Over 9.8 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.
The United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 2.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 125,039 deaths.
Here’s how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates
5:40 a.m.: HHS ‘actively working’ on the idea of group testing
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to ABC News Friday night that the agency is pushing the idea of “pooling” tests, which is when officials pull together samples from large groups and test them at once to see if individual testing is needed.
The White House coronavirus task force is actively talking about trying to push it at the local level as a surveillance tool. The primary reason is because so many people are carrying the virus without symptoms.
“HHS is actively working with a number of collaborators to validate pooling so that it can be used generally as a technique,” HHS said in a statement to ABC News.
“Pooling is a public health surveillance strategy in which samples from more than one person are ‘pooled’ in the same test,” Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of HHS put in charge of coordinating testing, said. “Depending on the underlying prevalence of the disease, this can be extremely beneficial. For example, if five samples are pooled into a single test, and the test is negative, then all five individuals are negative.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday test pooling might be needed because the current testing strategy of contact tracing hasn’t been working.
One issue with contact tracing for COVID-19, Fauci said, is that there are too many asymptomatic people, which means you can’t identify them if they don’t have symptoms. Fauci also said since many people don’t trust the government, people are not answering contact tracing calls.
4:53 a.m.: Miami set to close beaches
As the number of coronavirus cases in the state of Florida continues to increase, Miami-Dade County announced that it’s closing all beaches for the July 4 holiday weekend.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced he will be signing an executive order Saturday to close all beaches starting July 3 through at least July 7, though he said that could be extended “if conditions do not improve and people do not follow New Normal rules requiring masks to be worn always inside commercial establishments and outdoors when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible.”
Particularly worrisome in the recent spikes, the mayor said, is the area is seeing a higher hospitalization rate with its younger population.
“As we continue to see more COVID-19 positive test results among young adults and rising hospitalizations, I have decided that the only prudent thing to do to tamp down this recent uptick is to crack down on recreational activities that put our overall community at higher risk,” Gimenez said in a statement Friday.
In his order, the mayor is also banning any gatherings of more than 50 people and is closing all parks and beaches to limit fireworks viewing. He said fireworks displays must be viewed from one’s home or parked vehicle.
“After all the success we have had tamping down the COVID-19 curve, we cannot turn back and overload our hospitals, putting our doctors and nurses at greater risk with more emergency room cases,” Gimenez said Friday. “Everyone must do their part and follow the rules.”
Florida is one of several states across the U.S. to recently see a significant increase in diagnosed cases of COVID-19. Its coronavirus positivity rate jumped to 13% Friday, according to new numbers from the Florida Department of Health.
Florida has more than 122,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, with at least 3,366 deaths.
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ABC News’ Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.