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Education

Whats New on Netflix in March 2021

Illustration for article titled What's New on Netflix in March 2021

Screenshot: Operation Varsity Blues/Netflix

In the absence of broadly appealing new films and TV series (no Oscar hopefuls this month, I’m afraid), Netflix appears to be looking to the podcast market to figure out how to keep its massive subscriber base happy. Its new offerings in March include a host of documentary series and specials that I would totally listen to, were they podcasts. Will I watch? Well, I will not. (I haven’t even seen Ted Lasso yet.) But you might.

Operation: Varsity Blues (March 17) is sure to draw eyeballs, fascinated as we all were by the college admissions scandal that toppled such titans of culture as Felicity Huffman, Aunt Becky from Full House, and the fashion mogul who once designed a paper towel holder I bought at Target. Everyone is still pissed at the way these already-hads manipulated a system already weighted in their favor to get their kids into “good” colleges, and with good cause. The documentary feature comes from some of the same team that produced early pandemic sensation Tiger King.

Murder Among the Mormons (March 3) is the kind of lightly exploitative true-crime story that seems like it already was a podcast you subscribed to last year but forgot to listen to. It delves into a rash of bombings that terrorized Salt Lake City in the mid-1980s.

And an inspiring story of perseverance in the Hoop Dreams mold, Last Chance U: Basketball (March 10) is a spinoff from Netflix’s long-running series Last Chance U. It shifts the focus from football to collegiate basketball players who have struggled in their lives and studies and must play at the junior college level if they hope to get back into Division play.

If you prefer some more fiction in your TV viewing diet, I’m personally excited to see how well the Pacific Rim film series translates to anime in Pacific Rim: The Black, launching March 4 (giant robots in anime? It just might work!). The Irregulars (March 26) has great Buffy/Sabrina potential: a series about young paranormal crime fighters based on Sherlock Holmes’ famed “Baker Street Irregulars.”And then there’s Moxie (March 3), a dramedy film about a girl who launches a ‘zine to expose the sexism at her high school, which sounds pretty culturally relevant and is also the directorial debut of one Amy Poehler.

Here’s everything else coming to and leaving Netflix in March 2021.

What’s coming to Netflix in March 2021

Coming Soon (no date announced)

March 1

  • Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell — Netflix Documentary
  • Batman Begins (2005)
  • Blanche Gardin: Bonne Nuit Blanche (2021)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
  • Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • DC Super Hero Girls: Season 1
  • I Am Legend (2007)
  • Invictus (2009)
  • Jason X (2001)
  • Killing Gunther (2017)
  • LEGO Marvel Spider-Man: Vexed by Venom (2019)
  • Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
  • Power Rangers Beast Morphers: S2
  • Rain Man (1988)
  • Step Up: Revolution (2012)
  • Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
  • Training Day (2001)
  • Two Weeks Notice (2002)
  • Year One (2009)

March 2

March 3

March 4

March 5

March 8

March 9

March 10

March 11

March 12

March 14

March 15

March 16

March 17

March 18

March 19

March 20

March 22

  • Navillera — Netflix Original (South Korea)
  • Philomena (2013)

March 23

March 24

March 25

March 26

  • A Week Away — Netflix Film (Trailer)
  • Bad Trip — Netflix Film
  • Big Time Rush: Seasons 1-4
  • Croupier (1998)
  • The Irregulars — Netflix Original (Great Britain)
  • Magic for Humans by Mago Pop — Netflix Original
  • Nailed It!: Double Trouble — Netflix Original

March 29

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
  • Rainbow High: Season 1

March 30

  • 7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story (2020)
  • Octonauts & the Ring of Fire — Netflix Family (Great Britain)

March 31

  • At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
  • Haunted: Latin America — Netflix Original

What’s leaving Netflix in March 2021

Leaving March 3

Leaving March 7

  • Hunter X Hunter (2011): Seasons 1-3

Leaving March 8

  • Apollo 18 (2011)
  • The Young Offenders (2016)

Leaving March 9

  • November Criminals (2017)
  • The Boss’s Daughter (2015)

Leaving March 10

  • Last Ferry (2019)
  • Summer Night (2019)

Leaving March 13

  • Spring Breakers (2012)
  • The Outsider (2019)

Leaving March 14

  • Aftermath (2017)
  • Marvel & ESPN Films Present: 1 of 1: Genesis
  • The Assignment (2016)
  • The Student (2017)

Leaving March 15

Leaving March 16

  • Deep Undercover: Collections 1-3
  • Love Dot Com: The Social Experiment (2019)
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Leaving March 17

  • All About Nina (2018)
  • Come and Find Me (2016)

Leaving March 20

  • Conor McGregor: Notorious (2017)

Leaving March 22

  • Agatha and the Truth of Murder (2018)
  • I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011)

Leaving March 24

  • USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)

Leaving March 25

  • Blood Father (2016)
  • The Hurricane Heist (2018)

Leaving March 26

Leaving March 27

Leaving March 30

  • Extras: Seasons 1-2
  • Killing Them Softly (2012)
  • London Spy: Season 1
  • The House That Made Me: Seasons 1-3

Leaving March 31

  • Arthur (2011)
  • Chappaquiddick (2017)
  • Enter the Dragon (1973)
  • God’s Not Dead (2014)
  • Hedgehogs (2016)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
  • Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
  • Molly’s Game (2017)
  • Money Talks (1997)
  • School Daze (1988)
  • Secret in Their Eyes (2015)
  • Sex and the City: The Movie (2008)
  • Sex and the City 2 (2010)
  • Sinister Circle (2017)
  • Skin Wars: Seasons 1-3
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • The Bye Bye Man (2017)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
  • The Prince & Me (2004)
  • Weeds: Seasons 1-7
Categories
Education

COVID safety: Unvaccinated teachers like me have reason to worry about reopening schools

First of all, please don’t ask when schools are going to “reopen” or when teachers are going back to work.  

We have not stopped working. 

I have more than 170 students to teach. I grade between 80 and 120 assignments each night. I prepare lessons and monitor student learning on Zoom and by corresponding with students around the clock, answering their questions and reassuring them through their traumas, including now the ravages of COVID-19 in their community and families. I’ve written the usual dozens of college recommendations this year and helped dozens of seniors write their personal statements for college admissions and scholarships. 

I miss teaching in person and sometimes, late at night, find myself sadly looking through old photographs of my classroom and the students who used to occupy it. Like many teachers, I am eager to return to a classroom, though I know it won’t be anything like used to be — and I fear that the impatience of some parents and cable news pundits and politicians and a lot of other people will compel us all back without adequate safety measures. 

An emergency our leaders ignored

I do not know what public schools are like everywhere, but I know that where I teach, we have never had regularly sanitized classrooms and we have never had a reliable system of air circulation or filtration. 

It would have been nice to have always had safe and healthy working conditions, but many teachers never have. Forgive us for being skeptical when we are assured that we can be made safe enough to forgo a vaccination that might save us from permanent health damage or death were we to be exposed to the virus. 

I sympathize with parents, especially those with elementary and middle school students. My kids are all adults now, and I can hardly imagine what it would have been like having them all home for a year trying to manage online learning. This is an emergency — for the growth and development of students and the economic prospects and sanity of parents. It has been an emergency since last March and, unfortunately, our leaders have refused to treat it as such. 

Students he has never met in person say goodbye and thank you to teacher Larry Strauss on Dec. 18, 2020, the end of their fall semester.

We should have invested the resources necessary to safely have in-person school, at least for the youngest and most challenged and vulnerable students. But we didn’t, and so we are now playing catch-up. Many of the upgrades schools need for a safe return would represent reasonable long-term investment in educating our children, and yet here we are in Year 2 of a global pandemic, still debating waiting. 

Cable news hosts and their guests recently have pitted guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against the demands of our unions, specifically citing the CDC claim that vaccinating teachers is beneficial but not essential for the safe reopening of school campuses for in-person instruction. Then they criticize the Biden administration for not pressuring school districts and shaming unions for not agreeing to return to in-person instruction before teachers have been vaccinated. 

We’re on our own:National leaders fail schools on COVID tests and opening safely 

One argument, made by CNN’s Erin Burnett and others, is that because the CDC’s guidelines are based on science, any insistence on vaccinating teachers must be at odds with science — which no self-respecting educator ought to be. 

Is reopening K-12 public schools a purely a scientific undertaking? How much do the scientists understand about what goes on inside our buildings? 

How many seventh-grade teachers were consulted? 

How realistic is the strict discipline of social distancing and mask compliance needed for nonvaccinated people enclosed in classrooms? 

How many classrooms have the kind of ventilation and air circulation we will need? 

How exactly are we going to reduce class size by up to 70%? 

How many politicians and school boards and school districts are we being asked to trust? 

What are the COVID-19 protocols for unvaccinated teachers breaking up fights in a hallway or a bathroom?  

How does a teacher maintain a 6-foot distance from a 6-year-old who is having an emotional breakdown and needs a hug?  

Respect teachers collectively 

Just wondering. Because it seems to me that vaccinating all the teachers is immensely easier, cheaper and faster than fixing all the other problems caused by underfunding, mismanagement and corruption in so many of our public schools. 

I do not always agree with all my fellow rank-and-file teachers or with the union leadership, but I appreciate the protection that collective bargaining affords us, and I am well aware of the peril of workers, teachers or anyone else who does not have the protection of a union. 

A plan of action:We need national summer school to help kids recover from learning lost in COVID pandemic

A lot of us probably would go back without a vaccine and hope for the best, because we love our students and miss them and have always taken risks for their safety and well-being. Some of my colleagues and I drive students home late at night after school events; we’ve confronted armed intruders in our building and chased them off and even intervened on the street when we’ve seen our students in danger. In our nation’s shameful and awful history of school shootings, there isn’t a single example of a teacher cowering behind their students or fleeing for their own safety. We die at a much higher rate from school shooters — as we should. And our commitment to our students’ well-being makes us easy marks for politicians and school districts that don’t care about protecting any of us when it is politically expedient. 

So please do not praise the teachers for our hard work and commitment and talent, and then attack the unions we make up.  

If you don’t respect us collectively, you aren’t appreciating us individually. 

Larry Strauss has been a high school English teacher in South Los Angeles since 1992. He is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and the author of more than a dozen books, most recently “Students First and Other Lies: Straight Talk From a Veteran Teacher” and, on audio, “Now’s the Time” (narrated by Kim Fields). Follow him on Twitter: @LarryStrauss

Categories
Education

Who cares about the Ivy League?

There’s a hell of a lot that’s broken and messed up about our education system here in the United States. But far too much of our discourse about education focuses on a handful of tiny elite private universities, mostly located in the Northeast.

Everyone seems to care a whole lot about the Ivy League. When a bunch of Ivies (and a few other schools) were found to have sold spots to a few rich kids back in 2019, it caused an unholy shitstorm of rage. A vast amount of ink has been spilled over that lawsuit alleging anti-Asian discrimination at Harvard. When Cornell changes the name of its English department to the Department of Literatures in English (apparently because the latter is less colonialist or something), it draws national commentary.

Over at Slow Boring, Matt Yglesias writes that if Ivies really wanted to promote social justice, they would let in more poor kids instead of fiddling with the name of the English department. Of course, he’s right. Elite schools let in mostly rich kids, because they have every incentive to do so. These schools all give out need-based financial aid, which means that rich kids are a profit center (they pay full price), while poor kids are a cost center (they get a free ride). Even a nonprofit business likes to maximize profit centers and minimize cost centers, so of course the Ivies try their hardest to let in rich kids. Also, given America’s low economic mobility, rich kids are highly likely to become rich adults, and rich adults give big gifts to their alma maters — another important source of income for top schools. So of course these schools aren’t trying to educate the poor. What incentive do they have to do so?

But on a more fundamental level, how much does any of this really matter? How central are the Ivies and other elite private schools to our educational system in the U.S.? And how much would it change our country if they changed their admissions policies?

My answer: Not very.

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Elite private schools schools are tiny

The total undergraduate enrollment at the eight Ivy League schools for the Class of 2024, according to Statista, is 16,648. Multiplying that by four and then multiplying by 1.5 to add in Stanford, Duke, MIT and Caltech gives us a rough estimate of about 100,000 undergraduates at top private schools in the U.S. That might sound like a lot, but it’s compared to 22 million total undergraduates in the country. In other words, top private schools are educating less than half a percent of Americans. The entire Harvard undergrad student body could fit into the University of Michigan football stadium more than 15 times over.

Now, this may be a very elite and important half a percent, but it’s still just a small sliver of each generation. Ask yourself if changing the composition of that half percent is going to change educational outcomes for the vast majority of Americans. The answer is “no”. And now realize that all of the compositional changes that people are calling for — more poor kids, fewer legacy admits, more diversity, less discrimination against Asians, and so on — are changes on the margin. Even if implemented, they would affect only a modest fraction of half a percent.

There is no chance that changing the composition of the Ivy League student body will effect anything remotely resembling a broad-based change in American educational inequality, opportunity, or aggregate outcomes. Zero. None.

Now, I do think that Ivies and pseudo-Ivies should let in a lot more students than they do. I also think they’re unlikely to do that, because the selectivity of their admissions allows them to pump up their prestige, allowing them to charge higher headline tuition to rich kids, to hire top administrators, and generally to think of themselves as elite fancy people. But even if Ivies did double their class sizes, it would mean they’d be educating 0.9% of Americans instead of 0.45%. It would still not represent a broad-based expansion of educational opportunity.

Elite private schools are unlikely to change your destiny

As Matt notes, students at Ivy League schools don’t obviously display a lot of social mobility. This is because most of them are rich kids, and most rich kids become rich adults. The Equality of Opportunity Project calculates social mobility scores for colleges, based on how many low-income kids they admit (“access” and how likely low-income kids are to become high-income adults after graduating from that school (“success rate”). The winners are mostly a bunch of state schools that educate working-class locals. No Ivy or pseudo-Ivy appears on the list.

More than half of Stony Brook students from the bottom 20% of the income distribution make it to the top 20%! That’s amazing!

Now, maybe you think this methodology is bad, and they should have looked at other stuff, like graduation rates, indebtedness, time to graduation, and so on. U.S. News has its own ranking that takes some of these things into account, and their top performers are a bunch of public colleges and HBCUs that tend to educate a bunch of Hispanic and Black kids. CollegeNET has yet another ranking, and it’s dominated by Cal State and CUNY. No elite private schools are ranked highly on any of these lists.

Of course, when you look at college outcomes, you always have to be careful to separate correlation from causation. College does have substantial causal effects on income overall, but how much does it matter whether you go to a fancy school? Does getting into Harvard actually change your destiny, relative to going to a less elite university?

Probably not a heck of a lot. Twenty years ago, economists Stacy Berg Dale and Alan B. Krueger compared students who go to elite schools to those who are admitted to elite schools but choose to go elsewhere. They found that on average, it doesn’t make a difference to future earnings! They do find an effect from students from the poorest family backgrounds, but the income boost is around 7%. In 2011 the authors followed up with a paper that tracked students over the long term, and found the same thing. In 2018, economists Suqin Ge, Elliott Isaac and Amalia Miller did a similar paper with better data, and found no income boost for men (but they did find a fairly substantial effect for married women).

A 7% income boost for poor kids isn’t nothing. But it drives home how very little about American equality or opportunity would be altered by a marginal change in the composition of these tiny elite schools’ student bodies. And it also explains why even if the Ivies aren’t going to quadruple their enrollment, which they’re not going to do, it wouldn’t give a huge boost to U.S. educational quality — these schools aren’t in the business of providing a leg up out of the working class, they’re in the business of being fancy, and they’re in that business for themselves.

Yes, it would be good if Harvard et al. let in a lot more poor kids. But if we really want to boost opportunity for the mass of working-class Americans, we should be worrying more about expanding access to places like UC Riverside, SUNY Stony Brook, Cal State Fresno, and so on.

What is the point of elite colleges?

If it’s not broad-based educational uplift, what is the economic rationale for having a bunch of educational resources and top students concentrated in a few small elite schools? The rationale is matching. Matching means the country’s most talented people into the country’s most important jobs, so that they’ll do those jobs better than less talented people would have.

But how powerful is this matching effect? A third of Harvard’s Class of 2015 went into finance or consulting. Do we really think that making sure the next generation of bankers and management consultants are composed of the country’s best and brightest is a major economic priority? OK, maybe that’s unfair — maybe they only work those jobs for a few years, or maybe the other 2/3 of Harvardians go to the places where we really need the very top talent, like the CDC or Texas utility regulators or vaccine research.

But still, we need to question the importance of matching in our society. Tyler Cowen makes a good case in his book The Complacent Class that America has over-indexed on sorting and stratification in our society. There’s probably diminishing returns to putting all the top people in one room or on one team. It means ideas spread around less, and the top people have less of a chance to educate others. It’s like a gifted-and-talented program for all of society, but instead of one hour a day it’s forever, and instead of just extracting the nerds it extracts the rich kids too.

And there’s a strong possibility that our obsession with matching has negative side effects — when all the talented and rich people befriend and marry all the other talented and rich people, the rest of society is left to sort of fend for itself. What’s more, even the commentariat doesn’t seem to realize what a problem this is, possibly because so many of us went to those top schools too.

A creeping, toxic elitism

I don’t want to veer too far into cultural hand-waving here, but it seems like obsession with the Ivy League is a symptom of a creeping, toxic elitism that has permeated American society over the last four decades. We’re obsessed with high-status winner-take-all jobs. Our economy is dominated by superstar companies. The cult of Hollywood celebrities may have given way to the cult of Instagram influencers and YouTube stars, but it’s still all about the glittering few. Even the people who spend all day yelling about Elon Musk on Twitter are still spending all day…thinking about Elon Musk. It’s as if the inequality of income and wealth is mirrored in a general inequality of status, where only a few people and institutions matter and everyone else is left to watch the glitterati from the cheap seats.

I don’t know how we reverse this trend. I don’t know how the everyperson becomes central to our culture and our policy and our visions of our own lives again. Maybe redistribution will do the trick. But I think one small piece of it is for the commentariat (and that includes me) to focus less on the Harvards and Stanfords of the world, and more on the Cal State Long Beaches and the SUNY Stony Brooks. Already I like what the Biden administration is doing, focusing more resources on HBCUs and community colleges. Perhaps the old man is onto something.


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Education

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Categories
Education

So You Wanna Be a Chef (2010)

©photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman (click photo to visit her blog)

[Note: Shuna, aka eggbeater, has covered this subject well and honestly in many posts, notably the culinary school question.  I address it in the intro to the new paperback of Making of a Chef and on my FAQ page. But when I read Bourdain’s take in his most recent book, Medium Raw, I wanted to make sure it reached as many people as possible.  The kind folks at Harper Collins rarely give away more than 500 words of a book they’re charging money for; I’m very grateful to them, and to Tony, for letting me reprint it here (I’ve bold-faced piquant ideas in lieu of call-outs to keep the unmotivated enticed). I’ll review the book later in the week.  But this chapter is for all the people … thinking.  Moms and Dads of young cook wannabes, you need to read this, too, and you need to make sure your kid does too.]

by Anthony Bourdain

(from Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook)

I am frequently asked by aspiring chefs, dreamers young and old, attracted by the lure of slowly melting shallots and caramelizing pork belly, or delusions of Food Network stardom, if they should go to culinary school. I usually give a long, thoughtful, and qualified answer.

But the short answer is “no.”

Let me save you some money. I was in the restaurant business for twenty-eight years—much of that time as an employer. I am myself a graduate of the finest and most expensive culinary school in the country, the CIA, and am as well a frequent visitor and speaker at other culinary schools. Over the last nine years, I have met and heard from many culinary students on my travels, have watched them encounter triumphs and disappointments. I have seen the dream realized, and— more frequently—I have seen the dream die.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you that culinary school is a bad thing. It surely is not. I’m saying that you, reading this, right now, would probably be ill-advised to attend—and are, in all likelihood, unsuited for The Life in any case. Particularly if you’re any kind of normal.

But let’s say you’re determined. You’re planning on taking out a student loan and taking on a huge amount of debt. In many cases, from lenders associated with—or recommended by—your local culinary school. Ask yourself first: is this culinary school even any good? If you’re not going to the Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales, or the French Culinary Institute, you should investigate this matter even more intently, because the fact is, when you graduate from the Gomer County Technical College of Culinary Arts, nobody hiring in the big leagues is going to give a shit. A degree from the best culinary schools is no guarantee of a good job. A degree from anywhere less than the best schools will probably be less helpful than the work experience you could have had, had you been out there in the industry all that time.

You’re about to take on $40,000 to $60,000 in debt training for an industry where—if you are lucky—you will, for the first few years, be making $10 to $12 dollars an hour. In fact, if you are really, really lucky—one of the few supremely blessed with talent, ability, and great connections deemed worthy enough to recommend you to one of the great kitchens of Europe or New York for your post-school apprenticeship—you will essentially be making nothing for the first couple of years. You will, once living expenses are factored in, probably be paying for the experience.

Should you be fortunate enough to be among the one-in-a-million young cooks taken on at a famous and respected restaurant like Arzak, in Spain (for example), this will truly be time and money well spent. If you perform well, you will return home never again needing a résumé. In this case, the investment of all your time and money and hard work will have paid off.

But the minute you graduate from school—unless you have a deep-pocketed Mommy and Daddy or substantial savings—you’re already up against the wall. Two nearly unpaid years wandering Europe or New York, learning from the masters, is rarely an option. You need to make money NOW. If that imperative prevails, requiring that you work immediately, for whomever will have you—once you embark on a career dictated by the need for immediate cash flow, it never gets any easier to get off the treadmill. The more money you get paid straight out of school, the less likely you are to ever run off and do a stage in the great kitchens of the world. Time cooking at Applebee’s may get you paid—but it’s a period best left blank on the résumé if you’re planning on ever moving to the bigs. It may just as well have never happened. Country clubs? Hotel kitchens? These are likely employers straight out of school—and they promise a pretty decent, relatively stable career if you do well. It’s a good living—with (unlike most of the restaurant business) reasonable hours and working conditions—and most hotels and country clubs offer the considerable advantage of health insurance and benefits. But that sector of the trade is like joining the mafia. Once you enter the warm fold of their institutional embrace, it’s unlikely you’ll ever leave. Once in—rarely out.

If it matters to you, watch groups of chefs at food and wine festivals—or wherever industry people congregate and drink together after work. Observe their behaviors—as if spying on animals in the wild. Notice the hotel and country club chefs approach the pack. Immediately, the eyes of the pack will glaze over a little bit at the point of introduction. The hotel or country club species will be marginalized, shunted to the outside of the alpha animals. With jobs and lives that are widely viewed as being cushier and more secure, they enjoy less prestige—and less respect.

You could, of course, opt for the “private chef” route upon graduating. But know that for people in the industry, the words “private” and “chef” just don’t go together. To real chefs, such a concept doesn’t even exist. A private “chef” is domestic help, period. A glorified butler. Somewhere slightly below “food stylist” and above “consultant” on the food chain. It’s where the goofs who wasted a lot of money on a culinary education only to find out they couldn’t hack it in the real world end up.

How old are you?  Nobody will tell you this, but I will: If you’re thirty-two years old and considering a career in professional kitchens? If you’re wondering if, perhaps, you are too old? Let me answer that question for you: Yes. You are too old.

If you’re planning on spending big bucks to go to culinary school at your age, you’d better be doing it for love—a love, by the way, that will be, almost without a doubt, unreciprocated.

By the time you get out of school—at thirty-four, even if you’re fucking Escoffier—you will have precious few useful years left to you in the grind of real-world working kitchens. That’s if you’re lucky enough to even get a job.

At thirty-four, you will immediately be “Grandpa” or “Grandma” to the other—inevitably much, much younger, faster-moving, more physically fit—cooks in residence. The chef—also probably much younger—will view you with suspicion, as experience has taught him that older cooks are often dangerously set in their ways, resistant to instruction from their juniors, generally slower, more likely to complain, get injured, call in sick, and come with inconvenient baggage like “normal” family lives and responsibilities outside of the kitchen. Kitchen crews work best and happiest when they are tight—when they operate like a long-touring rock band—and chances are, you will be viewed, upon showing up with your knife roll and your résumé—as simply not being a good fit, a dangerous leap of faith, hope, or charity by whoever was dumb enough to take a chance on you. That’s harsh. But it’s what they’ll be thinking.

Am I too fat to be a chef? Another question you should probably ask yourself.

This is something they don’t tell you at admissions to culinary school, either—and they should. They’re happy to take your money if you’re five foot seven inches and two hundred fifty pounds, but what they don’t mention is that you will be at a terrible, terrible disadvantage when applying for a job in a busy kitchen. As chefs know (literally) in their bones (and joints), half the job for the first few years—if not the entirety of your career—involves running up and down stairs (quickly), carrying bus pans loaded with food, and making hundreds of deep-knee bends a night into low-boy refrigerators. In conditions of excruciatingly high heat and humidity of a kind that can cause young and superbly fit cooks to falter. There are the purely practical considerations as well: kitchen work areas—particularly behind the line— being necessarily tight and confined . . . Bluntly put, can the other cooks move easily around your fat ass? I’m only saying it. But any chef considering hiring you is thinking it. And you will have to live it.

If you think you might be too fat to hack it in a hot kitchen? You probably are too fat. You can get fat in a kitchen—over time, during a long and glorious career. But arriving fat from the get-go? That’s a hard—and narrow—row to hoe.

If you’re comforting yourself with the dictum “Never trust a thin chef,” don’t. Because no stupider thing has ever been said. Look at the crews of any really high-end restaurants and you’ll see a group of mostly whippet-thin, under-rested young pups with dark circles under their eyes: they look like escapees from a Japanese prison camp—and are expected to perform like the Green Berets.

If you’re not physically fit? Unless you’re planning on becoming a pastry chef, it is going to be very tough for you. Bad back? Flat feet? Respiratory problems? Eczema? Old knee injury from high school? It sure isn’t going to get any better in the kitchen.

Male, female, gay, straight, legal, illegal, country of origin—who cares? You can either cook an omelet or you can’t. You can either cook five hundred omelets in three hours—like you said you could, and like the job requires—or you can’t. There’s no lying in the kitchen. The restaurant kitchen may indeed be the last, glorious meritocracy—where anybody with the skills and the heart is welcomed. But if you’re old, or out of shape—or were never really certain about your chosen path in the first place—then you will surely and quickly be removed. Like a large organism’s natural antibodies fighting off an invading strain of bacteria, the life will slowly push you out or kill you off. Thus it is. Thus it shall always be.

The ideal progression for a nascent culinary career would be to, first, take a jump straight into the deep end of the pool. Long before student loans and culinary school, take the trouble to find out who you are.

Are you the type of person who likes the searing heat, the mad pace, the never-ending stress and melodrama, the low pay, probable lack of benefits, inequity and futility, the cuts and burns and damage to body and brain—the lack of anything resembling normal hours or a normal personal life?

Or are you like everybody else? A normal person?

Find out sooner rather than later. Work—for free, if necessary—in a busy kitchen. Any kitchen that will have you will do—in this case, a busy Applebee’s or T.G.I. Friday’s or any old place will be fine. Anybody who agrees to let your completely inexperienced ass into their kitchen for a few months—and then helpfully kicks it repeatedly and without let-up—will suffice. After six months of dishwashing, prep, acting as the bottom-rung piss-boy for a busy kitchen crew—usually while treated as only slightly more interesting than a mouse turd—if you still like the restaurant business and think you could be happy among the ranks of the damned? Then, welcome.

At this point, having established ahead of time that you are one fucked-up individual—that you’d never be happy in the normal world anyway—culinary school becomes a very good idea. But choose the best one possible. If nothing else, you’ll come out of culinary school with a baseline (knowledge and familiarity with techniques). The most obvious advantage of a culinary education is that from now on, chefs won’t have to take time out of their busy day to explain to you what a fucking “brunoise” is. Presumably, you’ll know what they mean if they shout across the room at you that you should braise those lamb necks. You’ll be able to break down a chicken, open an oyster, filet a fish. Knowing those things when you walk in the door is not absolutely necessary—but it sure fucking helps.

When you do get out of culinary school, try to work for as long as you can possibly afford in the very best kitchens that will have you—as far from home as you can travel. This is the most important and potentially invaluable period of your career. And where I fucked up mine.

I got out of culinary school and the world seemed my oyster. Right away, I got, by the standards of the day, what seemed to be a pretty good paying job. More to the point, I was having fun. I was working with my friends, getting high, getting laid, and, in general, convincing myself that I was quite brilliant and talented enough.

I was neither.

Rather than put in the time or effort—then, when I had the chance, to go work in really good kitchens—I casually and unthinkingly doomed myself to second-and (mostly) third-and fourth-tier restaurant kitchens forever. Soon there was no going back. No possibility of making less money. I got older, and the Beast that needed to be fed got bigger and more demanding—never less.

Suddenly it was ten years later, and I had a résumé that was, on close inspection, unimpressive at best. At worst, it told a story of fucked-up priorities and underachievement. The list of things I never learned to do well is still shocking, in retrospect. The simple fact is that I would be—and have always been—inadequate to the task of working in the kitchens of most of my friends, and it is something I will have to live with. It is also one of my greatest regrets. There’s a gulf the size of an ocean between adequate and finesse. There is, as well, a big difference between good work habits (which I have) and the kind of discipline required of a cook at Robuchon. What limited me forever were the decisions I made immediately after leaving culinary school.

That was my moment as a chef, as a potential adult, and I let it pass. For better or worse, the decisions I made then about what I was going to do, whom I was going to do it with and where, set me on the course I stayed on for the next twenty years. If I hadn’t enjoyed a freakish and unexpected success with Kitchen Confidential, I’d still be standing behind the stove of a good but never great restaurant at the age of fifty-three. I would be years behind in my taxes, still uninsured, with a mouthful of looming dental problems, a mountain of debt, and an ever more rapidly declining value as a cook.

If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go. Use every possible resource you have to work in the very best kitchens that will have you—however little (if anything) they pay—and relentlessly harangue every possible connection, every great chef whose kitchen offers a glimmer of hope of acceptance. Keep at it. A three-star chef friend in Europe reports receiving month after month of faxes from one aspiring apprentice cook—and responding with “no” each time. But finally he broke down, impressed by the kid’s unrelenting, never wavering determination. Money borrowed at this point in your life so that you can afford to travel and gain work experience in really good kitchens will arguably be better invested than any student loan. A culinary degree—while enormously helpful—is only helpful to a point. A year working at Mugaritz or L’Arpège or Arzak can transform your life—become a direct route to other great kitchens. All the great chefs know each other. Do right by one and they tend to hook you up with the others.

Which is to say: if you’re lucky enough to be able to do the above, do not fuck up.

Like I said, all the great chefs know each other.

Let me repeat, by the way, again, that I did none of the things above.

It’s a little sad sometimes when I look out at a bookstore audience and see young fans of Kitchen Confidential, for whom the book was a validation of their worst natures. I understand it, of course. And I’m happy they like me.

But I’m a little more comfortable when the readers are late-career hackers and journeymen, like I was when I wrote the book. I like that they relate to the highs and lows, the frustrations and absurdities, that they, too, can look back—with a mixture of nostalgia and very real regret—on sexual liaisons on cutting boards and flour sacks, late-night coke jags, the crazy camaraderie that seems to come only in the busiest hash-house restaurants—or failing ones. I wrote the book for them in the first place. And it’s too late for them anyway.

But the young culinary students, thousands and thousands of them—new generations of them every year, resplendent in their tattoos and piercings—I worry that some of them might have missed the point.

At no point in Kitchen Confidential, that I can find, does it say that cocaine or heroin were good ideas. In fact, given the book’s many episodes of pain, humiliation, and being constantly broke-ass, one would think it almost a cautionary tale. Yet, at readings and signings, I am frequently the inadvertent recipient of small packets of mysterious white powder; bindles of cocaine; fat, carefully rolled joints of local hydro, pressed into my palm or slipped into my pocket. These inevitably end up in the garbage—or handed over to a media escort. The white powders because I’m a recovered fucking addict—and the weed ’cause all I need is one joint, angel dust–laced by some psycho, to put me on TMZ, running buck-naked down some Milwaukee street with a helmet made from the stretched skin of a butchered terrier pulled down over my ears.  Smoking weed at the end of the day is nearly always a good idea—but I’d advise ambitious young cooks against sneaking a few drags mid-shift at Daniel. If you think smoking dope makes you more responsive to the urgent calls for food from your expeditor, then God bless you, you freak of nature you. If you’re anything like me, though, you’re probably only good for a bowl of Crunchberries and a Simpsons rerun.

On the other hand, if you’re stuck heating up breakfast burritos at Chili’s—or dunking deep-fried macaroni at TGI McFuckwad’s? Maybe you need that joint.

Treating despair with drugs and alcohol is a time-honored tradition—I’d just advise you to assess honestly if it’s really as bad and as intractable a situation as you think. Not to belabor the point, but if you look around you at the people you work with, many of them are—or will eventually be—alcoholics and drug abusers. All I’m saying is you might ask yourself now and again if there’s anything else you wanted to do in your life.

I haven’t done heroin in over twenty years, and it’s been a very long time as well since I found myself sweating and grinding my teeth to the sound of tweeting of birds outside my window.

There was and is nothing heroic about getting off coke and dope.

There’s those who do—and those who don’t.

I had other things I still wanted to do. And I saw that I wasn’t going to be doing shit when I was spending all my time and all my money on coke or dope—except more coke and dope.

I’m extremely skeptical of the “language of addiction.” I never saw heroin or cocaine as “my illness.” I saw them as some very bad choices that I walked knowingly into. I fucked myself—and, eventually, had to work hard to get myself un-fucked.

And I’m not going to tell you here how to live your life.

I’m just saying, I guess, that I got very lucky.

And luck is not a business model.

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Education

Mobile dining room, Gladys Knight, virtual dance marathon: News from around our 50 states

Alabama

Actress Julie Andrews sent a personal letter to Prattville Christian Academy theater students after the death of their director Joey B. Fine.

Prattville: Mary Poppins is well-known for swooping in unexpectedly to lift the spirits of young people in need – just what the woman who played her in 1964 has done for a group of Prattville Christian Academy students in mourning. Joey B. Fine, 48, who died in January from complications of COVID-19, was the founding pastor at Seasons Church in Prattville and Prattville Christian’s benefit play director. He’d been working with a student cast from grades 6-12 on a production of “Mary Poppins Jr.” “As high school students, for a lot of them this was their first big loss,” said Rebecca W. Thomas, marketing and communications director for PCA. After Fine’s death, a cast member’s parent had the idea to make contact with Andrews and, after days of research and many emails, reached Andrews’ manager. Soon afterwards, Andrews sent the PCA cast a personalized letter: “Hello Everybody! Greetings to you all. A little bird told me that you have been working on a special benefit production of ‘Mary Poppins.’ Great! I am sending you warmest wishes for success. Do it in honor of Mr. Fine. He must have been a really nice guy. Remember, also, to enjoy yourselves and give the audience the gift of this magical show. With love, Julie Andrews.”

Alaska

Anchorage: Public health officials said more than 58% of residents 65 and older have received a COVID-19 vaccination since distribution efforts began. State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said the state hopes to move the process along faster as more contagious and potentially deadly strains of the coronavirus emerge, Alaska’s News Source reports. “Right now, it’s sort of a race against the variants to get people vaccinated,” McLaughlin said. Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said Wednesday that the state wants more Alaskans 65 and older to receive vaccinations. “We still want to prioritize that group and, looking at these variants, we just want that group to be vaccinated in every way we possibly can,” Zink said during a video conference with community officials. “I mean, 58% is great, but it would be great to be even higher on that.” After vaccine appointments prioritized for older residents remained opened for several days, the state moved into the next tier of its distribution plan earlier this month. Zink said that “there was an intentional pause given the really high risk of morbidity and mortality in that group.” The new phase includes educators, some essential workers, and people living and working in congregate settings such as prisons and shelters.

Arizona

Phoenix: January was a lethal month in Arizona, with total deaths up by 66.5% over January 2020, preliminary state numbers show. The 9,481 deaths reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services for the month of January reflect the severity of the second COVID-19 pandemic wave. The death toll for January was higher than any single month of reported deaths in 2020, state numbers show. January’s death total nationwide of 95,020 was a pandemic record, according to Johns Hopkins University. In Arizona, coronavirus cases began surging in November and peaked Jan. 4, the latest state numbers say. Hospitalizations for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 in Arizona peaked Jan. 11. Deaths are a lagging indicator, meaning they typically spike several weeks after a rise in cases. Last month, the peak for known deaths that occurred on a single day was Jan. 18, with 167 known deaths on that day. January’s total Arizona death toll is a difference of 3,788 deaths over January 2020 and is similar to the number of known COVID-19 deaths reported in January, though the numbers could change. Arizona had one confirmed case of COVID-19 in January 2020 and no known deaths from the illness.

Arkansas

Little Rock: The number of coronavirus cases in the state rose by more than 280 on Sunday, and the death toll increased by nine, according to the Department of Health. The number of people hospitalized with the virus fell by 28 to 577. On Sunday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson visited a pharmacy in Bryant to discuss vaccine distribution. He had urged vaccine providers Friday to schedule extra hours over the weekend to make up for a slowdown because of last week’s snowstorms. The Arkansas Department of Health reported that more than 9,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses were given Sunday. “Today’s report shows the largest increase in vaccine distribution in over a week,” Hutchinson wrote in a tweet Sunday. “Our efforts to catch up on vaccine distribution this weekend are working.” More than 515,000 vaccine doses have been given in Arkansas. The seven-day rolling average of new cases has fallen during the past two weeks, from 1,737 per day to 443.6, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

California

Los Angeles: The state’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic remains alarmingly high, topping 49,000 over the weekend, even as the rates of new infections and hospitalizations continue to plummet. The number of patients in California hospitals with COVID-19 slipped below 7,000, a drop of more than a third over two weeks, the state Department of Public Health reported Sunday. The 6,760 new confirmed cases are more than 85% below the mid-December peak of about 54,000. Total cases are approaching 3.45 million. California reported another 408 deaths, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 49,105 – the highest in the nation. Despite the grim death count, the positivity rate for people being tested has been falling for weeks, which means fewer people will end up in hospitals. In Los Angeles County, the state’s most populous, the daily test positivity rate was 3.8% on Saturday, public health officials said. Epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford with the University of California, San Francisco said one of the reasons why cases are dropping so fast in California “is because of naturally acquired immunity,” mostly in the southern part of the state. He estimated 50% of Los Angeles County residents have been infected with the virus at some point.

Colorado

The interior of The Nook, a new Northern Colorado dining room on wheels.

Fort Collins: A pair of childhood friends is looking to solve a pandemic-related dining dilemma. As an answer to restaurant capacity restrictions and unforgiving winter weather, Sean Hudgens, 27, and Seth Pearson, 26, recently launched The Nook, a rentable mobile dining room built to rove Northern Colorado and offer restaurants a new outdoor dining option. The Nook, which Hudgens and Pearson built on an 80-square-foot trailer, is insulated, heated, and outfitted with modern fixtures, a table for six and a Bluetooth speaker for diners to play music on. They see it as a nonpermanent option for restaurants looking to offer a warm, COVID-19-safe dining space for single parties. “I know how hard it’s been for small-business owners but especially restaurant owners,” Hudgens said. “My hope is we can help them provide a spectacular experience for their clientele outside of the normal eating experience. We wanted it to be above and beyond on every level.” He said he got the idea from a mobile dining trailer at The Regional in Old Town Fort Collins. “I was thinking how cool it was that they had provided a trailer that allows people to enjoy food in a safe setting,” Hudgens said, and his concept allows different restaurant owners to share such a space. The Nook is available to book for $80 per day or $500 per week. You can follow its travels across Northern Colorado on Instagram.

Connecticut

Hartford: Most students in the city will return to school five days a week beginning March 1 as Connecticut’s COVID-19 cases continue to decline. Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said the decision announced Friday was made in consultation with health officials and based on guidance from the state. Students in ninth grade and younger who opted for in-person learning will resume the five-day schedule, with half days on Wednesdays, that was in place until rising coronavirus cases forced a shift to a hybrid model in November. Students in 10th through 12th grades will continue in-person learning part time.

Delaware

Dover: The state has begun its largest COVID-19 vaccination event to date. The inoculation effort kicked off Sunday at Dover International Speedway. The six-day drive-thru clinic represents a possible blueprint for future vaccine distribution in the state. And it will have the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 people a day. The event is being operated by the state government in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Staff conducted a dress rehearsal Saturday night before the event opened at half-capacity Sunday as a dry run. The event appeared to run smoothly Sunday. The five vaccination stations that were set up rarely had a line of more than a few cars.

District of Columbia

Washington: D.C.’s municipal courses are gearing up to make improvements to their links amid a pandemic in which golf has become a refuge for people to get outside and safely enjoy going places, WUSA-TV reports. The National Links Trust took control of running the three National Park Service courses during 2020, and the partners agreed to a 50-year deal to overhaul and run the East Potomac Golf Course, Langston Golf Course and Rock Creek Golf Course. Changes have already begun on the district’s courses, with long-term renovations that will include an overhaul of facilities and courses at Rock Creek, Langston and East Potomac. New golf carts, driving range mats, and other little improvements here and there around the courses have been noticeable to the regulars at the courses already. The clearing of non-native and invasive plants and a small number of trees is a noticeable change golfers will see once they make a trip to the courses again when temperatures warm up. The changes will not only create a better golf community for D.C. but also expand the game to communities that may not have as much exposure to the game – including veterans and communities of color.

Florida

A Florida resident gets vaccinated at the drive-thru site at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando on Monday.

Miami: Four federal mass vaccination sites are coming to the state, officials said Friday. Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville will be the locations of the new Community Vaccine Centers, according to a White House news release. The cities and locations were selected based on their proximity to vulnerable populations, and officials estimate the four centers will give up to 12,000 shots a day in total. The locations are Miami-Dade Community College, TGT Poker & Racebook in Tampa, Valencia Community College in Orlando, and Gateway Town Center in Jacksonville. So far, just over 3.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Florida. Since the pandemic began last year, nearly 30,000 Floridians have died. On Friday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced that her agency is launching a bilingual vaccine education campaign to encourage vaccination among the state’s farmworkers. She noted that people in the agricultural community are among the most at risk for dying from COVID-19, according to a recent University of California study. On Friday, Jackson Health System, one of the largest in the state, announced it will now vaccinate residents age 55 and older with specific medical conditions including certain cancers, congestive heart failure and morbid obesity.

Georgia

Atlanta: One of the state’s largest school systems is recruiting volunteer medical professionals who would administer COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers and others. Atlanta Public Schools is taking the step in anticipation of shots becoming available to teachers and staff members, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Georgia teachers are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, but Gov. Brian Kemp has said he will soon make an announcement about expanding vaccine eligibility to include more groups of people. Atlanta Public Schools is preparing for thousands of educators to take the vaccine once eligibility is expanded, Superintendent Lisa Herring wrote in a blog post. “We know that vaccinating as many staff members as possible will be critical for continuing to open our schools safely,” Herring wrote.

Hawaii

Hilo: Coronavirus testing of travelers arriving on Hawaii island is expected to continue after the end of February, but officials have not yet determined the duration of the extension. Partnerships between Hawaii County and private philanthropists allowing the county to test trans-Pacific arrivals are set to continue, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports. “We’re still covered for the end of the month, and then after that we’ll probably extend the testing,” said Cyrus Johnasen, a spokesman for Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. “As for how long we’ll extend it, we’re not sure yet.” The terms of the continued testing are dependent on the level of funding Hawaii County receives from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill under consideration in the U.S. Congress, Johnasen said. The county will have a better sense of how long post-flight testing can continue after the final form of the legislation is passed and signed by President Joe Biden. “We’ll still be working with our private partners after this month, but we can’t negotiate about the testing if we don’t know how much money we’re getting,” Johnasen said.

Idaho

Boise: The state House on Friday approved $175 million in emergency rental assistance as people struggle to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers voted 59-8 to approve the money that also requires approval from the Senate, plus Republican Gov. Brad Little’s signature. The money is part of the nearly $900 million the state received under then-President Donald Trump’s coronavirus rescue bill signed into law in December. President Joe Biden last month extended a nationwide eviction ban through the end of March. That puts the financial strain on property owners. Money from Idaho’s program will go to property owners, not renters. The rent assistance money is part of a plan to reduce the spread of the coronavirus by preventing people from falling into homelessness. Republican Rep. Paul Amador said state officials estimate 10% of adult renters have fallen behind, and 34,000 households are at risk of eviction. He said the amount of rent that hasn’t been paid is between $73 million and $103 million. “Whether you want to claim that it was the exclusive fault of the government from preventing these people from working, or if you feel like there are direct impacts from COVID to people and their ability to earn dollars – I think it matters to both of those individuals,” he said.

Illinois

Springfield: A food bank is $168,000 richer thanks to actress Jennie Garth. Garth is donating the money she won on ABC’s “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” to the Springfield-based Central Illinois Foodbank. “It doesn’t come around too often, so we were really excited and blessed to receive the gift because an extra $168,600 really means a lot of food going out,” said Adam Handy, partner resource coordinator for the food bank. “It really helps us continue the work we’re already doing.” Garth, an Illinois native who grew up outside Urbana, wanted to do something to help people in the food bank’s 21-county service area with her winnings from her successful answer in the “food and drink” category on Thursday’s episode, Handy said. Garth starred in the television shows, “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and “What I Like About You.”

Indiana

A photo of Eva and her twin sister Miriam is part of a display at the CANDLES museum in Terre Haute, Ind.

Terre Haute: A museum founded by a Holocaust survivor who championed forgiveness has reopened following a six-month-long closure prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. The CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center reopened in Terre Haute on Friday, when 26 visitors showed up to see a new exhibit and hear the stories of Holocaust survivors. “We are excited to have people back, and we are trying to be very cautionary with our cleaning routines and safety,” museum director Leah Simpson told the Tribune-Star. She said public interest in the museum and education center has remained strong during the months­long closure amid the pandemic. The CANDLES museum, or Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors, was founded by Eva Kor, who died in July 2019 at age 85. She and her twin sister, Miriam Zeiger, who died of cancer in 1993, endured medical experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp, where their parents and older sister – members of a Jewish family from Romania – died. A new digital exhibit at the museum, “In Their Own Words: The Mengele Twins Tell Their Stories,” includes videos of survivors of experiments conducted by Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who conducted cruel experiments at concentration camps.

Iowa

Orange City: Pizza Ranch, known for its buffet of pizza, chicken and other offerings, expanded last year, even as the pandemic hit the restaurant industry harder than most. Pizza Ranch, based in Orange City, has more than 200 locations in 14 states. The chain added five new locations last year and has six or seven more openings slated for this year, Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Achterhoff told the Sioux City Journal. “We really maintained momentum – that’s below our normal annual expansion of units, but most brands, most concepts, were not expanding at all this year,” he said. The National Restaurant Association reported in September that almost 100,000 restaurants – nearly 1 in every 6 – closed permanently or long-term due to the pandemic. Many restaurants struggled with government-ordered shutdowns across the country, and the industry was expected to lose about $240 billion in sales by the end of the year, according to the association. Even with the expansion, Achterhoff acknowledged that the past year has been challenging for Pizza Ranch, noting the chain weathered it by becoming more reliant on carryout and deliveries in 2020. “Delivery and pickup, or to-go, did overtake our buffet business (in) 2020,” he said. “Historically, we’re 80% buffet, dine-in buffet … that’s what people think of Pizza Ranch.”

Kansas

Topeka: Meatpacking plants were hit hard by the coronavirus, yet thousands of workers at facilities in southwest Kansas are still waiting to hear when they’ll be vaccinated. The Kansas News Service reports the wait is frustrating for workers who have watched college faculty, first responders and postal workers get their vaccines, and Kansas has launched a program to get a first dose into the arms of every school worker by early April. Meatpacking plants have been the state’s third-largest source of COVID-19 outbreaks, topped only by long-term care facilities and correctional centers. “Meatpacking workers have taken one of the hardest hits of this pandemic,” said Monica Vargas-Huertas, political director for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 2 representing 7,000 meatpacking workers in two southwest Kansas counties. “They kept working, securing the food (supply),” Vargas-Huertas said, “and securing the economy of the state.” But state officials say meatpacking facilities took steps that greatly reduced transmission. Kansas has some of the country’s most productive beef plants, driving the economies of towns such as Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal. Meatpacking workers are mainly immigrants and people of color.

Kentucky

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church members wave at passing traffic while displaying signs seeking food and essential goods donations in Louisville, Ky., on Feb. 7. The church will deliver the donations to the food pantry at the Calvary Episcopal Church downtown.

Louisville: The congregation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church hasn’t missed a Sunday “service” since June, though like a lot of things in this pandemic, it looks different from what most might expect. For nine months – rain or shine, throughout sweltering and freezing temperatures – the congregation has kept up with its new tradition of filling pantries instead of pews. Every week a group of the faithful gather outside the church from 9 a.m. until noon and collects food for its sister church Calvary Episcopal Church just south of downtown. It’s a way to practice faith and enjoy fellowship without lingering inside the church and potentially spreading COVID-19. Back in August, St. Paul’s collected about 250 to 500 items per week. Since then, generosity has boomed. Now the church members collect upward of 600 items per week, and more than 75% of the people who drop things off don’t even go to St. Paul’s, according to Dave Dawkins, a church member, who helps deliver the donations to Calvary Episcopal Church each week. Just two weeks ago, the effort crossed a major milestone, gathering more than 20,000 items for people in need since the pandemic began.

Louisiana

Lafayette: It’s always tough for school districts to find substitutes. The pandemic is making it even harder, officials say. Vermilion Parish Assistant Superintendent E. Paul Hebert said the district’s substitute “pool” has dwindled, leaving fewer folks to fill shortages for all positions. “It’s much worse this year,” Hebert said. “Before COVID, the shortage has been manageable. This year, the shortage has been critical.” The biggest needs are for bus drivers, regular and substitute, as well as cafeteria employees, custodians, bus monitors and classroom teachers. Hebert said those jobs do not get done without a sub. “We need it across the board,” he said. The district has 1,300 employees and a sub list of 400, ranging in age from “right out of high school to senior citizens,” Hebert said. The number officially has remained the same, but the pool is much smaller than it appears. Some, especially older subs, on the list are opting out of any jobs this year due to health concerns, he said. “And we also have a high number of absences and quarantines,” Hebert said. The pandemic also affects how schools can respond to an employee’s absence. For example, classes can’t be combined when a teacher is out due to limits on group size and contact. “Now it’s almost daily that we need a sub,” Hebert said.

Maine

Portland: Vaccinations are coming to the state’s islands. Maine Seacoast Mission is providing island COVID-19 vaccination clinics starting this week with medical and support staff arriving on the organization’s 74-foot boat, Sunbeam. “We have been anticipating this opportunity to serve since the first vaccine was announced last fall,” said Seacoast Mission President John Zavodny. The organization is working in partnership with island residents, county officials, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Mount Desert Island Hospital, and Pen Bay Medical Center. The Sunbeam is equipped with health facilities including a medical-grade refrigerator. Mission Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley said she’s starting with 150 doses for islanders. Meanwhile, more than half of people over age 70 in the state have been vaccinated, the Maine CDC’s director said. Dr. Nirav Shah said Monday during an appearance on Maine Public that the use of multiple platforms has helped swiftly vaccinate older residents. That includes clinics, hospitals and other venues, he said. Shah also said Monday that the appearance of coronavirus variants in Maine and elsewhere is a concern but doesn’t have to be a disaster. Maine has been the site of two confirmed variants so far.

Maryland

Baltimore: A large number of Marylanders signed up to get COVID-19 vaccines at a sports stadium only to have the appointments canceled. The Baltimore Sun reports most people had signed up using an invalid link. The University of Maryland Medical System said the booking link to schedule appointments at M&T Bank Stadium was “inadvertently” made public. Spokesman Michael Schwartzberg said people who had signed up have since been notified that their vaccines were canceled because eligibility couldn’t be confirmed. He said a nonpublic website had inadvertently made an appointment booking link discoverable. “Vaccination appointments were created in error by several thousand people via this invalid link, where vaccination eligibility was unable to be confirmed, and the link was shared widely before we were able to shut it down,” Schwartzberg said. M&T Bank Stadium is scheduled to open Thursday as the state’s third mass vaccination site. State health officials have yet to say when people can register for the vaccine.

Massachusetts

Boston: The Boston Calling music festival has been canceled for a second year in a row, organizers announced Monday. “After exploring all possible options for hosting Boston Calling this year, we have made the difficult decision in conjunction with local and state authorities to cancel the 2021 festival,” organizers said in a statement on the festival’s website. “The health and safety of our entire community is always our top priority, and there was no appropriate scenario under which we could provide the Boston Calling experience you love and deserve.” The three-day festival is traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend in May. Although ticket refunds are being offered, tickets purchased for the 2021 event will be honored in 2022, organizers said. Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers were scheduled to appear at the 2020 festival before the pandemic forced its cancellation.

Michigan

Jamie Winkler, Stephanie Taylor and Tracy Wolf take hot meals prepared on the Salvation Army's Bed and Bread truck to homeless people at Detroit's Hart Plaza on Feb. 5.

Detroit: In response to the pandemic and thanks to funding from Ford Motor Co., the Salvation Army of Metro Detroit is adding special trips to its daily Bed and Bread program once a month to provide hot meals, care packages and medical checkups and to offer shelter to the city’s homeless. “We’re trying to step up for our brothers and sisters in Detroit, and, just like someone would come to our home, we’re extending the best that we have to these people,” said Jamie Winkler, executive director of the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Harbor Light System. “We’re doing that to meet a practical, human need that starts off with shelter and food, and at the same time we are giving a message of hope to them.” In 2019, Detroit’s homeless population reached 10,000, according to the Homeless Action Network of Detroit, but city shelters are ill-equipped to meet the need with only about 1,900 beds. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated an already severe situation. Shelters have had to reduce the number of residents, people are more hesitant to accept shelter in fear of contracting the virus, and the places they could go for temporary reprieve – bus stations, restaurants, stadiums – completely shut down.

Minnesota

Mahnomen: The state’s only county located entirely within the borders of a Native American reservation has been vaccinating at rates that far surpass most other counties, authorities said. Mahnomen County is in the northwestern part of the state, about an hour’s drive from the Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, metropolitan area. As of this past week, 85% of people 65 and older in the county have been vaccinated. Public health leaders at the White Earth Nation and Mahnomen County credit that high vaccination rate to close collaboration between the tribe and the county to efficiently get those doses to residents, Minnesota Public Radio News reports. The White Earth Reservation is a patchwork of tribal and private land, and the people who live there are a nearly equal mix of Native Americans and non-Native people. Because White Earth is a sovereign nation, it has the authority to set its own parameters for who is eligible to be vaccinated. The tribe decided everyone 18 and up in the county should qualify. “Vaccine wasn’t limited to people who were enrolled members or who had a way to prove they had Native Nation blood,” said tribal public health medical director Dr. Carson Gardner. “We discussed that at length and decided that was the right thing to do.”

Mississippi

Jackson: The Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed 242 new cases of COVID-19 and no coronavirus-related deaths Monday, the second consecutive day with no COVID-19-related deaths reported. Since the virus hit the state in March, a total of 290,874 cases and 6,553 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported. January saw the most COVID-19 deaths in a single month in Mississippi, with 1,240. The single-day record of 98 deaths was reported Jan. 12. On Jan. 7, the state reported a single-day record of 3,255 new cases of the coronavirus. There are currently 93 outbreaks at Mississippi nursing homes. There have been 10,364 cases of the coronavirus in long-term care facilities and 1,937 deaths reported as of Friday, the latest figures available. Residents between the ages of 25 and 39 represent the largest portion of the infected population in the state, with 63,693 cases reported Tuesday, the latest figure available. Among patients under 18, children between the ages of 11 and 17 have the highest infection rate, with 22,157 cases identified. The 65-and-older age group has the highest total number of deaths with 5,004 reported. According to health department data, 336,932 people had begun the vaccination process in Mississippi as of Sunday.

Missouri

O’Fallon: The number of new coronavirus cases continued to decline Monday, but state officials cited one cause for concern: Wastewater samples indicate the fast-spreading U.K. variant is “widespread” across the state. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 351 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths. The number of new daily cases has dropped off sharply over the past several weeks after a surge during the holidays, and hospitalizations have reached the lowest levels since the summer. The first Missouri case of the U.K. variant was confirmed Feb. 6 in Marion County in northeast Missouri. It remains the only confirmed case in the state. But the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said wastewater sampling has found the variant across the state. The sampling is part of the Coronavirus Sewershed Surveillance Project created by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia in partnership with the state health department and Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Marc Johnson, a university virologist, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the variant was detected in more than 13 wastewater systems in Missouri. Researchers say the project can provide early detection of an upcoming COVID-19 outbreak or emerging novel viral variants.

Montana

With a sweater bearing the words “Little Shell Chippewa Tribe,” Linda Watson receives the first dose of the tribe’s COVID-19 vaccine supply.

Great Falls: The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians is building its health services largely from scratch roughly a year after becoming the United States’ 574th federally recognized Indigenous tribe. Because of the pandemic, it’s doing it on hyperdrive. The long-sought recognition came just months before the pandemic took hold, arriving in time to guarantee the right to crucial health care and a tribal supply of protective COVID-19 vaccines. Federal pandemic relief dollars are speeding up the Little Shell Tribe’s ability to build its own clinic. Without the federal pandemic funds, Indian Health Service and Little Shell officials said it would have likely taken years using only IHS resources to establish a clinic. The coronavirus has also stalled in-person celebrations and planning in the tribe’s first year of federal recognition. Worst yet, COVID-19 has disproportionately infected and killed Indigenous people nationwide, exposing long-standing health inequities caused by a history of colonization and underinvestment in Indian Country. In Montana, Native Americans make up roughly 7% of the population yet account for 11% of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 17% of related deaths. The Little Shell tribal health care system is so new that it doesn’t have electronic health records set up and hasn’t tracked the statistics.

Nebraska

Omaha: The state launched a federally funded aid program Monday for renters and landlords who have lost income due to the pandemic, but residents of the two largest counties won’t be eligible. The program managed by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority offers a maximum of 15 months of rental or mortgage assistance per applicant, up to $20,000. State officials said it’s only available to tenants who make 80% or less of their county’s median income and can show they’re unable to pay rent because of a financial hardship caused by the pandemic or at risk of becoming homeless. “It’s our commitment to quickly communicate the availability and guidelines of this program those who are most in need,” Shannon Harner, director of the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, said at a news conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts. Harner said Douglas and Lancaster counties, home to Omaha and Lincoln, have their own programs that won’t launch until early March. Harner said the state’s program will cover the cost of utilities for renters, dating as far back as April 1, 2020. Landlords who have already evicted their tenants for not paying rent aren’t eligible.

Nevada

Las Vegas: The Clark County School District is in need of hundreds of crossing guards for when schools return to in-person learning next month. KTNV-TV in Las Vegas reports Nevada’s largest school district is trying to fill 675 school crossing guard positions to cover 430 intersections. The district has been holding virtual learning since the school year started in August. But elementary school students will be allowed to return to campus March 1. According to the Nevada Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, 41 children going to or coming from school were hit by cars during the last school year before virtual learning was implemented. Among them, three suffered serious injuries, and one died. The crossing guard positions are part time and pay $15 an hour. They would cover streets in Las Vegas, unincorporated areas of the county and Henderson.

New Hampshire

Concord: The state House can proceed with in-person sessions this week without providing remote access to medically vulnerable lawmakers, a federal judge ruled Monday. Seven Democratic lawmakers sued Republican House Speaker Sherm Packard last week arguing that holding in-person sessions without a remote option violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state and federal constitutions and forces them to either risk their lives or abandon their duties as elected officials. They sought a preliminary order requiring remote access, but U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty denied their request. Without ruling on the merits of the case, she said the speaker can’t be sued for enforcing a House rule that is “closely related to core legislative functions.” Packard said in a statement that leaders “will continue to work with all House members to ensure that if they choose to attend any legislative meeting in person, that they can be confident that we are taking a high degree of precaution, and have extensive health and safety measures in place.” But House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing, one of the suit’s plaintiffs, said ruling makes clear that the speaker is “solely to blame for active and obvious exclusion of members of the House.” “As we teach our children, just because you can do something does not mean you should,” he said.

New Jersey

The Philadelphia Flyers play the New Jersey Devils at a nearly empty Prudential Center during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Newark, N.J., on Jan. 26.

Atlantic City: Fans will be allowed to attend sports and entertainment events at the state’s largest facilities in limited numbers starting next week, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Venues with an indoor seating capacity of 5,000 or more will be allowed to have 10% of those seats occupied by fans starting March 1, the Democratic governor said on the WFAN sports radio station. For outdoor venues over 5,000 seats, the number will be 15% of capacity. Murphy said he decided to allow the limited in-person attendance after reviewing a vast array of coronavirus-related statistics including hospitalizations, the number of hospital admissions versus discharges, overall positivity rate for the virus and the rate of transmission, and he determined small crowds can be permitted safely. He said face coverings and social distancing will be required at these venues. “If you buy tickets together, you can sit together, but otherwise, we have to spread apart,” he said. The order applies to the state’s major arenas, including the Prudential Center in Newark, where the NHL’s New Jersey Devils play, and outdoor stadiums including MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets. The governor said about 1,700 to 1,800 fans should be allowed to attend Devils hockey games under the new rules.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: The state government is likely to deliver a jolt of one-time spending amid the pandemic and provide sustained funding increases on health care and public education under a newly drafted budget bill. The lead House budget committee on Monday unanimously endorsed the spending plan for the coming fiscal year that increases general fund spending by $332 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1. That represents a 4.6% increase over current fiscal year spending. Total general fund spending would increase to $7.39 billion under the plan that includes a 1.5% raise for employees throughout state government, K-12 schools, and public colleges and universities. Larger raises are slated for prison guards. A vote by the full House of Representatives is scheduled this week before the proposal moves to the Senate for possible amendments and approval. Public schools in New Mexico rely on the state for most is their funding, and the draft budget would increase K-12 spending by 5.5% to $3.39 billion. “We want to extend the school year regarding the loss of learning we’ve seen this last year,” said Democratic state Rep. Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, chairwoman of the House budget committee.

New York

New York: The first case of the South African coronavirus variant has been discovered in a resident, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. The case involved a resident of Long Island’s Nassau County, Cuomo said in a news release. A Connecticut resident who had been hospitalized in New York City was found to have the South African variant last week. The mutated version of the virus, originally identified in South Africa, was first found in the United States last month. Scientists believe it is more easily spread than other virus strains. Cuomo said the variant’s arrival in New York means COVID-19 safety measures like wearing masks and maintaining distance from other people are more important than ever. “We are in a race right now – between our ability to vaccinate and these variants which are actively trying to proliferate – and we will only win that race if we stay smart and disciplined,” he said. Meanwhile, the state’s latest COVID-19 numbers show a continued downward trend in hospitalizations and deaths following the holiday season spike. There were fewer than 5,800 patients hospitalized with the virus Saturday, a decline of more than 800 from a week earlier. The state recorded 75 COVID-19 deaths Saturday, the first time since Dec. 16 that the daily death toll was under 100.

North Carolina

Singer Gladys Knight, who lives in Fairview, N.C., with her husband, William McDowell, received her COVID-19 vaccine in Haywood County and encouraged people in underserved communities to get immunized at a free clinic in Canton.

Asheville: The “Empress of Soul” has a soft spot in her heart for Haywood County, as well as the showing a brighter path forward in the coronavirus pandemic. Famed soul singer Gladys Knight and her husband, William “Billy” McDowell, who live in the Asheville area, recently received their COVID-19 vaccinations at Haywood Regional Medical Center and encouraged other folks to do the same at a vaccine drive Feb. 13. Knight and McDowell, a Canton native, are working toward establishing a community center with their nonprofit RHS Community Foundation. They worked in partnership with Haywood County Health and Human Services Agency to offer the free drive-thru clinic to help dispel vaccination fears within the community, said Allison Richmond, spokeswoman for Haywood County Emergency Management Team. “I’m concerned about everybody. I’m a people person. I love people, and if not for people I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” Knight said in a statement as to why she got the vaccine. Knight, a Grammy winner best known for her hit with the Pips, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” also encouraged the community to wear masks to protect others.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The head of the state’s insurance department has long opposed the Affordable Care Act. But with a special enrollment period underway, residents facing more struggles because of the pandemic still are encouraged to seek out the program. The option to sign up for coverage under the ACA usually is open in November and December. But at the urging of consumer advocates, President Joe Biden authorized a new enrollment period, which started this week and goes until mid-May. Jon Godfread, North Dakota insurance commissioner, said the extended window could be a good safety net for residents who suddenly are without a job and the health coverage that goes along with it. “North Dakota’s been able to weather the storm a little bit better than some other states,” Godfread said. “But that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some changes and shifting of people’s employment status and what they’re doing.” He said that’s why those lacking coverage right now should visit the healthcare.gov website to see if it can help. North Dakota is one of 36 states opting for the federally run exchange and not a state marketplace.

Ohio

Republican Jennifer Gross

West Chester Township: A doughnut shop says it had to call police because people who gathered for an event with a state lawmaker over the weekend weren’t abiding by pandemic guidelines, which those attending dispute. People who gathered Saturday for a “coffee chat” with the lawmaker weren’t exercising social distancing, Holtman’s Donut Shop wrote in a Facebook post. The store said staff at the West Chester Township business, outside Cincinnati, asked them to spread out and wear masks, and most abided by the request. A few people began to wander around the shop and mingle without masks, according to the post. Rep. Jennifer Gross, a Republican who represents the Ohio House’s 52nd district, was “conducting a meeting and standing without wearing a mask like we had asked,” according to the post. Gross told the paper the group complied with the staff’s instructions, but police arrived anyway. “Unfortunately, even though we were seated, drinking coffee, spread out, and eating donuts that was not enough,” the 21-year military veteran, who has been in office for six weeks, said in a response to the Facebook post by Holtman’s. The establishment said several other people walked up to the shop or inside but left because of the group.

Oklahoma

Norman: The state opened its second phase of vaccinations Monday, providing inoculations to public school teachers and staff and to adults of any age with illnesses that make them more susceptible to the coronavirus. “Our goal is to make sure that every Oklahoma teacher and staff member who wants the COVID-19 vaccine can get it by spring break” in mid-March, health commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said at a vaccination clinic in Norman. Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Jena Nelson and the six 2021 teacher of the year finalists were the first to be vaccinated at the clinic. More than 681,000 Oklahomans had been vaccinated as of Friday, according to the state health department, and an estimated 60,000 more vaccinations were administered over the weekend, said deputy health commissioner Keith Reed. About two-thirds of those eligible for the shot in Oklahoma have received a vaccination, Reed said. State schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she expects a higher percentage of public school staff to accept the vaccine. “Teachers have been clamoring for the prioritization of having the vaccine,” Hofmeister said.

Oregon

Salem: As thousands of Oregonians have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, the number of people working for the state has increased 4% from February of last year. Many of those hires reflect the increased demand for certain state services – like food assistance and unemployment benefits – during the economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State lawmakers tried to stave off big cuts to the state budget last year by using a mix of savings and “one-time” funds. State agencies in the executive branch had a net gain of about 500 permanent workers between February 2020 and February 2021, a jump of about 1%, according to data from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services. Among the gains: 440 new employees at the Oregon Department of Human Services and 76 new workers at the Oregon Health Authority. At the Department of Human Services, workers have been hired to help process food assistance benefits since more people have become eligible because of the pandemic, said a spokeswoman for the department, Lisa Morawski. Workers also have been hired in the child welfare system, and to help with a new system that allows Oregonians to apply online for medical, food and other benefits with one application.

Pennsylvania

State College: Penn State students managed to raise more than $10.6 million for pediatric cancer patients in the annual 46-hour dance marathon known as Thon despite mostly virtual fundraising efforts throughout the year and having the event online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $10,638,078.62 total was announced Sunday at the conclusion of the Penn State Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, billed as the world’s largest student-run philanthropy. Money raised benefits pediatric cancer patients and their families at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Child cancer survivors and their families also usually participate. This year, dancers participated remotely from their own homes with a limited stage setup for a livestream broadcast. While dancers traditionally aren’t allowed to sleep or even sit during the event, aided by thousands of other students in support roles, the Centre Daily Times reports that this year they were encouraged to rest from midnight to 6 a.m. because they didn’t have access to the usual medical resources of the in-person event. Last year, the in-person event raised almost $11.7 million dollars. Officials say the event has raised more than $180 million since 1977.

Rhode Island

Providence: The state on Monday started allowing residents 65 and older to schedule appointments for a COVID-19 vaccination. The state said in a statement that it expected to schedule about 10,000 appointments Monday for shots at two state-run vaccination sites at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence and the former Citizens Bank headquarters on Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston. But the agency also said because of limited supplies, not everyone who wants to make an appointment will be able to right away. Vaccinations are also available at some CVS and Walgreens pharmacy locations and at local clinics. About 9,900 people were vaccinated at the two state-run sites over their first three days of operation, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, according to the health department. Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s largest health care organization on Monday started allowing patients to have visitors again, in line with state Department of Health guidelines announced last week. At Rhode Island and Newport hospitals, two visitors may enter together, but the Miriam Hospital is only allowing one visitor to enter at a time, unless one visitor requires an escort, Lifespan announced in a statement on its website. All visits must be during designated visiting hours.

South Carolina

Festivalgoers at Artisphere in Greenville, S.C., enjoy arts, crafts, shows and more May 11, 2019.

Greenville: After a year of cancellations and modified virtual experiences, the city is planning to hold a downtown festival live and in person. Artisphere, one of Greenville’s most popular cultural events, will take place May 7-9, spokesperson Taryn Scher announced Monday. The festival will be “safe, small and socially distanced,” according to a press release. To manage crowd size, Artisphere 2021 will use timed and ticketed entry. Walk-up tickets will be available at the gate during the festival, but organizers encourage reservations in advance. To track entries for each session, every festival attendee will wear a lanyard with a chip that will activate when they enter the gated section, executive director Kerry Murphy said. The area will be sanitized between sessions. Other COVID-19 precautions include required masking and widespread handwashing and hand-sanitizing stations. Social distancing reminders will be posted throughout the festival site, according to the press release.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The number of people vaccinated for COVID-19 in the state has surged ahead of the total number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Vaccinated individuals, plus the widespread number of people who caught and recovered from the virus, mean a growing number of people have acquired immunity to COVID-19, a major factor in why experts say positive cases have decreased. That was the major highlight emerging in the last week of the pandemic ending Friday. Some people who have battled COVID-19 have also been among those vaccinated, which limits the reach of calculating herd immunity via a simple count of positive cases plus vaccinated people. The Department of Health doesn’t have figures on the crossover between the two groups. And while some experts think people with natural immunity should be moved to the end of the vaccination line, federal guidelines don’t call for that, and thus some of those who already tested positive are getting vaccinated anyway. Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said those who have tested positive for the virus should still get vaccines if they can. “We just want to really encourage that group and not deprioritize them,” she said.

Tennessee

Alex Wendkos, owner, runs the register at Dino's in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 4. The East Nashville bar has laid down strict rules to help battle COVID-19.

Nashville: Six weeks after the state’s coronavirus outbreak began to recede, the number of deaths reported has finally begun to drop – hopefully signaling the last gasp of the horrific winter surge. Tennessee’s counts of infections, hospitalizations and test positivity peaked in early January and have steadily decreased since, now falling to levels not seen since October or November. But the number of virus-related deaths, a lagging indictor of the pandemic’s strength, did not drop. Deaths continued to rise throughout January and into February, reaching a peak of 135 deaths per day in the first week of this month. Now, that appears to be changing. The average number of virus deaths reported each day has fallen by about 80% over the past two weeks, finally bringing the last measurement of the virus in line with the rest. As of Friday, Tennessee was reporting an average of 24 deaths per day, the lowest average in more than four months. Dr. Alex Jahangir, chairman of the Nashville coronavirus task force, said it was logical for a drop in deaths to follow the state’s well-documented decline of infections and hospitalizations. Now it seems to be happening. “I do think this lowering death rate is real,” Jahangir said. “I think we are on the right track.”

Texas

Austin: Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients dropped Sunday to their lowest level since mid-November, according to data released Sunday by state health officials. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 7,146 hospitalizations, the fewest since the 7,083 reported Nov. 12. Hospitalizations have been steadily dropping since mid-January. There were an additional 130 COVID-19 deaths and more than 4,259 new cases, the department reported. Texas has had more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began and more than 42,000 deaths due to COVID-19, the third-highest death count in the United States, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day rolling average of new cases has fallen from nearly 18,980 per day to nearly 5,041, and the average of daily deaths has dropped from 305.7 per day to 127.3, according to the COVID Tracking Project data. During the past two weeks, the rolling average of daily new cases in Texas has fallen by 13,354, a decrease of 75.9%, according to the Johns Hopkins figures.

Utah

St. George: The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has announced plans to reschedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations delayed by a winter storm last week. The severe weather affected shipments of vaccine to area clinics from outside the state, KSTU-TV reports. Southwest Utah Public Health Department said its Feb. 18 appointments have been rescheduled for Feb. 22, 25 and 27. The Weber-Morgan Health Department also rescheduled Feb. 18 appointments for Feb. 22. Utah residents age 65 and older are now eligible to receive vaccines and should check with local health departments for appointment availability. Utah so far has distributed more than 607,000 vaccines, including more than 83,000 in the past week.

Vermont

Colchester: Schools across the state have lost track of some students and are seeking to reconnect with them. Principals report truancy has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began, said Jay Nichols, head of the Vermont Principals Association. The Agency of Education is trying to determine the scope of the problem and last week sent a survey on the topic to school districts. “For whatever reason, the students are just not doing their classwork, they’re not signing into Google meets, they’re not coming in for their in-person days, and so it’s a real problem,” Chris Young, the principal of North Country Union High School in Newport, told Vermont Public Radio. Nichols said that in addition to the challenges of virtual learning, the pandemic has also increased financial stress for some families that were already on the economic margins. Young said getting students back into school isn’t about punitive measures. “It is about, ’We want you back, we need you back, we miss you when you’re not here, and what can we do to help you come back into the school environment?’ ” Young said.

Virginia

Richmond: A bill that would have mandated paid sick leave for a range of essential workers cleared a key Senate committee Monday – but only after it was sharply whittled down to cover only certain home health care workers. The original House bill would have required paid sick leave for grocery store workers, prison personnel, child care providers, farmworkers, poultry workers and others. An amendment by Senate Democrats who did not want to impose such a mandate on private businesses limited the bill to cover only home health care workers serving Medicaid patients. Supporters said they would have preferred a more expansive bill but called the compromise a move in the right direction. “It’s a drastic reduction from what we had wanted, but it’s still a good step forward in that it gets paid sick days for 30,000 home health care workers,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. The legislation would require employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in a year, unless the employer selects a higher limit. The issue has been divisive, even among Democrats who control state government. Opponents have said the mandate would be onerous and costly for small businesses that are already struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington

A Suquamish Tribe elder shows off her “I got my COVID-19 Vaccine!” sticker after getting her shot at a drive-thru vaccination clinic at Port Madison Indian Reservation on Jan. 6.

Bremerton: Local health officials are stepping up efforts to address racial gaps among people getting the COVID-19 vaccine, a growing problem for vaccination efforts in Kitsap County and throughout the United States. The Kitsap Public Health District, tasked with supporting equitable vaccinations, is aiming to increase access to communities of color, immigrants and other marginalized groups through expanded outreach, reserved appointment slots and partnerships with community leaders. On Thursday, the health district launched a vaccine equity collaborative made up of local leaders and community organizations, which will provide input about ways in which vaccine providers can reduce barriers people face in getting a shot. That group is still in its beginning stages, but Kitsap Public Health has already started working with various groups to improve vaccine access. The Kitsap Immigration Assistance Center is helping with outreach in immigrant and Latino communities, while Kitsap County’s Department of Human Services is working to reach and register older people who need help with online systems. Data from the Kitsap Public Health District shows vaccination rates among Hispanic and Black residents significantly lag their white counterparts. The same trend has played out statewide.

West Virginia

Fairmont: While passing a basketball among a team of kids from different areas of Marion County is not the best activity idea during a pandemic, the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission has created a new way to teach kids the fundamentals of basketball. MCPARC normally hosts a K-3 basketball league for kids throughout the county but this year will instead provide virtual clinics in partnership with D&C Basketball, a basketball camp and coaching organization based in Marion County. “Normally, we would hold a winter league for kindergartners through third graders that starts in October and runs until March,” said Rachel Mitchell, assistant director of MCPARC. “We were unable to do that this year due to the pandemic. We weren’t able to go into the schools to use their facilities, understandably so, so we decided to switch it to a virtual format.” According to Mitchell, the virtual platform allows MCPARC to hit a wider demographic of participants because the lessons taught by Deon Dobbs and Corey Hines, the co-founders of D&C Basketball, in the videos can be implemented at any level of basketball play. Mitchell said having video clinics also allows the kids who sign up to take the lessons at their own pace.

Wisconsin

Madison: No COVID-19 deaths were reported Monday, marking the first time since early September that the state has had two such days in a row. The last time Wisconsin went two or more days without a single reported death from the coronavirus was the three-day stretch of Sept. 6-8. The state’s seven-day average of new cases was at its lowest point since early July, but it increased marginally from Sunday. The seven-day average Monday was 612, up from 610 the day before. Nearly 560,000 Wisconsin residents have tested positive for the virus, and 6,284 have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Wisconsin’s death count is the 23rd highest in the country overall and the 34th highest per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has decreased by nearly 42%. Wisconsin’s vaccination rate dropped from a high of seventh nationally last week to 15th as of Monday, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. As of Monday, 14.9% of Wisconsin’s population had received at least one dose, which was ahead of the national average of 13.3%. Nearly 353,000 residents have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or about 6.1% of the population, the state health department said.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: Meteorologists have warned that low levels of precipitation across the state could increase the threat of wildfires over the summer. Tim Troutman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Riverton, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle the state is experiencing its worst drought since 2012, the same year it recorded one of its more active wildfire seasons. In 2012, fires in Wyoming burned 875 square miles and cost the state about $100 million to contain. Officials have said more moisture now can help prevent similar conditions later in the year. “If we begin to get more moisture into the area and more snow and rain, that definitely can alleviate conditions,” Troutman said. It is unclear if the state reached its desired precipitation threshold.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Categories
Education

SAT testing continues this spring: How testing sites are adapting to COVID restrictions

CHERRY HILL, N.J. – In a dose of pre-COVID-19 normalcy, the SATs  will go on this spring in pandemic or in health. 

Most public school districts make daily decisions on whether hybrid cohorts head into school buildings or conduct remote learning. 

But the College Board test, an old-fashioned timed, paper-and-pencil assessment will continue to be administered in person. 

SAT sites, often hosted by high schools, are working to update exam security and COVID-19 safety protocols to accommodate hundreds of expected students in the region registered for mid-March testing.

“It looks different this year, and it should,” said Kayla Berry, test center coordinator for Washington Township High School in New Jersey. 

Test scores:Colleges say SAT, ACT score is optional for application during COVID-19, but families don’t believe them

By Feb. 10, Berry had 150 students registered to take the test at Washington Township High School. The school has the capacity for 500, with 12 students to a classroom, plus the proctor. She expects a boost in registration after the deadline. 

In the meantime, she’s aligning pandemic guidelines of the College Board, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey Department of Health to guide logistics for the March test day.

“They all have to mesh together for this to work,” Berry explained. 

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Why are the SATs going on?

Berry admits she was surprised to find SATs would go on. Her districts also hosted 400 students for the SAT in the fall.

New Jersey Department of Education recently decided to delay all state assessments, including the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment, until after April 5. 

Berry’s district did mull closing its testing site to students from outside Washington Township. The high school operates on a hybrid cohort schedule with students attending in-person classes for four hours a day twice a week. The rest of the week is remote learning.

In the past, half to one-third of students testing in its classrooms have not attended the high school. Washington Township administration opted to remain a test host. It’s one of the largest sites in the region, Berry said.

The College Board, which owns and oversees the exam many colleges use for admissions, has directed school hosts to “make their own decisions about the test and safety standards based on local restrictions,” according to its website

Hosts can close sites up to the day of testing, the College Board said. On the eve of Friday’s regular registration deadline, no closures were posted to the College Board closures page.

“A lot of students still feel pressure to take the test,” Berry said. 

While some colleges are moving away from requiring standardized assessments in admissions qualification, Berry said some students still apply to schools requiring the test. 

She doesn’t see the SATs going away. It’s a standard and a rite of passage, Berry said. 

And for high school juniors this year, there could be a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. If education begins to normalize in the next year, Berry said her students want to be ready to move on to college and not rush to take an exam. 

Masks, proper ventilation, physical barriers all ‘would be helpful’

Students taking the test at Gloucester County Institute of Technology in New Jersey could expect a desk in large spaces, like media centers and cafeterias, according to Christine Datz, director of student personal services.

The host location is expecting 100 students with a capacity of 150, she said. 

Test-takers in Cherry Hill may be set up in gymnasiums, according to Cherry Hill Public Schools spokeswoman Barbara Wilson, who noted every one of the 200 Cherry Hill East and West high school seats for the March test is full.

Desks should be 6 feet apart, Berry said. And students must wear a mask.

Students will also be asked at check-in to quickly lower their masks to verify their identity and to make sure test aids aren’t tucked inside the mask, Berry said. 

Rowan Medicine’s Dr. Kanad Mukherjee says social distancing during the test and full compliance mask-wearing should be sufficient protection, especially if testing areas have good ventilation, including high ceilings, properly filtering HVAC systems and circulating outside air into the indoor workspaces. 

“Combining that with physical barriers would be helpful,” said Mukherjee, who oversees Rowan Medicine’s vaccination program.

Students must also certify their COVID-19 risk by signing a pledge to wear their masks and certifying they have not traveled to certain areas. Their temperatures will be taken upon entry to the building, Berry said.

Expect usual breaks between test sections. But, expect bathroom breaks to move slowly. Berry says only two people will be permitted inside each restroom at a time. There may be additional rules on when and where to consume snacks, she said.

The digital divide:A year into the pandemic, thousands of students still can’t get reliable WiFi for school. The digital divide remains worse than ever.

How to register for college assessment testing

Need to take the SAT, PSAT, or other College Board exams? Register by visiting https://www.collegeboard.org.

The next SAT will be administered on March 13. The registration deadline was Friday, but late online registration ends March 2. 

Not ready to take it in March? Take the SAT on May 8 and June 5.

Follow reporter Carly Q. Romalino on Twitter: @CarlyQRomalino

Categories
Education

Ex-investment executive to plead guilty in admissions scam

A former executive at a private equity firm who cofounded an investment firm with U2′s Bono has agreed to plead guilty to charges connected to the college admissions bribery scheme

BOSTON — A former private equity executive who cofounded an investment firm with U2’s Bono agreed to plead guilty in connection to the college admissions bribery scheme.

William McGlashan will plead guilty to a single count of wire fraud and honest services wire fraud stemming from allegations that he paid $50,000 to have someone correct his son’s ACT answers, federal prosecutors announced Friday.

Under a deal with prosecutors, McGlashan, 57, will serve three months in prison, complete 250 hours of community service and pay a $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors had also said he agreed with the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer, to pay $250,000 to try to get the teen into the University of Southern California as a football recruit but didn’t go through with it.

McGlashan has fiercely denied the charges and says he told Singer he didn’t want to participate in the so-called “side door” scheme. McGlashan’s lawyers have said in court documents that his son applied as a legitimate candidate and withdrew his application before he was even admitted.

McGlashan, who lives in California, is a former managing partner at TPG Capital who cofounded an investment fund with U2 singer Bono in 2017.

Attorneys for McGlashan declined to comment Sunday.

A hearing on the plea deal has not been scheduled. If the plea and sentencing agreement is approved, McGlashan will be the 30th parent to plead guilty to charges related to the college admissions case.

Some parents are accused of paying Singer to falsely portray their children as star athletes and then bribe college sports officials to get them admitted as recruited athletes at top universities. Others are accused of paying Singer to help cheat on their children’s SAT and ACT exams.

Singer has pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy and agreed to work with investigators.

Categories
Education

Lilly Singh Takes A Shot At Lori Loughlin In Vaccine Bit

Talk show host Lilly Singh on Tuesday blasted vaccine tourism and other means rich people use to get inoculated. But the “A Little Late” comedian saved some needling for a celebrity who wielded her wealth to game the college admissions system. (Watch the video below.)

Singh imagined how actress Lori Loughlin ― who served a two-month sentence after she and husband Mossimo Giannulli paid $500,000 to have their two daughters fraudulently admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits ― might exploit the vaccine restrictions.

“People with money are always trying to make the system work in their favor,” Singh said. “In fact, I’m not gonna lie, as soon as I heard this news, I was like, ‘All right, Lori Loughlin, come on out.’ Because you already know she was in prison just photoshopping her daughters to look like they’re nurses in between their team crew practice.”

The “Full House” star and Giannulli, who is still doing time, staged rowing photos for their daughters to appear more legitimate as crew prospects when they had never competed in the sport.

Categories
Education

Paying for College Can Be Overwhelming. Here’s What You Need to Know to Find an Affordable Option

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