The United States reported nearly 1,500 coronavirus deaths across the nation on Wednesday.
The figure was the highest single-day death toll since May, pushing the country's total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 166,027. Wednesday's death toll also means the U.S. has averaged over 1,000 COVID-19 fatalities each day for more than two consecutive weeks.
With the United States leading the world in the total number of coronavirus deaths and infections, with 5.1 million cases, public health advisers have expressed concern about new rules for hospitals to report COVID-19 data.
The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to send the data to a new database operated by the Department of Health and Human Services Department, instead of to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the change would streamline the data collection process.
But in a letter written to HHS Secretary Alex Azar last month, nearly three dozen current and former members of a department advisory committee say hospitals are "scrambling to determine how to meet daily reporting requirements."
The experts warn the change would mean the country would lose "decades of expertise in interpreting and analyzing crucial data" about the virus that would help guide the CDC in crafting strategies in mitigating the outbreak.
New Zealand faces surge
In New Zealand, a new coronavirus outbreak that prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to put the city of Auckland under a new lockdown is growing.
Authorities in the northern city Thursday reported 13 new community infections, all of them connected to a family of four who tested positive for the virus, becoming the country's first new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 in 102 days. The new confirmed cases bring the total number of active new cases to 36, including one person who entered New Zealand from overseas.
Prime Minister Ardern placed Auckland's 1.6 million people under a three-day lockdown Tuesday, mandating that its 1.6 million citizens stay indoors except for essential trips. Police checkpoints were established at the city's borders to turn away anyone attempting to leave. Ardern has also ordered strict social distancing measures for the rest of the country.
Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's health minister, said Wednesday investigators are searching a cold storage facility where one of the infected people worked, on the chance the virus was imported, but other experts believe it was more likely it had been spreading in Auckland for weeks.
The new outbreak has also prompted Ardern to delay the dissolution of parliament, a decision that could lead to the postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled for September 19.
Among the world's 20.6 million total confirmed infections, including nearly 750,000 deaths, New Zealand has one of the lowest numbers in either category, with just 1,589 cases and 22 deaths. Ardern imposed a strict nationwide lockdown in March in the outbreak's earliest days and closed New Zealand's borders to international travel, while introducing a widespread testing and tracing regime.