Coronavirus updates: Officials find earliest known US COVID-19 deaths

A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 183,000 people worldwide.

Over 2.6 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 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 nation, with more than 840,000 diagnosed cases and at least 46,611 deaths.

Today's biggest developments:

  • US deaths top 45,000
  • California officials find earliest known US fatalities from virus
  • Trump signs proclamation stopping some immigration
  • 8 babies test positive for COVID-19 at Japanese children's home
  • Germany, UK approve human vaccine trials
  • ABC’s Alex Stone reports for ABC News Radio:

    Here's how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates

    9:31 p.m.: RNC says GOP convention going forward

    Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel reiterated on Wednesday that the party is moving “full steam ahead” with an in-person convention, asserting that it is “too early” to make any major changes to the event marking President Trump's official nomination.

    “We're full steam ahead planning a traditional convention … at the end of August,” she said during a virtual event hosted by Georgetown University's Institute of Politics. “I think it'd be way too early to make a determination to cancel or do anything other than plan a full convention.”

    McDaniel said they will make a determination “by the end of June, early July” since the build out for the signature event doesn't begin until July and “there's no need to make a decision right now.”

    McDaniel noted that having an in-person convention is inscribed in their party rules, “so we will not be having a virtual convention, there will be an in-person convention,” she said.

    8:33 p.m.: Detroit health system to furlough 2,800 jobs

    Henry Ford Health System, in hard-hit Detroit, announced it will temporarily furlough approximately 2,800 employees across its six hospitals this week.

    The health system lost $43 million in operating income in March as it canceled or postponed procedures and closed sites to divert resources to its COVID-19 response, according to a statement. Greater losses are expected for April and May, the statement said.

    Those affected are not directly involved in patient care and will keep their health care coverage and can apply for unemployment benefits, the health system said.

    On Tuesday, Michigan’s largest health system, Beaumont Health, announced it would furlough 2,475 employees and eliminate 450 positions due to lost operating income during the pandemic.

    Michigan has nearly 34,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,813 deaths. Detroit is the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, with 14,561 cases and 1,319 deaths combined in Wayne County, where Detroit is located.

    7:21 p.m.: Trump signs off on suspending US immigration

    President Donald Trump has signed a proclamation that would temporarily suspend immigration for 60 days.

    The president signed it right before the White House's daily briefing Wednesday, he said.

    “This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens,” Trump said at the briefing. “Crucially, it will also preserve our health care resources for American patients.”

    Any extension to the suspension will come “at the appropriate time,” the president said.

    The suspension will apply to those seeking legal permanent residency, or green cards, and not those entering the U.S. on a temporary basis, the president said Tuesday.

    Trump has called the new immigration policy an executive order, but the text the White House released Wednesday referred to it as a proclamation.

    Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.

    6:54 p.m.: LAX closes to general public 24/7

    Los Angeles International Airport is now closed to the general public full-time, LAX announced Wednesday.

    Only ticketed passengers and those meeting or assisting them, as well as authorized airport and city personnel, will be allowed access to LAX’s Central Terminal Area.

    The measure is “due to limited flight and passenger activity, social distancing directives, terminal cleaning and sanitizing protocols, construction and a priority to keep all guests and employees at Los Angeles International Airport safe and healthy,” according to a statement.

    The 24-hour closure is an expansion of a nighttime closure policy enacted in March.

    Not complying could be a misdemeanor, LAX said.

    Other airports, including Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, have enacted similar closure policies.

    5:39 p.m.: More animals test positive at Bronx Zoo

    Four more tigers and three lions have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, according to a statement from the zoo.

    In early April, the zoo reported a tiger named Nadia had tested positive, making it the first animal at the zoo to be diagnosed. At the time, three other tigers and three other lions were also showing symptoms, according to the zoo.

    Subsequent testing confirmed those six cats, plus another tiger who had been coughing, were positive for the virus.

    None of the zoo’s snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopard, Amur leopard, puma or serval are showing any signs of illness, the zoo said. It is believed that the cats were infected by a staff member who was asymptomatic with the virus or before that person developed symptoms.

    The zoo said all the cats who have tested positive are doing better and their coughing has subsided.

    5:05 p.m.: WHO defends its handling of pandemic

    Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, defended the agency's handling of the pandemic, saying it “triggered the highest level of emergency” before there were even 100 cases outside of China.

    Ghebreyesus had been asked if the WHO should have declared the spread a pandemic earlier. He replied that the day the WHO declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — on Jan. 30 — there were just 82 diagnosed cases outside of China.

    “Of course in China we had more cases, but outside China we had only 82 cases and most of these cases were actually in the neighborhood,” he said.

    The WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic on March 11, when there were 37,362 confirmed cases outside of China, according to WHO Situation Report #51.

    About two weeks before that — when confirmed cases outside of China were at 2,069 — Ghebreyesus was asked if COVID-19 would be classified as a pandemic.

    “From our assessment, not yet,” the director general said at the time. He added that there was potential for it reach such a level, but “for the moment we're not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus.”

    In response to calls that he should resign, he appeared to have no plans to do so. “We work day and night and we will continue to work day and night. I will continue to work day and night,” Ghebreyesus said.

    4:57 p.m.: 66 veterans dead at Holyoke Soldiers' Home

    The number of veterans who have died at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, continues to rise.

    As of Wednesday afternoon, 66 veteran residents at the state-run health care facility had died, according to the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services. The death toll last Wednesday was 47.

    Of the 66 who died, 55 veterans tested positive, nine tested negative, one has a pending test and another is unknown, according to the office.

    Ninety-nine other residents in the facility have tested positive while 60 have tested negative, the office reported.

    The Soldiers' Home is at the center of two investigations — one federal and one ordered by Gov. Charlie Baker — regarding its handling of the pandemic.

    4:09 p.m.: California governor asks officials to check deaths as far back as December

    After two California residents who died in February were confirmed to be the earliest known deaths from the outbreak, Gov. Gavin Newsom has directed officials to look at deaths dating as far back as December.

    The February deaths occurred weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first death in Washington state, previously thought to be the first death in the country related to COVID-19.

    Newsom also announced he will allow for scheduled preventative surgeries at hospitals to go forward, a slight loosening of the stay-at-home order in the state.

    The loosened restriction will not include plastic surgeries, Newsom said. It was not immediately clear when the preventative surgeries could begin.

    As for a timeline on when other lockdown measures will be lifted, Newsom said he does not yet have a specific one in mind.

    In California, hospitalizations and ICU were reported to be down, at a respective 0.2% and 1.8% in the last 24 hours. Deaths, however, increased by 6.8% with 86 new deaths.

    Newsom spoke about his phone call with President Donald Trump, saying it was a “very good phone call” and the president has promised California more swabs for COVID-19 tests.

    3:40 p.m.: 2 cats become 1st US pets to test positive

    Two cats in New York have become the first pets in the United States to test positive for the virus, according to two government agencies.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory made the announcement Wednesday.

    The agencies said the cats lived in two separate areas in the state. Both were reported to have mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to make a full recovery.

    One of the cats was not living in a household with someone confirmed to be ill with COVID-19, so the virus may have been transmitted by a mildly ill or asymptomatic household member or through contact with an infected person outside its home, according to the agencies.

    The owner of the second cat did test positive for the virus, however a second cat in that household has not shown signs of illness.

    The CDC and USDA said routine testing of animals is not recommended at this time. The agencies also noted that there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the U.S.

    2:22 p.m.: 83 NYC transit employees have died

    A memorial will be erected for the New York City transit employees who have died during the coronavirus pandemic, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and CEO Pat Foye said.

    As of Wednesday morning's MTA board meeting, 83 employees had died, according to Foye.

    The victims are primarily male and many had underlying medical conditions.

    “This is one of the most challenging times for the MTA,” Foye said.

    In the same board meeting, Transit Authority President Sarah Feinberg urged the city “to take more aggressive steps” towards helping the homeless population, who have been using the trains to sleep.

    “We are frustrated by the ongoing issue of the increasing number of the homeless population in the system. At any given moment it makes for an experience on the system that is problematic for our ridership,” Feinberg said, adding that the city is moving essential workers “all day every day.”

    She did not detail what steps the city should take, but said they should be “more aggressive.”

    “I think it's safe to say that everyone here is losing patience with the situation,” Feinberg said.

    1:46 p.m.: Harris County to announce that masks are required

    Many Texas residents will soon be required to wear masks when out in public. Officials in Harris County, the most populous county in Texas that includes Houston, are expected to make the announcement at 4 p.m. EST.

    Houston is leading the state in terms of the number of confirmed cases, at 5,143, according to the state's Department of Health Services. Dallas and Fort Worth were the second and third most impacted cities, with respective case of 2,602 and 1,333.

    Statewide, at least 21,069 have tested positive, 1,678 people are hospitalized and 543 people have died, according to the department.

    More than 7,300 patients have recovered.

    1:06 p.m.: South Carolina schools to remain closed

    South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said that he will issue an executive order to close the schools for the remainder of the school year.

    He said the state is still working on a way to hold graduation ceremonies.

    When asked how businesses would reopen, as some have already done, if schools remain closed and parents possibly couldn't find child care, he said that would be addressed at a later date.

    “Those are the kind of things that the representative group that we put together of virtually every aspect of South Carolina life to accelerate and the revitalization of the businesses — those are the questions and ideas that are going to be addressed at two o'clock tomorrow,” McMaster said.

    12:32 p.m.: Cuomo says pandemic ‘not going to be over anytime soon' despite progress

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said despite a “productive” meeting with President Donald Trump and a plan going forward, New Yorkers are still far from out of the water.

    “This is not gonna be over anytime soon,” he said, adding that “more people will die if we are not smart.”

    Cuomo said that at the state's maximum testing capacity, it could conduct some 40,000 tests. He noted that there were “a lot of buts and ifs in there,” but it was his goal to hit the maximum amount of testing.

    As for tracing, the governor said the state would need a “tracing army” to effectively track who has been in close contact with people who have tested positive for the virus. Cuomo said he is working with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to develop a tri-state tracing program.

    Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg volunteered to help develop that program, contributing upwards of $10 million, according to Cuomo. The program is being worked on in partnership with Johns Hopkins, he added. Johns Hopkins did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on details of the program.

    Cuomo also said that governors are still in need of state funding from Washington, but that Trump agreed to waive what is called the state match for FEMA. Cuomo said that because New York had the most cases in the U.S., it also had the highest cost for FEMA and would normally have to pay back the highest price. Trump has however waived that match.

    11:38 a.m.: 1st large study of US hospitalized patients confirms comorbidities

    In what is the first large analysis of COVID-19 patients in the United States, researchers confirmed much of what has been reported anecdotally by doctors throughout the pandemic.

    The findings included that the most common comorbidities — the presence of more than one disease or condition in the same person — among patients was hypertension (57%), obesity (41%) and type 2 diabetes (34%), according to the study published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

    Researchers also found that male mortality rates were higher than female at every 10-year age interval and patients with diabetes were more likely to have received invasive mechanical ventilation, ICU treatment or developed acute kidney disease.

    The data was collected by researchers at Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and included analysis of 5,700 hospitalized patients between March 1, 2020, and April 4, 2020, at Northwell Health, the largest health system in the state of New York.

    The majority of the patients in the study were male and the median age of all patients treated was 63 years old.

    At triage, about a third of all patients (1,734) presented a fever, 986 had a high respiratory rate and 1,584 patients received supplemental oxygen, according to the study.

    Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes, said the research provides “a crucial early insight into the front line response to the COVID-19 outbreak in New York.”

    11:11 a.m.: New data continues to show virus ‘disproportionately' affecting black, Hispanic people

    Black residents in Wisconsin and Kansas are dying as a result of COVID-19 at some of the highest rates in the country compared to the relative population size, according to an analysis of data from 33 states.

    The Kaiser Family Foundation used data from the states across the U.S. that are reporting data on cases and deaths by race and ethnicity.

    The foundation found that states without a major city or large black population have been overlooked for the disproportionate ratio of cases and deaths in the black community.

    “Our analysis of these data finds that they continue to paint a sobering picture of how the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    In Wisconsin, where the black population is 6%, the data showed that black people have accounted for 39% of the deaths and 25% of the cases — a four-times higher share of cases and an over six-times higher share of deaths, according to the foundation. Kansas has a black population of 6%, but the data shows that black people have accounted for 33% of the deaths and 17% of the cases — a three times higher share of cases and more than five-times higher share of deaths, the foundation reported.

    In the majority of the 33 states, black people accounted for a higher share of confirmed cases (in 20 of 31 states) and deaths (in 19 of 24 states) compared to their share of the total population, according to the foundation.

    In six of 26 states, the data showed that there was also a disproportionate impact on Hispanic communities.

    Iowa and Wisconsin reported the largest relative differences, with a respective 17% of cases compared to a population of 6% and 12% of cases compared to a population of 7%.

    Data was largely unavailable for smaller groups, including people who are American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

    10:39 a.m.: NYC mayor outlines plan on testing, tracing

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined his plan to get New Yorkers to a new phase under the pandemic where transmission is at a low level.

    The mayor said testing would need to ramp up drastically — ideally hundreds of thousands per day — so that all residents could easily get tested. De Blasio said along with testing, tracing would follow to include all individuals who came in close contact with a person who tested positive.

    He said a plan of this size would take hundreds of thousands of people working on it, more testing, more protective personal equipment for medical personnel and more location sites for testing sites to happen.

    De Blasio said that while these aspects are not in place right now, he expects them to be in place next month.

    When asked how viable a program like this would work, de Blasio said, “we have to do it. To borrow from Apollo 13, failure is not an option. We have to find a way to do it.”

    He continued to say that progress is being made in the city.

    The number of people admitted to ICUs in hospitals went down from 857 to 821 and the percentage of people who tested positive citywide decreased from 35% to 33%, according to de Blasio.

    However, he did say that the number of people admitted to the hospital with a suspected case of COVID-19 increased from 204 to 252.

    On Tuesday, de Blasio announced that many staple events in the city during June, including the Pride Parade and Puerto Rican Day Parade, would be canceled. He said Wednesday that New Yorkers would have a Fourth of July celebration, though it would look different from previous years.

    “There's definitely gonna be fireworks. How we do them, where we do them? There's a lot of questions between now and then,” de Blasio said.

    10:05 a.m.: 759 new deaths reported in UK

    There were 759 new daily deaths reported in the United Kingdom, bringing the country's total fatalities to at least 18,100, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

    An additional 4,451 people also tested positive, according to the department.

    In total, at least 133,495 people have tested positive out of the 411,192 people who have been tested in the country.

    9:34 a.m.: New York City to freeze bodies instead of temporary burials

    New York City will freeze the bodies of COVID-19 victims rather than burying them on Hart Island, the city's potter field that has long been used as a burial ground for unclaimed bodies.

    The temporary measure to freeze bodies is meant to lessen the burden on hospitals and funeral homes, which are running out of space due to the high number of deaths in the city, according to the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

    Freezing the bodies means there will be no temporary burials on Hart Island and allows families more time to make funeral arrangements. However, bodies that cannot be identified or claimed by next of kin will still be buried on Hart Island.

    The Office of Chief Medical Examiner, with assistance from Air Force Mortuary Affairs, will transfer bodies from five temporary morgues and 200 refrigerated trailers that are now parked outside five dozen hospitals around the city to freezer trucks that will be placed in Brooklyn.

    9:30 a.m.: Rail industry suffers huge cost

    Rail volumes are at 10-year low because of the lack of overseas imports, with the coronavirus pandemic expected to cost the railroads $9 billion in lost freight, according to a record from FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center reviewed by ABC News.

    8:36 a.m.: Netherlands, France plan to reopen primary schools next month

    Primary schools are set to reopen next month in both France and the Netherlands, as several European countries announce plans to ease their coronavirus-related lockdowns.

    French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer presented the details of the plan with a parliamentary commission on Tuesday, explaining that children would return to school in staggered groups, with no more than 15 students allowed in each classroom.

    Primary school students aged from 5 to 11 would be the first to go back on May 12, one day after France's nationwide lockdown is set to end. Older children in selected years at secondary schools and high school would return the following week, according to Blanquer.

    The plan is for all students to be back in school by May 25, he said.

    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also confirmed Tuesday that primary schools and day cares would reopen in the Netherlands on May 11, followed by high schools in early June.

    7:40 a.m.: Germany, UK approve human trials for COVID-19 vaccines

    Scientists in both Germany and the United Kingdom will soon begin clinical trials using human volunteers in the race for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

    Germany's federal institute for vaccines and biomedical drugs announced Wednesday that it has approved its first human clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. The potential vaccine is being developed by German firm BioNTech and is an RNA vaccine.

    In the first phase of the clinical trial, 200 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 will receive one or more variants of the vaccine candidate, according to a press release from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany.

    “Trials of vaccine candidates in humans are an important milestone on the road to safe and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19 for the population in Germany and internationally,” the institute said.

    The clinical trial is only the fourth worldwide in which a preventive vaccine candidate targeting COVID-19 is tested in humans.

    Meanwhile, the first human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine begin in the United Kingdom on Thursday. The potential vaccine is being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

    6:28 a.m.: 8 babies test positive for COVID-19 at Japanese children's home

    At least eight babies at a Tokyo care home for infants have contracted the novel coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.

    After a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on April 16, tests were subsequently conducted on all infants at the facility in Japan's capital, which is run by Saiseikai Central Hospital. Eight of those tests returned positive results, according to a statement from the hospital.

    The infected children have been hospitalized as staff continues to monitor the health of those who tested negative. The facility has been disinfected and strict infection control measures have been put in place, the hospital said.

    Staff members who have shown symptoms have already been sent home, though the hospital didn't specify how many.

    The children's care home is a separate building from the main hospital, which will continue inpatient and outpatient treatment as usual.

    Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency, which was initially limited to Tokyo and six other prefectures, to all of Japan as the virus continues to spread. The country has recorded more than 11,500 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and at least 281 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

    5:50 a.m.: Singapore surpasses 10,000 cases

    Singapore now has more than 10,000 diagnosed cases of the novel coronavirus.

    The island city-state's health ministry on Wednesday confirmed another 1,016 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 as of 12 p.m. local time, bringing the total number to 10,141. So far, 11 people have died from the disease there.

    The vast majority of the new cases are work permit holders who live in dormitories for foreign workers, which have been placed on lockdown. Just 15 of those newly diagnosed are Singaporean nations or permanent residents, according to the health ministry.

    Singapore is the worst-affected nation in Southeast Asia by the coronavirus pandemic.

    5:21 a.m.: Man who claimed to have COVID-19 jailed for spitting at London police

    A 21-year-old man in London was sentenced to six months behind bars for domestic assault and spitting at officers while claiming he was infected with the novel coronavirus, U.K. police said Wednesday.

    The man was arrested in East London on Monday on suspicion of domestic assault on a woman and criminal damage to her property. The suspect also told authorities that he had COVID-19 and, while being put into a police van, he spat at two officers. He was further charged for assault on emergency workers, according to a statement from London's Metropolitan Police Service.

    While in custody, police said the man told them he did not have COVID-19 nor any related symptoms. He appeared in custody at Barkingside Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to prison.

    “I hope he spends his period in prison to reflect on his behavior, and that his prison sentence sends a message to others who are willing to commit domestic offenses and to target police officers whose job it is to protect Londoners,” police inspector Alexis Manley said in a statement Wednesday.

    What to know about coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map
  • 3:30 a.m.: California officials find earliest known US deaths from virus

    California officials have confirmed what are now the earliest known deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

    Santa Clara County announced late Tuesday that new autopsy results show two individuals who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were positive for COVID-19. The individuals were not tested for the virus because they died when very limited testing was available only through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a statement from the county in Northern California.

    “Testing criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms,” Santa Clara County said in a statement.

    The United States previously recorded its first official fatality from COVID-19 on Feb. 28 — an individual in Washington state's King County.

    However, health officials later discovered that two people at a Seattle-area nursing home had also died from the disease on Feb. 26.

    ABC News' Ibtissem Guenfoud, Anthony Trotter, Josh Margolin, Aaron Katersky, Eric Strauss, Rachel Katz, Gina Sunseri, J Gabriel Ware, Bonnie McLean, Alex Stone, Arielle Mitropoulos, Michael Kreisel and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

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