As confirmed cases of the coronavirus topped 600,000 in California, the U.S. entered into a deal with McKesson to distribute COVID-19 vaccines when approved, and New York moved to phase 4 of its reopening plans, allowing even more nonessential businesses to resume operations.

California now takes the lead as the first state to surpass the 600,000 mark for total positive coronavirus cases. The state is followed by Florida, which has more than 557,000 positive cases and Texas, which reported over 530,000 confirmed cases of the virus, Johns Hopkins University tracking data show.

The two largest counties in California reported new coronavirus cases on Thursday with Los Angeles County seeing 1,999 new positive cases and San Diego County confirming 266 new cases of the virus, data from NBC News indicated.

While California leads the U.S. in coronavirus cases, it is the third-highest state in total COVID-19 deaths. The state has had nearly 11,000 COVID deaths - a count that is led by New York and New Jersey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has projected the U.S. will reach 200,000 total COVID-19 deaths by Labor Day. The U.S. topped 167,000 COVID-19 deaths Friday.

The news of California’s case count comes as the federal government through the Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense entered into an agreement with McKesson Corp. to be the central distributor of COVID-19 vaccines and related supplies needed to begin inoculations during the pandemic.

The move by the U.S. extends an existing contract option with McKesson, which distributed the H1N1 vaccine during the 2009-10 pandemic. The award, HHS said, was part of a competitive bidding process that began in 2016 and included an option to distribute vaccines “in the event of a pandemic.”

When a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, McKesson will work with the CDC to ship doses to vaccine administration sites.

“Today’s announcement puts another building block in place as the nation moves toward a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

“America’s march toward one or more safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a combined effort between American industry and the federal government. McKesson is a leader in its field, and we welcome its expertise and dedication to public health,” he added.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state can now enter phase 4 and reopen more nonessential businesses, including museums, aquariums, historical sites, cultural centers and bowling alleys. Guidelines for reopening gyms are expected to come from Cuomo on Monday.

Under the phase 4 plan, the reopened businesses will have to observe capacity limits as well as implement a face mask policy for employees and customers. Bowling alleys will also have to adhere to additional sanitation of shared equipment and limit food and drink to wait service.

Cuomo made the announcement as New York has reached a 1% coronavirus positivity rate for the last seven days.

In other coronavirus news:

  • Florida reported about 8,000 new positive coronavirus cases on Wednesday after a reporting glitch dumped 4,000 cases into the counting system in a single day. The results caused some Floridians to take to social media where they expressed distrust of the state’s reporting system, while others said they were “shocked” at the numbers they claimed were being underreported.
  • The U.S., Canada and Mexico have extended their border travel ban until Sept. 21. The announcement was posted by the Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Twitter. Wolf said in his tweet the countries were working together to “slow the spread of #COVID19.” The travel ban restricts any nonessential travel but not essential travel or cargo.
  • Paul Mango, a Department of Health and Human Services deputy chief of staff for policy, said a COVID-19 vaccine, when approved, will not require a copay, The Wall Street Journal reported. Mango reportedly said the federal government is working with commercial healthcare providers to offer the vaccine free of charge with the U.S. covering the cost of doses that will go to hundreds of millions of Americans.
  • An additional $1.4 billion has been earmarked for 80 children’s hospitals in the U.S. by the Department of Health and Human Services through the Health Resources and Services Administration. The funding will be used to provide coronavirus relief to the children’s hospitals that have been impacted by the pandemic with increased costs and decreased patient visits. The hospitals have also been used to provide back up capacity during the pandemic as well as other support.
  • Retail sales were up for the third straight month. Sales increased by 1.2% in July compared to a month earlier to $536 billion and up 2.7% from July 2019, the Commerce Department reported. However, the additional spending may be due to price inflation. Overall sales were down 0.2% for May through July compared to the same period a year ago.
  • British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber announced he was taking part in Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. Webber announced the news on social media. “Just completed the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial. I’ll do anything to get theatres large and small open again and actors and musicians back to work,” he said.
  • The U.K. has entered into a deal with Novavax and Janssen to receive 90 million additional doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The deal with Novavax will include 60 million doses of the vaccine while the contract with Janssen is for 30 million doses. The cost of the two deals was not disclosed. The U.K. has secured 340 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from six candidates for its population of 66 million people.
  • U.S. healthcare insurers have doubled the amount of money they made during the coronavirus pandemic compared to a year ago, The Washington Post reported. Companies such as UnitedHealth Group, Anthem and Humana reported a significant increase in their profits as elective procedures were put off because of the pandemic. UnitedHealth Group reported a profit of $6.7 billion for the second quarter, up from $3.4 billion during the same period last year while Anthem’s Q2 earnings increased to $2.3 billion compared to $1.4 billion in the same quarter last year. Humana reported earnings of $1.8 billion, up from the $940 million reported last year.
Coronavirus Testing
A healthcare worker gathers information from a motorist at a drive-in coronavirus (COVID-19) testing center at M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism on August 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. California reported 12,500 new cases after backlogged cases from a data glitch began appearing in the state’s system Getty Images/Mario Tama