iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Six months after Puerto Rico was devastated by a hurricane that knocked out power to almost the entire island, tens of thousands remain without electricity and the U.S. territory is struggling to recover.Hurricane Maria severely damaged Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and caused an estimated $100 billion in property damages when it made landfall on Sept. 20. Most of the territory’s three million residents were left in darkness and cut them off from basic supplies.Six months later, the island is still trying to return to normal, including with tens of thousands of people still lacking power.Many relief efforts for Puerto Rico that began soon after the hurricane continue. Here are some ways you can help:American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and Catholic Charities are still accepting both relief donations funds and volunteers to help areas affected by the hurricane.United for Puerto Rico, a fund set up by Puerto Rico’s first lady Beatriz Rossello, wife of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, collects donations and distributes them to non-profits helping people affected by the disaster.AmeriCares said that for every $1 donated it provides $20 worth of medical aid and disaster support.Among others helping are New York governor Andrew Cuomo who recently announced that a team of experts will go to Puerto Rico to help local officials with rebuilding plans and, over the summer, students from from both the State University of New York and the City University of New York will go to the island to assist.The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is still working with communities on the island that are in desperate need of food and water, and is helping local non-profits that need supplies.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
iStock/Thinkstock(MONTECITO, Calif.) — Rain is pummeling the West Coast from Oregon to Southern California as the strongest storm of the season moves in over the next 24 hours.Waves of rain are expected over the next two days in California, with the heaviest hitting the southern part of the state.In Santa Barbara County, 30,000 people were told to evacuate, including residents of Montecito, who were hard-hit from the deadly mudslides in January.The heaviest rain is expected to reach Southern California on Thursday, and rainfall rates could be as high as 1 inch per hour — causing possible mudslides and rock slides.Rainfall totals in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara could reach 2 to 3 inches. The coastal range could see as much as 5 to 10 inches.Meanwhile, a winter storm warning is also in effect for the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in Northern California, which could see close to 5 feet of snow by Saturday.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Scott Legato/Getty Images(NEW YORK CITY) — R. Kelly is being sued in New York City by a woman alleging sexual battery, false imprisonment and failure to disclose a sexually transmitted disease, according to documents obtained by ABC News.Faith A. Rodgers claims in the lawsuit that she was 19 when she met the singer after a performance in San Antonio in March 2017 and that they spoke regularly by phone for a few months before he arranged for her to meet him in New York. It was there he allegedly “initiated unwanted sexual contact” in a hotel room, the suit claims.Rodgers also alleges in the suit that Kelly did not tell Rodgers, now 20, that he was infected with herpes, which she contracted.A representative for Kelly declined to comment when reached by ABC News. He has previously denied her allegations. Rodgers claims she carried on a year-long relationship with Kelly, 51, during which he “routinely engaged in intimidation, mental, verbal and sexual abuse, during and after sexual contact” in an effort to “humiliate, embarrass, intimate and shame her.”Rodgers also alleges that Kelly recorded their sexual encounters without asking her and often kept her locked in secluded areas, including rooms, studios and motor vehicles, to punish her for violating his “prescribed code of conduct.”Rodgers’ lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.Earlier this year, an online campaign, #MuteRKelly, was launched by a subsection of the #TimesUp movement called “Women of Color,” and listed a number of sexual misconduct allegations made against the singer. He faces no criminal charges.“R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals — and in this case, it is unjust and off-target,” his representative told ABC News at the time. “We fully support the rights of women to be empowered to make their own choices. Time’s Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly’s support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts. Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time.”After a campaign from #MuteRKelly and others to sanction R. Kelly, Spotify announced earlier this month that his music would no longer appear on its playlists, which, The Associated Press reported Monday, has had no impact on his streaming numbers.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Federal prosecutors in New York are seeking the death penalty for Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York City terror attack that killed eight people — a rare punishment that hasn’t been carried out in the state for a federal crime since 1953.Saipov, 30, allegedly used a Home Depot rental truck to carry out an attack on a bike path along the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan, mowing down pedestrians and cyclist in his path on Oct. 31.In order to justify a death sentence, prosecutors will have to prove that Saipov “intentionally” killed the eight victims and “intentionally” inflicted serious bodily injury, according to the notice of intent to seek the death penalty, filed in the Southern District of New York.Both of those counts carry a possibly death sentence, according to the court document.Weeks after the attack, a federal grand jury slapped Saipov with a 22-count indictment that included eight charges of murder in aid of racketeering, typically used by federal prosecutors in organized crime cases, and a charge of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.The attack required “substantial planning and premeditation,” prosecutors said, describing the manner in which Saipov carried it out as “heinous, cruel and depraved.”“Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov caused injury, harm, and loss to the families and friends of Diego Enrique Angelini, Nicholas Cleves, Ann-Laure Decadt, Darren Drake, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Ferruchi, Hernan Diego Mendoza, and Alejandro Damian Pagnucco,” the notice of intent states. Five of the victims were tourists from Argentina.It has been a decade since the Southern District of New York last prosecuted a death penalty case. The defendant, Khalid Barnes, was convicted of murdering two drug suppliers but was ultimately sentenced to life in prison in September 2009.The last time the death penalty was carried out in a New York federal case was in 1953 for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple executed after they were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union during the Cold War two years before.Both Rosenbergs were both put to death by the electric chair on June 19, 1953.Saipov, a native of Uzbekistan, demonstrated a lack of remorse in the days and months following the attack, according to court documents. He stated to investigators that he felt good about what he had done, police said.Saipov told authorities he was inspired to carry out the attack after watching ISIS videos on his phone, according to the indictment. He also requested to display the ISIS flag in his hospital room, police said.He has pleaded not guilty to the 22-count indictment. David Patton, one of the federal public defenders representing Saipov, said they are “obviously disappointed” with the prosecution’s decision.“We think the decision to seek the death penalty rather than accepting a guilty plea to life in prison with no possibility of release will only prolong the trauma of these events for everyone involved,” Patton said.Saipov’s defense team had previously asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
FILE – Erin Donalson/iStock(NEW YORK) — There are now 14 large uncontained wildfires burning in the West, not including smaller fires that broke out Monday.One of them, the Francis Fire in Davis County, Utah burned up to 200 acres and there were mandatory evacuations for residents in the area, though those have since been lifted since Monday evening.Tuesday, the cold front that caused all the gusty winds that helped to spread the fire in Utah will continue to move through the West, producing more gusty winds 20 to 60 mph.There are still Red Flag Warnings Tuesday morning and also high wind warnings from Utah to Wyoming.Elsewhere, a tropical disturbance in the western Gulf of Mexico will bring very heavy rain to eastern Texas from Houston to just east of Dallas.The heavy rain will begin Tuesday afternoon and the round of heavy rain will continue into Thursday.Some areas are expected to see up to 10 inches of rain, especially in Houston, Galveston and up to the Lufkin, Texas area where flash flooding is forecast later Tuesday.Meanwhile, Hurricane Humberto is moving away from the U.S. but will continue to bring high surf and dangerous rip currents from the Mid-Atlantic to the Carolinas and down to Florida where the waves could be as high as 11 feet.As Humberto moves east it will pass to the north of Bermuda brining gusty winds and heavy rain to the island where a Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for them.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
10:05 a.m.: 759 new deaths reported in UKThere were 759 new daily deaths reported in the United Kingdom, bringing the country’s total fatalities to at least 18,100, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. An additional 4,451 people also tested positive, according to the department. In total, at least 133,495 people have tested positive out of the 411,192 people who have been tested in the country.9:34 a.m.: New York City to freeze bodies instead of temporary burialsNew York City will freeze the bodies of COVID-19 victims rather than burying them on Hart Island, the city’s potter field that has long been used as a burial ground for unclaimed bodies.The temporary measure to freeze bodies is meant to lessen the burden on hospitals and funeral homes, which are running out of space due to the high number of deaths in the city, according to the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.Freezing the bodies means there will be no temporary burials on Hart Island and allows families more time to make funeral arrangements. However, bodies that cannot be identified or claimed by next of kin will still be buried on Hart Island.The Office of Chief Medical Examiner, with assistance from Air Force Mortuary Affairs, will transfer bodies from five temporary morgues and 200 refrigerated trailers that are now parked outside five dozen hospitals around the city to freezer trucks that will be placed in Brooklyn.9:30 a.m.: Rail industry suffers huge costRail volumes are at 10-year low because of the lack of overseas imports, with the coronavirus pandemic expected to cost the railroads $9 billion in lost freight, according to a record from FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center reviewed by ABC News.8:36 a.m.: Netherlands, France plan to reopen primary schools next monthPrimary schools are set to reopen next month in both France and the Netherlands, as several European countries announce plans to ease their coronavirus-related lockdowns. French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer presented the details of the plan with a parliamentary commission on Tuesday, explaining that children would return to school in staggered groups, with no more than 15 students allowed in each classroom.Primary school students aged from 5 to 11 would be the first to go back on May 12, one day after France’s nationwide lockdown is set to end. Older children in selected years at secondary schools and high school would return the following week, according to Blanquer. The plan is for all students to be back in school by May 25, he said. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also confirmed Tuesday that primary schools and day cares would reopen in the Netherlands on May 11, followed by high schools in early June.7:40 a.m.: Germany, UK approve human trials for COVID-19 vaccinesScientists in both Germany and the United Kingdom will soon begin clinical trials using human volunteers in the race for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Germany’s federal institute for vaccines and biomedical drugs announced Wednesday that it has approved its first human clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. The potential vaccine is being developed by German firm BioNTech and is an RNA vaccine. In the first phase of the clinical trial, 200 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 will receive one or more variants of the vaccine candidate, according to a press release from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany. “Trials of vaccine candidates in humans are an important milestone on the road to safe and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19 for the population in Germany and internationally,” the institute said.The clinical trial is only the fourth worldwide in which a preventive vaccine candidate targeting COVID-19 is tested in humans. Meanwhile, the first human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine begin in the United Kingdom on Thursday. The potential vaccine is being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.6:28 a.m.: Eight babies test positive for COVID-19 at Japanese children’s homeAt least eight babies at a Tokyo care home for infants have contracted the novel coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.After a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on April 16, tests were subsequently conducted on all infants at the facility in Japan’s capital, which is run by Saiseikai Central Hospital. Eight of those tests returned positive results, according to a statement from the hospital.The infected children have been hospitalized as staff continue to monitor the health of those who tested negative. The facility has been disinfected and strict infection control measures have been put in place, the hospital said.Staff members who have shown symptoms have already been sent home, though the hospital didn’t specify how many.The children’s care home is a separate building from the main hospital, which will continue inpatient and outpatient treatment as usual.Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency, which was initially limited to Tokyo and six other prefectures, to all of Japan as the virus continues to spread. The country has recorded more than 11,500 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and at least 281 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.5:50 a.m.: Singapore surpasses 10,000 casesSingapore now has more than 10,000 diagnosed cases of the novel coronavirus.The island city-state’s health ministry on Wednesday confirmed another 1,016 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 as of 12 p.m. local time, bringing the total number to 10,141.The vast majority of the new cases are work permit holders who live in dormitories for foreign workers. Just 15 of those newly diagnosed are Singaporean nations or permanent residents, according to the health ministry.5:21 a.m.: Man who claimed to have COVID-19 jailed for spitting at London policeA 21-year-old man in London was sentenced to six months behind bars for domestic assault and spitting at officers while claiming he was infected with the novel coronavirus, U.K. police said Wednesday.The man was arrested in East London on Monday on suspicion of domestic assault on a woman and criminal damage to her property. The suspect also told authorities that he had COVID-19 and, while being put into a police van, he spat at two officers. He was further charged for assault on emergency workers, according to a statement from London’s Metropolitan Police Service.While in custody, police said the man told them he did not have COVID-19 nor any related symptoms. He appeared in custody at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to prison.“I hope he spends his period in prison to reflect on his behavior, and that his prison sentence sends a message to others who are willing to commit domestic offenses and to target police officers whose job it is to protect Londoners,” police inspector Alexis Manley said in a statement Wednesday.3:30 a.m.: California officials find earliest known US deaths from virusCalifornia officials have confirmed what are now the earliest known deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States.Santa Clara County announced late Tuesday that new autopsy results show two individuals who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were positive for COVID-19. The individuals were not tested for the virus because they died when very limited testing was available only through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a statement from the county in Northern California.“Testing criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms,” Santa Clara County said in a statement.The United States previously recorded its first official fatality from COVID-19 on Feb. 28 — an individual in Washington state’s King County.However, health officials later discovered that two people at a Seattle-area nursing home had also died from the disease on Feb. 26. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. narvikk/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR and ELLA TORRES, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 178,000 people worldwide.Over 2.5 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks. Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected nation, with more than 825,000 diagnosed cases and at least 45,075 deaths. Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:
carlballou/iStockBY MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS(FREMONT COUNTY, Idaho) — What are believed to be human remains have been found at the home of the current husband of Lori Vallow, whose children have been missing. The remains have yet to be identified, police said.Rexburg Police served a search warrant on Chad Daybell’s home in Fremont County, Idaho, on Tuesday morning. The FBI’s Salt Lake City evidence response team assisted with the execution of the warrant, Public Affairs Specialist Sandra Yi Barker told ABC News.Daybell has been taken into custody, police said.This is the latest development in the mysterious case involving Lori Vallow, who is currently facing trial on charges stemming from the disappearance of her two children. Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, were reported missing by extended family members to police in November 2019.Lori Vallow, 46, was arrested in February in Hawaii on a warrant for failing to comply with a court order to produce her children. She was living on Kauai with her new husband, Daybell. She was extradited back to Idaho to face multiple felony counts, including desertion and non-support of dependent children.This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
ABC NewsBY: ALEX PRESHA, AVERY MILLER, and HALEY YAMADA, ABC News(NEW YORK) — U.S. Air Force veteran Jawanna Hardy knows the tragic story behind all of the young faces she sees in a memorial for kids lost to gun violence in Washington, D.C.Hardy was a E3, Airman First Class, who served for six years, including a one year tour in Qatar. Since leaving her post, she’s founded an outreach program called “Guns Down Friday,” which is aimed at providing comfort to families who have lost loved ones to gun violence.“What struck me was how organized the war was and how disorganized the communities were when it came to gun violence and so I knew it was time to do something,” said Hardy.“[Violence] is normal to them, and for us it’s traumatizing, but they live it every day,” she added.There have been more than 13,000 gun deaths in the United States so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Washington D.C. alone had surpassed 100 gun-related deaths by mid-July, according to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham.Thirteen-year-old John’yae Young picked up bullets in her neighborhood.“[The bullets] made me sad and angry at the same time,” said John’yae, who is a part of “Guns Down Friday.”Hardy’s mission is to provide support through donations like school supplies, meals and field trips to Six Flags to children like Missy Scott.Last year, Missy’s 15-year-old twin brother Maurice was shot and killed.“My brother was funny, playful, very fun to be around, athletic [and] smart” said Scott. “I honestly do take my deep breath and think about [him] literally every day.”As someone who has attended therapy and knows the importance of mental health, Hardy said she can’t imagine experiencing the level of trauma and gun violence these kids face without any help.“I did therapy for two years just to get back on track. So when I see neighborhoods like this and they experience that trauma with no therapy. It’s traumatizing,” said Hardy, who added that “Guns Down Friday” visits a different neighborhood every day.Across the country, more than 3,400 kids and teens have been shot this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. In the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, 320 of those killed were under the age of 18.U.S. gun violence data in perspective:’14: 2,893 kids & teens shot’15: 3,399 kids & teens shot’16: 3,818 kids & teens shot’17: 3,991 kids & teens shot’18: 3,553 kids & teens shot’19: 3,809 kids & teens shot’20: 3,414 kids & teens shot (in 260 days)— Gun Violence Archive (@GunDeaths) September 16, 2020Still, Hardy says that there is hope.“It’s all love and it’s all about connecting and unity in our community,” said Hardy, “and that’s what is really going to change our community and the world.”Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
iStock/luchezarBy: CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC NewsMore people are now engaging with outlets on Facebook that repeatedly publish verifiably false content than in the lead-up to the 2016 election, new research shows.These findings come despite a slew of new efforts from social media companies to combat the spread of misinformation on their platforms ahead of the 2020 presidential vote.The level of engagement with articles from “false content producers” that masquerade as news organizations but repeatedly publish demonstrably false materials has increased 102% since 2016, according to a report published Monday by the think tank German Marshall Digital Fund in partnership with the firms NewsGuard and NewsWhip.“What we were really trying to zero in on was something very simple — how is it that we keep hearing all these reports about disinformation when the platforms have taken so many actions? There have been so many announcements to prevent disinformation,” Karen Kornbluh, the director of the digital innovation and democracy initiative at the German Marshall Fund, told ABC News. “We realized there is a whole disinformation supply chain, which starts with these sites that mask as news outlets.”The researchers also found that the level of engagement with sites that don’t necessarily mask as news outlets but repeatedly fail to present information responsibly has increased 293% in the run-up to the 2020 election compared to the 2016 presidential election. Examples of these sites, dubbed “manipulators,” include Breitbart News, according to the researchers.Moreover, interactions with both kinds of deceptive sites — false content producers and manipulators — have spiked 242% between the third quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2020, the researchers found.Kornbluh noted that while overall engagement across all content increased during the timeframe they examined, “we see the disinformation sites increasing at greater rates than overall engagement,” she said.Kornbluh said they didn’t expect to see increased interactions with the false content producers “but we saw it there, and then we saw an enormous increase in interactions with the manipulators” since 2016.“That is an explanation for why you’re seeing so much disinformation,” she said.The researchers rated these outlets based on methodology developed by the startup NewsGuard, which ranks the credibility of outlets that claim to be journalism based on nine factors.Kornbluh said it can be hard initially for regular users to tell the difference between these false content producers, manipulators and credible news organizations, which is in part why the misinformation spreads so fast.If you see a piece of news or a headline on Facebook, “one thing you need to check is, what is the outlet this is coming from?” she said. “What are they using to make this claim? And really probing what’s the evidence behind this.”Ultimately, however, she said “there needs to be actions to change the incentives of the platforms.”“Just like the car companies in the early days, it wasn’t in their incentives to put in a seat belt, and we didn’t ask the individuals to install seat belts,” she said.Social media companies need to implement policy and internal changes to better protect users from misinformation, she argued.As for Facebook, “what they need to do is instead of playing whack-a-mole with individual pieces of content, they need to look at the disinformation supply chain,” she said, “and how they can disrupt this supply chain and not amplify that.”A Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that “engagement does not capture what most people actually see on Facebook.”“Using it to draw conclusions about the progress we’ve made in limiting misinformation and promoting authoritative sources of information since 2016 is misleading,” the spokesperson added. “Over the past four years we’ve built the largest fact-checking network of any platform, made investments in highlighting original, informative reporting, and changed our products to ensure fewer people see false information and are made aware of it when they do.”Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Samara Heisz/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ERIN SCHUMAKER, EMILY SHAPIRO and IVAN SHAPIRO, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 102.5 million people worldwide and killed over 2.2 million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.Latest headlines:Jan 30, 9:41 pmBoston Marathon director tapped for Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium mass vaccination sitesDave McGillivray, the race director of the Boston Marathon, has been selected by the state of Massachusetts to run the mass vaccination operations at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park.McGillivray owns DMSE Sports, which organizes and manages dozens of outdoor events every year. To help keep DMSE Sports afloat, McGillivray connected with CIC Health — which operates the mass COVID-19 vaccination sites at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium — through the state of Massachusetts.Now, McGillivray is running logistics for both sites.“For me, the feeling is so good that the thing that knocked us to our knees is now the thing that is allowing us to do good: that we’re keeping people healthy, we’re saving lives and we’re even bringing our own industry back,” McGillivray said in an interview with Boston ABC affiliate WCVB().Fenway Park is the home of the Boston Red Sox, while Gillette Stadium, located in Foxborough, is the home stadium for the New England Patriots. The Gillette Stadium site opened two weeks ago, with Fenway officially opening Monday. Both sites are expected to administer 5,000 doses per day once fully up and running.The Boston Marathon, usually held in April, has been postponed to October. The in-person event was canceled in 2020, though it was held virtually.ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.Jan 30, 3:15 pmPentagon ‘pausing’ plan to vaccinate Guantanamo Bay detaineesAssistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs John Kirby tweeted that the Pentagon is “pausing” the plan to move forward with vaccinations for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.“We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols,” Kirby said. “We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.”No detainees have been vaccinated yet, he said.ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report.Jan 30, 2:26 pmCalifornia surpasses 40,000 deathsHard-hit California has surpassed 40,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.At least 40,216 people in the Golden State have lost their lives, which equals about 1 in every 1,000 Californians.ABC News’ Matt Fuhrman contributed to this report.Jan 30, 2:12 pmNashville’s Music City Center opens as mass vaccination siteNashville’s Music City Center opened Saturday as a mass vaccination site.Those 75 and older who already have an appointment booked can get vaccinated at the concert venue, according to ABC Nashville affiliate WKRN.“We think that we’ll be able to do up to 1,000 first doses here and up to 1,000 second doses here a day, once we receive enough vaccine for that,” Metro Nashville Health Department Interim Medical Director Gill Wright told WKRN.Jan 30, 12:43 pmSouth African variant found in MarylandOne case of the South African B.1.351 variant has been confirmed in the Baltimore metro region, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said.“The individual has not traveled internationally, making community transmission likely,” Hogan’s office said. “Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested.“The B.1.351 variant has not been shown to cause more severe illness or increased risk of death when compared to other variants. The variant is believed to be more transmissible than other strains,” Hogan’s office said. “Additional research is still required to determine the effectiveness of available vaccines against the B.1.351 variant. However, initial evidence suggests that vaccines are still likely to be protective against the variant.” The United States’ first cases of the South African variant were confirmed this week in two people in South Carolina.Jan 30, 11:23 amSouth Carolina confirms its 1st case of UK variantAn adult in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region has become the state’s first confirmed case of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control said.The person “has an international travel history,” the department said.The U.S. has confirmed at least 434 cases of the B.1.1.7 U.K. variant across 30 states, South Carolina officials said.“Experts agree that existing vaccines work to protect us from this variant, even if we don’t know just how effective they are,” the South Carolina officials said. “At this time, there’s no conclusive evidence to prove that the B.1.1.7 variant causes more severe illness.”ABC News’ Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.Jan 30, 9:21 amCoachella, Stagecoach canceledThe Coachella Valley Music and Arts and Stagecoach Country Music festivals, set for April, were canceled on Friday by Dr. Cameron Kaiser, health officer for Riverside County, California.Riverside County’s positivity rate stands at 20%. The county has 0% bed availability in its intensive care units.Jan 30, 6:30 amUS surpasses 90,000 deaths in JanuaryJanuary has been the deadliest month since the pandemic began, with 90,844 total deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.The U.S. coronavirus death toll stands at 436,810 — with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention projecting that more than 77,000 deaths could be reported by Feb. 20.Jan 30, 4:50 amBrazil variant detected in CaliforniaCalifornia is now the second U.S. state with known detection of the Brazil P.1 variant.Minnesota health officials confirmed earlier this week the nation’s first known COVID-19 case associated with the variant.Inside Stanford’s Clinical Virology Laboratory, Dr. Benjamin Pinsky and his team found two strains of the virus: the Brazil strain and the U.K. strain, KGO-TV reported Saturday morning.“It’s in about 17% of the samples that we’ve sequenced,” Pinsky told KGO.Jan 30, 12:44 amCDC issues federal transportation mask mandate starting FebruaryThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a federal transportation mask mandate Friday night which will be effective starting Feb. 1. The mandate states that people traveling within or out of the United States must wear face masks while on conveyances and at transportation hubs to prevent the spread of COVID-19.This includes airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares, as well as subway stations, airports and other transportation hubs.Drivers, conductors, and other workers involved in the operation of conveyances must also wear masks at all times, the CDC says.“Conveyance operators must also require all persons onboard to wear masks when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel,” the mandate states. “Operators of transportation hubs must require all persons to wear a mask when entering or on the premises of a transportation hub.”Jan 29, 7:15 pmMore cases in past 2 weeks than 1st 6 months of pandemic: WHOThere have been more COVID-19 cases reported globally in the past two weeks than during the first six months of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.Almost exactly a year ago, there were fewer than 100 confirmed cases of the virus outside of China, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted during a media briefing Friday. This week, the number of reported cases globally surpassed 100 million. “Now, vaccines are giving us another window of opportunity to bring the pandemic under control. We must not squander it,” Tedros said.At the same time, Tedros warned that vaccine hoarding will be a “catastrophic moral failing” that will ultimately “keep the pandemic burning” and hinder economic recovery.His comments come after the European Union publicly fought with AstraZeneca this week over how many doses it can expect of the drugmaker’s COVID-19 vaccine. After regulators approved the vaccine Friday, the EU enacted an export restriction on doses produced in the bloc. WHO officials called the move “concerning” and part of a “worrying trend.”“Vaccine nationalism might serve short-term political goals, but it’s ultimately short-sighted and self-defeating. We will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere,” Tedros said. “My message to governments is to vaccinate your health workers and older people, and share excess doses with COVAX, so other countries can do the same.”ABC News’ Kirit Radia contributed to this report.Jan 29, 4:19 pmCDC extends moratorium on evictions through MarchThe CDC is extending its moratorium on housing evictions through March 31, citing the health threat it poses. The order had been set to expire on Jan. 31.Bluu Davis speaks outside of City Hall about being served an eviction notice as she joins the Me…Read More“Keeping people in their homes and out of congregate settings — like shelters — is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC said in a statement.ABC News’ Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.Jan 29, 1:26 pmFauci: UK variant will likely become ‘dominant’ in USAt Friday’s White House press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the United Kingdom variant will likely become more “dominant” in the U.S. toward the end of March or early April. There are 379 confirmed cases across 29 states of the B117 strain of the coronavirus, according to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.Fauci indicated that the evolving nature of the virus is something the medical community will have to continue dealing with going forward.“Even though the long-range effect in the sense of severe disease is still handled reasonably well by the vaccines, this is a wake-up call to all of us, that we will be dealing, as the virus uses its devices to evade pressure, particularly immunological pressure, that we will continue to see the evolution of mutants,” he said.Fauci also indicated that the fight to contain the new variants will impact the vaccine response. “We, as a government, the companies, all of us that are in this together, will have to be nimble to be able to just adjust readily to make versions of the vaccine that actually are specifically directed towards whatever mutation is actually prevalent at any given time,” he said.Jan 29, 11:59 amLimited indoor dining can resume in NYC on Valentine’s DayIndoor dining will return to New York City on Valentine’s Day at 25% capacity, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.Indoor dining was shut down in New York City in December.On March 15, in-person weddings can resume in New York at 50% capacity, or up to 150 people, he said.Jan 29, 11:00 amUS numbers still high but trends are encouraging: CDC expertsDr. Jay Butler, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the U.S. has seen a decline in the last two weeks of new cases and hospitalizations, which is “encouraging,” but he added, “the numbers nationally are still high.”“The pandemic is not yet over yet,” Butler told the Infectious Diseases Society of America on Friday. “By the time we end our 45 minutes together, roughly 100 more Americans will have died of COVID-19.”Butler stressed that the vaccines are safe and effective and that mild side effects are normal.“The available data tells us that more than half of people have reported some degree of tiredness and pain at the injection site, although most are able to continue normal daily activities,” Butler said. “Many also report symptoms such as headache muscle pain or chills after getting their shots, particularly in the first couple of days. These data also suggest that it may be more common among younger persons, and after the second dose, but again this is expected based on some of the data that were available from the clinical trials.”Jan 29, 10:47 amEU approves AstraZenecaAstraZeneca’s vaccine on Friday was recommended for conditional marketing authorization in the European Union for people 18 and older. The two doses should be administered four to 12 weeks apart.This is the third vaccine, following Pfizer and Moderna, to be approved by the European Medicines Agency. The AstraZeneca vaccine now awaits final say from the European Commission.Jan 29, 8:43 amJ&J single-shot vaccine 85% effective against severe COVID-19 diseaseIn another promising development for vaccine science, Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its COVID-19 vaccine — a single shot tested against a complex barrage of newly emerged variants of the virus — is 66% effective at preventing symptomatic disease and 85% effective against preventing severe illness.The U.S. pharmaceutical giant said the vaccine is also safe to take. Volunteers experienced mild reactions after the shot, with less than 10% experiencing fever, according to a company press release.The full data package will be made publicly available and will be evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee sometime in mid- to late February.The FDA has said it will consider a vaccine that’s more than 50% effective, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine exceeds this threshold. An emergency use authorization could be given and people could start receiving shots before the end of February.Jan 29, 8:26 am‘We should be treating every infection as if it’s a variant,’ CDC director saysAmericans should now assume there’s already more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus circulating in their communities, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.“I think we should be treating every infection as if it’s a variant,” Walensky told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.“That is the way we’re going to control this pandemic,” she added. “Quite honestly, we know that these viruses are going to mutate. They generally mutate to the advantage of the virus and that’s how we get these more dominant strains.”Walensky’s remarks come a day after the United States confirmed its first cases of the B1351 variant, which was first identified in South Africa and has since spread to dozens of other countries.“We had always been worried that they were here and we hadn’t yet detected them,” she said.The B1351 variant was discovered in two people in South Carolina who were not in contact with one another and haven’t traveled recently, which concerns Walensky.“So the presumption is here that they became infected from other people in the community and that there’s community spread of this variant,” she said.Walensky explained that it “takes a while” for scientists to detect a variant.“From the time of symptoms to somebody getting a test to that test being positive and to us being able to sequence it, that turnaround time could be up to 10 to 14 days,” she said.Although the CDC has “done an enormous amount of scaling up of our surveillance of these variants,” Walensky said researchers are essentially starting from the ground up because “there has not been a public health infrastructure to track these variants.”“There has not been money, resources to be able to do mass sequencing at the level of infection that we have in this country right now,” she said. “That is part of the American Rescue Plan, is to be able to use resources to finance a mass scale-up of surveillance for these variants.”There are concerns that the variants wield increased transmissibility and mortality, or that existing treatments and vaccines won’t work as well against them.“The current vaccines we’re still studying against these variants,” Walensky said. “What I will say though is we have a 95% efficacious vaccine against the current strain. Even if we have some diminution of that efficacy against the South Africa strain, I still think we need to really go ahead, push the vaccination, because this just is still yet another tool in our toolbox to fight this pandemic.”Jan 29, 7:24 amRussia says it can supply Europe with 100 million doses of its vaccineRussia said Friday it will be ready to supply Europe with enough doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, for 50 million people in the second quarter of this year.The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for worldwide marketing of the vaccine, announced via Twitter that 100 million doses can be provided to the European Union — pending regulatory approval — once most of Russia’s population has been vaccinated.After being developed by the state-run Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Sputnik V was controversially registered by the health ministry in August before starting crucial Phase 3 trials, with Russia declaring itself the first in the world to register a COVID-19 vaccine.The RDIF said the vaccine is now registered in 15 countries and that documents have been submitted to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for “rolling review,” which would mean that the drug regulator is reviewing clinical trial data on a rolling basis. However, last week, the EMA said in a statement that “currently Sputnik V is not undergoing a rolling review.”Jan 29, 6:25 amMexico overtakes India for third-highest COVID-19 death tollMexico now has the third-highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world.According to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has registered 155,145 fatalities from the disease since the pandemic began, overtaking India’s count of 154,010 deaths.Mexico, a country of 127 million people, has confirmed more than 1.8 million cases of COVID-19. Whereas India, home to some 1.3 billion, has confirmed over 10.7 million cases, the second-most in the world, according to Johns Hopkins data.Jan 29, 3:49 amUS reports over 164,000 new casesThere were 164,665 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Thursday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.Thursday’s case count is far less than the country’s all-time high of 300,282 newly confirmed infections on Jan. 2, Johns Hopkins data shows.An additional 3,872 fatalities from COVID-19 were registered nationwide on Thursday, down from a peak of 4,466 new deaths on Jan. 12, according to Johns Hopkins data.COVID-19 data may be skewed due to possible lags in reporting over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend.A total of 25,766,735 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 433,195 have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of the pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up over the summer.The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4, then reaching 200,000 on Nov. 27 before topping 300,000 on Jan. 2.So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use — one developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, and another developed by American biotechnology company Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. More than 24 million vaccine doses have been administered nationwide, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.