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Northeast travel restrictions add to small business owners' struggles

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gregobagel/iStockBy ARIELLE MITROPOULOS, ABC NEWS

(BOSTON) — Every year, more than 20 million visitors flock to Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which, after being closed for several months, reopened July 1.

But for the first time in its nearly 300-year history, it’s largely empty.

“There is no foot traffic,” business owner Sara Youngelson told ABC News. “It is so far and few between, it’s just been really, really tough.”

For Youngelson, who owns five businesses in the Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market area, the past five months have been some of the most difficult of her 30-year career as a merchant in the historic marketplace

Many merchants and shop owners across the Northeast were optimistic that reopening later in the summer could help offset economic damage caused by the pandemic, but with newly instated state travel restrictions affecting tourism, many are no longer as hopeful.

As novel coronavirus cases surged across the country, Massachusetts and seven other Northeast states — Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey — implemented a 14-day self-quarantines, albeit with regulations that varied by state.

“Tourism is a major part of our business,” Youngelson explained. “We rely on the tour buses, we rely on planes coming in at Logan Airport. We rely on trains, we rely on cruise ships.”

The new restrictions have only further reduced the number of tourists, who, from mid-May through October, help generate most of the revenue for these businesses.

There are nearly 150 businesses in Faneuil Hall, mostly small businesses. Many already have closed or are facing a “bleak future,” according to Youngelson, who said her sales down 88%, on average, compared with last year.

Small businesses have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, with many forced to lay off employees as bills and rent payments mounted. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research projects that about 2% of U.S. small businesses, approximately 100,000, have permanently closed since the pandemic ramped up in March.

In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, travelers from states with high rates of COVID-19 are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

“As states around the country experience increasing community spread, New York is taking action to ensure the continued safety of our phased reopening,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday. “Our entire response to this pandemic has been by the numbers, and we’ve set metrics for community spread just as we set metrics for everything.”

Similarly, although although Maine has lifted its 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers from five states — New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — people arriving from Massachusetts and Rhode Island still must quarantine upon arrival.

Maine typically sees some 22 million summer tourists, who help account for 17% of the state’s employment. More than a third of those visitors, especially day-trippers, were from Massachusetts in 2019.

Popular destinations such as Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island, for which tourism is “the lifeblood of the economy,” are really struggling, said Alf Anderson, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

“Overall, most seasonal businesses are reporting losses in the neighborhood of 70% to 75% compared to 2019, and are just hoping to be able to hold on and be around for a fresh start in 2021,” Anderson told ABC News.

Not all business owners see eye-to-eye on coronavirus-related safety measures.

Joe Minutolo, co-owner of Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop, said that although business has slowed he “respects what the state has come up with.”

But Jean Ochtera, who co-owns Innat Bay Ledge Inn in Bar Harbor with her husband, Jack, strongly disagrees with the steps taken by Gov. Janet Mills, saying she’s “being unrealistic.”

“There are many families who are losing everything, who no longer have a livelihood. They can’t support their children,” Ochtera told ABC News. “I understand our key cases will increase if Governor Mills opens up the state, but at least it will give some viability.”

Much of the money these businesses earn during the summer sustains them throughout the winter, explained Ochtera, who said she’s only making about 20% of what she earned in 2019.

“I have returned over $60,000 by the first of May for summer reservations. We can never make up the losses,” she added.

A spokeswoman for Mills said in a statement to ABC News, in part, that the governor “is working hard to protect the health of Maine people and ensure that our state is a safe place for people to visit this summer. She, too, is deeply concerned about our economy, but she can think of nothing more devastating than an outbreak or resurgence of this deadly, untreatable virus during the height of tourism season.”

Other states nearby still are uncertain about the long-term economic consequences.

Among the nearly a dozen small businesses along the Jersey Shore contacted by ABC News, many reported that while some local customers had returned, overall foot traffic remained down.

“People would rather stay home and barbecue,” said Julia Kurdyla, manager of the Country Kettle Fudge shop in Beach Haven.

Caroline Ranoia, who owns the speciality soap store Blue Eden in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, told ABC News that it has been especially difficult because “90% of my customers are tourists.”

“We have a really short season — it’s only about 10 weeks for us to really make our money,” she added.

Josephine Guarnaccia, a long-time innkeeper at the Mermaid Inn, in Mystic, Connecticut, told ABC News she’s seeing about a third as many visitors compared to normal levels.

Randy Fiveash, Director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism, told ABC News that the state’s leisure and hospitality industry was the sector hardest hit by the pandemic. However, he said that although tough decisions about travel advisories had to be made, he is “cautiously optimistic” that tourism will come back in the long run.

Back in Boston, Youngelson remains concerned, particularly for many families who own businesses in Faneuil Hall Marketplace have done so for generations.

“It is going to be very difficult to stay afloat if this continues,” she said. “I don’t know how many people are going to be able to keep their doors open.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

30-year-old man dies after attending 'COVID party' thinking virus was a 'hoax'

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Myriam Borzee/iStockBy ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS

(SAN ANTONIO, Texas) — “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”

Those were the final words of a 30-year-old patient who died at a San Antonio, Texas, hospital this week after attending a so-called “COVID party,” according to the hospital’s chief medical officer.

Dr. Jane Appleby said in a recorded statement that the unidentified patient told nurses about the party, which she said is hosted by someone diagnosed with coronavirus.

“The thought is people get together to see if the virus is real and if anyone gets infected,” Appleby said.

Appleby said she shared the story not to scare people, but to make sure they understand that the virus can affect anyone.

Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, currently has 18, 602 confirmed cases, with an increase of 923 on Friday, according to the Department of Health.

The age range with the most cases were in people aged 20 to 29, making up 24%, and 30 to 39, making up 20%, according to the department.

Appleby said her hospital is seeing more cases in people in their 20s and 30s.

She said while some can be treated and discharged, others become seriously ill.

Appleby warned that the virus “doesn’t discriminate” and encouraged the public to wear a mask and stay home as much as possible.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Near record heat expected in Southwest as heatwave grips large parts of US

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ABC NewsBy DANIEL MANZO, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — Tropical Storm Fay has now transitioned to a post-tropical cyclone, with winds of 35 mph. The storm’s center is located about 30 miles south of Albany, New York, on Saturday and is moving north at 17 mph.

As the storm came ashore on Friday, Fay brought significant rainfall to parts of Delaware and New Jersey. Sussex County, Delaware saw 6.97inches of rain, while Margate City, New Jersey, received 5.5 inches of rain. Even some inland areas, such as Somerset and Middlesex Counties in New Jersey, saw over 2 inches of rainfall.

Recorded wind gusts were generally 40 to 50 mph along the immediate coastline of New Jersey, New York and southern Connecticut.

Now that Fay is weakening and heading towards Canada, a separate low pressure will come in behind it. Due to lingering tropical moisture, and upper-level wind shear, there is a good chance for scattered strong to severe thunderstorms in the Northeast Saturday. Some of those storms will have gusty winds, large hail and torrential rainfall.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, another large area is at risk for severe weather Saturday from Oklahoma to Illinois. The threat will be damaging winds and large hail. Brief tornadoes cannot be ruled out.

Widespread summer heat alerts are in effect for nearly the entire southern U.S. from California to Florida. It will be very hot in the Southwest this weekend.

Near-record heat will be possible in Abilene, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona, Saturday with temperatures well into the triple digits. Records will be possible in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson with temperatures well over 110 degrees on Sunday.

In Phoenix, temperatures will likely reach 116 degrees or higher on Sunday, with some isolated locations in the desert reaching 120 degrees. This would be the hottest temperature since 2017 for that region.

Some of the heat will continue to expand next week, with another period of widespread heat from coast-to-coast looking likely as we head into the middle of July.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Creators respond to possible TikTok ban

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iStock/WachiwitBY: MIKE DOBUSKI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — News this week that the US is considering banning TikTok, a social media app that’s wildly popular among young people, sent shockwaves through the community of users on the platform.

Morgan Eckroth started posting on TikTok last May, under the handle @morgandrinkscoffee. She now has nearly four million followers, and mostly posts videos about her experiences working at a coffee shop outside of Portland, Oregon.

“I’ve really really enjoyed it,” she says. “It’s my first time, kind of, building a platform for myself that’s turned into something that’s led to me being like, kind of, a micro-public figure.”

When Eckroth first heard the news of a potential ban on TikTok, she said her initial reaction was of “fear and frustration.”

Nigel Braun, another TikTok creator, found the news funny.

“I laughed because I was like, ‘of course TikTok’s going to shut down.'” he says. “Now that we actually got established on it- that’s just when it all gets shut down.”

Braun, alongside his brother and a mutual friend, runs a TikTok account that focuses on science. A recent video shows Braun demonstrating the reactive properties of white phosphorus by lighting a piece of the toxic substance on fire.

 

@nilered
white phosphorus is scary ☠️ ##tiktokpartner ##learnontiktok ##science ##nilered
♬ original sound – nilered

 

Braun and his team, who go by @nilered on TikTok, began making videos on YouTube in 2014. They only started putting content on TikTok at the beginning of this year, but have since accumulated nearly three million followers. Though they operate out of Canada, Braun says most of his viewers are American. A few months ago, TikTok even offered to partner with them as part of a science initiative on the platform.

As for the news of a potential ban on TikTok in the US, Braun says he’d be sad to see the app go.

“It’s unfortunate because I was happy with how well we were doing.”

Some creators were skeptical from the outset.

“My first thought was that it’s not going to happen,” says Sally Darr Griffin, who mainly posts comedy videos on the app.

But at the same time, she did encourage her followers on TikTok to follow her on other platforms.

“It’s important to diversify your platforms,” says Griffin. “Send people to your YouTube or your Twitter, or your Instagram. Just so you can kind of, cover all your bases.”

Eckroth agrees, saying “I think right now with the realization that TikTok is a little bit in jeopardy, I think it’s a big wake-up call for creators who haven’t necessarily, like, diversified their platform usage to be like, ‘hey, I need to get these people who are interested in me – and interested in following my life – onto these other platforms.'”

 

@morgandrinkscoffee
i have the same username on all platforms, go follow because I’m not going anywhere! ✌️
♬ Chhromatica II Into Cant get you out of my head – nerukessa

 

Some of those platforms are working on services of their own that mirror TikTok’s short-form video format. Instagram this week announced it would bring an app called “Reels” to India, after testing it in Brazil, France, and Germany. YouTube is reportedly working on a competitor called “Shorts.”

“It’s not like there’s nowhere else to pivot to,” says Braun. “Whatever other company comes up with a replacement, whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, whatever- I’m sure a huge [part] of their base that TikTok had would just shift over, says Braun.

On Thursday, TikTok experienced a glitch that caused the amount of “likes” on certain videos to disappear. In a statement to ABC News, a TikTok spokesperson said, “the issues appear to have been caused by higher traffic than normal on our servers in Virginia, causing temporary service disruptions.” TikTok added they have since resolved the issue.

But that didn’t stop some TikTok users from thinking the glitch was related to recent events.

“All of the sudden my comments section was flooded with ‘this is the end! Goodbye!'” says Eckroth.

And many were quick to follow their favorite creators on other platforms. “I think I gained about 2000 [followers] on Instagram in under 24 hours,” says Griffin.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Coronavirus live updates: Arizona's ICUs are 89% full

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Myriam Borzee/iStockBy WILLIAM MANSELL and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 556,000 people worldwide.

Over 12.3 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.

The United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 3.1 million diagnosed cases and at least 133,542 deaths.

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

1:30 p.m.: Michigan businesses must refuse service to those not wearing masks

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a new executive order requiring face coverings in indoor spaces and in crowded outdoor spaces. The order also requires businesses to refuse entry or service to people who won’t wear a face covering.

“Those who are exempt from wearing a mask in Michigan businesses include people younger than five years old, those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, and those who are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment,” a statement from the governor said.

Every region in Michigan has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the last week, Whitmer said

The executive order takes effect on Monday. Those who violate the order could face a $500 criminal penalty.

1 p.m.: Arizona’s ICUs are 89% full

In hard-hit Arizona, intensive care units are 89% full on Friday.

This comes as the state reports 4,221 new cases, reaching a total of 116,892 cases.

At least 2,082 people in Arizona have died from the virus.

12:30 p.m.: Texas county shuts down testing centers due to heat

Harris County, Texas, which includes the city of Houston, said Friday it was shutting down all of its COVID-19 testing centers due to the extreme heat.

The National Weather Service warned the heat index values would reach between 105 and 110 degrees during the day.

Houston reported 412 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the city’s total to 26,012, the mayor said.

Texas hit a record number of daily coronavirus fatalities on Thursday, with 105 new deaths recorded.

The state’s positivity rate stood at 15% Thursday.

12 p.m.: Mexico looking to extend border closing with US

Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Friday that Mexico’s border closure with the U.S. should be extended to August or until there is a “decline” in U.S. cases.

“Our perspective and the one from the Secretary of Health is that it would not be prudent to reopen because what we are going to cause is an impact towards a new outbreak.” Ebrard said at a news conference. “So what we are looking with the local authorities is to prolong the nonessential travel restrictions.”

11:30 a.m.: South Carolina order restricts alcohol sales

In South Carolina, where COVID-19 is surging, Gov. Henry McMaster said he is issuing an executive order prohibiting the sale of alcohol at bars and restaurants after 11 p.m. each night.

The order begins Saturday and lasts until further notice, he said Friday.

Restaurants and bars that violate the order may be fined or have their alcohol permits suspended or revoked, the governor warned.

Alcohol can still be purchased at wine and liquor stores.

South Carolina’s positivity rate stood at 20.6% on Thursday. Three-quarters of the state’s hospital beds were in use as of Thursday.

11 a.m.: Florida reports over 11,000 new cases, 11-year-old girl among fatalities

Florida reported 11,433 new cases on Friday, bringing the state’s total cases to 244,151.

Florida’s positivity rate is down to 12.7%, a 5.5% drop from Thursday.

Among the state’s 4,203 fatalities is an 11-year-old Fort Lauderdale girl, reported ABC Miami affiliate WPLG, citing the local medical examiner. The young girl suffered from underlying conditions including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and asthma, WPLG said.

Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami, and Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, are especially hard-hit, but both counties showed improvement on Friday.

Miami-Dade reported 2,360 new cases and a positivity rate of 20.2%, down from 26.2% on Thursday.

Broward County reported 1,627 new cases and a positivity rate of 15%, a drop from 22.7% one day earlier.

9:40 a.m.: Dog in Texas confirmed to have COVID-19

A dog in Tarrant County, Texas, was confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, according to federal officials and the Texas Animal Health Commission.

The dog was tested after its owners were confirmed to have the coronavirus, the animal health commission said.

The 2-year-old dog is considered healthy, officials said.

“Based on current knowledge, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people,” Texas’ state veterinarian, Dr. Andy Schwartz, said in a statement. “It’s always important to restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would other people, if you are infected with COVID-19 in order to protect them from infection.”

8:45 a.m.: Boston’s moratorium on evictions extended through end of year

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy, Boston is extending its moratorium on nonessential evictions through the end of the year, Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday.

This moratorium, which began in March, applies to Boston Housing Authority’s public housing residents.

“These are extraordinary times, and right now, we all need to come together to ensure that our city’s most vulnerable residents are able to continue to live and work in the city they call home,” the mayor said in a statement.

8:03 a.m.: Judge rules against Texas GOP

A Harris County District Court judges has ruled against the Republican Party in Texas, after it sued the city of Houston and Mayor Sylvester Turner after the mayor canceled the state’s GOP convention in the city.

Turner, citing the surge in coronavirus cases in the state and city, canceled the Texas Republican Party’s in-person state convention, which was scheduled to start on July 16 in Houston.

“Look, these are some very serious times, and the safety of people attending the convention, the employees, their family members, the people in the city of Houston, have their public health concerns,” Turner said in a statement. “First responders and municipal workers will all be in contact or in proximity to the indoor gathering. Public health concerns outweigh anything else.”

The Texas GOP, said it was expecting the “liberal” court’s ruling and said it would appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

“It didn’t matter in which court this case landed, we expected a denial from the liberal Harris County courts,” Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey, said in a statement Thursday. “We thank them for a speedy denial so we can move forward with the appeal we had prepared.”

Turner canceled the convention, which was to be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center, after the city’s Local Health Authority, Dr. David Persse called the GOP convention “a clear and present danger.”

5:13 a.m.: US COVID-19 deaths begin to climb again

National coronavirus case counts, hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb, according to the COVID Tracking Project. At least 867 people died of COVID-19 Thursday in the U.S.

Nationally, the seven-day average has begun to climb after an extended decline, the COVID Tracking Project said.

The last three days were the highest numbers the organization has reported since early June. This rise in deaths is concentrated in states with large outbreaks. Texas, California and Florida all reported their single highest day of deaths for the entire pandemic on Thursday.

This news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 death toll forecast Thursday to say it expects between 140,000 to 160,000 deaths by Aug. 1

The CDC forecasts suggest that the number of new deaths over the next four weeks in Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and West Virginia, will likely exceed the number reported over the last four weeks. For other states, the number of new deaths is expected to be similar to the number seen in the previous four weeks or to decrease slightly.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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