Coronavirus updates: School district cancels classes due to staff absences

Myriam Borzee/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 776,000 people worldwide.

Over 21.7 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 5.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 170,131 deaths.

Here’s how the news is developing today. All times Eastern.

11:50 a.m.: NY gyms can soon reopen at limited capacity

In New York, gyms can open on Aug. 24 at 33% capacity, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Masks will be mandatory at all times, he said, and health guidelines will be enforced including ventilation requirements.

Localities must inspect the facilities before or within two weeks of reopening, Cuomo said, and localities will also make decisions on indoor fitness classes.

New York, once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, now has one of the lowest coronavirus rates in the country, Cuomo said.

Of those tested in New York state on Sunday, .71% tested positive for the coronavirus — the lowest daily number so far, Cuomo said.

11:10 a.m.: LA launches testing, tracing program at schools

The Los Angeles Unified School District — the nation’s second largest school district — is launching a coronavirus testing and contact tracing program at schools, said Superintendent Austin Beutner.

The district is reopening with virtual learning starting Tuesday.

Staff, students and their families will get regular testing which will be used “to study the impact and effects of reopening,” the district said.

“While this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Beutner said in a statement. “This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area.”

It also benefits students’ education “by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there,” he said.

“We hope this effort also will provide learnings which can benefit other school systems,” he added.

California has more than 625,000 coronavirus cases, higher than any other state in the U.S.

8:15 a.m.: Bolivia’s case count tops 100,000 amid protests

More than 100,000 people in Bolivia have now been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Bolivian Ministry of Health announced the grim milestone on Sunday night, noting that 60% of the diagnosed cases remain active, including 1,198 new infections. There were also 55 additional coronavirus-related fatalities in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 4,058 nationwide.

The South American nation descended into chaos and civil unrest last month after the government decided to postpone the first round of the presidential election again, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The vote, which was initially supposed to be held in May, will now take place on Oct. 18.

Thousands of people have continued to protest in the streets.

7:23 a.m.: Tulsa sees surge in teachers seeking to file wills

A rising number of teachers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are seeking to file wills amid the coronavirus pandemic and fears of returning to the classroom, according to a report from local ABC affiliate KTUL-TV.

The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association told KTUL that the requests from teachers to file wills have increased by 200% since May.

Tulsa Public Schools is set to resume classes virtually on Aug. 31.

Teachers told KTUL they are thankful that the school district is starting with distance learning for the first nine weeks and they hope it will be extended if the city’s COVID-19 numbers don’t go down. They said they’re afraid of bringing the virus home to their families.

6:18 a.m.: Arizona school district cancels classes due to staff absences

A school district in Arizona was forced to cancel Monday classes after more than 100 staff members called out.

The J. O. Combs Unified School District in Arizona’s Pinal County was set to resume in-person classes but notified parents in a letter dated Friday that “we have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns.”

“Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to re-open on Monday as planned,” the school district said. “This means that all classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled. At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume.”

The school district added that they “will continue to monitor the situation and will share an update no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday.”

A spokesperson for the school district told Phoenix ABC affiliate KNXV-TV that at least 109 people, including teachers and office staff, have requested not to work.

Last week, the head of the Arizona Health Services Department and the state’s superintendent of public instruction laid out a series of guidelines that public schools were urged to use when deciding whether COVID-19 infection rates are low enough to safely reopen for full in-person learning.

5:37 a.m.: India’s coronavirus death toll crosses 50,000

India’s health ministry recorded 941 additional coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 50,921.

The country of 1.3 billion people has the world’s fourth-highest death toll from COVID-19, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico, according to a real-time tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 2.6 million people in India have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began — the third-highest count in the world.

4:29 a.m.: Another school closes its doors in Georgia amid rising cases

A third school in Georgia’s Cherokee County is shuttering due to a growing cluster of coronavirus cases among its students and staff.

The Cherokee County School District announced Sunday that it was temporarily closing Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, with the hope of resuming in-person classes there on Aug. 31.

“Over this weekend, the number of positive cases at Creekview High School has increased to a total of 25, with 500 of its 1,800 in-person students now under precautionary quarantine, and additional tests pending that would significantly increase the quarantine total,” the Cherokee County School District said in a statement. “We understand these closings create hardships and are disappointing to students who want to learn in-person as well as their families, but these are necessary measures to avoid potential spread within our schools.”

The school district has also temporarily closed in-person learning at Woodstock High School and Etowah High School, where reopening is also tentatively scheduled for Aug. 31. Remote learning will be in effect for all students at the three schools in the meantime.

Cherokee County reopened its schools on Aug. 3, welcoming back 30,000 students for in-person learning. Since then, at least 1,876 students and 45 staff members from more than a dozen schools have been placed under mandated two-week quarantines, according to data published on the school district’s website.

3:45 a.m.: US reports under 1,000 new deaths for first time in seven days

There were 42,048 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the United States on Sunday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Sunday’s case count is well below the record set on July 16, when more than 77,000 new cases were identified in a 24-hour reporting period.

An additional 572 coronavirus-related deaths were also recorded Sunday. It’s the first time in seven days that the nation has reported under 1,000 new deaths.

A total of 5,403,361 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 170,052 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 70,000 for the first time in mid-July.

An internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, obtained by ABC News on Sunday night, shows that the nationwide number of new cases over the last week has continued to decrease in week-over-week comparisons, while the number of new deaths has reversed and gone up.

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