Coronavirus updates: Illinois Gov. Pritzker enters isolation; Disney parks to lay off 28,000 workers

John Bacon and Jessica Flores, USA TODAY
·13 min read

New York City public schools opened their doors to 300,000 K-8 students Tuesday despite an uptick in positive testing the mayor acknowledged was a "real concern."

"It should cause us all to be on alert," Mayor Bill de Blasio said of a one-day positive test rate of 3.25%. "We are going to fight this outbreak back and are going to move New York City forward."

Florida is also loosening restrictions, and students at Florida State University. celebrated. Tallahassee police said they had to break up more than a dozen unruly gatherings over the weekend after Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped the state's COVID-19 restrictions and even encouraged college kids to party. No further urging needed.

The politics of pandemic continued an unrelenting churn in the nation's capital, where House Democrats have unveiled a seemingly doomed, $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief aid package. Republicans, who control the Senate, are holding out for a slimmed-down – and cheaper – bill.

And nine months after a 61-year-old man died of a mysterious disease in sprawling Wuhan, China, the global coronavirus death toll has surpassed 1 million. The New York Times, in reporting the death back in January, noted that the virus had "put the region on alert, but there is no evidence that it can spread among humans."

Some significant developments:

  • The Navajo Nation reported 22 new coronavirus cases on Monday and no additional deaths.

  • With Thanksgiving less than two months away, the CDC recommends having small holiday dinner gatherings. For people who usually travel to visit family, the agency suggests celebrating the holiday virtually.

  • India has become the second country to report 6 million confirmed cases.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7.1 million cases and 205,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. New case records were set in Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Alaska and North Dakota. Globally, there have been more than 33 million cases and more than 1 million fatalities.

📰 What we're reading: There was fear in August when Florida made the controversial decision to reopen most schools with in-person instruction. Many teachers and families braced for a spike in COVID-19 cases. That hasn't happened, according to a USA TODAY analysis.

🗺️ 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.

Students wearing masks walk to school in the Kensington neighborhood, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Students wearing masks walk to school in the Kensington neighborhood, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

Some Los An 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.

Previously, Los Angeles County officials had said no school campus would be able to fully reopen until November, citing high local case numbers. Although the county has seen a turn toward fewer infections, it is currently in the state’s most-restrictive purple tier.

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

Appalachian State student dies of COVID-19 complications

A sophomore at Appalachian State University in North Carolina died Monday night of COVID-19 complications, a rare fatality in a healthy, athletic teen. Appalachian State University student Chad Dorrill, 19, was a high school basketball player and a member of a local track and field club. His mother posted on Facebook that doctors described Chad as "the rarest, 1-10,000,000 case.”

“Chad was just incredibly tired for two weeks and little did we know it was secretly attacking his body in a way they have never seen before,” she wrote. “If it can happen to a super healthy 19-year-old boy who doesn’t smoke, vape or do drugs, it can happen to anyone."

As of Monday, at least 3,445 people have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina.

Elinor Aspegren

British leader says economy changing forever, promises job training

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised new training programs to help workers recover from the epidemic's crushing impact on his nation's economy. He said the coronavirus has "massively accelerated changes that were already happening in the U.K. economy,” such as increased reliance on online shopping. The country still needs construction workers, mechanics, engineers, IT experts and lab technicians, he said. He adds while some jobs would inevitably be lost because of the coronavirus, the government would “give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs.”

300,000 students return to NYC classrooms as positive tests rise

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. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a one-day rate of 3.25%, although the more-relevant rolling average over seven days stood at 1.38%. De Blasio said the uptick was driven by Orthodox communities in Brooklyn and Queens. He also said the movement to get students back in classrooms would continue, and middle and high schools are scheduled to welcome students Thursday.

Remote instruction has been taking place for about three weeks in city schools. Tuesday's reopening comes on the third try – de Blasio twice had to delay opening classrooms because of staffing shortages and other issues. By week's end all 1.1 million students are scheduled to have the option of in-classroom learning. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza says so far parents of only about half of students are opting in.

Illinois Gov. Pritzker isolating after staffer tests positive

The governor of Illinois will be isolating for two weeks after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced Tuesday. Gov. JB Pritzker’s staff member tested negative on Wednesday during weekly testing for the governor’s office, but, after experiencing symptoms, the staff member was tested again Monday and confirmed as positive, Pritzker's office said in a statement. The staffer had attended events with the governor several days last week.

It was not immediately clear whether the governor had tested negative or if he was experiencing symptoms. The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Coronavirus cases in Illinois are trending slightly upward, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and his wife and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt have all tested positive for COVID-19. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive, then negative for COVID-19 last month.

Grace Hauck

Tennessee Titans halt in-person training after 8 test positive

The Tennessee Titans announced Tuesday that they would not be holding in-person activities after the team had eight positive COVID-19 tests – three from players, five from staff – following Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement the positive tests came back Tuesday morning. The Vikings also are suspending team activities as both clubs follow the league's protocols on COVID-19.

The Titans are scheduled to play at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday; the Vikings are to play the Texans in Houston.

"Out of the abundance of caution, the organization has decided to work remotely today as we follow NFL protocols related to the COVID-19 virus," the Titans said in a statement. "Several tests have come back positive and (we) are working through the process of confirming them. We will have more information tomorrow."

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz and Erik Bacharach

SeaWorld San Diego's Halloween-themed 'Spooktacular' will begin Friday

SeaWorld San Diego is moving full-speed ahead with its annual "Spooktacular" festivities on weekend evenings through October. The park, which reopened in late August, is one of the few California theme parks celebrating this year after its neighbors, including Disneyland and Universal Studios, canceled their Halloween events because of COVID-19. Halloween events at their Florida parks are canceled as well. California's health secretary reported Friday that the state has recently seen an uptick in the number of newly confirmed cases as well as COVID-19-related ER visits and hospitalizations. SeaWorld is undeterred.

"Have no fear. Halloween’s still here!" SeaWorld advertises on its website. "It’s all waiting for your family, with new safety procedures to put your mind at ease."

Morgan Hines

Purdue suspends 14 students for party

Purdue University gave 14 students, including 13 student-athletes, until Wednesday to clear out of their residence hall rooms after being suspended, accused of having a party that violated the university’s coronavirus-era Protect Purdue Pledge. Dean of Students Katie Sermersheim did not name the students, where they lived or which sports the student-athletes play. Purdue athletics issued a statement saying the 13 are "out-of-season student-athletes." The university also did not say whether the students were among the 801 who had tested positive for COVID-19 on campus since Aug. 1.

"We will deal with any such violation with firmness," Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. "The fact that this episode involved student-athletes can make no difference. At Purdue, we have one set of rules for everyone.”

Dave Bangert, Lafayette Journal & Courier

Florida goes all-in on DeSantis

A lot of Florida State University students apparently are all-in on Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision Friday to drop virtually all coronavirus restrictions across the state. Tallahassee police say they spent much of the weekend responding to more than a dozen calls concerning large crowds, some at or near campus.

"The crowds ranged in size, including one with approximately 700 vehicles and more than 1,000 people" at an off-campus apartment complex, police said in a statement. "Most of the travel lanes were blocked throughout the complex. Thanks to efforts from TPD’s Patrol Bureau and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, officers were able to safely disperse the crowd."

The school issued a warning last week that students hosting or attending a large gathering on or off campus faced suspension. DeSantis responded, saying students should be allowed to socialize unimpeded by "draconian" threats of suspension or expulsion from Florida's state universities.

Tori Lynn Schneider, Tallahassee Democrat

Nepal poised to offer Russian vaccine to entire nation

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, a privately held equity firm, has teamed with a leading pharmaceutical distributor in Nepal, Trinity Pharmaceuticals, to supply the mountain nation with 25 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. The agreement will enable 90% of population of Nepal to get access to the vaccine, the companies said. The vaccine has drawn controversy around the world because it was put in use without Phase 3 trials used to test vaccines on thousands of people. Details on when the vaccine would become available across Nepal were vague. Kishor Adhikari, director of Trinity Pharmaceuticals, said his company was "waiting for results of the final trial of Sputnik V. As soon as the vaccine is approved by Government of Nepal we will make it available for the population of Nepal."

House Democrats' $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief package appears doomed

House Democrats unveiled a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in a longshot push to break the impasse on relief negotiations before the election, though the bill is likely to face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate if it passes the House. The bill trims $1 trillion from the Democrat's previous plan, decried as too costly by the GOP. Many of the benefits previously approved by Congress ran out earlier this year, leaving millions of Americans waiting for urgently needed aid. The $600 federal benefit to unemployment benefits ran out, a loan forgiveness program for small businesses expired, and airlines warned of mass layoffs as support for the industry expired.

The House could act on the bill as soon as this week. The Senate is unlikely to act on the legislation, it represents a negotiating point over $1 trillion lower than Democrats' previous proposal.

– Nicholas Wu

1 million people worldwide have died in less than a year from COVID-19

In nine months since the first cases were reported in central China, more than 1 million people have died worldwide from COVID-19.

The news comes as countries around the globe are at very different stages in managing the outbreaks: Some European nations are tightening some restrictions over fears of a second wave. Cases in the U.S. are ticking back up after a summer spike that was followed by renewed restrictions and then a decline. India's cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks and it may soon become the country with the most infections. New Zealand appears to have weathered a second cluster of cases. And South Korea is seeing its lowest case tally since it reinstituted some lockdown measures during a virus resurgence.

Meanwhile, researchers around the globe continue to make progress on clinical trials for vaccine candidates, but mass vaccinations may not come until at least mid-2021, a World Health Organization official said Sunday.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: 1M global deaths; Democrats relief bill; Disney layoffs