Tag: NPR

A Liquidation Sale At A Virginia Hotel Shows The Ups And Downs Of The COVID Economy : NPR

E.J. and Tonya White said they were looking for bargains at the liquidation sale of the Sheraton where E.J. used to play drums at black-tie balls.

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Daniella Cheslow/WAMU/DCist

As he walked past furniture tagged with discount prices — a king-sized bed for $250, $29 for an end table — E.J. White recalled how the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in Tysons, Va. looked in more prosperous times. White, 38, played drums for a band that performed in the hotel’s black-tie balls for fraternities.

“They usually have a photo booth out here,” he said, pointing to the space just outside the Fairfax Ballroom’s heavy wood doors. “They have tables, they have a stage set up. So it’s very nice and upscale and elegant.”

Those days ended when the pandemic made large indoor gatherings unsafe. Now White and his wife returned to the hotel to browse its going-out-of-business sale and possibly find deals for spending evenings at home.

“We’re looking at a lot of things for the kitchen,” Tonya White said. “My husband wants to put a bar in the basement.”

The parent company of the Sheraton Premier Tysons Corner Hotel laid off 186 employees in early April. It reflects an industry-wide slump that is especially acute in Northern Virginia, where hotels were 32% full last October compared to 80% the year before, according to Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association.

Terry estimated 20 Virginia hotels closed on a temporary basis during the pandemic, and although most have since reopened, the outlook is bleak. More hotels may follow the Sheraton’s path.

“There’s no government or business travel happening, no corporate meetings or other meetings occurring,” Terry said. “I think the winter months are going to be particularly difficult for our hotels, especially in Northern Virginia.”

Some hotels have found new economic life by contracting with local authorities. Fairfax County has arranged to provide temporary shelter in 355 hotel rooms at other properties for people at high risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 and for those who cannot safely isolate or quarantine, according to Shweta Adyanthaya, a spokesperson for the county’s Health and Human Services office. This Sheraton, however, will have no such arrangement.

Still, the gleaming, glass-clad building is full of furniture. Enter Nicole Kabealo, project manager for the Dayton, Ohio-based International Content Liquidations. She guided buyers to wander the guest rooms to pick their purchases: on Wednesday, the rooms in floors 11 to 15 were all open.

“They pick the exact bed that they want, they pull it down,” Kabealo said. “We don’t supply any muscle.”

Kabealo estimates about 600 people came by each day this week to buy everything from $2 power strips to $17,000 chandeliers.

“We sold all the carpet in the main ballroom,” she said. “They’re waiting for us to have everything off of it so they can come and pull it up.”

Wil Corps holds a stack of bedsheets. He says in the pandemic

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‘Travel Bubble’ Between Hong Kong And Singapore Is Delayed Amid COVID-19 Spike : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

In this Oct. 9, 2020, photo, people walk down a street in Hong Kong. Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.

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In this Oct. 9, 2020, photo, people walk down a street in Hong Kong. Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.

Kin Cheung/AP

An arrangement to allow air travelers between Hong Kong and Singapore to forgo quarantine has been delayed after Hong Kong reported a spike in coronavirus cases.

Hong Kong announced Saturday a delay of at least two weeks to the air travel bubble as the city confirmed 43 new cases — including 13 cases that officials have not been able to trace.

The bubble, which was originally slated to start Sunday, would allow a limited number of air travelers to avoid quarantine. To qualify, passengers would have to pass two coronavirus tests — both before departure and upon arrival — and fly on one of a select number of flights.

Both cities currently require most travelers to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said the postponement was the “responsible way” forward, the Associated Press reported.

“For any scheme to be successful, they must fulfill the condition of securing public health, and also make sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Yau said.

Yau said enacting the air travel bubble would be revisited early next month, Reuters reported.

Singapore ‘s transport minister, Ong Ye Kung, said in a Facebook post that the postponement is a “sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us.”

“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint,” he wrote.

The South China Morning Post reported that the plan would have allowed up to 200 people to fly each day without a quarantine period.

As part of the arrangement, both Hong Kong and Singapore had agreed to suspend the program for two weeks if the number of local untraceable cases exceeded five on a rolling seven-day average. As of Saturday, Hong Kong was at nearly four, according to the AP.

Hong Kong, alongside Singapore, was lauded by public health officials for its response early into the pandemic. In recent days, however, the city has seen a spike in new infections.

At least one health official has warned of an upcoming “fourth wave” of coronavirus cases, Bloomberg News reports, adding that more social restrictions were planned to help contain outbreaks.

In total, Hong Kong has confirmed more than 5,500 cases of the coronavirus according to Johns Hopkins University. Singapore has confirmed more than 58,100 cases.

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Don’t Travel For Thanksgiving, CDC Warns : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

An airport employee walks through Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., earlier this year. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Americans should refrain from traveling for the upcoming holiday.

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An airport employee walks through Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., earlier this year. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Americans should refrain from traveling for the upcoming holiday.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is strongly recommending that people stay home for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. With the holiday one week away, the agency issued a statement that taking a trip to see loved ones is simply inadvisable right now.

“Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the CDC explained in an advisory released Thursday. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

The better bet, the CDC advised, was for people instead to spend Thanksgiving with the folks with whom they have been living for the two weeks leading up to the holiday.

“If people have not been actively living with you for the 14 days before you’re celebrating, they’re not considered a member of your household,” Erin Sauber-Schatz of the CDC said at a news briefing Thursday. “And therefore you need to take those extra precautions, even wearing masks within your own home.”

If you do travel, the CDC advised that you take a series of steps to protect yourself and others — including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet from others and frequently washing your hands. But the agency added: “Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.”

The agency’s recommendation came less than a day after the U.S. marked a grim milestone in its fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As of Wednesday, more than 250,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

What’s more, the spread of the disease appears to be exploding in the U.S., with several dozen states shattering records for daily new confirmed cases in the past week alone. The virus appears to be savaging the middle of the country, in particular, with records for new cases per capita being set from Montana to Nebraska.

Roughly 1 million new COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the U.S. in the past week.

The dire numbers already had people reconsidering their Thanksgiving plans before the rollout of the new CDC recommendations, as NPR’s David Schaper noted. AAA estimated that fewer Americans would be traveling for the holiday than last year — though this year’s number still hovers around 50 million people.

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Should Go Or Stay Home? : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

Thanksgiving Day is next week and that usually means long lines in crowded airports and traffic jams on the nation’s highways, but that probably won’t be true this year due to the coronavirus.

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Thanksgiving Day is next week and that usually means long lines in crowded airports and traffic jams on the nation’s highways, but that probably won’t be true this year due to the coronavirus.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Thanksgiving Day is next week and that usually means long lines in crowded airports and traffic jams on the nation’s highways, but that probably won’t be true this year. The recent huge spike in Covid-19 cases has many people rethinking their travel plans.

For Aleta Nissen, her husband Dave, and their 14-year-old daughter, it’s usually a pretty simple decision. They pack up the car and drive from their home in Bend, Ore., three and a half hours to Dave’s mother’s house in the southern part of the state. But this year?

“We’ve been back and forth for about a month, deciding whether it’s really doable,” Nissen says.

On the one hand, they make the same trip every year and with the rapidly spreading coronavirus, it might not be worth the risk.

“I’m more of the mind, let’s skip. Let’s skip this year,” Nissen says. “You know, it’s (just) one year.”

But on the other hand, it’s been a rough year and the family could benefit from getting away and spending time with relatives for a few days.

“We haven’t seen any of his family for a long time,” says Nissen, adding that her daughter started high school this fall remotely and really wants to see family. “It’s this balance, isn’t it, of this, kind of, the relationship and the mental health aspect of being able to see the people you love and still trying to play it safe.”

It would be a small group gathering of just two households and six people total over a couple of days, so Nissen agreed that they can go, under one condition.

“Well, if we’re gonna do it, then I think the only way to do it would be all get tested beforehand,” she says.

So if all test negative for Covid-19, the Nissens are going. The plans are set. Right?

“It still could change,” Nissen said, with a laugh. “It’s changed multiple times since the month ago or so when we started talking about the options and it could change again.”

And the Nissens are not alone. It appears that millions of other Americans are also going back and forth about whether or not to travel for Thanksgiving.

The AAA estimates that close to 50 million Americans will go out of town this Thanksgiving, or at least they’re planning to travel.

“But we know not all of them are going to follow through with those plans,” says AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee. “We know not all of those people are gonna to travel. And that’s

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Amid Raging Pandemic, Locals Make Tough Choices About Holiday Travel : NPR

Thanksgiving will look vastly different for many across the D.C. region.

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Lauren Durkee is not going to New Jersey to see her aunt and uncle this year for Thanksgiving.

She and her husband Colin usually make the trip from their home in Silver Spring, Maryland, but with coronavirus cases rising and local officials warning against holiday gatherings, they feel the risks are not worth it. Plus, she says, the chances of letting their guard down are too great.

“It’s hard to take the emotion out of [the decision not to go],” 33-year-old Durkee says, “But let’s be honest, will our families all wear masks for three days straight all around each other? So it’s just like, let’s not do it. Let’s not even tempt ourselves.”

Across the D.C. region, locals are making tough decisions about traveling to see loved ones and engaging in their typical Thanksgiving traditions in the midst of a pandemic that looks to be worsening.

Ryan Presbrey, 36, his girlfriend Natalie, and their dog Willie also won’t be making a 10-hour drive from Woodley Park to see their families in Rhode Island for the holiday. For him, the decision was an easy one.

“I don’t feel comfortable with even the remote possibility of exposing whatever I picked up to my family and, then, vice versa, or whatever they might have bringing that back to the city,” he says. The thought of being the source of a coronavirus outbreak weighs heavily on Presbrey.

“I don’t want to be that person.”

Julie Allard and her husband David Morris are still taking their annual wedding anniversary trip. This year, the Alexandria, Virginia, couple is going to Jamaica to stay at an all-inclusive resort, leaving a few days before Thanksgiving. She says they’re adhering to all local and Jamaican protocols, including guidance put out by D.C., since Morris works at a restaurant near the White House.

This tradition, particularly on their 10th wedding anniversary, is worth it to them.

Julie Allard understands why some may disagree with her choice to fly to Jamaica in the middle of the pandemic. But she says she’s following all protocols, being careful, and has consulted with her doctor. Plus, it’s been a very tough year for her personally, losing two parents, struggling with medical issues, and leaving a job. She’s looking forward to the break.

“Ultimately, everything we do these days boils down to a personal choice. What are you comfortable with?” she says. “The best I can do is live every day and make informed choices and decisions.”

For 40-year-old Salim Adofo, the decision about what to do for the upcoming holiday hasn’t been as straightforward.

Adofo says it’s likely he will end up making the trip to either New Jersey or Georgia to see loved ones, though he understands that his decision doesn’t just impact him. Adofo is an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) in Ward 8, which has the highest total number of deaths

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Itching To Travel? Preflight Coronavirus Tests Are Getting Passengers In The Air : NPR

The Tampa International Airport has started coronavirus testing for passengers with a boarding pass or proof of a reservation for a flight in the near future.

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Danny Valentine/Hillsborough County Aviation Authority

The Tampa International Airport has started coronavirus testing for passengers with a boarding pass or proof of a reservation for a flight in the near future.

Danny Valentine/Hillsborough County Aviation Authority

For people who are itching to travel, airlines are working hard to offer reassurance. They’re requiring masks, disinfecting airplane cabins between flights and using hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems. Airlines are also touting a recent study that shows that modern aircraft ventilation systems help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and suggests the probability of spreading and contracting the coronavirus on even a packed airline flight is low.

Now they’re offering one more thing in hopes of putting travelers’ minds at ease about flying: testing for the coronavirus at the airport, before you board your flight. The tests are allowing some travelers to reschedule and take vacations they had to cancel or postpone months ago.

Matt Battiata and his wife and four kids had to postpone a dream vacation to Hawaii’s lush landscapes and sparkling beaches back in March, when the island state began requiring every traveler to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. That essentially shut down tourism there. After all, who would want to fly all the way to Hawaii just to be trapped in their hotel room for two weeks?

But the Battiata family finally landed at Honolulu’s airport last week.

“We’re just happy to be able to come and visit,” Battiata said after presenting proof of the family’s negative coronavirus tests to airport workers on the first day Hawaii reopened to those who test negative for the coronavirus.

“We got a rapid test, it took about 30 minutes, you know, a nasal swab test,” Battiata said, adding that “everybody’s clear, yeah, so we’re very excited.”

Airlines are excited, too, to get paying customers back on their planes, so they’re helping facilitate coronavirus testing for travelers heading to certain destinations, like Hawaii. And some are even offering on-the-spot, rapid response testing at the airport before passengers go through security.

United Airlines was first to announce on-the-spot preflight testing, which it offers only at San Francisco’s airport for Hawaii-bound travelers. For results in 15 minutes, it costs you $250, on top of the airfare. There are also less expensive drive-up or clinic testing options, which provide results usually in less than 48 hours.

United and other airlines have worked with Hawaii public health officials to make sure the tests meet the state’s requirements for accuracy and reliability.

United Airlines was the first to announce on-the-spot preflight testing, which it offers only at San Francisco’s airport for Hawaii-bound travelers.

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United Airlines was the first to announce on-the-spot preflight testing, which it offers only at San Francisco’s

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‘Living Statues’ Mock The President In Front Of Lincoln Memorial And Trump Hotel : NPR

Don’t worry, it’s just water.

Courtesy of/the Trump Statue Initiative


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Courtesy of/the Trump Statue Initiative

For a few interesting hours on Tuesday, a street artist covered in metallic gold paint stood on a pedestal at the Lincoln Memorial. He was painted to resemble a statue, but his pose was unlike any of the other statues installed around the nation’s capital: Hands in front of his crotch, he appeared to be peeing into a chair beside him.

“Fill That Seat,” the pedestal read. “Donald Trump: Destroyer of Civil Rights and Liberties, 2016-2020.”

The provocative art project-slash-protest took aim at Trump’s decision to fill Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s former seat a week before the 2020 election. Congress confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday. Barrett is the third Trump appointee to be confirmed to the country’s highest court.

It was organized by filmmaker Bryan Buckley, a two-time Oscar-nominated director and longtime left-leaning activist, as part of his Trump Statue Initiative.

Buckley first installed a handful of anti-Trump living statues around the District in July. One, called “The Poser,” depicted Trump holding a Bible as law enforcement officers beat a Black Lives Matter protester in front of him. Another showed Trump ordering a child in a face mask to go back to school.

“Don’t Be Afraid” takes aim at the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 and the West Coast wildfires.

Courtesy of/the Trump Statue Initiative


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Courtesy of/the Trump Statue Initiative

“I noticed that Trump was obsessed with statues,” Buckley told AdAge in July. “I felt like the best thing we could do was to create these very honest statues of the legacy he’s living right now, that let the world see exactly who he is.”

Buckley has since taken his work on the road, organizing pop-up exhibitions in cities across the country.

Tuesday’s exhibition included four different statues: “Fill That Seat” and “The Poser,” as well as one addressing Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the West Coast wildfires.

A fourth living statue, set up in front of the Trump International Hotel, critiqued Trump’s “lame attempt to put fear into suburban female voters,” according to the artist’s statement. Titled “Safety for the Suburban Housewife,” the piece depicted Trump looking up the dress of a woman perched on a ladder.

Each statue was accompanied by a performer dressed as a guard. Nearby, a violinist played songs that pop musicians have asked not to be played at Trump rallies.

Though the art installation only lasted for a day, the artist is also petitioning to make “The Poser” a permanent installation in D.C. However, the change.org petition does not make immediately clear whether the permanent version would be a real statue or involve live performers.

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