Omicron cases in US expected to increase soon, CDC chief warns

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Omicron cases in US expected to increase soon, CDC says; White House ‘confident’ schools will stay open
Speaking at a White House COVID-19 Task Force Briefing on Wednesday, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that she expected reports of omicron cases in the U.S. to increase in coming days.

The “variant of concern” has been detected in at least 36 states and agency data based on national genomic sequencing analysis shows the omicron variant is estimated to represent around 3% of coronavirus cases in the U.S., including higher estimates in New York and New Jersey

“In looking at early data on transmissibility of omicron from other countries, we expect to see the proportion of omicron cases here in the United States continue to grow in the coming weeks,” Walensky explained. “Early data suggests that omicron is more transmissible than delta, with a doubling time of about two days.”

The CDC chief said this information means it is vital for all who are eligible to get vaccinated or boosted against the virus and for everyone to continue to be vigilant about best practices, including wearing masks indoors in areas of substantial or high community transmission. 

Earlier in the day, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One that the American Rescue Plan has the resources to make sure both that people are getting vaccinated and that schools stay open. 

“And so, we’re very confident that that’s going to be the case. We’re not going to shut down. We are comforted by the resources and what we have learned and the tools that we have in our tool belt to do that,” she said. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON OUR TOP STORY

In other developments
– Outgoing NIH director Francis Collins raises eyebrows singing about post-pandemic life
– California medics refuse to enter care center to help man in cardiac arrest due to ‘some COVID-19 law’: police
– Cornell goes to red alert, cancels graduation ceremony after student omicron outbreak
– Five governors call on Pentagon to rescind COVID vaccine mandate for National Guard members
– NFL discussing COVID policy change for boostered up players

Great Plains, Midwest slammed with severe storms, suspected tornadoes; damage reported
Severe storms, possibly including tornadoes, struck Great Plains and upper Midwest states Wednesday, according to reports.

Affected states included Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado, the reports said. There was no immediate word about deaths or injuries.

At least 13 tornadoes were reported across Nebraska and Iowa, the National Weather Service reported, and winds in those states and Kansas topped 70 mph in many areas, according to The Associated Press.

Both the severity and the timing of the weather were unusual, an NWS meteorologist said.

“To have this number of damaging wind storms at one time would be unusual any time of year,” weather tracker Brian Barjenbruch, based in Valley, Nebraska, told the AP. “But to have this happen in December is really abnormal.”

Wednesday’s damage came just days after similar destruction hit states including Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee, killing more than 85 people, the AP reported. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

In other developments:
– Biden says federal government to cover 100% of Kentucky emergency work for first 30 days
– Aunt remembers 9-year-old niece killed in Missouri tornado in emotional ‘Fox & Friends’ interview
– California storms: Cleanup underway after record rainfall
– Kentucky man rescues wife, sister-in-law from candle factory demolished by tornado
– Kentucky candle factory worker speaks out; tornado survivors hold candlelight vigil
– Snow forecast in northern Plains as severe weather possible for Midwest, Mississippi Valley

Manchin stands ground, placing Biden spending bill in potential jeopardy
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., cast doubt on a Senate vote on the spending bill by Christmas, putting in peril President Biden and Senate Democrats‘ goal of passing the roughly $2 trillion measure before the self-imposed deadline.

Asked by Fox News on Wednesday whether he would be able to work through issues to hold a vote on the measure before Christmas, Manchin said, “We haven’t even gotten anything back from the parliamentarian, so just procedurally we have nothing to vote on.”

Manchin and fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., are considered key holdouts on Biden’s social spending bill. Manchin has repeatedly expressed concern about the legislation’s cost, warning a broad spending package would be fiscally irresponsible given rising inflation.

Manchin is not budging, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Manchin has so far stood by his central critique of the package: that it temporarily funds programs that Democrats intend to later make permanent, as a way to disguise the full price of its provisions,” the WSJ reported. “At issue in the talks between Messrs. Biden and Manchin is the child tax credit, which Democrats made more generous, offered to low-income Americans who owe no income taxes and began distributing in monthly cash installments earlier this year.”

Following a phone call with the president earlier this week, Manchin said the two of them discussed “different iterations” of a bill. Asked then about the possibility of a vote on the bill before Christmas, Manchin said “anything’s possible.”

The House passed its version of the Build Back Better Act last month in a party-line vote following months of negotiations with progressives and moderates. The Senate version is expected to contain changes, given opposition from Manchin and Sinema. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

In other developments:
– Biden’s Build Back Better plan ‘dead forever’: Lindsey Graham
– Fox Business Poll: Voters get brutally honest about Biden’s social spending bill
– Huffington Post reporter says Manchin called him ’bulls—‘ during tense Build Back Better exchange
– Senate approves $778 billion military funding bill after delay
– Dana Perino reacts to CNN’s list of potential Biden replacements
– Video shows Biden judicial nominee Dale Ho attacking Senate, Electoral College: They are ‘anti-Democratic’
– White House touts diversity of Biden judicial appointees as number surpasses Trump’s first year

TODAY’S MUST-READS:
– Urban Meyer fired by Jacksonville Jaguars after just 13 games
– US Navy successfully test-fires high-energy laser weapon system
– US downs drone headed toward Syrian base with about 200 American troops
– Longtime CNN producer John Griffin’s devices seized 17 months before child sex trafficking arrest
– Eric Adams’ new NYPD commissioner appointed in front of a mural of radicals and a cop killer
– Oklahoma boy’s arm ripped off by pit bull after trying to pet puppies, police say
– Siblings of missing Washington girl Oakley Carlson, 5, said sister was ‘no more,’ ‘had been eaten by wolves’
– Missouri school district on the hook for $4 million for not letting transgender student use desired restroom

THE LATEST FROM FOX BUSINESS:
– Southwest CEO: ‘Masks don’t add much, if anything’ against COVID-19 on planes
– Bruce Springsteen sells masters, music publishing to Sony for $500M: report
– Fed signals several interest rate hikes in coming year: Here’s what that will mean
– LA’s ‘Death Hotel’ featured in Netflix doc to be converted into affordable housing
– Kudlow: Why Elon Musk should be Fed chairman

SOME PARTING WORDS

Fox News’ Dana Perino on Wednesday night reacted to CNN’s list of possible Democratic candidates who could “replace” President Biden in 2024.

Outside of Biden, the “most likely” candidate would be Vice President Kamala Harris, CNN claimed. Others included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. 

“[In] this list that CNN did, the first four people that they name already ran for president and lost – what does it say about the quality of their campaigns?” Perino said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “The other thing is that the Democrats were pretty much hanging by a thread until President Trump came along, and then they unified [with] their distaste for him. But they’re trying to run that playbook again.”

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This edition of Fox News First was compiled by Fox News’ David Aaro. Thank you for making us your first choice in the morning! We’ll see you in your inbox first thing Friday.

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