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Leaders say ‘no need to panic’ as omicron confirmed in more states; Connecticut passes grim COVID death milestone: updates

Politicians and public health leaders repeated similar messages again and again as the weekend began: The omicron variant has arrived in yet another state, but everything we know about preventing COVID remains the same.

When announcing a case in the state, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urged residents to wear masks, get vaccinated and get a booster shot to reduce the spread of the virus.”Personal prevention” remains the best way to fight COVID, Missouri’s director of the Department of Health and Senior Services said in statement about an omicron case.

The variant has also arrived in Pennsylvania, but “There is no need to panic. … We also know the path to controlling the virus and limiting variants: get vaccinated, get boosted, and take your children ages 5 and older to get vaccinated,” a state Department of Health spokesman said.

Researchers are scrambling to learn more about the heavily mutated variant that is driving a surge in cases in South Africa and has rapidly spread to dozens of countries around the world.Questions remain about how transmissible the variant is and how easily it can sneak past the immune defenses of previously infected and vaccinated people. It’s also too early to say for certain how risky an omicron infection is.

But for now, health experts agree there’s no reason to back off on measures proven to combat COVID-19, especially as delta continues to infect thousands of Americans a day. Masks work regardless of the variant; vaccines still give the immune system an advantage in fighting the coronavirus.

“If we do those things to stop the current strains that are circulating, I think we’ll be doing the right things to stop the omicron variant,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a Friday news conference. “…

Keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re offered a vaccine, get vaccinated.”Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday especially urged Americans to get their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, saying the booster dose increases “the number of neutralizing antibodies against all the variants.” What are omicron variant symptoms? Everything to know about the latest coronavirus strainUnderstanding omicron:

►Reinfection among people who have been previously infected with COVID-19 appears to be more common with omicron than with earlier variants, according to preliminary findings released Thursday from a South African research group. The study has not yet been peer reviewed and does not examine protection against variants provided by vaccination.

►In another new study not yet peer reviewed, researchers found that a part of omicron’s genetic code is also present in another virus, possibly one that causes the common cold. Researchers speculate this mutation could cause the virus to be more contagious but less deadly.

►An Italian dentist is facing possible criminal charges after trying to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in a fake silicone arm. A nurse said the man acknowledged he didn’t want a vaccine but a health pass will be required for entering public venues in the country starting Monday. The man had already been suspended from work because of his refusal to get vaccinated.

►Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said news of Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards’ suspensions over fake vaccination cards upset him because it undermines the “amazing job” his football club has done at handling COVID-19.

►Hiring slowed sharply in November as COVID-19 related hurdles clouded the outlook for the labor market in the months ahead.

►The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury are set to issue guidance by mid January that would allow over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests to be reimbursed by group health plans or health insurance providers.

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