The novel coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 584,000 people worldwide.
Over 13.5 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 137,419 deaths.
Georgia bans local mask mandates NJ nursing homes allowing visitors
Here is how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Check back for updates.
9 a.m.: ‘Absolutely no way’ to open schools safely in high virus areas: Former CDC director
Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ABC News’ former chief health and medical editor, spoke to “Good Morning America” Thursday about the reopening of schools and the possibility of long-term health effects on children with COVID-19.
“As a pediatrician and parent I know that children need to be in school … but it has to be done safely. Not just for the children,” Besser said, “but teachers and staff have to be safe.”
“And we have to make sure that every school is safe — not just those in wealthy neighborhoods that have the money to retrofit classrooms and hire staff to do cleaning and hire staff to do screening,” Besser said.
He went on, “If you have widespread transmission in the community, like what is going in on in so many places, there’s absolutely no way to safely open schools. You have to get it under control in the community first and then get your schools open ready to open.”
Besser also addressed the possibility of long-term impacts on children who have COVID-19.
While most children with COVID-19 will do well, that’s not the case for every child, Besser said, and the possible future health effects are “one of the big concerns when there is a new infectious disease.”
Many adults who had COVID-19 still have fatigue and trouble breathing two months out, Besser said.
“There are a number of infections. If you get them in childhood, you get on into adulthood [and] they can have consequences,” he said.
8:15 a.m.: NJ nursing homes allowing visitors
Family members, legal guardians and support people can now visit residents at New Jersey’s long-term care facilities, the state’s Department of Health announced Wednesday.
“I understand how stressful and heartbreaking it has been for so many families not to be able to visit their loved ones in person for more than three months now,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement. “Reuniting families with their loved ones in these facilities is a critical step for the mental, physical, social and emotional well-being of these residents.”
Visitors must wear masks, be screened for symptoms, get their temperature checked and maintain social distancing from other residents and staff.
The long-term care facilities can only allow visitors if no COVID-19 cases have been reported on site for 28 days (two incubation periods), the department said.
6:58 a.m.: Tulsa City Council passes mandatory mask ordinance
The Tulsa City Council in Oklahoma has issued a mask mandate less than a month after President Donald Trump held a reelection rally at an arena in the city.
The ordinance was passed with a 7-2 vote and is expected to be signed by Mayor G. T. Bynum on Thursday.
“I am very grateful for the broad support of the City Council in approving this important ordinance. Our local health care leaders made clear how important this is, and the City of Tulsa listened,” Bynum said in a statement Wednesday night. “This pandemic continues to present us with difficult decisions that no elected official would ever want to make, but we will continue to do what we have to do to protect our local health care system.”
The ordinance requires anyone over the age of 18 who will be in public places where social distancing is challenging to wear a mask.
“The science is clear that the use of cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings,” Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said in a statement. “Wearing a mask not only considers others, but also allows us the freedom to go about our day during this new normal.”
Tulsa’s face-covering mandate comes just a day after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who attended Trump’s rally without wearing a mask, announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Oklahoma has more than 22,000 diagnosed COVID-19 cases, with at least 432 deaths.
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
5:42 a.m.: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp bans local mask rules
Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order Wednesday night, which outright banned cities and counties in the state from issuing mask orders to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The move, despite neighboring states like Alabama requiring masks in public, voided mask mandates in 15 local jurisdictions in the Peach State where they had been implemented.
While outlawing mask mandates, Kemp’s executive order “strongly” encourages all residents and visitors in Georgia to “wear face coverings as practicable while outside their homes or place of residence, except when eating, drinking or exercising outdoors.”
Kemp’s order comes after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottom issued an executive order requiring masks or face coverings in the city on July 8.
The state, according to an internal Federal Emergency Management Agency memo obtained by ABC News, has a test-positivity rate greater than 10%, with record numbers of new cases in rural, urban and suburban areas alike.
Georgia has had more than 127,838 diagnosed cases of coronavirus, with at least 3,091 deaths.
ABC News’ Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.