By MORGAN WINSOR and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed over 263,000 people worldwide.
More than 3.7 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 1.2 million diagnosed cases and at least 73,418 deaths.
Here’s how the news developed Wednesday. All times Eastern:
9:54 p.m.: First ICE detainee dies of COVID-19
A man held at an immigration detention at a facility in San Diego is the first detainee to die of coronavirus while in custody, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday.
Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, a 57-year-old from El Salvador, was on a list of medically vulnerable detainees mandated for review by a federal judge when he died, according to The San Diego Union Tribune, which first reported the news.
There have been 705 confirmed coronavirus cases out of the 1,460 detainees tested, according to the latest figures from the agency. With 132 cases, the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, where Mejia was held, has the single highest number of cases out of any detention center in the country.
It has been six weeks since the first ICE detainee tested positive.
8 p.m.: LA County allowing some businesses to reopen
Starting Friday, Los Angeles County is allowing the reopening of some retail businesses that sell toys, books, clothing and music with curb-side pickup only.
In addition, county trails and golf courses can reopen with officials patrolling to prevent overcrowding. Car dealerships and florists can also reopen.
“L.A. County is in conversation with our state partners and want to ensure any restrictions we ease are in the best interest of the health of all of our residents,” said L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “What’s best for other counties may not necessarily be right for Los Angeles County. As we are the most densely populated county in the state, our guidelines will certainly look different than others.”
There were 55 additional COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County yesterday, bringing the overall total to 1,367. There have now been 28,644 cases in the county.
6:42 p.m.: Maryland announces plan to ease restrictions
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that he is easing some COVID-related restrictions beginning Thursday, and that the state may begin the first official phase of reopening starting next week.
Effective tomorrow, elective medical procedures will be allowed to resume, and the list of permitted outdoor activities will expand to include, among other things, golfing, tennis, fishing, hunting, horseback riding and boating.
State-run beaches and playgrounds will also be reopened tomorrow. Municipalities can do the same “at their discretion,” according to a press release from Hogan’s office.
Assuming the state continues to see declining overall hospitalization and intensive care unit numbers into next week, the state “will be ready to lift the stay-at-home order and to begin stage one of our recover plan,” which would entail opening “certain types of businesses and lower-risk community, religious and quality-of-life activities.”
6:09 p.m.: 3 more NYPD deaths; far fewer sick
Three additional members of the NYPD have died of coronavirus, the department announced Wednesday, bringing the total to 41.
School Safety Agent George Santiago served New York City for nearly 19 years; Traffic Enforcement Agent Pat Nicholls had more than 22 years on the job; and Supervisor of School Security Kevin Bostic dedicated more than 28 years to the force.
“These remarkable men will never be forgotten. Every member of the NYPD, of all ranks and titles, will keep their memories alive and honor their legacies by faithfully carrying on their most important work,” Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
There were 1,666 uniformed members of the NYPD on sick report, which accounts for 4.6% of the department’s uniformed workforce. That is down from a high of 19.8%. To date, 5,300 members of the NYPD have tested positive for coronavirus. As of today, 4,779 members of the NYPD have returned to work full duty after recovering from a positive test for the coronavirus and 373 uniformed members, plus 108 civilian members, are still out sick diagnosed with coronavirus.
5:27 p.m.: Poland postpones presidential election
Poland’s ruling party and its coalition partner have finally given in to opposition demands to delay the country’s general election over health concerns given the coronavirus outbreak, according to Poland’s PAP news agency.
The new election day is to be determined and will be held via postal ballots.
The election was to be held on May 10. Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, who was first elected in May 2015, was running for reelection.
Opponents had fought since April to delay the election date. So far, over 14,700 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Poland, with 733 deaths.
3:45 p.m.: 6th TSA employee dies from COVID-19
Andrew Meany, who worked at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, has become the sixth Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee to die from the coronavirus.
Meany died at home on Tuesday after testing positive for COVID-19 in early April, the TSA said.
Meany joined the TSA one year after 9/11 and became one of O’Hare’s founding officers, the agency said.
“During his nearly 18 years of service to TSA, Andrew humbly and honorably led with dedication and professionalism,” the TSA said in a statement. “Andrew was an avid sports fanatic and rooted for the Chicago Bears and the Chicago White Sox. He loved his dogs and collected Elvis and Johnny Cash memorabilia. His dedication to our mission of protecting the traveling public will not be forgotten.”
As of Wednesday morning, 528 TSA employees had tested positive for the virus, including 273 who have recovered.
3:10 p.m.: NY reports 64 cases of kids with disease potentially related to COVID-19
New York state’s health department on Wednesday issued an advisory to health care providers about a disease impacting children that is possibly related to COVID-19.
As of Tuesday, New York had 64 potential cases of what the state is calling Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19.
“Thankfully most children with COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms, but in some, a dangerous inflammatory syndrome can develop,” Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, said in a statement.
“In the United Kingdom, a possible link has also been reported between pediatric COVID-19 and serious inflammatory disease,” New York health officials said. “The inflammatory syndrome has features which overlap with Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome and may occur days to weeks after acute COVID-19 illness. It can include persistent fever, abdominal symptoms, rash, and even cardiovascular symptoms requiring intensive care.”
2:45 p.m.: Texas governor speaks out against jailing of salon owner who defied shutdown orders
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is speaking out against the jailing of Dallas hair salon owner Shelly Luther, who was sentenced Tuesday to one week behind bars after she repeatedly defied orders to shut down her business.
Dallas Civil District Judge Eric Moyé criticized Luther for keeping her business open last week despite a citation, a cease and desist letter and a restraining order. During the hearing, Luther admitted that her business was still open partially, and the judge scolded her for blatantly disobeying the law meant to protect residents.
In a statement Wednesday, the governor said “jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option.”
“Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother,” Abbott said.
Texas has over 34,000 residents who have been diagnosed, including 948 people who have died. Out of the state’s 254 counties, 216 have reported cases.
Abbott announced Tuesday that personal services, including hair salons, can reopen on May 8.
1:30 p.m.: New team will tackle challenges at NJ’s long-term care facilities
In New Jersey, over 131,000 have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including at least 8,549 people who have died, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
New Jersey’s long-term care facilities have been particularly hard hit, with 23,345 people diagnosed and at least 4,261 deaths.
Murphy said Wednesday he is bringing on a nationally experienced team of long-term care experts to provide support to the state’s Department of Health, conduct a review to protect residents and staff, and make recommendations on reform.
Murphy said he wants New Jersey to be a national model for the impact on nursing homes.
The New Jersey attorney general’s office started investigating the state’s long-term care facilities in April.
“Our investigation was prompted by both the high number of deaths we were seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic and by the disturbing reports we were receiving: reports of bodies piled up in makeshift morgues, of nurses and staff without adequate PPE,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday.
The state asks the public to report any misconduct anonymously through an online portal.
1 p.m.: It’s possible France’s 1st known COVID-19 was in December, WHO says
Maria Van Kerkhoven, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization (WHO), said Wednesday that it’s “possible that there could have been a case” of COVID-19 in France “as early as December.”
A patient in France was treated on Dec. 27 for suspected pneumonia and samples taken later showed that the individual tested positive for COVID-19.
Van Kerkhoven said some countries are looking back at samples stored in December and January. These countries are using the WHO’s Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) surveillance systems and pulling influenza-like illness (ILI) samples to test a subset for COVID-19.
By retesting them, “it’s possible that we may see some of those samples testing positive for COVID-19,” Van Kerkhoven said, “and that’s important because you look for additional cases.”
But Van Kerkhoven stressed that more information is needed.
“We need to understand why this individual was tested, how this individual was tested, before we can really put this into context,” she said.
11:45 a.m.: NY enduring ‘painfully slow decline’ of hospitalizations, Cuomo says
New York is enduring a “painfully slow decline” of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
New York lost 232 residents on Tuesday, including 25 people who died in nursing homes, Cuomo said.
When it comes to reopening, Cuomo said New York will be “following facts and data, as opposed to emotion and politics.”
“You look at what’s happening in New York … we have turned the corner and we’re on the decline,” Cuomo said. “You take New York out of the national numbers, the numbers for the rest of the nation are going up. To me, that vindicates what we’re doing here in New York, which says — follow the science.”
10:25 a.m.: NYPD clears people from subway during start of overnight shutdown
At 1 a.m. Wednesday, all of New York City’s 472 subway stations closed for cleaning for the first overnight subway shutdown in at least 50 years.
Police officers were assigned to remove people experiencing homelessness who had been sleeping on nearly empty trains.
The NYPD said Wednesday that its officers engaged with 252 people experiencing homelessness overnight.
Of those, 139 people accepted transportation to shelters — a number New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called “extraordinary” for one night and “a very hopeful sign.”
The subway trains will now stop running from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. local time each day.
9:34 a.m.: Trump says coronavirus task force will continue ‘indefinitely’
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the White House coronavirus task force “will continue on indefinitely,” amid questions on whether his administration would begin scaling back the unit’s work.
“The White House CoronaVirus Task Force, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, has done a fantastic job of bringing together vast highly complex resources that have set a high standard for others to follow in the future,” Trump wrote in a series of posts on Twitter. “Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”
The president said his administration “may add or subtract people” from the task force “as appropriate,” but that the team will be “very focused” on getting vaccines and therapeutics approved for the novel coronavirus.
Trump’s tweets appear to amount to an about-face from Vice President Mike Pence’s comment to reporters on Tuesday that conversations were underway about winding down the coronavirus task force perhaps later this month. Although Trump said the task force will continue to exist, it’s unclear whether the team will meet as frequently and if it will truly hold the elevated status it has over the past few months.
The coronavirus task force has a meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, the same time as the new White House press secretary’s briefing.
9:11 a.m.: Spain to declare national state of mourning
Spanish Prime Minster Pedro Sanchez announced Wednesday that his government will declare a national state of mourning for the more than 25,000 people in the country who have died from the novel coronavirus.
Sanchez said he would specify when the national mourning will be held.
Spain is one of the worst-affected countries during the coronavirus pandemic, with over 219,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The prime minister appeared before Spain’s parliament on Wednesday to request another two-week extension of the state of emergency, which has allowed his government to impose a nationwide lockdown that has helped curb the spread of the virus. The country, among others in Europe, has begun to slowly emerge from the strict lockdown, with some small shops reopening this week.
“We have won a partial victory against the virus thanks to the sacrifice of all,” Sanchez said. “But raising the state of alarm now would be a complete error.”
8:19 a.m.: European Union faces ‘recession of historic proportions this year’
The European Union has forecast “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The bloc’s 27-nation economy is predicted to contract by a record 7.5% in 2020, before growing by around 6% in 2021, according to the spring economic forecast released Wednesday by the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU. Its the EU’s first official forecast of the damage the pandemic is inflicting on bloc’s economy.
“Europe is experiencing an economic shock without precedent since the Great Depression,” European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Paolo Gentiloni said in a statement. “Both the depth of the recession and the strength of recovery will be uneven, conditioned by the speed at which lockdowns can be lifted, the importance of services like tourism in each economy and by each country’s financial resources. Such divergence poses a threat to the single market and the euro area — yet it can be mitigated through decisive, joint European action. We must rise to this challenge.”
Less than three months ago, the European Commission predicted “a path of steady, moderate growth” for the region this year and next of 1.2%.
Now, nearly 1.2 million people across Europe have contracted the novel coronavirus and more than 139,000 have died, according to the latest data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
7:53 a.m.: Africa sees 42% jump in COVID-19 cases over past week
The world’s second-largest continent has seen a surge in its reported number of coronavirus cases over the past week.
Since April 28, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa has increased by 42%. There are now 47,118 diagnosed cases of the disease across all but one of Africa’s 54 nations, and at least 1,843 people have died, according to data released Tuesday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Currently, the five countries in Africa with the highest cumulative number of cases are South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Nigeria.
The World Health Organization has warned that the continent of 1.3 billion people could become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Many African countries have weak health systems as well as severe shortages of protective gear and testing kits.
7:09 a.m.: South Korea reports lowest daily case tally in 78 days
South Korea on Wednesday morning reported no new locally transmitted infections of the novel coronavirus and just two imported cases over the past 24 hours — its lowest daily tally in 78 days.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded only one new case of COVID-19 on Feb. 18. Eleven days later, the country hit a peak with more than 900 new cases registered in a single day.
Since then, the country’s rate of infections has slowly declined. The worst-hit city of Daegu reported zero new cases over the past 24 hours, according to South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Korea once had the largest novel coronavirus outbreak outside China, where the virus first emerged, but appears to have brought it under control with an extensive “trace, test and treat” strategy. A total of 10,806 people in the country have been diagnosed with COVID-19, of which 9,333 have recovered and 255 have died, according to South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Korea returned to a sense of normalcy on Wednesday as the nation eased its strict social-distancing measures that were put in place to curb the spread of the virus. People resumed their daily routines while museums and libraries reopened under the relaxed rules.
The number of new cases reported in the country have stayed low for weeks, but health authorities remain wary of cluster infections and imported cases.
6:13 a.m.: Tyson Foods to resume ‘limited production’ at largest US pork plant
Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest food companies, said it will resume “limited operations” at its largest U.S. pork plant on Thursday.
The company was forced to temporarily close the Tyson Fresh Meats facility in Waterloo, Iowa, in late April due to safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic and because many workers had been calling out sick.
“The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company, since the plant is part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers,” Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, said in a statement on April 22. “It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.”
Tyson Foods has since set up an onsite clinic with nurse practitioners at the Waterloo plant to provide workers with diagnostic testing for COVID-19 and daily clinical screenings. The company invited the facility’s 2,800 team members to be tested for COVID-19 while the plant was idle and being cleaned.
All workers returning to the facility Thursday have been tested for COVID-19. Anyone who has tested positive will remain on sick leave until cleared for work by health officials. Workers who have not been tested won’t be able to return, and all new hires will be tested prior to starting work, according to a press release from Tyson Foods.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, their loved ones and our communities,” Tom Hart, plant manager of the Waterloo facility, said in a statement Tuesday night.
5:54 a.m.: Russia reports over 10,000 new cases for fourth straight day
Russia reported more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday for the fourth day in a row.
The country’s coronavirus response headquarters said 10,559 new infections had been registered in the past 24 hours, just under Sunday’s daily record of 10,633 new cases.
Russia now has 165,929 diagnosed cases of COVID-19. However, the country’s death toll from the disease remains relatively low with just 86 fatalities reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 1,537, according to the coronavirus response headquarters.
5:20 a.m.: New York City subways shut down overnight for cleaning
All 472 of New York City’s subway stations were closed during the early morning hours of Wednesday, as part of a new plan for the normally 24-hour system to shut down for daily cleanings and to remove homeless people who have been sleeping on nearly empty trains.
The subway trains will now stop running from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. local time each day. More than 1,000 police officers have been assigned to what is the first overnight shutdown of the city’s subway system in at least 50 years.
Officers from the New York City Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Unit, accompanied by nurses, will remove people from subway cars and stations while workers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority clean.
Most homeless people will be offered space at shelters and in other cases the nurses will decide whether someone needs to be taken to a hospital for their own safety, according to New York City Police Chief of Department Terry Monahan.
4:42 a.m.: Retired farmer who sent New York governor N-95 mask receives honorary degree
A retired Kansas farmer who mailed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo an N-95 mask to give to a frontline worker there has received an honorary degree from his state.
Dennis Ruhnke of Troy, Kansas, was bestowed with a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University during a ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.
“In 1971, Dennis was two credits away from earning his degree in agriculture when his father passed away. He chose to leave school to take care of his mother and the family farm,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who presented the degree alongside the university’s president, said in a Facebook post. “Dennis’ kindness and lifelong career in agriculture make him more than qualified to receive a degree.”
Ruhnke sent a letter in March to New York’s governor along with an unused N-95 mask leftover from his farming days. New York has been the worst-affected U.S. state in the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 321,000 diagnosed cases and over 25,000 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
“If you could, would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your state?” Ruhnke wrote to Cuomo, who subsequently shared the letter on Twitter, calling it “humanity at its best.”
3:36 a.m.: UK coronavirus death toll becomes highest in Europe
The United Kingdom has overtaken Italy as the country with the highest death toll from the novel coronavirus in Europe.
Of the more than 196,000 people in the U.K. who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, at least 29,501 have now died, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy’s death toll stands at 29,315.
The U.K. now has one of the largest single-country tolls in the world, second only to the United States where 71,078 people have died from COVID-19.
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