New York, Jan 14 (IANS) The federal government of the US is sending medical teams to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico to help hospitals overburdened by Covid-19, state media has reported.US President Joe Biden is to announce the deployments on Thursday when discussing steps the administration is taking to address a surge in infections driven by the Omicron variant, according to USA Today."His remarks come as hospitalisations for Covid-19 are setting records," said the report, adding that some hospitals are delaying elective surgeries as states are deploying National Guard members to healthcare facilities.After reaching the grim milestone of 800,000 coronavirus deaths in December, the US continued to shatter records as the Omicron variant surges, Xinhua news agency reported.According to Johns Hopkins University, the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country topped 60 million on Sunday. Just days before, it had shattered a single-day record with over 1 million infections.Despite initial evidence that the Omicron variant is less likely than previous variants to cause severe illness, the sheer number of infections have increased hospitalisations.Having struggled with staff shortages, schools are also seeing a decline in attendance as students stay away partly because of the limited availability of tests, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday."The US administration has faced criticism for the country's low testing capacity at the start of the Omicron surge," said the report, noting that the federal government is planning to distribute millions of free Covid-19 tests to schools and other public sectors around the country in the coming week.Problems with the testing in the US began at the very beginning of the pandemic, when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) distributed faulty test kits to laboratories in February 2020.A total of 1,481,375 new cases and 1,904 new deaths were reported in the US on Monday. The single-day increase of cases has set a new record around the globe since the onset of the pandemic, according to latest data of Johns Hopkins University.The potential for a new recommendation from the CDC is unleashing a scramble for highly protective N95 masks and boosting their prices, Bloomberg Wealth reported Wednesday.The agency is considering changing its guidance to advise that people wear higher-quality masks to better protect against Omicron."That's contributing to a surge in prices for gold-standard N95 and KN95 face coverings on sites like Amazon.com," said the report.Quoting Camelcamelcamel, a website that tracks prices of products sold on Amazon, the report said one pack of 40 KN95 masks from the Hotodeal brand now costs $79.99 from third-party sellers on Amazon, up from just $16.99 in late November, while a 50-pack of Kimberly-Clark N95 masks is going for $57.15 compared with $23.19 in early October.According to the CDC, the majority of cruise ships sailing in the US have reported Covid-19 outbreaks in the last several weeks.These ongoing outbreaks have barred cruise ships from docking at ports of calls, infected crew and forced passengers to quarantine aboard ships, Business Insider reported Wednesday.Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have postponed several sailings, citing travel restrictions or the Covid-19 outbreak. Nearly 250 cruises were set to sail throughout the first month of 2022, but this ongoing rise in Covid-19 cases could continue to cause further cancellations, said the report.The CDC's Framework for Conditional Sailing Order will expire on Saturday at which point the health agency's Covid-19 guidance of risk mitigation for cruise ships will become voluntary. This means cruise lines can choose whether to follow the health agency's guidance or not, according to USA Today.The CDC recently told Americans to avoid travel on cruise ships, regardless of their vaccination status."Dramatic surges in cases in Northeast have flattened, suggesting that the Omicron wave is levelling off there," The New York Times reported Thursday.According to the newspaper, the number of new Covid-19 cases in New York City rose more than 20-fold in December but has flattened in the past few days."In both New Jersey and Maryland, the number of new cases has fallen slightly this week. In several major cities, the number is also showing signs of leveling off," said the report.Though the timeline is consistent with the experience in South Africa and Britain, experts warned it is still too early to be confident, the report added.
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