20 million confirmed COVID-19 cases

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has topped 20 million worldwide and a quarter of them are in the U.S., the latest tally revealed Tuesday.

Roughly a quarter of the nearly 740,000 deaths from COVID-19 were also in America, NBC News figures showed.

In just six weeks, the number of cases around the globe doubled as countries that had been in lockdown began opening up in April.

The same thing happened in the U.S., where the bulk of the new cases have been reported in the South and in the Sun Belt in states like Florida, which started reopening in May at the urging of President Donald Trump and have since seen an ongoing surge in new cases, including 276 more deaths reported Tuesday.

California, the state with the most cases thus far, now has 574,228 after an overnight increase of 12,750 cases. It also reported 117 more deaths, bringing that total up to 10,473.

And yet even as the world marked this melancholy milestone in the pandemic, Trump pushed for the resumption of college football and insisted the virus posed little danger to the athletes.

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“This attacks older people very viciously by the way,” Trump said Tuesday on FOX Sports Radio. “But these football players are very young, strong people physically. They’re not going to have a problem. Could it happen? I doubt it. You’re not going to see people dying. Young people have the sniffles.”

The Big 10, however, was not moved by Trump’s appeal. The league announced later Tuesday that it was postponing football and all other fall sports. That means players from storied football programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin won’t be on the gridiron this year.

“In making its decision, which was based on multiple factors, the Big Ten Conference relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee,'” the league said in a statement.

Earlier, the Mid-American Conference erred on the side of caution and became the first league to cancel its fall sports season because of coronavirus concerns.

Most of the COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. have been the elderly and the infirm. And the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living released a report Tuesday showing that confirmed COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes are rising rapidly again after a steady decline in June.

One of the latest victims was 100-year-old Annie Glenn, the widow of astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, who spent her final years at a nursing home near St. Paul, Minnesota.

But health experts have also been warning for weeks that the age of the people catching the virus has been trending downward.

In fact, most of the blame for the case spikes in the U.S. has been aimed at quarantine-weary younger people who have been congregating at house parties and bars and refusing to wear masks or practice social distancing.

Also, a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association revealed a 40 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in children from July 16 to July 30.

Almost 100,000 children in the U.S. were sickened with the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, the researchers found.

In other developments:

A Houston-area woman trying to fly home from Midland, Texas, said she and her family were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight on Monday morning because her 3-year-old son, who has autism, refused to wear a face mask. “He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming no, no, no,” the mom, Alyssa Sadler, told the local NBC News affiliate. She said that her son has a sensory processing disorder and doesn’t like his face touched and that she produced a doctor’s note saying as much. But the flight attendant insisted and the plane was returned to the gate. Southwest Airlines said all passengers over age 2 have to cover their faces while traveling and that this is reiterated during the online booking and check-in process. “If a customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual,” the airline said in an email to the affiliate.While public health experts say wearing masks helps slow the spread of the virus, enforcing mask rules can be hazardous to your health. A 17-year-old worker at the Sesame Place theme park near Philadelphia found that out that hard way Sunday when he reminded an unidentified man and woman that they were required to don masks while in the park, according to a report by the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. A few hours later, the man confronted the worker at the Captain Cookie’s High C’s Adventure ride and punched him in the face, police said. Then the man and woman fled from the scene as park security chased after them. The teen underwent surgery Monday to repair an injured jaw and damaged tooth. Police were still trying to identify his attacker, who appeared to be between 20 and 30 and was driving a car with New York plates.Just one week after schools reopened in a northern Georgia school district, more than 800 of its students and staff have been told to quarantine. Last week, the Cherokee County School District, about 44 miles north of Atlanta, told 20 people to quarantine when one second-grader tested positive for the virus after the first day of school. That number grew fast, and as of Monday night, the school has ordered 826 students to quarantine due to possible exposure, according to a list the district created.Three people linked to a Florida school have all died of the coronavirus, authorities said. Jacqueline Byrd, 55, used to work at the Fort Braden School outside Tallahassee. Her 19-year-old son, Jordan, was a custodian at the school. And one week after Jordan Byrd died, the mother of his girlfriend died. Karen Bradwell, 53, had been the director of after-school programs at Fort Braden School.In Russia, President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that the country has registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine. While Putin said the vaccine, called Sputnik V, had “proven efficient” and “passed all the necessary tests,” no data has been published by researchers for peer review and the long-term effects of the treatment remained unclear.The 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota drew thousands of bikers over the weekend, most of whom were not wearing masks or even pretending to social distance. But it was a crude and cavalier comment about the coronavirus by a member of the rock band Smash Mouth that sparked widespread ridicule. The band’s best known song is “All Star” and includes the line, “I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.”Corky Siemaszko

Joe Murphy contributed.

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