Coronavirus updates: Space Force's second in command tests positive

The novel coronavirus pandemic has killed over 1.1 million people worldwide.

Last Updated: October 28, 2020, 10:38 PM EDT

A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide.

Over 44.3 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 national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks. The criteria for diagnosis -- through clinical means or a lab test -- has also varied from country to country.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the virus has rapidly spread to every continent except Antarctica. The United States is the worst-affected nation, with more than 8.8 million diagnosed cases and at least 227,673 deaths.

Nearly 200 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, at least 10 of which are in crucial phase three studies. Of those 10 potential vaccines in late-stage trials, there are currently five that will be available in the United States if approved.

Latest headlines:

Here's how the news developed today. All times Eastern.
Oct 28, 2020, 10:38 PM EDT

13 Arkansas lawmakers, state surgeon general test positive for COVID-19

Thirteen Arkansas lawmakers have so far tested positive for COVID-19, as an outbreak among state legislators grew by two on Wednesday, officials announced.

The number includes nine House members and four senators. 

Also on Wednesday, the state surgeon general, Dr. Gregory Bledsoe, revealed that he had tested positive for the virus. The diagnosis comes two days after he announced on social media that his parents, wife and two of his three children had tested positive for the virus "in spite of our best attempts to distance & wear masks." 

The state recorded 952 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, for a total of 107,679.

Oct 28, 2020, 10:16 PM EDT

COVID-19 cases increasing in 42 states and territories: HHS

New coronavirus cases are increasing in 42 states and territories, according to an internal Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News.

Six jurisdictions are at a plateau, and new cases are decreasing in eight, the memo said.

The number of new cases reported from Oct. 21 to 27 increased by 21.7% compared to the previous seven-day period, according to the memo.

New deaths increased 8.8% during that same time period. 

Vehicles line up as a health care worker helps to check in people who are being tested at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020.
David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

The national test-positivity rate also increased to 6.2% from 5.8% in week-to-week comparisons.

Across the country, 23% of hospitals have more than 80% of their intensive care unit beds filled, according to HHS. That number was 17% to 18% during the summertime peak. 

Hospital strain is a concern in several states, including Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Hospitals in New Mexico are seeing higher numbers of younger patients, while ones in Oklahoma City are reducing elective surgeries and calling for volunteers with medical backgrounds due to a surge in COVID-19 patients, the memo noted. 

ABC News' Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

Oct 28, 2020, 8:39 PM EDT

Space Force general tests positive

The No. 2 in command of the Space Force has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to federal officials.

Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations, took the test after he learned he came in contact with a close family member who contracted the virus, according to the U.S. Air Force.

PHOTO: The chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force displays the service’s uniform name tapes in the Pentagon Jan. 17, 2020, in Arlington, Va.
The chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force displays the service’s uniform name tapes in the Pentagon Jan. 17, 2020, in Arlington, Va. The Space Force is the sixth branch of service that was established during the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 20, 2019.
U.S. Space Force

"In accordance with established COVID policies, General Thompson is self-quarantining and working remotely from home," the Air Force said in a statement.

ABC News' Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

Oct 28, 2020, 6:30 PM EDT

Americans will receive vaccine at no cost: Feds

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed Wednesday that any COVID-19 vaccine authorized or approved by Food and Drug Administration will be available at no cost to Americans.

The agency will require that Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance to cover the cost of administering the vaccine and said medical providers will be reimbursed for administering vaccines to individuals without insurance.

"The rule covers both vaccines authorized through an emergency authorization and full licensing approval," CMS Administrator Seema Varma said on a call with reporters.

Varma said that the policy will be in place regardless of the results of the election.

ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs contributed to this report.