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The Latest Entertainment Headlines

    The Tribeca Film Festival, postponed by the pandemic, is moving some elements of its annual New York event online. Tribeca organizers said Friday that much of its programming will be available either to the public or to the film industry over roughly the same days that the festival would have taken place in April. That maintains a showcase for the filmmakers and artists who were relying on Tribeca's platform for exposure. Film festivals give not only upcoming films an opportunity to make a splash but exhibit many smaller movies that are seeking distribution deals. Of the largest festivals canceled by the pandemic — Cannes, SXSW, Tribeca — each has taken a different approach to the crisis. France's Cannes Film Festival, scheduled for May, is aiming to postpone to June or July. South by Southwest, in Texas, was closed by the city of Austin just a week before its mid-March opening. On Thursday, it announced plans to stream participating films for a 10-day period later this month on Amazon Prime. Tribeca is still hoping to hold a festival in the fall, but Jane Rosenthal, Tribeca's co-founder and chief executive, acknowledged that would be a smaller scale event taking place over fewer days. The 19th Tribeca had been scheduled for April 15-26. “What we do later in the year would clearly be a differently programmed festival than what we would have done in April,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview Thursday. Those plans are in flux. For now, Tribeca will make available participating films from its competition categories — those that are judged by juries for awards — on an online hub for those in the industry and press. SXSW is making its movies available to the public, and offering a screening fee to each participating film's makers. But that approach also risks giving away, for a brief period, what many films most want — distribution. Tribeca is instead aiming to connect movies with buyers and media while preserving a movie's public launch. Tribeca will also, as SXSW has done, announce awards for it competition categories. 'There’s still more we want to do in addition to what we’re releasing,' said Rosenthal. “There are certain programs we’d like to be able to do at a later time this year when that’s safe. But this right now serves the filmmakers and the industry for what they need at this time. Getting those films seen by industry and sales people is vital to those creators.” Some elements of Tribeca will go straight to viewers, including the festival's virtual reality and immersive storytelling entries (available via Oculus) and the advertising exhibition, Tribeca's X Awards (on tribecafilm.com). The festival has already been hosting “A Short Film a Day Keeps Anxiety Away,” with shorts from the festival and Tribeca alumni. “It’s been hard mostly just to keep up the morale of our team. We’re a festival that started because of 9/11 and our instinct is always to reach out to community and here is a time when you can’t gather, you can’t do things that filmmakers and entertainment people do,' said Rosenthal. 'So how do you do that in a new way?
  • Saying they don't know when they'll be able to re-open many of their businesses with the coronavirus spreading, Walt Disney Co. officials announced they will start furloughing some workers in two weeks at its theme parks resorts in Florida and California. The statement released late Thursday from The Walt Disney Co. said the first wave of furloughs will start April 19 and involve workers whose jobs aren't necessary at this time. Anyone who is furloughed will remain a Disney employee, the company said. “Over the last few weeks, mandatory decrees from government officials have shut down a majority of our businesses,' the statement said. The statement did not say how many of Walt Disney World's more than 75,000 employees or Disneyland's 31,000 workers would be furloughed, but it would involve executive, salaried and hourly non-union employees. Disney World has the largest number of workers at a single location in the U.S. More than half of its workers are covered by a union contract. The company has been paying workers and providing health care benefits at its theme park resorts since the parks closed in mid-March due to coronavirus concerns and that will continue through April 18, the company said. Furloughed workers will continue to receive full healthcare benefits, plus the cost of employee and company premiums will be paid by Disney. Employees enrolled in a program in which Disney pays tuition for further education can still continue to take classes, the statement said. Employees can also apply paid vacation time to the start of their furlough if they desire, the company said. Late last week, SeaWorld Entertainment said it was furloughing 90% of its workers because the novel coronavirus had forced the company to close its 12 theme parks. The company had 4,700 full-time employees, approximately 12,000 part-time employees and the company hires more than 4,000 additional seasonal workers, according to its annual report. Universal's Florida and California parks plan to stay closed at least through April 19, company officials said late last month. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
  • Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “ Lean on Me, ” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died from heart complications, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press. He was 81. The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles, the statement said. His death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on “Lean on Me” to help get through the difficult times. “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the family statement read. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.” Withers’ songs during his brief career have become the soundtracks of countless engagements, weddings and backyard parties. They have powerful melodies and perfect grooves melded with a smooth voice that conveys honesty and complex emotions without vocal acrobatics. “Lean on Me,” a paean to friendship, was performed at the inaugurations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” are among Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. “He’s the last African-American Everyman,” musician and band leader Questlove told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.” His death caused a torrent of appreciation on social media, including from former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who said Withers' music has been a cherished part of her life. “It added to my joy in the good times, and also gave me comfort and inspiration when I needed it most,” she tweeted. Singer José James said “we need his message of unity now more than ever” and Billy Dee Williams tweeted “your music cheered my heart and soothed my soul.” “We lost a giant of songwriting today,' ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams said in a statement. 'Bill Withers’ songs are among the most treasured and profound in the American songbook — universal in the way they touch people all over the world, transcending genre and generation. He was a beautiful man with a stunning sense of humor and a gift for truth.” Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the last of six children in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. After his parents divorced when he was 3, Withers was raised by his mother’s family in nearby Beckley. He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic installing toilets. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract. In 1971, signed to Sussex Records, he put out his first album, “Just As I Am,” with the legendary Booker T. Jones at the helm. It had the hits “Grandma’s Hands” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which was inspired by the Jack Lemmon film “Days of Wine and Roses.” He was photographed on the cover, smiling and holding his lunch pail. “Ain’t No Sunshine” was originally released as the B-side of his debut single, “Harlem.” But radio DJs flipped the disc and the song climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard charts and spent a total of 16 weeks in the top 40. Withers went on to generate more hits a year later with the inspirational “Lean on Me,” the menacing “Who Is He (and What Is He to You)” and the slinky “Use Me” on his second album, “Still Bill.” Later would come the striking “ Lovely Day,” co-written with Skip Scarborough and featuring Withers holding the word “day” for almost 19 seconds, and “Just the Two Of Us,” co-written with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. His “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 1973 made Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time. “The hardest thing in songwriting is to be simple and yet profound. And Bill seemed to understand, intrinsically and instinctively, how to do that,” Sting said in “Still Bill,” a 2010 documentary of Withers. But Withers’ career stalled when Sussex Records went bankrupt and he was scooped up by Columbia Records. He no longer had complete control over his music and chafed when it was suggested he do an Elvis cover. His new executives found Withers difficult. None of his Columbia albums reached the Top 40 except for 1977’s “Menagerie,” which produced “Lovely Day.” (His hit duet with Grover Washington Jr. “Just the Two of Us” was on Washington’s label). Withers’ last album was 1985′s “Watching You Watching Me.” Though his songs often dealt with relationships, Withers also wrote ones with social commentary, including “Better Off Dead” about an alcoholic’s suicide, and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” about an injured Vietnam War veteran. He was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just the Two Of Us” in 1981. In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit “ Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder. Withers thanked his wife as well as the R&B pioneers who helped his career like Ray Jackson, Al Bell and Booker T. Jones. He also got in a few jabs at the record industry, saying A&R stood for “antagonistic and redundant.” Withers also was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. His music has been covered by such artists as Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Paul McCartney, Sting, Johnny Mathis, Aaron Neville, Al Jarreau, Mick Jagger, Nancy Wilson, Diana Ross. His music has been sampled for BlackStreet’s “No Diggity,” Will Smith’s version of “ Just the Two Of Us, ” Black Eyed Peas’ “Bridging the Gap” and Twista’s “Sunshine.” The song “Lean on Me” was the title theme of a 1989 movie starring Morgan Freeman. His songs are often used on the big screen, including “The Hangover,” “28 Days,” “American Beauty,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Crooklyn,” “Flight,” “Beauty Shop,” “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Flight.” “I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia,” Withers told Rolling Stone in 2015. He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori. ___ Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
  • A member of a popular folk music group that is banned in Turkey died on the 288th day of a hunger strike she and a colleague started while imprisoned to protest the government's treatment of their band, according to a post on the group's Twitter account. Grup Yorum said singer Helin Bolek, 28, died Friday at a home in Istanbul where she had been staging the hunger strike in an attempt to pressure the government into reversing its position on the band and its members. Grup Yorum, known for its protest songs, is a folk collective with rotating band members. It has been prohibited from performing in Turkey since 2016, and authorities have jailed some of its members. The government accuses Grup Yorum of links to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP/C. The militant group is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Bolek and fellow band member, Ibrahim Gokcek, had embarked on a the hunger strike while in prison to press the government to lift the ban and free detained band members. They were released in November. The two were demanding that Grup Yorum be allowed to resume concerts, that jailed band members be released and that lawsuits against the group be dropped. Two Grup Yorum band members, including Gokcek’s wife, remain in prison. Bolek and Gokcek were forcibly hospitalized on March 11 but discharged a week later after they refused treatment, the Ankara-based Human Rights Association, or IHD, said. IHD said a delegation of human rights activists met with Turkey's deputy interior minister last month to seek a solution that would end the hunger strike. The government refused to “assess' the demands until the protest was called off, the association said. Zulfu Livanelli, a popular Turkish singer and songwriter who sang with Grup Yorum during one of their 2012 concerts, expressed sadness over Bolek's death on Twitter, saying “ the struggle to prevent hunger strikes from not resulting in death has unfortunately failed.' Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but consume liquids that prolong their protests.
  • Circus Renz Berlin’s fleet of blue, red and yellow trucks have had a fresh lick of paint over the winter. But now, as coronavirus measures shut down the entertainment industry across Europe, they have no place to go. 'It's catastrophic for everybody,' said Sarina Renz, of the family circus that has been in existence since 1842. For the foreseeable future, the circus is parked up behind an equestrian center in a northern Dutch town, waiting and hoping for an end to the crisis. The German circus’ animals, including eight Siberian steppe camels, 15 horses and a llama, are spending their time in sandy fields munching their way through the circus’ supply of food and supplies donated by locals. 'We have food, but not for long. We're already nearly through our reserves. Now other people have helped by bringing things for the coming weeks. We've got supplies from people, that's really fantastic.' There are 18 members of the extended Renz family on hand to look after the animals, other performers have already been sent home, Sarina said. Children from the family pass the time playing around the trucks and animals and get home schooling -- that’s new for most children in the Netherlands but not for the Renz family, who usually are moving from one show location to the next too often to attend a regular school. For now, the family has to get used to a more stationary way of life, but one without the lifeblood of the circus: The public. 'We're just used to performing our shows. That's our life,” says Sarina. “We live to make other people happy with our shows, our attractions.
  • Jazz guitarist John “Bucky” Pizzarelli, who was inducted to the New Jersey Hall of Fame, has died at the age of 94. The virtuoso who had played for presidents at the White House during his long and esteemed career died Wednesday at his home in Saddle River, New Jersey. His family tells The New York Times they believes the cause of death was the coronavirus. And the Bergen Record reports that Pizzarelli tested positive for the virus on Sunday. “There will be some kind of tribute as soon as we can all get within 6 feet of each other,” his son John Pizzarelli, also a renowned jazz artist, told the Bergen Record on Thursday. Pizzarelli was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and had a career that spanned eight decades. He showed off his musical chops for former presidents like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and played alongside musical icons like Frank Sinatra. “Jazz guitar wouldn’t be what it is today without Bucky Pizzarelli,” said jazz guitarist Frank Vignola. “He and Freddie Green were responsible for a style of rhythm guitar playing that has lasted until 2020.” Pizzarelli died with his wife, Ruth, his son Martin, and his caregiver at his side.
  • Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine was ordered immediately freed from a Manhattan federal lockup four months early Thursday by a judge who cited his asthma and the greater danger he would face behind bars during the coronavirus outbreak. U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer made the ruling a day after telling lawyers on both sides that he intended to do so. He cited “a raging and virulent pandemic that has entered federal prisons in New York City.” Prosecutors did not oppose the action. “In light of the heightened medical risk presented to Mr. Hernandez by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are extraordinary and compelling reasons to reduce Mr. Hernandez’s sentence,” he said. Last week, the judge said he would have sentenced the 23-year-old performer, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, to home confinement rather than prison when he announced the sentence in December had he known then of the coronavirus. Engelmayer ordered the release the same day that he asked lawyers to advise what should be done after a former associate of Tekashi 6ix9ine who was released from jail because of the coronavirus threat might have put himself in danger outside bars. The judge said a video of Kintea McKenzie, who pleaded guilty in the case and was awaiting sentencing, 'appears to reflect Mr. McKenzie partying in very close proximity to numerous others.” Engelmayer said he was concerned because the activity might reflect a violation of McKenzie's terms of pre-sentence release and because “the conduct depicted on the video suggests a complete lack of concern by Mr. McKenzie for avoidance of contagion of himself and others.” For Tekashi 6ix9ine, testimony against members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang earned him leniency from charges that could have subjected him to a mandatory minimum 37 years in prison for crimes that included orchestrating a shooting in which an innocent bystander was wounded. The rapper is serving his sentence in a private jail because he cooperated with prosecutors and because the government has control of him as a cooperator. He was expected to be released July 31. He will be subject to electronic monitoring until he is released from home confinement. Until then, he can visit only his lawyer or a doctor. His lawyer said he was diagnosed in October with bronchitis and sinusitis. In 2018, Tekashi 6ix9ine had a multiplatinum hit song, “Fefe,” with Nicki Minaj, which peaked at No. 3 on the pop charts, and “Stoopid,” featuring imprisoned rapper Bobby Shmurda.
  • Carnegie Hall is projecting a $9 million operating deficit on its $104 million budget after canceling the rest of its season because of the coronavirus pandemic and anticipates making changes to its schedule for 2020-21. “We’ve obviously sold a lot of tickets for next season, but there’ll be issues like are people from the very beginning going to all come straight back to concerts or will people be a little bit more cautious about large gatherings?” executive director Clive Gillinson said Thursday. “We have no idea what the psychology is going to be around this in every way across society as a whole.” Gillinson said this will be the first deficit since he joined Carnegie Hall in 2005. The budget was slashed 20% in 2007-08 because of the Great Recession. Carnegie has canceled all events in its auditoriums through July 25, roughly 30% of this season's schedule. It has just under 400 full-time employees plus part-time staff and teaching artists. It has not decided whether layoffs will be needed. “We have made all the cuts we possibly can to this year,” Gillinson said. “If something happens this late in a year, there’s obviously much less room to move.” The Lyric Opera of Chicago also scrapped the remainder of its season and put off scheduled programming for future years. Carnegie has also called off summer tours for its National Youth Orchestra of the USA, NYO2 and NYO Jazz but hopes to host the musicians and have local events around residencies at suburban Purchase College. Carnegie will be launching digital offerings featuring artists performing at home and historical concerts. It expects to re-open in mid-September ahead of opening night on Oct. 7 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, music director Gustavo Dudamel, pianist Lang Lang and soprano Liv Redpath. More than 170 concerts are scheduled, but Gillinson anticipates some will be dropped. “We’ll almost certainly have to because we won’t be able to afford to do everything,” he said. “But some of those decisions may be made for us because it’s completely possible that a lot of organizations themselves will have significant challenges because of what’s happened. We may find some organizations say we just can’t afford to travel to America next season.” The Lyric Opera postponed its production of the musical “42nd Street” from May 29-June 21 this year to the spring of 2022, a staging from Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet. “Blue,” by composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson, was put off from June 16-28 to next January. “Proving Up,” by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek has been postponed from January to a later season.
  • The popcorn will be bring your own and the barbecue won't be as good, but the Austin, Texas, SXSW Film Festival is moving online after having its 27th edition canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. SXSW announced Thursday that it's partnering with Amazon Prime Video to stream as much of its movie line-up as possible for a 10-day period in the U.S. It will be free to viewers with or without an Amazon Prime membership. South by Southwest organizers have worked frantically to salvage what they could of the festival and bring attention to the many films that had been planning to premiere there. SXSW, which had been scheduled to run March 13-22, last week announced awards for its competition categories, anyway. Individual films will choose whether they want to opt in to the 10-day “SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection” on Amazon. Don't count on movies acquired by Netflix, for example, to participate. The festival declined to say how many films it expects to host. But for the filmmakers that do join in, the digital platform could offer a measure of solace for their missed SXSW premiere, and all the promotion benefit that a major festival entails. Filmmakers who participate will receive a screening fee. “Ever since SXSW was canceled by the City of Austin, we’ve been focused on how we could help the incredible films and filmmakers in the SXSW 2020 Film Festival lineup,” said Janet Pierson, director of film at SXSW. “We’re inspired by the adaptability and resilience of the film community as it searches for creative solutions in this unprecedented crisis.” SXSW and Prime Video are aiming to hold the 10-day online event in late April. Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said she hopes the online SXSW 'can help give back some of that experience, and showcase artists and films that audiences might otherwise not have had the chance to see.”
  • Hollywood's summer movie season is all but finished. “Top Gun Maverick” became the latest would-be blockbuster to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Paramount Pictures on Thursday announced that sequel to the 1986 original will now open Dec. 23 instead of June 24. “Top Gun Maverick,” starring Tom Cruise, follows an exodus of the big-budget spectacles that annually land in theaters in summertime. Most of the season's top movies have in the last week departed the summer. With the pandemic's quickening spread, it remains uncertain when movie theaters will reopen, or how much appetite moviegoers will have to visit cinemas when they initially open their doors. Summer is typically Hollywood's most lucrative time of year, when the studios unleash a barrage of sequels, superhero films and action movies. Last year, summer ticket sales accounted for $4.3 billion in U.S. and Canadian theaters. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Wonder Woman 1984,' “Black Widow,' “Morbius” and “In the Heights” have all been delayed or taken off the schedule, along with major spring releases including “No Time to Die” and “Mulan.” Some films have also been postponed because of halted post production, leading to reshuffling of next year's schedule, too. Work on Universal Pictures' “Minions: The Rise of Gru' was halted when the French animation studio Illumination had to close it doors. Universal said Wednesday “Minions” will open in July 2021 instead of July 3 this year. “Sing 2” was pushed from July 2021 to December next year. Paramount also said Thursday that “A Quiet Place Part II,” which had been scheduled to hit theaters in March, will now be released Sept. 4. “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run” will aim for July 31 instead of May 22. And the sci-fi war film “The Tomorrow War,” with Chris Pratt, is now unscheduled instead of releasing on Christmas.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Researchers at a Michigan university believe they have discovered a way to decontaminate face masks, which have been in short supply -- bake them. Scientists at Michigan State University are using commercial ovens to effectively clean N95 face masks -- a process that appears to be working, the Lansing State Journal reported. “I think we have a duty and obligation to use those resources in any way we can in this moment,” university extension director Jeff Dwyer told the State Journal. 'We need to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things and push for solutions. Then this becomes an instance that we believe the decontamination of N95 masks … will be one of the important components of saving the lives of patients who have COVID-19 and the lives of the health care providers taking care of them.” The school hopes to start using the process next week to help medical facilities decontaminate face masks for health care workers.
  • A Michigan grandfather has been taking extraordinary measures to see his granddaughter -- walking more than four miles to set eyes on the newborn through a glass partition. Josh Gillett shared a photo of one of the visits of his father and daughter Elliana Rae on social media this week. “It breaks my heart that my dad can’t hold my daughter,” Gillett wrote. “However, as you can clearly see on my dad’s face, he’s overflowing with joy just to see her.” Gillett said his father, who’s not been identified, held Elliana Rae twice before Michigan went on lockdown. “While my wife was pregnant, I don’t think an hour went by where my dad didn’t brag about becoming a grandpa soon,” Gillett wrote. “Now, his granddaughter is finally here, and the only things he can hold are the daily pictures we send him.” A “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order telling residents to isolate themselves was issued last week. The order also closed nonessential businesses and schools, WXMI reported. Then, earlier this week, a state of disaster was declared closing any remaining schools and increasing social distancing measures. There are more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 417 deaths, according to The New York Times.
  • More than one million people worldwide -- including more than 245,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Friday, April 3, continue below:  109 new coronavirus cases reported in Oklahoma Update 12:45 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Oklahoma said 109 new coronavirus infections were reported Friday, raising the total number of cases in the state to 988, according to KOKI-TV. Four new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported in the state, bringing Oklahoma’s COVID-19 death toll to 38. The four new fatal cases involved patients who were all over 65 years old. Pennsylvania officials report 1,404 new coronavirus cases Update 12:40 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Pennsylvania reported 1,404 new coronavirus infections Friday, bringing the state’s total to 8,420, WPXI reported. In addition, officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 12 more deaths. Statewide 102 people have died of COVID-19, according to WPXI. 104 new coronavirus infections reported in DC Update 12:20 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Washington D.C. said 104 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the total in the district to 757. Mayor Muriel Bowser said three new fatal cases were also reported Friday. In all, 15 people have died due to COVID-19 in Washington D.C. Delta Air Lines giving passengers 2 years to rebook flights Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 3: Delta Air Lines announced Friday that the company is extending its window to redeem travel credits from one to two years amid the coronavirus outbreak. The change will allow for travel credits to be used through May 2022. “Just as our business is changing, we know that events in our customers’ lives are being changed and canceled, too,” airline officials said Friday in a statement. “Whether customers have been affected by recent schedule adjustments or want additional reassurance about upcoming travel, we’re now extending the ability to plan, re-book and travel with us for up to two years – giving Delta customers some extra breathing room.” Temporary military hospitals to begin taking COVID-19 patients, Pentagon says Update 11:55 a.m. EDT April 3: The Pentagon said it will begin accepting COVID-19 positive patients at Pentagon-supported medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans that previously had been designated as non-COVID hospitals. COVID-19 positive patients in convalescent care and those deemed non-urgent cases will be accepted at the Morial federal medical station in New Orleans and at the Kay Bailey Hutchison federal medical center in Dallas. These patients must first be screened at a local hospital. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he had approved New York’s request that COVID-19 patients be accepted for care at the Pentagon-supported Javits center, which previously had taken on non-COVID patients. The Pentagon also said Friday that screening for care of non-COVID-19 patients on the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor is being modified in an effort to reduce a backlog at some New York hospitals. Instead of requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 at the hospital from which they are being transferred, each patient transferred to the Comfort will be screened by temperature and given a short questionnaire pier-side. The Pentagon also announced that the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the active-duty military had risen to 978 as of Friday morning. That is up 85 from a day earlier. New York reports 562 new fatal COVID-19 cases Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said the state saw its “highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started” on Friday. Officials reported 562 new deaths attributed to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 2,373. 102,863 coronavirus infections reported in New York Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Friday that 10,481 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 102,863. New York has been the state hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. UK prime minister to continue self-isolating Update 11 a.m. EDT April 3: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom said Friday that he will continue to self-isolate past the recommended seven-day period as he deals with a “minor symptom” lingering since his COVID-19 diagnosis. Johnson said he continues to have a fever. “In accordance with government advice, I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes,' he said. “But we’re clearly working the whole time on our program to defeat the virus.” Mayor tells New York City residents to wear face coverings in public Update 10:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said Friday that residents should wear face coverings while around people who are not part of their families or households to stymie the spread of the new coronavirus. He said in a video posted Friday to Twitter that he’s been asked several times recently whether masks are appropriate for people in the general public. “The masks -- the surgical masks, those N95 masks -- we want to keep those for the health care workers, for the first responders,” he said. “We’re now advising all New Yorkers, when you go outside and you’re close to other people -- not your own family and people under your same roof, but when you’re close to other people -- have a bandanna, a scarf, some kind of face covering you can use when you happen to be in close proximity to people.” He emphasized that the mask does not protect against coronavirus and urged people to continue keeping at least 6 feet of space between each other. “(This) will help make sure that if, God forbid you’ve contracted the disease, even if you’re not yet symptomatic, that you won’t inadvertently spread it to someone else,” he said. “It’s a precaution to protect others.” Cruise ship en route to Florida confirms 12 COVID-19 cases Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Health officials have confirmed a dozen coronavirus infections on a Princess Cruise Lines ship headed toward Fort Lauderdale, Florida, company officials said Thursday. Princess Cruise Lines said that on Tuesday, crew members on the Coral Princess sent 13 COVID-19 test samples to health officials in Barbados. Of those, samples from seven guests and five crew members tested positive for the viral infection. The Coral Princess had set sail March 5 from Chile, one week before Princess Cruises announced a 60-day pause of operations. It was scheduled to travel to Argentina, where passengers were set to disembark March 19. Stocks open lower after US government reports 700,000 job losses Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Stocks wavered in early trading on Wall Street after the U.S. government reported that more than 700,000 jobs were lost last month. Businesses have shut down across the country and the world as people stay home in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 was up 0.4% in the first few minutes of trading. European markets were down Friday after losses in most of Asia. The price of oil continued to rise on hopes for a global deal to limit overproduction, which helped boost energy stocks. The price of benchmark U.S. crude rose 7%. Grupo Modelo to halt production of Corona beer Update 9:45 a.m. EDT April 3: Grupo Modelo, the Mexican company that brews Corona beer, said Friday in a statement that it will halt production of the drink and others it brews to comply with Mexico’s closure of non-essential businesses. U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 3: A new report from the Labor Department on Friday showed the economic storm associated with the coronavirus battering the U.S. economy in March, causing the loss of 701,000 jobs, and pushing the jobless rate up by almost one percent -- the largest monthly increase in over 45 years. The unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent in March, not far under the 4.7 percent rate when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the highest jobless rate of his presidency. 'Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places,' the Labor Department reported. “Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,” the report added. UK officials report 684 new fatal coronavirus cases Update 9:05 a.m. EDT April 3: Officials in the United Kingdom recorded 684 new fatal COVID-19 cases on Friday, raising the country’s coronavirus death toll to 3,605. The number is slightly higher than the 569 deaths reported Thursday. Authorities with the British Department of Health and Social Care also announced 4,450 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. In all, officials said 33,718 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the U.K. Germany becomes 4th nation to surpass China’s total coronavirus count Update 7:53 a.m. EDT April 3: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 54,137 early Friday, and Spain’s total number of infections surpassed that of Italy, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 1,030,628 people worldwide. Four countries – the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany – have now confirmed total infection counts well above China’s 82,509 tally. • The United States has reported 245,573 cases, resulting in 6,058 deaths. • Spain has reported 117,710 infections, resulting in 10,935 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 115,242 cases, resulting in 13,915 deaths. • Germany has reported 85,063 cases, resulting in 1,111 deaths. • China has recorded 82,509 cases, resulting in 3,326 deaths. • France has confirmed 59,929 infections, resulting in 5,398 deaths. • Iran has recorded 53,183 cases, resulting in 3,160 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 19,145 cases, resulting in 573 deaths. • Turkey has recorded 18,135 cases, resulting in 356 deaths. UK field hospital NHS Nightingale opens less than 2 weeks after project began Update 7:41 a.m. EDT April 3: Less than two weeks after crews began repurposing London’s ExCel conference center to accommodate overflow novel coronavirus patients, the NHS Nightingale field hospital stands ready to serve. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, called the timely transformation a “spectacular and almost unbelievable feat.” “(It’s) an example – if ever one was needed – of how the impossible could be made possible,” he said Friday via a video-link from Scotland, where he has been self-isolating after being diagnosed with the virus in March. “In this dark time, this place will be a shining light,” Prince Charles said, adding, “It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings, with countless individuals throughout the United Kingdom.” To date, the United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. Coronavirus cases continue mounting in Brazil, Japan Update 6:56 a.m. EDT April 3: With more than 1 million novel coronavirus cases now recorded worldwide, new – and some old – hotspots are emerging as the pandemic continues its global spread. • Brazil confirmed Thursday its third consecutive day logging at least 1,000 new cases. The South American country now reports a total of 7,910 infections, which have resulted in at least 299 deaths. • Japan confirmed early Friday that 235 additional novel coronavirus cases have brought the East Asian country’s total to 3,329, resulting in at least 63 deaths. • Tokyo reported its largest single-day increase in new cases on Friday with 97. Japan’s capital city has now confirmed a total of 684 cases. Portion of famed Paris market repurposed as makeshift morgue Update 6:33 a.m. EDT April 3: A portion of the Rungis food market on the outskirts of Paris has been converted into a temporary morgue to handle the swelling number of novel coronavirus fatalities reported in the region. According to The Washington Post, the Paris Police Prefecture is converting one isolated building in the world’s largest meat and vegetable market into a makeshift morgue, capable of accommodating between 800 and 1,000 coffins. “This location will permit the coffins of the deceased to be kept in the most dignified and acceptable conditions from a health point of view, pending their burial or cremation in France or abroad,” the prefecture said in a statement, circulated widely among French media. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, France has recorded at least 59,929 COVID-19 infections since the global pandemic began, resulting in 5,398 fatalities. Libya confirms 1st coronavirus-related death Update 4:35 a.m. EDT April 3: Libya’s National Center for Disease Control confirmed the country’s first novel coronavirus-related fatality in a statement released Thursday. The patient, who was not diagnosed until after hear death, was an 85-year-old woman. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the North African nation has reported a total of 11 infections to date. Lenders question Friday rollout of $349B small business coronavirus relief program Update 4:23 a.m. EDT April 3: The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program is slated to launch today, but banks tapped to disperse the emergency federal small business loans told The Washington Post they are skeptical the plan is rollout-ready. “Having just received guidance outlining how to implement a $349 billion program literally hours before it starts, we would ask for everyone to be patient as banks move heaven and earth to get a system in place and running to help America’s small businesses and the millions of men and women who work at them,” Richard Hunt, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Bankers Association, said in a statement. The Paycheck Protection Program, considered a key element of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package approved by Congress one week ago, is intended to deliver a “sharply streamlined, same-day approval process unheard of in the history of federally backed small business lending,” the Post reported. Several participating lenders indicated in interviews with the Post as late as Thursday, however, that they are still awaiting finalized program guidelines from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration before processing any applications despite today’s launch date. Amid coronavirus crisis Disney to furlough employees ‘whose jobs aren't necessary at this time’ Update 3:28 a.m. EDT April 3: Walt Disney Co. has officially notified employees that those “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” will be furloughed beginning April 19. The global entertainment empire shuttered all 12 of its theme parks on March 12 and has been paying its employees salaries in the interim. Per the latest announcement, those payments will cease on April 18. The company said in its statement it has been “forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees” because there is “no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses.” All furloughed workers will remain employed by Disney and retain their benefits. Mexico’s Grupo Modelo halts production of Corona beer Update 2:54 a.m. EDT April 3: Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo announced late Thursday it will temporarily halt production of Corona beer as the novel coronavirus pandemic pits essential products against those deemed nonessential. In a news release, Grupo Modelo said the move is in response to the Mexican government’s Tuesday directive that suspends temporarily most industries not deemed “essential” services such as health care and agriculture. In turn, the company plans to cease producing its brews on Sunday with no clear timeline outlined for a return to production. Supplies seized from suspected Brooklyn hoarder donated to medical staffs fighting coronavirus Update 2:32 a.m. EDT April 3: Some New York and New Jersey medical personnel are slightly better stocked after a Brooklyn man’s arrest led authorities to a stockpile of hoarded medical supplies, CNN reported. Prosecutors contend in court documents that Baruch Feldheim, 43, sold N95 masks to doctors and nurses at substantially inflated prices. In turn, the roughly 192,000 in-demand respirator masks and assorted other supplies are being redistributed to medical personnel across New York and New Jersey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sony launches $100 million global coronavirus relief fund Update 2 a.m. EDT April 3: Sony is preparing to launch $100 million fund to provide global relief to those affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Sony extends its condolences to the families of those who have passed away as a result of the coronavirus crisis and extends its sympathies to all those who have been impacted,” Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony’s president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement, adding, “In order to overcome the unprecedented challenges that as a society we now face around the world, we will do all we can as a global company to support the individuals on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus the children who are our future, and those who have been impacted in the creative community.' US coronavirus deaths hit 6,053, total cases top 245K Update 12:30 a.m. EDT April 3: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 245,000 early Friday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 245,540 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 6,053 deaths. U.S. cases now more than double the 115,242 reported in Italy and the 112,065 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 2,374 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 537 in New Jersey and 417 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 92,720 confirmed cases – or more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 25,590 and California with 11,042. Seven other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • Michigan: 10,791, including 417 deaths • Louisiana: 9,159, including 310 deaths • Florida: 9,008, including 144 deaths • Massachusetts: 8,966, including 154 deaths • Illinois: 7,695, including 163 deaths • Pennsylvania: 7,268, including 90 deaths • Washington: 6,588, including 271 deaths Meanwhile, Georgia and Texas each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections; Connecticut, Colorado and Indiana each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • While everyone is social distancing and self-quarantining, why not pick up a new hobby? Multiple guitar companies are teaching how to play guitar for free. Fender announced three free months of lessons on Fender Play, People magazine reported. The company will teach you how to play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass or ukulele. All you have to do is sign up and find an instrument. At the same time, Gibson is teaming with Amped Guitars to offer free months of online guitar lessons, NME reported. Those companies are using the Amped Guitar Learning app that is currently only available on the Apple App store to learn how to play. The app has lessons and then allows musicians to play with some of the greats like The Beatles, Tom Petty and B.B. King through audio augmented reality technology, NME reported.
  • A North Carolina hospital has set up “mobile morgues” as a precautionary measure as it prepares for the possibility of a large number of deaths because of the coronavirus. Atrium Health confirmed it has set up the “mobile morgues” outside the emergency room at Atrium Health Cabarrus in Concord. Residents were alarmed Thursday at the sight of the two large, white containers. “That’s just not good for people’s morale in a time like this,” Joshua Seeler said. Officials said it is accurate to call them “mobile morgues,” but they stress that the move is precautionary. Hospital officials urged the public to do its part by following social distancing and stay-at-home orders. They said how quickly COVID-19 spreads is directly dependent on the community. Hospital officials said in a statement: 'As part of our ongoing pandemic planning, we are coordinating and working with every hospital in our system to prepare for the anticipated influx of COVID-19 patients in the weeks ahead. 'This includes decreasing non-essential appointments and procedures early on, our emphasis on virtual health visits and identifying extra available space for patients. 'We are also preparing for the possibility there may be a higher number of patients who succumb to COVID-19. 'The extent of how fast COVID-19 will spread, the impact it has, and our ability to serve the community during this state of emergency is directly dependent on how well our community observes the physical distancing and stay-at-home orders in place today. “We continue to urge the community to do their part in flattening the curve. These measures underscore how vitally important it is for the community to observe stay-at-home and physical distancing orders in place.”

Washington Insider

  • A new report from the Labor Department on Friday showed the economic storm associated with the Coronavirus battering the U.S. economy in March, causing the loss of 701,000 jobs, and pushing the jobless rate up by almost one percent, the largest monthly increase in over forty five years. The unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent in March, not far under the 4.7 percent rate when President Donald Trump took office in January of 2017, the highest jobless rate of his presidency. 'Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places,' the Labor Department reported.  'Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,' the report added. Lawmakers and economists readily acknowledged upcoming unemployment reports would likely be even worse. 'Elevated unemployment at 4.4 percent in the March jobs report shows only a glimpse of the surge in layoffs caused by the economic impact of the coronavirus,' said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). '700k is an awful jobs month,' tweeted Austan Goolsbee, a top economic adviser under President Barack Obama. 'That it’s the best news we will get for some time should give us a terrible pit in our stomach.' Last week, 3.3 million Americans filed for initial jobless claims. That number doubled this week, as 6.6 million Americans made similar filings, indicating massive amounts of unemployment. The massive amount of job losses have sent state governments scrambling to help people seeking jobless benefits. But some states have found their systems ill-prepared for such a surge. “I'm in Florida and get an error on the unemployment website when trying to sign-up,” one person told me.  “I call and the phone number is busy.”