Hundreds of thousands of elementary school students are heading back to classrooms this week as New York City enters a high-stakes stage of resuming in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. (Sept. 29)

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The pandemic is wreaking financial havoc on families with children, and 10% of all COVID-19 cases are now kids, a pair of new surveys reveals.

Children represented only 2% of cases in April. 

The reports come as big-city public schools make news with efforts to get kids back in classrooms. New York City began offering in-class learning to elementary students on Tuesday and invites the older students back Thursday. And Los Angeles County officials voted this week to allow some schools to resume in-person instruction.

 The elephant – and donkey – in the room Tuesday night was the presidential debate, and the virus played a major role. President Donald Trump shrugged off criticism from Democratic challenger Joe Biden of his soft position on wearing masks and his large, non-socially distant political rallies.

Asked why he continues to hold large rallies against the advice of his own health experts, Trump responded: “Because people want to hear what I have to say.” He claimed that his rallies have had no negative effect on Americans, explaining “so far, we have had no problem whatsoever.” Biden countered that Trump was a “fool.”

Some significant developments:

  • Disney parks plan to lay off 28,000 workers in California and Florida.
  • The NFL’s Tennessee Titans are pausing in-person activities after the team reported eight positive COVID-19 tests – three players and five staff.
  • Public elementary schools reopened across New York City on Tuesday for 300,000 students for the first time since March as the city struggled with a bump in positive COVID-19 test results.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7.1 million cases and 206,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been more than 33 million cases and more than 1 million fatalities.

📰 What we’re reading: As American, United and other airlines roll out passenger testing for COVID-19, here’s what you need to know.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Survey peers into crushing impact of pandemic on families

More than 60% of U.S. households with children report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a survey released Wednesday. Nine in 10 households with children where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 report serious financial problems and serious problems caring for their children, the survey says.

The poll, from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, highlights some of the major challenges families face during the pandemic. More than one-third of households with children report serious problems keeping their children’s education going and six in 10 report at least adult household member has lost a job, been furloughed, or had wages or hours cut.

South Korea discourages travel as major holiday begins

A sharp rise in new virus cases across South Korea put authorities on edge as the country began its five-day Chuseok holiday celebration that began Wednesday. Tens of millions of people normally to travel across the country to gather with family and friends for the celebration. This year health authorities urged people cancel travel plans  in favor of communicating with their loved ones via telephone and video chat applications. And mass transit authorities said they would halt subway services at six stations in downtown Seoul if rallies draw crowds for National Foundation Day on Saturday.

We “are observing Chuseok at a difficult time,” President Moon Jae-in said in an address Wednesday. “Normal and precious days will certainly return.” 

North Dakota, South Dakota, northern tier continue record struggles

Seven states set records for new cases over a seven-day period while three states had a record number of deaths in a week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Tuesday shows. New case records were set in Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin, and also Puerto Rico. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Alaska, North Dakota and South Dakota. We’ve had deaths totaling more than two 9/11s just since America hit 200,000 dead a week ago.

– Michael Stucka

Thailand opens tourism door a crack

Thailand, annually among the world’s top 10 tourism destinations, is preparing to receive the first group of foreign tourists since scheduled commercial passenger flights into the country were halted in April. A new system of coronavirus testing and transport facilities has been installed at the airport at the resort island of Phuket to welcome the first 150 Chinese from Guangzhou province on Oct. 8, Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said. At least three groups of foreign tourists will arrive in October – two from China and one from Scandinavia. All will be subject to a 14-day quarantine and other restrictions on their movements.

 Thailand, where efforts to combat the virus have drawn praise from World Health Organization officials, has had 3,564 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 59 deaths.


COVID-19 widespread testing is crucial to fighting the pandemic, but is there enough testing? The answer is in the positivity rates.


Joe Biden, Donald Trump talk mask wearing, political rallies amid COVID-19

The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden quickly went off the rails Tuesday night, including when the pair debated the use of masks and holding large political rallies amid COVID-19. 

Trump defended his rallies and mocked Biden’s more modest, cautious efforts. Biden slammed Trump for the way he has responded to the coronavirus pandemic and specifically criticized his reluctance to wear a face mask in public.

“He has been totally irresponsible in the way he has handled the social distancing, the people wearing masks – basically encouraging them not to,” Biden said. “He’s a fool on this. He’s not worried about the people.”

– Christal Hayes

Moderna’s vaccine may work equally well in older people, younger adults

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine appears to create as strong an immune response in older people as it does in younger adults. That’s a positive sign as many vaccines don’t work as well in the elderly. A small study published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine elicited an immune system response almost as strong in people over 56 as in adults ages 18 to 55.

Older people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People 50 to 64 years old are four times more likely to be hospitalized and 30 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people 18 to 29. Those 65 to 74 are five times more likely to be hospitalized and 90 times more likely to die. The older the person, the higher the risk. 

– Elizabeth Weise

Notre Dame football reports 25 players in COVID-19 isolation

Six days after starting an indefinite hold for all football activities beyond Zoom meetings, Notre Dame on Monday released its latest COVID-19 testing numbers. The six-sentence statement from the athletic department’s Twitter account revealed that there were 25 players in isolation as of Monday because of positive tests, and 14 others in quarantine as the result of contact tracing.

The athletic department said that as of now there has been no change in status for the next game on the Irish schedule – an Oct. 10 home date for fifth-ranked Notre Dame against Florida State. Notre Dame has resumed conditioning activities, according to the statement. Last Monday, there were 13 players in isolation and 10 in quarantine, two days after the Irish beat South Florida at Notre Dame Stadium. Players are required to spend 10 days in isolation after a positive test and undergo cardiac testing, per ACC protocols. The quarantine period is 14 days.

– Eric Hansen, South Bend (Ind.) Tribune

Arizona to receive 2 million rapid antigen COVID-19 tests from feds

The federal government is sending 2.19 million rapid COVID-19 tests to Arizona, and schools will be among those prioritized for using them, Gov. Doug Ducey announced. The first shipment of the tests is expected to arrive within the next seven to 10 days. The Abbott rapid point-of-care tests can get results within 15 minutes.

The number of tests in the shipment is significant – it’s more than the total number of diagnostic tests completed in Arizona since the pandemic began, state data shows. 

President Donald Trump announced Monday that his administration will distribute more than 150 million rapid Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Point of Care tests around the country in the coming weeks and that of those, roughly 50 million tests will target vulnerable communities including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice care and tribal nations.

– Stephanie Innes, Arizona Republic


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Mayor Bill de Blasio: New York City to fine people who refuse to wear masks

Alarmed by a spike in coronavirus infections in a few Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, New York City officials will start issuing fines in those areas to people who refuse to wear masks, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. De Blasio said he was sending teams of hundreds of outreach workers and contact tracers to nine Brooklyn and Queens ZIP codes that have seen an upswing in positive COVID-19 tests in hopes of avoiding harsher enforcement measures.

Those workers will be handing out masks but also insisting that people put them on if they are in a place where they could be within 6 feet of other people.

Some Los Angeles elementary schools to resume in-person learning

Some Los Angeles elementary schools will be able to apply to resume in-person instruction up to second grade under a vote Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

“As October approaches it’s critical that we begin the process of reopening our schools at limited capacity,” said board Chairwoman Kathryn Barger, according to local reports. She cited inequities in distance learning that affect the education of low-income, Black and Latino students.

On the other coast, New York City school’s reopening is in jeopardy. In a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the most recent rate of positive tests was 3.25%, the highest since June. De Blasio has said he will shut down classrooms, which are all supposed to be open by Thursday, if the test positivity rate exceeds 3% over a seven-day average.

– Elinor Aspegren

Disney parks to lay off 28,000 workers in Florida, California 

Disney’s park division is laying off 28,000 employees in California and Florida in the wake of the pandemic. Two-thirds of the planned layoffs involve part-time workers, but they ranged from salaried employees to nonunion hourly workers, Disney officials said.

In a letter to employees, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experience and Product, said his management team had worked hard to try to avoid layoffs. They had cut expenses, suspended projects and modified operations, but it wasn’t enough given limits on the number of people allowed into the park because of social distancing restrictions and other pandemic-related measures, he said.

– Josh Rivera

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press


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