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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Companies are scrambling to reorganize operations and add protections for employees after a surge of public protests by workers who are fearful of contracting the coronavirus on the job.

Why it matters: America is relying on grocery clerks, warehouse personnel and factory workers for food and other necessities. If they get sick, supply chains could break down, further threatening the teetering U.S. economy.

  • One example: A meatpacking plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, is stepping up its sanitizing efforts and taking employees' temperatures as they arrive after 10 workers tested positive for the virus.

Temperature checks are becoming routine at many workplaces, and some are outfitting employees with masks and gloves.

  • Amazon, which has hired 80,000 people in the past few weeks, introduced a raft of new protective measures Thursday in response to employee walkouts and mass absences at some facilities.
  • Walmart, the nation's largest employer, is installing sneeze guards at checkouts and pharmacies to protect store clerks, and it's closing stores overnight for extra cleaning.

Social distancing can be difficult in factories, where employees often work in close quarters.

  • At a GM plant in Kokomo, Indiana, where emergency ventilator production will soon begin, employees will be required to sanitize their hands, check their temperature and wear a mask upon arrival.
  • Individual work stations will be located 6 feet apart, and they'll be cleaned between shifts — a safety measure that cuts into productivity at a time when maximizing output is essential.
  • Each shift will enter and exit through a different door to minimize contact.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Coronavirus cases fell by 15% this week

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend.

Why it matters: The standard caveats still apply — progress can always fall apart, the U.S. is climbing down from a very high number of cases, and this is far from over. But this is undeniably good news. Things are getting better.