Coronavirus updates: Wuhan lab director calls virus leak claims ‘pure fabrication’

ABC News Corona Virus Health and Science

Almost 100,000 have died in the United States alone from COVID-19.

A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 342,000 people worldwide.

Over 5.3 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 is the worst-affected country in the world, with more than 1.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 97,087 deaths.

Today’s biggest developments:

  • US nears 100,000 deaths
  • Wuhan lab director calls virus leak claims ‘pure fabrication’
  • Michigan and Missouri announce change in reporting of COVID-19 testing data
  • Here’s how the news is developing today. All times Eastern.

    5:51 a.m.: Michigan and Missouri announce change in reporting of COVID-19 testing data

    The state of Michigan announced that they would be changing the way they report COVID-19 testing data by separating the results of diagnostic tests and serology tests.

    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that “the change makes the data more accurate and relevant as the state continues to expand diagnostic testing to help slow and contain the spread of COVID-19. The update to the website separates out the results of two different types of tests – serology and diagnostic. Michigan – along with some other states – has not separated data for diagnostic and serology tests. Data on serology testing – also known as antibody testing – is separated from the other testing numbers. Currently, serology testing can be used to help determine whether someone has ever had COVID-19, while traditional viral diagnostic tests determine if someone has active disease.”

    “Diagnostic tests are most helpful in tracking the spread of COVID-19 since they can show the number of people who currently have the COVID-19 virus. Serology tests are still being studied regarding their utility. They are currently most helpful in understanding how much a community may have been exposed to the disease. However, it is unknown if the presence of an antibody truly means someone is immune to COVID-19, and if so, for how long. Results of antibody tests should not change decisions on whether an individual should return to work, or if they should quarantine based on exposure to someone with the disease. Approximately 12 percent of Michigan’s tests overall have been serology tests; about 60 percent of those have been from the past nine days,” the statement read.

    Meanwhile, Missouri also announced their own changes regarding their reporting of COVID-19 cases.

    “The Governor calls on us as public servants to get better every day,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of Missouri’s DHSS. “As we continue to learn more about this virus and new tests emerge, we will continue providing better data with greater clarity and transparency to help Missourians make the best decisions for their health care possible.”

    According to a statement released by Missouri’s DHSS, some key changes in the data will include:

    •A change in the percent positivity rate. The percent positivity rate was previously calculated as the number of positive COVID-19 cases divided by the total number of tests completed. The new calculation is the number of positive cases divided by the number of people tested (not the number of tests done). These changes will increase the rate of positive cases as reported through the dashboard. This is because each positive individual may have multiple tests done, increasing the size of the denominator (the number of tests) but not the numerator (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases). The previously-reported rate cannot be compared to the current rate.

    •The tests performed by day will include PCR tests only, which indicates only if a person has an active COVID-19 case. Numbers will have decreased from previous days’ reporting because DHSS is no longer including people who received only serology tests.

    •Given the marked increase in serology testing, DHSS is now reporting separate information on serology which is collected through a blood test to determine if a person has previously been infected and has formed antibodies against the virus.

    2:37 a.m.: Wuhan lab director calls virus leak claims ‘pure fabrication’

    Claims that the global coronavirus pandemic originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the central Chinese city are a “pure fabrication,” the institute’s director said.

    Wang Yanyi said the institute did not have any knowledge before that “nor had we ever encountered, researched or kept the virus. In fact, like everyone else, we didn’t even know the virus existed. How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?”

    Wang Yanyi continued: “Many people might misunderstand that since our institute reported the RaTG-13’s genome similarity to SARS-CoV-2, we must have the RaTG-13 virus in our lab. In fact, that’s not the case. When we were sequencing the genes of this bat virus sample, we got the genome sequence of the RaTG-13 but we didn’t isolate nor obtain the live virus of RaTG-13. Thus, there is no possibility of us leaking RaTG-13.”

    8:58 p.m.: Minnesota’s governor allows places of worship to open

    Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced that starting Wednesday, he will allow places of worship to reopen at 25% capacity if they adhere to social distancing and other public health guidelines.

    Walz also announced that COVID-19 cases are still climbing and may not reach the peak until summer.

    The state’s health commissioner said there was an increase of 847 positive coronavirus cases Friday — the highest daily total. There have been 19,845 positive cases in the state thus far.

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