The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

Families trying to squeeze in a summer vacation before school starts better do some homework on COVID-19 restrictions before loading up the minivan.

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Passengers board a Casco Bay Lines ferry bound for Peaks Island on Thursday in Portland. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The web of state and local quarantines is growing more tangled by the day: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have ordered visitors from a whopping 34 states to quarantine for 14 days. Chicago and Washington, D.C., have each singled out travelers from about two dozen states. Other states have their own lists. Some have an option for visitors to get tested instead.

“Complicated doesn’t begin to describe it. I feel sorry for people. They just want to go to Cape Cod. They want to go to Vermont. I don’t know what to tell them. People are pretty much left on their own to figure out,” said Kathy Kutrubes, owner of a travel agency in Boston.

The restrictions – and maybe the confusion, too – are contributing to a sharp drop in travel, dealing a blow to a key industry.

Before the outbreak, Americans were expected to take 2.3 billion domestic trips this year, according to the U.S. Travel Association. But that’s expected expected to drop about 30% to 1.6 billion, the lowest level since 1991. Normally nearly a third of domestic travel happens in the summer.

Abroad, a drop-off in tourism from U.S. visitors and restrictions on crossing borders have also led many travel-related businesses to wonder if they will survive.

When it comes to travel restrictions in the U.S., the situation varies widely. Many states have no restrictions whatsoever for domestic travel. But the number of states with quarantines is growing as governors move to protect residents amid flareups in places such as Florida, Texas and Arizona.

The results are confusing, to say the least.

Read the full story here.

Florida halts COVID-19 testing as it prepares for hurricane

MIAMI — Hurricane Isaias’ imminent arrival forced the closure of some outdoor coronavirus testing sites Friday even as the state reached a new daily high in deaths.

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Lines of cars wait at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., this month. The imminent arrival of Hurricane Isaias forced the closure of some testing sites on Friday. Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

The coming weather forced officials to halt testing in Miami, which has been worst hit by the coronavirus, for at least three days because many of the sites operate outdoors, in tents. Under normal circumstances, the sites have the capacity to test hundreds of people per day.

“We had to put safety first,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said at an online news conference Friday. “We will have thousands of tests that will not be conducted until we get these test sites up and running again.”

Officials in Florida said they were also closing beaches, marinas and parks in Miami-Dade County beginning Friday night.

Hurricane watches and storm warnings were in effect in many areas of Florida’s east coast, prompting residents to buy sandbags and board up their homes. Isaias was forecast to strengthen Friday while moving near or over the Bahamas and was expected to approach South Florida on Saturday or Sunday.

No evacuations had been ordered or shelters opened as of Friday, but emergency operations authorities were making preparations just in case. They said social-distancing measures were complicating evacuation plans as each person now needs to have 40 square feet and shelters can’t offer cafeteria-style dining. People in evacuation zones who are infected will be isolated in special areas at shelters.

“It’s a challenge, but these are some of the things you have to think about in the age of COVID-19 and now a hurricane,” Gimenez said. The state’s largest county has 20 evacuation centers on standby that could be set up with COVID-19 safety measures, the mayor said.

The Florida Department of Health reported 257 new deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, a record high for the fourth day in a row. Officials reported 9,000 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, raising the cumulative number to 470,000.

With the rising number of deaths from COVID-19 reported in the past four days, the average daily over the past week has been raised to 171 per day. The rate is second only to Texas in the current resurgence of the pandemic.

Fauci optimistic COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available

WASHINGTON — Once a coronavirus vaccine is approved as safe and effective, Americans should have widespread access within a reasonable time, Dr. Anthony Fauci assured lawmakers Friday.

Appearing before a House panel investigating the nation’s response to the pandemic, Fauci expressed “cautious” optimism that a vaccine would be available, particularly by next year.

“I believe, ultimately, over a period of time in 2021, that Americans will be able to get it,” Fauci said, referring to the vaccine.

There will be a priority list for who gets early vaccinations. “I don’t think we will have everybody getting it immediately,” Fauci explained.

But “ultimately, within a reasonable time, the plans allow for any American who needs the vaccine to get it,” he added.

Under direction from the White House, federal health authorities are carrying out a plan dubbed Operation Warp Speed to manufacture 300 million doses of a vaccine on a compressed timeline.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, said a quarter-million people have expressed interest in taking part in studies of experimental vaccines for the coronavirus.

He said that 250,000 people have registered on a government website to take part in vaccine trials, which are pivotal for establishing safety and effectiveness. Not all patients who volunteer to take part in clinical trials are eligible to participate.

Fauci was joined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir.

Giroir acknowledged that currently it’s not possible for the U.S. to return all coronavirus test results to patients in two to three days. He blamed overwhelming demand across the nation.

Many health experts say that COVID-19 results are almost worthless when delivered after two or three days because by then the window for contact tracing has closed.

Read the full story here.

St. Louis Cardinals ordered to self-isolate after positive test

MILWAUKEE — The St. Louis Cardinals have been instructed to self-isolate in their hotel rooms after at least one positive COVID-19 test on the traveling party, and they will not be going to Miller Park on Friday for the game against Milwaukee, according to multiple reports.

The afternoon game is expected to be postponed according to MLB Network and ESPN.

The Cardinals arrived in Milwaukee on Wednesday evening and had an off day Thursday before planning to play the Brewers in their home opener on Friday. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Friday morning that the Cardinals game would be postponed due to multiple positive tests for COVID-19.

Friday’s game was scheduled to start at 2:10 p.m. with Jack Flaherty (1-0) starting for the the Cardinals against Brett Anderson (0-0).

The Miami Marlins were the first team to face a COVID-19 crisis, with 17 players and two coaches testing positive during and after last weekend’s series in Philadelphia.

Read the full story here.

U.S. sinks another $2.1 billion into a potential vaccine

LONDON — Pharma giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur have announced they will supply 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the United States as governments buy up supplies in hopes something will work.

The United States will pay up to $2.1 billion “for development including clinical trials, manufacturing, scale-up and delivery of its vaccine,” the companies said in a statement. Sanofi will get the bulk of the funds.

The U.S. government has a further option for the supply of an additional 500 million doses longer term as part of its Operation Warp Speed program.

“The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Today’s investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people.”

Earlier this week the British government signed a deal for 60 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine that could start to be rolled out in the first half of next year.

Britain’s GSK and France’s Sanofi’s vaccine prospect is based on the existing DNA-based technology that is used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. It is one of several vaccines in development.

“The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” said Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president of Sanofi Pasteur.

The companies said discussions are ongoing with the European Commission.

Fauci to tell House panel ‘unclear’ how long pandemic lasts

WASHINGTON — There’s no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top government health experts will tell Congress on Friday.

“While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” Fauci, along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir say in prepared testimony for a special House panel investigating the pandemic.

At a time when early progress seems to have been lost and uncertainty clouds the nation’s path forward, Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, is calling on lawmakers — and all other Americans — to go back to public health basics such as social distancing and wearing masks.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a roundtable on donating plasma at the American Red Cross national headquarters on Thursday, July 30 in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The panel, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, is divided about how to reopen schools and businesses, mirroring divisions among Americans.

A rebound of cases across the South and the West has dashed hopes for a quick return to normal life. Problems with the availability and timeliness of testing continue to be reported. And the race for a vaccine, though progressing rapidly, has yet to deliver a breakthrough.

Fauci’s public message in recent days has been that Americans can’t afford a devil-may-care attitude toward COVID-19 and need to double down on basic measures such as wearing masks in public, keeping their distance from others and avoiding crowds and indoor spaces such as bars. That’s echoed by Redfield and Giroir, though they are far less prominent.

Fauci’s dogged persistence has drawn the ire of some of President Donald Trump’s supporters and prompted a new round of calls for his firing. But the veteran of battles against AIDS and Ebola has stuck to his message, while carefully avoiding open confrontations with the Trump White House.

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week, Fauci said he was “disturbed” by the flat-out opposition in parts of the country to wearing masks as a public health protective measure.

Read the full story here.

UK imposes new restrictions for 4 million amid virus spread

LONDON — Britain’s health secretary defended the government’s abrupt re-imposition of restrictions on social life across a swath of northern England on Friday, saying it was important to clamp down quickly on new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Matt Hancock said that while it’s not the “sort of decision that anybody would want to take,’’ the government had no choice.

“It is important to move quickly because the virus spreads and you’ve got to make sure you do everything you can do keep ahead of it,” he told Sky News.

Under the new restrictions, people from different households in Greater Manchester, England’s second largest metropolitan area, have been asked to not meet indoors. The order also applies to the surrounding areas of Lancashire and West Yorkshire counties, affecting more than 4 million people in all.

Hancock said data showed the coronavirus was being spread primarily between households.

He told the BBC that “one of the terrible things about this virus is it thrives on the sort of social contact that makes life worth living.”

Opposition politicians supported the latest move but criticized the government for announcing the restrictions in a tweet from Hancock late Thursday, just two hours before they came into force at midnight.

Labour Party business spokeswoman Lucy Powell said the “bolt out of the blue” approach was “not the way to build confidence and to take people with you and maximize compliance with these steps.”

The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions coincide with the Eid al-Adha holiday, where many people would normally gather in each other’s homes.

U.K. scientists to immunize hundreds with experimental coronavirus vaccine

LONDON — Scientists at Imperial College London say they are immunizing hundreds of people with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an early trial after seeing no worrying safety problems in a small number vaccinated so far.

Dr. Robin Shattock, a professor at the college, told The Associated Press that he and colleagues had just finished a very slow and arduous process of testing the vaccine at a low dose in the initial participants and would now expand the trial to about 300 people, including some over age 75.

“It’s well tolerated. There aren’t any side effects,” he said, adding it was still very early in the study. Shattock, who is leading the vaccine research at Imperial, said he hopes to have enough safety data to start inoculating several thousand people in October.

Since COVID-19 infections have dropped dramatically in Britain, making it difficult to determine whether or not the vaccine works, Shattock said he and his colleagues are also looking to test their vaccine elsewhere.

“We’re looking very carefully at the pandemic, at the numbers where the hot spots are and talking to collaborators that have the facilities to do these kinds of studies,” he said.

The Imperial vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code based on the virus. Once injected into a muscle, the body’s own cells are instructed to make copies of a spiky protein on the coronavirus. That should in turn trigger an immune response so the body can fight off any future COVID-19 infection.

Earlier this week, the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccine study started in the United States, with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers getting immunized with shots created by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.

Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University, based on different vaccine technologies, began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month.

The World Health Organization has said multiple vaccine approaches are necessary for COVID-19, noting that the usual success rate for vaccine development is about 10%.

Shattock said there were numerous coronavirus vaccines now in clinical trials, and he predicted that at least some of them would prove to be effective.

“We have 20 vaccines in clinical trials, (so) we can be pretty confident that at least two of those will work,” he said. “It really depends on how strong the immune response needs to be to provide protection.”

Shattock said he was optimistic the Imperial vaccine would work, but must await the scientific data from the trial.

“I’m just going to hold my breath and wait to see,” he said.

Senate leaders trade withering jabs as unemployment benefits set to expire

WASHINGTON — The two top Senate leaders on Thursday exchanged the most biting criticism yet of each other’s coronavirus relief proposals as negotiations continued to flounder – clouding the prospects of even a short-term deal as millions of Americans confront a sudden loss of expanded unemployment benefits.

In a floor speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who released his party’s plan earlier this week, blasted the $3 trillion Democratic plan as a “totally unserious proposal” and accused Democratic leaders of refusing to allow their rank-and-file members to engage in discussions with Republicans. But McConnell has largely extricated himself from the primary negotiations on the next phase of coronavirus legislation, as internal divisions among Republicans weaken his leverage.

McConnell was quickly followed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who noted that the majority leader said that about 20 GOP senators are expected to oppose any plan and that Republicans had wasted precious time in responding to the economic and public health crises caused by the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States.

The dueling speeches on the Senate floor appeared to be aimed at setting up political blame as Congress remained on the cusp of failure to reach a deal as expanded jobless benefits for about 20 millions Americans were set to expire Friday. The approaching deadline amounts to a financial cliff for consumers that could send the economy reeling. Republicans have increasingly talked up a potential short-term extension of the jobless benefits as negotiations continue on a larger deal, but Democrats have refused that option.

“The House speaker moves the goal posts while the Democratic leader hides the football,” McConnell said Thursday morning. “They won’t engage when the administration tries to discuss our comprehensive plan. They won’t engage when the administration floats a narrower proposal. They basically won’t engage, period.”

Schumer said Republicans “dithered for months” and then released a “half-baked, halfhearted proposal of half-measures.” He also noted that the main negotiations were among him; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – and not McConnell.

“I would remind him, he refuses to go into the room when Speaker Pelosi, Secretary Mnuchin, Chief of Staff Meadows and I sit in there,” Schumer said. “Once again, Senator McConnell engages in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ tactics and speeches and words. What he says is exactly the opposite of what is true.”

The political acrimony also came as statistics released Thursday showed the U.S. economy shrank 9.5% from April to June – the largest quarterly decline since the government began publishing the data seven decades ago.

Read the full story here.

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain dies of COVID-19

ATLANTA — Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has died after battling the coronavirus. He was 74.

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Herman Cain

A post on Cain’s Twitter account on Thursday announced the death. Cain had been ill with the virus for several weeks. It’s not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June.

The former pizza company executive has been an outspoken backer of the president and was named by the campaign as a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump.

“We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” read an article posted on the Twitter account. “He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle.”

Read the full story about Herman Cain here.

Democrats trim convention hours amid coronavirus pandemic

MILWAUKEE — Democrats will meet for just two hours each night of their national convention next month in Milwaukee, according to preliminary schedule for the event that has been scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Biden is expected to accept the party’s presidential nomination on the final night of the convention, which runs Aug. 17-20, the schedule released late Wednesday said. Biden’s vice presidential pick will be nominated Aug. 19 and is scheduled to address the mainly virtual gathering.

The pandemic has delegates casting ballots remotely, beginning next week. A safety plan announced Monday says everyone attending will have to wear a face mask, consent to daily testing for COVID-19, fill out questionnaires and maintain a physical distance from others.

“We are looking forward to a historic convention anchored in Milwaukee, and through the leadership of the permanent officers who will help oversee this convention Democrats will come together to continue the work to elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement.

Typically, the party holds meetings during the day with delegates gathering for several hours each night to listen to speeches. This time, plans call for Democrats to meet from 8 to 10 p.m. Central Time each night.

The convention will be led by honorary chairwoman House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and honorary chairman U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.


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