Coronavirus deaths ‘likely to continue to rise’ in coming weeks, CDC says

By MORGAN WINSOR and ELLA TORRES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 215,000 people worldwide.

More than three 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 one million diagnosed cases and at least 58,365 deaths.

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

In a joint letter from banks and credit unions Tuesday, obtained by ABC News, the group warns the Treasury Department and the Small Business Association that technical problems that have plagued the small business loan program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), continue to be significant:

“Unfortunately, with the start of the second round of funding many lenders are having significant problems submitting loan applications into the SBA’s system, preventing them from delivering this critical financial assistance to small businesses that desperately need it,” the letter said. “Quite simply, it is taking too long to submit loans and get these funds where they need to go.”

The group asks the two federal agencies to fix the problems or give an explanation to potential borrowers about what is causing the hold-up.

“We have found the lack of transparency and timely guidance on the PPP process impedes the funding of loans to small businesses in need,” the letter said. ” … The sooner this program functions properly, the sooner more small businesses are able to receive the assistance they critically need.”

6:39 p.m.: US COVID-19 deaths surpass Vietnam War death toll

Three weeks ago, the New York City death toll from COVID-19 surpassed the number of people who died at the World Trade Center in the 9/11 terror attacks. Now the U.S. death toll has passed its own milestone.

More Americans have now died from COVID-19 than were killed in the Vietnam War.

There have been 58,365 coronavirus deaths in the United States as of Tuesday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.

The official U.S. death toll from the nearly two-decade-long Vietnam War is 58,220. That number includes several deaths after the conflict’s end in 1975.

Approximately 116,000 Americans died fighting in World War I, while 405,000 died in World War II.

5:14 p.m.: Illinois reports highest daily death toll

The death toll in Illinois surpassed 2,000 after the state’s largest single-day total of COVID-19 deaths at 144, officials said.

The majority of the deaths, about 80%, were Northern Illinois residents, while 14% of the deaths were Southern Illinois residents. Only 6% of people who died were from Central Illinois.

In the same press conference, Gov. J. B. Pritzker said that the state’s stay-at-home order was “still very much in effect.” His comments came after a Clay County Circuit Court judge blocked the governor’s 30-day extension of the order, granting a temporary restraining order to a Republican state representative who argued that Pritzker had exceeded his authority.

Pritzker called the ruling a “cheap political stunt.”

“For those who aren’t familiar, the 109th district happens to have among the lowest hospital bed availability and ventilators in the state, making it uniquely ill-equipped to respond to a surge in cases,” the governor said. “The district is also home to the county experiencing Illinois’ highest death rate per capita from COVID-19. This ruling only applies to one person because it was only ever about one person.”

He continued to say that the representative took the matter to court only to “see his name in headlines.” Pritzker added that he was taking the matter “very seriously.”

4:21 p.m.: Maine announces plan to reopen economy

Maine Gov. Janet Mills introduced the state’s plan to reopen the economy in four gradual stages.

The first stage, set to begin on May 1, continues most of the measures already in place in the state, but additionally mandates that people out in public have to wear cloth face coverings in places where social distancing is hard to maintain, according to a statement from Mills’ office.

However, in this stage, certain businesses will be allowed to expand operating with limitations, including barber shops, hair salons, pet grooming shops, auto dealerships and drive-in movie theaters. Religious services can also begin again, but only with limited drive-in and stay-in-your vehicle precautions.

The subsequent stages will then be evaluated on a month-by-month basis. The second stage is expected to begin in June, the third is expected to begin in July and continue through August, and the fourth will start at a date to be determined in the future. The fourth stage would lift most restrictions, according to the governor’s office.

In stage two, officials will contemplate revising the limitation on gatherings from less than 10 people to less than 50 people. More businesses, including restaurants, fitness centers, nail salons and retail stores, could reopen if they introduce new capacity limits. Lodging and campgrounds for Maine residents will also be allowed to operate for people who have met a 14-day quarantine requirement.

The third stage would allow for the possible revision of prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people and the 14-day quarantine for people entering Maine. Bars, hotels, RV parks, spas, tattoo parlors and massage facilities could also reopen with limited capacity measures.

By the fourth stage, officials would contemplate lifting most of the restrictions and all businesses and activities to resume with appropriate safety precautions.

“While this plan presents a path forward for gradually and safely restarting our economy, it should not lure Maine people into thinking that this pandemic is almost over or that things will be back to normal soon,” Mills said in a statement. “The hard truth is that they are not; that they likely will not be for a long time; and that, with this plan, we are inventing a new normal — a different way of doing business, shopping, traveling, and enjoying the Maine outdoors in ways that keep us all safe.”

3:56 p.m.: Deaths in US ‘likely to continue to rise’ in coming weeks: CDC

Deaths in the United States “are likely to continue to rise in the coming weeks” if social distancing isn’t strongly maintained, according to an analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exactly how much fatalities would increase remains “very uncertain,” according to the CDC. However, the agency noted that models in which “strong contact reduction” was not incorporated, it appeared that deaths would continue to rise quickly.

The agency also examined models that did incorporate “strong contact reduction” and the results suggested that while deaths would continue, they would slow substantially over the next four weeks.

The models that the CDC identified as containing “strong contact reduction” include the Mobs Lab at Northeastern University and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — both of which “are conditional on existing social distancing measures continuing through the projected period.”

The current death toll in the U.S. is at least 57,812, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

2:05 p.m.: US cases top 1 million

The number of confirmed cases in the United States has surpassed 1 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

There are now at least 1,002,498 confirmed cases in the country, according to the data.

Out of the 3 million cases reported in the world, the U.S. has by far the most. Spain has the second-highest number with at least 232,128.

1:31 p.m.: Massachusetts to extend stay-at-home order

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that the state’s stay-at-home order will be extended until May 18.

All nonessential businesses must remain closed until then, according to the governor.

Baker said although the number of new cases in the state has flattened and hospitalizations are no longer climbing, it’s still not enough to safely reopen the state.

“We’re moving in the right direction with respect to the virus, but we are not where we need to be,” Baker said.

He noted that while he understands some people may be frustrated with his decision, he can’t lift restrictions until there is a steady downward trend. He described the state’s current trend as “flattened out.”

“Everyone has said we need to see downward trends, yes it has flattened out but we have not seen a downward trend there,” the governor said.

On Monday, Massachusetts surpassed 3,000 deaths statewide.

Baker announced that the state will create an economic reopening advisory board to develop a plan for a phased reopening. The board will be led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and City of Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera.

1:10 p.m.: Some Alabama businesses to reopen this week

Alabama will begin to ease some of its restrictions on Thursday, with some businesses allowed to reopen.

Gov. Kay Ivey made the announcement Tuesday, saying the current “stay-at-home” order will expire on Thursday. It will be replaced with a “safer-at-home” order.

Under that order, businesses will be allowed to reopen under social distancing guidelines at 5 p.m. on April 30. Retail stores can reopen at 50% occupancy and beaches will also be allowed to reopen, but gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited.

However, restaurants, bars and barber shops will remain closed.

In Alabama, there have been at least 6,600 confirmed cases and 242 deaths.

12:54 p.m.: New hospitalizations in NY below 1,000, Cuomo says

The number of new hospitalizations in New York state fell below 1,000 for the first time in over a month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo said 900 people were hospitalized in the last 24 hours, calling the decline “good news” but noting that “after all this, we still had 900 new infections.”

The last time that number was below 1,000 statewide was at the end of March. In New York City, March 22 was the last day the number of hospitalizations was below 1,000.

The governor said when it comes to reopening the state, hospitals must be below 70% capacity and the transmission rate cannot be at 1.1, which he said scientists have deemed an “outbreak” rate.

He also announced that the state created the New York Reopening Advisory Board on Tuesday. The board is made up of 100 business, community and civic leaders to help guide the reopening strategy.

Businesses should expect to continue social distancing, testing and adopt ongoing monitoring if they want to reopen, according to Cuomo.

“Again, I know it’s emotion, and I know people are feeling emotional,” he said. “But emotions can’t drive a reopening process, right? We’re talking about infection rates. We’re talking about hospital capacity.”

In terms of the state’s tracing capacity, Cuomo said the current recommendation is at least 30 tracers per 100,000 people and isolation facilities for someone to stay in after testing positive.

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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