May 18, 2021
Jared C. Tilton/Getty ImagesBy WILLIAM MANSELL, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 520,000 people worldwide.Over 10.8 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 2.7 million diagnosed cases and at least 128,740 deaths.Here’s how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:7:00 p.m.: NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson tests positiveSeven-time NASCAR Cup Champ Jimmie Johnson, currently 12th in points, has become the sport’s first driver to test positive.Johnson, who said he planned to retire after the current season, will miss this weekend’s race in Indianapolis.He can return to the track after he’s symptom free and has two negative COVID-19 test results at least 24 hours apart, according to NASCAR.“Jimmie is a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery,” NASCAR said in a statement. “NASCAR has granted Jimmie a playoff waiver, and we look forward to his return as he races for an eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship.”5:00 p.m.: WHO expects interim results on drug trials within 2 weeksThe World Health Organization said it expects interim results on a potential coronavirus treatment drug — not a vaccine — within two weeks.“The group reviewed data from the solidarity trial and agreed on the need for more trials to test different classes of therapeutics at different stages of the disease,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference Friday, adding that nearly 5,500 patients in 39 countries have been recruited for what’s been dubbed the “solidarity trial.”“We expect interim result within the next two weeks,” Ghebreyesus added.The solidarity trial began as a study of five drug candidates, including the Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine, on which testing was halted after no significant coronavirus-related benefited were discovered.The head of the WHO’s Emergencies Program, Dr. Mike Ryan, said it would be “unwise at this point to predict when a vaccine could be rolled out.”“Vaccines may have shown efficacy by the end of the year,” he added, “the question will be whether or not the scale of the production of those vaccines will be enough for us to begin vaccinating people early in 2021.”4:45 p.m.: MLB says 31 players have tested positiveThe Major League Baseball League and its Player’s Association announced on Friday the results of their first round of mandatory COVID-19 testing.The league said 31 players and seven staff members have tested positive, approximately 1.2% of the 3,185 samples collected and tested, according to the MLB.News of the testing results comes shortly after MLB announced the 2020 All-Star Game is canceled.4:45 p.m.: Texas reports 10th consecutive day of increased casesTexas health officials on Friday reported their latest COVID-19 data, revealing a 10th consecutive day of more confirmed cases.The state now has 183,522 total cases and 87,382 active cases, with 2,575 reported fatalities. At least 7,652 patients are hospitalized.The state is seeing a 13.92% positivity rate after administering 2,273,591 tests.Harris County, which includes Houston, currently has the most cases at 34,108. Dallas County is second-highest in the state with 22,590.4:00 p.m.: Ocean City to give out prizes to people wearing masks on the boardwalkAs New Jersey’s coast is inundated with sun-seekers this holiday weekend, officials are imploring residents and visitors to wear masks.Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said city officials plan to roam the boardwalk on Saturday evening, awarding prizes at random to families and individuals who are wearing masks, The Associated Press reported.The large crowds and gatherings that are expected at the beaches as the nation celebrates Independence Day have health officials on high alert. Moreover, New Jersey’s casinos, amusement rides, water parks and restaurants have also reopened — though with some capacity restrictions.“We are especially concerned after the gatherings we saw at the Jersey Shore,” the state’s health commissioner, Judith Persichilli, told the AP. “Individuals were packed together, which raises the risk of spreading the virus.”3:10 p.m.: 98% of new Louisiana cases due to community spreadAlmost all new COVID-19 cases in Louisiana — 98% — are because of community spread, the state’s health department reported.About half — 43% — are among people under 29 and younger.There have been an additional 1,756 new cases of COVID-19 since Thursday.The new cases come as Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Pelican player Zion Williamson released a PSA encouraging residents to wear a mask or face covering while in public.“It’s up to all of us to do our part, and the three best and easiest things we can do to significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus is to wear a mask when in public, practice social distancing and wash our hands frequently,” Edwards said. “As we head into this holiday weekend it is critical that we not forget or ease up on the mitigation efforts we know work. Together, being good neighbors to one another, we will slow the spread and save lives.”“We still have a lot of work to do in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana,” Williamson said. “Wear your mask and stay safe.”Louisiana only requires employees in open businesses — not patrons — to wear masks, according to Masks4All, an organization that promotes mask wearing.2:44 p.m.: Employees at 30 Publix stores in Florida test positiveEmployees at 30 Central Florida Publix stores have tested positive for COVID-19, the company confirmed in a statement.All employees who tested positive, and any employees in close contact with one of them, will be quarantined for 14 days and receive paid leave.“We continue to be keenly focused on intensive, ongoing protective measures in all our stores,” the statement said.2:14 p.m.: Arizona reports new high of current hospitalizationsHospitalizations and ICU capacity reached new highs in Arizona, according to the state’s health department.There were 3,013 current hospitalizations in the state and the ICU capacity hit 91%.There were also an additional 4,433 new COVID-19 cases, resulting in 91,858 total cases. An additional 31 people died, bringing the total to 1,788. 11:10 a.m.: Florida reports 9,488 new COVID-19 casesFlorida reported an additional 9,488 COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 178,594.The positivity rate was 14.8%, up .3% from Thursday, according to the state’s Department of Health.Lee County reported the highest rate of positivity at 22.1.%, with Miami-Dade following behind at 20.8%.10:50 a.m.: UK to lift quarantine for lower risk countries; US not among themTravelers to the United Kingdom from a handful of countries will no longer have to quarantine for 14 days, the government announced.The United States, however, is not among those countries.Fifty-nine countries and territories are on the list, including Australia, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Spain.Starting on July 10, anyone visiting the U.K. from those countries will not be required to self-isolate. The exemption may differ for those who have visited or stopped in any other country or territory 14 days prior.Currently, all international travelers, with a few exceptions, are required to self-isolate for 14 days.10:20 a.m.: Pakistani FM tests positive for COVID-19 a day after meeting with senior US officialsShah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, has tested positive for COVID-19, he wrote on Twitter.The news comes one day after Qureshi met with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the top U.S. diplomat brokering an end to the war in Afghanistan, and Adam Boehler, the head of the US government’s international finance development institution.“By the grace of Allah, I feel strong and energetic,” Qureshi tweeted. “I will continue to carry on my duties from home. Please keep me in your prayers.”8:57 a.m.: White House defends domestic trips as Secret Service agents test positiveThe White House is defending its domestic trips after yet another incident of Secret Service agents getting sick as a result of those trips.A senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “I hope it’s reflected that these trips have been an important way for the Task Force to get ground reports from states, provide states what they need when they need it, and to assure the American people that we’ll get through this together.”While Vice President Mike Pence’s trips this week to two hot spots — Florida and Arizona — took on a coronavirus focus, they were originally slated to include campaign activities as well. The campaign events were postponed.However, ABC News confirmed that Secret Service agents in Arizona who were preparing for a trip involving Pence tested positive for COVID-19 or showed signs of illness, which led to a postponement of the trip, according to a government official familiar with the matter.The delay was needed for the Secret Service to bring in a new team of healthy agents in to Phoenix to complete the trip, according to the official.7:50 a.m.: Face coverings required in Myrtle Beach ahead of holiday weekendAnyone in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is now required to wear a mask or face covering, Mayor Brenda Bethune told ABC News’ Good Morning America.The mandate comes ahead of what Bethune expected to be a crowded holiday weekend, with more than 100,000 tourists visiting.Bethune said they should have enacted a mask order earlier, but didn’t have the authority until just last week. The order went into effect Thursday at 11:59 p.m. local time.“I wish we could have done it sooner, we acted on it as quickly as possible,” Bethune said.7:36 a.m.: Penn State student dies of COVID-19 complicationsA student at Penn State University died of respiratory failure and COVID-19, according to a statement from the university.Juan Garcia, a 21-year-old College of Earth and Mineral Sciences student from Allentown, died June 30, the university said.He is the first known Penn State student death related to the coronavirus.“We are profoundly saddened to learn about Juan’s untimely death during this pandemic,” vice president for Student Affairs Damon Sims said. “While I did not know Juan personally, we have learned through conversations with those closest to him that this young man had a remarkable spirit and was greatly loved. I know our entire campus community sends our deepest condolences to his family and friends as they grieve this unthinkable loss. It is a poignant reminder that no one among us is immune to the worst consequences of this virus.”Garcia was living off campus when he began to feel ill, according to the university statement. He then traveled back home to Allentown on June 19 and was tested for COVID-19 on June 20.He died 10 days later.7:18 a.m.: ‘Great news’: Trump says of increase in number of COVID-19 casesEven as Republican-led states roll back reopenings due to the significant rise in coronavirus cases and warnings from his own government that the pandemic is far from over, President Donald Trump continues to take an optimistic tone about the increase in diagnosed COVID-19 cases.“There is a rise in Coronavirus cases because our testing is so massive and so good, far bigger and better than any other country,” Trump tweeted late Thursday night. “This is great news, but even better news is that death, and the death rate, is DOWN. Also, younger people, who get better much easier and faster!”However, Adm. Brett Giroir, the man Trump appointed to oversee testing, testified at a House hearing Thursday that “this is a real increase in cases” and not just attributable to increased testing.“There is no question that the more testing you get, the more you will uncover,” Giroir said Thursday. “But we do believe this is a real increase in cases because of the percent positives are going up. So, this is real increases in cases.”Giroir said the U.S. is not flattening the curve right now.“The curve is still going up,” he testified.Trump’s positively also comes the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its coronavirus death toll projections for July. Forecasts indicate that between 140,000 and 160,000 total deaths nationally are expected by July 25. The CDC forecast also suggests that the number of new deaths will increase in 11 states.The U.S. reported 52,815 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. This week was the biggest week-over-week jump since the third week in March, when testing had just begun to increase in the United States.5:55 a.m.: Arizona bar let COVID-19 positive workers continue working, officials sayThe state of Arizona has seen an incredible rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations recently, forcing the state to pause its reopening. And now one bar is under investigation after it allegedly allowed multiple employees known to have tested positive for the coronavirus to continue working.Varsity Tavern, located in downtown Tempe, allegedly permitted both employees and managers to continue working after being diagnosed, according to the State of Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.After the state agency began its investigation, the business decided to close on July 1.Officials are still seeking to revoke Varsity Tavern’s license. The establishment has had its license suspended twice before, once in December 2018 and again in July 2019.The Department of Liquor also alleges that the bar management knowingly didn’t notify health officials that workers tested positive, didn’t enforce social distancing requirements and didn’t enforce mask-wearing requirements.Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks and tubing operators, last Sunday to pause their operations until July 27 in a renewed effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.For the fifth day in a row, Arizona has surpassed its record number of hospitalizations on Thursday, with 2,938 patients currently hospitalized. At least 89% of ICU beds are now in use in the state.There are more than 87,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, with at least 1,764 deaths. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.