By JON HAWORTH and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The novel coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 579,000 people worldwide.
Over 13.3 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 or downplaying the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.
The United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 3.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 136,468 deaths.
Here is how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Check back for updates.
4:15 p.m.: Houston classes to be all online for 1st 6 weeks of school
In Houston, classes will be online-only for the first six weeks of the school year, officials said Wednesday.
The start of the school year was also delayed for two weeks, now beginning Sept. 8, due to a rise of coronavirus cases in the area, school officials said.
Face-to-face instruction is set to begin Oct. 19 with a “phased-in approach,” but the date could change based on COVID-19 conditions, according to the school district.
Families also have an option to choose full-time virtual learning for the fall semester or entire school year, the district added.
Harris County, which includes Houston, has over 49,000 confirmed coronavirus cases — the most in the state.
3:50 p.m.: 1 in 5 people in heavily populated California county are testing positive
In Riverside County, California, home to 2.5 million people, one in five residents are testing positive for COVID-19.
A local hospital has just three ICU beds left and officials told ABC News the hospital admission rate has doubled in the last month.
“They come in faster than we’re able to discharge,” Shannon Ashcom, a nurse at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage, told ABC News via video.
3 p.m.: Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island to reopen
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island will begin a phased reopening on Monday, July 20, the National Park Service said Wednesday.
Guests can access the grounds of Liberty and Ellis Islands, the Statue of Liberty Museum, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration and some food and gift shops.
The interior of the Statue of Liberty, including the pedestal and crown, will remain closed for now, the park service said.
The ferries to the islands will have reduced capacity. Visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance.
2 p.m.: Rose Parade canceled for 1st time since WWII
The 2021 New Year’s Day Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, has been canceled due to the pandemic, officials announced on Wednesday.
This marks the first time the parade will not take place since World War II.
Planning for the Rose Bowl game is still ongoing.
“Obviously this is not what any of us wanted, and we held off on announcing until we were absolutely sure that safety restrictions would prevent us from continuing with planning,” Bob Miller, 2021 president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, said in a statement.
1:25 p.m.: SC governor says parents must have option of in-person school 5 days a week
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he is “calling on all the public school districts to submit reopening plans that give parents the option to send their children back to school five days a week.”
“Or, parents can choose to keep their children home and receive virtual instruction,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “We must give parents the choice. This is the only thing that we’re asking these districts to do today — to the give the parents the choice.”
McMaster said “children have dropped off the radar” and “lost valuable learning progress” due to school closures.
“We must have our schools available,” he stressed. “Each district must allow the parents to make that choice.”
Districts must submit their reopening plans by July 17. Districts are asked to consider Sept. 8 as the start date.
McMaster’s announcement comes days after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos demanded that schools reopen in-person full-time.
12:50 p.m.: Oklahoma governor tests positive for COVID-19
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has tested positive for COVID-19, he said during a video news conference Wednesday.
Stitt said he feels achy, but OK. His wife and children have tested negative.
Officials are now working on tracing those who may have come within 6 feet of the governor.
Stitt said at the news conference he is “not thinking about a mask mandate at all.”
“I’m hesitant to mandate something that is problematic to enforce,” he said.
The White House said in a statement that the president wishes Stitt a speedy recovery.
Stitt was among the attendees at President Donald Trump’s June rally in Tulsa.
Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said last week that the rally, along with protests, likely contributed to the area’s surge in cases.
Over 21,000 people in Oklahoma have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
12:10 p.m.: Masks now mandatory in Alabama
Over two week period from June 29 to July 13, coronavirus cases in Alabama rose by 50%, Gov. Kay Ivey said.
As cases surge, Ivey announced on Wednesday that masks will be mandatory statewide beginning Thursday. The order will last until the end of the month.
Tuesday saw a record high of daily cases, officials said. Alabama’s number of coronavirus cases is now over 58,000.
“If it feels like guidance is constantly changing I completely understand,” Ivey said. “But things are evolving.”
11:45 a.m.: Florida sees 100,000 new cases in 10 days
Hard-hit Florida reported 100,000 new coronavirus cases in the last 10 days.
The state passed the 200,000 threshold on July 5, and now has 301,810 total coronavirus, according to Wednesday data from the Florida Health Department.
Florida’s positivity rate stands at 13.59%. Nationally, the overall test-positivity rate is 9.5%.
Out of 309 facilities being tracked, Florida has 51 hospitals with no available ICU beds, and 31 hospitals with just one available ICU bed, as of Wednesday morning, according to the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration. These numbers will fluctuate throughout the day.
Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami, has a positivity rate of 20%, according to the health department.
In Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, the positivity rate stands at 14.8%.
11:20 a.m.: Walmart requiring face masks
All Walmart and Sam’s Club shoppers will be required to wear a mask beginning on July 20, the company said Wednesday.
“Currently about 65 percent of our more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is some form of government mandate on face coverings,” Walmart said.
11:07 a.m.: US military bases on Okinawa have 136 diagnosed cases
At total of 136 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at American military facilities on Okinawa Island in Japan, according to Japanese news outlet Kyodo.
Most cases are at Camp Hansen, where 58 cases are confirmed, and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, where there are 71 cases.
10:32 a.m.: Philadelphia children will learn 2 days in class, 3 days online
In Philadelphia, students will attend in-person school two days a week and learn online three days a week when this school year begins, officials announced Wednesday.
Masks will be required for all students, officials said.
Families have the option of all-online learning.
“It’s a group that’s trying to give guidance that is completely out of touch. And it’s a group that up to this point hasn’t provided much guidance at all,” Hite said Wednesday. “We’re gonna be guided by health and safety. Not politics, not ideology.”
Philadelphia has over 27,000 cases of the coronavirus. The city’s positivity rate stands at about 5%.
Nationally, the overall test-positivity rate is 9.5%.
People under the age of 30 have accounted for 40% of new cases in Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney said Tuesday, as he announced that large public events will be banned through Feb. 28, 2021.
Banned events include parades, concerts, fairs and block parties. The ban does not apply to demonstrations and first amendment activities.
9:55 a.m.: Virginia cases skyrocket, Rhode Island ‘exhausting’ PPE supplies
In Virginia, coronavirus cases are up 43.3% and hospitalizations are up 23%, according to an internal FEMA memo obtained by ABC News .
In Rhode Island, the medical field is “exhausting” its supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to the memo.
Imports of PPE and existing supply-chain channels are supplementing domestic needs for PPE at the moment, but as the pandemic intensifies in many states, shortages are starting to reoccur, the memo said.
Shortages of surgical isolation gowns and foot coverings have also been reported.
9 a.m.: Dozens of inmates test positive at Virginia jail
Forty-six inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Henrico County Jail in Virginia, the county said.
They were among a group of 70 people detained in an area for new inmates.
8 a.m.: Disneyland Paris reopens
Disneyland Paris reopened on Wednesday after closing in March due to the pandemic.
Advance booking was required. To promote social distancing, entry was limited.
France has over 200,000 coronavirus cases and more than 30,000 deaths.
The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.
5:59 a.m.: San Antonio hospitals have started using refrigerated trucks for bodies, officials say
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff updated the community about the local response to COVID-19 in their daily briefing on Tuesday night and reported that there have been 21,067 total COVID-19 cases and 201 total deaths in Bexar County as of Tuesday, an increase of 854 new cases.
City officials also reported that 1,237 patients are currently hospitalized and that 417 are in the intensive care unit with a total of 260 on ventilators.
There are 11% of staffed beds available and 44% of ventilators available and Nirenberg said nearly 30% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the area had no underlying conditions.
Dr. Colleen Bridger, interim director of the Metropolitan Health District and assistant city manager, said there is a plan in place for when hospitals can ask for refrigerated trucks to hold bodies that can no longer fit in their morgues. She said the trucks are already in use in the area by facilities, but she did not specify how many or where they were being used.
Dr. Bryan Alsip, with University Health System, said most hospitals don’t have large morgues, so the refrigerated trucks are needed to handle any overflow of bodies. He said University Hospital may need the trucks.
Judge Wolff also took a moment to discuss the number of violations within Bexar County.
Wolff said there have been almost 130 violations of the local orders and that 62 of those violations were related to businesses not following the orders, with 67 of them related to gatherings. Only nine businesses have received written citations.
“We’ll be citing a lot more, I’m sure,” he said. Nirenberg said the city and county are doing proactive inspections to look for possible violations and are investigating calls from tipsters.
3:24 a.m.: Nashville Mayor: ‘We are headed in a terrible direction’
After the city of Nashville, Tennessee, hit a new record of 771 COVID-19 cases in a 24 hour period, the mayor of Nashville, John Cooper, was in no mood to mince his words.
“We are headed in a terrible direction and we’ve got to reverse that direction right now,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said. “We’re not targeting people, but if people are persistently non-compliant after they have been asked to keep each other safe they will get a ticket,” Mayor Cooper said. “And we have to do that because we’re at 771 cases.”
Cooper also formally announced that anybody found to not wear a face mask in public would be ticketed and that a full-scale lockdown is not off the table.
“We’re at the point in the disease that unless we take this very seriously, we will have to have lockdowns that really seem intolerable, but needed to keep our hospitals functioning,” said Cooper.
Nashville will remain in it’s modified Phase 2 and bars will remain closed until at least August 1.
Said Cooper: “None of us would have believed we would have wandered into a bad science fiction movie, but we have. Frankly, I’m here today to tell you Nashville is back into another tornado situation where everybody has to have each other’s back and work together to work through this crisis.”
1:34 a.m.: Philadelphia Eagles fans won’t be allowed to attend home games this season, per city officials
The Philadelphia Eagles will be playing their home games without a home crowd this season, according to a Philadelphia city official.
“I do think that games can be played with the kind of safety precautions that they’re proposing. I do not think that they can have spectators at those games. There’s no way for them to be safe having a crowd there,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley on Tuesday. “I can’t say what the plans are for the league, but from a safety perspective, they can play games but not [have] crowds.”
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city government has been in communication with the Eagles, said Managing Director Brian Abernathy, and has “told them our expectations are that they don’t have fans.”
The Philadelphia Phillies had already announced earlier this week that they would not be playing in front of a home crowd either and would pipe in fake crowd noise, use cardboard cutouts of fans and that the team’s mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, would practice social distancing while roaming the ballpark.
“Although we won’t be together physically, we look forward to uniting our community virtually with the goal of taking action for autism,” the Philadelphia Eagles said in a statement. “Please be assured that while the event will be virtual, we are working diligently to create an incredible experience for participants.”
1:02 a.m.: 36 high school students test positive for COVID-19 at sports camps in Illinois
In the past week, 36 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in a group of Lake Zurich High School students in Illinois who were part of athletic camps.
The cases have been tied to social events before the camps even started, and the positive test results among young people are part of an overall trend Lake County, Illinois, health officials have seen in the last month.
“We are grateful to the leadership of Lake Zurich District 95 for assuring proper health screenings were done at their athletic camps last week, because those measures helped identify this cluster of COVID-19 cases,” said Dr. Sana Ahmed, Medical Epidemiologist at the Lake County Health Department. “We continue to urge anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or who may have had direct contact with a confirmed case to get a viral COVID-19 test (also known as a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test) and self-quarantine for 14 days from their last potential date of exposure. We need your help to help prevent further spread of this virus.”
The students are now in self-quarantine and health officials said positive cases among residents under the age of 30 are now higher than the general population.
“Our message to young people is that while you might not be at high risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, you’re not immune,” said Hanna Goering, communications manager for the Lake County Health Department.
According to the Lake County Health Department, COVID-19 cases and deaths in Lake County had previously slowed in recent weeks, a trend that public health officials attribute to residents following social distancing and masking guidelines, paired with widespread availability of testing and thorough contact tracing. However, new cases continue to be identified in communities across the county, and an increase in social gatherings could result in cases climbing again.
“Our lives are very interconnected and this virus spreads very easily from person to person,” said Dr. Ahmed. “Even if you personally aren’t at a high risk of severe illness, you need to consider that every person you interact with may have someone close to them who is vulnerable. Please, do your part to protect your health and also look out for others. Take the risks seriously so your actions don’t result in someone else’s hospitalization or death.”
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