Coronavirus updates: ‘Cases are falling, and we know that’s true,’ US official says – National News

Written by on August 18, 2020


narvikk/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 774,000 people worldwide.

Over 21.8 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 5.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 170,548 deaths.

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

11:49 a.m.: New York state adds Alaska, Delaware to travel advisory list

Two more states have been added to New York’s coronavirus travel advisory list, which mandates a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals who have traveled from those states.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that Alaska and Delaware meet the metrics to qualify for the travel advisory. Delaware was removed from the list earlier this month but was re-added on Tuesday.

No areas have been removed from the list, which now includes 35 states that Cuomo says have “significant community spread.”

The states are Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

11:31 a.m.: WHO chief warns against ‘vaccine nationalism’

The head of the World Health Organization is warning against what he calls “vaccine nationalism,” saying that sharing supplies is in each country’s national interest.

“We have learned the hard way that the fastest way to end this pandemic and to reopen economies is to start by protecting the highest risk populations everywhere, rather than just the populations of some countries,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said at a press conference Tuesday. “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

“It’s critical that countries don’t repeat the same mistakes,” he added. “We need to prevent vaccine nationalism. And for this reason, WHO is working with governments and the private sector to both accelerate the signs through the ACT Accelerator and ensure that new innovations are available to everyone, everywhere.”

The allocation of vaccines through the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is slated to be rolled out in two phases, according to Tedros. In the first phase, vaccines will be allocated proportionally to all participating countries simultaneously to reduce overall risk. In the second phase, consideration will be given to countries in relation to threat and vulnerability.

Tedros noted that front-line workers in health and social care settings will be prioritized because they are essential to treating and protecting populations and also come in close contact with people in age groups at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19.

“For most countries, a phase one allocation that builds up to 20% of the population would cover most of the at-risk groups,” he said. “If we don’t protect this highest risk people from the virus everywhere and at the same time, we can’t stabilize health systems and rebuild the global economy.”

Dozens of potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus are undergoing clinical trials around the world. Last week, Russia became the first country in the world to officially register a COVID-19 vaccine and declare it ready for use. However, Moscow approved the drug before completing its final Phase III trial, and no scientific data has been released from the early trials so far.

11:07 a.m.: Over 2,000 students in Georgia school district under quarantine

More than 2,000 students in a single Georgia school district have been ordered to self-quarantine this month, as dozens of COVID-19 cases were confirmed in various schools.

Georgia’s Cherokee County reopened its schools on Aug. 3, welcoming back 30,000 students for in-person learning. Since then, at least 2,221 students and 47 staff members from more than a dozen schools have been placed under mandated two-week quarantines, according to data published Tuesday on the school district’s website.

More than 150 students and staff who had quarantined earlier are now eligible to return to school, the data shows.

So far, three high schools in the district have been forced to temporarily close due to the growing clusters of cases among pupils and staff.

10:30 a.m.: New Zealand’s prime minister claps back at Trump

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has clapped back at U.S. President Donald Trump for saying her country is experiencing a “big surge” in COVID-19 cases, calling his comments “patently wrong.”

“I think anyone who’s following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand’s nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States’ tens of thousands, and in fact does not compare to most countries in the world,” Ardern told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

“Obviously, it’s patently wrong,” she said of Trump’s remarks.

The American commander-in-chief made the comments Monday during a campaign rally in Minnesota.

“Do you see what’s happening in New Zealand? They beat it, they beat it, it was like front-page news because they wanted to show me something,” Trump told the crowd of supporters. “Big surge in New Zealand, you know it’s terrible, we don’t want that.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, New Zealand has reported fewer than 1,700 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 with at least 22 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Last week, after going 102 days without local transmission, the country of 5 million people recorded a cluster of new cases in Auckland, its most populous city.

Meanwhile, the United States is by far the worst-hit nation with well over 5 million diagnosed cases and more than 170,000 deaths.

9:10 a.m.: Gov. Cuomo is writing a book about the coronavirus pandemic

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is writing a book about his experiences leading the state through the coronavirus pandemic and interacting with the Trump administration.

The Crown Publishing Group, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, announced Tuesday that Cuomo’s book, American Crisis, will be published on Oct. 13, three weeks before Election Day.

“In his own voice, Andrew Cuomo chronicles in ‘American Crisis’ the ingenuity and sacrifice required of so many to fight the pandemic, sharing his personal reflections on 40 years in government and the decision-making that shaped his political policy, and offers his frank accounting and assessment of his interactions with the federal government and the White House, as well as other state and local political and health officials,” Crown said in a statement. “Real leadership, he argues, requires clear communication, compassion for others, and a commitment to truth-telling—no matter how frightening the facts may be.”

New York City was once the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. In an excerpt from his upcoming book, which Crown released to the media, the Democratic governor discusses fear.

“If you don’t feel fear, you don’t appreciate the consequences of the circumstance,” Cuomo writes. “The questions are what do you do with the fear and would you succumb to it. I would not allow the fear to control me. The fear kept my adrenaline high and that was a positive. But I would not let the fear be a negative, and I would not spread it. Fear is a virus also.”

8:26 a.m.: ‘Cases are falling,’ says Adm. Brett Giroir

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the country is indeed seeing a drop in coronavirus infections, with the number of new cases decreasing by about 22% since the third week of July.

“We know that’s a real number because hospitalizations have also gone down 24%, so those things track,” Giroir told ABC News in an interview Tuesday on Good Morning America.

Currently, around 825,000 COVID-19 tests are being conducted in the United States per day. The nation has the capacity to carry out almost 50 million tests in August, and that’s expected to ramp up to nearly 90 million in September, according to Giroir, who is a medical doctor and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force.

“Cases are falling, and we know that’s true. We have plenty enough testing to know that,” he said.

7:58 a.m.: FDA warns popular COVID-19 test could be inaccurate

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning of “a risk of false results” with a widely-used COVID-19 test.

The federal agency issued an alert Monday to clinical laboratory staff and health care providers using Thermo Fisher Scientific’s TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit, a molecular assay for the detection of the novel coronavirus from respiratory specimens. The FDA said issues related to laboratory equipment and software used to run the popular test could lead to inaccuracies.

The agency advised clinical laboratory staff and health care providers to “implement promptly the software updates and the updated instructions for use” from the company.

“The FDA is working with Thermo Fisher Scientific and our public health partners to resolve these issues,” the agency said in a statement Monday. “The FDA will continue to keep clinical laboratory staff, health care providers, manufacturers, and the public informed of new or additional information.”

ABC News has reached out to Thermo Fisher Scientific for comment.

7:14 a.m.: Finland’s prime minister to be tested after experiencing ‘mild’ symptoms

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced Tuesday that she will be tested for COVID-19 after experiencing “mild respiratory symptoms.”

Marin wrote on Twitter that she will be working from home while she awaits her test results.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Finland had reported at least 7,752 cases of COVID-19 with 334 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

6:39 a.m.: UNC-Chapel Hill shifts to remote learning within a week of starting classes

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Monday that it will suspend in-person classes after seeing the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus rise almost fivefold.

The public research university in the town of Chapel Hill, about 25 miles from Raleigh, held its first day of class just one week ago after welcoming students back into its residence halls the week prior. Although residence halls were at less than 60% capacity and fewer than 30% of total classroom seats were taught in-person, the school said the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus increased from 2.8% on Aug. 10 to 13.6% on Aug. 16.

As of Monday morning, the university said it has tested 954 students so far, and 177 were in isolation and 349 were in quarantine, both on and off campus. Most students who have tested positive for COVID-19 “have demonstrated mild symptoms,” according to a letter to the university community from chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and executive vice chancellor and provost Robert A. Blouin.

“Effective Wednesday, August 19, all undergraduate in-person instruction will shift to remote learning,” Guskiewicz and Blouin wrote. “Courses in our graduate, professional and health affairs schools will continue to be taught as they are, or as directed by the schools. Academic advising and academic support services will be available online. Our research enterprise will remain unchanged.”

“Due to this announcement as well as the reduction of campus activities, we expect the majority of our current undergraduate residential students to change their residential plans for the fall,” they added. “As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, the current data presents an untenable situation.”

5:21 a.m.: WHO warns younger people are ‘driving’ COVID-19 spread in Asia Pacific

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic is “changing” in the Asia-Pacific region, where younger people are now the ones “driving its spread.”

“What we are observing is not simply a resurgence; we believe it is a signal that we have entered a new phase of the pandemic in the Asia Pacific,” Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said at a virtual press conference. “The epidemic is changing. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving its spread.”

Various countries in the region, including Australia, the Philippines and Japan, are reporting rising numbers of people under the age of 40 contracting the novel coronavirus, according to the WHO.

“Many are unaware they are infected with very mild symptoms, or none at all,” Kasai said. “This can result in them unknowingly passing on the virus to others.”

4:50 a.m.: Walgreens coding error causes under-reporting of 59,000 test results in Texas

The Texas Department of State Health Services tells Corpus Christi ABC affiliate KIII-TV that Walgreens Pharmacy reported experiencing a coding error, causing the under-reporting of some 59,000 COVID-19 test results statewide.

The coding error has now been corrected, according to KIII, but counties across Texas will likely see their COVID-19 statistics change as the data dump is set to take place.

ABC News has reached out to Walgreens for comment.

As of Monday, the Lone Star State had reported at least 542,950 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 10,034 deaths, according to a count kept by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

3:35 a.m.: US reports under 40,000 new cases for first time since June

There were 35,112 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the United States on Monday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It’s the first time since June 28 that the country has reported under 40,000 new cases in a single day. Monday’s case count is also well below the record set on July 16, when more than 77,000 new cases were identified in a 24-hour reporting period.

An additional 445 coronavirus-related deaths were also recorded Monday.

A total of 5,443,162 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 170,548 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.

However, week-over-week comparisons show that the nationwide number of new cases has continued to decrease in recent weeks, according to an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, obtained by ABC News on Sunday night.

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