By MORGAN WINSOR and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 708,000 people worldwide.
Over 18.8 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks.
Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 4.8 million diagnosed cases and at least 158,445 deaths.
Here’s how the news is developing today. All times Eastern.
12:55 p.m.: Fauci: ‘Do not abandon’ distancing, masks in anticipation of vaccine
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is urging the public to “not abandon” public health measures “in anticipation of a vaccine.”
“When you’re talking about public health measures, there are many, many things that we can do,” Fauci said at a briefing Thursday hosted by the Alliance of Public Health. “But you can distill them down to five or six that everyone should be doing: masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, outdoor better than indoor, washing your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based type of sanitizer.”
Fauci said we could see different scenarios as we get into flu season this fall, including a situation where the seasonal flu is crowded out by COVID-19 infections.
But he said he hopes to see more people getting the flu shot this year. Approximately 170 million people did last year.
That combined with COVID-19 public health measures could result in a “blunted” season for both, he said.
“That’s a goal that we should aspire to that I think is possible,” Fauci said.
12:32 p.m.: Ohio governor tests positive
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday as part of the protocol to greet President Donald Trump at a Cleveland airport, his office said.
DeWine has no symptoms and plans to quarantine at his home for the next two weeks, his office said.
11:25 a.m.: Florida has 3 counties with no ICU beds
In Florida, 17.4% of the state’s ICU beds were open as of Thursday morning, according to the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration.
Forty-two hospitals had no available beds while 35 hospitals had just one available bed, the agency said.
Three counties — Monroe, Nassau and Okeechobee — had no available ICU beds.
These numbers are expected to fluctuate throughout the day as hospitals and medical centers provide updates.
10:50 a.m.: Birx warns about increases in percent-positivity in 9 cities, CA Central Valley
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, is warning states about an increase in test-positivity rates in nine cities across the country, as well as in California’s Central Valley.
According to Birx’s Wednesday call with state and local officials obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, Baltimore, Atlanta, Kansas City, Portland, Omaha and California’s Central Valley all remain at a “very high level.”
Three other cities, Chicago, Boston and Detroit — which Birx described as in the “green zone” — have seen a “slow uptick” in their rate of positivity.
Washington, D.C., is not considered in the “green zone,” but has also seen an increase in its rate of positivity.
Birx stressed that local officials must look at the increases “very carefully” to ensure they are kept under control.
She specifically referenced several states, including California, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia, noting that their COVID-19 trends are “concerning.”
The new concerns come as the country sees “encouraging” news across the South, according to Birx, as cases and test-positivity decline.
10 a.m.: School district moves to virtual learning when over 90 staff members forced to quarantine
Over 90 staff members in Georgia’s Barrow County School System are in quarantine due to a confirmed COVID-19 case, a suspect case or direct contact with a confirmed case, prompting the district to make a last-minute switch to virtual learning, district officials announced Wednesday.
The district had planned to begin the year with in-person and virtual learning.
“If today was the first day of school, we would have been hard-pressed to have sufficient staff available to open,” superintendent Chris McMichael said.
Distance learning for all students will begin Aug. 17.
On Friday, district officials will “present a phased approach to bring students back into the classrooms as quickly as possible,” the school system said.
8:22 a.m.: France reports highest single-day rise in cases in over two months
France on Wednesday reported its highest single-day rise in coronavirus infections in more than two months amid concerns about a resurgence in Europe.
According to data published by France’s national public health agency, the country recorded 1,695 new cases in 24 hours, the largest daily increase since May 30 when 1,828 new cases were identified in a 24-hour reporting period.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care units across France has decreased over the past 24 hours, according to the agency’s data.
Overall, more than 194,000 people in France have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. At least 30,305 of them have died — the third-highest death toll in Europe, according to the agency’s data.
8:07 a.m.: ‘We cannot at all exercise fatigue,’ Africa CDC warns
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Thursday that “we cannot at all exercise fatigue” in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of confirmed cases on the African continent nears one million.
More than 992,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported across the continent of 1.3 billion people since the start of the pandemic, with more than half in South Africa, according to the latest data from the Africa CDC.
A tally kept by Johns Hopkins University shows South Africa with the fifth-highest number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the world.
Africa has seen an 11% jump in cases over the last week, which is lower than in recent weeks, but Nkengasong cautioned that the data must be observed over several weeks to determine the real trend.
Nkengasong also noted concerns over the low rate of testing across the continent and the rising number of cases in several African nations including Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. He said if countries do the right things to prevent further spread of the virus, “we have a good chance of beating back this pandemic.”
7:34 a.m.: Weekly testing rate falls for first time in US, data shows
The number of COVID-19 tests being conducted across the United States has apparently taken a plunge.
A total of 664,272 tests were conducted around the country on Wednesday — the lowest figure since July 8, according to data collected and analyzed by the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer organization launched from The Atlantic.
The group attributed some of the drop in testing to technical issues with reporting systems as well as storm-related closures in some states.
“Still, the problem is broader. Weekly testing declined for the first time ever in our dataset,” the COVID Tracking Project wrote in a series of posts on Twitter. “There are widespread problems right now in the top-level data. In different ways, California and Florida have had trouble reporting complete data because of storms and IT problems. Because they are populous states with large outbreaks, that influences the national numbers.”
6:03 a.m.: Number of babies testing positive has nearly doubled in this Texas county
The number of babies testing positive for COVID-19 in Nueces County in southwest Texas has nearly doubled since mid-July, according to a report by Corpus Christi ABC affiliate KIII-TV.
Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 85 children under the age of 2 had tested positive for the virus in Nueces County by mid-July. Now, that number is “close to 167,” according to Annette Rodriguez, health director of the Corpus Christi Nueces County Public Health District.
“That number has almost doubled and that hasn’t been a very long time period,” Rodriguez told KIII.
5:28 a.m.: FEMA memo shows disproportionate number of non-white children dying from virus
A disproportionate number of non-white children are dying from the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to data released in an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency obtained by ABC News on Wednesday night.
Nationwide, the number of COVID-19 cases among people under the age of 18 from March 1 to Aug. 3 were 40% Hispanic, 34% white and 19% Black. The ethnicity breakdown of those patients who died from the disease is 38% Hispanic, 34% Black and 25% white, according to the memo.
The gender breakdown of those cases is 50% male and 50% female. However, just as in adults, COVID-19 is more fatal among males under 18, making up 64% of the deaths compared to females under 18 accounting for 36%, according to the memo.
3:39 a.m.: US records over 52,000 new cases in a single day
More than 52,000 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States on Tuesday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
It’s the second straight day that the United States has recorded over 50,000 new cases. However, the latest daily caseload is still under the country’s record set on July 16, when more than 77,000 new cases were identified in a 24-hour reporting period.
A total of 4,823,892 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 158,256 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.
By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 70,000 for the first time in mid-July.
Many states have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks, with some — including Arizona, California and Florida — reporting daily records.
However, new data suggests that the national surge in cases could be leveling off, according to an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency obtained by ABC News on Tuesday night. Nationwide, the last week saw a 9.2% decrease in cases from the previous seven-day period. There was also a 7% increase in new deaths compared to the previous week, but the figure is lower than the 20-30% week-over-week increase the country has seen of late, according to the memo.
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