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Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020
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Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020

AJC reporter David Wickert asked readers how they would solve Atlanta's traffic mess if given a magic wand. Most who responded said mass transit needs to be expanded, not just to outlying counties but also throughout the state. One reader was quite blunt with her solution: "Get your butt on a bus." More than a few people would create tunnels so drivers who don't need to stop in Atlanta can avoid the area. One reader would better enforce the HOT lanes. Two words: "Ziplines everywhere!"

Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020

Keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard because people have a tendency to set goals that are either too lofty or too broad. Losing 25 pounds and getting a cheese-grater six-pack (make it eight, no, 10) are hard for most to achieve. But simply committing to living a healthier lifestyle might allow for too many progress-stifling mistakes. Since this is the “Gridlock Guy” column and not “Diet Dude,” let’s set a goal that all Atlanta motorists can achieve.

» RELATED: Gridlock Guy: DUI death rates and the easy options to get home safely

Say this together: “I will not put people’s lives in danger just to avoid a delay.” Let me explain my focus on this heavy but simple goal.

On Monday, December 30, we brought the WSB Skycopter to a crash scene between Newnan and Palmetto. Early-morning emergency pothole repair had caused a backup on I-85/northbound near Highway 154 (Exit 51), and just as that had cleared, a vehicle flipped over in the tail end of the slow traffic. Crashes often happen when drivers hit delays unexpectedly and take seemingly evasive action.

As the scene began to clear, police, a wrecker, and a GDOT CHAMP unit began packing equipment and leaving. The CHAMP operator had a trail of cones diagonally set in the two left lanes, tapering up to the crash scene. As he walked back, by himself, stacking cone after cone, cars started whizzing right by him in the newly-opening lanes.

» RELATED: Remembering WSB’s Pete Combs and the I-85 plane landing

The two right lanes had been open for a long time, so drivers easily could have gotten over early, slowed just a little bit, and left a safe bubble for the CHAMP operator to finish the job. But selfishness, tunnel vision, and “Hey, they’re doing it, so it must be okay” groupthink put the CHAMP operator in danger.

Then, to add extreme insult to near-injury, one obviously extremely important sports-car driver passed the CHAMP unit on the left shoulder. That narrow patch between the CHAMP truck and the wall seemed the perfect outlet to squirt past for this motorist. Unreal.

Later that same day, 511 Georgia, the organization that dispatches HERO and CHAMP units and manages traffic incidents all over the state, tweeted a disturbing video.

» RELATED: Gridlock Guy: The urbanist view on street design

The clip shows a driver choosing to avoid delays in one direction of I-985 by driving on the shoulder in the opposite direction of travel. Yes, this hurried commuter figured that driving the wrong way on an interstate and putting their lives and those of others in serious peril was better than getting stuck in a traffic jam.

Neither of these extraordinary lapses in judgment made headlines. The only way these daredevils (emphasis on devils) likely end up on the front page and in the A-section is if they injure or kill someone. So please take something away from the Metro section here: These stunts just simply are not worth the risk. Neither keeping a schedule nor avoiding an inconvenience is worth life and limb.

Commute preparation is key. Tune-in to Channel 2 Action News in the mornings before you leave for work and school and 95.5 WSB any time of day. Know where the unusual jams are before you get to them.

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Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020

Keep the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App running in the background on your smartphone as you drive. With all of the information out there, there is little excuse to be surprised by a traffic jam, unless a crash happens only a few minutes before you arrive.

This whole “Driving and not risking others’ lives” New Year’s resolution is the diet equivalent of “I will not eat an entire cake every single day.” But this commuting goal is specific and attainable. We’re setting an almost subterranean low bar here, yet people sadly will still trip over it.

Just because the homesick blues have us in a tizzy to get to point B, they don’t license us to risk the lives of first responders or our fellow motorists to get there. Cheers to a safe 2020 for us all!

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com

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  • 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.
  • Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, the first African American to play for the Washington Redskins, died Sunday, the team announced. He was 84. Mitchell, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, led the league in receiving yards twice and caught 65 touchdown passes during his career, which began in Cleveland in 1958 and ended with the Redskins in 1968. He finished with 14,078 total yards and 91 career touchdowns, including 18 rushing. After his retirement, Mitchell served as a Redskins scout and front office executive for 41 years, The Washington Post reported. “I was extremely saddened to hear the news about the passing of the great Bobby Mitchell,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “Bobby was a Hall of Fame player and executive and represented the Washington Redskins organization with integrity for over 50 years. His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met. Not only was he one of the most influential individuals in franchise history, but he was also one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was a true class act and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Gwen and the entire Mitchell family during this time.” Mitchell, born June 6, 1935, grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and attended the University of Illinois. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round of the NFL draft and played halfback, sharing running duties with Jim Brown, ESPN reported. Mitchell was traded to Washington with Leroy Jackson for Ernie Davis in 1962 and led the league in receiving for the first of two consecutive seasons. He made the Pro Bowl during his first three seasons in Washington. He also tied an NFL record with a 99-yard touchdown catch against the Browns, ESPN reported. Mitchell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983. In 2002, he was named one of the 70 greatest Redskins as part of the team’s 70th-anniversary celebration, the Post reported. Mitchell, along with Jackson and John Nisby, integrated the Redskins in 1962, as Washington was the final NFL team to break the color barrier. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall had said many fans preferred watching white players and would reject the Redskins if they had blacks on the roster, ESPN reported. He was wrong. In a 2003 interview with the Post, Mitchell said he wanted not only to be remembered as a trailblazer, but also as a great player. “I have to live with people always talking about me as the first black player against all my exploits,” Mitchell told the newspaper. “I’ve always been very upset that people always start with that. I don’t want to hear that, and yet I have to hear it constantly, and it overshadows everything I’ve done in the game.” 'The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Bobby Mitchell,” David Baker, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s president, said in a statement. “The game lost a true legend today. Bobby was an incredible player, a talented executive and a real gentleman to everyone with whom he worked or competed against. His wife Gwen and their entire family remain in our thoughts and prayers. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”
  • 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:  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.
  • A Texas hotel is offering free rooms to health care workers who want to continue working but also want to self-isolate from their families during the coronavirus pandemic. \The My Place Hotel, in Lubbock, is reaching out to the medical community, providing rooms with kitchens and a full-size refrigerator, KJTV reported. “We’re all making sacrifices during this unusual time, but when you think of a group of people, it’s hard to think of a group that’s making a bigger sacrifice right now than our healthcare workers,” Kevin Nelson, co-owner of My Place Hotel in Lubbock, told the television station. “Many of them are not able to go home, either because they can’t risk being exposed because they’re an essential job, from their family, or they can’t risk exposing their family.' Nelson said he wants health care workers to have a home-like setting while they are away from their families. He told KJTV the hotel was about two-thirds full. “(The hotel) feels a little more like a residential setting more than a transient setting,' Nelson told the television station. “So we’ve had a lot of these health care workers with us over time, but now we just want to make a real push and let them know, not only are we available, but we’re going to make rooms available to them.”
  • There is a new option for people who want to get tested for coronavirus in Atlanta. Gov. Brian Kemp announced that Georgia is teaming up with CVS Health to open a coronavirus drive-thru testing site at Georgia Tech. Starting Monday, CVS will be operating drive-thru rapid COVID-19 testing, offered by Abbott Laboratories. At full capacity, the site will be able to conduct up to 1,000 tests per day. “Increased access to rapid testing remains one of our top priorities in order to identify more cases, get Georgians the care they need, and prevent further infection in our communities,” Kemp said. “This unique, public-private partnership will strengthen our testing capability as we continue to take the fight to COVID-19 in Georgia, and we are grateful for CVS Health’s support to stop the spread of the virus.”  People will need to be pre-screened online and register for a test in advance at www.CVS.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.  Address & Hours of Operation:  352 Peachtree Place, Atlanta, GA, 30332  Drive-through testing, by appointment, will be open seven days a week:  Monday-Friday: 9 AM – 6 PM  Saturday: 10 AM – 5 PM  Sunday: 10 AM – 4 PM  Commonly Asked Questions:  What is the registration process?  Rapid COVID-19 testing will be available to eligible individuals who meet criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to state residency and age guidelines. Patients will need to pre-register in advance on-line at CVS.com in order to schedule a same-day time slot to be tested.  When patients arrive at the test site, they are required stay in their vehicle. Team members on site will check their registration and direct them through the testing process.  For more information about test site locations, hours of operations, and how to register for a test, please visit https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.  How much will the tests cost for individuals?  Testing is currently available at no charge to the public.  How long will the process take per patient? How long will it take to get the results?  The process will take approximately 30 minutes from the swab to the results.  Will walk-up testing be allowed for those who don’t have cars?  No, for the safety of patients and health care providers on site, testing is limited to drive-through testing only.  Can anyone drive up and get a test?  No, patients will need to register and verify their eligibility for testing. Once they have done so, the patient will be provided with an appointment window online.  READ MORE HERE.
  • Sherwin-Williams is the latest company to help those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic stay healthy. The company, which is based in Cleveland, has donated 250,000 masks, gloves and lab coats, WJW reported. Now it’s adding hand sanitizer to its list of tools being used in the fight against coronavirus, as well as providing coatings for equipment like ventilators, oxygen tanks and hospital bed frames, WJW reported. The sanitizer will also be donated to those who need it, WEWS reported. In Indiana, the company provided 5,000 N95 masks and 1,500 gloves that were to be distributed by the Indiana National Guard and other state agencies, WBIW reported. In Pennsylvania, Sherwin-Williams gave 7,500 masks and 2,500 gloves to hospitals in the Philadelphia area, WHTM reported.