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Early reports encouraging about omicron variant

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Early reports encouraging about omicron variant

U.S. health officials said Sunday that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout the country, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations.

President Joe Biden’s chief medial adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about omicron’s severity.

Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.

“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci said. “But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”

Fauci said the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions against noncitizens entering the United States from several African countries. They were imposed as the omicron variant exploded in the region, but U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has blasted such measures as “travel apartheid.”

“Hopefully we’ll be able to lift that ban in a quite reasonable period of time,” Fauci said. “We all feel very badly about the hardship that has been put on not only on South Africa but the other African countries.”

Omicron had been detected in about a third of U.S. states by Sunday, including in the Northeast, the South, the Great Plains and the West Coast. Wisconsin and Missouri were among the latest states to confirm cases.

But delta remains the dominant variant, making up more than 99% of cases and driving a surge of hospitalizations in the north. National Guard teams have been sent to help overwhelmed hospitals in western New York, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring any hospitals facing limited patient capacity to reduce scheduled procedures that are not urgent.

U.S. officials continued urging people to get vaccinated and to receive booster shots, as well as take precautions such as wearing masks when among strangers indoors, saying anything that helps protect against delta will also help protect against other variants.

Even if omicron proves less dangerous than delta, it remains problematic, World Health Organization epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told CBS’ “Face The Nation.”

“Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of those individuals will need hospitalizations,” she said. “They will need to go into ICU and some people will die. … We don’t want to see that happen on top of an already difficult situation with delta circulating globally.”

Two years into the outbreak, COVID-19 has killed over 780,000 Americans, and deaths are running at about 860 per day.

More than 6,600 new hospital admissions are being reported daily, according to tracking data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. have dropped by about half since the delta peak in August and September, but at more than 86,000 new infections per day, the numbers are still high, especially heading into the holidays, when people travel and gather with family.

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press

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CU Buffs rally for huge win at Oregon

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EUGENE, Ore. — This Colorado team clearly doesn’t make things easy on itself. And for some reason, the Buffaloes don’t bring their A-game until they have a mountain to climb.

Yet in this case, the aesthetics are irrelevant. Backed into what essentially was a must-win situation to keep alive any hopes at making a charge at an NCAA Tournament berth, CU rallied from a 15-point first half deficit to pick up its biggest win of the season, topping the Oregon Ducks 82-78 at Knight Arena.

With the win, CU avoided its first three-game losing streak since the end of the 2019-20 season, and it ended a six-game losing streak at Oregon.

Oregon hit six of its first seven shots, including three 3-pointers, while building a 15-point lead less than six minutes into the contest.

The fast start by the Ducks obviously wasn’t ideal but, much like CU’s rally from a 17-point deficit that fell just short three days earlier against UCLA, the Buffs didn’t buckle. CU kept pecking away throughout the remainder of the first half, and a Jabari Walker 3-pointer off an offensive rebound from Luke O’Brien cut Oregon’s lead to five points at halftime.

CU used a 10-2 run midway through the second half to surge ahead, taking its first lead on a 3-pointer from Evan Battey. The Buffs pushed their lead to 77-70 on a pair of Keeshawn Barthelemy free throws with 47.3 seconds left.

Walker led the way with his ninth double-double of the season and the 11th of his career, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Barthelemy also enjoyed a big night, going 9-for-9 at the free throw line while recording 19 points and four assists.

CU finished 8-for-15 on 3-pointers and went 20-for-22 at the free throw line. The Buffs (13-6, 5-4 Pac-12) outrebounded Oregon 30-22.

Colorado 82, Oregon 78

COLORADO (13-6, 5-4 Pac-12 Conference)

Battey 3-8 1-2 8, Walker 9-11 5-5 24, da Silva 5-6 3-4 15, Barthelemy 5-9 9-9 19, Clifford 1-3 0-0 3, Parquet 0-5 2-2 2, Simpson 3-6 0-0 8, O’Brien 1-4 0-0 3, Hammond 0-1 0-0 0, Loughlin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-54 20-22 82.

OREGON (12-7, 5-3)

Guerrier 8-15 3-3 22, Dante 2-3 0-0 4, Harmon 4-9 4-5 14, Richardson 5-8 6-7 17, Young 5-15 1-2 11, Williams 1-5 1-2 4, Kepnang 2-3 0-0 4, Soares 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 28-60 15-19 78.

Halftime — Oregon 42-37. 3-point goals — Colorado 8-15 (Simpson 2-3, da Silva 2-3, Clifford 1-1, O’Brien 1-1, Battey 1-2, Walker 1-2, Parquet 0-1, Barthelemy 0-2), Oregon 7-20 (Guerrier 3-8, Harmon 2-3, Richardson 1-3, Williams 1-4, Young 0-2). Rebounds — Colorado 30 (Walker 11), Oregon 22 (Guerrier 6). Assists — Colorado 17 (Simpson 6), Oregon 11 (Richardson 4). Total fouls — Colorado 13, Oregon 17.

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Man charged months after 28-year-old found dead in Missouri woods

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Man charged months after 28-year-old found dead in Missouri woods

POTOSI, Mo. — A Potosi mother would not accept that her son died by suicide last March. After nearly a year of demanding answers, there’s been an arrest for her son’s murder.

Kim Little will never forget her 28-year-old son’s last text message, in which he named a person he was with and said, “Help me please.”

“The coroner was telling me the day of my son’s autopsy that they were thinking it was a suicide,” Little explained.

Her son, Christian Hildebrandt, had special needs but lived independently until he was found in the woods, stabbed to death on March 11, 2021. As FOX 2 reported in September, Hildebrandt’s mother refused to accept it was suicide.

Little said, “If I’d have just shut up and accepted what they told me in the beginning this would have never got done and I think getting you involved is what really pushed it over the edge when they knew they couldn’t hide.”

The Sheriff told FOX 2 at the time that they were investigating it as a homicide and that he’d even brought in the Major Case Squad. About ten months since the death, Derek Politte has been arrested and charged for Hildrebrandt’s murder. Kim Little took a picture of the 58-year-old suspect being walked into the courthouse.

“I had kind of mixed emotions Chris,” Little said. “On one hand it’s like finally, it’s what I’ve been saying all along got heard, but I wish we weren’t here to begin with.”

The felony complaint includes Hildebrandt’s final mysterious text message that read, “Help me please left with Derek policy.”

The court record further explains, “Talk-to-text functions on cellular devices will commonly replace the word Politte with the word policy.”

She said Hildebrandt was excited about a job proposition from Politte who was going to pick him up that day.

An officer wrote that Politte gave police contradictory statements and that when investigators found Hildebrandt dead, “His denim jacket was located underneath his upper body with both sleeves turned inside-out, indicating some type of struggle.”

A judge today ruled the defendant will remain in custody on a $1 million bond.

Little sighed in reaction saying, “The breath I took, I think I held my breath until he said that. I hope in the wake of this I’m able to live up to what Christian was – in his honor.”

The defendant’s preliminary hearing is set for April 15.

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Students deliver thank you letters to healthcare workers in St. Louis County

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Students deliver thank you letters to healthcare workers in St. Louis County

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Elementary school students in St. Louis County are showing their appreciation for healthcare workers by writing them letters of gratitude.

“Amazing, superheroes, awesome, excellent” — That’s how fourth-graders from Rose Acres Elementary School in the Pattonville School District describe the healthcare workers inside SSM Health Depaul Hospital in Bridgeton. On Tuesday, they had a chance to show them how much they meant in person.

“Thank you very much,” Seth Lovell, the Chief Nursing Officer of SSM Health Depaul Hospital said while a student handed him a handwritten letter.

The students are learning how to write letters during their writing unit. Mixing that skill with kindness month, the students decided to write letters for healthcare workers in their community. They were able to bring that skill to life as they handed the letters personally to the healthcare heroes Tuesday afternoon.

“Their kindness challenge was to be appreciative and say thank you to people around them, and they took the initiative to think about the healthcare workers here at DePaul and how they ultimately help to keep us at school,” Grave Burgos, a fourth-grade teacher said.

Kayla Newsome was one of the more than a dozen fourth-graders who took the time to write a letter to the healthcare workers and deliver it Tuesday. “It felt good to help and give somebody something that will mean a lot to them,” Newsome said.

“We had a lot of different emotions coming from our caregivers here. Some were laughing at some of the jokes that were in the letters, and some were really moved by the gesture from those in our community especially those in our local schools,” Lovell said. “A lot of focus on health care workers and service workers were really front-loaded.”

“Getting to hand out the letters that they worked really hard on is something they are going to remember forever,” Kirstie Hummert, a fourth-grade teacher said.

It’s a lifelong memory made and a boost these heroes needed.

“We often refer to caregiver burnout as an equation, of stress and that divided by support. We’ve seen the stress maintain or get higher and I think some of the focus from the support perspective has dwindled,” Lovell said.

He said a kind gesture like this will mean a lot to those still on the front lines.

“All of the education and the academics is important but how they felt and they make others feel is really what’s important to us,” Mary Spitzmiller, one of the fourth-grade teachers said.

The CFO read one letter aloud Tuesday:

“Dear healthcare worker,

Thank you for sacrificing the time with your families to save our families. I appreciate you for keeping the community strong and healthy, I’m thankful for saving our lives when we need it. Thanks for caring for us when we need it most. Thank you for making a difference every single day, we appreciate the hard work you guys are doing for our families. You make the world a better place and its because you’re in it. Keep it up you’re doing great

Smiley face, Sincerely (student name).”

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