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Coronavirus updates: Florida beach town has 24.4% positivity rate

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Myriam Borzee/iStockBy JON HAWORTH and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — The novel coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 611,000 people worldwide.

Over 14.7 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 or downplaying the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

The United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 3.8 million diagnosed cases and at least 141,158 deaths.

Here is how the news is developing Tuesday. All times Eastern:

1:40 p.m.: Trump administration working with hospitals on religious accommodations

The Trump administration says it is working with hospitals on accommodations for religious leaders to visit patients and health care workers.

Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Health and Human Services Department, told reporters Tuesday that the administration has helped to resolve several issues so far, including a medical student who didn’t want to shave his beard but was told the N95 respirator wouldn’t fit properly otherwise.

The student, who was on rotation at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, was allowed to use a powered air purifying respirator instead, Severino said.

“This was a win-win situation,” Severino said. “It avoided the difficult and painful situation of having to force someone to choose between their deeply held religious beliefs and pursuing the practice of medicine.”

In another case, the Trump administration intervened when a Maryland woman was told in June that her husband couldn’t receive visitors after being in a serious motorcycle accident. The hospital did not believe he was close to death and thought visitors presented safety concerns.

The Health and Human Services Department intervened and a priest was allowed to visit, Severino said.

“Spiritual needs don’t exist only at the point of death” Severino said.

1:05 p.m.: South Carolina National Guard to help hospitals with surge

The South Carolina National Guard is sending about 40 medics to five hospitals to help respond to a COVID-19 surge, officials said Tuesday.

Georgetown County and Horry County have reported over 4,000 new coronavirus cases since July 1, hospital officials said.

All local hospitals are at or near capacity in their ICU, emergency and inpatient care departments, officials said.

12:20 p.m.: 10 new states added to NY travel advisory list

Ten new states have been added to New York’s travel advisory list.

The new states are: Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia and Washington.

Those states join: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

Minnesota has been removed from the list.

Travelers headed to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from those states must quarantine for two weeks.

The quarantine applies to states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a one-week average, or any state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a one-week average.

11:40 a.m. Florida county asks parents to sign waiver for kids to take part in after-school activities

In Highlands County, Florida, parents must sign a COVID-19 waiver for students to take part in extracurricular activities this summer and during the upcoming school year, reported ABC affiliate WFTS.

The waiver asks that parents agree to check their children’s temperature each day, visually inspect their children for signs of illness and confirm that the children have not been in contact with a coronavirus-positive person in the last two weeks. Parents also must agree to promptly pick up their children if they show signs of illness and to keep their children at home until they are illness-free for at least 72 hours without medicine.

The waiver is meant to remind parents that participating in any activity now carries a risk, Deputy Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge told WFTS.

11:05 a.m.: Florida has 5 counties with no available ICU beds

In hard-hit Florida, five counties — Hernando, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee and Putnam — had no available ICU beds as of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration.

Of the adult ICU beds across the state, just 16.47% are available, the agency said.

Those numbers are expected to fluctuate throughout the day.

At least 21,780 coronavirus patients in Florida have been hospitalized since the pandemic began — up 517 from Monday, according to the state’s Department of Health.

Florida’s positivity rate is now at 13.62% as the state’s number of COVID-19 cases reaches 369,834.

Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami, and Bay County, which includes Panama City, are especially hard hit.

Miami-Dade County has a positivity rate of 19.2% while Bay County’s positivity rate stands at 24.4%

10:05 a.m.: NJ closing DMV center after employee tests positive

A DMV licensing center in Wayne, New Jersey, is closing for one week after an employee tested positive, state officials announced Tuesday.

The facility will be sanitized and the employee will quarantine for two weeks.

9:25 a.m.: Cases in Alabama county double in two weeks

Officials in Calhoun County, Alabama, about 70 miles east of Birmingham, are pleading with residents to wear masks as COVID-19 cases surge in the area.

Of the county’s 814 coronavirus cases, 430 of those were reported in just the last two weeks, Michael Barton, director of Emergency Management for Calhoun County, said Monday.

“This is alarming,” Barton said, adding that hospitals are at an “all-time high in reaching our capacity.”

One local hospital had five COVID-19 patients two weeks ago. That hospital now has 44 patients.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a mandatory statewide mask requirement last week.

“Make sure that you wear your mask and you adhere to all of the standards and guidelines that you possibly can,” urged Joe Weaver, CEO at the local Stringfellow Memorial Hospital. “We know it’s restrictive, but at the same time, there’s no other thing. There’s nothing else that we can do at this point in time.”

4:43 a.m.: Russia’s first COVID-19 vaccine ready, deputy defense minister says

Russia’s first vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection, which was created by military specialists and scientists of the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, is ready, First Deputy Defense Minister Ruslan Tsalikov told Argumenty i Fakty.

“Final assessments on the results of testing by our specialists and scientists of the National Research Center have been already made. At the moment of release all volunteers without exception developed immunity against the coronavirus and felt normal. So, the first domestic vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection is ready,” Tsalikov told the newspaper.

2:43 a.m.: Ft. Worth federal women’s prison announces third COVID-related death

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced late Monday a third COVID-related death at FMC Carswell, a specialized federal medical prison for women in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Teresa Ely, 51, tested positive for COVID-19 on June 30 and was transported to a local hospital where she received treatment until she died Monday, July 20.

The BOP announcement said Ely had “long-term, pre-existing medical conditions, which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease.”

“Ms. Ely was a 51-year-old female who was sentenced in the Western District of Virginia to a 252-month sentence for Engaging in a Criminal Enterprise and Continuing a Criminal Enterprise,” read a statement from the prison. “Ms. Ely had been in custody at FMC Carswell since September 19, 2007.”

1:37 a.m.: NFL players will be tested daily for COVID-19 for at least the first two weeks of training camp

The NFL announced that players will be tested daily for the coronavirus for at least the first two weeks of training camp.

The league also made an offer to the NFL Players Association to play no preseason games this summer, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The players had been pushing to not play preseason games this year, and the league had been seeking to play two games instead of the usual four.

The league’s proposal to the players includes an offer for a longer training camp acclimation period, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano, and that is closer to what the union proposed.

The NFLPA has not yet informed the league whether it will accept the proposal.

12:45 a.m.: Church-related COVID-19 outbreaks continue to pop up in West Virginia

During Monday’s briefing, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that several new church-related outbreaks of COVID-19 have been identified at places of worship in Grant, Logan and Wood counties.

Last week, the governor announced that additional church-related outbreaks had already been identified in Boone, Kanawha, Raleigh and Taylor counties.

Between all seven of these counties combined, these outbreaks account for about 75 total cases.

“We’ve absolutely got to stay on top of this with all in us,” Gov. Justice said. “Please know that the church setting is the ideal setting to spread this virus.”

The governor urged all West Virginians in church settings to follow the state’s safety guidelines, including using every other pew, maintaining social distancing, and wearing face coverings.

“I know these things are really difficult to do,” Gov. Justice said. “But, for right now, they have to be done because, if we don’t, all we’re going to do is lose more people.”

“We could very well lose a lot of our grandmothers and grandfathers – people who have so much wisdom to still continue to pass on – we absolutely don’t need to be losing these great West Virginians,” he said.

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