1/ U.S. Covid-19 cases hit their highest level of the pandemic. The U.S. reported 441,278 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday – the highest single-day total – and surpassing the previous daily record by nearly 150,000. The seven-day average of U.S. cases topped 267,000 – more than double the rate in early December – exceeding the previous high mark of about 252,000 average daily cases set on Jan. 11, 2021. Hospitalizations and deaths, meanwhile, have been rising, but remain far below peak levels. The CDC reported that Omicron accounted for 58.6% of all Covid-19 cases in the U.S., while the Delta variant accounted for 41.1% of cases. (Politico / New York Times / NBC News / CNBC / Bloomberg)
2/ The CDC defended its decision to shorten the recommended isolation from 10 to five days for asymptomatic individuals who test positive for Covid-19, saying “we must adapt” as the coronavirus has also “proven its ability to adapt quickly.” The agency said the change in guidance was “motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, however, acknowledged that minimizing disruptions to the economy in part motivated the decision, saying it “really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate […] that people were willing to adhere to.” As part of the updated guidance, the CDC did not recommend that people test negative for Covid-19 before reentering society, which public health experts and union leaders have criticized as reckless because it relies on people’s self-judgment to assess their transmission risk – which could lead to more spread and more Covid-19 cases. Instead, the CDC recommended that those ending their isolation can go back to their regular activities as long as they wear a mask for an additional five days. (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / NPR / NBC News)
3/ Biden conceded that his efforts to expand Covid-19 testing capacity is “not enough. It’s clearly not enough,” adding that the long testing lines over the Christmas weekend “shows that we have more work to do.” The Biden administration, however, announced plans to order 500 million at-home test kits, which officials expect the free tests to be available as early as January. During a meeting between state leaders and members of his Covid-19 response team, Biden added: “I wish I had thought about ordering a half a billion [tests] two months ago,” before the recent surge. The FDA, meanwhile, said preliminary research shows some rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive at detecting the Omicron variant – meaning it’s possible the tests could miss an infection, known as a “false negative.” (CNN / CNBC / NBC News / Politico)
4/ The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol – at the request of the Biden administration – agreed to delay or withdraw demands for hundreds of Trump White House records. The White House flagged some of the records for potential national security concerns. The agreement, however, does not prevent the committee from making new requests. The committee, meanwhile, plans to hold public hearings in the new year, followed by an interim report in the summer, and a final report ahead of November’s elections. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, said the panel will also open an inquiry into Trump’s phone call seeking to stop Biden’s certification from taking place hours before the insurrection and why it took so long for him to call on his supporters to stand down. Thompson said Trump’s delayed response to the Capitol attack – which came 187 minutes after he instructed his supporters to march on the Capitol – could be a factor in deciding whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department. (New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / CNN / Bloomberg / Washington Post / The Hill)
5/ Biden signed a $768 billion defense policy bill – $24 billion more than he had requested. Aside from increased spending in almost every part of the military, the National Defense Authorization Act contains a 2.7% pay increase for most service members, billions more for weapons procurement than the Pentagon requested, and several changes to the military justice system and how the military handles sexual assault and harassment. (Politico / New York Times / CNN)
6/ Biden confirmed more judges to the federal bench in 2021 than any first-year president since Ronald Reagan. The Senate confirmed 40 of Biden’s judicial nominees, including 11 appellate picks. 78% of his confirmed judges were women and 53% were people of color. (Reuters)
poll/ 52% of Republicans disapprove of the job Mitch McConnell is doing as Senate minority leader. (Business Insider)
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