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Businessinsider.co.za | the First American to Die of Omicron Was Unvaccinated, and Previously Had Covid

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A nurse holds the tube containing the photographer’s throat and nose swab sample for a Covid-19 test at a hospital on the 2nd day of his 14-day quarantine during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on October 29, 2020 in Stahnsdorf, Germany.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The first American believed to have died of the Omicron variant was an unvaccinated man from Texas in his 50s.
The man, who died on Monday, also had underlying conditions and had Covid-19 once before.
The Omicron variant now accounts for 73% of all cases in the United States, its CDC reported.
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The first American to die of the Omicron variant was an unvaccinated man from Texas who had already had the coronavirus once before, county officials said.

The man, a Harris County, Texas, resident between 50 and 60 years old, was a high-risk patient due to underlying conditions and his unvaccinated status, a press release from the county said. He died on Monday.

“This is a reminder of the severity of Covid-19 and its variants,” Harris County Public Health Executive Director Barbie Robinson said in a statement. “We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and get their booster shot if they have not already.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the patient’s family, and we extend our deepest sympathies,” she added.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also urged people in the county to get vaccinated and boosted in light of this news in a tweet posted Monday.

The Omicron variant now accounts for 73% of all Covid-19 cases in the US, that country’s Centres for Disease Control reported on Monday.

Previously, the Delta variant was dominant in the USA. That changed last week — just 26% of sequenced cases were Delta for the week ending December 18, according to CDC data.As the Omicron variant sweeps the country, cases are up. In the US, the seven-day rolling average for new Covid-19 infections was 132,659 on Sunday, according to data from the CDC. The nation’s seven-day average test positivity rate currently stands at 7.2%, higher than the 5% threshold the WHO recommends staying below.

The Harris County man who died Monday is one of at least 808,000 Americans who have been killed by the virus since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Some parts of the country are experiencing even more pronounced Omicron surges. The CDC estimates that in parts of the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest, Omicron now makes up more than 90% of sequenced cases.

In response to the growing crisis, President Joe Biden is announcing new measures on Tuesday to combat Omicron, including delivering 500,000 free at-home coronavirus testing kits to Americans next month. People who need tests will be able to access them using a website set up by health officials. The administration will also deploy military health workers to strained hospitals in January and February, according to the White House.

It’s clear that the whiplash arrival of Omicron has changed the game, experts say.

“We have to acknowledge the reality that unfortunately, with a heavy heart, the virus is in charge,” Mara Aspinall, an expert in medical diagnostics at Arizona State University, told the New York Times, adding, “We need to take back control, and the only way to do that as a society is to test and isolate, test and isolate, repeat, repeat, repeat.”

Though Omicron has been confirmed in most American states, and is believed to have spread essentially everywhere in the USA, the country is maintaining its travel ban on South Africa.

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Hakan Akgun/dia images

Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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