CDC to start surveying nation's wastewater

There were 35,112 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the U.S. on Monday.

August 18, 2020, 10:05 PM

A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 779,000 people worldwide.

Over 22 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.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 5.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 171,687 deaths.

Latest headlines:

  • New cases trend down while deaths increase, says FEMA memo
  • Global COVID-19 cases surpass 22 million
  • CDC to start surveying nation's wastewater
  • WHO warns younger people are 'driving' COVID-19 spread in Asia Pacific
  • US reports under 40,000 new cases for 1st time since June
  • Here's how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates.

    10:03 p.m.: New cases trend down as deaths increase, FEMA memo says

    New COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to decrease week-over-week, but new deaths are back up, according to an internal FEMA memo obtained by ABC News.

    In the last week, there were 358,071 new confirmed cases, down 2% from the previous seven-day period, the memo said. There were 7,463 deaths -- up 3.6% compared to the previous week.

    The national test-positivity rate was 6.1%, down from 7% for the prior seven-day period.

    Areas of concern include Louisiana, which had 15 hospitals reporting no ICU beds available despite a continued decrease in hospitalizations from Aug 1-11, according to the memo. In Oklahoma, more than 6% of all COVID-91 cases statewide were within the health care industry, the memo said.

    9:31 p.m.: Global COVID-19 cases hits 22 million

    The number of people with COVID-19 worldwide surpassed 22 million Tuesday night.

    According to Johns Hopkins University, there were 22,046,135 confirmed cases shortly after 9 p.m.

    Since July, the number of global cases has increased by one million approximately every four days. In June, it was approximately every week, and in May it was approximately every 10 days.

    7:13 p.m.: CDC to initiate surveillance program on America's wastewater

    The federal government plans to start surveying America's wastewater to better understand the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that they are creating a national database on wastewater data. The agencies are asking state and local health departments to conduct tests on their own and submit the data in a portal, which is currently under development.

    The data generated by the surveillance system "will help public health officials to better understand the extent of COVID-19 infections in communities," the CDC said.

    CDC has said previously that COVID-19 doesn’t show up in pools or hot tubs, but it has been detected in untreated wastewater.

    5:32 p.m.: Patriots to play first two home games without fans

    The New England Patriots will not have any fans in attendance during their first two regular-season home games "in the interest of public safety," team officials said Tuesday.

    The Massachusetts Reopening Advisory Board is not permitting Gillette Stadium to host fans through the end of September, officials said.

    That affects its home opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 13 and a game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 27.

    Officials said the stadium will prepare to safely host fans later this fall based on guidance from the reopening board.

    The announcement comes a day after defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs said they will start its season on Sept. 10 with its stadium at 22% capacity.

    3:15 p.m.: No large gatherings if we want schools to reopen, Birx says

    Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said asymptomatic spread at large gatherings is hurting the ability to reopen schools across the country and asked the public to follow proper social distancing guidelines to open the "pathway forward."

    "What does social distancing mean? It means that we're asking every citizen to not have large gatherings in their backyards until we have an effective vaccine," Birx told reporters in Missouri during a briefing on Tuesday. "We know there's amazing asymptomatic spread."

    Birx continued, "We all want to believe our family members, our neighbors couldn't possibly have COVID. I can tell you across the United states they do," citing "parties in Texas where 150 out of 150 people were infected, an outdoor party."

    "If we decrease community spread in this common sense pathway forward, we can have the schools open, we can have the universities and colleges open, we can have the sports teams, but we all have to do our part to get these cases down, no matter where you live in the United States," she added.

    2:45 p.m.: University cluster traced to off-campus party

    A cluster of active cases at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville has been traced back to an off-campus party that took place last week, school Chancellor Donde Plowman said on Tuesday.

    According to information on the university's website, there are 66 students and nine employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, with another 270 in self-isolation.

    The university has seen a rise in cases the last 6 days -- on Aug. 12 there were 28 COVID-19 cases and 150 people in isolation.

    Plowman implored students to cooperate with efforts to conduct contact tracing.

    "If students do not cooperate, you could be expelled, so just listen to that very carefully," Plowman said.

    Classes for the fall semester at the university are scheduled to start on Wednesday.

    11:49 a.m.: New York state adds Alaska, Delaware to travel advisory list

    Two more states have been added to New York's coronavirus travel advisory list, which mandates a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals who have traveled from those states.

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that Alaska and Delaware meet the metrics to qualify for the travel advisory. Delaware was removed from the list earlier this month but was re-added on Tuesday.

    No areas have been removed from the list, which now includes 33 states that Cuomo says have "significant community spread."

    The states are Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin

    11:31 a.m.: WHO chief warns against 'vaccine nationalism'

    The head of the World Health Organization is warning against what he calls "vaccine nationalism," saying that sharing supplies is in each country's national interest.

    "We have learned the hard way that the fastest way to end this pandemic and to reopen economies is to start by protecting the highest risk populations everywhere, rather than just the populations of some countries," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general, said at a press conference Tuesday. "No one is safe until everyone is safe."

    "It's critical that countries don't repeat the same mistakes," he added. "We need to prevent vaccine nationalism. And for this reason, WHO is working with governments and the private sector to both accelerate the signs through the ACT Accelerator and ensure that new innovations are available to everyone, everywhere."

    The allocation of vaccines through the WHO's Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is slated to be rolled out in two phases, according to Tedros. In the first phase, vaccines will be allocated proportionally to all participating countries simultaneously to reduce overall risk. In the second phase, consideration will be given to countries in relation to threat and vulnerability.

    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, July 3, 2020.

    Tedros noted that front-line workers in health and social care settings will be prioritized because they are essential to treating and protecting populations and also come in close contact with people in age groups at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19.

    "For most countries, a phase one allocation that builds up to 20% of the population would cover most of the at-risk groups," he said. "If we don't protect this highest risk people from the virus everywhere and at the same time, we can't stabilize health systems and rebuild the global economy."

    Dozens of potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus are undergoing clinical trials around the world. Last week, Russia became the first country in the world to officially register a COVID-19 vaccine and declare it ready for use. However, Moscow approved the drug before completing its final Phase III trial, and no scientific data has been released from the early trials so far.

    11:07 a.m.: Over 2,000 students in Georgia school district under quarantine

    More than 2,000 students in a single Georgia school district have been ordered to self-quarantine this month, as dozens of COVID-19 cases were confirmed in various schools.

    Georgia's Cherokee County reopened its schools on Aug. 3, welcoming back 30,000 students for in-person learning. Since then, at least 2,221 students and 47 staff members from more than a dozen schools have been placed under mandated two-week quarantines, according to data published Tuesday on the school district's website.

    PHOTO: Supporters of the Cherokee County School District's decision to reopen schools to students during the coronavirus pandemic rally outside the district's headquarters in Canton, Ga., Aug. 11, 2020.
    Supporters of the Cherokee County School District's decision to reopen schools to students during the coronavirus pandemic rally outside the district's headquarters, the Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo Educational Services Facility in Canton, Ga., Aug. 11, 2020.
    Dustin Chambers/Reuters

    More than 150 students and staff who had quarantined earlier are now eligible to return to school, the data shows.

    So far, three high schools in the district have been forced to temporarily close due to the growing clusters of cases among pupils and staff.

    10:30 a.m.: New Zealand's prime minister claps back at Trump

    New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has clapped back at U.S. President Donald Trump for saying her country is experiencing a "big surge" in COVID-19 cases, calling his comments "patently wrong."

    "I think anyone who's following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand's nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States' tens of thousands, and in fact does not compare to most countries in the world," Ardern told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

    "Obviously, it's patently wrong," she said of Trump's remarks.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament, Aug. 17, 2020, in Wellington, New Zealand.
    Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

    The American commander-in-chief made the comments Monday during a campaign rally in Minnesota.

    "Do you see what’s happening in New Zealand? They beat it, they beat it, it was like front-page news because they wanted to show me something," Trump told the crowd of supporters. "Big surge in New Zealand, you know it’s terrible, we don’t want that."

    Since the coronavirus pandemic began, New Zealand has reported fewer than 1,700 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 with at least 22 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Last week, after going 102 days without local transmission, the country of 5 million people recorded a cluster of new cases in Auckland, its most populous city.

    Meanwhile, the United States is by far the worst-hit nation with well over 5 million diagnosed cases and more than 170,000 deaths.

    9:10 a.m.: Gov. Cuomo writing a book about pandemic

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is writing a book about his experiences leading the state through the coronavirus pandemic and interacting with the Trump administration.

    The Crown Publishing Group, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, announced Tuesday that Cuomo's book, "American Crisis," will be published on Oct. 13, three weeks before Election Day.

    PHOTO: The cover of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic."
    The cover of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic." Cuomo gained a national following through his management of the coronavirus pandemic in his state. The book looks back on his experiences.

    "In his own voice, Andrew Cuomo chronicles in 'American Crisis' the ingenuity and sacrifice required of so many to fight the pandemic, sharing his personal reflections on 40 years in government and the decision-making that shaped his political policy, and offers his frank accounting and assessment of his interactions with the federal government and the White House, as well as other state and local political and health officials," Crown said in a statement. "Real leadership, he argues, requires clear communication, compassion for others, and a commitment to truth-telling—no matter how frightening the facts may be."

    New York City was once the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. In an excerpt from his upcoming book, which Crown released to the media, the Democratic governor discusses fear.

    "If you don’t feel fear, you don’t appreciate the consequences of the circumstance," Cuomo writes. "The questions are what do you do with the fear and would you succumb to it. I would not allow the fear to control me. The fear kept my adrenaline high and that was a positive. But I would not let the fear be a negative, and I would not spread it. Fear is a virus also."

    8:26 a.m.: 'Cases are falling,' says Adm. Brett Giroir

    Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the country is indeed seeing a drop in coronavirus infections, with the number of new cases decreasing by about 22% since the third week of July.

    "We know that's a real number because hospitalizations have also gone down 24%, so those things track," Giroir told ABC News in an interview Tuesday on "Good Morning America."

    Adm. Brett Griroir, assistant secretary for health and human services, appeared on "Good Morning America" on Aug. 18, 2020.

    Currently, around 825,000 COVID-19 tests are being conducted in the United States per day. The nation has the capacity to carry out almost 50 million tests in August, and that's expected to ramp up to nearly 90 million in September, according to Giroir, who is a medical doctor and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force

    "Cases are falling, and we know that's true. We have plenty enough testing to know that," he said.

    7:58 a.m.: FDA warns popular COVID-19 test could be inaccurate

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning of "a risk of false results" with a widely-used COVID-19 test.

    The federal agency issued an alert Monday to clinical laboratory staff and health care providers using Thermo Fisher Scientific's TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit, a molecular assay for the detection of the novel coronavirus from respiratory specimens. The FDA said issues related to laboratory equipment and software used to run the popular test could lead to inaccuracies.

    TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit.

    The agency advised clinical laboratory staff and health care providers to "implement promptly the software updates and the updated instructions for use" from the company.

    "The FDA is working with Thermo Fisher Scientific and our public health partners to resolve these issues," the agency said in a statement Monday. "The FDA will continue to keep clinical laboratory staff, health care providers, manufacturers, and the public informed of new or additional information."

    ABC News has reached out to Thermo Fisher Scientific for comment.

    7:14 a.m.: Finland's prime minister to be tested after experiencing 'mild' symptoms

    Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced Tuesday that she will be tested for COVID-19 after experiencing "mild respiratory symptoms."

    Marin wrote on Twitter that she will be working from home while she awaits her test results.

    Finish Prime Minister Sanna Marin makes a statement as she arrives for the fourth day of a summit with European Union leaders at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, on July 20, 2020.
    Francisco Seco/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

    As of Tuesday afternoon, Finland had reported at least 7,752 cases of COVID-19 with 334 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

    What to know about coronavirus:

    6:39 a.m.: UNC-Chapel Hill shifts to remote learning within a week of starting classes

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Monday that it will suspend in-person classes after seeing the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus rise almost fivefold.

    The public research university in the town of Chapel Hill, about 25 miles from Raleigh, held its first day of class just one week ago after welcoming students back into its residence halls the week prior. Although residence halls were at less than 60% capacity and fewer than 30% of total classroom seats were taught in-person, the school said the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus increased from 2.8% on Aug. 10 to 13.6% on Aug. 16.

    PHOTO: Students wait to enter Woolen Gym on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Aug. 17, 2020.
    Students wait to enter Woolen Gym on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Aug. 17, 2020. The university announced minutes before that all classes will be moved online starting Aug. 19 due to clusters of COVID-19 cases on campus.
    Julia Wall/The News & Observer via AP

    As of Monday morning, the university said it has tested 954 students so far, and 177 were in isolation and 349 were in quarantine, both on and off campus. Most students who have tested positive for COVID-19 "have demonstrated mild symptoms," according to a letter to the university community from chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and executive vice chancellor and provost Robert A. Blouin.

    "Effective Wednesday, August 19, all undergraduate in-person instruction will shift to remote learning," Guskiewicz and Blouin wrote. "Courses in our graduate, professional and health affairs schools will continue to be taught as they are, or as directed by the schools. Academic advising and academic support services will be available online. Our research enterprise will remain unchanged."

    "Due to this announcement as well as the reduction of campus activities, we expect the majority of our current undergraduate residential students to change their residential plans for the fall," they added. "As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, the current data presents an untenable situation."

    5:21 a.m.: WHO warns younger people are 'driving' COVID-19 spread in Asia Pacific

    The World Health Organization warned Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic is "changing" in the Asia-Pacific region, where younger people are now the ones "driving its spread."

    "What we are observing is not simply a resurgence; we believe it is a signal that we have entered a new phase of the pandemic in the Asia Pacific," Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said at a virtual press conference. "The epidemic is changing. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving its spread."

    People wearing face masks walk across a traffic intersection in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, Japan on Aug. 17, 2020.
    Hiro Komae/AP

    Various countries in the region, including Australia, the Philippines and Japan, are reporting rising numbers of people under the age of 40 contracting the novel coronavirus, according to the WHO.

    "Many are unaware they are infected with very mild symptoms, or none at all," Kasai said. "This can result in them unknowingly passing on the virus to others."

    4:50 a.m.: Walgreens coding error causes under-reporting of 59,000 test results in Texas

    The Texas Department of State Health Services tells Corpus Christi ABC affiliate KIII that Walgreens Pharmacy reported experiencing a coding error, causing the under-reporting of some 59,000 COVID-19 test results statewide.

    The coding error has now been corrected, according to KIII, but counties across Texas will likely see their COVID-19 statistics change as the data dump is set to take place.

    Shoppers enter a Walgreens store in Los Angeles, California, on June 24, 2019.
    Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

    A Walgreens spokesperson told ABC News that the company has worked "closely" with Texas officials on COVID-19 testing efforts and "immediately assessed the reporting issue" when they learned of it on Monday.

    "There was a discrepancy between state requirements for coding and what was being delivered," the spokesperson said. "Our physician network partner, who is responsible for reporting COVID-19 test results to the state, has been working diligently with local officials and the problem has been rectified."

    The spokesperson noted that the issue did not affect the accuracy of the test results nor the timely reporting of test results to patients.

    As of Monday, the Lone Star State had reported at least 542,950 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 10,034 deaths, according to a count kept by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

    3:35 a.m.: US reports under 40,000 new cases for 1st time since June

    There were 35,112 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the United States on Monday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

    It's the first time since June 28 that the country has reported under 40,000 new cases in a single day. Monday's case count is also well below the record set on July 16, when more than 77,000 new cases were identified in a 24-hour reporting period.

    An additional 445 coronavirus-related deaths were also recorded Monday.

    Health workers provide COVID-19 testing on a street in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 14, 2020.
    Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

    A total of 5,443,162 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 170,548 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.

    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 70,000 for the first time in mid-July.

    However, week-over-week comparisons show that the nationwide number of new cases has continued to decrease in recent weeks, according to an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, obtained by ABC News on Sunday night.

    ABC News' Alexandra Faul, Anne Flaherty, Josh Margolin, Christine Theodorou and J. Gabriel Ware contributed to this report.

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