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Auto Racing
AMS fan day with Wallace and Suarez shows there's hope
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AMS fan day with Wallace and Suarez shows there's hope

AMS fan day with Wallace and Suarez shows there's hope
Bubba Wallace (left) interrupts Daniel Suarez's (right) media session to say hello during the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500/Atlanta Motor Speedway Pit Party.

AMS fan day with Wallace and Suarez shows there's hope

On a morning that started in the high 20s in Metro Atlanta, Atlanta Motor Speedway officials had to sigh. There would be no ticket voucher “Good Weather Guarantee” for the free Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Pit Party in Norcross. But that worry subsided when fans showed up in force an hour before the 10 a.m. kickoff time Saturday. 

The rap on NASCAR for the last 13 years has been the declining attendance and television ratings. The 2018 season’s returns didn’t turn around that notion. But events like Saturday’s show that potential for a comeback for the 71-year-old sport is a possibility. 

QT, Coca-Cola, and AMS arranged a DJ, tons of giveaways, food samples, a driving simulator, a tall inflatable slide, face painting, and drivers Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez to sign autographs. This soiree on the corner of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Brook Hollow Parkway, just west of I-85, drew in many passersby, sure. But it also pulsated on the calendars of the diehard north Georgia race fans, who had to choose between this party and the CRA Speedfest super late model race a couple hundred miles south in Cordele with Kyle Busch and Harrison Burton. 

21-year-old Diego Castoneda took an almost two-hour bicycle ride from Lawrenceville, in the freezing cold, to be the first in line for driver autographs at 9:30. 

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Fan dedication

"To have all these cultures in NASCAR is huge, because not many drivers get an opportunity in this sport," Castoneda said, when asked about the significance to him of having Suarez, a Mexico native, in NASCAR. He put Wallace’s autographed hero card in a trapper keeper notebook full of driver cards. "It's an honor to get every driver you can. You never know when they're going to be big or when they are going to retire. Some of these autographs are going to be valuable. For me, it's just an experience."

Castoneda was one of hundreds who waited in the long lines for, first, Wallace and then Suarez. He is the rare Generation Z NASCAR fan. He said his dad had him watching races from the age of eight and similarly had the goal of getting each driver’s signature. 

The 25-year-old Wallace, NASCAR’s only black driver, got generational in his media session, noting that his “Young Guns” class has a certain understanding of and with fans. 

"I think the younger generation coming up through is changing the game a little bit, giving the fans something more to latch onto,” though Wallace notes that this will take time, as he and his cohorts adapt to the highly competitive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. “You've got the dominance from the older guys, obviously. But it takes seat time for us to get comfortable." 

Wallace is a big believer in the power that social media has in engaging fans. He starred in a Facebook Watch documentary before his rookie season a year ago and is very active on Twitter and Instagram. "We try to do as much as we can with the fans. Me, personally, I love doing stuff like this and when it's in-market [in the same city as a NASCAR track], you go out to dinner and you run into fans. It's just all about being engaging with them." 

Steve Letscher loves Wallace’s vibe. The white 47-year-old doesn’t stand out as the top candidate to have Wallace’s unbridled millennial persona as his favorite driver. But Letscher diverted a two-day drive from South Dakota to Charlotte, to arrive for the Wallace appearance. He had Wallace sign 10 diecasts, each of a different paint scheme from his rookie campaign. 

"I got about an hour outside of Kansas City and it was pretty early in the afternoon and I thought that since I had so many cars for Bubba, that I could make it down here and get some signed from him.” Letscher blew off seeing a friend in Shreveport to come to Atlanta, after learning of Wallace’s Georgia appearance on his Twitter page. “So I decided at the very last minute to keep driving yesterday afternoon. I was up 15 hours yesterday. I stopped about a half hour north of Nashville last night at about midnight, got about three hours of sleep, got up, got a shower, got on the road, and got here at about 11:30." After the Pit Party, Letscher will further show his dedication by driving to Charlotte to hang with his buddies for a week at the NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremonies. He has about 1,600 diecast race cars in his basement, he says. 

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Long haul to meet a hero

Letscher thinks that the key to outsiders getting passionate about drivers is the wheelmen’s personalities. Undoubtedly, fans in the last 15 years have complained of the lack of color drivers show. The likes of Wallace, Suarez, Ryan Blaney, Noah Gragson, and others are trying to bring that back. 

Suarez, who just turned 27, is not necessarily high on the overall NASCAR popularity charts. But he begins his third Cup season with a large legion of Latin American fans, as he is the only full-time NASCAR driver from Mexico. Telemundo and Mundo Hispanico covered him at the event. And several hispanic fans circled behind Suarez with enthusiasm, as he spoke to the media. 

"For me, as a Mexican driver in the United States...you're always missing something [not] racing at home. I used to race in Mexico for a long time and I was used to racing in front of my family and a lot of friends. That was a hell of an experience. I've been missing that for a while,” Suarez explained fluently in his second language. “Now, for the last few years in Cup, more people are getting to know myself and things I am doing in the sport. It feels so good to come back to places like here in Atlanta where there are a lot of Hispanic people and places like Texas, California, Phoenix - all these places. I say this a lot: I don't get to race at home, but these places feel like home. I'm just very happy to be here to spend a few hours with a lot of great friends and I look forward to getting back here in a month." 

Suarez says he has a chance to attend Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta and just may do it. And, like Wallace, he loves chances to actually talk with fans. "It feels so good. I wish we were coming to Atlanta more often, instead of just once every year. It feels so good to be back and to spend some time with the fans. When I am in the racetrack, it is a little bit harder to have these 10 to 15 second conversations with the fans, because you are going. You don't have a lot of time to do this stuff; you have to drive the racecar and focus on that. I really enjoy times like these, where I am not thinking about the racecar, I'm not thinking about the race. I'm just thinking about having a good time with them and that's what it's all about.”

Fans at the Pit Party had a great time, young and old, dancing to top 40 and hip-hop music from the last few years. Lines for each attraction stretched dozens deep. There wasn’t one mullet or country song played - not that those aren’t a large part of the racing experience. This was a jumping, energetic event that never lulled and saw a large cross-section of age, color, class, and style. 

Newly-minted AMS GM Brandon Hutchinson looked impressed, as did his deputies. But when I told VP of Marketing and Promotions, Dustin Bixby, I was surprised at the turnout, I was even more surprised with his answer. 

“I’m not! I know Atlanta has a ton of race fans.” 

Hutchinson’s and Bixby’s jobs over these next four weeks will be to get this fan base charged up enough to drive to Hampton for the race weekend. If Saturday served as any indicator, the tide may be turning. 

The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race highlights the February 22nd-24th race weekend with all three NASCAR national series in action at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Get tickets and learn more at AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com. 

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News

  • While everyone is stuck at home, streaming whatever they can find on Netflix and Hulu, some stars are using the time away from the set to reconnect with their former on-screen families. Monday, the latest to do so is the cast of “The Nanny.' Fran Drescher will be joining Charles Shaughnessy, Daniel Davis and the rest of the cast to do a read-through of the pilot show. The group met up virtually for what is being called a #PandemicPerformance of the first episode. The performance will be streamed starting Monday at 9 a.m. PST on Sony Pictures’ YouTube channel. But “The Nanny” isn’t the only group of actors reuniting virtually during the shutdown, either as a full cast or just a couple of costars talking about their past hits. The cast of “Frasier” got together on Skype as part of a “Stars In The House” video chat. Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves and Peri Gilpin discussed the 11-season show that ran from 1993 until 2004, Playbill reported. Ariana Grande and Victoria Justice joined their costars for a “Victorious” reunion, People magazine reported. John Krasinski and Steve Carell appeared side by side on a split screen of Krasinski’s YouTube show “Some Good News” and they reminisced about “The Office.” Reunions are not limited to small-screen stars. Jason Isaacs and Tom Felton, Lucius and Draco Malfoy from the “Hary Potter” series, had a family reunion on Instagram of sorts to help the British Red Cross, Isaacs said. Finally, the original cast of Broadway’s “Hamilton” joined together as a treat for one of the show’s biggest fans, thanks to Krasinski’s “Some Good News.” Aubrey, who lives in Winter Haven, Florida, had tickets to see a touring version of the show, but it, like so much else, was canceled. Her mother posted on Twitter that it was her 9-year-old daughter’s birthday present, and was of course disappointed. So Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt, who stared with “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in “Mary Poppins Returns” surprised Aubrey with the next best thing -- a concert by not only Miranda, but also the rest of the original Broadway cast.
  • More than 1.27 million people worldwide – including more than 337,000 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 Monday, April 6, continue below:  Allstate to return $600M in auto premiums to customers Update 11:10 a.m. EDT April 6: The Good Hands People plan to put money back in their customers’ hands. Insurance giant Allstate announced Monday that it would return more than $600 million in auto insurance premiums to customers, who have been driving less as states have implemented stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to battle the coronavirus. 533 new coronavirus cases reported in Indiana Update 11:05 a.m. EDT April 6: Officials in Indiana announced 533 new reported coronavirus cases Monday, raising the state’s total number of cases to 4,944. Officials also reported a dozen new fatal COVID-19 cases. Statewide, 139 people have died of coronavirus. Open Championship golf tournament canceled for 1st time since WWII Update 11 a.m. EDT April 6: Organizers on Monday announced the cancellation of golf’s oldest championship tournament due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The R&A announced the decision to cancel The Open Championship based on guidance from the U.K. government, health officials and others. Officials said the 149th Open will be played July 11 - July 18, 2021. Coronavirus cases among active duty military members tops 1,000 Update 10:35 a.m. EDT April 6: The Pentagon said the number of COVID-19 cases in the active duty force topped 1,000 over the weekend. There are a total of 1,132 confirmed cases as of Monday morning. The total was 978 on Friday. There also have been 303 cases among members of the National Guard. Among the military services, the Navy has the most cases, with 431. That includes more than 150 among the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to take applications beginning Monday Update 10:25 a.m. EDT April 6: The National Restaurant Association has set up the Restaurant Employee Relief fund to give grants of $500 full- or part-time restaurant employees struggling as the coronavirus pandemic shutters restaurants nationwide. Officials with the National Restaurant Association said the fund was supposed to open for applications earlier, but the server hosting the application process was overwhelmed shortly after opening. “We are deeply humbled by and grateful for the opportunity to provide support to restaurant employees. Almost immediately after opening the application process, extremely high user volume overwhelmed the application platform. We are continuing to upgrade our system to improve site functionality and expand capacity,' the group said on the application website. Stocks rise on signs of progress battling COVID-19 Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 6: Stocks jumped in markets around the world Monday after some of the hardest-hit areas offered sparks of hope that the worst of the coronavirus outbreak may be on the horizon. U.S. stocks climbed more than 3% in the first few minutes of trading, following similar gains in Europe and Asia. In another sign that investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy’s path, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was headed for its first gain in four days. Oil prices fell after a meeting between Russia and OPEC aimed at defusing a price war was pushed back a few days. Wells Fargo closes application window for Paycheck Protection Program Update 9:35 a.m. EDT April 6: Officials with Wells Fargo announced Monday that the bank will no longer be accepting applications for a new federal program aimed at helping small businesses retain and pay workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.  In a statement Sunday, bank officials said they aimed to distribute $10 billion in loans under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. Funding for the program was included in a $2.2 billion economic relief package to help Americans struggling in the pandemic.  Wells Fargo officials said Monday in a statement that they expected to “fill the company’s capacity to lend under the program” with the applications they’ve already received. The application window had opened Friday.  “Given the exceptionally high volume of requests we have already received, we will not be able to accept any additional requests for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program,” company officials said in a notice posted Monday. “We will review all expressions of interest submitted by customers via our online form through April 5 and provide updates in the coming days.” Without precautions ‘we could have another peak in a few weeks,’ US official says Update 9:10 a.m. EDT April 6: Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Monday that people need to continue to take social distancing and other measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. “Everyone is susceptible to this and everyone needs to follow the precautions that we’ve laid out,” Giroir said during an appearance on NBC’s “today” show Monday. “If we let our foot off the gas and start doing things that are ill-advised, we could have another peak in a few weeks. ... We have to completely keep our efforts going.” Officials recommend that Americans stay home as much as possible and keep at least 6 feet of distance from other people. They’ve also urged that people wear cloth face masks in public to stymie the spread of the virus. UK prime minister says he’s in ‘good spirits’ after hospitalization Update 8:55 a.m. EDT April 6: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom said in a tweet Monday morning that he’s “in good spirits” after being hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms. Ten days before his hospitalization, Johnson had tested positive for COVID-19. “Last night, on the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I’m still experiencing coronavirus symptoms,” Johnson said. “I’m in good spirits and keeping in touch with my team as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.” Britain’s Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, out of isolation Update 7:55 a.m. EDT April 6: Britain’s Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is no longer in self-isolation, ITV and other news outlets are reporting. Although the 72-year-old, who is married to Prince Charles, tested negative for coronavirus, she went into self-isolation for two weeks because her husband had tested positive for COVID-19. Charles, 71, spent seven days in quarantine after displaying mild symptoms and left self-isolation March 30. Camilla and Charles have been staying in Scotland, ITV reported. Death rates in Spain, Italy appear to be slowing Update 7:21 a.m. EDT April 6: The rates of coronavirus deaths in Spain and Italy, the two European countries hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, appear to be slowing. According to CNN, Spanish health officials said Monday that 637 people died from the virus in the past day, an increase of 5.1% from the number of deaths reported Sunday. That marks “the lowest daily rise, percentage-wise, since early March,” CNN reported. Meanwhile, Italian officials on Sunday reported that 525 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, marking the country’s “lowest death rate in two weeks,' according to CNN. As of Monday morning, Spain had reported the second-highest number of infections worldwide, with 131,646 cases and 12,641 deaths, while Italy had reported the third-highest number of infections, with 128,948 cases and 15,887 deaths, Johns Hopkins University reported. Only the United States had reported more overall cases. London’s West End theaters cancel all shows through May 31 Update 6:23 a.m. EDT April 6: London’s West End theaters are canceling all shows through May 31 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Society of London Theatre announced Monday. The theaters previously had announced a shutdown through April 26, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “We are now canceling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen,” the society said in a statement. As of Monday morning, at least 48,440 coronavirus cases and 4,943 deaths had been reported in the United Kingdom, according to Johns Hopkins University. Read more here. FedEx pilots removed from duty following ‘inconclusive’ COVID-19 test results Update 5:14 a.m. EDT April 6: FedEx flew some pilots back to the United States after they received inconclusive test results for COVID-19. According to WHBQ in Memphis, Tennessee, the pilots were removed from service and are self-isolating while follow-up testing and evaluation is being performed, according to FedEx. The exact number of pilots removed is unclear. The company released a statement Sunday: “Some FedEx pilots were flown back to the U.S. after receiving inconclusive test results for COVID-19. They have been removed from duty and are self-isolating while follow-up testing and evaluation is performed. All areas where these team members worked are being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The safety and well-being of our employees remains our first concern. FedEx continues to take all necessary precautions and follow guidance from the FAA, CDC and other public health organizations related to reporting and containment of COVID-19. We continue our operation in China and remain committed to providing the best possible service to our customers.“ Dozens of Massachusetts firefighters test positive for COVID-19 Update 4:32 a.m. EDT April 6: At least 87 firefighters in Massachusetts have tested positive for coronavirus as of Sunday, according to The Professional Fire Firefighters of Massachusetts. Boston’s WFXT reports that 1,814 firefighters have a documented exposure to COVID-19, 831 have been tested for the virus and 583 are currently under quarantine. In Taunton, nine firefighters have tested positive for coronavirus. “These numbers are alarming, but firefighters across Massachusetts and the United States will continue to answer your calls for service,” the labor union posted on Twitter on Sunday night. “Please help us help you – Stay home.” >> See the tweet here The numbers encompass 201 locals representing 11,106 members, which account for 97% of the union’s membership. On Sunday, a coronavirus testing site for only first responders opened at Gillette Stadium. Duran Duran’s John Taylor recovers after testing positive for COVID-19 Update 3:30 a.m. EDT April 6: Duran Duran’s John Taylor is feeling better weeks after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he wrote Sunday in a post on the band’s Facebook page. According to USA Today, the 59-year-old bass player said he was diagnosed three weeks ago and has since recovered. “After a week or so of what I would describe as a ‘turbo-charged flu,’ I came out of it feeling OK – although I must admit I didn’t mind the quarantine as it gave me the chance to really recover,” he wrote. “I am speaking out in answer to the enormous amount of fear being generated by the pandemic, some of it entirely justified, and my heart goes out to everyone who has had to deal with real loss and pain. But I want to let you know that it isn’t always a killer, and we can and will beat this thing.” >> See the post here Taylor added that he “cannot wait to be back onstage again, sharing new music, love and joy.” Singer-songwriter Christopher Cross tests positive for COVID-19 Update 2:35 a.m. EDT April 6: Singer-songwriter Christopher Cross has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he said in an Instagram post Friday. “I’m sorry to report that I am among the growing number of Americans who tested positive for the COVID-19,” he wrote in the post. “I’m not in the habit of discussing medical issues on social media, but I do so in the hopes that this will help other people to understand how serious and how contagious this illness is. Although I am fortunate enough to be cared for at home, this is possibly the worst illness I have ever had.” >> See the post here Cross, 68, also urged his fans to take the virus seriously and stay home, wash their hands and avoid touching their faces. “For those of you who still do not believe the COVID-19 virus is real, or think it is a ‘hoax’ or part of some conspiracy, my advice to you is to understand right now that this is a deadly illness spreading like wildfire throughout the world,” the Grammy Award winner wrote, encouraging followers to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. He added that everyone should “be kind to one another.' “Only if we work together can we defeat COVID-19,' he wrote. Several other celebrities, including Pink, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Idris Elba and CNN’s Chris Cuomo, have tested positive for the virus. Delta announces changes to SkyMiles, Medallion programs Update 1:49 a.m. EDT April 6: The coronavirus pandemic has brought the airline industry nearly to a halt. In March, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines announced that its revenue fell by $2 billion due to the spread of COVID-19 and a drop in demand for air travel. On Sunday, Delta Air Lines has begun notifying its flyers about changes to its well-known SkyMiles program due to the sudden drop in air travel. “On behalf of all of us at Delta, I want to thank our customers for your continued loyalty during these unprecedented times. While our focus is on keeping customers and employees safe and healthy today and always, you are a part of the Delta family and we know how important these benefits are to you,” said Sandeep Dube, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, and CEO of Delta Vacations. “That’s why as coronavirus continues to dramatically impact travel across the globe, you don’t have to worry about your benefits – they’ll be extended so you can enjoy them when you are ready to travel again.” Here are the changes: Medallion Members: All Medallion Status for 2020 will be automatically extended for the 2021 Medallion Year. All Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) from 2020 are being rolled over to 2021 to qualify for 2022 Medallion Status. Delta Sky Club Individual and Executive memberships with an expiration of March 1, 2020, or later will receive six additional months of Delta Sky Club access beyond their expiration date. Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Members: If you have one of the following in your SkyMiles profile “My Wallet” that is valid now or has expired since March 1, 2020, we are extending the expiration dates to give you additional time to enjoy your benefits: SkyMiles Members: If you have one of the following in your SkyMiles profile “My Wallet” that is valid now or has expired since March 1, 2020, we are extending the expiration dates to give you additional time to enjoy your benefits: The updates will happen automatically over the coming weeks, with no action needed from customers, Delta said. “We are continuously monitoring how coronavirus impacts travel and will make additional adjustments to support our customers’ needs as the pandemic evolves,” said Dube. Read more here. U.S. cases soar past 337,000, including more than 9,600 deaths Update 12:43 a.m. EDT April 6: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 337,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands early Monday. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 337,620 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 9,643 deaths. Worldwide, there are 1,274,923 confirmed cases and 69,479 deaths from the virus. U.S. cases outnumber those in any other nation, including the 131,646 reported in Spain and the 128,948 confirmed in Italy. Of the confirmed deaths in the U.S., 4,159 have occurred in New York, 917 in New Jersey, 617 in Michigan and 477 in Louisiana. In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest-hit with at least 123,160 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 37,505, Michigan with 15,718 and California with 15,154. Five other states have each confirmed at least 10,000 novel coronavirus cases, including: • Louisiana: 13,010, including 477 deaths • Massachusetts: 12,500, including 231 deaths • Florida: 12,350, including 221 deaths • Pennsylvania: 11,589, including 151 deaths • Illinois: 11,259, including 274 deaths The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The Good Hands People plan to put money back in their customers’ hands. Insurance giant Allstate announced Monday that it would return more than $600 million in auto insurance premiums to customers, who have been driving less as states have implemented stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to battle the coronavirus. The company announced on its website that customers who own Allstate, Esurance and Encompass auto insurance policies will receive 15% of their monthly premiums in April and May. Customers will receive the money through a credit to their bank account, credit card or Allstate account, the company said. In a news release, Allstate said the fastest way to receive the payback is to use the company’s mobile application. 'Allstate has been helping customers overcome catastrophes for 89 years since our purpose is to make sure they are in Good Hands. We have learned to move quickly and put people first,” Tom Wilson, Allstate’s CEO, said in a statement. “This crisis is pervasive. Given an unprecedented decline in driving, customers will receive a Shelter-in-Place payback of more than $600 million over the next two months. 'This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents. We are also providing free identity protection for the rest of the year to all U.S residents who sign up, since our lives have become more digital.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance late Friday concerning the wearing of cloth face masks while out in public. The CDC, according to President Donald Trump, said that people, when going to public locations, should now wear “non-medical, cloth face coverings.” The action is voluntary, Trump said in his afternoon press briefing. Since the beginning of the battle against COVID-19, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said that people didn’t need to wear masks unless they were sick and coughing, The New York Times reported prior to Trump’s announcement. Thursday evening, Trump had said his administration would have regulations when it came to the general population and the wearing of masks. Some opportunities for wearing masks while in public would be when going to pharmacies and grocery stores, the Times reported. Many people may now be looking for ways to make their own personal protective equipment or to make PPE for those working the front lines. There are many designs to make, from no-sew options to ones that need some needle and thread. No Sew Supplies: A bandanna or piece of finished cloth Hair elastics Sewn versions Supplies: Paper, to make a pattern Cotton fabric Fusible interfacing Elastic Pins Sewing machine The New York Times has an alternate pattern. Click here for step by step instructions. Kaiser Permanente has also shared a design approved by the health system for donation to hospitals, The Washington Post reported.
  • Many restaurant workers have found themselves out of a job as the country continues to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with restaurants going dark while everyone stays home, either by choice or by order of their state government, those workers were suddenly without pay. The National Restaurant Association has set up the Restaurant Employee Relief fund to give grants of $500 per person to anyone who is eligible and applies. But not all is going as planned. The server hosting the application process couldn’t take the traffic and was quickly overwhelmed, according to a message on the group’s Twitter page. “We are deeply humbled by and grateful for the opportunity to provide support to restaurant employees. Almost immediately after opening the application process, extremely high user volume overwhelmed the application platform. We are continuing to upgrade our system to improve site functionality and expand capacity,' the group said on the application website. To be eligible, workers had to work either part-time or full-time for at least 90 days in the past year with their primary income coming from the restaurant industry. They had to either have a decrease in wages or job loss on or after March 10. The money can be used for rent or mortgage payments, car payments or other transportation costs, utilities, child care, student loans, groceries or medical bills, the group said on its website. The association said those in need of help should check back at noon EST Monday for an update. Guy Fieri is one of the restaurant owners and operators trying to give back to industry workers. He said the goal of the group is to get $100 million in donations, ABC News reported when his participation was announced last week. Experts say five to seven million restaurant workers could be out of work over the next three months, according to ABC News.
  • Working out at the gym has been impossible because of the coronavirus pandemic, but an Ohio man found a way to solve that weighty problem. He built a gym in his yard. Zachary Skidmore, who lives east of Cincinnati, took matters into his own hands and built what he calls a “lumber jacked gym,' WCMH reported. Skidmore posted a video to his Facebook page, showing off his homemade his gym -- complete with a treadmill, leg press, shoulder press and dumbbells, the television station reported. Skidmore created his gym out of wood. “So my gym closed. So, I grabbed a chain saw and went to work,” Skidmore wrote on Facebook. “I managed to satisfy my hunger to work out.” Skidmore said it took him 60 hours over a two-week period to build his makeshift gym. It looks like he is going to keep in shape with no problem.