Surging COVID brings 2020 feel to end of ’21…Closures, mandates, new fears…Scramble for tests across country…

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. officials intensified calls Friday for unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated in the face of the new omicron variant that contributed to a record number of infections in New York and threatened to wipe out a second holiday season in Europe.

Though the calendar is about to change, Friday had a distinctly 2020 feel: NFL games were postponed because of COVID-19 infections. The Rockettes Christmas show was canceled for the season. European governments imposed a spate of restrictions that ground travel to a halt and saw travelers lying low.

Much remains unknown about omicron, but officials warn that it appears more transmissible than the delta variant, which has already put pressure on hospitals worldwide. The uncertainty alone was enough for many people to change their plans.

Exactly one year after the United States kicked off its vaccination campaign against COVID-19, cases are surging once again as the country cobbles together a response.

About 120,000 coronavirus cases are being identified each day in the U.S. — up from 80,000 a few weeks ago.

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Contagion is expected to worsen as falling temperatures bring more indoor gatherings. Several hospitals in the Midwest and Northeast, the places hardest hit, are already nearing capacity.

The big unknown this time is Omicron, the variant that was first detected last month in South Africa and is spreading around the world so rapidly that experts believe it could overtake Delta as the dominant strain this winter.

Omicron and holidays unleash scramble for coronavirus tests across the U.S.


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