National News

Heavy rain ongoing on Gulf Coast as storm aims for Northeast next week

georgeclerk/iStockBY: REED MCDONOUGH, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — Heavy rain is ongoing along the northern Gulf Coast Saturday morning.

As of Friday evening, several counties reported over 2 inches of rainfall over a 24 hours period, including Polk County, Texas, that saw 3.18 inches and Wharton County, Texas, which saw 4.98 inches of rain.

The frontal boundary is expected to hover over the same area through Sunday, bringing more heavy rainfall in the already-saturated locations.

Localized flooding is expected, along with the potential for some local flash flooding as 3-6 more inches of rain is expected through the weekend in some Gulf Coast locations.

By Sunday afternoon, the system will develop a strong center of low pressure that will get picked up by a jet stream and start quickly moving to the Northeast.

The system hustles into the Northeast with a strong cold front by Monday.

Gusty winds, heavy rain and coastal inundation are expected in some areas of the Northeast and New England by Monday afternoon and evening.

Cold air will rush in on the system's backside across the Great Lakes, bringing the threat for lake effect snow Monday into Tuesday.

The system will bring up to 2 inches of rain to the Northeast, with some very localized areas receiving more.

By early Tuesday, backside snow will drop 3-5 inches in the lake effect Snowbelt region of northwest Pennsylvania and extreme western New York state.

Wind chill values will be in the 30s for parts of the Gulf Coast and in the middle teens for parts of the Midwest Tuesday morning.

The colder air mass eventually reaches the Northeast by late Tuesday into Wednesday, but not before temperatures jump well above normal into the 60s on Monday and Tuesday from Washington D.C. to Boston.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, as people wake up Saturday morning, the area has several weather alerts, including red flag warnings, frost advisories and freeze warnings.

The fire risk will be critical early Saturday before being reduced to elevated later Saturday into Sunday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Coronavirus live updates: US virus cases may be about 8 times higher than reported

Myriam Borzee/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, IVAN PEREIRA and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 61 million people and killed over 1.4 million worldwide, 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 Friday. All times Eastern:

Nov 27, 5:16 pm
US tops 13 million cases


More than 13 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. crossed 12 million cases six days ago.

Experts have cautioned against reading too much into data reported before next week, as some state updates may be spotty due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nov 27, 4:58 pm
Vermont officials urge residents to quarantine after Thanksgiving


Vermont officials are urging people who had Thanksgiving gatherings with those outside their household to now quarantine.
 
“My request to Vermonters who may have participated in travel and/or multi-household gatherings is simply this: Please quarantine yourselves at home, and please get tested now and in seven days,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said during a press briefing Friday.
 
Gov. Phil Scott echoed the health commissioner’s request.

“If you have had one of those gatherings yesterday, then you shouldn't send your kids to school next week," he said. "You should quarantine your kids for at least seven days, get a test, and then we'll move forward."

Scott said earlier in the week that school officials will ask returning students if they attended a Thanksgiving gathering with people outside their household to determine quarantine requirements.

"We did all of this to try and protect Vermont, to try and prevent the rise in the number of cases," Scott said Friday.
 
ABC News' Joshua Hoyos contributed to this report

Nov 27, 4:10 pm
Ravens-Steelers game postponed again

The Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers Thanksgiving Day game, which was moved to Sunday due to a COVID-19 outbreak, has been postponed again -- to Tuesday.

"These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts," the NFL said in a statement.

The move comes after eight Baltimore players were publicly put on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, including defensive end Jihad Ward as of Thursday.

The list means either a player tested positive for COVID-19 or has been identified as a close contact of someone who did.

Though according to ESPN, at least 12 Ravens players have tested positive for COVID-19, including NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.

Nov 27, 1:56 pm
Brazil's president says he won't take a COVID-19 vaccine


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro insisted he will not take a COVID-19 vaccine.

"I'm telling you, I'm not going to take it. It's my right," Bolsonaro said Thursday in a live broadcast streamed on various social media platforms.

The right-wing leader also said that Brazil's National Congress is unlikely to require citizens to get vaccinated for COVID-19, and he expressed skepticism over the effectiveness of face masks in curbing the spread of the virus.

Bolsonaro, an avid supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, has downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic despite getting infected himself over the summer.

Brazil has the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world, behind only the United States, and the third-highest number of confirmed cases, after India and the United States, according to a real-time tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Nov 27, 1:38 pm
COVID-19 patient with 'irreversible lung damage' recovers after transplant


A COVID-19 patient whose lungs had been severely damaged by the virus has made a miraculous recovery after undergoing a double lung transplant at a Texas hospital.

Paul Rodriguez, 52, of San Antonio, had no pre-existing conditions when he contracted the novel coronavirus and fell ill with pneumonia in July. Rodriguez was hospitalized at an area hospital in his hometown and required intubation as well as the use of a ventilator. Then in mid-September, Rodriguez was transferred to Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston for evaluation, "as it became clear that a lung transplant was his only chance of survival," according to a press release from the hospital, which said the patient had "irreversible lung damage."

Rodriguez was approved for a transplant and, within a week of listing, he received a brand-new set of lungs on Oct. 15. After being successfully weaned off the ventilator and oxygen support, Rodriguez underwent rehabilitation at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center and was discharged on Nov. 24. He is expected to continue the rehabilitation program as part of his recovery, according to the press release.

"Rodriguez is the first double lung transplant the hospital has performed on a coronavirus patient since the pandemic began," Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center said in a statement. "To date, only a handful of transplant centers in the U.S. have performed lung transplants on patients due to irreversible lung damage caused by the virus."

Nov 27, 11:49 am
COVID-19 cases in US may be about 8 times higher than reported


The actual number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in the United States reached nearly 53 million at the end of September, according to a model developed by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The scientists estimated the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 in the U.S. population by taking the laboratory-confirmed case counts that were reported nationally and adjusting them for sources of under-detection based on testing practices in inpatient and outpatient settings. Preliminary estimates using the model found that 2.4 million hospitalizations, 44.8 million symptomatic illnesses and 52.9 million total infections may have occurred through Sept. 30.

"This indicates that approximately 84% of the U.S. population has not yet been infected and thus most of the country remains at risk, despite already high rates of hospitalization," the scientists wrote in a report published in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

There were 6.9 million laboratory-confirmed cases of of domestically-acquired infections that were detected and reported nationally through Sept. 30. Since then, the CDC's tally has increased to nearly 12.5 million. Based on the model's ratio, the true estimated total would now be more than 95 million.

Nov 27, 8:46 am
UK government asks regulator to assess AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine


U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Friday that he has formally asked the country's medicines regulator to assess whether a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford "meets rigorous safety standards."

The move comes amid questions about preliminary results from late-stage trials of the vaccine candidate, called AZD1222, after the England-based pharmaceutical giant and the university acknowledged that the most positive findings actually stemmed from a dosing error.

On Monday, researchers announced the interim analysis of Phase 3 trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil, which looked at two different dosing regimens. One regimen showed vaccine efficacy of 90% when AZD1222 was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart. A second regimen showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart. The combined analysis from both dosing regimens showed an average efficacy of 70%.

The COVID-19 vaccine candidate is the second to reach the formal assessment stage in the United Kingdom, following one developed by New York City-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Nov 27, 7:56 am
Moscow sees 311% spike in COVID-19 deaths


Moscow saw a 311% month-to-month increase in COVID-19 deaths for October, health authorities said.

According to the Moscow Healthcare Department, the Russian capital reported 543 COVID-19 deaths in September followed by 2,235 deaths in October -- an increase of more than 311% -- as a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic swept the country.

Meanwhile, Russia reported a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections on Friday, with the country's coronavirus response headquarters confirming a record 27,543 new cases in the last 24 hours. An additional 496 new deaths from the disease were also registered nationwide in the past day. The country's cumulative total now stands at 2,215,533 confirmed cases, including 38,558 deaths.

Moscow continues to be the epicenter of Russia's COVID-19 outbreak and recent surge. The city accounted for nearly 29% of the newly reported cases and more than 15% of the newly registered deaths, according to the country's coronavirus response headquarters.

The Eastern European nation of 145 million people has the fifth-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Nov 27, 6:50 am
US reports over 110,000 new cases on Thanksgiving


There were 110,611 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the 24th straight day that the country has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Thursday's count is down from a peak of 196,004 new cases on Nov. 20.

An additional 1,232 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Thursday, less than the all-time high of 2,609 new deaths on April 15.

COVID-19 data may be skewed this week and next due to possible lags in reporting over Thanksgiving followed by a potentially very large backlog from the holiday.

A total of 12,885,299 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 263,462 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.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of 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 and crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New storm system to travel across the South this weekend

ABC NewsBy DANIEL MANZO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After a relatively quiet Thanksgiving across much of the U.S., the weather pattern is about to turn quite turbulent in the coming days.

A new storm system is going to develop this weekend and track across the Southern and Eastern U.S. bringing multiple hazards, including heavy rain, strong thunderstorms, damaging winds and some snow.

The first impacts of the storm will be Friday with some strong thunderstorms forming near Southeast Texas.

On Saturday, the storm will start to get more organized with heavy rain moving onshore to Southern Texas and New Orleans where localized flooding will be possible.

On Sunday, the storm will be moving through the Gulf States and heavy rain will spread over much of the South from Louisiana to the Carolinas.

Once again localized flooding and some occasional strong thunderstorms with gusty winds will be possible, especially from New Orleans to Raleigh, North Carolina.

On Monday, as the storm travels up the eastern U.S., it will be invigorated by a cold shot of air coming in from the Midwest and the storm will strengthen somewhere over the Appalachians.

The result on the milder eastern side of the storm will be widespread with very heavy rainfall. Additionally, some very strong winds will have the potential to mix down from aloft, especially across New England which could result in some potential for damaging wind gusts, including power outages.

On the colder side of the storm, precipitation will be falling as snow in parts of Ohio and with the heaviest snow likely to be near the Great Lakes.

It remains too early to determine the precise location of the heaviest snow because it will be determined by the precise location of the strengthening storm.

The main global forecast models are indicating that the storm will be a little slow to move out of the region as it moves into southern Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday but the good news is that the storm should weaken during this time period.

The storm will help pull a shot of cold air across much of the central and eastern U.S. with wind chills in the teens expected from Minnesota possibly into parts of Alabama and Georgia by Tuesday morning.

The most notable part of this cold blast is how far south the cold air will reach and it looks like even parts of northern Florida will be feeling like the low 30s on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile in the Southwest, another day of dry Santa Ana winds is expected.

On Thanksgiving, the highest elevations outside Los Angeles saw gusts to 75 mph and we are expecting gusts again Friday to possibly reach 75 mph with relative humidity is expected to be as low as 5%.

The gusty winds and the dry air could cause rapid fire spread through the region possibly causing critical fire conditions Friday.

The core of this threat is expected Friday but there will likely be some lingering fire danger into Saturday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


George Floyd's brothers on the fight for justice, remembering him on Thanksgiving

Courtesy Ben Crump LawBy ANTHONY RIVAS and ALLIE YANG, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Six months after George Floyd was killed in police custody, his brothers said they still feel compelled to fight for justice every day and that when they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner they'll be remembering some of the things they loved most about him.

"I really wanted to see him be able to have a chance to sing a song," Philonise Floyd told ABC News' Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts. "I think about when he used to pick my mom up, because my mom, she was handicapped, and he used to sing and dance with her."

Terrence Floyd said he's going to eat in commemoration of his late brother.

"He was an eater. He liked to eat. So I'm gonna celebrate him. You know, we'll sit around the table and be thankful, first of all, for the time I spent with him and the encouragement and the words that he gave, because that is always going to be there," Terrence Floyd said. "So even though his physical body is not here with us ... all the things that he said to me, all the things we did together, that's going to be a memory. I'm going to be thankful for that, and I'm gonna also eat for him."

Floyd, 46, died on May 25 during an arrest by Minneapolis police for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. In the moments preceding his death, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video kneeling on Floyd's neck for 7 minutes and 46 seconds, during which Floyd could be heard pleading several times, "I can't breathe."

In the wake of George Floyd's death, Chauvin and the three other responding officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Chauvin is now charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter while the other former officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. None have entered pleas.

Terrence Floyd said he still wonders "why" his brother had to die in such a way. However, both he and Philonise Floyd say that six months later, they're still driven to fight for justice.

"We had to come out and let our voice be heard," Terrence Floyd said.

"Every time I look up, I see somebody who has [gone through] what happened to my brother," added Philonise Floyd. "I just ask myself, 'What more do we have to do? What can we say?' ... Every day, somebody walks up to me and they ask me about my brother. It brings you back to day one. ... People will tell you that, 'Hey you're going to get through it. The world is changing. You have to stay strong. ... You didn't have to do anything, but you chose to get out and get justice for your brother.'"

Shortly after George Floyd's funeral, Philonise Floyd testified before the House Judiciary Committee on police reform. He said his goal was to "get them to understand why" they need to enact the George Floyd Police Reform Act, which aims to increase police accountability and reduce discriminatory practices. The bill has so far only been passed by the House.

"I don't want to have to see anybody else pass away for nonsense," Philonise Floyd said. "There's too many people on Earth for us to be killing each other like this."

While change has been slow at the federal level, on the local level, dozens of cities across the country have implemented some reforms to their police departments, such as banning chokeholds and other neck restraints.

The Floyd family's attorney, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, said these changes have been "significant" but that issues with police brutality still exist and incidents still happen.

As demonstrators took to the streets in the months following George Floyd's death, as well as after the deaths of other Black people killed at the hands of police, such as Breonna Taylor, calls to "defund the police" also rang out.

The movement advocates for reallocating resources from more punitive measures to perhaps more effective ones such as funding more social workers to respond to non-criminal emergency calls. However, with its ambiguous name, it has been met with fierce opposition.

"They're saying we need to reimagine policing in America," Crump said. "We need to reimagine a more just society where George Floyd gets an opportunity to breathe. ... We can better America. That's what this whole notion of reimagining the police is about, and they make it a political football."

"It's not about politics. It's about our children not being killed by the police," Crump added. "That's what this is about. We can do better, America."

Crump said he hopes that President-elect Joe Biden will tackle criminal justice reform in his first 100 days in office and that doing so includes passing the George Floyd Police Reform Act.

In the meantime, Philonise and Terrence Floyd say they'll continue to speak up for their brother and all those who've died because of police brutality.

When asked if they ever go back to the video in which their brother could be seen with Chauvin's knee on his neck, Philonise said he doesn't have to because it's imprinted in his mind.

Terrence Floyd, on the other hand, watches it because "to me, it keeps the fight in me."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Scientists, students demand action to keep Arecibo radio telescope operating

RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty ImagesBy CRISTINA CORUJO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After the National Scientific Foundation (NSF) announced last Thursday the demolition and decommission of the iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, scientists, experts and many Puerto Ricans have taken to digital platforms to plead with the government to save the 57-year-old observatory.

Many including researchers and students are using #SaveTheAreciboObservatory and #WhatAreciboMeansToMe hashtags to share the observatory's impact in their lives and the scientific world. A Twitter account called Save the Arecibo Observatory has also been created.

"#WhatAreciboMeansToMe: More than a telescope," Kevin Ortiz, a physics student at the University of Puerto Rico, wrote on Twitter. For him, the observatory has had "an incalculable impact in the communities of PR."

Organizations including the Planetary Society are also joining the conversation on social media.

"Arecibo Observatory touched the lives of so many people. Its scientific achievements enriched our understanding of the universe and helped protect our planet from asteroids," the organization said in a tweet.

For Ortiz the radio-telescope is not only a Puerto Rican landmark, but it's also a symbol of inspiration.

"I had visited the observatory as a kid many times and it is responsible for sparking my interest in astronomy," Ortiz told ABC News.

The 22-year-old undergrad student is in his last year of college and has been working as an astronomy researcher in the Planetary Habitability Laboratory for more than two years. The Planet HabLab is a research and educational virtual lab from the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo that uses the radio-telescope to study the habitable universe.

"The observatory is very important for science globally. It's also very important for education, training the new generation of students," said Abel Méndez, professor at the University of Puerto Rico and Planet HabLab's director. "I train students to work at the observatory."

Méndez, whose helped guide Ortiz, trains students to work at the observatory doing research.

"They learn to use the observatory," Méndez added.

"I can go around with people showing the observatory and he would be in the control room doing observations," Méndez spoke about Ortiz's work.

The groundbreaking radio-telescope has been key in tracking asteroids. Among the many accomplishments of the observatory is the discovery of the first extrasolar planets in 1992 and was the first to see a planet orbiting a sun-like star in 1995.

The observatory's impact has led many to join a petition submitted to the White House to keep the radio telescope in operation.

"We urge emergency action to have the Army Corps of Engineers or another agency evaluate the telescope structure and search for a safe way to stabilize it, to provide time for other actions to be considered and carried out," reads the petition, which has been signed by over 20,000 people.

Despite structural damages reported at the telescope, Méndez and Ortiz say there might be a way to save the telescope.

Two cables holding up the 900-ton platform hanging at 450 feet above the ground broke, tearing the 1,000-foot reflector dish.

"We are not complaining about the engineering evaluation, we know that there are risks,'' said Méndez.

Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner, wrote a letter to Congress asking for action to save the observatory.

"We respectfully request that you allocate the funds necessary to enable NSF to continue exploring options to safely stabilize the structure and maintain the telescope and surrounding areas," González's letter said. "We understand that funds could be used to stabilize and immediately work on the repairs."

Repairs for the auxiliary cables damaged in August were already underway, according to González's letter.

"Our question was not if the observatory should be repaired but how. But in the end, a preponderance of data showed that we simply could not do this safely. And that is a line we cannot cross," NSF said in a news release from last week. "Even in the event of repairs going forward, engineers found that the structure would likely present long-term stability issues."

Despite NSF's position, some scientists, including Méndez, believe that with a true commitment from several organizations, including the NSF, the telescope could be saved, restored or even rebuilt.

The radio-telescope is under a cooperative agreement between the University of Central Florida, which operates and manages the facility, Yang Enterprises, Inc., Ana G. Méndez University and the federal entity, NSF.

For many experts the hard news of the official shutdown of the telescope came as sad news, but not as a surprising announcement.

Méndez says that in the past, the NSF has "reduced funding from Arecibo and other observatories." According to Méndez and Ortiz, the foundation started to fund more facilities with newer technology, leaving the observatory behind.

NSF told ABC News in a statement that it "has not decreased funding for the observatory. To the contrary, on top of Arecibo Observatory's operational budget, NSF provided millions of dollars for new equipment and technology, representing an investment in the observatory's future."

"The decision to plan for decommissioning is necessary for safety reasons, and also provides NSF with the chance to preserve as much infrastructure as possible for the future of science at the observatory," the statement continued.

Three years ago, the foundation did produce a plan to reduce funding to Arecibo if new contributors would make the offsetting investments, but the plan didn't emerge, according to the NSF.

Some programs at the Arecibo Observatory that involve the analysis and cataloging of archived data will keep receiving the support of the NSF, the federal entity said.

Regardless of the multiple roadblocks, the scientific community, students and Puerto Ricans say they will keep pushing until something is done to preserve the observatory.

"Arecibo is a facility that is absolutely worth saving," Ortiz said. "It's a critical instrument for planetary protection and planetary defense ... for keeping track of near Earth asteroids."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Coronavirus updates: TSA screens record number of travelers since pandemic began

Ovidiu Dugulan/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, IVAN PEREIRA and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 60.7 million people and killed over 1.4 million worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here's how the news developed Thursday. All times Eastern:

Nov 26, 7:17 pm
1,319 US deaths on Thanksgiving


The Covid Tracking Project reported 1,319 deaths, below the seven-day average of 1,549, on Thanksgiving, but experts caution against reading too much into data reported before next week as the holiday could prove a catalyst for the virus that's killed at least 263,196 Americans.

On Thursday, total global deaths reached at least 1,428,671.

Nov 26, 12:03 pm
COVID-19 has killed over 30,000 Americans so far this month


More than 30,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19 so far this month, according to an ABC News analysis of data collected and published by the COVID Tracking Project.

Of those deaths, 11,507 were reported in just the last seven days. That's about one American death from COVID-19 reported every minute.

The country's COVID-19 death rate has been steadily rising for the past month. Since Oct. 25, the seven-day average of U.S. daily deaths from the disease has doubled, increasing by 103%.

The increase in deaths follows weeks of surging case numbers across the country. The United States is now reporting an average of over 172,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day.

More than 3.5 million cases were recorded in the month of November so far, including at least 22 straight days where over 100,000 new cases were reported. There were 1.2 million cases reported in the last week alone, which means one in every 271 Americans tested positive for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, two of the country's largest states, California and Texas, both reported their highest single-day case count to date. They are the only two states in the nation to surpass one million total cases.

Nov 26, 9:18 am
TSA screens record number of travelers since pandemic began


More than one million people went through airport security checkpoints across the United States on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, despite public health guidance against traveling for the holiday.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 1,070,967 individuals on Wednesday, the highest amount since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in mid-March. The previous pandemic record was set on Sunday, when TSA screened 1,047,934 people.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is recommending that Americans do not travel for Thanksgiving.

"It's not a requirement, it's a recommendation for the American public to consider," Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, told reporters during a call on Nov. 19. "Right now, as we're seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time."

Nov 26, 8:22 am
Russia sees record rise in cases and deaths on same day


Russia confirmed a record 25,487 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, along with an all-time high of 524 new deaths from the disease.

The cumulative total now stands at 2,187,990 confirmed cases, including 38,062 deaths, according to the country's coronavirus response headquarters.

The Eastern European nation of 145 million people has the fifth-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the growing number of infections and deaths, Russian authorities have repeatedly said they have no plans to impose another nationwide lockdown.

However, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced Thursday that he will extend the local COVID-19 restrictions in the capital city to Jan. 15. Those restrictions, which were set to expire Sunday, include a stay-at-home recommendation for residents over the age of 65 and an order for employers to keep at least 30% of their staff working from home.

Sobyanin said additional measures are not necessary at this point. Although the pace of the COVID-19 infection rate in Moscow appears to be gradually evening out, the mayor said it's still too early to say its on the decline.

"The health care system is still seriously overstretched," Sobyanin wrote on his blog Thursday.

Nov 26, 7:36 am
CDC projects up to 321K virus deaths in US by Dec. 19


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects that the country will have recorded up to 321,000 COVID-19 deaths before the end of the year.

The CDC on Wednesday published the latest national ensemble forecast, which predicts that the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths in the United States will likely increase over the next four weeks, with 10,600 to 21,400 new deaths likely to be reported in the week ending Dec. 19. A total of 294,000 to 321,000 deaths from COVID-19 are projected to be reported nationwide by this date.

Last week's national ensemble forecast predicted there would be a total of 276,000 to 298,000 COVID-19 deaths reported nationwide by Dec. 12.

The ensemble forecasts are based on a combination of the independently developed forecasts that the CDC receives from various modeling groups.

Nov 26, 6:45 am
US reports over 181,000 new cases ahead of Thanksgiving


There were 181,490 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Wednesday, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the 23rd day in a row that the country has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Wednesday's count is down from a peak of 196,004 new cases on Nov. 20.

An additional 2,297 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Wednesday, the country's highest single-day death toll from the disease since May 6 and just under the all-time high of 2,609 new deaths on April 15.

A total of 12,778,254 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 262,283 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.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of 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 and crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Heavy rain in the Northeast, critical fire danger in the Southwest

ABC NewsBy DANIEL MANZO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The holiday storm that has been tracking across the country brought some severe weather and heavy rain to parts of the Midwest and the south on Wednesday.

There was one reported tornado in Mississippi that did some damage as well as strong thunderstorm wind reports in parts of Indiana and Ohio.

Heavy rain in the South also brought some flash flooding, especially in parts of the New Orleans metropolitan area.

On Thursday morning, heavy rain forming along the frontal system associated with the holiday storm is bringing heavy rain to the Northeast, including to major metro areas.

Locally, over an inch of rain could be possible from this storm, which could cause some flash flooding on area roadways.

For those that are headed out and about for Thanksgiving, it could be treacherous with heavy rain at times and some flooding in spots.

The other weather story for Thanksgiving is a critical fire threat in Southern California.

Dry and gusty Santa Ana winds are expected in the region starting Thursday and lasting through Friday and gusts, especially in the mountains, could reach 65 mph and relative humidity could be as low as 5%.

These are critical fire conditions and any fires that do develop could become quite erratic. The fire danger is expected to persist into Friday.

While most of the country will get away with a quiet Thanksgiving in terms of sensible weather, there are indications that the weather pattern is about to change.

A new storm will develop in the southern U.S. as early as late Friday and Saturday and the initial impacts of this storm will be widespread heavy rain that will be moving across the southern U.S. this holiday weekend.

The rainfall is expected to be somewhat excessive, with a widespread 2 to 4 inches of rain expected from Texas to Georgia, and locally 4 to 6 inches of rain in parts of extreme Southeast Texas and Louisiana which could result in flash flooding concerns this weekend.

By early next week the precise placement of this storm and a blast of colder air becomes a little more complicated and forecast confidence begins to decrease.

However, forecast models are indicating that the storm will become pretty well organized and pull a surge of cold air down into parts of the eastern U.S. with a surge of moisture along the East Coast.

Perhaps the more concerning issue with this set up is that storm slows down and stalls over the eastern U.S., which means there could be several days in a row next week of unsettled weather from the Midwest to the Northeast.

The likely impacts include a very heavy rain even for the Northeast major cities with flooding possible.

Gusty winds along the coast will also be possible, as will coastal flooding.

However, on the colder western side of the storm, areas of snow are likely to develop but it remains too early to determine where the heaviest snow will occur.

But due to the rush of cold air, there could be snowfall well into the Tennessee Valley.

Overall, it remains too early to determine the precise impacts of this storm but it appears several days of unsettled weather is ahead beginning in the South this weekend and then the Midwest and Northeast next week.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Denver mayor offers apology for Thanksgiving travel after urging residents to stay home

cosmonaut/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(DENVER) -- The mayor of Denver apologized for traveling on Wednesday after having urged residents to stay home for Thanksgiving as COVID-19 cases surge.

On Wednesday, Mayor Michael B. Hancock headed to Mississippi to join his wife and daughter there, he said.

Earlier that day, the mayor told Denver ABC affiliate KMGH-TV that during the holiday, "if you can, remain in your household. If you can, stay with those in your household." If you choose to travel, he said, "do what we've always been asking throughout the entire experience: Wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands."

He also advised residents to avoid travel "if you can" and to host virtual gatherings this Thanksgiving in a social media post on Wednesday.

Pass the potatoes, not COVID.

🏘️Stay home as much as you can, especially if you're sick.
💻Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners.
❌Avoid travel, if you can.
🍲Order your holiday meal from a local eatery.
🎁Shop online with a small business for #BlackFriday. pic.twitter.com/acQpWs2Ism

— Michael B. Hancock 😷 (@MayorHancock) November 25, 2020

Hancock did not mention his own plans to travel. In his mea culpa, the mayor said he should have.

"I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel," he said in a statement. "I have shared how my family cancelled our plans for our traditional multi-household Thanksgiving celebration. What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job. As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver."

I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. I have shared how my family cancelled our plans for our traditional multi-household Thanksgiving celebration. (1/5)

— Michael B. Hancock 😷 (@MayorHancock) November 25, 2020

The news of Hancock's travels was met with calls of hypocrisy on Twitter. The mayor said he recognized that many people were "disappointed" by his decision.

"As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel," he said. "I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head."

Denver County has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, with the seven-day moving average of new cases reaching a peak of 728 on Nov. 21, county data shows. The county is in the state's "level red" risk category, indicating a 14-day average positivity rate of between 10% and 15%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to spend the holiday at home as the number of COVID-19 cases spike.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has also urged residents to avoid interactions with people outside of their households this Thanksgiving amid "troubling COVID trends" in the state. About one in 41 Coloradans were contagious with COVID-19, compared with one in 49 in the prior week, he said during a press briefing Tuesday.

"It is the highest percentage of contagious Coloradans that we've ever had," the governor said. "So not a time to be fearful, but a time to be very cautious."

Polis said he planned to celebrate Thanksgiving with just his four-person family.

Under the state's most recent health order, individuals are encouraged to limit travel to "necessary travel," such as for critical government and business purposes.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo similarly faced backlash after saying on a radio program earlier this week that his mother and two daughters would travel to Albany for the holiday. He soon reversed course.

"It's hard, but sometimes hard is smart," he said during a press briefing Tuesday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sanford Health CEO steps down following reports he won't wear a mask

Ben Harding/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The head of one of the largest regional health systems in the Midwest announced his retirement this week, following a controversy over recent statements he made about COVID-19.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Sanford Health announced Tuesday it has parted ways with longtime CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft.

The announcement comes after Krabbenhoft sent an email on Nov. 18 to health system employees, saying he won't be wearing a mask at work because he recovered from COVID-19. The letter was obtained by several news organizations, including the North Dakota-based wire service Forum News Service, which printed it in full.

Sanford Health distanced itself from Krabbenhoft following the email's publication.

"Kelby Krabbenhoft's email was based on his own experience with COVID-19 and his personal opinions about the virus. They do not reflect the views of our health system as a whole," the organization said on Twitter on Nov. 20.

Kelby Krabbenhoft’s email was based on his own experience with COVID-19 and his personal opinions about the virus. They do not reflect the views of our health system as a whole. (1/3)

— Sanford Health (@SanfordHealth) November 20, 2020

"Sanford Health's position is the same as it has always been – consistently wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying home if you're sick are critical to preventing the spread of the virus. It is important to follow [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines," it continued.

We continue to be incredibly grateful to our frontline workers who are stepping up every day to take care of our patients. (3/3)

— Sanford Health (@SanfordHealth) November 20, 2020

In a news release Tuesday, Sanford Health officials did not mention the email, merely saying that the organization and Krabbenhoft have "mutually agreed to part ways."

"Kelby's impact on the organization and the communities it serves will be felt for generations to come," Board of Trustees Chair Brent Teiken said in a statement.

In a statement sent to the Sioux Falls ABC affiliate KSFY-TV, Krabbenhoft said now was "a good time to retire."

"Sanford is in a good place, strongest ever," said Krabbenhoft, who had served as president and CEO since 1996. "It is Thanksgiving week and almost exactly 25 years since my family came here. It is a good time to say 'goodbye.'"

Sanford Health's network includes 46 hospitals, spanning 26 states and 10 countries. It requires clinic employees, patients and visitors to wear masks, according to its website.

According to the copy of the email obtained by Forum News Service, Krabbenhoft said that people who have not yet contracted the virus should wear a mask.

"It is important for them to know that masks are just plain smart to use and in their best interest," the email said.

But for him to wear a mask "sends an untruthful message that I am susceptible to infection or could transmit it," he wrote, adding that he had "no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture."

In the email, Krabbenhoft, who is not a physician, also said that he is immune to COVID-19 for at least seven months "and perhaps for years to come."

Much is still unknown about COVID-19 immunity, though based on other coronaviruses, "people appear to become susceptible to reinfection around 90 days after onset of infection," according to the CDC.

COVID-19 reinfection is "rare," though such cases have been reported, the CDC noted. It recommends that people wear a mask in public "whether you have had COVID-19 or not."

Krabbenhoft told Sioux Falls station KELO-TV last week that his email was misinterpreted.

"All I did in my letter was, again, in a hopeful way, in a positive way, as a recovering virus patient, suggest that there is a growing body of evidence and discussion about the longevity of the immunity that is garnered from this. That’s all I said," he told the station, citing a New York Times piece on new COVID-19 immunity research that was published earlier this month.

The turnover at Sanford Health comes as South Dakota is experiencing a surge in hospitalizations. The state has the highest rate of hospitalizations in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project, with 649 hospitalizations per 1 million people.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has not issued any restrictions or a statewide mask mandate during the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Sioux Falls officials approved an ordinance requiring masks inside retail businesses and city facilities when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Coronavirus updates: Fauci gives 'final plea' before Thanksgiving

Samara Heisz/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, IVAN PEREIRA and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 60.2 million people and killed over 1.4 million worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here's how the news developed Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Nov 25, 8:41 pm
Senior Trump administration official tests positive


John Barsa, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday.

"The Acting Deputy Administrator has been isolating since he began exhibiting symptoms late Monday, Nov. 23, and will continue to until a retest is conclusive," spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala said in a statement.

Barsa is acting deputy administrator and served as acting administrator for a term under the Vacancies Act, before President Donald Trump fired the deputy administrator to keep Barsa as the highest ranking official at the top U.S. aid agency.

Nov 25, 8:11 pm
Nearly 90,000 hospitalized across country


The U.S. reached a new record high for hospitalizations for the 16th consecutive day, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

There are 89,954 Americans currently in the hospital with symptoms of the virus, according to the project.

The country recorded 182,537 new cases and 2,284 new deaths Wednesday, according to the data.

The death daily total is the highest since May 7, and the seventh-highest daily death total to date, The COVID Tracking Project tweeted.

Nov 25, 7:48 pm
US deaths up by 35% from last week: HHS


The country saw a large jump in coronavirus-related fatalities over the last week, according to an internal memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services obtained by ABC News.

The 11,171 deaths recorded between Nov. 18 and Nov. 24 marked a 35.5% increase compared to the previous week, according to the memo.

Several states saw sharp jumps in their death tolls during the seven-day period, according to HHS. Alabama's seven-day death total increased by 27% going from 166 to 211, while Mississippi saw a 32% increase in deaths for the week ending Nov 22.

During that same seven-day period, the U.S. saw 1,198,099 new cases, which was a 9.4% jump from the previous week, the memo said.

Nov 25, 6:52 pm
Wyoming governor tests positive


Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, a representative for his office told ABC News.

"He only has minor symptoms at this time and plans to continue working on behalf of Wyoming remotely," the representative said in a statement.

The news was first reported by the Casper Star Tribune earlier in the evening.

Gordon is at least the fifth governor to contract the coronavirus since the pandemic began. His diagnosis comes as Wyoming has seen a rise in cases over the last month.

The seven-day average of new cases has risen from around 284 at the beginning of November to 687 this week, according to the state's health department.

Nov 25, 1:11 pm
Ravens-Steelers game on Thanksgiving moved to Sunday


The NFL has postponed the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, which was scheduled to be played on Thursday night.

The game has been rescheduled to Sunday afternoon.

Multiple players on the Ravens were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday following positive tests, the team announced at the time.

Nov 25, 11:34 am
UPS making dry ice, supplying portable freezers for vaccines


The United Parcel Service (UPS) said it will start making dry ice in its U.S. facilities and will provide portable freezers to aid in the massive distribution efforts for COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months.

The Atlanta-based global shipping and logistics company said it can now produce up to 1,200 lbs of dry ice per hour in its U.S. facilities to support the storage and transportation of cold chain products, such as frozen vaccines, in accordance with manufacturer storage requirements. The increased production also allows UPS to make dry ice available for American and Canadian hospitals, clinics and other points of care requiring dry ice to store vaccines locally.

"Enhancing our dry ice production capabilities increases our supply chain agility and reliability immensely when it comes to handling complex vaccines for our customers," Wes Wheeler, president of UPS's new healthcare logistics unit, said in a statement Tuesday. "Healthcare facilities in Louisville, Dallas and Ontario will ensure we have the capability to produce dry ice to sufficiently pack and replenish shipments as needed to keep products viable and effective."

In addition to dry ice production, UPS is teaming up with Stirling Ultracold, a division of Global Cooling, Inc., to supply portable ultra-low temperature freezers to thermally protect critical vaccines requiring temperatures ranging from -20 to -80 degrees Celsius. The portable freezers will be distributed and used in smaller facilities that need a more permanent solution for longer-term freezer storage.

"This program will help ensure vaccines remain effective next year, and for years to come, as future vaccines and biologics are developed to keep the world healthy and safe," Stirling Ultracold CEO Dusty Tenney said in a statement Tuesday.

Nov 25, 9:22 am
Weekly unemployment filings surge to 778,000 last week as virus cases rise

Some 778,000 workers lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Department of Labor said Wednesday.

This is an uptick of 30,000 compared to the previous week, and the second consecutive week that the weekly tally has risen after it was on the decline for months.

The DOL also said Wednesday that more than 20 million people were still receiving some form of unemployment benefits through all programs as of the week ending Nov. 7. For the comparable week in 2019, that figure was 1.5 million.

The latest economic data from the DOL comes as new virus cases surge across the country, and highlight a slow economic recovery. It also comes, however, as Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new milestone of trading above 30,000 on Tuesday -- a further indication that the stock market remains divorced from the economic pain millions of Americans still face as the coronavirus crisis rages on.

ABC News’ Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.

Nov 25, 8:03 am
Fauci's 'final plea' before Thanksgiving: 'A sacrifice now could save lives'


America's top infectious disease expert is urging the nation to keep indoor gatherings as small as possible over Thanksgiving to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We all know how difficult that is because this is such a beautiful, traditional holiday. But by making that sacrifice, you're going to prevent people from getting infected," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.

"A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this," he continued. "We're going to get through this. Vaccines are right on the horizon. If we can just hang in there a bit longer and continue to do the simple mitigation things that we're talking about all the time -- the masks, the distancing, the avoiding crowds, particularly indoor. If we do those things, we're going to get through it. So that's my final plea before the holiday."

Fauci, a leading member of the current White House coronavirus task force, warned of "yet another surge" of COVID-19 infections if people don't heed his advice over the holiday.

Although he acknowledged that the country's current surge in cases is driven by larger indoor gatherings such as bars, Fauci noted that "there still is transmission among gatherings that appear to be relatively innocent."

"Now, I don't mean two, three, four people in a room. We're talking about when people might have a modest size and let their guard down," he added. "When you stay away from the bars, when you stay away from the big, congregate settings, there still is a danger if you bring people into the home who are not part of the immediate household. There is a risk there."

Fauci also said he is "greatly" concerned by the number of people who are already showing hesitancy to taking a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. He noted that "independent bodies of people who, in fact, have no allegiance to an administration or to a company" will be charged with deciding whether the vaccine is both safe and effective for the public.

"The process by which the vaccines were made were a standard process that was rapid because of exquisite scientific advances and the investment of an extraordinary amount money. It did not compromise safety and it did not compromise scientific integrity," he said. "That's what the public needs to understand, that the process is transparent and its independent."

The solution to the coronavirus pandemic, Fauci said, will be "a combination of public health measures and a safe and effective vaccine."

"It would really be terrible if we have, which we do, three now and maybe more highly efficacious vaccines and people don't take it," he added. "We could crush this outbreak exactly the way we did years ago with smallpox, with polio and with measles. It is doable."

Nov 25, 7:29 am
Europe remains the largest contributor to new cases, deaths


The global acceleration in COVID-19 cases has slowed down over the past week, with around four million new cases and over 67,000 additional deaths from the disease reported worldwide. However, Europe remains the largest contributor to those cases and deaths, according to the latest weekly epidemiological report from the World Health Organization.

The report, released Tuesday evening, said the number of new cases in the European region declined by 6% in the last week, after a decline of 10% in the previous week, "in a sign that the reintroduction of stricter public health and social measures in a number of countries over the last few weeks is beginning to slow down transmission."

The European region still accounts for 44% of global new cases and 49% of global new deaths. While new cases have declined, new deaths in the region have continued to rise, according to the report.

Italy reported the highest number of new cases in the European region and the third-highest globally, but the country still saw a slight decline of 3% in the last week. The number of new deaths in Italy increased by 26%.

"The northern Italy provinces of Valle d’Aosta, Bolzano and Piemonte report the highest number of cases," the report said. "Media reports have highlighted concerns of the large number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care, and the growing number of health worker infections, straining local healthcare capacities."

The number of new cases in the United Kingdom fell by 13% from last week, the first weekly decline since late August. But the number of new deaths in the country remained similar to the previous week.

"The United Kingdom currently has the fifth- highest number of new cases in the European Region, and the eighth highest number worldwide," the report said, "however, per capita case incidence remains lower than many other countries in the Region.

Nov 25, 5:38 am
Russia reports over 500 new deaths for first time


Russia registered a record 507 new fatalities from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, according to the country's coronavirus response headquarters.

It's the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that Russia has reported more than 500 deaths from the disease in a single day.

Russia also confirmed 23,675 new cases of COVID-19 over the past day. The cumulative total now stands at 2,162,503 confirmed cases, including 37,538 deaths, according to the coronavirus response headquarters.

The Eastern European nation of 145 million people has the fifth-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the growing number of infections and deaths, Russian authorities have repeatedly said they have no plans to impose another nationwide lockdown.

Nov 25, 5:10 am
Rite Aid says it will offer vaccine at no cost


American drugstore chain Rite Aid said it will offer COVID-19 vaccines at no cost.

In an email to customers on Tuesday, Rite Aid chief pharmacy officer Jocelyn Konrad said that through their partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an official COVID-19 vaccination program provider, "we are staged and ready to make this lifesaving vaccine available in all of the communities we serve when it becomes available to Rite Aid."

"This means you will be able to receive the vaccine from your neighborhood Rite Aid pharmacist, whom you know and trust," Konrad said. "Better yet, the COVID-19 vaccines will be available at no cost."

Rite Aid customers will be able to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine once one is approved and becomes available in the United States, according to Konrad.

Nov 25, 4:17 am
US reports over 172,000 new cases


There were 172,935 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Tuesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the 22nd straight day that the country has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Tuesday's count is down from a peak of 196,004 new cases on Nov. 20.

An additional 2,146 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Tuesday, the country's highest single-day death toll from the disease since May 6 but just under the all-time high of 2,609 new deaths on April 15.

A total of 12,597,330 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 259,962 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.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of 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 and crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Health care workers speak out as COVID-19 cases surge

iStock/narvikkBY: JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Health care workers across the country are pleading with the public to follow COVID-19 guidelines as the nation struggles to contain another wave of the virus.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 reached 260,000 on Wednesday, and almost every state in the U.S. is experiencing an increased rate of infection, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At the Pablo Pinto General Hospital in Mineral Wells, Texas, about 90 miles west of Dallas, doctors and nurses are "struggling to transfer patients to higher levels of care," the hospital's CEO, Ross Korkmas, wrote on a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday.

Both the intensive care unit and COVID-19 unit at the hospital are full, and more patients are currently admitted than ever before, making it difficult for patients in need to be transferred to higher levels of care, he said.

Korkmas called on the community to help slow the spread of the virus.

"Please help protect your neighbor, help protect your coworkers, help protect OUR community from the spread of a virus. Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and please limit gatherings," Korkmas wrote. "You are the front line to stop the spread and we need your help!"

Kenneth Remy, a doctor at the Missouri Baptist Medical Center and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, posted a video to Twitter last week showing what it's like for a patient who is about to be placed on a ventilator.

"This is what it looks like when you breathe 40 times a minute," he wrote. "I hope that the last moments of your life don’t look like this."

The city has seen record numbers of deaths and hospitalizations in the past 10 days, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Remy used the video as a teaching moment.

"This is serious," he said. "I beg you, please practice the precautions to reduce transmission of COVID disease so that we can effectively prevent disease for you and your loved ones."

Health care workers have been witnessing death and suffering for nearly nine months now, leaving them burned out and with low morale, Dan Meyer, a doctor at Maine Medical Center in Portland, told ABC Portland affiliate WMTW-TV.

The difficulties are compounded as people continue to ignore public health measures, Meyer said.

"When you encounter those situations, it just makes it so much more difficult as a health care worker, and I really worry about what’s happening to health care workers in this country ... the challenge they face in burnout and wellness and gratitude goes a long way,” Meyer said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci echoed those pleas, urging Americans to keep Thanksgiving celebrations as small as possible.

"A sacrifice now could save lives ... and make the future much brighter as we get through this," Fauci said on Good Morning America Wednesday.

North Carolina Central University on Tuesday released results of a study that showed 77% of North Carolinians plan to spend Thanksgiving with people from outside their home. Hospitalizations in neighboring counties are up by 69%, ABC Durham, North Carolina, affiliate WTVD-TV reported.

"It makes me extremely sad. I just worry about my own team, because my team now has to step up and work harder," Loc Culp, an ICU nurse manager at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, told WTVD-TV.

The hospital's pulmonary and critical care division chief, Shannon Carson, warned that if health guidelines aren't followed on Thanksgiving, future holidays could be ruined as well.

"Don't make one day of warm family gathering turn into a Christmas in the intensive care unit," Carson said. "It's just not worth it."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New York City buskers look back on a pandemic summer

Michael Dobuski/ABC NewsBy MICHAEL DOBUSKI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Street performers are a common sight in New York City. Passersby can regularly catch a jazz performance on a Harlem street corner, a spoken word poet in the subway, or, as was the case on a warm Saturday afternoon last month, a punk rock concert in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park.

Claudi Love is a singer, guitarist, and kalimba player, alongside Raimundo Atal on keyboard and Mark Mosterin on bass guitar. Together they're Pinc Louds: a punk rock band known for New York City themed songs "Traffic Lights," "Magical Garbage," and "Sardines In A Can."

Pinc Louds are buskers -- another word for street performers -- and can often be found playing in downtown Manhattan. Claudi says Tompkins Square Park is one of their favorite locations on account of the neighborhood's long, punk rock history.

"The community here in the East Village is very, very special. There's a there's definitely something here. And an it comes from, I think, a lot of what happened in the in the 70s and 80s... It's still very much alive."

The band got started in 2015 after Claudi and Mark got to know each other while working as music teachers at a school in Brooklyn.

"I was, like, kind of the full time music teacher," says Mosterin. "Claudi was the after-school, like, rock and roll teacher who would hang out with the kids who, like, had nowhere to go after school."

Michael Dobuski/ABC NewsAt a party, Love met Atal, who was working on his Ph.D in sustainable development at Columbia University.

That same party is also where Pinc Louds got their name, according to Love.

"Somebody gave me a very pink and very loud dress all on the same night, and it kinda like just happened like that. It was really like -- it felt like it was meant to be."

While Atal is working on his PhD and Mosterin continues to teach, for Love, busking became a full time gig.

"This is my day job. Like, this is what I do for a living. I'm lucky enough that I can be a musician for a living. And I do it mostly by playing in the subways and on the street."

Pink Louds aren't exclusively buskers. They've built up a substantial following in the five years they've been active, and have performed at some bars and festivals around the city. They were even planning to go on tour this year, until coronavirus lockdown orders came down in the city in March.

For a time the Pinc Louds relied on their fans on social media, hosting live shows over video chat while their normal venues were closed down. Love even decorated her apartment with the appropriate busking decor.

"I kind of turned my house into a TV studio. I had, like, a giant traffic light and a big subway map, because I wanted to, like, give the street feeling to the to the whole thing."

Love was able to make ends meet by collecting money through Venmo and Paypal. But money was only part of the equation, she says.

"Even though everything around me was falling down, I was able to, like, block a lot of the darkness out by doing that."

Michael Dobuski/ABC News

In June, as the weather got warmer, Pink Louds gradually began moving their performances back outside. Eventually they discovered Tompkins Square Park, which hadn't been an option pre-pandemic due to restrictions on amplifiers in public parks.

"I tried it and they didn't kick me out," says Love. "And I just fell in love with the place."

Charlie Crespo runs a blog called the Manhattan Beat, following the city's music scene. He says the Pinc Louds were pioneers in bringing music back to the streets of New York this summer.

"[Pinc Louds] pretty much saved the summer in downtown Manhattan by playing in Tompkins Square Park two or three times a week. They were probably the first," says Crespo. "Their music is energizing. It was exciting and for anybody who passed through the park, it was just the most wonderful experience to hear live music again."

Pinc Louds aren't alone. Crespo tells ABC Audio that buskers all over the city are filling a musical gap left by traditional concerts and stage performances.

"Live music, being the oldest form of entertainment -- even before theater, even before sports -- touches us in ways that none of these other activities can touch us. And right now we're very limited as to the opportunities that are open to us to hear live music."

Cloudy says their audiences can grow to over a hundred people, depending on the day, and they do their best to keep things safe.

"They keep socially distant. It's a really big space," says Love.

Pinc Louds' performances also occasionally feature dancers like Jamie Emerson: a visual artist and puppeteer who makes costumes themed around the band's music. For the song "Roaches In My Hair," Emerson, complete with a black rat mask and a hand painted cockroach cutout in each hand, weaves his way through the crowd and does jumping jacks behind the musicians. He says the performance used to go even further.

"It's a bit frustrating for us because a big part of the show - we were calling them 'immersive cabaret.' And so the idea was literally to invade the personal space of the audience, which we did and was great before the pandemic... It made the whole show, like, something that you don't see from other bands," he says. "Now it's a little bit more difficult. We kind of still do it, but do it from 5 or 6 feet away."

Michael Dobuski/ABC NewsNew York City reopened some indoor dining at the beginning of October following a summer of strict outdoor-only seating for restaurants. Charlie Crespo says the move provided a new opportunity for street musicians.

"Many sidewalk cafes that had never actually thought of having music in the past were approached by musicians who said 'Can I play here?'" says Crespo. "The sidewalk cafes opened up an area for the bands to play. And now New York has many venues for music that did not exist in just the recent past."

Though the future of indoor dining in New York City remains in doubt as coroanvirus cases rise, Crespo says the summer of street music made an impression on New Yorkers.

"We find street performers playing in parks and subway stations, and I find that we're listening more than we used to. We're listening closely, we're listening deeper, because it's touching us at a time when we really need this kind of soothing healing experience."

As for Claudi, she says playing in Tompkins Square Park reminds her of what makes busking in New York City such an attractive experience.

"You got all the weird, crazy people, and you got families," she says. "It's just like a wonderful mix of people, all kinda getting by, you know? Sometimes with a little bit of friction -- but it's, like, that friction that makes life more special right? And it makes it more New York."

Hear ABC Audio's Mike Dobuski report on how Pinc Louds are reflecting on a summer of lockdowns in New York City.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Food banks face growing hunger crisis ahead of the holidays during the pandemic

Massimo Giachetti/iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Food banks have seen a spike in demand since the pandemic struck. In communities across the country, millions of Americans -- even those who are employed -- are becoming more food insecure.

A report issued last month by the nonprofit Feeding America found that 50.4 million Americans have been identified as food insecure, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as "a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life." In 2018, the organization said that 37.2 million Americans were food insecure.

Here's a look at how food insecurity is changing in some states:

Florida


With the approach of Thanksgiving, thousands of families in the Orlando area are in need of food assistance due to COVID-19-related layoffs in the tourist industry and the expiration of supplemental federal unemployment benefits.

Texas


Over 5,000 families received holiday food items during the event that took place in a parking lot outside AT&T Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Iowa


The food distribution was organized by Urban Dreams, a community empowerment NGO in central Des Moines, Iowa, and the NAACP. The Food Bank of Iowa said food insecurity in Des Moines has doubled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Massachusetts


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, The Salvation Army's food pantry at Manning Field in Lynn, Massachusetts, served an average of 60 families a day. That number has increased to over 600 families daily as more residents face financial hardship and food insecurity.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Defund the police' movement six months after killing of George Floyd

John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesBy DEENA ZARU and TONYA SIMPSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Amid national outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, and other police-involved shootings of Black people, the movement to "defund the police" became a rallying cry at protests across the country.

Critics have blasted it as undermining support for police officers. Not only has it been blasted by critics, but they have seized on the ambiguity of the term to obscure the intent of the movement, which is to reallocate resources from punitive measures in situations that don't necessarily call for them.

Those who advocate for defunding argue reallocating funds from police departments to community policing and organizations like public health centers and schools would serve as investments in underserved communities and could address systemic racism.

Other activists have taken a step further, equating defunding with abolishing police departments.

The movement has also been castigated by powerful police unions, and even played into the 2020 election. Prior to the election, the Trump campaign falsely claimed that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris wanted to defund the police in an effort to connect with the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

"I don't want to defund police departments. I think they need more help, they need more assistance, but that, look, there are unethical senators, there are unethical presidents, there are unethical doctors, unethical lawyers, unethical prosecutors, there are unethical cops. They should be rooted out," Biden told ABC News' Robin Roberts in August.

Joe Biden once pushed for more police. Now, he confronts the challenge of police reform

Congress has taken on some police reform legislation and some cities' officials have introduced reform efforts into their budgets. Yet, six months after the killing of Floyd, an incoming Biden administration, a deadlocked Congress and the looming power of police unions in local and federal politics, may be among the factors that influence the defund the police movement, several experts and advocates told ABC News.

A misrepresented movement?


One of the roadblocks the movement has faced in gaining widespread support is misrepresentation, said Tom Nolan, who served as a Boston police officer for 27 years and is now a sociology professor at Emmanuel College.

The movement to defund the police has been "misrepresented" and "it's been made into a cliché" where "anybody who would render anything short of unwavering support to law enforcement" is cast as "someone who hates the police," Nolan said.

"The people who are looking to examine and reevaluate the police are ultimately police supporters, and I count myself as one of them," he added, arguing that in some cases defunding is a necessary step in police reform that would benefit both the community and law enforcement.

An unclear definition of 'defunding'


Even among those who support defunding, there are different visions and goals about what the movement should accomplish.

Some feel that defunding means abolishing the police, said Phillip Atiba Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity.

But for others, "defund is a tactic which means we need less money invested in punitive structures and surveillance, and more money invested in the resources that keep people safe from violence in the first place," he said.

Police unions push back


Police unions have been ardent in their criticism of protesters and of calls to defund their departments.

Police unions also aligned strongly with President Donald Trump who touted himself as a "law and order" candidate during the 2020 campaign, and won the support of many powerful police unions, as he blasted Black Lives Matter protesters and ended Obama-era consent decrees, which instituted federal oversight of troubled and discriminatory police departments.

The Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police union in the country, which represents over 355,000 members and includes lobbyists on staff, endorsed President Trump in the 2020 race. The president also received endorsements from unions, including New York's Police Benevolent Association, which represents about 24,000 rank-and-file officers, and the Minneapolis Police Union in Floyd's hometown.

"The strategy and the tactics that have been employed [by police unions], were specifically and intentionally [meant] to stall that process," Nolan said. "And here we are some six months into it, and that's exactly what has happened in many cities across the United States."

"I existed in that world, and I know that [police unions] exist to maintain the status quo and to protect their members at all costs," Nolan, who was a member of various police unions during his career and served as the vice president of the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, said.

Washington deadlock on police reform


Police departments are mostly funded locally and any significant effort to defund would need to pass at the local government level. Yet, Nolan said the vast majority of police departments receive some federal funding, so Washington lawmakers do have some "considerable leverage," he said.

But lawmakers have been at odds on how to enact any sort of police reform.

A pair of bills -- one passed by the Democratic-controlled House and another introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate -- include elements that some advocates view as an indirect form of defunding.

The House passed a sweeping police reform bill on June 25 that, among other things, would bar federal funding to police departments that enter into union contracts that prevent federal oversight of discriminatory practices like racial profiling.

The bill, which was titled the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," was opposed by police unions across the country. President Trump threatened to veto the bill but it was not put on the floor for consideration in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats blocked the debate on The Justice Act -- a Republican police reform bill authored by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., that sought to offer federal incentives to compel departments to implement best practices, train in de-escalation and end controversial tactics, while penalizing those that do not by incrementally reducing federal funding.

Democrats argued that the bill did not go far enough as it does not implement federal mandates to curb police use of force, limit the transfer of federal military equipment to localities or create a national police misconduct database.

It has yet to be seen whether the incoming 117th Congress will move on police reform next year. Although Democrats retained control of the House in 2020, their majority is now slimmer and the balance of power in the Senate will be determined by a pair of Georgia runoffs in January.

As Congress remains deadlocked, calls to defund the police have mainly gained traction among progressive lawmakers -- both in Congress and in state offices. But the movement has been rejected by conservatives and not embraced by many powerful Democrats, including President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Biden has built a strong relationship with the law enforcement community throughout his long career in Washington and although he did not receive the union support Trump did, he received some notable endorsements from law enforcement officials in 2020.

But Biden's tone amid the social unrest this summer has been starkly different from Trump's.

The President-elect voiced strong support for the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement and vowed to tackle systemic racism in policing as president. But Biden's past support for law enforcement has come under scrutiny as he found himself in the middle of a policy battle in the Democratic Party over police reform.

Cities, defunding and the aftermath


Plans are underway to reduce police budgets in major cities. A review of proposed budgets in Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin for example, show money being moved -- some specialized units are being eliminated and other changes are being made.

While these efforts do reallocate some funding and reorganization in police departments, some experts say these examples are not the defunding the movement calls for.

Instead, it's a shuffling of municipal funding, said Stephen Danley, a public policy and administration professor at Rutgers University-Camden.

"They're moving crossing guards out of the police budget and into another budget and saying they decreased the police budget," he said.

As some push for dismantling police altogether in the cry for defunding, the closest example of that happening was in Camden, New Jersey.

Camden made headlines when the city disbanded its police force and rebuilt it as a county department in 2013. At the time, Camden was considered one of the most dangerous cities in America. Poverty and violent crime levels were at record highs and the city was facing a budget deficit of nearly $14 million.

The move didn't arise as a response to police brutality, rather, it was "really born out of our fiscal crisis and our public safety crisis," former Mayor Dana Redd told ABC News.

The creation of a new police force did not immediately lead to a reduction in crime or improved police-community relations. Excessive force complaints increased from 35 in 2013 to 65 in 2014 and summonses for issues like broken taillights and tinted windows increased exponentially.

"De-escalation training and that type of work has been really successful, but it wasn't inherent to the new force," said Danley. "It happened, in part, because of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 that started putting pressure on the force to change these regressive violent tactics that they were using."

As law enforcement agencies and communities across the country look for new ways to engage, one Camden resident, Vedra Chandler, said she hopes residents, city leaders and officers realize police defunding or reorganizing is not one-size-fits-all.

"If there's a model [from Camden] it's not that everybody should adopt community policing, it's that everybody should come up with something to do in their own community that they believe is going to make a difference in how their police force interacts with their citizens," Chandler told ABC News.

Chandler works for a nonprofit and has lived in Camden for 40 years. She said reducing police budgets is a good step, but it is important for law enforcement agencies to address other issues like officer bias and the criminalization of minorities.

"Baby steps are important. If you want to see something different you have to do something different," she said.

Defunding the police, Danley and other advocates say, is only the first step to police reform, and how the funds are reallocated and whether the community is involved in making those decisions are key to ensuring that reform efforts are successful.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Large weather system in Central US moves East bringing strong storms

ABC NewsBy DANIEL MANZO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A large storm system brought severe weather to parts of the southern U.S. on Tuesday.

There were at least 41 reports of severe weather from Kansas to Louisiana with wind gusts of up to 65 mph reported in Denton, Texas.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, significant damage was reported due to a tornado warned storm with golf ball-sized hail also reported in parts of Oklahoma.

The storm system also brought snow to the Rockies and parts of the upper Midwest.

Denver picked up 5 inches of snow on Tuesday and parts of Colorado picked as much as 13.2 inches of snow. Elsewhere, Rockford, Illinois received 1.7 inches of snow while Chicago O’ Hare received 0.7 inches of snow.

On Wednesday, a large storm system is clearly visible on radar in the central U.S. but the snow threat has dwindled substantially.

However, strong thunderstorms and heavy rain will continue as the storm and its associated frontal system moves east.

There is a risk for strong winds, heavy rain and isolated tornadoes Wednesday from Louisiana to southern Indiana.

Similar to Tuesday, the risk for severe weather is on the low end but all it takes is one locally intense storm to be quite impactful.

Localized flash flooding will be possible as well Wednesday across parts of the Mississippi River valley due to the heavy rain.

This storm system will arrive in the Northeast by Thanksgiving morning with a round of heavy rain expected in the major northeast cities from Washington, D.C. to New York and Boston where localized flash flooding will be possible.

By late afternoon on Thanksgiving, much of the Northeast will be drying out and joining the rest of the country which will already be seeing a relatively dry and quiet Thanksgiving.

Outside of the heavy rain in the Northeast, there is no notable weather to speak of throughout the country.

This is good news for many who are trying to safely see relatives and friends outside and socially distanced.

The next organized weather threat appears to be immediately after Thanksgiving during the extended holiday weekend where a slow moving storm system is likely to develop and move through the southern U.S.

Based on the latest forecast guidance, it appears there could be a potential rainfall and flooding threat on the way to the region that could begin this Friday and last into early next week.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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