By MORGAN WINSOR, EMILY SHAPIRO and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 704,000 people worldwide.
Over 18.7 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.
Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 4.8 million diagnosed cases and at least 157,930 deaths.
Here’s how the news developed Wednesday. All times Eastern:
7:23 p.m.: Trump repeats virus will ‘go away,’ children mostly immune
President Donald Trump at an evening press conference on the coronavirus crisis Wednesday once again claimed the coronavirus “is going away,” despite a chorus of health care experts warning the opposite.
“It’ll go away, things go away, absolutely. It’s no question in my mind it will go away,” the president said. “Sooner rather than later.”
He also repeated a claim from an interview earlier in the day with Fox News’ Lou Dobbs when he said children were “almost immune” and “virtually immune” to the disease.
“They may get it, but it doesn’t have much of an impact on them and if you look at the numbers, the numbers of — in terms of mortality, fatality, the numbers for children under a certain age meaning young — their immune systems are very strong,” Trump said at the briefing. “They are very powerful and they seem to be able to handle it very well. That’s according to every statistic.”
Facebook removed the Fox News video from Trump’s page, labeling the “almost immune” comment as a false claim.
Hours before Trump’s briefing, the nation’s top health expert on infectious diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, provided a grim assessment of the country’s handling of the pandemic in direct contradiction with the president, saying the U.S. has suffered “as much or worse than anyone.”
“I mean, which you look at the number of infections and the number of deaths, it really is quite, quite concerning,” Fauci said in a public forum hosted by the Harvard School of Public Health Wednesday. “The numbers don’t lie.”
6:30 p.m.: LA responding to 2,000 social distancing violation complaints a week
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer urged residents to stop holding large parties in their homes and in businesses as the city continues to see more coronavirus cases.
“You’re putting yourself and other people at great risk when you’re going to that party,” she said at a news conference.
Ferrer said the city is responding to 2,000 complaints per week about businesses ignoring social distancing.
Ferrer acknowledged the city doesn’t have enough police or health officials to crack down on the parties.
“The better way for us to approach this is going to be by convincing everyone, we really need you to do your part,” she said.
4:30 p.m.: Fauci says family still getting death threats
At a public forum hosted by the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta that his family has continued to receive death threats since obtaining security in early April.
[The pandemic] brings out the best of people and the worst of people. And you know, getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security is just, I mean, it’s amazing,” he said.
Fauci argued the threats were based on a hostility toward public health principles he has espoused throughout the pandemic.
“I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are pure public health principles are so set against it … that they actually threaten you,” he said. “I mean, that to me is just strange.”
Fauci said the U.S. had “a disparate response” to the pandemic.
“We didn’t all row together,” Fauci said Wednesday.
“We live in a very big country, and we often leave the decisions about the implementation of things at the local level. And what we’ve seen is a great disparity in how individual states, cities responded,” he said.
Fauci argued that while he did not expect another lockdown to combat the outbreak, the lack of unity in the moment is a concern.
“When we had 9/11, everyone was frightened, particularly because we had anthrax,” Fauci said.
“So there was this kind of synergy among different demographic groups about holding together as a nation. Now, there’s such a divergence of how people view this and such a divisiveness,” he said.
On the subject of testing, Gupta asked why some COVID-19 results take a long time and are occasionally inaccurate.
“I could bend myself into a pretzel to get out of that question,” Fauci said. “It’s unacceptable. Period. And I don’t know why, because that’s not what I do everyday, but I can tell you they are trying.”
Fauci said he still projects the U.S. won’t develop a vaccine until the end of the year.
“My projection, which is only projection, is that somewhere towards the end of the year, the beginning of 2021, we will know whether we have a safe and effective vaccine,” he told Gupta.
3:20 p.m.: Virginia becomes first state to launch COVID-19 tracing smartphone app
Virginia has become the first state to launch a smartphone app that aims to trace the spread of coronavirus.
The free app, COVIDWISE, tells users if they’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive.
Those who test positive will get a unique code to enter into the app, the governor’s office said.
Other COVIDWISE users who have been near someone who tested positive will get a notice saying, “You have likely been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.”
Gov. Ralph Northam stressed that COVIDWISE does not track or store personal information, nor does it rely on GPS.
“Instead it uses the Apple Google Bluetooth Low Energy Technology, which assigns random keys to positive cases,” Northam said at a news conference. “It uses those keys to determine if you’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive … and sends you an alert.”
“COVIDWISE works by using random Bluetooth keys that change every 10 to 20 minutes. iOS and Android devices that have the app installed will anonymously share these random keys if they are within close proximity for at least 15 minutes,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “Each day, the device downloads a list of all random keys associated with positive COVID-19 results submitted by other app users and checks them against the list of random keys it has encountered in the last 14 days. If there is a match, COVIDWISE may notify the individual, taking into account the date and duration of exposure, and the Bluetooth signal strength which is used to estimate proximity.”
2:15 p.m.: 4 University of Louisville sports teams on hold after outbreak linked to party
Four sports teams at the University of Louisville are temporarily suspended after a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a party, university officials said, according to ABC Louisville affiliate WHAS.
MORE: Should schools reopen for students’ mental health? Experts weigh in
Twenty-nine students tested positive, WHAS reported.
Men’s soccer, women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball are now all on hold, WHAS said.
Many other teammates and student athletes are quarantining since they were possibly exposed, school officials said, according to WHAS.
1:30 p.m.: US cruises suspended until at least Oct. 31
Cruise operators have agreed to voluntarily suspend U.S. cruises until at least Oct. 31, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said Wednesday.
“This is a difficult decision as we recognize the crushing impact that this pandemic has had on our community and every other industry,” CLIA said in a statement.
“CLIA cruise line members will continue to monitor the situation with the understanding that we will revisit a possible further extension,” the statement said. “At the same time, should conditions in the U.S. change and it becomes possible to consider short, modified sailings, we would consider an earlier restart.”
12:35 p.m.: Florida has 50 hospitals with no open ICU beds
Florida has 50 hospitals with no available ICU beds, the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration reported.
Two counties — Jackson and Nassau — have no open ICU beds, the agency said.
In Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, only 13 ICU beds remain, the agency said.
These numbers are expected to fluctuate throughout the day as hospitals and medical centers provide updates.
11:58 a.m.: Biden won’t travel to Milwaukee for Democratic National Convention
Former Vice President Joe Biden and all convention speakers will not be traveling to Milwaukee for the Democratic National Convention, according to a statement from the DNC Committee.
“After ongoing consultation with public health officials and experts — who underscored the worsening coronavirus pandemic — the Democratic National Convention Committee announced today speakers for the 2020 Democratic National Convention will no longer travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in order to prevent risking the health of our host community as well as the convention’s production teams, security officials, community partners, media and others necessary to orchestrate the event,” the statement said.
Biden will now give a speech accepting the nomination from Delaware.
11:40 a.m.: NYC to begin checkpoints enforcing state quarantine orders
New York City is beginning traveler registration checkpoints at some entry points to the city to make sure visitors and returning residents are complying with quarantine rules, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
The “Sheriff’s Office in coordination with other law enforcement agencies will undertake traveler registration checkpoints at major bridge and tunnel crossings into New York City,” said New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have a travel advisory in place for states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a week average, or any state with 10% of higher positivity rate over a week average. Travelers arriving in the Tri-state area from those states must quarantine for two weeks.
Those coming to New York must also complete a traveler form.
Nonessential workers who do not follow quarantine orders could be fined $10,000. People who do not fill out New York’s travel form could be fined $2,000.
States on the list as of Wednesday are: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
11:02 a.m.: US clinches deal with Johnson & Johnson for potential vaccine
Johnson & Johnson has agreed to supply 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate to the United States for more than $1 billion.
Both the American pharmaceutical company and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the deal in separate statements Wednesday.
The agreement will support the company’s efforts to scale up doses of the experimental vaccine through large-scale domestic manufacturing; the U.S. government will own the first 100 million doses. The federal government also has an option to purchase an additional 200 million doses under a subsequent agreement, according to a press release from Johnson & Johnson.
and second phases of clinical trials. The company, which has committed to making the drug available on a “not-for-profit” basis, said it will launch a phase three study by September.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that the Trump administration is assembling a “portfolio of vaccines” which will increase “the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021.”
10:32 a.m.: Chicago Public Schools will start with all-remote learning, officials say
All of Chicago’s public school students and teachers will begin the new school year at home next month due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Wednesday.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said at a press conference that remote learning will be conducted for at least the first quarter of the school year, which runs through Nov. 6.
“By that point,” Jackson said, “we will evaluate the situation and make a determination about how we will move forward.”
Jackson noted that the students will be engaged for the entirety of a normal school day — from their time with teachers, independent studying and small group learning.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the decision to start remotely “makes sense for a district of CPS’s size and diversity.”
The move comes on the heels of protests across the country held by teachers and activists demanding adequate classroom safety measures as schools debate reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
9:44 a.m.: Moderna on track to enroll 30,000 people in phase 3 trial
American biotechnology company Moderna announced Wednesday that it’s on track to recruit enough volunteers for the third phase of clinical trials for its potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The phase three study of Moderna’s vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, began on July 23 and is being conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health as well as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
The trial will ultimately include 30,000 volunteers and Moderna said it expects to complete enrollment by September. It’s the final stage before the vaccine candidate could potentially be authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
Each volunteer will be given either a dose of the vaccine candidate or a placebo. Researchers will monitor whether the drug protects the group from getting infected.
8:30 a.m.: Fourth-graders to be quarantined after student tests positive in North Carolina
A fourth-grade student at a private school in North Carolina has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report by Durham ABC station WTVD-TV.
Thales Academy said it was notified Monday that one of its student at its Wake Forest campus had tested positive after being exposed by a family member. The school then sent a letter home to parents explaining what happened and how it planned to move forward, WTVD reported.
The last time the infected student was on campus was Friday. The student was asymptomatic throughout their time at school, passing the temperature check and symptom-screening checklist for entry, according to WTVD.
Students potentially exposed have been contacted and will be quarantined for 14 days along with the teaching staff, WTVD reported.
Thales Academy welcomed students back to its campuses for the new school year in July.
7:50 a.m.: Bolivia cancels the rest of its school year
Schools across Bolivia will remain closed for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Interim Bolivian President Jeanine Anez announced the decision earlier this week.
“Today we make the decision to close the school year,” Anez wrote in Spanish on Twitter. “It is very hard, but we do it to take care of the health of Bolivians, especially our children. Health is the most important thing, especially at this time.”
Last week, the South American nation’s highest electoral authority postponed the presidential election from Sept. 8 to Oct. 18 due to the pandemic, marking the third time the vote has been delayed.
More than 83,000 people in Bolivia have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and at least 3,320 of them have died, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
7:09 a.m.: Democratic and Republican governors band together to fill testing void
A bipartisan group of at least seven governors has teamed up with the Rockefeller Foundation to try to expand the use of rapid antigen tests to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, clinched the deal with the New York City-based private foundation in “the first interstate testing compact of its kind among governors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release. The governors of Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia have all signed on to the agreement.
The governors are now in talks with the U.S. manufactures of the Food and Drug Administation-authorized fast-acting tests, which deliver results in 15-20 minutes, to purchase 500,000 per state, for a total of three million tests.
“With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Hogan said in a statement Tuesday night. “I want to thank my fellow governors for signing on to this groundbreaking bipartisan agreement, which we have just finalized after weeks of discussions with the Rockefeller Foundation. We will be working to bring additional states, cities, and local governments on board as this initiative moves forward.”
5:14 a.m.: Global death toll tops 700,000
More than 700,000 people around the world have now died from the novel coronavirus — another grim milestone in the pandemic.
As of early Wednesday morning, the global death toll from COVID-19 was at 700,741, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
3:37 a.m.: US daily case count shoots back up over 50,000
More than 57,000 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States on Tuesday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The latest daily caseload is about 10,000 more than the previous day’s increase but still lower than the country’s record set on July 16, when more than 77,000 new cases were identified in a 24-hour reporting period.
A total of 4,771,519 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 156,830 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.
Many states have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks, with some — including Arizona, California and Florida — reporting daily records.
However, an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency obtained by ABC News on Monday night shows an 8.8% decrease in new cases across the United States over the past week compared with the previous week. That same seven-day span saw a 24% increase in deaths, according to the memo.
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