New York City residents were cautiously eating inside restaurants Thursday, one day after indoor dining began and two days after public elementary schools opened, even as the city faces a slight uptick in its positive COVID-19 case rates. Across the coast, some Los Angeles elementary schools, on an application basis, may also attempt in-person learning.
But efforts to reopen elsewhere – particularly in sports and entertainment – have been met with mixed results.
College and professional football leagues are facing setbacks in their efforts to play: Notre Dame’s football team reported 25 players who tested positive, while an upcoming match between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans was postponed because of an influx of player and staff cases.
Disney laid off 28,000 park employees – many of them part-time workers. With its attendance expectations dashed for now, it seems unlikely that the parks will return to normal anytime soon.
Some significant developments:
Indoor dining opened — with social distancing and contact tracing measures in place — for New York City Wednesday. The reopenings come as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reports that the citywide positivity rate over 7 days had risen to 1.46%.
A small study published 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.
Some Los Angeles elementary schools will be able to apply to resume in-person instruction up to second grade.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7.2 million cases and 207,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been more than 34 million cases and 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.
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CDC to extend 'no-sail' order through Oct. 31 in compromise with White House Task Force
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will extend its "no-sail" order for the U.S. cruise industry through Oct. 31, a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY.
The CDC's previous order had been scheduled to expire Sept. 30 after extensions to the original mid-March order in April and again in July.
The CDC requested that the order be extended to Feb. 15 but compromised with the White House Task Force to extend it until Oct. 31, four days before the Nov. 3 election.
– Morgan Hines
Politics unlikely to get in the way of a safe, effective vaccine, experts say
Despite the public's legitimate concerns about political rhetoric, politics is not having an impact on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, several public health experts testified to Congress Wednesday.
Both government and independent researchers provide strong oversight of the vaccine development process, said Dr. Mark McClellan, director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
"This is not an easy process to disrupt just because somebody says something about it," he said, alluding to President Donald Trump's insistence that a vaccine could be available before Election Day.
That said, public health and medical experts testifying before the House Committee on Energy & Commerce on Wednesday didn't discount it entirely.
– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub
North Carolina man accused of PPP fraud using 'Game of Thrones' names
A North Carolina man who applied for more than $6 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans has been charged with fraud by the Department of Justice. Tristan Garner, 38, received around $1.7 million in loans for false businesses, some of which were named after characters from the HBO hit series "Game of Thrones," prosecutors say. The small businesses he claimed were named Pan Insurance Agency, White Walker, Khaleesi and The Night’s Watch.
Garner falsified tax filings and payroll expenses for the businesses across 14 loan applications, per a statement from the Department of Justice. The DOJ said it was able to reclaim some of the funds.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. It is considered a key program in helping businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis.
What Disney's layoffs mean for theme park guests
Disney's layoffs will alter already topsy-turvy theme park visits for guests, if they even choose to go at all.
Attendance at all parks that have reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic has generally been disappointing. Florida’s Walt Disney World, which was already operating its four theme parks with reduced hours, moved to an even shorter daily schedule this month.
"In particular, it means that we're not likely to see the return of longer, pre-pandemic park hours, no special perks like extra time in the parks for people staying at Disney hotels, and no widespread use of Disney's FASTPASS ride reservation system," park expert Len Testa said. There may also be cutbacks in special events, such as fireworks displays, themed holiday shows and parades.
– David Oliver
Study finds hydroxychloroquine won't prevent COVID-19
A clinical trial of health care workers found that hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug repeatedly touted by President Donald Trump as a coronavirus cure, did not help prevent coronavirus. University of Pennsylvania researchers studied 125 health care workers who took either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo for eight weeks. Eight of them – four on the anti-malarial drug, four on a placebo – tested positive for COVID-19, all of whom were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. Their findings were published Wednesday in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.
This study further corroborates previous findings about the inefficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment or preventative measure against COVID-19.
A British trial in June found the drug did not help mortality outcomes in hospitalized patients, while a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a statistically insignificant difference in COVID-19 positivity rates between non-hospitalized individuals exposed to the virus who took a placebo or hydroxychloroquine.
NFL postpones Steelers-Titans game after positive COVID-19 tests
The NFL has postponed the Tennessee Titans' home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the wake of a rash of positive COVID-19 tests. The league announced Wednesday it was moving the game back "to allow additional time for further daily COVID-19 testing and to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel." The game will be played on either Monday or Tuesday. As of Wednesday, four Titans players and five team personnel tested positive for COVID-19.
The postponement marks the first NFL regular-season schedule change stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
– Erik Bacharach, Nashville Tennessean
New York City to host testing 'block parties' amid case uptick
New York City plans to host testing "block parties" in its neighborhoods where COVID-19 cases have creeped up in recent days. Six sites across the city will have sidewalks and streets converted into block parties with testing tents where 500 tests per day can be processed, Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of the city's hospital system, said Wednesday.
The goal is to "saturate" with tests the neighborhoods that are contributing disproportionately to New York's overall caseload. The city is monitoring a number of neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn that have seen positive test rates well above 3%. If the citywide test rate were to exceed 3% on a 7-day average, Mayor Bill de Blasio previously said he would close the city's public schools.
"Constantly people say, 'What can I do to help? How can I help New York City?' You can help New York City by going out and getting tested today," de Blasio said.
– Ryan W. Miller
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.
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
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: No sail cruise order; $6M PPP fraud, Disney layoffs