BY SIOBHÁN O'GRADY, RICK NOACK, MARISA IATI, ALEX HORTON, MIRIAM BERGER, KATIE METTLER, MICHAEL BRICE-SADDLER AND HANNAH KNOWLES | Washington Post
Restrictions are dramatically ramping up amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, with Illinois and its 13 million residents — 10 million in the Chicago area — the latest to join California by moving closer to an effective lockdown. Meantime, New York told nonessential workers to stay home, Florida closed restaurants, bars and gyms amid spring-break revelry, and the U.S.-Mexico border is closing to nonessential travel.
Here are some significant developments:
- Italy announced another record-breaking death toll on Friday: 627, up from 427 the previous day. The country cited 9,600 people in one day for violating lockdown.
- New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered all workers in his state to stay home, except for those in essential services. The move came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered 40 million residents to remain at home.
- The U.S. tax filing deadline has been pushed back from April 15 to July 15. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Twitter.
- More than 250,000 cases have been confirmed across the globe. The World Health Organization noted that it took more than three months to reach 100,000 cases worldwide — but only 12 days to log the next 100,000. The number of deaths and confirmed cases continues to surge in Spain and Iran.
- For a second consecutive day, China reported no new local infections. But concerns are growing about a new wave of imported cases elsewhere in the region: Hong Kong reported its biggest daily jump in cases Friday, including many that involved recent travel.
Member of Pence’s office tested positive for the coronavirus, spokeswoman says.
A member of the Vice President Pence’s office has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to press secretary Katie Miller.
“Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual,” Miller wrote. “Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines.”
Pence chairs the White House coronavirus task force. Additional information about the positive case was not immediately available.
Census Bureau says it will extend counting deadline.
As cities and states across the U.S. announced lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus, the Census Bureau said Friday that it will extend the deadline for counting everyone in the U.S. by two weeks.
The nonresponse follow-up operation, where enumerators go door-to-door to count people who have not responded, will start in late May instead of mid-May, and it will end Aug. 14 rather than July 31, said Tim Olson, associate director for field operations. People can also respond online, by phone, or by mail until Aug. 14.
The bureau will also delay a count of homeless people by one month until the end of April.
This is the first decennial census to which respondents are being asked to respond online. Most households in the U.S. received invitations this week to respond to the census online, by phone, and by mail. More than 18.6 million households had already responded as of Friday.
The bureau plans to employ hundreds of thousands of temporary workers is being affected by coronavirus concerns.
The bureau has recruited 2.8 applicants, 600,000 people have accepted job offers and are in the midst of going through background checks and fingerprinting, and more than 8,000 people a day are applying. But the bureau has suspended activities related to hiring and onboarding through at least April 1, Olson said, adding that the mobile assistance program, in which employees help people at large gatherings fill out the census, has also been delayed until at least mid- to late April.
Florida, New Jersey and Nevada all curbing large swathes of business.
Florida, New Jersey and Nevada all moved Friday to curb large swathes of business operations as states take economic hits to combat the coronavirus.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an executive order Friday afternoon that all on-premises restaurant sales must cease, and all gyms and fitness centers must close. Restaurants can keep their kitchens open for takeout and delivery services only, a dramatic escalation from DeSantis’s announcement earlier this week that restaurants were permitted to stay open at 50-percent capacity.
Friday’s announcement came three days after the governor restricted bars, pubs and nightclubs, closing them for 30 days, although scenes of spring break revelry in Fort Myers, Siesta Key and Clearwater Beach continued this week, albeit at a more subdued pace. On Thursday on “Fox & Friends,” the governor conveyed a strong message to sun-seeking tourists: “The message for spring breakers is the party is over in Florida.”
DeSantis, however, does see the need for blowing off steam in the face of the coronavirus pandemic: The new executive order lifts some restrictions on restaurants to allow for the sale of to-go sealed alcoholic beverages accompanying meals.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a similar crackdown at his Friday news conference, saying he expects to issue an executive order Saturday that will shut down all nonessential businesses. Murphy also expects the executive order to prohibit “gatherings of any sort"; the details are still in the works, officials say.
In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced he was using his powers under the state’s emergency declaration to order all nonessential businesses to close at midnight until April 16.
“Previously, I asked non-essential businesses to close. I’m no longer asking them to do that,” Sisolak said. “This is not the time to try and find loopholes; if your business is not essential to providing sustenance, and for the everyday safety, health and well of being of Nevadans, you must shut down so we can give healthcare workers and our fellow citizens the best chance of fighting this virus that we can.”
Sisolak said if businesses defy the directive and stay open, state and local law enforcement will have the ability to treat it as a criminal act. He warned of a likely strain on the state’s hospitals, and said that without stricter steps, all of Nevada’s hospital beds would be filled with covid-19 patients.
Barr directs U.S. attorneys to ensure that federal employees can travel amid local restrictions
Attorney General William P. Barr directed U.S. attorneys around the country Friday to reach out to state and local officials to make sure that federal employees will be able to move freely amid travel and other restrictions.
In a memo, Barr noted that some jurisdictions had imposed shelter-in-place or lockdown orders, and he expected those to increase.
“As you know, many federal employees, including Department of Justice Employees carrying out law enforcement functions, are at times required to travel for official purposes,” he wrote. He asked the U.S. attorneys to inform local authorities “that federal employees must be allowed to travel and commute to perform law enforcement and other functions and should not be prevented from doing so, even when travel restrictions are in place.”
Illinois residents ordered to stay at home except for essential activities.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Friday ordered residents to stay at home except for certain essential activities, enforcing a measure two other states have taken to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. The order will take effect Saturday evening for 13 million people in the state, until the end of April 7.
“To avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay at home order for the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said.
The announcement follows similar decrees in New York and California.
Pritzker said he expects cases in the state to rise rapidly. He said he did not come to the decision easily.
“As this epidemic has progressed we’ve had to make some hard decisions,” he said. “But ultimately you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have your life.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot emphasized that the order was “not a lockdown or martial law,” noting many services will remain open. Officials said residents will still be able to go to the grocery store, get gas, get dinner from local restaurants and go running and hiking. Many will still be able to go to work, they said.
“Coronavirus will not go away by happenstance,” Lightfoot said. “We must be intentional about taking steps to ‘flatten the curve.’ ”
Municipalities will halt all evictions, authorities said.
Army shutters all recruiting stations, shifting to virtual effort.
The Army is closing all of its recruiting stations and will shift to virtual recruiting, officials said Friday, as the Pentagon finds its footing to keep a stream of new soldiers flowing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands join the military every month, replacing troops who leave the service, but the logistical nightmare of sending recruits into confined spaces for months of training has sparked concern for some officials.
The Pentagon has said that training will continue, which was reiterated by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, in a news conference Friday, although additional screening and isolation measures have been put in place for recruits moving from hometowns to training sites.
But the digital shift in recruitment comes as the force reckons with how to socially distance in an inherently social institution. McConville said much recruiting is done through social media anyway. The Army, after sustained problems in meeting its recruiting goals, has looked online in recent years, for example creating its own esports league to reach pools of potential recruits.
Nearly two-dozen soldiers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, along with eight family members, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said. McCarthy said he expects promising recruitment numbers this year will help offset reductions for now, but it is unclear at what point declining numbers will prompt concern.
AP testing adapts, K-12 standardized testing is suspended, and student loan holders get a break
The organization that oversees the Advanced Placement program said Friday that face-to-face AP testing will be canceled because of the coronavirus crisis and replaced by shorter online versions of the exams that can be taken in 45 minutes at home. The College Board’s announcement reflected the extraordinary upheaval in education, with schools across the country closing in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
AP tests ordinarily take place in May. But disruptions in classes are occurring in many states, with no end in sight, posing unprecedented obstacles for teachers and students. Students will be able to take the 45-minute exams on computers, tablets or smartphones.
“To be fair to all students, some of whom have lost more instructional time than others, the exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March,” the organization said.
President Trump also said Friday his administration is waiving all federal requirements for standardized tests for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
All states have an annual federal mandate under the Every Student Succeeds Act to test students in most grades annually for accountability purposes. Some states had already declared they would not administer the tests.
“The Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements, very importantly, for students in elementary through high school for the current year,” Trump said. “They’ve been through a lot. They’ve been going back and forth. Schools open. Schools not open.”
“I think a lot of the students will be extremely happy,” he said. “Some probably not. The ones that work hard — maybe not.”
Separately, the administration announced a week after promising to waive interest on federal student loans that Americans contending with the economic impact of the pandemic can opt to suspend their payments altogether.
“These are anxious times, particularly for students and families whose educations, careers, and lives have been disrupted,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing.”
For at least 60 days, the 42 million Americans holding $1.5 trillion in federal student debt can ask their loan servicer to allow them to temporarily postpone their payments. Anyone who was more than 31 days behind on their bill as of March 13, or who becomes that delinquent, will have their payments automatically suspended.
All federal student borrowers, regardless of whether they choose to postpone their payments, will automatically have the interest on their loans set at zero for at least 60 days.
The new interest rate will be retroactive to March 13.
People in public service jobs will have to think twice about postponing their payments. Opting out for two months will result in a longer path to debt cancellation for people working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The federal program cancels the remaining balance of a borrower’s debt after 120 on-time monthly payments, but postponing the bill will lengthen the process.
Fearful doctors and nurses at walk-in clinics have a message for patients: Stay away
In his chest, the pressure spread. His muscles ached, and his breathing grew labored. Then the nausea set in. The doctor, though, didn’t think he had gotten sick. No, this was panic.
Earlier that day, on March 12, he had called the owner of the primary-care clinic where he worked and demanded that their office reschedule every appointment made by patients without a critical need.
“We have to do it now,” he said, insisting that, with the coronavirus rapidly spreading, their office wasn’t equipped to handle infected patients — or prevent them from spreading it, through the clinic, to others. But the owner refused.
“We can’t keep the clinic open and pay people,” the doctor recalled being told, “if we don’t see patients.”
Even when reluctant clients called to ask if they should postpone, the doctor said, the front office staff told them not to worry. Come on in. Horrified, he soon felt overwhelmed.
“It’s when you know you’re hurting people when you took an oath not to,” the doctor said later, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared retribution. “People are not shutting down business — even though they know better.”
While much of the country has fixated on how hospitals will respond to the pandemic, versions of the alarming scene at the physician’s walk-in clinic in Alexandria, Va., are playing out in retail, primary-care and urgent-care clinics across the United States, according to interviews by The Washington Post with health-care workers desperate to warn their patients but afraid that their bosses will retaliate.
Thanks to the convenience they provide, these outpatient operations — from family-owned small businesses to sprawling, venture capital-backed chains — have flourished over the past 15 years. They number in the thousands and serve millions of people each year.
Hospitals will, ultimately, provide the intensive care for patients critically sickened by covid-19, the deadly disease caused by the coronavirus. But often people exhibit no symptoms, or mild ones, during the infection’s early stages, leading many Americans to head straight to the clinics that have replaced personal physicians for physicals and prescriptions, sprained ankles and bouts of the flu.
U.K. to pay 80 percent of wages to employees not working because of the virus outbreak
LONDON — In a major economic intervention, the British government announced Friday that it would pay 80 percent of the wages of employees who are not working, the latest attempt to help businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at his now-daily news conference, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, said the government was “taking exceptional measures to help and to compensate those who are adversely economically affected by what we have to do as a country.”
The government said it will pay up to 2,500 pounds ($2,885) per month. The announcement comes after days of criticism, from across the political aisle, that the government was urging people to stay at home if possible but not offering economic support to those who risked losing their jobs.
Rishi Sunak, the finance secretary, who was standing next to Johnson at the news conference said, “For the first time in history, the government will help to pay people’s wages.” He called the intervention “unprecedented measures for unprecedented times.”
Johnson also announced on Friday that cafes, pubs and restaurants across Britain will close from Friday evening in an effort to curb the spread of covid-19.
“It’s absolutely vital that people do avoid unnecessary social contact, that’s why we are closing the pubs and bars and the theaters and so on because we need now to stop the velocity of circulation of this disease,” Johnson told reporters.
The British government has been criticized for allowing schools and pubs and restaurants to remain open for as long as they have. During the news conference on Friday, many bars and restaurants were still bustling with customers. On Friday afternoon, schools across the United Kingdom closed their gates for an indeterminate amount of time.
Defense Department announces first positive cases of coronavirus at Pentagon
The Defense Department on Friday reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus within the Pentagon, saying that one active-duty airman and one contractor had tested positive.
The airman works for the Defense Health Agency, which has headquarters in Falls Church, Va., and oversees providing health-care services to the military branches. The airman reported visiting the Pentagon for less than an hour on Monday, the Air Force said in a statement Friday.
The defense contractor works for the Air Force at the Pentagon. The individual was last at the installation on March 2 and attended a Total Force Integration symposium at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland from March 3 to 6, the Air Force said. The contractor began self-quarantining at home with symptoms on March 7.
“The individual did not have symptoms during the event,” the Air Force said in a statement. “The Air Force sent an email to attendees informing them of the positive test.”
The cases were first reported by the McClatchy News Service.
Under new agreement with U.S., Canada to send back asylum seekers
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emerged from self-isolation Friday to announce new measures to contain the coronavirus, including that Canada will send back asylum seekers who attempt to cross the U.S.-Canada border.
The measures, announced during a news conference outside Trudeau’s Ottawa home, is a change from plans presented earlier in the week for Canada to allow in and quarantine any asylum seekers coming overland from the United States, Canada’s CTV News reported.
The prime minister said the decision came after a new agreement with Washington had been reached within the previous 24 hours.
At a news conference in Washington, acting U.S. secretary of homeland security Chad Wolf said the agreement will go into effect at midnight Friday night.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order “directs the department to suspend the introduction of all individuals seeking to enter the U.S. without proper travel documentation — that’s for both the northern and southern border,” he said. “Tonight at midnight, we will immediately execute the CDC order by immediately returning individuals arriving without documentation to Canada, Mexico, as well as a number of other countries.”
The agreements with Canada and Mexico suspend all nonessential travel at the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders.
Wolf said that people traveling for medical purposes, emergency response or public health services, those engaged in “lawful cross-border trade” and some others would be exempted.
“We will continue to maintain a strong and secure supply chain across our borders,” he said.
The new policy on migrants has been criticized by Canadian refugee advocates.
“During a pandemic, we must uphold our commitments to protecting the rights of refugees and vulnerable migrants,” Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said in email to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Italy cited 9,600 people in one day for violating lockdown
Italian police cited a record 9,600 people on Thursday for violating the country’s strict coronavirus-related lockdown, Italy’s interior ministry said Friday.
Italian authorities on Thursday checked 200,842 people seen outside their homes and subsequently cited 9,407 of them for being outdoors in violation of regulations, the ministry said, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported. Police also checked 99,806 shops open in Rome and cited 205 of them for violations and closed down 21, according to ANSA.
The outbreak in Italy’s north prompted the Italian government to issue a lockdown on the entire country. Italians are ordered to remain in their homes and allowed out only for essentials such as grocery or medicine shopping, doctor appointments and a walk or run once a day.
They must fill out a form explaining their reason for leaving their home before going outside. Since the lockdown was ordered on March 11, Italian authorities cited a total of 61,425 people, according to ANSA.
Tax Day is now July 15. Here’s what that means.
The Treasury Secretary says that the filing deadline has been pushed back, but that doesn’t mean you should wait.
Sara Morrison | VOX
The federal tax-filing deadline has been postponed until July 15 as the nation struggles to contend with the coronavirus pandemic.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the change Friday on Twitter. The IRS followed up and tacitly confirmed the new deadline, oddly enough, by retweeting Mnuchin and adding slightly more context.
The news came days after Mnuchin very publicly declared at a White House press conference that taxpayers would have to file by April 15, though they could put off paying any taxes they owed for up to 90 days after the deadline without incurring interest or being penalized. Now, according to Mnuchin’s latest statement, taxpayers can put off filing for up to 90 days as well.
Although the timing of these announcements is a bit confusing, the news isn’t much of a surprise. Mnuchin did say on March 11 that he was recommending pushing the deadline back.
Aside from its retweet, the IRS has yet to issue a full statement confirming the change, and the IRS website still says that the filing deadline is April 15. The Treasury Department website also has yet to be updated with the new deadline.
This doesn’t apply to state tax returns, which, depending on where you live, may still be due on April 15. California has already pushed its state tax-filing day back to June 15, but other states may well follow the federal government’s lead here. Connecticut, for example, said it “will adjust due dates for filing and payment of state income taxes to align with any specific, actionable announcement from the Internal Revenue Service regarding due dates for the filing and payment of federal income taxes.” In other words, you should file your taxes on time if you’re unsure of what your state is doing in response to the IRS announcement, which so far is still just a tweet.
Mnuchin urged taxpayers who are expecting refunds to still file as soon as possible to get the money they’re owed.
General Motors Helping Ventilator Maker Boost Production During Coronavirus Crisis.
Ed Garsten | Forbes
General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra is making good on her offer to use the company’s resources to help produce much needed ventilators for treating COVID-19 patients.
In a joint statement Friday night, GM and Ventec Life Systems, cooperating with StopTheSpread.org, the private sector response to COVID-19, said they are collaborating to boost production of Ventec ventilators.
“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barra in the statement. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
According to the joint statement, Bothell, Wash.-based Ventec will “leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise” to build additional ventilators.
“By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives,” said Chris Kiple, Ventec CEO in the statement.
A quote attributed to StopTheSpread.org said the organization is grateful for the partnership between GM and Ventec saying, “This is a vital step in delivering relief to our healthcare system, which is threatened by the spread of COVID-19.”
On Wednesday, Barra and executives from other automakers met with top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Later that day on Fox News, Kudlow said at least one of the automakers had offered to produce ventilators in their plants idled by the coronavirus pandemic. GM later confirmed to Forbes.com it was Barra. Ford Motor Co. said it would also be willing to help.
Ventec Life Systems produces the VOCSN which it says is the only multi-function ventilator and, according to its website “VOCSN is in a unique position to treat patients with COVID-19 and associated respiratory failure by providing life-saving therapy across the continuum of care, from high flow oxygen therapy to non-invasive ventilation to invasive ventilation, while also providing secretion clearance and medication delivery.”
A source familiar with the situation confirmed to Forbes.com GM had been in talks with Ventec for several days exploring way the automaker could assist the company in overcoming challenges to boosting the number of ventilators it could build. According to the source that could include using GM’s leverage with suppliers to loosen possible bottlenecks in acquiring necessary parts along with offering any manufacturing expertise of benefit to Ventec’s efforts.
Californians Can Still Surf During Stay-At-Home Order, But Should They?
MAKING SENSE OF GOVERNOR NEWSOM'S STATE-WIDE ORDER AMID COVID-19 CRISIS
Todd Prodanovich | Surfer
Like many of you, I’ve been glued to the news lately. A podcast summarizing the previous day’s COVID-19 happenings before heading to the office (now my living room couch), sporadic reading of new reports throughout the day, a nightly refreshing of the government page with local coronavirus stats for San Diego County, where I live. Rinse and repeat. These are the days of our self-quarantined lives.
So of course I tuned into California Governor Gavin Newsom’s address last night and watched live as he ordered the entire state to stay at home for an undetermined amount of time amid the escalating COVID-19 crisis. We can still walk out our front doors to get groceries, takeout food, gas and medical treatment — toilet paper, too, if you know a guy. But the exceptions don’t end there. “You can still take your kids outside, practicing common sense and social distancing,” said Newsom. “You can still walk your dog.” And, you can still exercise.
We should appreciate not only the Governor’s understanding that drastic action needs to be taken — at this point we all know our roles in “flattening the curve” to prevent a sudden spike in infections that would overwhelm our medical infrastructure and cost untold lives — but also for the tone of the order. The order is mandatory and administration officials have stated violators could be subject to a misdemeanor, according to the LA Times. But on the subject of enforcement, the Governor said, “I think people are making sense of what this is and what this isn’t. And again, on a regulatory bucket, we have enforcement that’s not traditional law enforcement, but we have regulatory enforcement, licensing enforcement from a business perspective and then we have social pressure that you, others, common sense will place on people, and of course we have the capacity to move beyond that.”
In other words, it’s on us to accept personal responsibility as citizens of this state and as human beings during a global crisis. “We’re counting on you to not be an asshole,” essentially.
So where does that leave surfing? As a form of “exercise”, it should be A-OK in terms of the order, right? Well, sure (and we’ve confirmed with CA State Beaches that this is indeed the case). But like every aspect of this order, it’s on us to do it in a responsible way that acknowledges the gravity of the moment. Feeling cooped up and want to go get wet and tag a few lips? Great, go to a nondescript beach break, try not to park too close to anyone else, find your own peak and paddle out there. If you run into your buddy who had the same idea, give him a wave from at least 6 feet away and feel free to shout a conversation across the lineup (some of you do this even when there isn’t a pandemic going on — I thought you were just being obnoxious before, but now I see you were merely preparing for this moment).
What you absolutely shouldn’t do is look at this as an opportunity to surf a great wave with fewer crowds — don’t go to Lower Trestles, don’t go to Rincon. Why? Because breaks like those will surely still be crowded with all kinds of selfish assholes thinking the same thing, their scheme to capitalize on the situation getting canceled out by their fellow schemers. In the end, it will probably be just like any other crowded day at a highly-trafficked break — well, except that you might get COVID-19 and be sacrificing public health for the sake of a few waves.
For many surfers also living in San Diego, this is a moot point — the waves are pretty shit right now anyway, worsened still by the fact that it’s been raining for days and the water quality is awful (even if it isn’t contaminated with COVID-19, which it might be). That’s enough for a lot of surfers to steer clear of the beach. But eventually the clouds will part, a decent swell will arrive, and in all likelihood, we’ll still be under orders to stay at home. When that day comes, should we paddle out? I could think of no better respite during such an unprecedented, anxiety-ridden time. But if and when we do so, let’s not be assholes about it.
Coronavirus could change movie distribution model, film executive warns.
Julius Young | Fox News
The novel coronavirus has sent many industries into the tank while others are drumming up creative ways to stay above water.
While the television industry has long pushed the limit on content distribution and increased the number of ways consumers can consume its content, but the film world has seemingly struggled to find its footing as the fans' viewing habits change.
Now, with a large percentage of the world's population practicing social distancing in a concerted effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, filmmakers and studios are striking up innovative ways to get their projects to the millions of folks who might otherwise visit a theater to take in a movie.
Still, while great for the long-term viability of the entertainment industry, there is great concern that a new distribution model could shake up the theater industry as we know it.
The suspension of live audiences from daytime and late-night talk shows was one of the first trickle-down effects of the global pandemic in the entertainment industry. Last week, CBS' "Survivor," the Fast and Furious sequel, "F9," and "A Quiet Place Part II" were all added to an already growing list of programs forced to either halt filming or postpone releases.
"I'll tell you this - everything's on the table right now," Erik Lokkesmoe, president of marketing and distribution at Aspiration Entertainment, told Fox News via phone on Friday. "I mean, we're hearing about and getting calls about people attempting things they never would have thought of three weeks ago in terms of technology, delivery, partnerships, theaters.
"I still believe that there's going to always be the need and desire for a theatrical experience, big screen," he continued. "But I think theatrical after this -- especially, it's been having its way for a while -- it'll be fans and friends together.
"So, brave like-minded people in theaters -- which is the idea of strangers in a dark room is a bit uneasy now. I mean it has been going that way, but now, it's really uneasy. So theatrical will be more of a rally and events. But beyond the three big chains are all these mom-and-pop art houses that are always on the verge of struggling," Lokkesmoe noted.
Aspiration is one of the entities quickly working to bring content into the homes of viewers, through partnerships with movie theaters that allows consumers to purchase "virtual tickets" through the theater and have the film sent to them via a direct screener link that allows them to watch from the creature comforts of their own locale.
Lokkesmoe said Aspiration is hoping to launch its "eventized home experience" with the streaming title "Phoenix, Oregon," a mid-life crisis comedy starring James Le Gros. The executive believes that fully eliminating a theater distribution model would prove detrimental to those local art houses that showcase lesser-known projects.
"They're always going through hard times. And my fear is that if you take away those theaters, you lose the independent filmmakers possibly, you lose theaters that are at the epicenter of communities that have a very direct relationship with their audiences," he lamented. "I mean, if you've visited an art house, there's something special about people saying, 'I'm going to the theater because it has great films that you don't see in the big theaters, but it's also because I know the owner and they have great programming and they have a great spot in our community.'"
He continued: "But, I still think we're going to have that small independent theater and independent filmmaker that needs to have a way of being supported and even through this -- what we're doing is basically, we're working with theaters on all of these things to say, 'Still buy a ticket, a virtual ticket, the theater's promoting it, they're closed but if you buy a ticket, we'll deliver the film to you at home and we'll share the 'box office.' We'll share that revenue with the theater."
Lokkesmoe said he fears the moment when the filmmakers and studios stop sharing their projects with theaters altogether and simply opt for digital releases, which ultimately benefits only a small subset of people.
"We like the disruption, we want the disruption, but we want to do [it] in a way that is positive for the filmmaker, the theater, and the audience."
Additionally, while still trying to save theaters from potential doom, Lokkesmoe explained that he could certainly see a world where the theater footprint is at least greatly minimized due to the increase in public gun violence seen throughout the country over the past six to eight years.
Lokkesmoe also added that with the combination of concerns centered on coronavirus coupled with mass shootings, more movie fans might opt to take in their favorite movie release from their couches instead, while still avoiding the intense "fear of missing out" that could come from being on the outside looking in.
"I am hopeful that conversation is happening in a lot of places," he said. "I don't know because the traditional industry has dragged its feet until someone proves it and then it raises the bar up and catches up, as you know - but I hope that that's happening and hopefully that's gonna be the case for sure."
'Hungry' Tom Brady officially signs with Buccaneers.
Jenna Laine | ESPN
Signed, sealed and delivered -- Tom Brady is officially the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new starting quarterback.
The six-time Super Bowl champion, who had spent 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, took to social media Friday morning to announce that he had signed his contract.
Sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that it is a two-year deal worth $50 million that is all guaranteed. It also includes another $9 million in incentives -- $4.5 million in incentives per year -- and the contract prohibits tags and trades, per sources.
"Excited, humble and hungry ... if there is one thing I have learned about football, it's that nobody cares what you did last year or the year before that ... you earn the trust and respect of those around through your commitment every single day," wrote Brady on Instagram on Friday. "I'm starting a new football journey and thankful for the @buccaneers for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do."
In recent years, Brady has repeatedly said that his goal is to play until he is 45, but he and the Patriots couldn't come to an agreement on a contract extension last offseason. That created a path for Brady to explore his options as a free agent.
The Bucs jumped on it quickly, offering one of the most talented young receiving tandems in the league in Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who both eclipsed 1,100 yards last year despite not playing full seasons, along with two 6-foot-5 tight ends, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
"Tom Brady is an icon and a winner," said linebacker Lavonte David, whom many consider the heart and soul of the Bucs' locker room. "Excited to have a guy with that type of pedigree in our locker room. Looking forward to the upcoming battles."
"Tom is a proven champion who has achieved greatness on the field because he demands the best out of himself and his teammates," Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. "I've known Tom since we drafted him in New England 20 years ago and through this process it became very clear that his desire to be a champion burns as strong today as it ever has. He possesses the type of rare natural leadership qualities that will immediately impact our entire organization."
Brady has five times as many playoff wins, six times as many Super Bowl wins and seven times as many 30-touchdown seasons as all the quarterbacks in Buccaneers history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He could lose his next 283 starts and still have a better career record than the Bucs franchise.
To the outsider, Tampa Bay seemed an unlikely destination, especially when competing with the Los Angeles Chargers, who are just one season removed from a postseason appearance, whereas the Bucs have not been to the postseason since 2007 -- the NFL's second-longest playoff drought behind only the Cleveland Browns.
The Bucs have also had just two winning seasons in the past decade and have finished last in the NFC South seven out of the past 10 years.
But the desire was to be on the East Coast, near family. There was also appeal in playing for Bucs coach Bruce Arians -- a two-time NFL Coach of the Year and one of the league's most colorful personalities, who is open to collaboration and has experience coaching veteran quarterbacks, as he did with Carson Palmer in Arizona.
"Tom is the most successful quarterback in the history of our league, but what makes him so special is his ability to make those around him better," Arians said in a statement. "I have had the privilege to work with some of the best passers in our game, and the characteristics they all possessed were the ability to lead and get the best out of their teammates. Tom is no different. He is a proven winner who will provide the leadership, accountability and work ethic necessary to lead us to our goal of winning another championship."
The Bucs have already felt the impact of Brady's arrival. After news broke that Brady would be headed to the Buccaneers earlier this week, fans reported queues of 5,000 to nearly 7,000 people in front of them waiting to purchase season tickets. The Bucs also raised their season-ticket prices by 15% for new season-ticket holders.
US tourists stranded abroad don't know when they'll return.
MITCH WEISS and HOLBROOK MOHR | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Linda Scruggs and Mike Rustici trained for months to hike the winding trails leading to Machu Picchu's complex of Inca ruins. So they were thrilled when their flight landed last Friday in the Peruvian capital.
They managed to do part of their trek but now they are trapped in a Lima hotel room and do not know when they will make it back to the U.S. The couple, like thousands around the world, are trapped after nations closed their borders to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Peru confirmed its first case of the virus on March 6. By the time Scruggs and Rustici arrived a week later, it was spreading. Days after the hikers landed, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra declared an emergency, ordering the country’s borders closed and for Peruvians to stay home.
There is no official count of how many Americans or citizens of other nations are stranded outside their home countries, but the couple’s plight offers a window into the lives of tourists trapped abroad as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads.
Scruggs and Rustici, both in their 40s and from Nashville, Tennessee, told The Associated Press in telephone interviews they were given about 24 hours notice to leave Peru, but couldn’t find a flight.
Since they couldn’t leave, they were ordered to stay in their hotel room for at least 15 days. Other than to get food or supplies, they can’t leave the hotel in the city's financial district.
The couple said they got little help or information from the U.S. State Department. One tourist, they said, walked to the U.S. Embassy only to be turned away and told to send an email and register for an online notification system.
Scruggs and Rustici feel like the world has closed in on them.
“There’s heavily-armed guards on the streets patrolling,” Scruggs said.
The virus has caused 10,000 deaths around the world, but the figure goes up every day. Americans in Morocco, Ecuador and other nations also told the AP that they feel abandoned by the State Department.
They said embassies have not helped them or returned their phone calls and emails. When they did reach someone, they were told to check embassy websites for updates and try to charter flights out of the countries on their own.
Dora Figueiredo, 37, an American from Newark, New Jersey, was trying Friday to determine whether her flight from Argentina to the U.S. would leave as scheduled on Sunday.
She had traveled to Buenos Aires to marry her now-new Argentine husband who cannot yet move to the U.S. because he doesn’t have U.S. residency, a process she said could take more than a year.
“I’m feeling a bit stressed out about how to get home now that the Argentinian president announced a lockdown as of midnight last night,” she said. “I have been tweeting at my airline, my embassy at travel.gov about how to get back home.”
As of Friday her flight had not been cancelled, but she wasn’t sure if that would still be the case Sunday and did not know how she would get to the airport.
“I really need to get home to check on my parents, who are elderly,” she said.
Catherine Ferguson, a 77-year-old artist from Omaha, Nebraska, is holed up in a hotel in Rabat, Morocco, with her husband and 10 other Americans, most over age 60.
Ferguson and her husband were traveling for the past month with three other friends on a trip that started in France when the coronavirus cases began to increase.
Now they are trying to get permission from the Moroccan government to charter a flight to take them directly to the U.S.
“We really don’t want to be here when things get worse in Morocco,” Ferguson said.
Their small hotel is one of the few still open in the city, she said. The family that runs it has been feeding the 12 Americans there and they can walk around its garden, but it’s too cold to swim in the pool.
They are prohibited from leaving the hotel and have been in contact with the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca, where officials told the travelers that they are working on a plan. The travelers spend their days using their iPads trying to find flights to book.
Some are running low on blood pressure pills and other medication. Ferguson said Nebraska's governor and state lawmakers have been in touch and are trying to help.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that he is working to bring home Americans stranded in countries around the world with little or no warning as nations closed their borders to stop the spread of the virus.
And the U.S. military’s Southern Command said Friday that it was flying 89 U.S. citizens from Honduras to Charleston, South Carolina, after they could not to return home, in the second Air Force Mission to bring people from Honduras. But it’s unclear how the State Department plans to repatriate Americans stuck in other countries.
Desperate to get home from Peru, Scruggs and Rustici used social media to connect with hundreds of other tourists who were trapped in the country, trying to draw attention to their plight by reaching out to elected officials and reporters.
Scruggs, a nurse, said some tourists in Peru are running low on life-sustaining medications like insulin and that some foreign college students trapped in the country were running out of money for food.
“I think everyone has been shocked at the lack of communication from the U.S.,” Scruggs said.
On Friday morning, hope came in an email from the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Republican from Tennessee, who the couple had contacted for help.
“I just received word that United (Airlines) charter flights are beginning and are going to head to Lima,” wrote Bess McWherter, who works in Cooper’s office. “The guidance I’ve received from State (Department) is that you should continuously monitor the Embassy’s website for information they post on flights. I will try to get more specific info.”
Scruggs and Rustici used a flight tracking website and found that a United Airlines Boeing 777 was traveling from Houston, to Lima. But they couldn’t find out if the plane was there for them or others. Some disillusioned tourists discussed “storming the airport,” Scruggs said.
In a statement to AP, Cooper said his office is in touch with “Tennesseans who are stuck overseas in Peru and a dozen other countries” and is working with the State Department to help get them home.
When the flight arrived at 3:37 p.m., there was a group of about 50 people outside the airport, including Americans, but they were not allowed inside. A few hours later, the plane departed for Washington D.C. It’s unclear how many Americans — if any — were on the flight.
The State Department and United Airlines did not respond to messages seeking comment. But Scruggs, Rustici were disappointed.
For now, they’re still stuck in their hotel room, wondering how long they’ll stay in Peru. They said they had managed to start their Machu Picchu trek as the spread of the virus around the world expanded, but never reached the top to see the ruins.
“We are desperate to get home,” Rustici said. “And Linda’s mother is on lockdown in a nursing home and Linda is her primary caregiver. Absolutely, our lives are completely on hold.”