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Coronavirus live updates: TSA to require employees to wear ‘facial protection’

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Myriam Borzee/iStockBy WILLIAM MANSELL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 269,000 people worldwide.

Over 3.84 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 1.2 million diagnosed cases and at least 75,670 deaths.

Here’s how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:

6:17 a.m.: Drug maker says coronavirus vaccine trial could begin in weeks

A drug maker has been given the green light by the Food and Drug Administration to move to phase 2 of its coronavirus vaccine trial.

Moderna’s chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks told ABC News that the next phase would begin dosing “very shortly,” which he said means in a matter of weeks. This puts the company on track to launch Phase 3 this summer.

“I only have two competitors, the virus and the clock,” Zaks said, speaking with ABC News remotely from his home in Massachusetts.

Moderna is leading one of at least three U.S. vaccine trials on humans.

“We need to bring forward, every potential vaccine that has the opportunity to help because time is of the essence,” Zaks said.

The company has not released results from its pre-clinical or phase 1 trials. Zaks says it’s still premature to disclose that information, but said their experience to date is what gives him confidence they’re on the right path.

Zaks said they envision being able to produce up to a billion doses a year. But he cautions, “it’s not going to be a black and white moment that says okay now everybody can take it.” He expects government agencies “to step up and help us make sure that it is first available to those who need it.”

4:43 a.m.: TSA to require employees to wear ‘facial protection’ at screening checkpoints

After more than two months into the coronavirus pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration announced all employees must wear “facial protection” at screening checkpoints.

The agency said the practice “will be implemented over the coming days.”

“TSA is making this change to protect our employees and travelers as social distancing cannot always be maintained in the screening process,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement Thursday.

In mid-March, the union representing TSA officers requested the agency provide surgical masks to employees and allow officers to wear N95 respirators. It took two weeks for the agency to do both. Currently, TSA is providing employees with N95s, eye protection and installing plexiglass at the travel document checker in some airports.

Multiple airports have already mandated that all employees and passengers must wear face coverings.

This comes as the number of air travelers continues to tick up and after all major U.S. airlines announced they would require both passengers and crew to wear face coverings.

TSA has had 534 federal employees test positive for COVID-19. As of Thursday morning, 285 of those employees have recovered, and six have died after contracting the virus.

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