Live updates: Israel to begin administering 4th COVID shot | COVID-19

JERUSALEM — A government advisory panel of health experts has recommended that Israel begin administering a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccine to protect against the fast-spreading omicron variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised Tuesday’s decision and said he had already instructed health officials to begin preparations.

The campaign is to begin with people over 60 and health care workers. But based on past vaccination efforts, it could quickly include other segments of the population.

Bennett’s office said the campaign, which still requires bureaucratic approvals, is expected to begin in the coming days.

Israel was one of the first countries to vaccinate its population early this year and then carried out the world’s first booster campaign over the summer.



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Go to for updates throughout the day.



CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday the nation’s third-largest city will require proof of coronavirus vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor venues, as the rapidly spreading omicron variant drives a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Lightfoot said the requirement will take effect Jan. 3, and will apply to places where food and beverages are served — including sport and entertainment venues — and to fitness centers. It doesn’t apply to people getting take-out, who stay in a businesses for 10 minutes or less.

Lightfoot said the measure is necessary because of a surge in cases and hospitalizations, with Chicago seeing numbers at levels similar to those before vaccines were available. Chicago is reporting an average of about 1,700 cases per day, up from about 300 per day just weeks ago, she said.

“To be clear, I have not been this concerned about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic in 2020,” Lightfoot said. She also urged people to get vaccinated, saying it’s the only way for life to return to some kind of normalcy and the best way to save lives.

On Monday, Illinois reported about 12,330 new COVID-19 cases — the highest daily total in more than a year. Much of that increase has been driven by the omicron variant, prompting fears of a winter surge.


ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Tuesday reinstated a mask requirement inside stores and other businesses in the city due to rising COVID-19 infections and the emergence of the extraordinarily contagious omicron variant, which has quickly become the dominant version of the virus in the U.S.

“The CDC has designated Fulton and DeKalb counties as areas of high transmission for the COVID-19 virus,” the mayor said in a statement. “Given this recent surge across the Atlanta area, and based upon the counsel from public health professionals, I am reinstating the citywide mask mandate.”

People who fail to wear a mask indoors could face a fine of $50 for a second offense. Bottoms had lifted the previous mask mandate last month.


JERUSALEM — Israeli health officials are reporting what is believed to be the country’s first death from the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Soroka Hospital, located in the southern city of Beersheba, said a man in his 60s died Monday, two weeks after he was hospitalized.

It said the man had suffered from pre-existing health issues but gave no further details.

Israel has greatly restricted air traffic in and out of the country and is considering a series of restrictions on the public to prevent the spread of the highly contagious variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that he was waiting “impatiently” for approval from health authorities to approve a fourth booster shot for older citizens and people with serious illnesses.

Israel was one of the first countries to widely vaccinate its population early this year and became the first to offer boosters over the summer.

Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, has reported over 8,200 deaths from COVID-19.


PORTLAND, Ore. — Intel has told workers that unvaccinated people who don’t get an exemption for religious or medical reasons will be on unpaid leave beginning in April.

The California-based semiconductor company told employees last month they had a Jan. 4 deadline to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or seek an exemption, citing a government mandate for federal contractors. The constitutionality of broad government mandates is up in the air.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Intel is leaving its policies in place for now. Intel will review employees’ exemption requests until March 15.

Employees who don’t receive an exemption will begin unpaid leave on April 4 for at least three months but “will not be terminated.”


MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has tested positive for COVID-19, along with his wife and teenage son, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

In a statement, Walz said all three tested positive on Monday after his son began experiencing mild symptoms over the weekend. The governor and first lady Gwen Walz remain asymptomatic.

All three are vaccinated. Walz received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine in March and the Moderna booster in October.

“My family and I are isolating, and I will continue to work from home until I feel better and test negative for the virus,” Walz said in a statement. “In the meantime, I encourage every Minnesotan to get tested before the holidays, and to roll up their sleeves and get their vaccine and their booster to ensure they, too, have strong protection against COVID-19.”

In a video posted to Twitter, the governor said they will quarantine for 10 days, and urged Minnesotans to get the booster shot and get tested if they experience any symptoms.

Minnesota hospitals remain strained, with nearly 1,500 people hospitalized with complications due to COVID-19 as of Monday, including 355 in intensive care.


LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he won’t impose any new coronavirus restrictions before Christmas — but new measures could be coming after the holiday if omicron continues to surge.

Johnson said Tuesday that given uncertainty about the strain’s severity, the U.K. hospitalization rate and the impact of booster vaccines, “we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.”

In a video message, he said “we continue to monitor omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.”

Earlier this month, Johnson’s government reinstated rules requiring face masks in shops and ordered people to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test before entering nightclubs and other crowded venues.

He said people could go ahead with Christmas plans, but added: “I would urge everyone to exercise caution, to keep protecting yourselves.”

Omicron is spreading rapidly in Britain and has displaced delta as the dominant virus variant.


NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus is tightening up measures to curb a steady rise in COVID-19 infections with the re-introduction of compulsory testing for all employees so that they’re allowed to return to their workplace irrespective of whether they’ve been vaccinated or not.

Only employees who have received a third, booster shot are exempt from the measure that was among several Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela announced on Tuesday after consultations with a team of health experts advising the government on COVID-19.

As of the end of next month, the validity of certificates for those who recovered from COVID-19 which enable them to access public and other areas will be halved to three months.

Kids between 12 and 17 will be permitted entry to malls, theaters, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, sports stadiums and other venues only if they present a PCR or rapid test they’ve undergone in the previous seven days and if they’re accompanied by a vaccinated adult.

People are also urged to get tested ahead of visits to private homes for holiday celebrations which are capped to 20 people at most.


LANSING, Mich. — People who haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19 are taking up too many beds at Michigan’s strained hospitals as the state prepares for the rapid spread of omicron variant, the governor said Tuesday.

The omicron variant is already the dominant strain in the U.S. and is expected to spread rapidly through Michigan in the near future, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a news conference in Grand Rapids where health officials also spoke.

“I have come to appreciate the fact that because this virus is mutating and it’s spreading so quickly, every one of us is likely going to have some exposure at some point,” Whitmer said. “What is our goal? To stay out of the hospital and to stay alive. And the best way to do that is through vaccination and through being boosted.”

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the state health agency, said that although the state’s positivity rate has decreased to 16.2%, that is still too high. During the seven-day period that ended Dec. 9, Michigan recorded 756 COVID-19 deaths.

Hertel said that from Jan. 15 through Dec. 3, people who were unvaccinated or weren’t fully vaccinated made up 85.1% of the state’s recorded COVID-19 cases, 88.1% of its coronavirus-related hospitalizations and 85.5% of its deaths from the disease.

Whitmer didn’t say whether the state could expect a return of mask mandates like those seen earlier in the pandemic, but she encouraged people to wear them and Hertel suggested people should upgrade the quality of the ones they wear.


PARIS — The French government is grappling with ways to slow the surging omicron variant, while French travelers and families are flocking to virus testing tents ahead of the holidays.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex spent the day Tuesday meeting with mayors and lawmakers to persuade them to support tougher vaccine rules.

France’s virus hospitalization numbers have shot up in recent weeks, with some 16,000 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 60% of the country’s ICU beds occupied by virus patients. Confirmed weekly virus infections are at the highest level in France since the pandemic began.

Most are infected with the delta variant but more than one in three new cases in the Paris region is the fast-spreading omicron variant, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

The French government wants a law passed by the end of next month requiring vaccination to enter restaurants and many public venues. Currently a “health pass” is required to enter all such spaces in France, but people can get the pass with either a vaccination certificate, a negative virus test or proof of recent recovery from COVID-19.

France is ramping up vaccination and booster efforts, with doses made available to all children 5-11 starting Wednesday. More than 89% of French people 12 and over have had at least two doses, and about a third have had three doses.

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