Coronavirus updates: NY may be reaching its peak, Dr. Fauci says

narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) — A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least 14,808 people in the United States.

The U.S. is among the worst affected countries, with more than 432,000 people 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.

Worldwide, more than 1.5 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and at least 89,915 of them have died since the virus emerged in China in December. 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.

Italy has, by far, the world’s highest death toll — over 17,600.

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

11 a.m.: Pennsylvania schools closed for rest of year

Pennsylvania schools will stay closed for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday.

Learning will continue online and families can still pick up meals at designated sites.

10:40 a.m.: Georgia’s primary postponed until June 9

Georgia’s primary will now be postponed until June 9, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Thursday.

This is the second time the state’s presidential primary has been pushed back (it was originally scheduled for March 24).

“I certainly realize that every difficulty will not be completely solved by the time in-person voting begins for the June 9 election, but elections must happen even in less than ideal circumstances,” Raffensperger said in a press release. “Just like our brave healthcare workers and first responders, our county election officials and poll workers are undertaking work critical to our democracy, and they will continue to do this critical work with all the challenges that the current crisis has brought forth.”

10:15 a.m.: In NYC, May ‘might be easier than what I originally feared’

New York City, hit hard by the pandemic, is now seeing some improvement, which Mayor Bill de Blasio says shows sheltering in place and social distancing are working.

“If we continue to make progress,” the mayor said, for the dense city of 8.6 million residents, the month of May “might be easier than what I originally feared it would be.”

“Let’s double down” on social distancing and sheltering in place, he added, stressing that New Yorkers “have to earn our way out of this horrible situation.”

9:43 a.m.: New York cases primarily from Europe, not Asia

Though the first positive coronavirus case in New York was on March 1, the virus probably circulated in and around the city at least two weeks earlier — and most cases were transmitted from Europe, not China, where the virus originated, according to new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The research shows the pandemic in New York City and surrounding area was predominately set off through untracked transmission between the U.S. and Europe, with limited evidence supporting direct introductions from China or other locations in Asia.

7:19 a.m.: New York may be reaching its peak in outbreak, Dr. Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic, said Thursday he thinks the U.S. death toll will end up being far less than the original projection and that New York may be reaching its peak in the outbreak.

A revised model by the University of Washington, often cited by the White House, now predicts that 60,000 people will die from the novel coronavirus in the United States by Aug. 4. The White House coronavirus task force previously projected 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, even if the current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

“Even though it’s good news and encouraging, we got to make sure, as I always say, we keep our foot on the accelerator when it comes to mitigation,” Fauci told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Thursday on Good Morning America.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there’s “some indication” that parts of the country are beginning to see a bend in the upward curve of the virus outbreak, particularly New York, the U.S. epicenter, which in recent days has seen a drop in the number of patients being hospitalized and needing intensive care.

“You never want to, you know, claim victory prematurely,” he said. “But when you see those kinds of trends, you hope that we’ll see that curve go down and then can start to think about gradually getting back to some sort of steps towards normality.”

New York recorded its largest daily death toll from COVID-19 on Wednesday, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state’s outbreak appeared to be stabilizing based on the recent decline in hospitalizations.

When asked whether he thinks New York has hit its peak, Fauci said “it’s tough to tell” but “we may very well be there.

Fauci warned that people shouldn’t assume warm weather will drive the virus away, and he urged everyone to continue practicing social distancing and regularly washing hands, even when things return to normal.

“There’s precedent with other infections like influenza and some of the common more benign coronaviruses that when the weather gets warmer, that the virus goes down, its ability to replicate, to spread, it doesn’t like warm, moist weather as much as it likes cold, dry weather,” he said. “But having said that, one should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather. You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing.”

7:01 a.m.: Washington inmates cause disturbance after learning six tested positive for COVID-19

More than 100 inmates caused a disturbance at a men’s prison in Washington state on Wednesday night, after six prisoners tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The demonstration erupted in the recreation yard at Monroe Correctional Complex. The inmates set off fire extinguishers within two housing units within the prison’s minimum security unit, according to a press release from the Washington state Department of Corrections.

All measures to bring the individuals into compliance were initially ignored, officials said, including verbal directives, pepper spray and sting balls, which release light, noise and rubber pellets.

An emergency response team was deployed and gave verbal directives, which were obeyed by over half the inmates. Sting balls were then discharged into the area and the other inmates stopped the destruction of two housing units and came into compliance, officials said.

There were no injuries to staff or the incarcerated men, officials said.

“It is believed at this time that the incident was caused by recent positive test results of COVID- 19 among six men within the Minimum Security Unit,” the Washington Department of Corrections said in a statement. “Those six men were transferred from the Minimum Security Unit on Sunday to the facility’s isolation unit. The facility health care team is providing clinical monitoring and supportive care for the individuals in the isolation unit.”

6:02 a.m.: Pandemic drives sub-Saharan Africa toward first recession in 25 years

The global pandemic of the novel coronavirus is driving sub-Saharan Africa toward its first recession in 25 years, according to a World Bank report published Thursday.

Economic growth in the region is forecast to fall sharply from 2.4% in 2019 to as much as -5.1% in 2020, according to the report. An analysis shows that the pandemic will cost sub-Saharan Africa “between $37 billion and $79 billion in output losses for 2020 due to a combination of effects,” the World Bank said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the limits of societies and economies across the world, and African countries are likely to be hit particularly hard,” Hafez Ghanem, World Bank’s vice president for Africa, said in a statement Thursday.

The World Bank also warned that the pandemic could spark a food security crisis in Africa due to a potentially substantial decline in agricultural production and food imports.

A number of African nations have reacted “quickly and decisively” to curb the spread of the virus, the World Bank said. However, the report notes several factors that could hinder the containment and mitigation measures, in particular the region’s fragile health systems, poor access to safe water and sanitation facilities, and the large and densely populated urban informal settlements.

5:32 a.m.: ‘We have reached the peak,’ Spain’s prime minister says

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Thursday that the government would soon start relaxing the national lockdown measures that were put in place to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We have reached the peak and now the de-escalation begins,” Sanchez told Spanish Parliament, noting that the process would be “gradual.”

“The climb has been difficult, as the descent will also be,” he said.

Spain is among the worst affected countries in the global pandemic, with more than 148,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19. At least 14,792 people have died from the disease there, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

3:58 a.m.: USNS Mercy crew member tests positive for COVID-19

A crew member aboard the USNS Mercy hospital ship moored in Los Angeles has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

U.S. Navy Lt. Andrew Bertucci told ABC News the crew member “is currently isolated aboard the ship, and will soon transfer to an off-ship isolation facility where they will self-monitor for severe symptoms.”

“This will not affect the ability for Mercy to receive patients,” Bertucci said in a statement late Wednesday. “The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crew members and patients on board.”

After docking in the Port of Los Angeles last month, the USNS Mercy began treating non-coronavirus patients from area hospitals to help free up resources for COVID-19 patients.

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