NEW YORK (WABC) — The National Guard has been called in to help alleviate strain at hospitals caused by the wave of COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant.

National Guard medical teams are now deployed in 10 states, helping in hospitals and medical facilities, according to the Army Northern Command.

Some 13,000 Guard members have helped across the country at vaccine sites and more, according to Maj. Gen. Jill Faris, director of the Office of the Joint Surgeon General at the National Guard Bureau.

“We’ve done just about anything affiliated and associated with Covid support. We’ve seen it happen in all of our states and territories,” Faris said.

RELATED: What are the symptoms of the COVID omicron variant?

Here are more of today’s COVID-19 headlines:

CDC director pushes back on calls for 4th vaccine dose
West Virginia’s governor wants qualified residents in his state to get a second COVID-19 booster. Health officials haven’t ruled that out, but say not quite yet. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says he is basing his request on data from Israel. A study there found a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine can raise antibodies five-fold a week after injection. “Right now I think our strategy has to be to maximize the protection of the tens of millions of people who continue to be eligible for a third shot before we start thinking about what a fourth shot would look like. We’re in touch with our Israeli colleagues and the data that they have, we are working closely with them,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.

40 NY hospitals ordered to stop elective surgeries due to low bed capacity
The New York State Department of Health announced that 40 hospitals in the state must turn away non-essential elective surgeries for the next two weeks in response to low bed capacity. The Department of Health announced that hospitals, mainly in the central and western regions, have met the state’s threshold for “high risk regions” or low capacity facilities.

Hospitalizations continue to rise in NY
On Saturday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul reported 90,132 positive COVID cases and a 21.17% statewide positivity rate. Most alarming was the spike in total hospitalizations to 11,843, marking an increase of 295.

Supreme Court skeptical of Biden’s vaccine rule
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical Friday of the Biden administration’s authority to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation’s large employers. The court also was hearing arguments on a separate vaccine mandate for most health care workers.

The arguments in the two cases come at a time of spiking coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant, and the decision Friday by seven justices to wear masks for the first time while hearing arguments reflected the new phase of the pandemic.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a diabetic since childhood, didn’t even appear in the courtroom, choosing to remain in her office at the court and take part remotely. Two lawyers, representing Ohio and Louisiana, argued by telephone after recent positive COVID-19 tests, state officials said.

But the COVID circumstances did not appear to outweigh the views of the court’s six conservatives that the administration overstepped its authority in its vaccine-or-testing requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees.

Half of NYC hospitalized patients went in for other reason
Governor Kathy Hochul said roughly half of the patients currently in New York City hospitals who are positive for COVID-19 were initially admitted for non-COVID reasons. Statewide, about 42% of patients who are positive for the virus were admitted for separate reasons, and in some parts of the state, the number is only 21%. The data represent the first time New York has differentiated between patients who go to hospitals to get care for COVID-19 and those who seek out care for other issues but test positive upon arrival.

Booster mandate announced for NY health care workers
Health care workers in New York state must get a booster shot within two weeks of when they are eligible, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday. There will be no exemptions or testing option.

“You would want to make sure that anyone taking care of you is fully protected,” Hochul said. “But also we’ve seen hospitals and health care facilities stressed because people who maybe only have the vaccination and are not boosted are having breakthroughs. This is a phenomenon of omicron.”

In addition, Hochul announced that visitors to nursing homes must have a negative test within 24 hours of visiting and must wear at least a surgical type masks.

More testing sites at NYC subway stations
Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday that COVID-19 testing will be available at four new sites at MTA subway station stops beginning next week. These additional testing opportunities follow the seven subway stations which already offer walk-in testing.

“We are continuing to fight the winter surge with every tool at our disposal, and making sure testing is widely available remains a key part of our strategy,” Hochul said. “As we remind New Yorkers to come back to work, we want you to know that the subways are safe, and testing is readily available at many stations. It’s easy and quick, so come out and take advantage of this easy way to ensure you and your loved ones are safe.”

Walk-in PCR testing will be offered at:

Starting Tuesday, January 11
–Manhattan: 125th Street Station (A/B/C/D lines) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
–The Bronx: Bedford Park Station (B/D lines) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Starting Wednesday, January 12
–Queens: Queens Plaza Station (E/M/R lines) Monday through Friday, 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
–Brooklyn: Coney Island / Stillwell Station (D/F/N/Q lines) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Walk-in PCR testing is currently offered at:
–Times Square-42nd St (Manhattan) Monday through Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
–Grand Central Terminal (Manhattan) Monday through Sunday, 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
–Penn Station (Manhattan) Monday through Sunday, 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
–Broadway Junction (Brooklyn) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
–E. 180th St (Bronx) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
–Roosevelt Ave (Queens) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
–Jamaica-179th St (Queens) Monday through Friday, 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Partying passengers stuck in Cancun after airlines decline flight home
Some members of a rowdy group shown dancing, drinking and vaping maskless aboard a flight to Cancun find themselves stranded in Mexico after their return flight to Canada was scrubbed and other airlines have declined to fly them home. The group flew to Cancun from Montreal on Dec. 30 aboard a Sunwing Airlines charter flight for a trip organized by “exclusive private group” 111 Private Club. Video of the party on board, which shows passengers dancing and drinking in the aisles, has sparked outrage in Canada. An investigation by Transport Canada is underway, and passengers could face hefty fines or worse. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “extremely frustrated” with the incident.

Couple with COVID-19 dies within moments of each other while holding hands
William and Carol Stewart of New Hampshire died within seconds of each other of COVID-19, holding hands as they took their last breaths. Daughter Melissa Noke said their entire family of eight tested positive for COVID-19. Carol was on life support for two weeks, William for eight days. William suffered from lung, kidney and renal failure towards the end of his life. Noke said they were a close-knit couple.

“They’ve known each other since they were four, been together 45 years, married 44 years,” Noke said.

Nassau County leaves mask decisions to schools, giving KN95s to teachers
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed a number of executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, including several related to the wearing of face masks. School boards will be able to decide whether their students will wear masks, and county workers will have the option whether or not to wear a mask inside. He also made it official that the Nassau County Department of Health will not enforce state’s indoor public space mask mandate or vaccine check. Blakeman also announced county-wide at-home COVID test distribution, vaccine pods and KN95 mask distribution at schools.

Every U.S. cruise with passengers has coronavirus cases on board
COVID-19 cases have been reported on every cruise ship operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters with passengers, according to the CDC’s latest update. More than 90 ships are currently being investigated by the CDC or have been investigated and are still being observed by the agency.

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MORE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 COVERAGE


Omicron variant symptoms: what to know even if you are vaccinated
New York City COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus

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