By JON HAWORTH, ERIN SCHUMAKER, IVAN PEREIRA and MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide.
Over 55 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. The criteria for diagnosis — through clinical means or a lab test — has also varied from country to country.
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 nation, with more than 11.2 million diagnosed cases and at least 247,220 deaths.
Nearly 200 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, at least 10 of which are in crucial phase three studies. Of those 10 potential vaccines in late-stage trials, there are currently five that will be available in the United States if approved.
Here’s how the news is developing Tuesday. All times Eastern:
Nov 17, 10:37 am
Nebraska hospital ‘bursting at the seams’ with COVID-19 patients
Dr. Brian Boer, a critical care doctor working in the COVID-19 wing of Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, said his “nightmare scenario” is one in which non-coronavirus patients have to be turned away because the hospital is “bursting at the seams with so much COVID.”
“If you ask some of my colleagues and partners, like, we’re there,” Boer told “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
“You know, in terms of the trajectory we’re on, if it continues like this unabated, like, we’re going to end up in the scenario where we’re going to have to make really difficult decisions and tell people we can’t offer them the things we normally would have,” he added. “We’re knocking on that door right now.”
The number of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Nebraska each day has quadrupled over the past month, which Boer said is reflective of what he’s seeing in his hospital, where almost half of all intensive care patients are battling the disease.
The issue isn’t the lack of ICU beds or ventilators, he said, but rather the lack of adequate staffing.
“We’ll create beds or we have ventilators and the space or the equipment — we don’t have the bodies,” Boer said. “We don’t have the nurses, the respiratory therapist, the residents and advanced practice providers and physicians to care for that person.”
Boer said he isn’t seeing a lot of spread among health care providers, thanks to personal protective equipment.
“We’re more worried about getting sick in the community than we are getting sick at work — and that’s a fact,” he said.
Nov 17, 9:21 am
Over 300 attended wedding leading to outbreak in Washington state, officials say
Health authorities are urging attendees of a large wedding held in Washington state to quarantine through Saturday and get tested for COVID-19 after several guests have tested positive.
At least 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington’s Grant County have been linked to the wedding near Ritzville on Nov. 7, which was attended by more than 300 people from various communities. The Grant County Health District said more cases tied to the event are “being added daily” and that attendees diagnosed with COVID-19 have also been linked to two subsequent outbreaks.
Wedding ceremonies at the time were limited to a total of no more than 30 people and, starting Monday, indoor receptions or similar gatherings are banned, according to the Grant County Health District.
Nov 17, 8:34 am
Federal vaccine expert turned whistleblower says ‘lives are at stake’ if Trump doesn’t coordinate with Biden
Dr. Rick Bright, the federal vaccine expert who blew the whistle on a politicized coronavirus response, said that “lives are at stake” if the outgoing Trump administration does not coordinate with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team over vaccine distribution.
“Lives are at stake here,” Bright, an immunologist who was recently named a member of Biden’s transition COVID-19 advisory board, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Tuesday on Good Morning America.
“If we miss this opportunity to coordinate now, we could experience hiccups or delays that really we don’t need to see,” he added. “Americans deserve a smooth transition so we can make sure to save their lives from this pandemic.”
The Biden transition team planned to meet with vaccine manufacturers this week, and Bright, whose life’s work has been developing vaccines, said he hoped they would provide more detailed data from their trials.
“We really do need to see the data, the full data set,” he said. “That data set needs to be made available to the FDA and to other scientists. President-elect Biden has said all along he’s going to let science lead the way, and so it’s critical that we are able to see that in a transparent way and the best recommendations from those scientists are made for the FDA, and then that information is carried forward to the American public.”
Bright said it’s important to see if the full data set shows the vaccine to be safe and effective in people of all populations, because the early, interim data could just prove efficacy for a certain population.
When asked whether the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine production program should get any credit for the speed with which vaccines have been developed, Bright instead credited investments in vaccine technology made under the Obama administration.
Bright is the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the federal agency charged with overseeing the rapid production of a vaccine to fight the novel coronavirus. He filed a whistleblower complaint in May, alleging he was ousted because he resisted pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that President Donald Trump was touting as treatment for COVID-19.
Nov 17, 7:35 am
South Australia quarantines 4,000 people amid growing cluster linked to medi-hotel
Around 4,000 people in South Australia have been ordered to quarantine as the Australian state grapples with a fresh COVID-19 outbreak.
South Australia authorities announced five new locally-transmitted cases on Tuesday, at least four of which were officially linked to a medi-hotel in the Parafield suburb of Adelaide, where travelers arriving from abroad are required to quarantine for 14 days. Authorities said the fifth case is expected to be connected to the Parafield cluster soon, which would bring the total number to 21.
“All of these people have either no symptoms or they are very mildly symptomatic, and they have been picked up early in the course of the disease,” South Australia’s chief health officer, Prof. Nicola Spurrier, said at a press conference Tuesday.
Those who have been advised to isolate are all close contacts of the cluster from the quarantine hotel and are being contacted daily by health authorities to check for symptoms. Meanwhile, at least five schools have been closed as contact tracers work to contain the outbreak, according to Spurrier.
“We’ve decided to take a very, very cautious approach,” she told reporters, later adding that “this is a very, very worrying situation.”
Thousands of people have been tested for COVID-19 in South Australia in recent days. Spurrier urged people to only get tested if they are symptomatic or if they have recently visited the areas of concern.
“We do need to prioritize our testing across South Australia,” she said.
There are currently 34 active infections in the state, including imported cases. The latest cluster is the first instance of community transmission in South Australia since April.
“I need to reiterate to the people of South Australia that we are not out of the woods yet,” the state’s premier, Steven Marshall, said at Tuesday’s press conference. “We are just at the beginning stages of dealing with this particular very nasty cluster in Parafield. We are going to get through this. But we’re going to get through it with the cooperation of every single South Australian citizen.”
Nov 17, 6:37 am
Austria begins stricter lockdown amid rising cases
Austrians awoke Tuesday morning with a new tough lockdown meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Under the stricter measures, which will remain in place through Dec. 6, people in Austria are only allowed to leave their homes to buy groceries, to go to work if their jobs are deemed essential, to exercise outside, to go to the doctor or to help people who need assistance.
Schools across the Alpine nation have shuttered, as teaching will be done remotely during lockdown. Banks, basic food stores and pharmacies remain open but bars, hair salons, restaurants and other non-essential shops and services have been ordered closed.
“All of social and public life will be brought down to a minimum,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday, ahead of the new restrictions.
It’s the second time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that Austria has imposed a nationwide lockdown, amid rising infections across Europe. The Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection has confirmed more than 208,000 cases of COVID-19 so far, including at least 1,741 deaths. Nearly 50,000 of those cases were reported in the past week alone.
Nov 17, 5:09 am
Russia registers 442 new deaths in all-time high
Russia registered 442 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, marking the country’s highest single-day death toll from the disease since the pandemic began.
An additional 22,410 new cases of COVID-19 were also confirmed nationwide over the past day. Russia’s cumulative total now stands at 1,971,013 cases with 33,931 deaths, according to the country’s coronavirus response headquarters.
Moscow remains the epicenter of the country’s outbreak and recent surge. More than a quarter of the newly confirmed cases — 5,882 — and nearly 17% of the new deaths — 74 — were reported in the capital, according to Russia’s coronavirus response headquarters.
Despite the growing number of infections and deaths, Russian authorities have repeatedly said they have no plans to impose another nationwide lockdown.
The Eastern European country of 145 million people has the fifth-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Nov 17, 4:17 am
US reports over 166K new cases
There were 166,045 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Monday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
It’s the fourth day in a row that the country has reported over 150,000 newly diagnosed infections. Monday’s count is slightly less than the all-time high of 177,224 on Nov. 13.
An additional 995 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Monday, down from a peak of 2,609 new deaths on April 15.
A total of 11,205,486 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 247,220 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.
Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. 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 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4.
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