By Gabriella Borter and Lisa Richwine
(Reuters) - New York City's mayor on Tuesday threatened to fine anyone caught in public without a mask, and the Walt Disney Co said it would lay off some 28,000 employees as its flagship California theme park remains closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 205,000 people have died in the United States and nearly 7.2 million people have been infected since the pandemic began in March, according to a Reuters tally.
At Disney, about two-thirds of the employees facing layoffs are part-time workers, the company said in a statement. The company's original theme park, Disneyland, remains closed by order of California state officials.
"We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our parks...," Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney's parks unit, said in a statement, citing Disneyland's ongoing closure.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will fine residents or visitors up to $1,000 if they refuse to wear a mask in public. The rate of positive COVID-19 tests has risen above 3% in New York City for the first time in months.
"We don't want to fine people, but if we have to, we will," de Blasio said at a news conference announcing the penalty, which will be enforced by police and health officials who will offer a mask to those caught not wearing one before fining them.
The state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority imposed a similar policy earlier this month, fining commuters who refuse to wear a mask on public transit $50.
STUDENTS RETURN TO NYC SCHOOLS
De Blasio's announcement came as many students returned to New York City public elementary schools for the first time on Tuesday, part of an effort to provide a mix of in-person and virtual learning that had twice been delayed amid opposition by teachers unions.
The city has said it will shut schools again if the seven-day average reaches 3% or more.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has boasted of his state's success in reducing transmission of the virus, on Tuesday warned that he might ban indoor dining again or bring back other restrictions, although he said such moves were not yet warranted.
"(But) if the local governments do not do the compliance and attack the clusters, you will be there in the short-term future."
Cuomo has bickered with de Blasio over who has the authority to clamp down further on residents and businesses. The governor said he would meet with leaders of Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn as well as Nassau, Orange and Rockland counties, where infections have ticked up.
Rabbi Asher Bush, who leads the Orthodox Jewish Congregation Ahavat Yisrael in Rockland County, said some synagogues have been more strict than others, particularly as infection rates waned during the summer months.
“There is a very large gamut of how different congregations are conducting themselves,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview, adding that his congregation was being very careful by enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing.
Beyond New York state, 28 other states were seeing upticks in new coronavirus infections over the past two weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations were on the rise in several Midwestern states.
Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin have all reported record numbers of hospitalized patients in the past seven days. On Monday, North Dakota reported 105 hospitalizations and Wisconsin 640.
The Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings professional football teams suspended activities after some members of the Titans tested positive for COVID-19 following a game on Sunday, according to statements from the National Football League and the teams.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, Gabriella Borter and Peter Szekely in New York, Lisa Shumaker in Chicago and Lisa Richwine and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)