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COVID-19 live updates: Three Americans testing positive every second

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JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.4 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 821,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 61.9% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 30, 5:34 am
UK plans surge hospitals as ‘war footing’ for omicron

Hospitals across England were setting up “Nightingale surge hubs,” temporary structures capable of handling 100 patients, as they prepared for a potential wave of omicron patients.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service announced the plan on Thursday, a day after health officials recorded a new daily high for COVD-19 infections.

“Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing,” NHS National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said in a statement on Thursday.

The NHS said it would start with hubs at eight hospitals around the country. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement that an additional 4,000 beds could be added if necessary.

“We do not yet know exactly how many of those who catch the virus will need hospital treatment, but given the number of infections we cannot wait to find out before we act and so work is beginning from today to ensure these facilities are in place,” Powis said.

Dec 30, 4:14 am
UK, Italy, Greece report record new daily cases

The United Kingdom, Italy and Greece broke records on Wednesday for daily new COVID-19 cases, according to government health officials.

The Greek government reported a record increase for new cases for a third consecutive day with 28,828 new cases and 72 COVID-19-related deaths.

About 64.3% of the population is fully vaccinated and 26.5% have received a booster or third dose, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Health Minister Thanos Plevris announced on Wednesday that new restrictions will go into effect on Jan. 3, but Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper reported that the government has decided to put them into effect at 6 p.m. local time on Thursday.

Italian health authorities recorded another record increase on Wednesday with 98,0303 new COVID-19 cases and 148 deaths.

Semi-official ANSA reported Wednesday’s positivity rate is 9.5% and there are 1,185 patients in ICUs. About 51.7% of Italy’s residents are fully vaccinated and 24.9% have received a booster or 3rd dose, per the ECDC.

UK health officials recorded 183,037 new cases and 57 deaths. The record-setting new case number included five days of data from Northern Ireland, which last published data on Dec. 24, according to health officials.

About 82.3% of adults in the UK have received two vaccine doses and 57.5% have received a booster, according to government data.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Dec 29, 7:35 pm
Fauci backs CDC isolation recommendations

Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on ABC News Live Wednesday and shared his thoughts on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to lower its recommended isolation period to five days for asymptomatic patients.

Fauci also said that while new evidence shows  omicron may be less severe than delta, people should still be cautious of contracting and spreading the virus.

“You can get people safely back out in a five day period so long as they wear a mask, if they are without symptoms. That is the science,” he told ABC News Live. “The impact of that is to try and not be in a situation where we essentially have to shut down the entire country.”

Fauci also said it would be too premature to be less worried based on evidence that omicron may be less severe.

“We are heartened by the fact that from the South African data, the data from the U.K., and the accumulating data in the United States that it looks like it is less severe,” he said. “It’s much more transmissible, which is something you need to take seriously.”

Dec 29, 6:10 pm
FDA authorizes 2 new at-home COVID-19 test kits

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to two over-the-counter COVID-19 tests.

The tests are manufactured by SD Biosensor and Siemens.

“Combined, it is estimated the companies can produce tens of millions of tests per month for use in the U.S.,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

-ABC News’ Sony Salzman

Dec 29, 2:24 pm
4 Smithsonian locations closed

Four Smithsonian locations in Washington, D.C., have closed due to an increase in COVID-19 cases over the last few days.

The four museums — the National Museum of African Art, the National Postal Museum, the Anacostia Community Museum and the National Museum of Asian Art — are expected to reopen Jan. 3.

The Smithsonian said the cases and quarantine periods impacted “essential and operational staff,” so these closures “will allow the Smithsonian to reallocate staff and keep all other museums open for the remainder of the week.”

The Smithsonian closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and loccations started to reopen in May 2021.

-ABC News’ Beatrice Peterson

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