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A long-feared surge in COVID-19 cases is underway in the U.S. and abroad, leading to a new round of virus-related rules in some areas, restrictions that have quickly met pushback.
A judge in El Paso County, Texas, ordered a two-week shutdown of nonessential services starting at midnight Friday amid growing hospitalizations in the area. Texas’ attorney general has joined several restaurant owners in suing to block the order.
A surge in coronavirus cases has led officials in Harrison County, Iowa — a heavily Republican county — to require people to wear face masks in public. But Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has continued this week to downplay efforts to contain the virus and has rejected mask requirements. Reynolds has said Iowans must learn to live with the virus.
Meanwhile in Europe, hard-hit Belgium imposed a partial lockdown in an attempt to gain control of the virus’ spread. In France, authorities ordered another four-week lockdown that began Friday.
This week, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted daily U.S. deaths will triple by mid-January, although increased mask use can still save lives and delay the need for social distancing mandates, the influential model said.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 9 million cases and more than 229,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 45 million cases and 1.18 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, will shed 10,903 unionized employees as part of the 28,000 layoffs that the company has previously announced, it was disclosed Friday in a filing to the state.
Walt Disney Co. blamed the layoffs on the “continuing business impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic” in the document, obtained by Fox 35 TV. Overall, Disney said its parks and resorts division will lose 11,350 employees in Florida in total, all due to be laid off on Dec. 31.
The layoffs underscore how deeply the pandemic has cut into tourism. Walt Disney World reopened in July with new protocols in place to try to protect guests and employees from the coronavirus.
In a blog post Friday, a Disney official said the impacts from the pandemic have lasted longer than expected.
“As a result,” wrote Bettina Buckley, vice president of Walt Disney World Live Entertainment, “we’ve had to pause many live shows and entertainment experiences at our resort for longer than originally anticipated.” Instead, she said the resort has created new entertainment choices and experiences.
The United States has hit the 9 million mark when it comes to coronavirus cases, Johns Hopkins University reports.
With a count of 9,048,430 cases as of 9 a.m. EDT, the U.S. bests the next highest country, India by more than 911,000 cases. India comes in at 8,137,119 and Brazil with 5,516,658 cases. After that comes Russia, France and Spain.
The U.S. is also closing in on another milestone, 230,000 deaths. Johns Hopkins shows 229,7293.
The increase comes amid a surge of new cases in the U.S. as the weather becomes colder. On Oct. 23, the nation hit a new one-day record, 83,757 new daily cases, according to Johns Hopkins.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will allow cruise ships to sail in U.S. waters starting Sunday. But even if they do, passengers won’t be waving goodbye from the deck. In fact, the agency hasn’t said when they’ll be allowed back on board.
That’s according to the public health agency’s new “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.” Published Friday, it “introduces a phased approach for the safe and responsible resumption for passenger cruises,” the CDC said in a release provided by spokesperson Cate Shockey.
The first cruises to leave port will be simulation sailings designed to show that ships and crews are in compliance with CDC standards and able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 onboard.
Subsequent phases will include mock voyages with volunteers such as employees or their family members, Shockey told USA TODAY. Those test voyages will be akin to the shakedown cruises that lines do with any new vessel prior to its official maiden voyage.
– Morgan Hines
In a Fox News interview Thursday, Donald Trump Jr. wrongly stated that the rate of COVID-19 deaths has declined to “almost nothing.”
Trump Jr. said during an episode of “The Ingraham Angle” that he “went through the CDC data” and incorrectly claimed the number of COVID-19 deaths has significantly declined.
Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that its recent data is “provisional” and often behind data gathered by counties and other sources.
While COVID-19 deaths have been lower than during their peak in April, new cases continue to march to an all-time high. Wednesday set a record of new cases, with 88,521 nationwide, per Johns Hopkins’ dashboard.
In the past week, a USA TODAY analysis found that at least four states set a record number of deaths. Per Johns Hopkins, more than 20,000 people have died so far in October.
– Joshua Bote
A study published Thursday found that grocery store workers had a heightened risk of COVID-19 infection, with 1 in 5 workers surveyed testing positive and most having asymptotic cases.
Workers who were in roles that involved interacting with customers were five times as likely to test positive, the study, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, found. Three in four who did test positive had no symptoms.
“This is definitely very alarming as it means that retail grocery store employees are exposed to customers and sort of serve as a middleman for the virus — like a superspreader almost,” researcher Dr. Justin Yang told CNN.
Europe’s outbreak: 10 million cases; Spain in state of emergency until May
European nations have accounted for more than 10 million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and broke a weekly record with more than 1.5 million confirmed last week, the World Health Organization’s Europe director said Thursday.
“Europe is at the epicenter of this pandemic once again,” WHO European regional director Dr. Hans Kluge said. “At the risk of sounding alarmist, I must express our very real concern.”
The Spanish parliament voted to keep a state of emergency intact until May 2021. France says its citizens will be confined to half a mile from their homes for the next month, unless they’re buying food or going to school or a few other exceptions. Pope Francis is halting his public general audiences and will limit participation at Christmas.
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Contributing: The Associated Press