Coronavirus updates: Pandemic won’t be over ‘anytime soon,’ Cuomo says


(NEW YORK) — A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 178,000 people worldwide.

Over 2.5 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 nation, with more than 825,000 diagnosed cases and at least 45,075 deaths.

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

1:06 p.m.: South Carolina schools to remain closed

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said that he will issue an executive order to close the schools for the remainder of the school year.

He said the state is still working on a way to hold graduation ceremonies.

When asked how businesses would reopen, as some have already done, if schools remain closed and parents possibly couldn’t find child care, he said that would be addressed at a later date.

“Those are the kind of things that the representative group that we put together of virtually every aspect of South Carolina life to accelerate and the revitalization of the businesses — those are the questions and ideas that are going to be addressed at two o’clock tomorrow,” McMaster said.

12:32 p.m.: Cuomo says pandemic ‘not going to be over anytime soon’ despite progress

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said despite a “productive” meeting with President Donald Trump and a plan going forward, New Yorkers are still far from out of the water.

“This is not gonna be over anytime soon,” he said, adding that “more people will die if we are not smart.”

Cuomo said that at the state’s maximum testing capacity, it could conduct some 40,000 tests. He noted that there were “a lot of buts and ifs in there,” but it was his goal to hit the maximum amount of testing.

As for tracing, the governor said the state would need a “tracing army” to effectively track who has been in close contact with people who have tested positive for the virus. Cuomo said he is working with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to develop a tri-state tracing program.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg volunteered to help develop that program, contributing upwards of $10 million, according to Cuomo. The program is being worked on in partnership with Johns Hopkins, he added. Johns Hopkins did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on details of the program.

Cuomo also said that governors are still in need of state funding from Washington, but that Trump agreed to waive what is called the state match for FEMA. Cuomo said that because New York had the most cases in the U.S., it also had the highest cost for FEMA and would normally have to pay back the highest price. Trump has however waived that match.

11:38 a.m.: 1st large study of US hospitalized patients confirms comorbidities

In what is the first large analysis of COVID-19 patients in the United States, researchers confirmed much of what has been reported anecdotally by doctors throughout the pandemic.

The findings included that the most common comorbidities — the presence of more than one disease or condition in the same person — among patients was hypertension (57%), obesity (41%) and type 2 diabetes (34%), according to the study published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers also found that male mortality rates were higher than female at every 10-year age interval and patients with diabetes were more likely to have received invasive mechanical ventilation, ICU treatment or developed acute kidney disease.

The data was collected by researchers at Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and included analysis of 5,700 hospitalized patients between March 1, 2020, and April 4, 2020, at Northwell Health, the largest health system in the state of New York.

The majority of the patients in the study were male and the median age of all patients treated was 63 years old.

At triage, about a third of all patients (1,734) presented a fever, 986 had a high respiratory rate and 1,584 patients received supplemental oxygen, according to the study.

Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes, said the research provides “a crucial early insight into the front line response to the COVID-19 outbreak in New York.”

11:11 a.m.: New data continues to show virus ‘disproportionately’ affecting black, Hispanic people

Black residents in Wisconsin and Kansas are dying as a result of COVID-19 at some of the highest rates in the country compared to the relative population size, according to an analysis of data from 33 states.

The Kaiser Family Foundation used data from the states across the U.S. that are reporting data on cases and deaths by race and ethnicity.

The foundation found that states without a major city or large black population have been overlooked for the disproportionate ratio of cases and deaths in the black community.

“Our analysis of these data finds that they continue to paint a sobering picture of how the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In Wisconsin, where the black population is 6%, the data showed that black people have accounted for 39% of the deaths and 25% of the cases — a four-times higher share of cases and an over six-times higher share of deaths, according to the foundation. Kansas has a black population of 6%, but the data shows that black people have accounted for 33% of the deaths and 17% of the cases — a three times higher share of cases and more than five-times higher share of deaths, the foundation reported.

In the majority of the 33 states, black people accounted for a higher share of confirmed cases (in 20 of 31 states) and deaths (in 19 of 24 states) compared to their share of the total population, according to the foundation.

In six of 26 states, the data showed that there was also a disproportionate impact on Hispanic communities.

Iowa and Wisconsin reported the largest relative differences, with a respective 17% of cases compared to a population of 6% and 12% of cases compared to a population of 7%.

Data was largely unavailable for smaller groups, including people who are American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

10:39 a.m.: NYC mayor outlines plan on testing, tracing

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined his plan to get New Yorkers to a new phase under the pandemic where transmission is at a low level.

The mayor said testing would need to ramp up drastically — ideally hundreds of thousands per day — so that all residents could easily get tested. De Blasio said along with testing, tracing would follow to include all individuals who came in close contact with a person who tested positive.

He said a plan of this size would take hundreds of thousands of people working on it, more testing, more protective personal equipment for medical personnel and more location sites for testing sites to happen.

De Blasio said that while these aspects are not in place right now, he expects them to be in place next month.

When asked how viable a program like this would work, de Blasio said, “we have to do it. To borrow from Apollo 13, failure is not an option. We have to find a way to do it.”

He continued to say that progress is being made in the city.

The number of people admitted to ICUs in hospitals went down from 857 to 821 and the percentage of people who tested positive citywide decreased from 35% to 33%, according to de Blasio.

However, he did say that the number of people admitted to the hospital with a suspected case of COVID-19 increased from 204 to 252.

On Tuesday, de Blasio announced that many staple events in the city during June, including the Pride Parade and Puerto Rican Day Parade, would be canceled. He said Wednesday that New Yorkers would have a Fourth of July celebration, though it would look different from previous years.

“There’s definitely gonna be fireworks. How we do them, where we do them? There’s a lot of questions between now and then,” de Blasio said.

10:05 a.m.: 759 new deaths reported in UK

There were 759 new daily deaths reported in the United Kingdom, bringing the country’s total fatalities to at least 18,100, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

An additional 4,451 people also tested positive, according to the department.

In total, at least 133,495 people have tested positive out of the 411,192 people who have been tested in the country.

9:34 a.m.: New York City to freeze bodies instead of temporary burials

New York City will freeze the bodies of COVID-19 victims rather than burying them on Hart Island, the city’s potter field that has long been used as a burial ground for unclaimed bodies.

The temporary measure to freeze bodies is meant to lessen the burden on hospitals and funeral homes, which are running out of space due to the high number of deaths in the city, according to the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Freezing the bodies means there will be no temporary burials on Hart Island and allows families more time to make funeral arrangements. However, bodies that cannot be identified or claimed by next of kin will still be buried on Hart Island.

The Office of Chief Medical Examiner, with assistance from Air Force Mortuary Affairs, will transfer bodies from five temporary morgues and 200 refrigerated trailers that are now parked outside five dozen hospitals around the city to freezer trucks that will be placed in Brooklyn.

9:30 a.m.: Rail industry suffers huge cost

Rail volumes are at 10-year low because of the lack of overseas imports, with the coronavirus pandemic expected to cost the railroads $9 billion in lost freight, according to a record from FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center reviewed by ABC News.

8:36 a.m.: Netherlands, France plan to reopen primary schools next month

Primary schools are set to reopen next month in both France and the Netherlands, as several European countries announce plans to ease their coronavirus-related lockdowns.

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer presented the details of the plan with a parliamentary commission on Tuesday, explaining that children would return to school in staggered groups, with no more than 15 students allowed in each classroom.

Primary school students aged from 5 to 11 would be the first to go back on May 12, one day after France’s nationwide lockdown is set to end. Older children in selected years at secondary schools and high school would return the following week, according to Blanquer.

The plan is for all students to be back in school by May 25, he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also confirmed Tuesday that primary schools and day cares would reopen in the Netherlands on May 11, followed by high schools in early June.

7:40 a.m.: Germany, UK approve human trials for COVID-19 vaccines

Scientists in both Germany and the United Kingdom will soon begin clinical trials using human volunteers in the race for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

Germany’s federal institute for vaccines and biomedical drugs announced Wednesday that it has approved its first human clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. The potential vaccine is being developed by German firm BioNTech and is an RNA vaccine.

In the first phase of the clinical trial, 200 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 will receive one or more variants of the vaccine candidate, according to a press release from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany.

“Trials of vaccine candidates in humans are an important milestone on the road to safe and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19 for the population in Germany and internationally,” the institute said.

The clinical trial is only the fourth worldwide in which a preventive vaccine candidate targeting COVID-19 is tested in humans.

Meanwhile, the first human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine begin in the United Kingdom on Thursday. The potential vaccine is being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

6:28 a.m.: Eight babies test positive for COVID-19 at Japanese children’s home

At least eight babies at a Tokyo care home for infants have contracted the novel coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.

After a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on April 16, tests were subsequently conducted on all infants at the facility in Japan’s capital, which is run by Saiseikai Central Hospital. Eight of those tests returned positive results, according to a statement from the hospital.

The infected children have been hospitalized as staff continue to monitor the health of those who tested negative. The facility has been disinfected and strict infection control measures have been put in place, the hospital said.

Staff members who have shown symptoms have already been sent home, though the hospital didn’t specify how many.

The children’s care home is a separate building from the main hospital, which will continue inpatient and outpatient treatment as usual.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency, which was initially limited to Tokyo and six other prefectures, to all of Japan as the virus continues to spread. The country has recorded more than 11,500 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and at least 281 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

5:50 a.m.: Singapore surpasses 10,000 cases

Singapore now has more than 10,000 diagnosed cases of the novel coronavirus.

The island city-state’s health ministry on Wednesday confirmed another 1,016 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 as of 12 p.m. local time, bringing the total number to 10,141.

The vast majority of the new cases are work permit holders who live in dormitories for foreign workers. Just 15 of those newly diagnosed are Singaporean nations or permanent residents, according to the health ministry.

5:21 a.m.: Man who claimed to have COVID-19 jailed for spitting at London police

A 21-year-old man in London was sentenced to six months behind bars for domestic assault and spitting at officers while claiming he was infected with the novel coronavirus, U.K. police said Wednesday.

The man was arrested in East London on Monday on suspicion of domestic assault on a woman and criminal damage to her property. The suspect also told authorities that he had COVID-19 and, while being put into a police van, he spat at two officers. He was further charged for assault on emergency workers, according to a statement from London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

While in custody, police said the man told them he did not have COVID-19 nor any related symptoms. He appeared in custody at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to prison.

“I hope he spends his period in prison to reflect on his behavior, and that his prison sentence sends a message to others who are willing to commit domestic offenses and to target police officers whose job it is to protect Londoners,” police inspector Alexis Manley said in a statement Wednesday.

3:30 a.m.: California officials find earliest known US deaths from virus

California officials have confirmed what are now the earliest known deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Santa Clara County announced late Tuesday that new autopsy results show two individuals who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were positive for COVID-19. The individuals were not tested for the virus because they died when very limited testing was available only through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a statement from the county in Northern California.

“Testing criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms,” Santa Clara County said in a statement.

The United States previously recorded its first official fatality from COVID-19 on Feb. 28 — an individual in Washington state’s King County.

However, health officials later discovered that two people at a Seattle-area nursing home had also died from the disease on Feb. 26.

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