By MORGAN WINSOR and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 352,000 people worldwide.
Over 5.6 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 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 country, with more than 1.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 99,674 deaths.
Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:
6:46 p.m.: Maryland to resume outdoor dining on Friday
Starting Friday at 5 p.m., Maryland restaurants can reopen for outdoor dining, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday.
Patrons must wear masks and restaurants must do staff temperature checks, as well as follow other sanitizing and social distancing measures.
Outdoor activities like youth sports and day camps, outdoor pools at 25% capacity and drive-in movie theaters can also resume starting Friday, Hogan said.
The state has completed the first phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan, based on contact tracing capacity and rates for positivity, hospitalization and mortality, the governor said Wednesday. If statistics continue to show progress, more nonessential businesses may be able to reopen next week, he said.
Maryland has 48,423 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 736 from the day before, and 2,270 deaths, according to the state’s health department.
5:52 p.m.: 100,000 lives lost to pandemic in US
Four months after the U.S. suffered its first COVID-19 death, the U.S. death toll from the pandemic has passed the 100,000 mark.
By March 27, the coronavirus had claimed the lives of 2,300 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On April 27, the death toll had ballooned to 50,400. Now, a month later, the death toll has doubled to reach six figures.
The U.S. has by far the most deaths from the virus. The United Kingdom has the second-most deaths with over 37,500, while Italy has 33,000.
3:48 p.m.: Louisiana hospitalizations drop below 800 for 1st time in 2 months
The number of COVID-19 patients in Louisiana hospitals has now dropped below 800 for the first time in two months, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday.
Over 38,000 people in Louisiana have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. At least 2,617 people have died.
Louisiana has 13 confirmed cases and one death connected to Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a dangerous coronavirus-related illness in children that’s being reported in many states and countries.
The 13 young people range in age from 0 to 19, with a median age of 11, the governor said.
Eight have been discharged from hospitals, he said.
MIS-C has features like Kawasaki disease and Toxic-Shock Syndrome. Common symptoms include persistent fever, irritability or sluggishness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, conjunctivitis, enlarged lymph node on one side of the neck, red cracked lips or red tongue, swollen hands and feet.
1:54 p.m.: Amtrak is preparing to cut its workforce by up to 20%
Amtrak is preparing to reduce its workforce by up to 20%, citing the effects of the pandemic.
“Our ridership and revenue levels have been down 95% or more year-over-year since the pandemic began,” CEO Bill Flynn wrote in a memo to employees.
The railroad company is projecting ridership levels in 2021 will be 50% of what it was in 2019.
Amtrak said the reduction is necessary to ensure they can “continue to make critical investments in our core and long-term growth strategies, while also keeping safety as our top priority.”
“We are currently working to finalize a plan for achieving these workforce reductions in FY 2021 and have started the process of designing our go-forward structure,” Flynn wrote.
“As we look ahead to FY 2021, it is clear we have no choice but to reduce our overhead structure to better align our costs with our revenues,” Flynn wrote.
In a letter to Congress, Amtrak said it needs $1.4 billion in supplemental funding for the next fiscal year — in addition to the $2.040 billion annual grant request the company submitted to Congress earlier this year. Amtrak received $1 billion through the CARES Act and the company has taken numerous cost-cutting measures to help offset revenue losses caused by the pandemic, including reducing schedules across its system.
12:22 p.m.: Data breach scam delays unemployment checks
At a time of record layoffs, a nationwide scam involving stolen personal information is delaying the payment of unemployment claims, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said Wednesday.
“Criminal enterprises” are using personal identification information stolen in prior data breaches to file “large amounts” of illegitimate claims through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, the office said.
The fraud has forced the Department of Unemployment Assistance to implement additional identify verification that will delay the payment for “many” unemployment claims in the state.
“Protecting the integrity of the unemployment system and ensuring benefits are going only to valid claimants is a top priority of the Department of Unemployment Assistance,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “While the program integrity measures we are taking will unfortunately mean that some claimants will experience temporary delays in payment, we believe these steps are necessary to respond to this unemployment scam.”
11:40 a.m.: Disney World’s phased reopening to begin with Magic and Animal Kingdom on July 11
Disney World’s phased reopening will begin with Magic and Animal Kingdom on July 11 and Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15, said Jim McPhee, senior VP of operations at Disney.
Before July 11, there will be a soft opening for “select” guests as a way to test out the safety protocols.
Guests will also have to reserve their park tickets in advance.
Among the safety protocols in place are: temperature screenings; face covering requirements; limiting the number of people to improve physical distancing; and more plexiglass barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Disney is the parent company of ABC News.
11 a.m.: Fauci says ‘good chance’ vaccine may ‘be deployable by the end of the year’
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Wednesday morning that he thinks “we have a good chance — if all the things fall in the right place — that we might have a vaccine that would be deployable by the end of the year.”
Fauci underscored that the process to develop a vaccine is not a smooth one.
“There are a lot of landmines and hiccups that occur,” Fauci told CNN.
He also emphasized that the rapid development of a vaccine could not come “at the expense of safety nor scientific integrity.”
10:21 a.m.: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami to transform into drive-in movie theater
As social distancing continues, Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, is transforming into a drive-in movie theater to show classic Dolphins footage and movies, as well as host events like commencement ceremonies, officials said Tuesday.
The stadium can accommodate up to 230 cars.
9:40 a.m.: Nevada gyms, bars, salons to reopen; casinos on track to open June 4
Nevada is ready to begin “phase two” of its reopening this Friday. Public and private gatherings can increase from no more than 10 people to a maximum of 50 people, while continuing to follow social distancing, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday.
Gyms can reopen but at a maximum 50% capacity. Locker rooms must be closed and equipment must be set up to ensure 6 feet of social distancing.
Bars and restaurant bar areas can now open, also at 50% maximum capacity. Walk-up ordering at bars will not be allowed.
Adult entertainment venues and nightclubs must remain closed.
Salons can reopen but with strict guidelines, and places of worship can open their doors with a maximum 50-person capacity.
Las Vegas is well known for its live performances. These events won’t be allowed to have spectators, but “certain events will be allowed under specific restrictions for the purpose of broadcasting or live streaming,” the governor said.
But Las Vegas is best known for its casinos.
Sisolak said he feels “confident” that casinos can reopen on his June 4 target date. The Gaming Control Board is expected to issue a notice Wednesday with gaming operation requirements for the state, he said.
9:07 a.m.: No patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Zealand
In New Zealand, there are no patients hospitalized with COVID-19, New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield reported Wednesday.
There are only 21 active cases of the coronavirus in the country.
For the fifth consecutive day New Zealand has no new COVID-19 cases, with the total remaining at 1,154 diagnosed cases.
New Zealand’s shops, malls, cafes, restaurants, playgrounds and gyms can reopen on Thursday.
8:22 a.m.: Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre cancels season for first time in 90 years
The iconic Greek Theatre in Los Angeles is canceling its season for the first time in 90 years, officials there announced Tuesday.
“We feel it is the right, responsible and safe thing for fans, artists, staff and our Griffith Park community to put a pause on live, large crowd events until 2021,” said AP Diaz, executive officer of the city’s Recreation and Parks department.
Los Angeles County has over 47,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and at least 2,143.
6:20 a.m.: Spain begins 10 days of mourning for coronavirus victims
Flags were lowered to half-mast across Spain on Wednesday as the European country began 10 days of official mourning for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
“10 days, the longest mourning period of our democracy, in which we show all our pain and pay tribute to those who have died,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter. “Your memory will always remain with us.”
Spain is one of the worst-affected countries in the pandemic, with more than 236,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 with at least 27,117 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
5:10 a.m.: South Korea reports spike in new cases
South Korea reported 40 new infections of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, the largest daily increase in over a month.
A majority of the new cases were detected in Seoul, where a cluster of infections has been recently linked to reopened bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues in the densely populated capital.
The last time the country’s daily caseload was this high was April 8, when the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 53 new cases of COVID-19.
South Korea now has a total of 11,265 confirmed cases with 269 deaths.
The country once had the largest novel coronavirus outbreak outside China, where the virus first emerged, but appears to have brought it largely under control with an extensive “trace, test and treat” strategy. The number of new cases reported there has generally stayed low, but health authorities remain wary of cluster infections and imported cases.
Starting Wednesday, South Korea is requiring airplane passengers to wear face masks on all domestic and international flights as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus while public activities increase. People must also wear masks when using the country’s public transportation and taxis.
4:28 a.m.: Global death toll crosses 350,000
The worldwide number of lives lost in the coronavirus pandemic has now surpassed 350,000, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Nearly a third of those deaths have been reported in the United States, the hardest-hit country, where the toll is fast approaching 100,000.
The United Kingdom has the second-highest number of fatalities from COVID-19.
3:32 a.m.: COVID-19 cases among US health care workers top 62,000
More than 62,000 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in the United States have contracted the novel coronavirus and at least 291 have died, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The true numbers may be much higher, as less than a quarter of the more than 1.3 million people whose data the CDC analyzed disclosed whether they worked in the health care industry. Moreover, out of the estimated 62,344 cases of COVID-19 among health care personnel in the country, death status was only available for about 57%.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the profession was at 9,282 just six weeks ago. At that time, the median age of infected workers was 42 and nearly three-quarters were women.
Although most weren’t hospitalized for the disease, severe outcomes — including death — were reported among all age groups. That information was not made available in the CDC’s latest report.
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