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Holidays are usually for gatherings but many get-togethers are complicated or cancelled because of COVID-19.

USA TODAY

The U.S. was nearing 8 million cases of the coronavirus on Friday — less than a month after reaching 7 million — amid a surge that has resulted in higher case counts in 41 states over the last week, according to USA TODAY analysis.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden talked coronavirus during dueling town halls.

On ABC, Biden said he would support making a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. But, he acknowledged, that he can’t force people to get the vaccine when it’s available.

“It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine, when it comes out and how it’s being distributed,” Biden said. “But I think we should think about making it mandatory.”

Meanwhile, on NBC, Trump said he didn’t remember whether he tested negative the day of his debate against Biden on Sept. 29. “I don’t know. I don’t even remember,” he said, adding that he was in “great shape” for the debate before testing positive for the virus.

After spending a week in the ICU, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was “wrong” to not wear a face mask while attending a Rose Garden ceremony to announce Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination on Sept. 26.

Some significant developments:

  • Nearly 8,000 travelers arrived in Hawaii on Thursday, the first day of a pre-travel program that allows tourists to forego quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19. 
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canada-US border will stay closed until America gets control of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris canceled campaign trips through Sunday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for COVID-19.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7.9 million cases and 217,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. There have been more than 38.9 million confirmed cases around the world and nearly 1.1 million deaths.

🗺️ 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.

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Chris Christie says he was ‘wrong’ not to wear mask at White House ceremony

Former Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he was “wrong” not to wear a mask in the days before testing positive for COVID-19, but that he felt at that time that he was in a “safe zone” because of frequent testing. 

Having spent a week being treated for the disease caused by the coronavirus – in an intensive care unit – Christie said he had a chance for greater reflection about his actions and the virus.  

“It is something to take very seriously. The ramifications are wildly random and potentially deadly,” Christie said in a statement, first reported by the New York Times. “No one should be happy to get the virus and no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others.” 

Christie’s position and his message to the public is at odds with President Donald Trump, whom he helped prepare for a debate and was also hospitalized with COVID-19. Trump has said he feels great, has entertained large, mask-less crowds at campaign rallies and urged the public, “don’t be afraid of COVID.” 

– Dustin Racioppi, Trenton Bureau

Donald Trump uses son’s COVID-19 diagnosis to push for reopening schools

Barron Trump’s positive test for COVID-19 has become part of his father’s push to physically reopen schools.

“It happens,” President Donald Trump told a crowd at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa of his 14-year-old son testing positive for the coronavirus. “People have it, and it goes. Get the kids back to school. We’ve got to get them back to school.

Melania Trump said Wednesday that after an initial negative test, 14-year-old Barron Trump tested positive for COVID-19, but is now negative.

“I don’t even think he knew he had it because they’re young and their immune systems are strong and they fight it off 99.9 percent. And Barron is beautiful, and he’s free, free,” Trump said.

An outbreak of the virus in the White House that infected the President, first lady Melania Trump and other White House insiders has raised concerns that thousands may have been exposed to COVID-19 through Trump’s inner circle.

– Josh Peter and Joel Shannon

Alabama coach Nick Saban says he’s ‘feeling great’ after COVID diagnosis

Alabama football coach Nick Saban said on his Thursday night radio show that he was “feeling great” after testing positive the previous day for the coronavirus but did not make any specific references to any additional testing.

”I’m missing everybody,” Saban said in a remote appearance from his Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home. “I still don’t have any symptoms. I don’t have a fever. The oxygen tests they do didn’t show any problems.”

Saban did not make any reference to the results of his daily test on Thursday but did seem to hold the door slightly open for a possible return to the sideline for Saturday’s game against Georgia. 

“I would hate not to be at the game Saturday if that’s what this turns out to be,” he said.

– Cecil Hurt, The Tuscaloosa News

Coronavirus study: Air on planes is safer than homes or operating rooms

A new study conducted for the Department of Defense adds credence to the growing belief that airline passengers face minimal risk of contracting coronavirus when flying.

The study found the risk of aerosol dispersion – transmission of the virus through the air – was reduced 99.7% thanks to high air exchange rates, HEPA-filtered recirculation and downward ventilation found on modern jets.

Investigators looked at the impact of an infected passenger on others seated in the same row and those nearby in the cabins of Boeing 767s and 777s. Those two aircraft types are widebodies typically used for long-haul flights where a virus would be expected to spread more easily.

The study was conducted by a team that included members from United Airlines, Boeing, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, National Strategic Research Institute and research firms. It was prepared for two military agencies that move people and cargo, the U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.

– Chris Woodyard

COVID outbreak hits Georgia election warehouse

Election officials said nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied for Georgia’s most populous county have tested positive for COVID-19.

But Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said Thursday that the positive tests for 13 of the 60 workers at the county election preparation center shouldn’t delay election operations.

Barron said the county is working to hire replacement staff and implement more mitigation measures, including daily rapid testing. The state Department of Public Health said Georgia had 1,686 cases and 23 deaths reported Thursday.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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