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Here are three ways consumers can help support small businesses who are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Airline layoffs could begin Thursday with American and United announcing plans to furlough 32,000 workers as lawmakers and the White House struggle to reach agreement on another COVID-19 stimulus relief package.

A vote on the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill was postponed to Thursday to allow House Speaker and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to negotiate a bipartisan deal, a Democratic aide who was unable to discuss internal deliberations publicly.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are surging in the Midwest, including Wisconsin, where President Donald Trump is scheduled to have a rally Saturday. Some hospitals are wait-listing patients or sending them to other facilities; Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, for example, was at 94% capacity on Tuesday, according to officials.

Globally, September was the worst month for India during the pandemic. The country reported 86,821 new coronavirus cases and 1,181 fatalities on Thursday. 

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7.2 million cases and over 206,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been 34 million cases and more than 1 million fatalities.

📰 What we’re reading: Colby College in Waterville, Maine, is running one of the nation’s most rigorous COVID testing programs. So far, it’s working to keep coronavirus cases at bay while colleges across the nation are experiencing outbreaks.

🗺️ 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.

Fauci responds to Trump’s mask claims after debate

After President Donald Trump pointed out that Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical experts initially discouraged the use of masks — which is partially true, according to a USA TODAY fact-check — Fauci said he was “taken out of context” in an interview with ABC News.

Speaking on the “Start Here” podcast, he said that he discouraged mask use “very early on” due to a severe shortage of masks. “The feeling was that people who were wanting to have masks in the community,” he said, “might be hoarding masks and making the shortage of masks even greater.”

By April, with findings pointing toward the importance of mask-wearing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended masks for public use. Fauci has since made it very clear that masks are crucial when stepping out in public. “Anybody who has been listening to me over the last several months know that a conversation does not go by where I do not strongly recommend that people wear masks.”

Is ‘SNL’ following New York’s COVID rules?

“Saturday Night Live”‘s decision to welcome a live audience for its upcoming season premiere has drawn concern from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which questioned whether the venerable show’s plan complies with state COVID-19 restrictions. The NBC sketch comedy show has been taking requests through a third party for tickets to its show this Saturday, when it is scheduled to open its 46th season and make a return to the famed Studio 8H in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center.

New York’s COVID-19 rules, however, make clear television shows and other media productions are prohibited from having a live audience unless it is made up entirely of paid employees, cast or crew. Asked whether “SNL” live audience plan complies with state rules, Department of Health spokesman Gary Holmes noted the state banned ticketed events on March 16 and “that restriction has not changed.”

– Jon Campbell, New York State Team

President Trump is the ‘single largest driver’ of COVID misinformation

Mere days after President Donald Trump sparred with former Vice President Joe Biden on the national stage, disseminating multiple falsehoods on voting and mail-in ballots, a study by Cornell has found that the president is the “single largest driver of misinformation around COVID.” The findings, first reported on by the New York Times, identified 11 topics of misinformation, including false theories about the provenance of the virus and ineffective “miracle cures” such as the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine, that circulated in “traditional media” outlets. Researchers also found “that the majority of COVID misinformation is conveyed by the media without question or correction.”

“That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications,” lead author Sarah Evanega told the Times.

Study: Mosquitoes cannot spread COVID-19

Researchers from Kansas State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found that mosquitoes cannot transmit COVID-19 from an infected person to an uninfected person. They gave mosquitoes blood infected with COVID-19 and found that the virus did not replicate in the mosquitoes. “We conclude that (the) biting (insects) do not pose a risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans or animals following a SARS-CoV-2 infected blood meal,” researchers wrote in the journal bioRxiv. The study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

The bugs, which are notorious for disseminating dengue, Zika and other viruses, resulted in Florida Keys officials releasing more than 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes over the span of the next two years to limit the spread of dengue. 

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

USA TODAY

Outbreak in Washington infecting 25 linked to spa resort

An outbreak in Washington state that has infected at least 25 people is linked to a spa.  King County’s public health department is advising individuals who visited Salish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie, Wash. between Sept. 16 and Sept. 30 to get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for two weeks. The spa has since temporarily suspended operations, and is cooperating with the department on reopening efforts.

“We have further intensified (safety) efforts by proactively partnering with Public Health – Seattle & King County to provide widespread and expedited testing for our team members, as well as engaging a third-party for full-property sanitization on top of our already elevated standards.” said spa manager Alan Stephens in a statement.

The state of Washington has reported 87,522 cases and 2,126 deaths as of Thursday morning, per the state’s Department of Health.

India reports 86K new cases, close to becoming most infected country

India is on track to surpass the U.S. as the worst-hit country during the pandemic within weeks as officials reported an additional 86,821 coronavirus cases and 1,181 fatalities Thursday, making September its worst month. The Health Ministry’s update for the past 24 hours raised India’s total to more than 6.3 million people infected and 98,678 dead from COVID-19. India added 41% of its confirmed cases and 34% of fatalities in September alone.

The government announced further easing of restrictions to start Oct. 15, allowing cinemas, theaters and multiplexes to open with up to 50% of seating capacity. India’s 28 states can also decide on reopening of schools after Oct. 15. Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed the world’s stringent lockdown across the country late March, but started easing restrictions after two months to revive the severely-hit economy that cost more than 10 million impoverished migrant workers their jobs in the cities.

NBA commissioner: Vaccine isn’t needed to open 2021 season with fans

As the NBA pursues its hope to begin next season sometime in January with fans in home arenas, commissioner Adam Silver downplayed whether that scenario hinges on the availability of a safe and proven vaccine.  

“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine at least that is widely distributed at least before we start the next season. I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite,” Silver said Wednesday in a press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.

“My sense with rapid testing is we may not have 19,000 people in the building. We’ll see. But that, with appropriate protocols in terms of distancing and with advanced testing, you will be able to bring fans back into the arenas,” he added.

– Mark Medina

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp extends coronavirus restrictions again

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday extended Georgia’s coronavirus restrictions for an additional two weeks as the state topped 7,000 confirmed deaths. The governor made minor changes to the state’s restrictions, including allowing restaurant and bar employees to return to work after being symptom-free for 24 hours following a positive or suspected COVID-19 diagnosis, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Georgia has more than 318,000 cases, ranking 24th in the nation for new cases per capita in the last two weeks.

First smoke-free resort on Las Vegas Strip opens amid pandemic

The MGM Resorts property in Las Vegas reopened Wednesday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the resort for seven months, but its return came with a new rule and the first of its kind on The Strip: No smoking. As the COVID-19 death toll rises across the U.S., smoking inside casinos has resurfaced as a make-or-break detail for travelers planning vacations, and companies like MGM Resorts are now restricting where visitors can puff tobacco. 

“It’s the greatest thing in the world,” said Jane Stalls, 72, of Storden, Minn. “I hate sitting next to people who smoke. Anytime someone sits next to me smoking, I move.”

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

CDC to extend ‘no-sail’ order – but lift it before Election Day

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 until Oct. 31, four days before the Nov. 3 election. 

– Morgan Hines

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Travel industry layoffs set to begin Thursday

With the federal stimulus due to run out Thursday, airlines, hotels and other travel-related businesses are urging Congress to act on a new relief plan to head off mass layoffs.

“The clock is ticking and time is quickly running out for Congress to extend the effective and successful Payroll Support Program that has kept critical frontline airline employees on the job and off unemployment,” said Nicholas Calio, CEO of trade group Airlines for America in a statement Tuesday. “Tomorrow, tens of thousands of airline workers will be furloughed if the program is not extended.”

The entire U.S. travel industry employed 15.8 million Americans, about one of every 10 jobs, before the pandemic. More than half those jobs have been wiped out, said Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

– Chris Woodyard

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves eases face mask mandate

Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday lifted the statewide mask mandate in Mississippi that was in place since early August, though face coverings will still be required in schools and certain businesses. 

“We should not use the heavy hand of government more than it is justified,” Reeves said at a news conference. “We have to tailor our actions to the current threat, and make sure they do not go beyond what is reasonable.” 

Even while recognizing masks were highly effective in cutting virus transmission, Reeves let the mandate expire Wednesday instead of extending it by several weeks as he has done before. Masks will still be required on school campuses under the order, as well as inside close-contact businesses such as barber shops. The order’s language strongly encourages Mississippians to keep wearing masks everywhere in public, and Reeves said he would continue to do so.

– Luke Ramseth, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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