Coronavirus updates: 1 million in NYC possibly exposed to virus, health official says

vchal/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR and ELLA TORRES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 185,000 people worldwide.

Over 2.6 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopskins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.  

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected nation, with more than 843,000 diagnosed cases and at least 46,838 deaths.


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

11:29 a.m.: China pledges $30 million donation to WHO funding

China has pledged to donate $30 million in funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support the agency’s effort to fight the pandemic, the state-run Xinhua reported.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang backed the WHO’s handling of the pandemic, saying at a briefing that it played an important role in assisting countries in responding to the outbreak and boosting international cooperation.

The pledged donation comes amid criticism from President Donald Trump and his administration of the WHO.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the WHO did not enforce its rules regarding data that China shared. However, the United Nations agency does not have enforcement ability.

Trump also said he would halt all funding to the WHO. Senior U.S. officials said Wednesday that while existing work would continue, “new funding” would be paused while a review is conducted.

Xinhua reported that in March, China donated $20 million to the WHO.

11:02 a.m.: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s eldest brother dies after testing positive

The eldest of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s three older brothers, Don Reed, died Tuesday night, three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 86.

Warren confirmed the news in a statement and tweet.

“I’m grateful to the nurses and frontline staff who took care of him, but it’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time — and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close. I’ll miss you dearly my brother,” she tweeted, in part.

Warren, a former Democratic presidential contender, spoke proudly of her brothers on the campaign trail.

Reed was a U.S. Air Force veteran and one of her two Republican brothers. Though he and his siblings only appeared once on the trail with her when she was in Oklahoma, they never spoke to the press. They did appear in a campaign video for their little sister.

Warren had not previously mentioned her brother’s diagnosis, but she has been outspoken about the pandemic’s grip on the world.

10:32 a.m.: Around 1 million New Yorkers could have been exposed to COVID: Health commissioner

Despite what appears to be slow progress in New York City, the mayor and health commissioner gave a sobering look at how many New Yorkers most likely have been and will continue to be affected by the pandemic.

Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said that she would not be surprised if “close to a million New Yorkers” had been exposed to COVID-19. In the city of about 8.3 million, there have been at least 138,000 confirmed cases, Barbot said Thursday during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily press briefing.

De Blasio also offered a stark statistic: he expects that an additional one million residents could become food insecure under the pandemic, putting the total number of food insecure New Yorkers at around two million.

He said that by the end of April, the city is expected to have served out about 10 million meals. For May, de Blasio said that number could rise to 15 million.

De Blasio offered hope to New Yorkers, saying he believes the city will persevere, but also warned that “we’re still very much in this fight.”

The number of people admitted to New York City hospitals with suspected COVID-19 cases was down again, from 252 to 227, according to the mayor. The number of people in ICUs was also down, but de Blasio noted that 796 people admitted to ICUs was still “way too many people.”

He said the city is on track to conduct 20,000 to 30,000 tests per day in May. De Blasio continued to say that testing is the key to reopening the city and keeping New Yorkers safe.

7:02 a.m.: All frontline workers in Los Angeles can now get tested for COVID-19

The city of Los Angeles is expanding its criteria for who is eligible to get free testing for the novel coronavirus.

Starting Thursday, all of the city’s frontline workers can get tested for COVID-19 whether they have symptoms or not.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who made the announcement at a press briefing Wednesday night, said the frontline workers include health care professionals, first responders, grocery store workers and critical government personnel.

“We wish we could open that up to everybody, but I think we all know that we have firefighters and police officers, doctors, nurses, janitors at hospitals, folks that are in grocery stores and pharmacies that are putting themselves out on the line,” Garcetti said. “And we want to make sure they are healthy, that they have the peace of mind knowing they’re healthy, and because they interact with so many people, that we can make sure they are not spreading it.”

The city’s public testing sites have the capacity to test 12,200 people per day, according to Garcetti.

6:25 a.m.: France wants all retailers to reopen next month

The French government wants all shops — except bars, cafes and restaurants — to be able to reopen once a nationwide lockdown ends next month.

“We want all retailers to be able to open on May 11 in the same way out of fairness,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio on Thursday. “I would only set aside restaurants, bars and cafes that will need special treatment because they are a place of mixing.”

Le Maire noted that protocols would have to be implemented to protect both workers and customers. It’s still unclear whether the reopening would be feasible nationwide or only by region, he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that the country’s lockdown, which was put in place on March 17 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, will be extended until May 11 and gradually lifted thereon.

France has recorded more than 157,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and over 21,000 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

5:50 a.m.: Germany is on ‘thinnest ice,’ Angela Merkel warns

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that her country is “still at the beginning” of the coronavirus pandemic and citizens must maintain discipline.

“We are still far from out of the woods,” Merkel said while addressing the German parliament Thursday.

More than 150,000 people in Germany have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 5,315 of them have died from the disease so far, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. It’s a relatively low death toll compared to other European countries like France and Italy that have similar caseloads but fatalities have soared past 20,000.

Germany’s federal and state governments recently agreed to relax some of the social distancing measures put in place to combat the outbreak, including permitting smaller shops to reopen this week.

“It is precisely because the figures give rise to hope that I feel obliged to say that this interim result is fragile,” Merkel said. “We are on thin ice, the thinnest ice even.”

3:30 a.m.: American Red Cross will soon use antibody tests to ID plasma donors

Starting next week, the American Red Cross will offer antibody tests for people who suspect they were previously infected with the novel coronavirus and are interested in donating their blood plasma — a potential game-changer in the treatment for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

“That completely changes the landscape,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, told ABC News in an interview Wednesday.

While there is no guarantee that antibodies to this new virus actually provide immunity, doctors are hopeful that patients severely sickened with COVID-19 can benefit from infusions of blood plasma collected from those who have recovered from the disease. The therapy, known as convalescent plasma, is a century-old technique used for treating epidemics.

At the moment, an individual who wishes to donate blood plasma for the experimental convalescent plasma therapy must have documentation of a positive COVID-19 test. The lack of diagnostic tests available has led hospitals and donation centers to say they are in desperate need of donors.

“Qualifying and getting the right donors into our centers to donate is one of the biggest hurdles in this in this endeavor,” Young said.

More than 30,000 people have requested to donate on the American Red Cross website, but only 2 to 3% actually qualify and meet the current criteria set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That donor pool could increase dramatically with the implementation of antibody testing at American Red Cross donation centers.

“All of those (potential) donors who don’t have confirmed testing can now be tested,” Young said. “We can really cut through that time, which is so important.”

Young explained that researchers and medical professionals have been in uncharted territory, “building the plane as you’re flying it.” But she said they’ve been working around the clock to streamline the process.

“We really didn’t know what we were dealing with at the beginning as we were standing this up,” she told ABC News. “Now we’ve really resourced this project.”

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