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Coronavirus live updates: 'Largest mass fatality incident' in New York City: Report

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Samara Heisz/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 947,000 people worldwide.

Over 30.2 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 criteria for diagnosis — through clinical means or a lab test — has varied from country-to-country. Still, 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 virus has rapidly spread to every continent except Antarctica.

The United States is the worst-affected country, with more than 6.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 197,763 deaths.

California has the most cases of any U.S. state, with more than 775,000 people diagnosed, according to Johns Hopkins data. California is followed by Texas and Florida, with over 701,000 cases and over 674,000 cases, respectively.

Nearly 170 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, at least six of which are in crucial phase three trials.

Here’s how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:

Sep 18, 1:12 pm
Israel goes on its 2nd lockdown as Jewish High Holidays begin

Israel’s second COVID-19 lockdown started on Friday as the Jewish High Holidays began.

The lockdown, which will last for three weeks, went into effect at 2 p.m. local time. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins Friday night, and is typically a time for family gatherings.

Supermarkets and pharmacies will stay open during the lockdown but schools and nonessential businesses will close.

Synagogues can stay open but there are strict rules as to how many worshippers can go inside at one time. Ten days after Rosh Hashanah is Yom Kippur; attending synagogue is an important part of both holidays.

Israel has over 179,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19. At least 1,196 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Israel’s first nationwide pandemic lockdown ended in May.

Sep 18, 11:12 am
New Zealand reports no new cases for 1st time in over a month

New Zealand has reported no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the first time since Aug. 10, after a fresh outbreak was discovered in the country’s most populous city.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said Friday that there were no positive results among the 7,360 people tested for COVID-19 the previous day. It’s the fourth straight day without any cases of community transmission in the nation of 5 million people, with all recent cases being detected among quarantined travelers returning from abroad.

A cluster of cases emerged in the city of Auckland last month, ending New Zealand’s 102-day streak without any local transmission of the novel coronavirus. The outbreak prompted the government to impose a temporary lockdown in the region and reschedule national elections.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has identified 1,809 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases as well as 25 coronavirus-related deaths. There are currently 70 active cases and four coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the country.

Sep 18, 10:07 am
COVID-19 is New York City’s ‘largest mass fatality incident,’ report says

The number of deaths reported to the New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) more than doubled in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation’s most populous city, according to a new report from the mayor’s office.

“COVID-19 tragically represents the largest mass fatality incident in modern NYC history,” the report said.

There were 65,712 deaths reported to OCME during the 2020 fiscal year, compared to 30,964 in fiscal year 2019.

“The number of deaths reported to OCME increased, corresponding to the surge in NYC deaths during the pandemic,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the number of cremation requests reviewed by the OCME jumped from 17,148 to 27,863 over the past year.

“This increase came about during the months of March through June where OCME received 16,115 requests, a number that approached the entire Fiscal 2019 total,” the report said. “This increase corresponds to the surge in deaths NYC experienced during the pandemic to date.”

The number of decedents’ remains transported by OCME and stored in the morgue also increased from 11,281 to 17,606.

New York City has counted nearly 24,000 confirmed or probable deaths from COVID-19 so far. In April, the city’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed the number of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

ABC News’ Aaron Katerksy contributed to this report.

Sep 18, 9:17 am
London cancels New Year’s Eve fireworks, while England imposes tighter restrictions

The massive fireworks display that lights up London’s skyline every New Year’s Eve, attracting tens of thousands of people, has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the decision to halt the official New Year’s Eve celebrations in the British capital during an interview Friday on radio station LBC, citing concerns about further spread of the novel coronavirus.

“There will not be fireworks on New Year’s Eve this year like in previous years,” Khan said. “We simply can’t afford to have the numbers of people who congregate on New Year’s Eve congregating.”

As the city’s COVID-19 case count continues to rise, Khan warned that new restrictions could be imposed in London if people don’t follow the current social distancing rules. He said new measures could be similar to those recently announced in other areas of England, where more than 10 million people are now banned from mixing with other households outside of support bubbles while hospitality and entertainment venues have to adhere to a nightly curfew.

“Without wishing to alarm your listeners, the number of cases in London are going up; the infection rate is going up, and hospital admissions are going up,” Khan told LBC. “But we aren’t at a point where we would need to trigger the sort of things we need to do that you’re seeing across the country.”

Sep 18, 8:20 am
Controversial testing guidance ‘absolutely came from the CDC,’ task force official says

A controversial guideline posted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for COVID-19 was approved by the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, according to Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It absolutely came from the CDC,” Giroir, a medical doctor and a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told ABC News’ Cecilia Vega in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.

The guideline in question said it wasn’t necessary to test people without COVID-19 symptoms, even if they had been exposed to the virus.

“There are thousands of people at the CDC. I have no idea who The New York Times talked to, but I know for a fact that the version that went to the task force was reviewed and approved by Dr. Redfield,” Giroir continued. “It was reviewed and approved by the senior scientist who was the incident manager and in multiple emails to me said that the pertinent issues were reviewed by subject matter experts.”

Giroir was referring to a recent article by The New York Times that reported the guideline was not written by CDC scientists and was posted to the agency’s website despite their serious objections. The article cited several people familiar with the matter as well as internal documents obtained by the newspaper.

During the interview on GMA, Giroir disputed that the guideline recommended against testing those who are asymptomatic and said more clarification would be released soon.

“In fact, there were specific recommendations to test asymptomatic (individuals) in outbreak areas,” he noted. “What they said was, if you’re asymptomatic after exposure, you should do it within the context of public health or medical advice.”

“I want people to know that if you are asymptomatic you can still spread the virus and we want them to be tested,” he added.

Giroir said politics is not part of the decision-making that is happening on the coronavirus task force and that it is a “science-based, evidence-based process … with the scientists leading.”

He agreed with Redfield’s recent statement on Capitol Hill that a potential COVID-19 vaccine won’t be widely available until the middle of next year.

“But the point that I want to emphasize is, we could immunize 5% or 10% of the population and get 90% of the benefit by ring-fencing the vulnerable, like in nursing homes or vaccinating our teachers or those who have hypertensions,” Giroir said. “If we had a vaccine, even a few million in November, it could make an enormous impact on the health of the country. But it is also true that everyone who wants a vaccine may not be able to get it till mid-next year.”

Sep 18, 6:49 am
US sees rise in both new cases and deaths over past week

Week-over-week comparisons show the number of new COVID-19 cases and the number of new deaths are both increasing in the United States, according to an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency obtained by ABC News on Thursday night.

Eleven U.S. states and territories are in an upward trajectory of new cases, while 12 jurisdictions are at a plateau and 32 others are going down, the memo said.

There were 269,769 new cases confirmed across the nation during the period of Sept 10-16, a 5.3% jump from the previous week. Meanwhile, 6,015 coronavirus-related deaths were recorded during that same period, a 16.3% increase compared with the seven days prior, according to the memo.

The national positivity rate for COVID-19 tests ticked downward slightly to 4.5%, compared with 5.1% for the previous week, the memo said.

FEMA maps and charts also show a number of emerging COVID-19 hotspots in Wisconsin, which reported a record-breaking 2,034 new cases on Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, 12.9% of new cases on Sept. 11 were attributed to colleges and universities. Half of all cases in the state are individuals aged 18 to 44, according to the memo.

In Florida, data released by the state health department shows that cases among children younger than 18 have increased by 26% since schools reopened for in-person instruction a month ago. The northern city of Gainesville reported a 91% relative increase in new cases during the period of Sept. 7-13, compared to the seven days prior. The spike was linked to outbreaks among sports teams and other students at the University of Florida, where the COVID-19 test positivity rate stands at 27.1%, the memo said.

In Indiana’s Monroe County, new cases increased by a relative rate of 61.9% during the period of Sept. 7-13, compared to the previous week. The surge continues to be driven by Indiana University’s campus in Bloomington, where fraternity and sorority housing had a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 24.56% for the week ending Sept. 11, according to the memo.

Sep 18, 5:29 am
US reports over 44,000 new cases, just under 1,000 deaths

There were 44,360 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the United States on Thursday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Thursday’s tally is well below the country’s record set on July 16, when there were 77,255 new cases in a 24-hour-reporting period.

An additional 870 coronavirus-related fatalities were also recorded Thursday, down from a peak of 2,666 new fatalities reported on April 17.

A total of 6,675,564 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 197,643 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. The daily tally of new cases has gradually come down since then.

Sep 18, 4:59 am
India’s case count jumps by more than 96,000

India confirmed another 96,424 COVID-19 cases and 1,174 more fatalities in the past 24 hours.

The daily case count is just under the world record that India had set the previous day of 97,894 COVID-19 cases confirmed within a 24-hour reporting period. The country’s cumulative total now stands at more than 5.21 million cases with 84,372 deaths, according to the latest data from the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

India has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world and the third-highest death toll in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. However, based on the current rate of infection, India is expected within weeks to become the pandemic’s worst-hit nation, surpassing the United States, where more than 6.6 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

India has reported more than one million cases this month alone, which the health ministry has attributed to increased testing. The vast country of 1.3 billion people is conducting more than one million COVID-19 tests per day.

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