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Coronavirus update: No mandatory masks in Georgia, Disney’s reopening draws fire

COVID-19’s economic toll keeps growing

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Photo (c) JJ Gouin - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 3,499,771 (3,454,190)

Total U.S. deaths: 137,420 (136,807)

Total global cases: 13,589,273 (13,391,024)

Total global deaths: 584,990 (580,038)

Georgia governor overturns local mask orders

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has moved to overturn mandatory mask orders imposed by some local jurisdictions in the state. He signed the executive order as new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have continued to mount.

Kemp’s order, which “strongly encourages” wearing masks in public, argued that mandatory mask orders are unlawful. However, the governor’s order extends social distancing requirements statewide.

Elected officials in cities and counties that enacted mask mandates did not take kindly to the governor’s order, with many expressing outrage.

Abigail Disney questions company’s theme park reopening

Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney Company co-founder Roy Disney, has stepped up her criticism of the company that bears her name. In an interview with CNBC, she questioned Disney’s reopening of its Florida theme parks at a time when cases of the coronavirus have spiked in the state.

“I’m confused about how they think they can possibly protect their guests and their employees,” Disney told the network.

The Disney Company began Disney’s phased reopening of its Florida theme parks over the weekend after implementing safety protocols such as a mandatory mask policy and temperature screening. Capacity restrictions also were implemented. 

Weekly jobless claims remain above 1 million

In a sign that the coronavirus’ economic blow may be worse than expected, more Americans were added to the unemployment rolls last week. The Labor Department reports that initial claims for jobless benefits totaled 1.3 million in the previous week, the 17th straight week claims have been more than 1 million.

In a note to investors, Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, cited the numbers as “clear signs” of long-term damage to the economy. He said the unemployment rate will likely remain high.

“Absent a vaccine, the need for ongoing physical distancing will prevent a full recovery,” he predicted.

Johnson & Johnson ahead of schedule on a vaccine

Johnson & Johnson, just one of the pharmaceutical companies working on a COVID-19 vaccine, said it hopes to begin late-stage clinical trials on its candidate in September, ahead of schedule.

The company made the announcement during today’s earnings call, in which it reported a second-quarter decline of 9 percent. The company also does not expect to profit from any successful vaccine.

“We are bringing together our best minds, our global footprint and our sophisticated supply chain technology to deliver on our commitment to provide the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use, globally,” said CEO Alex Gorsky.

Survey: employees generally satisfied with workplace reopenings

After having employees work from home for several weeks, many businesses are reopening their doors to workers. A new survey by the American Staffing Association shows employees are generally satisfied with the process.

Seventy-nine percent of those in the Harris Poll survey said they were satisfied with their employers' pandemic-related return-to-work plans, with men slightly more satisfied than women.

Companies’ cleanliness protocols, remote work policies, communication, and COVID-19 benefits all drew at least an 80 percent approval rating from employees.. 

Around the nation

  • Virginia: The Richmond School Board has voted to conduct all classes online for the first half of the school year. The board rejected a proposed hybrid plan that cities in other states have adopted or are considering.

  • Arizona: The Arizona Department of Health Services is bringing in 600 out-of-state nurses to help hospitals deal with the recent surge in coronavirus cases. “We’ve prioritized providing these staffing resources to fill critical resource gaps in hospitals and ensure they can continue to provide excellent care across the state,” said Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ.

  • California: State officials say they will once again restrict COVID-19 tests to the most vulnerable population. California has experienced a shortage of tests as the number of new cases has set several single-day records.

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