By MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 936,000 people worldwide.
Over 29.6 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 criteria for diagnosis — through clinical means or a lab test — has varied from country-to-country. Still, 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 virus has rapidly spread to every continent except Antarctica.
The United States is the worst-affected country, with more than 6.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 196,147 deaths.
California has the most cases of any U.S. state, with more than 768,000 people diagnosed, according to Johns Hopkins data. California is followed by Texas and Florida, with over 692,000 cases and over 671,000 cases, respectively.
Nearly 170 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, at least six of which are in crucial phase three trials.
Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:
Sep 16, 12:28 pm
US unveils plan to offer free vaccine to all Americans
The U.S. government has unveiled a plan to offer a COVID-19 vaccine to all Americans free of charge as early as January.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Defense jointly released two documents on Wednesday, outlining the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution strategy amid the coronavirus pandemic. The goal is to deliver safe and effective vaccine doses to sites, with “no upfront costs to providers and no out-of-pocket cost to the vaccine recipient,” according to a strategic distribution overview.
“No American has to pay a single dime out of pocket for a vaccine,” Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.
Health care providers will be reimbursed for the cost of administering the vaccine doses, but those fees will not be borne by patients and instead will be paid for by either commercial insurers or Medicaid. For patients who are uninsured, the costs will be covered by the administration’s Provider Relief Fund.
Officials are still ironing out details for those insured through Medicare fee-for-service programs. The most they would have to pay out of pocket would be $3.50 per shot, “but we’re working on that,” Mango said.
Mango noted that some details of the plan won’t be known until a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“We’re dealing in a world of great uncertainty,” he told reporters. “So this is a really quite extraordinary, logistically complex undertaking and a lot of uncertainties right now.”
ABC News’ Sony Salzman contributed to this report.
Sep 16, 11:08 am
Infection rate drops below 1% in New York state
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the COVID-19 infection rate across the Empire State has dropped below 1% again.
New York was once the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States. Although the state’s infection rate now stands at 0.87%, the governor cautioned that “this thing is not over.”
“Our numbers continue to remain low, thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, who rose to the occasion and ultimately flattened the curve,” Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “We have been calibrating our reopening based on real-time data, and we will continue to make decisions based on science and facts, because this thing is not over. Having our infection rate come back down to 0.87 is great news for us — we don’t want to see our infection rate go over one percent for any period of time. There is no margin for error: It’s going to take all of us to keep wearing our masks, washing our hands and remaining socially distant.”
Sep 16, 10:20 am
Russia sees highest surge in cases since July
Russia confirmed 5,670 new cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, the country’s highest single-day increase since July 26.
An additional 132 coronavirus-related deaths were also recorded in the past day, according to Russia’s coronavirus response headquarters.
Russia’s cumulative total now stands at 1,079,519 confirmed cases and 18,917 deaths.
Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Finance has proposed hiking taxes on cigarettes to make up for higher budget spending due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kommersant newspaper reported Wednesday.
ABC News’ Alina Lobzina contributed to this report.
Sep 16, 10:17 am
No snow days for New York City public schools this year
Public schools in New York City won’t take any snow days during the upcoming academic calendar year, amid concerns about meeting the state’s 180-day instruction requirement.
If there is a need for a snow day this winter due to inclement weather, in-person classes will be cancelled that day and everyone will learn remotely. Almost all of the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren will already be doing some sort of remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year.
Normally, the New York City Department of Education builds at least one snow day into the academic calendar.
“As we reopen schools for this critical school year we are utilizing all of the lessons learned from remote schooling this spring to maximize our students’ instructional time. This includes providing remote instruction during both Election Day and snow days,” the department said in a statement Wednesday.
Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that students will not start the new school year Sept. 10 as planned, to allow for additional preparation. Instruction begins remotely for all students Sept. 16, and they can return to physical classroom from Sept. 21 for a blended learning approach, which involves a mix of in-person and remote classes.
ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.
Sep 16, 8:23 am
Israel records its highest single-day rise in cases
Israel recorded its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 5,523 new diagnoses, according to the country’s health ministry.
Overall, Israel has reported more than 166,000 cases with at least 1,147 deaths.
Israel is slated to begin another nationwide lockdown on Friday in an effort to curb the soaring infection rate, though restrictions will be slightly less severe than the first time.
Hotels, restaurants, schools and entertainment venues will close for an initial period of three weeks and the public’s movement will be restricted to 500 meters from home. However, supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open and businesses across the private sector that don’t receive members of the public will operate at no more than 50% capacity.
Worshippers will be allowed to pray together indoors during the upcoming Jewish holidays, depending on the space and number of entries to the building. Political demonstrations will also be authorized, despite the lockdown.
Sep 16, 6:09 am
Trump says COVID-19 is ‘going away,’ even ‘without the vaccine’
During an ABC News town hall on Tuesday night, U.S. President Donald Trump said the coronavirus pandemic “is going away,” even “without the vaccine.”
“Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time, it goes away,” Trump told the audience at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Medical experts, meanwhile, say there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus will go away without a vaccine.
The president also disputed that he had downplayed the pandemic, insisting that he had actually “up-played it in terms of action.”
“I think what I did by closing up the country, I think I saved two, maybe two and a half [million] — maybe more than that — lives,” he said. “I think we did a very good job. I don’t know if that’s been recognized.”
Sep 16, 5:42 am
India’s case count tops five million
India confirmed 90,123 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing its cumulative total soaring past five million.
The latest daily caseload is just under the country’s record set on Sept. 11 when 97,570 new cases were reported.
Another 1,290 coronavirus-related fatalities were also confirmed, bringing the country’s COVID-19 death toll to 82,066, according to the latest data from the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
India has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world and the third-highest death toll in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The vast country of 1.3 billion people has reported more than one million cases this month alone, which the health ministry has attributed to increased testing. India is on track to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within the coming weeks, overtaking the United States, where more than 6.6 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Sep 16, 4:32 am
US records highest daily death toll in weeks
An additional 1,422 coronavirus-related fatalities were recorded in the United States on Tuesday, a more than threefold increase from the previous day, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The country’s latest daily death toll from COVID-19 — the highest since Aug. 12 — is still under its record set on April 17, when there were 2,666 new fatalities in a 24-hour reporting period.
There were also 52,081 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed across the United States on Tuesday, down from a peak of 77,255 new cases reported on July 16.
A total of 6,606,562 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 195,942 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.
An internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency obtained by ABC News on Tuesday night identified some areas in the northeastern United States as “emerging hotspots,” including parts of Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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