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Stephen Colbert's dog Benny is the new star of the 'Late Show'

Stephen Colbert's dog Benny is the new star of the 'Late Show'
By Marianne Garvey, CNN

Stephen Colbert had a co-host for his latest "Late Show" monologue -- his adorable dog, Benny.

After talking about the coronavirus outbreak for a bit, Colbert mentioned a woman who had trained her dog to deliver groceries to a neighbor in need and decided to give it a try with his own furry friend.

Telling Benny he had important notes to deliver to people wrapped in slices of meat, Benny didn't take the instructions too well and just gobbled down the entire plate of treats. Then he licked the plate.

"You need to bring this message to the neighbor," he tells Benny, who only wants treats.

"Look, OK i have a prescription, I need my neighbor to go get my prescription. I'm an old woman and I've written my prescription on a piece of ham."

"He loves helping," he added.

For the deaf or hard of hearing, face masks pose new challenge

For the deaf or hard of hearing, face masks pose new challenge
Opinion by Laken Brooks

I'd been social distancing for a week and a half when I ventured into the nearest grocery store. As I surveyed the shelves, an employee caught my attention. "He's asking me a question," I thought. But I couldn't understand him.

He, like many of the employers and the shoppers in the store, wore a face mask. And this worker is not alone. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other federal health officials are seriously considering the possibility that, should resources allow, most Americans should wear face masks to slow the spread of Covid-19. But when people wear masks, I feel like I'm wearing earmuffs. I was finally around people again in the grocery store, even if it was from a safe distance. But in a world without voices, I felt more isolated than ever before.

Some people, like me, read lips. I have tinnitus: ringing in my ears. While I can hear clearly most of the time, this sound distortion comes and goes, and it's unpredictable. I feel a reverberating pain in my ears when I hear a sound that is too low or too high of a pitch. Reading lips has helped me cope with this auditory disorder for five years.

Covid-19 changed everything. Face masks have become the must-have health item for 2020. Two images have become iconic on our screens during this pandemic: empty streets and people covering their noses and mouths. For many deaf people or people like me with less severe hearing problems, the two images convey the same loneliness.

While masks are a vital health care tool for many people, they also present a new set of challenges for the deaf community. When people wear masks, including trending DIY masks, they muffle their voices and prevent people from reading their lips. For people who are hard of hearing, that's a problem.

I took to social media to see how Covid-19 is impacting people in the real world. Non-deaf medical professionals and deaf people alike have experienced unexpected communication issues during Covid-19. These problems range from my inconveniences when shopping to potentially life-threatening medical misunderstandings.

Lauren Sugrue was born hard of hearing. Sugrue says, "Lip reading has been more difficult because you don't want people to take off their masks or other face coverings for protection. But when you can't see their lips, it's extremely difficult to know what they're saying. I've had to find new ways to communicate even before Covid-19, but the pandemic has thrown new hurdles in our way." Sugrue effectively used a whiteboard to communicate with doctors before coronavirus began to spread; however, many people in the deaf community now cannot pass a piece of paper or a whiteboard back and forth to a person who is standing six feet away.

Deva Darnell, a non-deaf nurse in an emergency room, says "I have a hard time communicating with my patients. People who could normally read my lips now can't understand me." Darnell can't take off her mask when she works. Even if she could, her patients with vision impairments can't read her lips if she stands far away. "I feel guilty, like I can't serve some of my patients as well or as quickly as I need to."

We are three people. But our stories represent thousands, if not millions, of people around the globe who are struggling to connect with others during Covid-19. The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center published strategies for deaf people to use when they navigate public or medical spaces, such as by downloading speech-to-text apps or preparing a written script before leaving their home. The organization states, "You need to be prepared. Before the pandemic, hospitals had good services to help you communicate clearly. There are new rules now. Many hospitals will not allow in-person interpreters to go in with you." But this burden shouldn't fall solely on the shoulders of the deaf community. In these unprecedented times, we will have to work together to find unprecedented ways to communicate.

For me and others like me, there is no easy solution to this problem, so we should consider many different tools to make communicating as easy as possible. Sign language is perhaps the most obvious method to make spaces more accessible to the deaf community. Sugrue recommends that essential businesses hire at least one sign language interpreter and provide whiteboards that "can be sprayed down with disinfectant." Other deaf individuals may benefit from video chats in which they can read a person's lips on the screen while maintaining a safe distance.

A whopping 15% of American adults report hearing loss, but many people never learn to sign because they lose their hearing gradually. Some of these people -- like my grandmother and perhaps yours, too -- rely on lip-reading. To help these individuals who are not fluent in ASL, but still have some hearing, essential workers may carry portable microphones that clip onto a headset or a belt. Nurses and doctors may want to experiment with phone apps that turn a smartphone into a microphone when you pair your phone with any Bluetooth speaker. These simple adjustments will boost their volume and bridge the communication gap.

Another possible solution are face masks with a plastic panel over the mouth, like this one. This see-through prototype has not been medically tested, and people who wear such a mask will need to be careful that the heat and moisture from their breath do not fog up the clear panel. However, this design is a step forward in the right direction as citizens all over the country experiment with new options to make communicating easier for all of us.

Much is uncertain about Covid-19 at this time, including how deaf and non-deaf people will continue speaking with one another during the months to come. What I know for sure is that we can choose to emerge from this pandemic with a greater understanding of each other and new ways to stay connected, even when we can't hear every word.

Joe Exotic's husband Dillon Passage supports him

Joe Exotic's husband Dillon Passage supports him
By Lisa Respers France, CNN

Dillon Passage says he's staying loyal to his husband.

Passage, 24, is married to 57-year-old Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, aka Tiger King, who is the subject of the hit Netflix docuseries "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."

Maldonado-Passage is currently serving 22 years in prison after he was sentenced in January on multiple charges, including an alleged murder-for-hire plot against his nemesis, Carole Baskin.

During a call-in appearance Wednesday on Andy Cohen's SiriusXM's show "Andy Cohen Live," Dillon Passage said his incarcerated husband "doesn't want me to be alone, but he also doesn't want me to move on."

"He doesn't want me to leave, that's his thing," Passage said. "But I have no intention on leaving and I've reassured him of that for the past year and a half."

Passage echoed that sentiment in a separate interview with "Variety Live!"

"I felt it was only right to stand by him and not judge him for the circumstance because I understood his relationship with Carole," Passage said. "It was a very negative kind of thing and he was in a dark place when all of this stuff occurred. He just needed support so I was just going to stand next to him."

A big part of the drama in "Tiger King" centers on Maldonado-Passage's rivalry with Baskin, an animal activist and owner of a big cat sanctuary who threatens to put his zoo out of business.

Passage told "Variety Live" that Maldonado-Passage is currently in the medical facility of a federal prison in Texas where he had been transferred to from Oklahoma's Grady County Jail and was being held in a 14-day quarantine because of Covid-19. Passage said he doesn't think his husband has the coronavirus, though.

Passage told Cohen he was 22 when he met his husband, who he said supported him during an addiction to prescription medication.

The couple decided to get married a little over two weeks later, Passage said. This was Joe Exotic's fourth marriage.
"He was just super sweet to me," Passage said. "He just came off as very genuine and a real down-to-earth guy. Very charismatic."

Passage is an animal lover and said the zoo factored into his attraction to Maldonado-Passage.

"Being around the animals kind of like gave me a purpose," Passage said. "I felt like I was actually doing something with my life and it brought me out of my depression. It was like my own little rehab."

The 20-something said he loves his husband and refuses to abandon him.

He also had some words of praise for the docuseries, saying the producers "put the story together very, very well."

"They stayed true to the entire storyline," Passage said. "I even learned a lot of things I didn't know."

"Tiger King" has become a cultural phenomena and Passage told "Variety Live" his showman husband is enjoying all the hoopla surrounding it.

"Joe's the type of person,he loves the attention obviously," Passage said. "Any kind of fame or spotlight that he has, it was greatly appreciated."

4 major hurricanes are predicted as part of an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season
By Judson Jones, CNN Meteorologist

Sixteen named storms, including eight hurricanes, are forecast for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, according to early predictions released Thursday by experts at Colorado State University.

Four of the hurricanes will become major storms of Category 3 to 5, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph, the projections indicate for the season that runs from June 1 to November 30.

The chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in 2020 along the US coastline is 69%, compared with an average over the last century of 52%, researchers said. There is a 95% chance -- the average is 84% -- that at least one hurricane this year will make landfall in the US.

"The last season with four or more major hurricanes was the record damage-causing year of 2017 that saw Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria," CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. "All caused significant damage in the US and Caribbean."

Six major hurricanes formed that year in the Atlantic basin. The seasonal average is 12 named storms, including six hurricanes.

The forecasts do not precisely predict where the storms might strike, and the probability of landfall for any single location is low.

"Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them," researchers Philip Klotzbach, Michael M. Bell and Jhordanne Jones wrote in the report.

Confident in their forecast

The above-normal activity was predicted consistently across types of forecasts, Klotzbach said.

"This year, we used four different techniques to develop our forecast," he told CNN Weather. "And they all point towards an active season."

Colorado State in its April predictions hasn't forecast four major hurricanes for a season since 2013 -- a year that didn't quite perform as the early forecast expected.

"I'd say that this year, we're pretty confident," Klotzbach said, citing a lack of El Niño conditions that can mess with expectations.

When El Niño is present, it reduces Atlantic hurricane activity due to increased vertical wind shear -- changes in wind speed and direction with height that prevent hurricanes from building.

Average conditions create a more favorable environment for tropical storm development.

"Also, the tropical Atlantic is quite a bit warmer than it has been the past few years at this time," Klotzbach said.

Sea surface temperatures are one of the ingredients needed to fuel hurricanes. The warmer the ocean, the more fuel available for the storms to tap into.

Although four major hurricanes are forecast this season, that doesn't mean any necessarily will hit the US coast.

"Two of the last three years have had major hurricane landfalls in the US (2017 and 2018)," Miller said. "Before that, there was a 12-year drought without a single major hurricane landfall anywhere in the country (from Hurricane Wilma in 2005 to Hurricane Harvey in 2017)."

"The last major hurricane to strike the US was Hurricane Michael in 2018," he said.

Forecasting this far in advance can be accurate

The models are based on 40 years of data and conditions, including sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels and El Niño.

April is about the earliest experts can get a good indication of what conditions will be like during the hurricane season.

"We find that there is just too much uncertainty with the future state of both (El Niño) and the Atlantic prior to that time," Klotzbach says.

Still, these statistical and dynamical models fail in some years, the researchers made clear.

"Last year, we forecast a near-average hurricane season and ended up a bit more active than we thought," Klotzbach said.

Their April 2019 forecast predicted five hurricanes for that year; six were observed. They forecast two of those to be major hurricanes; three were observed.

Get more weather news from around the world >>>

Their April forecast did vary significantly from the total number of named storms in 2019: 13 were predicted, while 18 formed, though many were short-lived and weak.

This marks the 37th year that the university's team has issued an Atlantic seasonal hurricane forecast. The official forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release in May.

The hurricane research team from Colorado State will also release updated forecasts on June 4, July 7 and August 6.

Police cite bar for staying open despite emergency declaration for COVID-19
By Jessica Bruno

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    ENID, Okla. (KFOR/KAUT) -- A bar was shutdown and cited by Enid PD after violating the city's emergency declaration by being open and having more than 10 people inside during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We got some phone calls that the bar had actually been letting people inside the bar," Sgt. Nick John with Enid PD said.

It wasn't just one or two people, but over 10 people were caught inside The Spot bar in Enid on Sunday.

"They actually had watched someone going in there prior to arriving there. So we knocked on the door, went inside," John said.

He said the spot violated the city's COVID-19 emergency declaration by being open and having over 10 people gathered together.

"Go back to March 22nd, one of the officers had been out to this bar before and he warned the owner of the bar that he needed to come into compliance with the emergency declaration. So, he'd been wanted prior to this," he said. "We want people to come in compliance on their own and follow the rules and we're all going to work together to get through this. Strange times."

John said so far, this is the only citation they've issued and they hope it stays that way.

"We're not, as a police department, out to make money off this. But we want people to take it very serious during these times," he said.

News 4 tried to contact the owner of The Spot by phone and Facebook and we never heard back.

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New England Patriots team plane flying 1.2 million N95 masks from China to help ease coronavirus shortages
By Kristen Holmes, Carma Hassan and David Williams, CNN

A New England Patriots team plane loaded with 1.2 million N95 protective masks is on its way back to Boston after picking up the vital supplies in China.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted a photo of the plane being loaded with the personal protective equipment that he said would go to the state's healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

According to a source, Baker is extremely frustrated that the federal government outbid him on supplies that were en route to Massachusetts. He worked with New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft and the Patriots to get these supplies brought over from China.

"No days off. Thanks to some serious teamwork, Massachusetts is set to receive over 1 million N95 masks for our front-line workers. Huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen," Baker said in the tweet.

Robert Kraft and Patriots president Jonathan Kraft partnered with the state to purchase 1.4 million N95 masks for Massachusetts, according to the team. Robert Kraft also purchased another 300,000 protective masks for New York state.

"It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission. We knew that purchasing greatly-needed N95 masks and providing the Patriots plane to expedite their delivery to local hospitals would immediately help protect our courageous healthcare professionals," Robert Kraft said in a statement provided by the Patriots.

The plane is scheduled to land at Boston's Logan International Airport Thursday afternoon carrying 1.2 million masks. A second shipment of another half-million N95 masks is scheduled to arrive as early as next week.

"The Krafts, our partners Ambassador Huang Ping, Dr. Jason Li, Gene Hartigan and our Covid-19 Command Center personnel teamed up to get this job done and we eagerly await the plane landing at Logan Airport soon," Baker said in a statement provided to CNN. "Our administration will keep pursuing the PPE necessary to support our brave front-line workers who are working tirelessly to save lives during this pandemic."

As of Thursday morning, Massachusetts has 7,738 reported cases of coronavirus and 122 people have died, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Baker has issued an emergency order requiring all Massachusetts businesses and organizations that do not provide essential services to close their physical workplaces to help slow the spread of coronavirus. These businesses are encouraged to continue their operations remotely. The order also limits public gatherings.

Neighbors celebrate former weatherman's 102nd birthday while social distancing
By Haleigh Schmidt

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    FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) -- He was the first weatherman at Channel 5 and on he celebrated a huge birthday on April 1.

Milt Earnhart celebrated his 102nd birthday.

Milt was this area's local weatherman for 23 years in the 50s and 60s.

He would also anchor the news from time to time when he was asked to fill in.

In addition to working as a weatherman, Milt also served in the U.S. Army during World War II and served as a State Representative between 1959 and 1981.

Since everyone is having to practice social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, a few of Milt's neighbors gathered outside of his home to sing him happy birthday.

"Well we had planned to have to have a big party for Milt for his 102nd birthday but with the virus, we had to cancel that so we gather all of our neighbors to come out here and sing happy birthday to him," neighbor Sarah Howe said.

"The neighborhood friends and wonderful neighbors all came out to wish me happy birthday, I know it takes an effort to do all of that and I appreciate it for coming out," Milt said.

After retiring from politics, Milt joined the Screen Actors Guild and worked in movies alongside names like Will Smith, Leslie Niesen and Adam Sandler.

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For Vladimir Putin, coronavirus offers a diplomatic opening and outsized PR dividends
Analysis by Nathan Hodge, CNN

Russian President Vladimir Putin knows how to make a very small investment for an outsized public-relations gain, and the Covid-19 pandemic has been no exception.

On Wednesday, a Russian An-124 cargo plane landed at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport carrying a shipment of medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment, to help US hospitals and communities on the front lines of the fight with coronavirus.

It was a from-Russia-with-love moment: The New York air traffic controller thanked the Russian pilot when the massive aircraft landed, and Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, tweeted that the shipment was a "gesture of solidarity with New Yorkers who are in a very difficult situation at the moment."

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Russian side offered Washington assistance in light of the epidemiological situation in the US, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported Tuesday. "Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid," Peskov said, according to RIA.

At first, it seemed like a typically Putinesque masterstroke of public relations: Russia, once a recipient of US aid after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was now coming to the aid of the world's wealthiest nation. But in a statement, US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus emphasized that the shipment was a purchase, not a donation.

"As a follow-up to the March 30 phone call between President Trump and President Putin, the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia, which were handed over to FEMA on April 1 in New York City" she said.

The Kremlin, nonetheless, cast the delivery as a humanitarian act. Russia's Foreign Ministry said Thursday that half of the aid sent to the US against the coronavirus was paid for by American taxpayers, and half by Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia's sovereign wealth fund.

On the same day the Russian cargo plane landed in New York, the Russian military -- which has tightly scripted the public information around its mission -- released footage of its doctors and chemical/biological/radiological specialists working to sanitize Italian senior care centers using mobile spray disinfection stations and decontamination equipment. They were part of a military mission dispatched earlier by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which sent nine Il-76 aircraft with teams of virologists and epidemiologists to help Italy in its response to the pandemic.

So what, exactly, was Putin's calculation in sending aid abroad, precisely at a moment when coronavirus cases seem to be ramping up in Russia itself?

Russia officially has 3,548 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the country's monitoring headquarters. That's a relatively low figure, compared with China or the United States. But Russian authorities have signaled that they expect the situation to worsen: Russians are currently under an enforced regime of self-isolation, and Putin signed a law this week that increases penalties for violating quarantine rules. Authorities in Moscow have said they are preparing to roll out a digital enforcement tool that will use QR codes and a smartphone app to enforce the lockdown in the capital.

The delivery of much-needed equipment to the US, then, has come in for some criticism in Russia, where reports of protective equipment shortages have caused concern.

The Alliance of Doctors, a professional advocacy group, criticized the fanfare around the US shipment. "Well, great," the organization said in a statement. "We collect money all over the country to buy remedies for doctors, and our authorities sell personal protective equipment in the United States. Pure mockery."

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov defended Russia's actions.

"There is always criticism of this nature, but at the same time international cooperation in fighting coronavirus is a very important measure of activities of any country," Peskov said. "No country can effectively fight the virus alone without international cooperation."

Leave aside for a moment the controversy in Russia around the shipment: Internationally, it's a relatively inexpensive way for Putin to build goodwill with President Donald Trump.

Russia, after all, remains under US and European sanction over the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and relations between Moscow and Washington are abysmal. For both a Russian and international audience, then, the aid shipments send a powerful visual signal: Putin, once again, is playing the decisive man of action.

Marine life in the world's oceans can recover to healthy levels by 2050, researchers say
By Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Marine life in the world's oceans could recover to healthy levels in the next thirty years if decisive and urgent action is taken, an international review has found.

A team of scientists from around the world found marine life to be "remarkably resilient" despite damage caused by human activity and interference, they said in a review published Wednesday in science journal Nature.

Researchers said ocean populations could be restored as soon as 2050, but warned that there is limited time to achieve this change.

Rising temperatures, marine pollution and acidic water are all affecting marine life. About 70-90% of all existing coral reefs are expected to disappear in the next 20 years due to warming oceans, acidic water and pollution, scientists from the University of Hawaii Manoa said in February.

Meanwhile, other studies have shown that climate change is shrinking fish populations.

Researchers found that in spite of marine biodiversity losses during the 20th century, population losses have slowed and in some cases seen a resurgence during the 21st century.

Scientists nodded to a series of successful interventions that were shown to have an impact on ocean populations, including a resurgence in the numbers of nearly extinct humpback whales following the end of commercial hunting in the southwest Atlantic.

In the review, scientists said that the rate of recovery of marine life could be accelerated for many ocean ecosystems, and that a "substantial recovery" could be achieved within two to three decades if pressures on the world's oceans -- including climate change -- were addressed, and wide reaching interventions were put into place.

"The success of many marine conservation projects in recent years illustrates how we can make a real difference to life in our oceans if we apply the lessons learnt from them at scale and with urgency," Professor Callum Roberts from the department of environment and geography at the University of York and co-author of the study, said.

Researchers found that species and spaces should be protected, habitats should be restored, harvesting done wisely, pollution reduced, and climate change mitigated for ocean recovery to be successful.

Experts identified nine components that are key to restoring marine life, which include seagrass, saltmarshes, mangroves, coral reefs, kelp, oyster reefs, fisheries, megafauna and the deep sea.

"Over-fishing and climate change are tightening their grip, but there is hope in the science of restoration. We now have the skills and expertise to be able to restore vital marine habitats such as oyster reefs, mangrove swamps and salt marshes -- which keep our seas clean, our coasts protected and provide food to support entire ecosystems," Roberts added.

But researchers warned that despite having the tools and knowledge to achieve change, time is of the essence.

"We have a narrow window of opportunity to deliver a healthy ocean to our grandchildren's generation, and we have the knowledge and tools to do so," lead author Dr Carlos Duarte, professor of marine science and Tarek Ahmed Juffali research chair in Red Sea Ecology at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, said.

Family celebrates mom's 86th birthday through window

Family celebrates mom's 86th birthday through window
By Stacy Lange

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    SCRANTON, Pa. (WNEP) -- Nursing homes across the state are no longer allowing visitors amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

That presented a challenge for a family last week; their mom, Dorothy Partyka was turning 86.

Her son, Jack Partyka, said that as long as he's been living, he's never missed one of his mom's birthdays.

"Twenty-eight years ago today, I made a promise to my dad, when he passed away, that I would take care of my mom and watch over her," Jack said.

Jack usually visits his mom at Mountain View Care Center in on Stafford Avenue every day.

That stopped several weeks ago when the facility started restricting visits, but the staff came up with a solution to Dorothy's birthday last week.

Jack and his family got to see Dorothy for the first time in two weeks and sing "Happy Birthday" through one of the facilities' windows.

"It was very emotional, something that we didn't know would happen happened. Just to seeing her after two and a half weeks of not being able to see her, that close, even if it was through a window, was just so satisfying and emotional," Jack added.

Dorothy suffers from dementia. Her family worries about how the break-in routine might affect her.

But, they now have a memory of her 86th birthday -- some normalcy during an uncertain time.

The Partyka family is planning a big birthday party for Dorothy whenever they can all be together again.

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A restaurant once dubbed the world's best reopens to feed first responders
Stacey Lastoe, CNN

It's safe to say no one in the world is sitting down to a three-plus hour, eight-course dinner costing hundreds of dollars at any of the top fine destinations around the globe.

The pandemic's stronghold has all but made it impossible for luxury restaurants to keep doing what they were doing prior to the shutdown.

On Wednesday night, however, one of the world's best restaurants, which (temporarily) closed its doors when New York City pressed pause, did a 180.

Three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, known for providing diners with a luxurious, unparalleled dining experience, among the most memorable in the world, is reincarnating itself.

Starting Thursday, it will use its resources to become a food commissary to support New York City's first responders.

On Wednesday night, in an Instagram posted on his personal page, Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Make it Nice hospitality group, announced plans to turn the lights back on and help NYC weather a storm he thinks is just beginning.

"Starting today, we have turned Eleven Madison Park into a commissary kitchen with the goal of producing thousands of meals per day for those who are working in the front lines and those who are deeply effected by the current crisis," Humm wrote on his Instagram featuring a dark, empty kitchen.

The pandemic sweeping the world has been an especially dark time for high-end restaurants, many of which quickly pivoted to take out and delivery -- alcoholic beverages to-go included -- keeping a bare-bones staff and trying to stay afloat.

Not all Michelin-starred restaurants attempted the shift. And, indeed, a restaurant such as Eleven Madison Park, where the price of dinner includes otherworldly hospitality and just the right amount of guest coddling, might have struggled to make a smooth transition to takeout.

The economic consequences that posh restaurants have to contend with because of their standstill status are dire, says Hillary Dixler Canavan, the restaurant editor for the global food site Eater.

"The high-end restaurants that are closed are bleeding cash right now," she says. "In the US, they haven't gotten economic relief from the government yet, and while some may get cash reprieve by pivoting to a takeout model, broadly speaking, to-go food at upscale restaurants isn't profitable unless you do high volumes. These places weren't designed for pick-up and delivery."

As some mid-range restaurants struggle to serve customers during this uncertain period and as more upscale dining destinations opting for an all-out closure, dates of reopening TBD, Eleven Madison Park's shift is noteworthy.

To bring the commissary kitchen to fruition, the restaurant has partnered with Rethink Food NYC, a non-profit that upcycles excess food to distribute meals to underserved communities in NYC.

At this time, NYC's underserved communities includes the men and women on the front lines of the pandemic. Many doctors and nurses and other hospital staff are staying in Manhattan hotels, many of which have also transitioned from one day accommodating tourists to the next providing a safe, clean space for first responders.

Neither Eleven Madison Park nor Rethink Food NYC could be immediately reached for comment, but the response, according to Humm's Instagram has been overwhelming.

Less than 24 hours after making the announcement, Humm's post had received over 21,000 likes and over 1,000 supportive, praising comments.

Staff member distributing meals to students tests positive for coronavirus
By Allison Smith

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    LEXINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) -- A Lexington City Schools staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee was part of the group in charge of preparing and distributing meals to hundreds of students while they are learning from home.

Superintendent Anitra Wells says the staff member in the child nutrition program last worked on Friday and has not returned to work this week. The individual's test results came back positive Tuesday evening. In response, the district called off Wednesday's food distribution.

"It is kind of scary, like, where did she get it from and who else did she infect? Are there kids who got infected by it? Was she the only one handing out the food?" said Clarissa Lonier, a Lexington City Schools parent.

Superintendent Wells says the district has a new staff of child nutrition workers and bus drivers to continue delivering meals to students.

The district's food distribution will resume on Thursday.

In the meantime, they have relocated their meal packaging to a different school in order to conduct a deep cleaning of the cafeteria that was being used.

All staff, volunteers and bus drivers who came in contact with the person who tested positive have been asked to self-quarantine.

The superintendent also told FOX8 they will continue to provide masks and gloves to staff members.

They are also cutting down the size of the crew on each bus to help with social distancing.

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Scammers attempting to bilk hospitals during trying times

Scammers attempting to bilk hospitals during trying times
By Jamie Ostroff

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    SHREVEPORT, La. (KTBS) -- Health care workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic on the front line rely on personal protective equipment (PPE) to remain healthy. As supplies of PPE like masks, gloves and isolation gowns dwindle and demand surges, scammers are looking to take advantage of that.

The FBI issued a warning Friday to all health care providers to watch for signs of fraudulent medical equipment sales.

"Based on the current stress on the supply chain, scammers may promise equipment they do not have access to in order to capitalize on the medical community's urgent needs," read a press release from the federal law enforcement agency.

According to the release, health care providers should be on the lookout for suspicious activity including unusual payment terms, last-minute price changes and excuses to delay a shipment, and an unexplained source of bulk supply.

Brian Crawford, chief administrative officer of Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport, said he has seen each of those warning signs from prospective vendors since the coronavirus crisis began to take hold.

"It's a disgrace, is what it is," Crawford said. "Everybody knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who can set you up with N-95 masks or isolation gowns or gloves, goggles-- something that you need. We've been contacted by people named Bubba in south Alabama, to people named Dino Eduardo in South America, China, Indonesia, you name it."

According to Crawford, the scammers are relatively easy to spot. He said they like to offer speedy delivery in exchange for payment upfront.

"Usually if you press them on it -- say, 'We're willing to go pick it up if it's going to take this long.' (They say,) 'Oh, no, no, no. You can't pick it up. We need to send it to you,'" Crawford said.

While markups are typical from legitimate suppliers during times of high demand, Crawford said some of the offers have been "disheartening."

"Normally what I would pay $50,000 for, he wanted half a million dollars for. That's a thousand-percent markup," Crawford said, adding that the real cost comes to those who are working on the front lines.

"That's putting a price on our healthcare providers' safety. That's putting a price on first responders that are out on the street, the fire, the police, the paramedics," Crawford said. "It's basically holding their safety hostage to the highest bidder."

Crawford said he continues to report all suspicious behavior to the FBI, while working with state officials and Louisiana's congressional delegation to keep supplies coming in from legitimate sources.

"We know of no attempts at scamming our system," said Tina Martinez, a spokesperson for Ochsner LSU Health-Shreveport, attributing the information to the head of the hospital's supply chain. "We do have a stringent process in order to qualify a vendor. All vendor information is reviewed on multiple levels."

When asked whether scammers had reached out to the CHRISTUS Health system, spokesman William Knous did not answer on the record.

David Joseph, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, announced Tuesday the formation of a task force designed to investigate and prosecute fraud and hoarding related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Through the formation of this Task Force, federal prosecutors from my office will collaborate on a daily basis with investigators to identify, investigate, and aggressively prosecute those attempting to profit from this emergency," Joseph said in a press release.

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Former NBA star Stephon Marbury to help bring masks to New York

Former NBA star Stephon Marbury to help bring masks to New York
By Adam Renuart, CNN

For NBA veteran Stephon Marbury, the coronavirus pandemic has hit close to a couple of places he calls home.

The first is New York, more specifically the neighborhood of Brooklyn where Marbury grew up.

He was well known in the district when freelance writer Darcy Frey wrote a book called "The Last Shot" about Stephon and his high school teammates.

The second is Beijing, China, where the 43-year-old is coaching the Beijing Royal Fighters of the Chinese Basketball Association.

That's why the two-time NBA All-Star is working with a company in China to sell 10 million masks to his hometown at cost instead of a profit.

"The Brooklyn borough president, he asked me to help him and I just came to bat for him," Marbury told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Eric Adams, the president, tweeted in response: "Thank you Stephon Marbury for stepping up to offer the greatest assist of your life. You are a true friend to this city."

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'Stay at home'

After leaving the NBA in 2009, Marbury joined the Chinese Basketball Association, and eventually became a three-time CBA champion. Marbury has a lot of fans in China, as evidenced by the "House of Marbury Museum" dedicated to him in 2015.

Despite his popularity, Marbury downplayed his role in helping to secure the facemasks.

"We had some people that knew people in the factories that made masks, and the opportunity presented itself for us to be able to help," he said.

Marbury faced one more reason to join the fight against Covid-19, as a cousin of his passed away from the disease. That's one reason why he wants to help spread the message about how to combat the virus.

"That's the only way to really stop it - to stay at home," he insists.

In fact, Marbury is hoping his home state takes note of his new place of residence. "People were looking at me strange for having a mask on when I got here (to New York). You see so many people having large gatherings - still. That wasn't going on in China during this time."

Those familiar with Marbury won't be surprised by his actions and message. Though known for his hot temper as a player, Marbury had a soft spot that included helping to develop an affordable basketball sneaker for any impoverished youth who couldn't afford a more expensive pair.

A former teammate on the Beijing Ducks told CNN in 2012: "He brings the whole team a positive and fighting spirit." Now Marbury is hoping to take that fighting spirit to Covid-19.

How to train yourself not to touch your face

How to train yourself not to touch your face
By Katie Hunt, CNN

We're washing our hands, staying at home and standing 6 feet apart when we do need to go out. What else can we do to limit the spread of Covid-19?

Public health experts say not enough is being done to tackle face touching -- something that could make a very large difference to the transmission of the coronavirus.

The challenge, says Susan Michie, the director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London, is frustratingly simple.

It's much, much harder not to do something than to do something.

"Do wash your hands, do stand 2 meters apart -- but don't touch your face? It's much more difficult," Michie says.

We touch our face for many reasons: to groom, to gesture (like with the classic face palm) and to scratch. It can even be soothing in times of stress. According to one study, people touch their face about 23 times an hour.

To overcome these ingrained habits, Michie recommends making a conscious effort to keep your hands below shoulder level at all times and train yourself to resist the urge to touch your face.

Why your face?

The face, specifically what doctors call the T-zone of your eyes, nose and mouth, is a key route of transmission for the novel coronavirus. It can be spread via droplets that are expelled into the air and contaminate surfaces and objects like cellphones, car keys, door handles and elevators.

If you touch the mucus membranes in your nostrils, mouth and eyes after touching infected surfaces and objects -- what scientists call fomites -- you can become infected.

"If you never touched your face, it wouldn't matter if you didn't wash your hands. Your hands could be as dirty or as contaminated as you like," says Robert West, a professor of health psychology at University College London.

"The only reason why it's important is because eventually your hands are going to come in contact with a mucus membrane. It's the mucus membranes that are the key ... (they) act as the pathway into the body."

Unlike, say, measles, for the most part you can't get Covid-19 simply by being in the same room as someone who has it already.

"The fact that it's mainly droplet-based and that it survives quite a long time on surfaces means that these fomites are going to be a really important route of transmission," said West. "We need more hand awareness and actions that are incompatible with touching your face."

While it was especially important not to touch your face when you're out and about, West said the best approach to break the habit would be to practice not doing it in general -- even when you're at home and you've washed your hands.

One option? Head nets

So what exactly can we do to stop touching our faces?

Floating Doctors, a US medical relief group, has a novel suggestion born of experience working in rural communities in central America. It is recommending that people use a head net when they go out -- like the ones used to protect from mosquito bites, or that you might see on a beekeeper.

"They are totally comfortable, and you can see really well," said Dr. Ben LaBrot, the founder of Floating Doctors and a clinical assistant professor of medical education at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. "You wear it over your hat."

"The mind is quite aware of the barrier so you don't even really reach up," he said, adding that head nets are readily available in most places and inexpensive.

"This is a small, individual act that can prevent you from getting sick or one person from getting infected," he added.

West said this kind of physical barrier could be quite effective.

"There is research on how to control microhabits -- things that you do without really thinking about it," said West. "You take away the opportunity to do it."

Similarly, West said wearing a face mask could help people stop touching their mouth and nose, although there was a risk that the act of putting the mask on and taking it off could cause contamination.

Counter habits and mindfulness

Another strategy West recommended was coming up with a "counter-habit." "The trigger is noticing your hand is moving to your face. One obvious thing is to divert it and scratch the back of your head -- redirect it.

"A few people have contacted me to say they put something on their hands to make it more mindful, like a scent," West continued. "What you're trying to do is bring (the act) into consciousness."

He said the "toughest nut to crack" was the facial itch.

"Itches have evolved for us to scratch. Historically, ticks or other bugs landed on our face and buried in our skin -- this would have been quite dangerous for us."

When I have an itch, said West, "I notice it. I don't fight it but I don't give into it as it were. You notice it but you don't have to act on it."

West said he was "astonished" more wasn't being done to encourage people not to touch their faces given what a critical role the behavior plays in spreading the virus.

"If you've got a big problem (people think) you need a big solution," he said. "Face touching [appears to be] such a trivial thing. It's almost silly, and it just doesn't feel right that stopping face touching could make much of a difference.

"That's my hypothesis about why people aren't taking it seriously because if you look at the logic of it and the infection pathway it's clearly critical."

West said we need to get to the point where if someone touched their face in public it elicited an "ewww."

"We need to get it into our heads that face touching isn't even a thing you can do. It would be like taking your trousers down in public."

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