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US colleges rethink next semester due to virus rise. Get the latest on COVID-19
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US colleges rethink next semester due to virus rise. Get the latest on COVID-19

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As coronavirus cases rise around the country, some colleges and universities are rethinking some of their plans for next semester.

Colleges must assess how they would bring students back after the winter holidays while the country faces crushing rates of virus infections.

After months of slumping sales and businesses toppling into bankruptcy, Black Friday is offering a small beacon of hope to local and national retailers. 

But travel remains hard hit. The Walt Disney Co. is announcing plans to lay off 4,000 more workers in its theme parks division in California and Florida due to the COVID-19 pandemic's effect on the industry.

But the economic outlook is bright for one industry: tree farms. Christmas tree growers who have faced increased interest in artificial trees in recent years say demand for real, fresh-cut evergreens is strong this season.

The real Christmas tree industry, which has been battling an increased interest in artificial trees, is overjoyed to see that more Americans appear to be flocking to fresh-cut evergreens this season as the nation staggers under the toll of the coronavirus.

THE NUMBERS: About 13 million Americans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and more than 263,500 deaths have been attributed to the virus since the start of the pandemic. The country is averaging more than 1,650 deaths per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. See updating charts at the end of this article.

QUOTABLE: “My biggest concern is probably that people will become more relaxed with their individual social distancing/quarantining measures over winter break,” University of Vermont President Suresh Garimella said by email. “I can only hope that people will remember how important these safety measures are, and will continue to practice them for the sake of their health and for the sake of our education.”

ICYMI: Letters pouring by the tens of thousands into Santa’s mailbox offer a glimpse into the worries and hopes of children awaiting a pandemic Christmas. The postal sorting office in France’s Bordeaux region has been handling his mail since 1962, but this year, along with usual pleas for toys and gadgets, kids are asking for vaccines, for visits from grandparents, for life to return to the way it was.

Photos: Black Friday crowds thin as shoppers shift online

These 9 charts show you how, where the virus spreads in our state and nation

Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first? Browse this complete guide, with tips to stay safe and well.

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