By MORGAN WINSOR, ERIN SCHUMAKER and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 96.3 million people worldwide and killed over 2 million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:
Jan 20, 11:20 am
US surgeon general resigns at Biden’s request
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams resigned from his post Wednesday at the request of President-elect Joe Biden.
“I’ve been asked by the Biden team to step down as Surgeon General,” Adams wrote on his official Twitter account.
In a lengthy statement that was posted on Facebook, Adams reflected on his role in the COVID-19 response.
“In the face of a once in a century pandemic, I sought to communicate the rapidly evolving science on this deadly adversary, and arm people with the knowledge and tools they needed to stay safe,” he said. “I wasn’t always right — because no one was, and this virus continues to humble all of us — but I was always sincere in my efforts to speak to every day Americans, and address the terrible health inequities this virus exposed.”
Biden has nominated former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy back to the position and as a senior adviser in the COVID-19 response. Murthy’s nomination will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Jan 20, 10:23 am
Biden to sign executive order that will require masks on federal property
Joe Biden plans to sign more than a dozen executive actions after he is sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, including one that will impose a mask mandate in federal buildings and on federal land.
The new requirement will be part of Biden’s “100 Days Mask Challenge,” which asks Americans to wear face masks for that time period.
Biden plans to sign another executive order that will create the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator and restore the National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which is responsible for pandemic preparedness and was dissolved by the Trump administration in 2018.
Biden also plans to reverse President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
Jan 20, 9:51 am
Vatican begins vaccinating Rome’s homeless against COVID-19
Vatican City began offering free COVID-19 vaccinations to Rome’s homeless community on Wednesday, according to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.
The vaccinations took place in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall, the massive auditorium where the Pope holds his weekly general audiences. An initial group of around 25 homeless individuals, who are all looked after in facilities run by the Office of Papal Charities, received their first doses of the vaccine Wednesday morning, according to Bruni.
“Further groups are to follow in the coming days,” Bruni said in a statement.
Vatican City, an independent enclave surrounded by Rome that serves as the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, launched a COVID-19 immunization campaign last week, administering doses of a vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. The tiny city-state has a population of only around 800 people but employs more than 4,000.
Both Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, have received their first doses of the vaccine.
The vaccination campaign is voluntary and people under the age of 18 are being excluded for the time being, according to Bruni.
Since the start of the pandemic, Vatican City has reported at least 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Jan 20, 8:49 am
Some UK hospitals are ‘like a war zone,’ government’s top scientific adviser says
Some hospitals in the United Kingdom look “like a war zone” as doctors and nurses workers grapple with an influx of COVID-19 patients, according to Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser.
“It may not look like it when you go for a walk in the park, but when you go into a hospital, this is very, very bad at the moment with enormous pressure and in some cases it looks like a war zone in terms of the things that people are having to deal with,” Vallance told Sky News in an interview Wednesday.
He said there have been “huge numbers” of COVID-19 cases in recent days and that the country’s health care system “is under enormous pressure at the moment.” Official figures show nearly 38,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.K.
Vallance’s comments come after the U.K. reported a record 1,610 additional deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, as the cumulative total approaches 100,000. Since the start of the pandemic, the country has confirmed more than 3.4 million cases of the disease, including more than 91,000 fatalities, according to the latest data published on the British government’s website.
The U.K. — an island nation of 66 million people made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — has the fifth-highest number of diagnosed cases worldwide and the fourth-highest death toll, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Jan 20, 7:56 am
Zimbabwe’s foreign minister dies from COVID-19
Zimbabwe’s minister of foreign affairs and international trade, Sibusiso Moyo, has died from COVID-19, officials said. He was 61.
Moyo “succumbed to COVID-19 at a local hospital” early Wednesday morning, according to a statement from presidential spokesman George Charamba.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa took to Twitter to confirm the news and post a photo of Moyo.
“Zimbabwe has lost a devoted public servant and a true hero, and I have lost a friend. He fought his entire life so that Zimbabwe could be free,” Mnangagwa tweeted. “May he rest in peace.”
Moyo gained recognition in November 2017 as the army general who announced on national television that the Zimbabwean military had placed then-President Robert Mugabe under house arrest, while insisting it was not a coup. The move ended Mugabe’s 37-year rule and Moyo was appointed to Mnangagwa’s cabinet when he took power with military backing.
Zimbabwe has recently seen a surge in COVID-19 infections amid fears of a new, more contagious variant of the novel coronavirus that emerged in neighboring South Africa. Zimbabwe has confirmed more than 28,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including at least 825 deaths, according to the latest data from the Africas Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jan 20, 6:41 am
Over 15.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in US so far
More than 15.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States to date, according to data published on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Over 13.5 million people have received one or more doses of the vaccine, while more than two million have received two doses, according to the CDC data, which was updated Tuesday.
Jan 20, 5:39 am
US reports over 168,000 new cases
There were 168,058 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Tuesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The latest daily case count is far less than the country’s all-time high of 298,031 newly confirmed infections on Jan. 2, Johns Hopkins data shows.
An additional 2,550 fatalities from COVID-19 were registered nationwide on Tuesday, down from a peak of 4,462 new deaths on Jan. 12, according to Johns Hopkins data.
COVID-19 data may be skewed due to possible lags in reporting over the holidays followed by a potentially very large backlog.
A total of 24,253,368 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 401,730 have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.
Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of the pandemic hit. 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 over the summer.
The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4, then reaching 200,000 on Nov. 27 before nearing 300,000 on Jan. 2.
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