Coronavirus updates: Virginia Gov. Northam, wife test positive; US deaths projected to almost double by Jan. 1

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced Friday, the same day that President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a rally at an airport in the state.

Trump’s event is expected to draw nearly 4,000 people in Newport News, but the Democratic governor’s staff and other state officials have raised concerns about the rally potentially spreading the virus and defying Northam’s order banning gatherings of more than 250 people.

“The rally poses a concerning public health risk,” Dr. Natasha Dwamena, a Virginia Department of Public Health district director, wrote in a letter to the private company that leases the aircraft hangar where the rally is set to take place.

Some significant developments:

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have agreed to talk about a new coronavirus relief package, the New York Times reported. Meanwhile, House Democrats are working on passing a $2.4 trillion measure next week.
  • The U.S. death toll from the virus could almost double by Jan. 1, expected to reach approximately 371,500 by the end of the year, according to a projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington
  • United Airlines will roll out a new COVID-19 testing program for passengers beginning Oct. 15. 
  • The Pac-12 and the Mountain West Conference are joining the Big Ten in attempting to play football this fall. 
  • A rebound in hiring that began this summer is sputtering amid regional flareups of the coronavirus, signaling that it may be years before the jobs market fully recovers. More than 824,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. 

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 6.9 million cases and 202,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been more than 32.2 million cases and over 983,000 fatalities. A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Thursday shows seven states — Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and also Puerto Rico —  set records for new cases in a week while North Dakota had a record number of deaths in a week.

📰 What we’re reading: Is it safe to travel this Holiday season? Or is this the year to skip it? 

🗺️ 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.

Virginia governor, first lady test positive for COVID-19

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam tested positive for COVID-19, his office said in a statement Friday morning.

The two were tested after a staff member in their residence developed symptoms and later tested positive. According to a news release, Gov. Northam is asymptomatic while first lady Northam is experiencing mild symptoms. 

“We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us — and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians — is to take this seriously,” Northam said.

US hit 200K deaths on Tuesday. By Friday, almost 3,000 more have died — the number of lives lost on 9/11.

The United States surpassed 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, and by the end of the week, the country has already lost almost 3,000 more people, roughly the death toll of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

As of Friday morning, an additional 2,827 people in the U.S. had died since the country hit the grim 200,000 mark, according to Johns Hopkins data. On 9/11, 2,977 people were killed in the attacks

According to a projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the U.S. death toll from the virus could almost double by Jan. 1, expected to reach approximately 371,500 by the end of the year.

NYC threatens new shutdowns in hot spot neighborhoods

New York City could see its first new COVID-19 shutdowns in months as the city’s health department said certain hot spot areas may have nonessential businesses closed if their case numbers continue to rise.

Parts of Brooklyn and Queens were facing a rollback in reopenings after the neighborhoods have seen a spike in cases in the past month. The city said it was considering closing nonessential businesses and private schools and banning gatherings of 10 or more in the areas if cases do not come down by early next week.

The city also planned to send more inspectors to the areas to monitor compliance of mask wearing and social distancing. Fines could be issues for those refusing to wear masks, the health department said.

DeSantis suggests Florida students need ‘bill of rights’ for virus restrictions

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was considering a “bill of rights” for college students to counter disciplinary measures universities may hand down amid restrictions on campuses to slow the spread of COVID-19.

DeSantis said students at Florida’s state universities should be allowed to enjoy themselves without fear of reprisal. Florida State University said last week it would suspend students hosting or attending large parties and students who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t isolate.

“I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party,” DeSantis said Thursday. “That’s what college kids do.”

Pac-12, Mountain West conferences vote to play college football seasons

The Pac-12 will join the Big Ten in attempting to play football this fall, the league announced Thursday, reversing a decision made in August to postpone until the winter or spring at the earliest due to the health concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mountain West Conference followed a few hours later by announcing an Oct. 24 return, the ninth of 10 FBS conferences that now plan to complete their seasons by Dec. 20.

Pac-12 play will begin on Nov. 6 with a seven-game schedule consisting of only league games and culminating with the conference championship game on Dec. 18.

– Paul Myerberg

Health officials warn against Donald Trump’s planned Virginia airport rally

A Virginia health official is warning that President Donald Trump’s planned rally Friday poses a “severe public health threat” as 4,000 people are expected to attend. 

Dr. Natasha Dwamena, a Department of Public Health district director, wrote a letter to the private company that leases the hangar where the rally is scheduled to take place. She said the rally at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport would defy Gov. Ralph’s Northam’s order banning gatherings of more than 250 people.

The governor’s top health and transportation aides also sent letters to airport officials to remind them they have “the authority to enforce” the state’s law.

A conservative radio host and chairman of the Virginia delegation for the Trump campaign said Democrats are trying to block the rally for political reasons. “Panic has set amongst Virginia Democrats,” John Fredericks said.

Rio de Janeiro delays annual Carnival parade for first time amid COVID-19

Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century due to the coronavirus, officials announced Thursday. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, said the spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay and, for many, a source of livelihood.

“Carnival is a party upon which many humble workers depend. The samba schools are community institutions, and the parades are just one detail of all that,” Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian who specializes in Rio’s Carnival, said in an interview with the Associated Press. “An entire cultural and productive chain was disrupted by COVID.”

Rio’s City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the Carnival street parties that also take place across the city.

Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was Feb. 26, one day after this year’s Carnival ended.

More than 824,000 Americans file for unemployment

A rebound in hiring that began this summer is sputtering amid regional flareups of the coronavirus, signaling that it may be years before the jobs market fully recovers.

More than 824,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. 

The newest round of 824,542 claims is significantly lower than the record high 6.2 million who filed first-time claims in early spring when most non-essential businesses closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But the number of filings rose from the week before by 28,527. And in less than seven months, more than 57 million have sought unemployment assistance for the first time. 

– Charisse Jones

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

Continue reading at USA Today