Coronavirus Updates: Pope Francis' mask controversy

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NEW YORK (WABC) -- Pope Francis has gone back to his mask-less old ways during his general audience at the Vatican despite surging coronavirus infections across Europe.

Francis shunned a facemask during his Wednesday public audience in the Vatican auditorium, and remained mask-less when he greeted a half-dozen bishops at the end. He shook hands and leaned in to chat privately with each one.

The pope himself donned a facemask in public for the first time during a liturgical service on Tuesday. Vatican regulations now require facemasks to be worn indoors and out where distancing can't be "always guaranteed."

At age 83 and with part of a lung missing, the pope would be at high-risk for COVID-19 complications.
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The pope was seen not wearing a mask while shaking bishops' hands.


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Target to pay $200 bonuses to thousands of workers on front lines during COVID-19 pandemic
Target employees are getting a boost this holiday season. The retailer says it will pay $70 million in bonuses for those working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means that by early November, the company will pay $200 each to more than 350,000 frontline team members.

COVID-19 close contact redefined by CDC to include repeated short encounters
U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters.

For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more - so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count. The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks.

One World Observatory announces reopening date
The One Word Observatory, the acclaimed observation experience at the top of One World Trade Center and a major destination in downtown Manhattan that provides views of the city and surrounding area, announced its reopening date Wednesday.

Halloween tips in NYC
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio provided some tips on how to have a safe and fun Halloween.

NJ governor self-isolates
Gov. Phil Murphy walked away from a news conference at Camden County Community College in New Jersey after learning he was close to someone Saturday who has tested positive. Murphy tested negative Monday and will get tested again today.

"I will now unfortunately have to take myself off the field," Murphy said. "I cannot ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and have me sit here. I have no symptoms. Again, I tested negative on Monday, but I got to go take myself at least off the field and get tested again today."

Governor Cuomo talks COVID fatigue, calls for 'loving'
Governor Andrew Cuomo talked about COVID fatigue during his press conference on Wednesday and said it's a real issue many are facing. He said that the virus doesn't rest so everyone else can't either, however, the governor acknowledged that it has caused a great deal of individual stress.

"It has caused a great deal of anxiety among a great number of people," Governor Cuomo said. "We have a serious problem of the emotional stress and anxiety that COVID has caused, the longer it goes on the worse it is getting."

Substance abuse, domestic abuse, and mental hotline calls have all increased in the state of New York.

NY hot spot restriction changes
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced changes to New York's coronavirus red zones Wednesday.

NYC vaccine plan unveiled
Mayor Bill de Blasio talked about the city's two-phase vaccination plan on Wednesday.

"The vaccine will be a crucial part of our rebirth and open the economic bridge to our recovery," Mayor de Blasio said.

Before revealing the plan, he said that the city does not have an exact date of when the phases would happen, as it is dependent on vaccine approval, but "it will be sooner rather than later."

TSA installs new barriers at JFK Airport to keep passengers, employees safe
The TSA has installed acrylic barriers at JFK Airport to protect passengers and the workforce from COVID-19. The barriers were installed in areas where TSA officers interact with passengers, including the travel document checking podium and the area where passengers get their carry-on items screened.

SUNY Cortland extends online classes for 2 more weeks
An upstate New York college campus that had temporarily switched to online classes because of the coronavirus is extending it for another two weeks. The State University of New York at Cortland says remote learning will now be in effect through November 3 at the campus south of Syracuse, New York. The initial switch from in-person classes had been announced on Oct. 5. The state had set a threshold of 100 coronavirus cases as a trigger for remote learning for at least two weeks. SUNY Cortland hit that mark to necessitate the initial suspension, and had 166 new cases since Oct. 10, resulting in the need for the extension.

Nearly quarter of NYC Transit workers report having COVID: Study
A new study has found that nearly a quarter of New York City Transit workers who were surveyed reported having COVID-19. The pilot study was conducted by researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health and the results were released Tuesday. A survey of NYC bus and subway workers found that 24% said they contracted COVID-19 and 90% said they fear getting sick at work.

California issues reopening guidelines for Disneyland after monthslong closures
California's major theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios will have to wait longer to reopen under guidance released by the state on Tuesday. Larger theme parks will only be allowed to reopen in the least-restrictive, or yellow, fourth tier of the state's reopening framework, and even then, capacity will be limited to 25%. Meanwhile, smaller theme parks will be able to open outdoor attractions in the orange, or third, tier of the COVID-19 roadmap. Smaller theme parks are considered those with a capacity of 15,000 or fewer.

Know your NYC COVID Zone
You can find your COVID zone at NYC.gov/covidzone.



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