The total number of COVID-19 cases around the world has now topped 17 million, with nearly 670,000 deaths -- and the United States is leading the world in both categories.
With more than 4.4 million total confirmed cases, the U.S. reached another milestone in the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday when it passed 150,000 deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Some states, such as California, Florida and Texas are breaking their own records weekly or even daily. California reported a record 197 COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, according to state health records, far surpassing the previous high of 159 recorded just last week. Florida posted a record 216 deaths, while Texas reported at least 313 deaths.
U.S. health experts say many states reopened businesses and public attractions too soon. They also say a lack of clear guidance and enforcement on the federal level means governors must develop their own public health directives to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The result is restrictions and directives that vary from state to state, including travel limitations for returning residents and nonresidents.
Other countries are experiencing a surge of new coronavirus cases, chief among them Australia. The southern state of Victoria posted 723 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths on Wednesday, a new one-day record for the hardest-hit state from the sudden spike of the disease.
The new numbers exceed the 532 new coronavirus cases posted on Monday for Australia’s second most populous state. Victoria has now posted over 9,900 total number of COVID-19 infections and 105 deaths, making up the majority of Australia’s 16,298 total confirmed cases and 189 deaths.
Melbourne, Victoria state’s capital city, is the epicenter of the state’s current COVID-19 surge. State Premier David Andrews has ordered all residents in Victoria to wear a face mask outside beginning Sunday, extending a mandate already in place for Melbourne and the rural area of Mitchell Shire.
Andrews has also issued an order banning residents in communities outside of Melbourne from bringing guests into their homes effective Thursday.
Melbourne is at the halfway point of a six-week lockdown, which has restricted residents from leaving home unless going to work, school, medical appointments or shopping for food.
The rising number of COVID-19 cases around the world has researchers racing to develop and test a vaccine to blunt the spread of the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it could authorize the emergency use of an experimental coronavirus vaccine within a matter of weeks, once it meets efficiency standards. The Wall Street Journal said the vaccine is derived from antibody-rich plasma from recovered coronavirus patients.
Antibodies are proteins made by the body’s immune system to fight off a virus.
Two experimental coronavirus vaccines, one developed by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and manufactured by U.S. biotech firm Moderna, the other developed jointly by U.S.-based Pfizer in collaboration with Germany-based BioNTech, have moved into the late-stage testing phase in the United States. The researchers will recruit up to 30,000 volunteers to receive the vaccines to determine their safety and effectiveness.