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Coronavirus live updates: COVID-19 cases tied to Halloween gatherings

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(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 1.29 million people worldwide.

Over 52.6 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. The criteria for diagnosis — through clinical means or a lab test — has also varied from country to country.

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 nation, with more than 10.5 million diagnosed cases and at least 242,622 deaths.

Nearly 200 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, at least 10 of which are in crucial phase three studies. Of those 10 potential vaccines in late-stage trials, there are currently five that will be available in the United States if approved.

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

Nov 13, 12:24 pm
Emergency Nurses Association asks Biden to include nurses in COVID task force

A letter from the Emergency Nurses Association on behalf of its 52,000 members to President-elect Joe Biden, urged him to include nurses in his COVID-19 task force.

On Nov. 9, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris rolled out their transition COVID-19 advisory board.

“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a press release announcing the board.

“We were surprised that although the group contains ten medical doctors of varying specialties, there were no nurses — and especially those nurses who are providing care on the front lines during this pandemic or have clinical expertise in infectious disease management — named to the task force,” the ENA’s letter read.

“Nurses, including emergency nurses, have been on the frontlines of the pandemic since day one, performing critical triage, testing and bedside care functions for their patients,” it continued. “Once a vaccine is approved, nurses will play a critical role in its administration to the public.”

The ENA asked Biden to “expand the membership of your COVID-19 Task Force to include the unique perspective and clinical expertise of America’s nurses.”

ABC News’ Alexandra Svokos and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

Nov 13, 11:46 am
Parents should ‘get ready’ for school closings: NYC mayor

As coronavirus cases increase in New York City with a current 3.09% daily positivity rate and a 2.83% seven-day rolling average, Mayor Bill deBlasio said that parents should prepare for possible school closings.

“[The positive rate] is still below 3%, so schools remain open. But that number has gotten quite close to 3% and we are making preparations as a result in case that number does exceed 3% and we have to temporarily close our schools,” the mayor told WNYC on Friday.

“People should get ready … this is not something any parent wants to deal with. We should get ready. And parents should have a plan for the rest of the month of November, that’s a safe way to think about it. Have an alternative plan for beginning as early as Monday for whatever will help them get through this month if school is not open,” he said.

In New York City, there have been 916 new reported cases over a seven-day average and 121 hospitalizations.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Nov 13, 11:37 am
‘World cannot put all its eggs in one basket’: WHO chief on relying only on vaccine

As he has repeatedly stressed throughout the pandemic, on Friday, the World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, once again urged countries to use all tools available to combat the virus, not just wait for a vaccine.

“There is no doubt that a vaccine will be a vital tool for controlling the pandemic, and we’re encouraged by the preliminary results of clinical trials released this week,” Tedros said at the closing of the WHO’s World Health Assembly.

“But we have a long way to go. The world cannot put all its eggs in one basket, and neglect the many other tools at our disposal that countries like Thailand have shown are effective for bringing this virus under control,” he said. “The virus itself has not changed significantly, and nor have the measures needed to stop it. We know what works. First, know your epidemic and do the basics well. Find, isolate, test and care for cases. Trace and quarantine their contacts. And second, engage and empower communities to protect themselves and others with the full range of measures: physical distance, avoiding crowds, ventilation, hand hygiene, and masks,” he said.

ABC News’ Kirit M. Radia contributed to this report.

Nov 13, 11:30 am
West Coast states issue travel advisory for nonessential travel

For the first time since the pandemic, official travel advisories have been issued for the West Coast.

Nov 13, 11:00 am
COVID-19 cases tied to Halloween gatherings

As the leftover candy stash runs low in American households across the country, several state officials and school authorities have begun citing coronavirus outbreaks related to Halloween, less than two weeks after the fall holiday.

Throughout the pandemic, social gatherings and crowded venues, juxtaposed to the highly infectious virus, have resulted in a widespread escalation of COVID-19 cases across the country. Prior to Halloween, the CDC and other health experts had repeatedly warned Americans about the risk of contracting COVID-19 during the holiday, and in particular, at indoor costume gatherings.

Despite these warnings, some people still flouted recommendations.

Although several large events made headlines, such as a gathering in Utah, which reportedly attracted thousands of costumed attendees, other smaller events in private homes and dorm rooms seemingly slipped under the radar.

And now, officials say those events may be contributing to the surging COVID-19 case numbers seen in communities across the country.

As Oregon recorded its highest daily case figure on record on Thursday, health officials said that this week’s rising case numbers could be traced to Halloween-related events; specifically, several small social gatherings, as well as a party with more than 100 people in attendance.

During a press conference earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom also said officials believe the state’s recent increase in cases may be tied to Halloween celebrations. And as cases rise in Vermont, which has maintained relatively low COVID-19 case numbers throughout the pandemic, some COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks have been traced back to Halloween parties.

In Missouri’s St. Louis County, a Halloween party has led to at least five positive COVID-19 cases, with possibly 200 high school students exposed to COVID-19, according to local officials, and following an increase in cases, the city of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced new restrictions Thursday on private gatherings.

In New York, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone tied his community’s “disturbing” rise in coronavirus cases to Halloween gatherings. Another county official in Onondaga County, New York called the recent COVID-19 uptick “the Halloween surge.”

Colleges have also found themselves facing the consequences of students’ desire to celebrate the holiday, as COVID-19 clusters pop up on campuses. In the last week, Tulane has reported over 300 new coronavirus cases, which the college president said were the result of “poor decisions” over the Halloween weekend.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has also identified a COVID-19 cluster connected to an off-campus gathering on Halloween.

Although it is ultimately difficult to measure how much these gatherings are actually contributing to the exponential surge the U.S. is currently experiencing, it is clear that when mitigation efforts are not followed at celebrations, COVID-19 cases may likely follow — a worrisome trend heading into the winter holidays.

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropolous and Ali Dukakis contributed to this report.

Nov 13, 7:50 am
Biden COVID advisor: US needs targeted restrictions, not nationwide lockdown

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s new coronavirus advisory board and former surgeon general, told ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday that targeted restrictions in specific areas, not a nationwide lockdown, would be the best path forward to combatting the virus.

“I think that’s how we thought about it in the spring, but I think we’ve learned a lot since then about how this virus spreads and what we can do to reduce risk,” he said. “And right now, the way we should be thinking about this is more like a series of restrictions that we dial up or down depending on how bad spread is taking place in a specific region.”

He pointed to the success New York City has had in targeting areas down to the zip code. That approach, he said, also helps lessen the blow on the economy and COVID fatigue.

“We’re not in a place where we’re saying shut the whole country down. We got to be more targeted,” Murthy said. “If we don’t do that, what you’re going to find is that people will become even more fatigued. Schools won’t be open to children and the economy will be hit harder, so we’ve got to follow science, but we’ve also got to be more precise.”

He said to combat the virus, the U.S. will focus on stopping the spread of COVID-19 by zeroing in on the hardest-hit communities and increasing testing.

“We still don’t have adequate testing so anyone who wants a test can get one and get results quickly,” Murthy told GMA. “We still don’t have enough testing to be able to do surveillance testing in universities and workplaces and in other places that are higher risk like prisons and nursing homes so that is an area where you’ll see President-Elect Biden focusing expanding capacity.”

States reported 151,000 cases in the U.S. on Thursday, with 67,000 people hospitalized with the virus, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Both figures are records.

Nov 13, 4:41 am
California surpasses one million COVID cases

California has now passed a grim milestone of over one million confirmed cases of coronavirus.

According to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the state has at least 1,006,099 diagnosed cases.

California becomes only the second state, behind Texas, to reach this threshold.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is now more than 10.55 million, with at least 242,430 deaths.

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