Omicron variant (purple) accounted for as many as 90% of all cases in certain parts of the country, and 73% nationwide, for the week ending December 18
Revised chart: The CDC now estimates that the Delta variant (orange) accounted for far more cases than originally thought
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The CDC’s prior chart (left) for the week ending December 18 show Omicron much more dominant across the nation than a revised chart for the week (right) issued on Tuesday

The US broke its record for the most daily COVID-19 cases with a seven-day average of 264,546 cases reported on Tuesday

The US broke its record for the most daily COVID-19 cases with a seven-day average of 264,546 cases reported on Tuesday

The US broke its record for the most daily COVID-19 cases with a seven-day average of 264,546 cases reported on Tuesday

Latest week: The CDC now estimates that the Omicron variant accounts for 59% of cases nationwide, but that Delta is still dominant in some regions for the week ending December 25

Latest week: The CDC now estimates that the Omicron variant accounts for 59% of cases nationwide, but that Delta is still dominant in some regions for the week ending December 25

Latest week: The CDC now estimates that the Omicron variant accounts for 59% of cases nationwide, but that Delta is still dominant in some regions for the week ending December 25

The simultaneous circulation of the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus is creating a ‘tsunami of cases’, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

FDA says rapid tests for Covid antigens may be less sensitive in detecting Omicron variant – causing ‘false negative’ results 

Rapid antigen tests for Covid may be less sensitive in detecting the Omicron variant and are leading to ‘false negatives,’ the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The FDA made preliminary findings using samples from patients confirmed to be infected with the new mutant strain.

The federal agency said early results show that antigen tests ‘do detect the Omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity,’ meaning it’s possible the tests could miss an infection, known as a ‘false negative.’

It’s not clear which brand of lateral flow tests the FDA were using in their study or to what degree there was reduced sensitivity.

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‘Delta and Omicrom are now twin threats driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalisation and deaths,’ said Tedros.

‘I am highly concerned that Omicron, being highly transmissible and spreading at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases.’

Tedros repeated his call for countries to share vaccines more equitably and warned that the emphasis on boosters in richer countries could leave poorer nations short of jabs.

He said the WHO was campaigning for every country to hit a target of 70% vaccine coverage by the middle of 2022, which would help end the acute phase of the pandemic.

New Year’s Eve will mark the second anniversary of China alerting the WHO to 27 cases of ‘viral pneumonia’ of unknown origin in the city of Wuhan.

More than 281 million people have since been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and more than 5 million have died.

The CDC’s new data on the prevalence of the Omicron variant shows that the Delta variant, which appears more severe but less contagious than Omicron, still has a hold on the country and is one driving factor behind the most current surge in cases.

It also raises the question of how the CDC could have recorded such a drastic difference in the strain’s prevalence than what was the reality. 

Jasmine Reed, a spokesperson for the CDC, recognized the ‘wide predictive interval posted in last week’s chart,’ referring to the huge gap in the data for the week ending on December 18, and attributed it to the ‘speed at which Omicron was increasing.’

‘CDC’s models have a range, and… we’re still seeing steady increase in the proportion of Omicron,’ she told Fox News.

Gohil noted that there is ‘always a delay in the testing information that comes in, and that’s what the public should take away.’

She added that health professionals were finally understanding the Delta variant more and figuring out how to test for it efficiently when the Omicron variant swept through the country.

‘The way in which we test and the way in which we have certitude about the numbers was all in flux right at that moment. Then along comes this new variant and now here you are trying to project something when you don’t have all of the mechanisms in place,’ Gohil said. 

The scant rate of testing in the US may be contributing to uncertainty in the data. The UK is performing 22.3 COVID tests per 1,000 people every day, five times more than the US rate of 4.5, according to figures from Our World in Data. 

Moreover, only a tiny fraction of the positive tests are actually sequenced to determine the variant strain, leaving huge potential gaps in the surveillance effort. 

The scant rate of testing in the US may be contributing to uncertainty in the data. The UK is performing 22.3 COVID tests per 1,000 people every day, five times more than the US rate of 4.5

The scant rate of testing in the US may be contributing to uncertainty in the data. The UK is performing 22.3 COVID tests per 1,000 people every day, five times more than the US rate of 4.5

The scant rate of testing in the US may be contributing to uncertainty in the data. The UK is performing 22.3 COVID tests per 1,000 people every day, five times more than the US rate of 4.5

Dr. Jerome Adams, the former surgeon general for the Trump Administration, also pointed to testing as a reason for the false Omicron numbers. He referred to something called the ‘S gene dropout,’ in which one of the three target genes is not detected – a signifier of the Omicron variant.

‘A lot of people were seeing this S dropout on the tests even before they got the follow-up genetic testing, and so those samples were disproportionately more likely to be sent in for sequencing,’ he told Fox News.

‘It’s also important for people to understand that in the grand scheme of things, they really were probably just a week or two ahead of what we’re going to see anyway, because omicron is spreading so quickly that it is going to be 73 percent by the time you look at this week’s or next week’s numbers,’ Dr. Adams told the news outlet.

While the CDC reported that the Delta variant accounted for 41 percent of cases in the week ending on December 25, that number could be as high as 58 percent given the agency’s margin of error, NPR reported.

Regardless, Gohil said, ‘The implication is that we have a lot of delta going on and that requires a lot more attention. People are thinking, ‘Oh, well, omicron’s not that bad.’ But it’s actually still too early to really know even that. Besides, Delta is the beast that you should be worried about.’

The CDC’s latest data will also put a burden on hospitals that will have to adjust their treatment methods to account for the vast different in Omicron and Delta cases, as different strains require different antibodies and medications.

‘The bottom line is, don’t take your masks off just yet and get vaccinated, vaccinated, vaccinated, vaccinated — and boosted,’ Gohil told NPR. 

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. also doubled over the past two weeks. Over the past week, 235,269 Americans have been testing positive for the virus every day – a 98 percent increase from two weeks ago and approaching the prior record of 247,503 set last January, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins data.

Though Omicron is thought to be less severe than Delta, hospitalizations have also been rising, up 6 percent nationwide over the past two weeks, to 71,381.

In a troubling warning sign, the UK, where Omicron struck earlier, has seen hospitalizations rise nearly 50 percent in the past week, with 1,374 coronavirus-infected patients admitted on Sunday, an 11-month high.

Hospitalizations are soaring in some US states, including Louisiana, New Jersey and Florida where in each case the number of patients has jumped nearly 60 percent in two weeks. As well, Michigan, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire all hit record hospitalizations earlier this month.

‘January is going to be a really, really hard month. And people should just brace themselves for a month where lots of people are going to get infected,’ Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN.

Jha warned that the unvaccinated would bear the brunt of severe illness, while most who are vaccinated and boosted were unlikely to face hospitalization.

‘A lot of people who have not gotten a vaccine are going to end up getting pretty sick, and it’s going to be pretty disruptive,’ Jha said.

‘My hope is as we get into February and certainly by the time we get into March, infection numbers will come way down, and it’ll also start getting (into) spring, and the weather will start getting better. And that will also help.’  

Deficiencies in testing may have contributed to the CDC's error. The US is testing for COVID at a rate of 4.5 per 1,000 people, lagging behind other developed nations including Portugal, France, Italy, Australia, and Ireland

Deficiencies in testing may have contributed to the CDC's error. The US is testing for COVID at a rate of 4.5 per 1,000 people, lagging behind other developed nations including Portugal, France, Italy, Australia, and Ireland

Deficiencies in testing may have contributed to the CDC’s error. The US is testing for COVID at a rate of 4.5 per 1,000 people, lagging behind other developed nations including Portugal, France, Italy, Australia, and Ireland

A map of per capita rates of daily COVID testing shows the US lagging far behind many other wealthy nations

A map of per capita rates of daily COVID testing shows the US lagging far behind many other wealthy nations

A map of per capita rates of daily COVID testing shows the US lagging far behind many other wealthy nations

The crowd's desperation to receive one of the tests was clear to see, with testing clinics across the city hit by long lines and longer processing times for results

The crowd's desperation to receive one of the tests was clear to see, with testing clinics across the city hit by long lines and longer processing times for results

A take-home COVID-19 testing kit is displayed on the shelf of a Manhattan drugstore on December 22. Such tests have become hard to find in some areas amid a shortage

Lines of up to six hours have been reported at testing clinics, with many of those tested also forced to wait days longer than the advertised 24 to 48 hours for their result, ruining the Christmas plans of many

Lines of up to six hours have been reported at testing clinics, with many of those tested also forced to wait days longer than the advertised 24 to 48 hours for their result, ruining the Christmas plans of many

Lines of up to six hours have been reported at testing clinics, with many of those tested also forced to wait days longer than the advertised 24 to 48 hours for their result, ruining the Christmas plans of many

Biden says he WILL issue domestic flight vaccine mandate IF his medical team advises it – one day after Fauci flip flopped on his support for one 

Joe Biden fueled confusion on Tuesday by saying he will issue a vaccine mandate for domestic flights if his medical team advises it – one day after Dr Anthony Fauci walked back his comments in support of such a measure.

Biden told reporters at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – while walking his new German Shepherd puppy, Commander, with First Lady Jill Biden – that he will make a decision on domestic travel vaccine requirements ‘when I get a recommendation from the medical team.’   

In November, Biden said he would wait for the scientific community to provide him a recommendation when asked if consideration has been given to requiring proof of vaccination for domestic flights.

The surge in COVID cases from the Omicron variant has made the White House reassess whether to impose it.

Fauci, Biden’s top health adviser, seemingly called for a vaccine mandate for air travelers on Sunday but quickly retracted his remarks the next day. 

‘Everything that comes up as a possibility, we put it on the able and we consider it, that does not mean that it is likely to happen,’ Fauci clarified to CNN’s Jim Acosta on Monday.

‘I doubt if we’re going to see something like that in the reasonably foreseeable future,’ he added.  

The president also told reporters during his stroll on Tuesday evening that there has been ‘a bit of progress’ toward the administration’s goal of producing and distributing at-home COVID testing kits amid nationwide shortages. 

The administration has pledged that all Americans will be able to acquire an at-home rapid test for coronavirus after previously ruling it out.  

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Another move that turned heads on Monday was the CDC’s decision to cut the amount of time asymptomatic COVID-19 patients need to quarantine in half, from 10 days to five days.   

‘The reason is that with the sheer volume of new cases that we are having and that we expect to continue with Omicron, one of the things we want to be careful of is that we don’t have so many people out,’ Fauci said in a Tuesday interview with CNN, explaining the decision. 

‘Obviously if you have symptoms, you should not be out. But if you are asymptomatic and you are infected, we want to get people back to the jobs. Particularly those with essential jobs, to keep our society running smoothly. So I think that was a very prudent and good choice on the part of the CDC.’

But not all health experts were on board with the new decision. In a separate interview with Good Morning America, Jha criticized the CDC’s new rule.  

‘I actually think It would help a lot if we asked people to get a negative test as well,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why the CDC did not put that in, I suspect it might be because tests are still hard to come by.’

Although studies have suggested the Omicron variant is less deadly than some of its predecessors, the huge numbers of people testing positive mean that hospitals in some countries might soon be overwhelmed, while businesses might struggle to carry on operating because of workers having to quarantine.

France, Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta all registered a record number of new cases on Tuesday, while the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the United States hit a record daily case tally on Wednesday. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that 90% of patients ending up in intensive care had not received booster vaccines, which medics say is the best protection against the infectious Omicron.

‘The Omicron variant continues to cause real problems, you’re seeing cases rising in hospitals, but it is obviously milder than the Delta variant,’ Johnson said.

New daily infections in Australia spiked to nearly 18,300 on Wednesday, eclipsing the previous pandemic high of around 11,300 hit a day earlier.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country needed ‘a gear change’ to manage overburdened laboratories, with long walk-in and drive-in queues reported in a number of areas.

Testing bottlenecks have also built in European nations, including Spain where demand for free COVID-19 testing kits provided by Madrid’s regional government far outstripped, with long queues forming outside pharmacies.

A number of governments were also increasingly worried by the huge numbers of people being forced into self-isolation because they had been in contact with a coronavirus sufferer.

‘We just can’t have everybody just being taken out of circulation because they just happen to be at a particular place at a particular time,’ Australia’s Morrison told reporters.

Italy was expected to relax some of its quarantine rules on Wednesday over fears the country will soon grind to a halt given how many people are having to self-isolate protectively, with cases doubling on Tuesday from a day earlier to 78,313.

However, China showed no let up in its policy of zero tolerance to outbreaks, keeping 13 million people in the city of Xian under rigid lockdown for a seventh day as new COVID-19 infections persisted, with 151 cases reported on Tuesday.

‘I just want to go home,’ said a 32-year-old mechanic, who was in Xian last week for a business trip when the city was effectively shut off from the outside world.

No cases of Omicron have been announced in Xian so far.

Many countries are still grappling with the earlier Delta variant, including Poland, which reported 794 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday – the highest number in the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska said more than 75% of those who died were unvaccinated.

Early data from Britain, South Africa and Denmark suggests there is a reduced risk of hospitalization for the Omicron compared with the Delta variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest epidemiological report.

However, the report said further data was needed to understand how severity of illness may be impacted by vaccination and, or, prior infection.

The surge in cases is coinciding with the New Year holidays, normally a period of parties and travel. Some countries, such as Italy, have canceled public celebrations, while authorities in Japan urged residents to keep end-of-year gatherings small. 

‘The highest risk is meeting people without taking adequate measures to prevent infection,’ said Norio Ohmagari, director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center and a top health advisor to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Source: dailymail

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