Coronavirus updates: Pandemic ‘far from over’ and ‘the world should have listened,’ WHO says – National News

Written by on April 28, 2020

Ovidiu Dugulan/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 212,000 people worldwide.

More than 3 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 988,000 diagnosed cases and at least 56,256 deaths.

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

10:39 a.m.: Tokyo Olympics will be canceled if pandemic not over next summer, top official says

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro More said the Olympic Games will be canceled if the coronavirus pandemic is not over by next summer, according to an interview published Tuesday in Japanese newspaper Nikkan Sports.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games originally slated to kick off this summer in Tokyo were rescheduled to start next summer due to the global health crisis.

Mori told Nikkan Sports that the Olympics have only been canceled in the past during times of war, and he compared the battle against the novel coronavirus to “fighting an invisible enemy.”

When asked whether the Tokyo Games would be postponed again if the pandemic was still going on next summer, Mori was quoted as saying: “No. In that case, it’s canceled.”

9:07 a.m.: Official responds to backlash over White House’s testing plan

Adm. Brett Giroir, the official in charge of the White House’s coronavirus testing efforts, responded to backlash over the federal government’s new guidelines for states to ramp up testing and expand rapid response programs.

The U.S. has completed 5.4 million tests for COVID-19 so far, but researchers at Harvard University said that number will have to rise dramatically — up to 20 million a day — before the country can safely reopen its economy. Under the plan unveiled by President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday, the federal government would send each state enough tests to screen at least 2% of their residents per month, which critics say is too low.

A copy of the plan’s blueprint document, which ABC News has obtained and reviewed, says that “testing plans and rapid response programs will be federally supported, state managed and locally executed.” A number of governors have criticized the approach, saying only the federal government has the ability to accelerate testing capacity and coordinate a national testing strategy.

“Our team has contacted and are working with every single state, D.C., Puerto Rico to define really the specifics of what that state needs according to their state reopening plan,” Giroir, who is the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Tuesday on Good Morning America.

“The 2% really is sort of a minimum floor. There are many states that want to do 4%, 6%, 8% every month. We have the supply chains figured out,” he added. “So we really are much more sophisticated. The overall strategy is a strategy; it’s not a state-by-state plan — that’s what we’re doing individually with the states.”

Giroir, who is also a medical doctor, said using the Defense Production Act (DPA) is “not necessary” for most circumstances “because there is maximum production, all the industry are working together.” The 1950 wartime law requires private companies to prioritize any product orders from the federal government over others.

“On the supply chain related to testing, there will be a DPA action today but it’s not one of the forceful DPA actions,” he said. “It’s a hand-up, it’s an investment in American industry that will greatly expand the testing we need, some of the testing supplies, so that particularly by fall when we may have COVID circulating with influenza and need drastically more tests than we have now, we’ll have the supplies that we need.”

“The DPA has been used selectively when it’s necessary,” he added. “But in most regards, certainly regarding testing it’s really unnecessary.”

8:16 a.m.: Quest Diagnostics launches direct-to-consumer antibody testing service

For $119, people can now purchase novel coronavirus antibody testing for themselves without having to visit a doctor’s office.

Quest Diagnostics launched QuestDirect on Tuesday, its consumer-initiated testing business through which individuals can request the antibody test and pay for the service online. Each request is reviewed and, if deemed appropriate, an order for testing is issued by a licensed physician and the consumer will schedule an appointment for a blood draw at one of the company’s 2,200 patient service centers around the United States.

On average, test results are available online via the company’s secure patient portal one to two days after the blood draw. Consumers will have the opportunity to speak with a licensed physician about their results, according to a press release from Quest Diagnostics.

Antibody testing cannot detect whether a patient is currently infected with the novel coronavirus, but it can indicate whether the individual was previously infected and developed the antibodies to fight the virus.

“While the science on COVID-19 is evolving, testing for antibodies may identify people who have likely been exposed to COVID-19 and might have mounted an immune response to the virus,” Dr. Jay Wohlgemuth, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Quest Diagnostics, said in a statement Tuesday.

The New Jersey-based diagnostic testing giant noted several limitations to the antibody testing, including that positive results may be due to past or present infection with other coronavirus strains which don’t cause COVID-19.

7:55 a.m.: CityMD now offering COVID-19 nasal swab and antibody tests

CityMD said it is now able to offer both a COVID-19 test and an antibody test to patients at all its locations.

The New York-based healthcare company, which runs more than 120 urgent care centers in New York, New Jersey and Washington state, announced Monday that it will be able to conduct nasal swab molecular tests on patients who currently have COVID-19 symptoms as well as those who had symptoms but have since recovered and need a negative test to return to work. It will take three to five days to receive results from the molecular test, during which patients must self-quarantine, according to a press release from CityMD.

Starting Tuesday, CityMD said it will also offer an antibody blood test which will indicate “with high accuracy” if a patient had previously contracted the novel coronavirus, whether or not they experienced symptoms. All patients will receive their antibody test results three to five days after testing, if not sooner, according to the press release.

7:24 a.m.: Family’s dog thought to be first in US to test positive for COVID-19

The novel coronavirus has been detected in a family’s pet dog taking part in a research study at Duke University in North Carolina, officials said.

The animal is participating in the “Molecular and Epidemiological Study of Suspected Infection.” Dr. Chris Woods, the lead investigator of the study, said he believes it’s the country’s first known positive case of COVID-19 in a canine.

“To our knowledge, this is the first instance in which the virus has been detected in a dog,” Woods told ABC News in a statement Tuesday. “Little additional information is known at this time as we work to learn more about the exposure.”

5:48 a.m.: New York City doctor who treated coronavirus patients dies by suicide

A New York City emergency room doctor who treated patients infected with the novel coronavirus has died by suicide, police said.

Dr. Lorna Breen, medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, was in Charlottesville, Virginia, when she died on Sunday. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment where she later succumbed to “self-inflicted injuries,” according to a press release from the Charlottesville Police Department.

“Frontline healthcare professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic,” Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney said in a statement Monday. “On a daily basis, these professionals operate under the most stressful of circumstances, and the coronavirus has introduced additional stressors.”

“Personal protective equipment (PPE) can reduce the likelihood of being infected,” Brackney added, “but what they cannot protect heroes like Dr. Lorna Breen or our first responders against is the emotional and mental devastation caused by this disease.”

In an interview with The New York Times, Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said his daughter had contracted COVID-19 herself and recovered. A week and a half after returning to work, the hospital sent her home and her “family intervened to bring her to Charlottesville,” the newspaper reported. She was staying with family at the time of her death.

Breen’s father told The New York Times that she had no history of mental illness but that, when he last talked to her, she seemed “detached.”

“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” the elder Dr. Breen told the newspaper. “She tried to do her job, and it killed her.”

3:30 a.m: Pandemic ‘far from over’ and ‘the world should have listened,’ WHO says

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the pandemic is “far from over” and said “the world should have listened” to the agency three months ago when it declared the novel coronavirus a global health emergency.

After the new virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and began to spread overseas, Tedros said the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak “the highest level of global emergency” on Jan. 30.

“During that time, as you may remember, there were only 82 cases outside China. No cases in Latin America, actually. No cases in Africa. Only 10 cases in Europe. No deaths in the rest of the world, nothing,” Tedros said. “And every country could have triggered all its public health measures possible.”

“The world should have listened to WHO then, carefully,” he added.

The declaration officially called a “public health emergency of international concern” — cannot force countries to take action, rather it’s merely guidance. The role of the WHO, the health arm of the United Nations, is only to offer advice “based on science and evidence,” and it’s up to governments “whether to take it or not,” Tedros said.

“We advised the whole world to implement a comprehensive public health approach, and we said, find, test, isolate and do contract tracing,” he continued. “We don’t have any mandate to force countries to implement what we advise them.”

Tedros said the countries who followed the agency’s advice “are in a better position than others.”

“This is fact,” he added. “At the end of the day, each country takes its own responsibility.”  


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