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The world is confronting a new coronavirus variant, and officials have named it “omicron." A World Health Organization panel has classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern. Its discovery in southern Africa sent a chill through much of the world as nations raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings. The overall risks of omicron are not yet known. But the 27-nation European Union and some other countries quickly suspended air travel from southern Africa and stepped up other precautions.

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South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. It’s unclear from where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has also been seen in travelers to Hong Kong and Botswana. Health minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days, although experts are still trying to determine if the new variant is actually responsible. The World Health Organization has convened a technical group of experts to decide whether the new variant warrants being designated a variant of interest or a variant of concern.

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Giant balloons once again wafted through miles of Manhattan, high school and college marching bands from around the country were back, and so were the crowds at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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Pfizer and Moderna say U.S. regulators have opened up COVID-19 booster shots to all adults, letting them choose another dose of either vaccine. The move expands the government’s booster campaign to shore up protection and get ahead of rising coronavirus cases that may worsen with the holidays. There’s one more step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must agree to expand Pfizer and Moderna boosters to even healthy young adults. Its scientific advisers are set to debate that on Friday. If the CDC agrees, tens of millions more Americans could have three doses of protection ahead of the new year.

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Starting Monday, anyone going to a shopping mall, theater, gym or nail salon in Los Angeles must verify they are vaccinated. The mandate, among the strictest in the country, requires proof of shots for everyone entering a wide variety of businesses. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who tested positive for the virus last week, says the rules will encourage people to get vaccinated and make businesses safer for employees and customers. Business trade groups say the mandate will sow confusion and could present safety concerns for employees tasked with checking customers' vaccination status. City officials say they won’t start enforcing the rules until Nov. 29. Fines up to $5,000 could be imposed.