The AA has advised motorists to avoid travelling on Good Friday if possible, saying motorists would be better off leaving today or early on Saturday morning.
Edmund King, AA president, said: “All our polling suggests that Good Friday will be the busiest getaway day for Easter trips and staycations. If some drivers can leave on Thursday or early Saturday, they may miss some of the jams.”
The motoring organisation also estimated that, with higher fuel prices, a 500-mile round trip will see drivers paying £20 more at the pumps than they did last Easter.
Some 27.6 million car journeys are expected to take place over the Bank Holiday weekend, the motoring organisation has forecast.
“Prepare for the worst. Have enough food, have enough batteries in your flashlights. Be prepared for what could be happening this event, or other snow events, as we’re just in the early months of winter,” she said.
Officials urged New Yorkers to finish their holiday travel before the wintry mix begins.
“Please get out early if you have to do anything on the roadways. Otherwise, we encourage you to stay off the roadways starting this evening,” New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said. “Please be safe and be careful.”
The MTA issued a tractor-trailer ban on bridges overnight.
HARRISBURG — Ahead of snowy conditions, cold temperatures and high winds expected across most of the state this weekend, PennDOT and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) are advising motorists to avoid unnecessary travel during the storm. Additionally, the agencies anticipate implementing various speed and vehicle restrictions throughout the storm.
Restrictions will be communicated via variable message boards, the 511PA traveler information website and smartphone apps. Motorists can also sign up for personalized alerts on the website.
Effective at 3 p.m. Sunday, vehicle restrictions are planned for the following roadways at Tier 2 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan:
• All interstates south of Interstate 80, not including Interstate 80;
• PA Turnpike I-76 (Mainline) from the Ohio border to the New Jersey border, including all western extensions;
• PA Turnpike Northeast Extension (I-476) from I-276 to I-80;
• The entire length of U.S. 22; and
• The entire length of Route 33.
Effective at 7 p.m. Sunday, vehicle restrictions are planned for the following roadways at Tier 2 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan:
• All interstates north of I-80, including I-80; and
• PA Turnpike Northeast Extension (I-476) from I-80 to Clarks Summit.
Effective at 7 p.m. Sunday, vehicle restrictions are planned for the following roadways at Tier 3 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan:
• I-70 east of I-79; and
Effective at 11 p.m. Sunday, vehicle restrictions are planned for the following roadways at Tier 3 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan:
• I-81 north of I-84;
• I-84; and
Under Tier 2 restrictions, the following vehicles are not permitted on affected roadways:
• Tractors without trailers;
• Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded enclosed trailers, open trailers or tank trailers;
• Tractors towing loaded tandem trailers unless there are chains or another approved Alternate Traction Device on board;
• Enclosed cargo delivery trucks that meet the definition of a CMV;
• School buses, commercial buses and motor coaches; and motorcycles.
• Buses, commercial buses and motor coaches; and motorcycles.
On roadways with Tier 3 restrictions in place, no commercial vehicles are permitted except loaded single trailers with chains or approved Alternate Traction Devices. Additionally, all school buses, commercial buses, motor coaches, motorcycles, RVs/motorhomes and passenger vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, etc.) towing trailers are not permitted on affected roadways while restrictions are in place.
PennDOT urges motorists to avoid travel if possible. If travel is necessary, use caution, reduce speeds and be aware of changing weather conditions. PennDOT will pre-treat roadways where necessary ahead of the storm to help prevent ice from forming a bond with the pavement during the early stages of a storm. However, salt is not a silver bullet, and drivers may encounter icy spots on the roadway. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may actually be icy, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.
To help make decisions regarding winter travel, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.
511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts.
The Illinois Department of Transportation on Friday urged drivers to consider postponing unnecessary road travel this weekend as heavy snow, bitter cold and gusty winds threaten the Chicago area during a winter storm taking aim at the region.
IDOT expects the winter storm will “create hazardous conditions across the state,” including extremely slick conditions and poor visibility.
“IDOT crews will be out on the roads but conditions could still be extremely hazardous, so we encourage motorists to ask themselves if they really need to make the trip,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman in a statement. “If you do have to travel, remember that the bitter cold and wind reduces the effectiveness of the materials we use to treat snow and ice. There will be lengthy travel times so make sure to prepare your vehicle in the event you are stranded.”
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday for Cook, Lake, DuPage, DeKalb, Kane, La Salle, Kendall, Grundy, Will, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Ogle and Lee counties through midnight. A winter storm watch was previously issued for the Chicago area from 6 a.m. Saturday until Sunday morning.
Forecasters say that steady, blowing snow will be the primary threat from the storm, causing dangerous travel conditions throughout the area.
Snow accumulations will vary widely depending on the track of the storm, but forecasters say that accumulations of greater than six inches are possible, along with northeasterly winds gusting in excess of 35 miles per hour.
Travel will be difficult at times during the storm, with blowing snow expected to dramatically reduce visibility in open areas.
Forecasters say that the steadiest snow rates will likely occur from 2 p.m. through 8 p.m. Saturday.
IDOT said more than 1,800 trucks and equipment will be deployed statewide to treat roads and respond to weather emergencies. Drivers are asked to slow down and increase driving distance if you encounter a plow or maintenance vehicle.
If you must travel, IDOT recommends:
• Take it slow, especially when approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shaded areas that are prone to icing. • Make sure your gas tank is full. • Keep a cell phone, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, a first-aid kit, washer fluid and an ice scraper in your vehicle. • Check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your route and schedule. • Carry a cellphone and dial *999 in the Chicago area for assistance in case of emergency. • Reminder: Using handheld phones while driving is illegal in Illinois, unless it is an emergency situation. • If you are involved in a crash or break down, remain inside your vehicle, which is your safest form of shelter. Exiting your vehicle into live traffic can have fatal consequences. • Always wear a seat belt, whether you’re sitting in the front seat or back seat. It’s the law.
LONDON (AP) — Officials have warned revellers in Scotland and Wales to think twice before travelling to England to ring in the new year, highlighting how the four parts of the U.K. were again taking starkly different approaches to coronavirus restrictions amid record-high infections and soaring hospitalizations.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted tightening restrictions in England despite the rapid spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant, instead focusing on frequent self-testing and an expanded vaccine booster program to control the spread of infections.
Meanwhile Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which set their own public health rules, imposed new restrictions this week that closed all nightclubs and limited social gatherings. Bars and pubs have had to return to table service only. In Edinburgh, which traditionally hosts one of Europe’s largest New Year’s Eve parties, people have been urged to stay at home.
While no formal travel ban is in place to stop Scottish party-goers from making their way to England on Friday, Scotland’s deputy leader John Swinney said travelling would be the “wrong course of action.”
Opinions have been divided on whether Johnson’s Conservative government was taking a risky gamble in not enforcing tougher coronavirus measures in England as the omicron variant drove infections to record high numbers.
Figures released Thursday showed the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.K. jumped to 11,898, up 44% from a week earlier. Confirmed new daily cases hit a record of 189,213 on Thursday, and the government reported 332 deaths, the highest figure since March.
While the data is patchy due to delays in reporting over the holidays, the figures suggest there have not been large numbers of seriously ill patients.
“Although the numbers are going up and going up increasingly rapidly, the absence of large numbers of seriously ill older people is providing significant reassurance,” Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, told The Times.
But immunologist and government scientific adviser Peter Openshaw said while U.K. hospitals haven’t yet reached the “threshold” of being overwhelmed, “it looks like that will be reached quite quickly.”
Some believe Johnson’s strategy is risky and that large crowds gathering indoors for New Year’s Eve will likely lead to a further rise in infections.
“It is quite risky, given the fact we’re now approaching 200,000 cases per day –- there is a high rate of infection in the community,” Dr. Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, told Times Radio.
Johnson has urged people to take a rapid coronavirus test before going out and meeting with others on Friday, or to celebrate outdoors if possible. While firework displays have been cancelled in London for the second year in a row, many parties were going ahead and many revellers were still expected to turn out in the capital later in the day.
CLAYTON, Mo. — St. Louis area health officials have urged the public to avoid travel and gatherings amid a new spike in COVID-19 infections.
“The community is not as safe as it was a month ago, and you should consider that as you plan your activities,” the St. Louis County health department said Thursday in a news release that encouraged vaccinations, booster shots and masking.
The state’s first confirmed case of the omicron coronavirus variant was detected earlier this month in a St. Louis resident.
The county recorded 774 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the largest one-day total since early January. Another 593 new cases were recorded Tuesday.
The recent surge has driven the average daily count of new cases to 398, a 15.6% increase over the past week and a count well into the CDC’s high transmission threshold, the news release said.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— Ever-morphing coronavirus requires holiday calculus for 2nd winter
— Omicron less likely to put you in the hospital, British studies say
— US Supreme Court to hold special session on worker vaccine requirements
Go to https://APNews.com/coronavirus-pandemic for updates throughout the day.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With hospitalizations and infections on the rise in Alabama, the state will have a limited number of doses of a new drug that can be used to treat COVID-19, health officials say.
The state’s initial supply of 780 courses of the Pfizer oral drug Paxlovid, which the Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use as the omicron variant spreads rapidly, will be distributed through pharmacies, the Department of Public Health said Thursday.
Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer, said the drug will be available to people who aren’t hospitalized with the illness but isn’t a substitute for vaccinations.
Less than half of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. Alabama has the nation’s second-highest death rate from the illness caused by the coronavirus, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — In South Carolina, where COVID-19 cases are again rising and less than 52% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, hospitals are concerned that an oncoming omicron surge would worsen a staffing crunch among doctors, nurses and other frontline workers.
In the state’s Grand Strand region, hospitals are already contending with high vacancy rates, especially among specialty nurses and lower-wage jobs like emergency room registration clerks, said Gayle Resetar, the chief operating officer of Tidelands Health, which runs four hospitals in the coastal area.
“Any amount of additional workforce out with omicron is pretty catastrophic,” she said.
Hospitals are still busy catching up on other surgeries and procedures delayed by the pandemic, Resetar added: “It won’t take many hospitalized patients to throw us into the overwhelmed state. It’s really more about the availability of staff than it is rooms.”
Dr. Christine Carr, an emergency department physician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said her ER has closed an entire 12-bed pod because there is no one to staff it.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s top public health official is urging residents to be “influencers” who “gently encourage” their families and friends to get COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots for the sake of themselves and others.
“The importance of influencers can’t be overstated when it comes to encouraging people to protect themselves from COVID,” Department of Health Services interim Director Don Herrington said in a blog post Wednesday.
Britain’s public health agency says preliminary data suggest that people with the omicron variant of the coronavirus are between 50% and 70% less likely to need hospitalization than those with the delta strain.
The U.K. Health Security Agency findings add to emerging evidence that omicron produces milder illness than other variants — but also spreads faster and better evades vaccines.
The agency said Thursday that, based on cases in the U.K., an individual with omicron is estimated to be between 31% and 45% less likely to attend a hospital emergency department compared to delta, “and 50 to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital.”
It cautioned that the analysis is “preliminary and highly uncertain” because of the small number of omicron patients in hospitals and the fact that most were in younger age groups. As of Dec. 20, 132 people had been admitted to U.K. hospitals with confirmed omicron, of whom 14 — aged between 52 and 96 — died.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarians aged over 65 are being offered a one-off payment of 75 levs ($43) in addition to their monthly pensions if they get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said Thursday that pensioners who have not received a jab will get the payment after the first dose. Those who have had one dose will get the money after receiving a second dose and those getting a booster dose when the program kicks off.
The program, scheduled to begin in January and to last until the end of June, is part of the new government’s campaign to encourage the vaccination process
The Balkan country of 7 million remains the least vaccinated in the 27-nation European Union, with less than one-third of its adults fully vaccinated.
“We want to be a normal European country with vaccination rates that are comparable to the rest of Europe. And that depends on each of us,” Petkov said.
BERLIN — Germany is adding the United States, Spain and Portugal to its list of “high-risk areas” but removing neighboring Austria.
Travelers arriving from “high-risk areas,” the lower of two risk categories, must self-isolate for 10 days unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. That period can be cut to five days with a negative test.
Germany’s disease control center said Thursday that the change of status will take effect on Saturday.
Along with the U.S., Spain and Portugal, Finland, Monaco and Cyprus are being added to the list. Belize, Bosnia, Malaysia and Serbia are also being removed.
Germany didn’t add any new countries to its list of “virus variant areas,” the top risk category. Travel from those countries is restricted largely to German residents and citizens and anyone arriving must self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status.
That list currently contains the U.K., South Africa and seven other southern African countries.
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Health Department has canceled its giveaway of rapid COVID-19 tests scheduled for Thursday after demand at earlier giveaways depleted its supplies.
A department spokesperson announced Wednesday that the giveaway would be canceled but that the city would move forward with a fee vaccine clinic at the center.
The department began giving away tests Saturday at a series of community events that have seen high demand and people waiting in long lines to get the kits. The city has distributed close to 24,000 kits, each with two tests, since Saturday as nationwide demand has increased.
BERLIN — The leaders of the Netherlands and Germany’s most populous state are appealing to people not to cross their border to shop and eat.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Hendrik Wuest, the governor of neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state, said in a joint statement Thursday that “with the spread of the omicron variant in our countries, it is now even more important to limit our contacts.”
The Netherlands imposed a nationwide lockdown on Sunday, shutting all non-essential stores, bars and restaurants until Jan. 14.
Germany has not locked down but it is stepping up contact restrictions — shutting nightclubs and removing spectators from major events — in most regions after Christmas.
Rutte and Wuest wrote that borders are being kept open because people in border regions in particular are strongly intertwined. But they urged people to “deal responsibly with these open borders.”
LAS VEGAS — A federal judge has refused to block the masking mandate imposed by the school district for metropolitan Las Vegas to combat the spread of the coronavirus, and dismissed a lawsuit filed by two students’ parents.
U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey on Wednesday denied the request for a preliminary injunction, saying that the parents didn’t establish a viable legal basis for their lawsuit’s challenge to the Clark County School District’s mandate for students and staff.
The parents contended that the masking mandate violated their fundamental rights as parents, including making medical decisions for their children. The parents also said they were left out of the process in which the policies were adopted.
Dorey’s 22-page ruling said the “perceived wrongs” cited by the challenge didn’t violate any constitutional rights.
The ruling also said the parents’ lawyers denied in court that there was a COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the parents’ lawyers, Sigal Chattah, said on Twitter that the ruling would be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since August.
The tourism hub on the Arabian Peninsula on Thursday reported 1,000 new infections — a drastic surge from record lows of roughly 50 infections just weeks ago, before the the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
The daily update represents a significant jump from the 665 cases authorities reported on Wednesday.
The UAE boasts one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with over 90% of the country’s eligible population fully vaccinated. Infections had plummeted in recent weeks, and there were few COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths.
Authorities say the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 remains low, around 3%.
Although a mask mandate remains in place nationwide, there are few movement restrictions. Bars, restaurants and beaches are bustling amid Dubai’s peak tourism season. Hotels are fully booked through the holidays.
LONDON — The British government says it won’t introduce any new coronavirus restrictions until after Christmas and called early studies on the severity of the omicron variant encouraging.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said two studies suggesting omicron carries a significantly lower risk of hospitalization than the previously dominant delta strain was “encouraging news.” But he said it was “not very clear yet … by how much that risk is reduced.”
Even if it is milder, the new variant could still overwhelm health systems because of the sheer number of infections. Javid said the British government would “keep analyzing (the) data and if we need to do anything more we will, but nothing more is going to happen before Christmas.”
TIRANA, Albania — Two countries in the Balkans region of Europe where less than half of the populations are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus have reported their first two cases involving the omicron variant.
Albania’s Technical Experts’ Committee said it sent 221 infection samples to a German laboratory and two matched omicron’s profile.
“But the delta variant continues to prevail” in the country, the committee said in a statement.
About 40% of Albania’s 2.8 million population has received two vaccine doses and 5% a third one
Albania’s government imposed a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew to limit the spread of the coronavirus but plans to lift it for New Year’s celebrations. However, the number of people allowed to gather in the same place will be limited.
Serbia also confirmed its first case with the omicron variant on Thursday. Serbian state television broadcaster RTS said the infected person came to Serbia from the African nation of Botswana.
Authorities in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, have announced plans for a New Year’s Eve celebration with open concerts.
LONDON — A third dose of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines significantly increased the immune response to the omicron variant, according to a new study by University of Oxford researchers.
The laboratory study, which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, compared antibody levels in blood samples from people who received two doses of vaccine with samples from those who had received a third dose.
While two doses provided much less protection against omicron than earlier variants, levels of neutralizing antibodies rose sharply after a third dose, the study found.
The study also found that unvaccinated people who had recovered from COVID-19 probably have “little protection from reinfection with omicron,” though they may have some protection against serious illness.
ATHENS, Greece — Christmas concerts and other events have been canceled in Greece as part of new restrictions that include a mask requirement that applies outdoors and in all public areas.
Incoming travelers will also be required to take COVID-19 tests on the second and fourth days after their arrivals.
The restrictions are set to take effect Friday and to remain in effect at least through Jan. 3 as Greece braces for the expected impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron urged his compatriots in an Instagram video Thursday to be extra-careful over the holidays to avoid spreading the coronavirus, as the government’s scientific advisory body warned that the country could soon see hundreds of thousands of infections per day.
The French government has canceled New Year’s gatherings and urged more working from home but has stopped short of adopting some of the tougher measures imposed elsewhere in Europea.
The end-of-year holidays “are moments to see each other again, moments of gaiety, of insouciance,” Macron said. “But this year once again, because of the virus, I ask you to have a lot of vigilance.”
Macron spent the last Christmas season isolated with COVID-19. He asked people this year to get tested, get vaccinated and to wear masks. He also thanked hospital workers and others working through the Christmas weekend.
France is seeing more confirmed virus infections than at any time in the pandemic, with more than 80,000 new cases recorded Wednesday and more than one in 100 people in the Paris region testing positive.
BANGKOK — Officials in Thailand say an Israeli tourist who was the subject of a nationwide police manhunt after breaking out of quarantine while apparently infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detained on a southern resort island
The 29-year-old man will be charged with breaking quarantine regulations and then deported and banned from Thailand for life following his release from hospital detention, authorities said.
Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, said Thursday that the the tourist allegedly left quarantine at a Bangkok hotel on Dec. 17, before his coronavirus test result was completed. It eventually showed he was infected with the omicron variant.
Thailand has had a few dozen cases of omicron, but all were found in quarantined individuals. It has only had two reported cases of domestic transmission, and the case of the missing Israeli dominated news reports.
Officials said two RT-PCR tests were taken after he turned himself in on the southern resort island of Kho Samui on Wednesday. Both were negative.
Supakit said the man could have recovered in the two weeks between his first test taken upon arrival on Dec. 17 and the Dec. 22 tests.
– This item has been corrected to show man’s date of arrival was Dec. 17, not Dec. 7.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister expects a surge in coronavirus cases around New Year’s.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told public radio network WDR 2 on Thursday that Germany hasn’t seen a big, rapid wave of new infections from the omicron variant, which has already hit other European countries such as Britain.
Lauterbach said that would change “around New Year and in the first week of January.”
The government is urging Germans to limit their contacts over the holiday period and to get vaccinated, including with booster shots if they already had initial doses.
Official figures show 70.7% of Germany’s population received a first round of vaccines, while 35% has had boosters.
Police said about 5,000 people gathered in the center of Munich late Wednesday to protest against pandemic restrictions and a planned vaccine mandate. Some participants attacked officers and 11 people were detained, police said.
TEL AVIV, Israel — An Israeli hospital says a man who was reported to have died from the omicron variant of the coronavirus was found to have the delta variant.
Israeli health officials reported the death earlier this week. It would have been the country’s first omicron casualty.
Soroka Hospital, located in the southern city of Beersheba, said Thursday that final test results from the Israeli Health Ministry indicated the man was infected with delta.
Israel has identified 341 cases of omicron. It has greatly restricted air traffic in and out of the country and is imposing a series of public restrictions to prevent the spread of the highly contagious variant.
The Health Ministry director is also considering whether to administer a second booster shot to at-risk groups, following a recommendation by a medical advisory group.
Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, has reported over 8,200 COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic.
BEIJING — China is redoubling efforts to control new virus outbreaks with a lockdown of the 13 million residents of the northern city of Xi’an following a spike in coronavirus cases.
The measure comes just weeks before the country hosts the Winter Olympics in Beijing, roughly 1,000 kilometers (6210 miles) to the west.
There was no word on whether the virus was the newly surging omicron variant or the far more common delta. China has recorded just seven omicron cases — four in the southern manufacturing center of Guangzhou, two in the southern city of Changsha and one in the northern port of Tianjin.
China has also been dealing with a substantial outbreak in several cities in the eastern province of Zhejiang near Shanghai, although isolation measures there have been more narrowly targeted.
Authorities have adopted strict pandemic control measures under their policy of seeking to drive new transmissions to zero, leading to frequent lockdowns, universal masking and mass testing. While the policy has not been entirely successful while leading to massive disruptions in travel and trade, Beijing credits it with largely containing the spread of the virus.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has set a new record for daily COVID-19 deaths as it struggles to resolve a shortage of hospital beds amid weeks of surging cases.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Thursday that 109 people died in the latest 24-hour period. That raised the country’s total number of pandemic fatalities to 5,015.
The agency reported 6,919 new coronavirus cases, the vast majority of them involving the delta variant.
Infections surged after South Korea significantly relaxed its pandemic restrictions in early November as part of its efforts to restore pre-pandemic normalcy. Alarmed by the spike, health authorities on Saturday restored the country’s toughest distancing rules such as a four-person cap on private gatherings and a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and cafes.
SYDNEY — Australia is reporting a major spike in coronavirus infections a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected lockdowns or mask mandates to slow the spread of the omicron variant.
The country’s most populous state, New South Wales, listed 5,715 new cases Thursday. That was up from 3,763 a day earlier and almost as many as were recorded across all of Australia on Wednesday.
There were 347 people in New South Wales hospitals, up from 302 the previous day, and 45 in intensive care units, up from 40.
Victoria state also saw a sharp increase, reporting 2,005 new infections Thursday.
Morrison on Wednesday convened a Cabinet meeting with leaders of Australia’s states and territories but ruled out lockdowns.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court says it will hold a special session to weigh challenges to two Biden administration policies covering vaccine requirements for millions of workers, policies that affect large employers and health care workers.
The high court’s announcement that it will hear arguments in the cases on Jan. 7, an extraordinarily fast timeline, comes amid rising coronavirus infections. The court had not been scheduled to hear cases again until Jan. 10.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled 2-1 last week that the vaccine or testing regime for workers at larger companies could take effect. The plan, which was to take effect Jan. 4, requires workers at larger companies to be vaccinated or wear face masks and get tested weekly.
The high court also will hear arguments over a rule published Nov. 5 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that applies to a wide range of health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It requires their workers to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. I
The California Department of Transportation partnered with multiple agencies in San Bernardino County Thursday to provide safety tips and information for motorists traveling to mountain areas during the holidays.
A recent storm and another one projected next week by the National Weather Service (NWS) will bring more snow to mountain communities and resorts before Saturday, Dec. 25.
Important information was provided to the public who plan to visit the mountains this winter by Caltrans, the County of San Bernardino Public Works, San Bernardino County Fire, San Bernardino County Sheriff, California Highway Patrol (CHP), United States Forest Service, California Department of Forestry (Cal-Fire), and the National Weather Service.
– Add time to your trip in the event there are delays on the roadways. Try not to travel during peak times – Friday, Saturday and Sundays are the busiest on mountain routes during snow conditions. Leave a day early and a day later if possible.
– Bring tire chains to mountain regions during winter months (November through April) even if there is no chain control at the time. Weather conditions change rapidly without notice.
– Prepare your vehicle for travel – check tires, wipers, engine fluids and have a full tank of gas.
– Bring a charged cell phone and charger.
– Bring warm clothing and appropriate shoes/boots for snow conditions.
– Never install chains or snow play in the roadway or traffic lanes.
– When snowing, permitted chain installers are there to install your chains for a nominal fee.
– Did you know? The new fine for a citation in a “No Parking” zone on local and state highways in San Bernardino County mountain areas is now $150.00! Please do not park in no parking areas.
– Bring a trash bag – the Clean CA campaign urges all Californians to keep our state beautiful and to please dispose of litter in trash receptacles. Remember that litter is very harmful to wildlife when left behind. Please don’t feed the bears!
– Do not leave broken sleds behind – take them with you and trash them in the appropriate receptacle.
– Always keep watch on your children.
– It is illegal to vend from state highways and BBQing is also not allowed in turnouts.
MAYFIELD – The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and the Mayfield-Graves County Regional Emergency Operations Center are urging travelers to avoid downtown Mayfield for the remainder of the week.
KYTC crews are working with area county road departments to clear all roadways of tornado debris. Crews have completed approximately 50 percent of their assigned task. However, traffic coming through the downtown area is hampering those efforts and delaying storm recovery efforts.
Transportation crews were working along the southbound lanes of U.S. 45/ Eighth Street between James Street and KY 80/Broadway on Tuesday, and KYTC said crews will be clearing this section of U.S. 45 north of the downtown area.
Traffic will be required to detour via side streets creating additional opportunity for gridlock in the downtown area.
Once this section of U.S. 45 is completed, crews will be continuing efforts to clear adjacent streets in the downtown area through the week. Due to heavy equipment and trucks involved in the road clearing process, only vehicles directly involved in recovery efforts should be on the road in downtown Mayfield.
The new KY 80 Mayfield South Bypass and the KY 121/Dick Castleman Bypass provide opportunities to avoid travel through downtown Mayfield. However, gridlock along those routes has hampered street-clearing efforts by slowing trucks hauling debris to dump sites.
As a reminder, these crews are clearing streets and sidewalk areas to facilitate additional clean-up and recovery efforts to come. This initial street clearing project will not include debris on private property.
Homeowners and businesses will be provided additional instructions at a later date on how to disposed of waste on private property once FEMA approved contractors arrive on site.
To get traffic advisories and alerts for KYTC District 1 counties via email please go to https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/KYTC/signup/13651 and click on the District 1 counties you regularly drive through, or for any of the specialty corridors you travel. Be sure to check your SPAM filtering to assure Gov Delivery is on your approved list.
Timely traffic advisories for the 12 counties of KYTC Highway District 1 are available by going to www.facebook.com/kytcdistrict1. You do not have to be a Facebook member to access this page.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Highway Safety is sending Thanksgiving holiday travelers this year two important lifesaving reminders: buckle up and put the phone down, even with forecasts of reduced traffic.
“The upcoming holiday is one of the busiest travel times of the year, so we’re asking Kentuckians to extend their commitment to safety and health onto our roadways,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “We believe that if all drivers practice these two simple behaviors, buckle up and put the phone down, lives will be saved.”
According to KOHS, distracted driving results in more than 50,000 crashes in Kentucky each year, more than 15,000 injuries and approximately 200 deaths. So, they say put down the phone and refrain from distracted driving behaviors such as texting, emailing and phone chats.
“Sometimes even the most attentive drivers are involved in a crash caused by other drivers,” said Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray. “That’s why wearing a seatbelt is the best defense against serious injuries and death. It is your best protection against a speeding, distracted or drunken driver.”
According to KOHS, each year in Kentucky, more than half of those killed in motor vehicles are not wearing a seatbelt.
You may also be seeing less crowded roads during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
GasBuddy, a crowd-sourced fuel savings platform, reported in its 2021 Annual Thanksgiving Travel Survey that only 32% of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving this year. That’s down from 35% last year, and less than half of the 65% that planned to hit the road for pre-pandemic Thanksgiving 2019.
“Drivers are contending with a rise in COVID cases ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when many drive to celebrate with friends and family. Only this year, we’re also just cents away from the highest Thanksgiving gas prices ever recorded,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “With global oil demand surging this year as the pandemic has eased, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, some of the highest Thanksgiving gas prices on record.”
A recent national survey commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had similar results.
The survey found that 29% of Americans are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 33% are likely to travel for Christmas, which represents an increase from 21% and 24%, respectively, from 2020. Those who do plan to travel over the holidays expect to drive, but rising gas prices may dampen those plans. Some 52% of Americans say they plan to take fewer trips and 53% plan to take shorter trips because of rising gas prices.
“While vaccines have helped travelers feel more comfortable, rising gas prices and continued concerns about the pandemic are making many Americans hesitant to travel,” said AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers.
He added, hotels continue facing economic fallout from the pandemic, underscoring the need for targeted federal relief, such as the Save Hotel Jobs Act, to support the industry and its workforce until travel fully returns.