Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected nation, with more than 638,000 diagnosed cases and at least 30,844 deaths.
The number of cases in New York state alone — over 214,000 — is higher than in any single country outside the U.S.
Today’s biggest developments:
- Researchers say social distancing may be necessary into 2022
- Bill Gates warns freezing funding for WHO ‘is as dangerous as it sounds’
- Americans should prepare for ‘another battle’ with virus, CDC director says
- Cuomo announces executive order requiring face coverings
Here’s how the news developed Wednesday. All times Eastern.
11:02 p.m.: US death toll crosses 30,000
There have now been 30,844 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19.
That figure now includes the new way that New York City is tallying deaths, with 6,840 confirmed deaths — those who tested positive for COVID-19 — and 4,059 probable deaths — people who didn’t have a positive COVID-19 test, but their death certificate lists COVID-19 or an equivalent as the cause of death.
The jump in the death count in New York City, and nationally, aren’t all people who have died in the past 24 hours, but are just now being counted.
8:15 p.m. Washington state extends shelter in place to May 4
Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington state’s shelter-in-place order has been extended to May 4.
Washington, the first state to record a coronavirus case in the U.S., currently has 10,694 confirmed cases and 541 deaths, according to the state’s health department.
Inslee warned that more testing will be needed.
“Testing is the biggest challenge, and will be the biggest hurdle,” he said at a press conference.
Discussing the timetable for a full reopening of his state, the governor told the ABC News “Powerhouse Politics” podcast that it will be “later than we would like.”
“It’s not the right time today or even two weeks from now, because the modeling has shown clearly that the curve will start to go up again if we were to full scale remove our social distancing measures right now that are having a beneficial impact,” Inslee said.
6:54 p.m. White House says more than 3 million Americans tested
Vice President Mike Pence said at a briefing that roughly 3.3 million Americans have been tested for COVID-19.
Roughly 39.4 million N95 masks, 40 million gloves, 57 million surgical masks and 10.2 million gowns have been distributed, said Pence.
“There will be 6.5 million masks that go out before the end of this week and an additional 20 million before April 20,” Pence said. “Then we’ll be adding 6.5 million for each and every week.”
6:30 p.m. WWE furloughs wrestlers and other employees
World Wrestling Entertainment announced it would furlough wresters and other employees to save $4 million in monthly costs.
Several of the affected wrestlers took to social media to announce their furloughs, including Levis Valenzuela Jr., aka No Way Jose, Lionel Gerard Green, aka Lio Rush, and Kurt Angle.
“I wanted 2 say thank you to the WWE for the time I spent there.I made many new friends and had the opportunity to work with so many talented people,” Angle tweeted.
The company was deemed an essential service in Florida by Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday and will tape events without crowds from its training facility in Orlando.
WWE said that it has half a billion in cash and debt capacity to operate its facilities in the coming months and would provide more details about those plans on Thursday.
On Monday, the XFL, owned by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The filing listed the football league with assets and liabilities each in the range of $10 million to $50 million, according to ESPN.
6:01 p.m. Louisana schools to remain closed
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that he signed a proclamation ordering K-12 schools in the state to remain closed until the end of the academic year.
“It’s unfortunate that we had to do this, but it’s really important that we promote public health,” Edwards said at a news conference.
More guidance will be given to districts and educators to help ensure students get what they need while continuing social distancing efforts, the governor said.
“I want to be very clear about something — this is not the end of learning,” he said.
5:53 p.m.: More than 900 NYC hospital workers have contracted virus
New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), which runs 11 public hospitals including Elmhurst and Bellevue, said 924 of its employees have contracted COVID-19.
On Tuesday 3,000 staff members — about 8% of its workforce — called out sick, according to administrators.
“These are understandably frightening times, and we are all pulling together so that we can save more New Yorkers,” HHC said in a statement.
5 p.m.: DC suburb emerges as possible new epicenter
Maryland’s governor on Wednesday issued an executive order requiring face coverings in establishments and on public transit.
As Maryland’s death toll rises, Prince George’s County, Maryland — a D.C. suburb — may be emerging as a new epicenter.
Prince George’s County is home to 900,000 residents, the majority of whom are African American, The Washington Post reported.
The county has reported 2,516 cases, 65 deaths and 11 “probable” deaths. Overwhelmed hospitals are sending some of the sick to facilities outside of the county, the Post said.
Prince George’s County’s death toll is nearing the number of dead in the nation’s capital. The District of Columbia has reported 72 fatalities and 5 probable fatalities.
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3:45 p.m.: 47 residents dead at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts
Three more veterans have died in the last 24 hours at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, bringing the facility’s death toll to 47.
Of those residents, 38 tested positive for the coronavirus, 8 tested negative and 1 test result is not known, the state’s Office of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.
The Soldiers’ Home, a state-run health care facility for veterans, is now the center of two investigations after a growing number of deaths and accusations from the staff that management did not properly protect those inside.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are conducting a joint investigation to determine whether the facility “violated the rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic,” according to a statement from the agencies.
Gov. Charlie Baker has also called for an independent investigation by attorney Mark W. Pearlstein, which will focus on “the events inside the facility that led to” the deaths, and “on management and organizational oversight of the COVID-19 response.”
The center said Wednesday that they’re “in communication with the VA Health Care System and the Holyoke Medical Center to offer potential alternative locations for short-term care for veteran residents,” but “the majority of families declined transfers to VA locations.”
“Strong staff-to-resident ratios have been achieved thanks in large part to the presence of the Massachusetts National Guard trained medical and operational staff,” the center added.
2:25 p.m.: Louisiana sees lowest increase in cases in weeks
Hard-hit Louisiana on Wednesday saw its lowest daily increase of cases in weeks. The number of positive people went up just 2%, now at 21,951, according to the state’s Department of Health.
Louisiana’s death toll has climbed to 1,103.
Louisiana is among the states where the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting African American communities.
As of Tuesday, African Americans made up 59.29% of Louisiana’s COVID-19 deaths, state officials said. African Americans account for 32% of the population of the state, according to census data.
1:20 p.m.: Cuomo announces executive order requiring face coverings
In New York — the state with by far the highest death toll from the coronavirus — the curve is flattening, with intubations and total hospitalizations down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
But about 2,000 people are still being diagnosed each day and the state is still “in the woods,” Cuomo said.
In New York, 752 lives were lost on Wednesday: 707 in hospitals and 45 were in nursing homes, the governor said.
Cuomo said Wednesday he’s issuing an executive order so everyone in public must have a mask or mouth/nose covering on when in a situation where they aren’t social distancing.
“If you’re going to get on public transit … you’re going to walk in a neighborhood that is busy … you’re going to pass other people on the sidewalk, you’re not going to be able to maintain social distancing, you must wear a mask,” he said.
“Local governments should start to enforce it,” he said, adding that for now there will be no civil penalty but “If people don’t follow it, we could do a civil penalty.”
Cuomo said large-scale testing is key to reopening the state. But the capacity to “test, trace and isolate” “does not now exist,” he said.
“You need swabs. You need vials. And you need all of these things at a capacity that does not now exist. Where do you do the testing?” Cuomo said. “We have been doing the testing in hospitals. Frankly, that’s not a great place to do testing. You don’t want people walking in to a hospital emergency room who may be positive for COVID-19.”
“We have been very aggressive here. But in all this time we have only done 500,000 tests,” Cuomo said, stressing the need for federal support.
“No one is to blame on testing,” he added.
Cuomo also addressed the future “phased reopening of the economy — as educated by testing/tracing.”
Reopening will be based on how essential the business or product is, and what its risk is of spreading the infection, Cuomo said.
12:50 p.m.: DC extends shutdown to May 15
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday that she’s extending the stay-at-home order through May 15th.
That also applies to closure of the city’s schools and nonessential businesses, as well as the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.
The D.C. shutdown was initially set to expire on April 24.
In the nation’s capital, 2,197 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 72 people have died.
“We know that we will need until at least May 15 to continue flattening the curve to help protect African Americans who we know are disproportionately suffering from some of the underlying conditions that may be so dangerous,” she said.
The new orders will also add additional protocols to protect the city’s most vulnerable residents, including those in correctional facilities, nursing and group homes, and homeless shelters, the mayor said.
The order also extends mask requirements to hotel workers and those using taxis and ride-shares.
11:35 a.m.: NYC mayor announces investment to address food insecurity
In hard-hit New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio says grocery stores should require customers to wear face coverings while shopping.
“Every store has the right to put up that guidance and make it a requirement for entry into the store,” the mayor said, calling a face-covering requirement in grocery stores no different than “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs.
De Blasio said he would talk about loosening restrictions in New York City when there’s a steady drop in three key COVID-19 indicators for 10 to 14 days: those admitted to hospitals, those in intensive care units, and the percentage of people tested who are positive.
The mayor said the number of patients admitted to hospitals and the number of people in ICUs have both slightly increased, while the percentage of people tested who are positive has made a small improvement.
De Blasio on Wednesday also announced a $170 million investment to make sure no New Yorker goes hungry.
Before the pandemic, 1.2 million New Yorkers were food insecure, including 1 in 5 children, the mayor said. Now, an estimated half-million New Yorkers have lost or will lose their jobs in the immediate future, he said.
Since March 16, 4.5 million meals have been served to people in New York City, de Blasio said.
Ten million meals will be served in April alone, with the ability to grow, he said.
10:20 a.m.: TSA screens less than 90,000 passengers for 1st time during outbreak
Domestic airline travel reached a new low Tuesday when the TSA screened less than 90,000 passengers for the first time during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The TSA screened 87,534 travelers at checkpoints nationwide on Tuesday compared to 2,208,688 on the same weekday last year — around a 96% decrease.
The TSA says 403 of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Out of those, three have died and 45 employees have recovered.
9:37 a.m.: China says Trump will harm global fight against pandemic by pulling WHO funds
China urged the U.S. not to halt its funding to the World Health Organization on Wednesday, saying it would undermine the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
During Wednesday’s press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said President Donald Trump’s decision to cut the U.S. contributions to the WHO would impact all countries across the globe, especially the more vulnerable ones.
Furthermore, the move “weakens the WHO’s capabilities and harms international cooperation,” he said.
“At present, the global pandemic situation is grim and is at a critical moment,” Zhao told reporters. “We urge the U.S. to fulfill its responsibilities and obligations, and support WHO to lead the international combat against the pandemic.”
8:58 a.m.: Tour de France delayed till late August
Cycling’s biggest race, the Tour de France, has been postponed until late August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The International Cycling Union announced the decision Wednesday, saying the prestigious race will now run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 20. The Tour de France was originally slated to kick off in Nice on June 27.
“Holding this event in the best conditions possible is judged essential given its central place in cycling’s economy and its exposure, in particular for the teams that benefit on this occasion from unparalleled visibility,” the International Cycling Union said in a statement.
France is among the worst-affected countries in the pandemic, with more than 131,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and over 15,000 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
French President Emmanuel Macron has extended a lockdown for the country till May 11.
Addressing the nation Monday night, Macron said he sees “hopeful signs” since imposing the nationwide lockdown on March 17 in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. He said schools will reopen “progressively,” starting from May 11. However, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, concert halls, museums and hotels will remain closed and large gatherings won’t be allowed until mid-July.
8:23 a.m.: US Forces Japan declare public health emergency for all bases
The commander of the United States Forces Japan on Wednesday declared a public health emergency for all bases in Japan as the country sees a surge in novel coronavirus infections.
U.S. Forces Japan, a subset of the military’s Indo-Pacific Command, had previously declared an emergency only for the county’s Kanto Plain, which includes Tokyo.