Coronavirus updates: Pandemic hits grim milestone as global cases top 5 million

A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 328,000 people worldwide.

Over 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 country, with more than 1.5 million diagnosed cases and at least 93,439 deaths.

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Today’s biggest developments:

  • Global cases top 5 million
  • AstraZeneca says its ready to supply potential vaccine in September
  • Wuhan bans breeding, hunting, human consumption of wild animals
  • Tyson Foods confirms 570 cases linked to North Carolina facility
  • Here’s how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates.

    6:42 a.m.: Russia reports more than 8,000 new cases

    Russia reported 8,849 new cases of COVID-19 and 127 deaths over the past 24 hours, according to the country’s coronavirus response headquarters.

    The nationwide total now stands at 317,554 diagnosed cases with 3,099 deaths.

    The capital, Moscow, is the epicenter of the country’s outbreak. However, the city on Wednesday reported more recoveries from the disease — 3,746 — than new cases — 2,913, according to Russia’s coronavirus response headquarters.

    Russia has the second-highest highest number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the world, behind the United States, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

    Russia’s latest daily caseload is down from a peak of 11,656 new infections reported on May 11. Last Thursday marked the end of a 12-day streak during which the country registered over 10,000 new cases per day.

    6:05 a.m.: Tyson Foods confirms 570 cases linked to North Carolina facility

    Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest food companies, has revealed the scale of the novel coronavirus outbreak at its poultry plant in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

    Facility-wide testing found that 570 people out of the plant’s 2,244-strong workforce were positive for COVID-19, the majority of whom “did not show any symptoms and otherwise would not have been identified,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.

    Most of the workers were tested at the facility from May 6 to May 9, while 237 were either tested by the local health department or through their own health care providers. Those who test positive receive paid leave and may return to work only when they meet the criteria established by both Tyson and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “Our team members are essential to helping to feed the nation, and their health and safety is always our first priority,” Kevin Taylor, complex manager for the Wilkesboro facility, said in a statement Wednesday. “Disclosing our testing results will help better protect our team members and help provide the wider Wilkesboro community with the information it needs to stop the spread of the virus.”

    Production at the facility has begun to ramp up after operations there were limited last week to carry out additional deep cleaning. Tyson said it has put in place a range of protective steps to prevent the spread of the virus, including symptom screenings for all workers before every shift, providing mandatory protective face masks to all employees as well as physical barriers between workstations and in break rooms, among other social distancing measures. Workers also have access to on-site nurse practitioners, according to the company.

    “We are working closely with local health departments to protect our team members and their families, and to help manage the spread of the virus in our communities,” Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods, said in a statement. “We are using the most up-to-date data and resources to support our team members, and we are committed to ensuring they feel safe and secure when they come to work.”

    5:18 a.m.: Wuhan bans breeding, hunting, human consumption of wild animals

    The Chinese city of Wuhan, ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic, has issued an outright ban on the breeding, hunting and human consumption of wild animals.

    The move appears to be in response to research showing the novel coronavirus most likely originated in bats and was transmitted to humans through an intermediary animal sold at a wet market in Wuhan.

    The local government of Wuhan announced the ban Wednesday. However, the decree contains numerous exceptions, including for animals used in traditional Chinese medicine, as long as they are not eaten by humans.

    4:23 a.m.: AstraZeneca says its ready to supply potential vaccine in September

    Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said Thursday it has booked orders for at least 400 million doses of a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus being developed by the University of Oxford.

    The U.K.-based multinational company said it has the capacity to manufacture 1 billion doses of the as yet unproven vaccine and would begin delivering them in September. The drugmaker aims to conclude further deals to expand manufacturing capacity over the next few months, according to a press release.

    “We are so proud to be collaborating with Oxford University to turn their ground-breaking work into a medicine that can be produced on a global scale,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said in a statement Thursday. “We will do everything in our power to make this vaccine quickly and widely available.”

    Researchers at the University of Oxford began testing the vaccine candidate, now known as AZD1222, in healthy human volunteers in southern England on April 23. AstraZeneca said data from the first and second phases of the clinical trial are expected shortly and, if positive, would lead to late-stage trials in a number of nations.

    The company said it “recognizes that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical program with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk.”

    3:38 a.m.: Global cases top 5 million

    The coronavirus pandemic hit another grim milestone early Thursday as the worldwide number of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 surpassed 5 million.

    Just two weeks ago, the tally had crossed the 4 million threshold, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

    More than a third of the world’s COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in the United States.

    What to know about coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map