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Coronavirus updates: Massachusetts, DC impose new travel restrictions

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(NEW YORK) — The novel coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 634,000 people worldwide.

Over 15.5 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 4 million diagnosed cases and at least 144,552 deaths.

Here is how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Check back for updates.

1:35 p.m.: Houston delays start of school year

Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, is delaying the start of the year for public school students, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Friday.

Schools will not start until at least Sept. 8. Hidalgo said that date is “probably too soon, but we’re going to aim for it.”

The Houston area is reporting a slight decline in ICU admissions and hospitalizations, but is still seeing a huge increase in cases.

Hidalgo said there are now 100 more cases per day than on July 13.

1:04 p.m.: Toronto Blue Jays to play in Buffalo

The Toronto Blue Jays, displaced from their home stadium due to the pandemic, will play the greater part of its home season at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, the team announced Friday.

The Canadian government denied the Blue Jay’s request to play its games in Toronto because of concerns over teams crossing the border.

“This process has no doubt tested our team’s resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses — we are determined to take the field on Opening Day today, and for the coming months, with the same intensity and competitiveness that our fans expect,” Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro said in statement.

The Blue Jays’ opening game will be Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

12:45 p.m.: DC, Massachusetts impose new travel restrictions

Beginning Aug. 1, all Massachusetts visitors, residents reentering the state and students returning to college in Massachusetts must fill out a travel form and quarantine for two weeks, Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday.

The exceptions are people arriving from one of the eight states designated as a COVID-19 lower-risk state or if the traveler can submit a negative COVID-19 test result that was administered no more than three days before arriving in Massachusetts.

If your test result hasn’t been received when you arrive in Massachusetts, you must quarantine until getting the negative result, Baker said. Those who do not comply could be fined $500 per day.

The eight exempt states considered lower risk are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Hawaii.

In Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser said Friday she’s signing an order that will require travelers from coronavirus hot spots to quarantine for two weeks when arriving in the district.

The order, which takes effect July 27, will not apply to Maryland and Virginia.

Earlier this week, Bowser said masks would be required in D.C. for people ages 3 and older. Violators could be fined up to $1,000.

12 p.m.: Cases rising in Maryland, Virginia after falling in June

In Maryland and Virginia, COVID-19 cases have been steadily on the rise the last few weeks after case numbers fell in June.

In Maryland, cases rose by 930 in the last 24 hours — the highest daily increase since the end of May, the state’s Department of Health said.

According to The Baltimore Sun, this is Maryland’s 11th straight day of more than 500 new daily COVID-19 cases.

In neighboring Virginia, after a major decline in June, cases this week rose by about 800 to 1,000 per day.

11 a.m.: 16% of Florida ICU beds remain available

Just 16.1% of Florida’s adult intensive care unit beds were available as of Friday morning, according to Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration.

In Miami-Dade County, just 10.85% of ICU beds were open, the agency said.

Those numbers will fluctuate throughout the day as hospitals and medical centers provide updates.

At least 5,767 people in Florida have died from COVID-19. Over 402,000 people in the state have been diagnosed, putting the state third in number of cases, behind California and New York.

10 a.m.: About 20 cases linked to teens’ NJ house party

About 20 teenagers diagnosed with COVID-19 have been linked to a July 11 house party in Middletown, New Jersey, reported ABC New York station WABC.

The diagnosed party-goers were between the ages of 15 and 19. Some of them are not cooperating with contact tracers, WABC reported.

“If you think your child may have attended such a party or participates in sports or any other group activity that may have included anyone potentially exposed, please ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days to monitor for signs and symptoms,” the Middletown health department said.

9:15 a.m.: Arizona patients taken to NM hospitals due to bed, staffing shortages

An internal FEMA memo obtained by ABC News details new COVID-19 problems across the U.S.

In Arizona, COVID-19 patients are being transferred to New Mexico hospitals because of staffing shortages and a lack of beds, according to the memo.

In Georgia, where last week saw a record single-day case total, 85% of critical care beds are in use across the state, the memo said.

And in Arkansas, the Hot Springs area reported a 198.1% increase in new cases this past week, with 145 new cases, the memo said. Most new cases are in the Ouachita River Unit prison where there are hundreds of cases among staff and inmates.

8:30 a.m.: Controlling the virus takes ‘an all-of-government approach,’ WHO says

While the U.S. remains the nation with the most coronavirus cases and fatalities, some countries “have been able to control the virus,” said Dr. Maria VanKerkhove, the World Health Organization’s lead expert on COVID-19.

“We do see signs of hope. In some countries they have been able to control the virus. This virus is controllable,” VanKerkhove told ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday. “Even countries that are really overwhelmed right now can turn things around.”

No matter if a country is wealthy or poor, urban or rural, VanKerkhove said control is due to “quick isolation, identification, care of patients.”

“This is not just a health sector response. This is an all-of-government approach — meaning that every sector needs to be involved,” she said.

VanKerkhove also stressed the importance of “empowering individuals so that they know what they can do to prevent themselves from getting infected” — like social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks and being vigilant.

5:40 a.m.: US COVID-19 death tally 18.7% higher than last week

The deadly impact of the novel coronavirus continues to show no signs of slowing down in the U.S. In the past week, the national death toll grew 18.7%, according to an internal Federal Emergency Management Agency Memo obtained by ABC News. The U.S. COVID-19 death toll, as of Friday morning, now stands at 144,305.

The U.S. reported 1,039 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

A large portion of the new deaths are in the South, where the number of cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise for weeks. The staggering number of cases also means hospital beds are in short supply for several states and cities.

In Alabama, the state is seeing many health care facilities reach capacity as staffing shortages are increasing strains on the system, according to the FEMA memo. COVID-19 patients in Arizona are being transferred to New Mexico because of a lack of beds.

Some hospitals in Louisiana are also at capacity. Facilities in Lake Charles and Lafayette are transferring patients to New Orleans for treatment, the memo said. And in Texas, Hidalgo County for weeks has warned its hospitals are at capacity. The crematorium in the county, according to the FEMA memo, has a two-week waitlist. It is now relying on refrigerated morgue trucks.

Meanwhile, Georgia and Kentucky saw their single-day biggest case totals in a week that also saw California (157), Florida (173), and Texas (197) all report record daily death tolls.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its U.S. coronavirus death toll projection Thursday, saying it now expects 175,000 deaths by Aug. 15.
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