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Alcohol-related deaths reach record levels in United Kingdom amid coronavirus pandemic

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Alcohol-related deaths reach record levels in United Kingdom amid coronavirus pandemic

The United Kingdom recorded a record high number of alcohol-related deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic last year. 

England and Wales saw 5,460 deaths related to alcohol abuse in the first three quarters of 2020, which is a 16.4% increase over the same period in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics. 

Alcohol-related deaths from January to March slightly increased over previous years, but they skyrocketed from April to September amid the spread of coronavirus and lockdowns meant to mitigate it. 

“Data shows that in the first three quarters of 2020, alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales reached the highest level since the beginning of our data series, with April to September, during and after the first lockdown, seeing higher rates compared to the same period in previous years,” Ben Humberstone, deputy director of Health Analysis and Life Events at the ONS, said this week. 

“The reasons for this are complex and it will take time before the impact the pandemic has had on alcohol-specific deaths is fully understood.”

In the United States, alcohol sales increased 54% at the beginning of the pandemic when lockdowns first went into effect, according to an April study in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

People not only appear to be drinking more to deal with the stress of lockdowns, but alcohol also suppresses people’s immune systems, potentially leading to more severe COVID-19 cases. 

“Alcohol misuse both activates the immune system, causing inflammation, and interferes with the body’s immune response to viral and bacterial infections,” the director of the National Insstitute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism wrote. 

“Ultimately, impaired immune system function and an increased susceptibility to respiratory illness could contribute to more severe COVID-19 and greater risk of mortality.”

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What you can’t do at New York wedding receptions amid COVID

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What you can't do at New York wedding receptions amid COVID

Bring your COVID-19 test results, a face mask and a tape measure to the next wedding reception you attend.

New York’s strict new rules for weddings and catered events, which take effect March 15, will allow up to 150 people to gather — but not too closely and only for guests with a negative coronavirus test result or completion of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Guests can only dance — masks on — with members of their own immediate party/household/family who are seated together and then only in “designated and clearly marked areas or zones that are assigned to them.”

The zones are to be at least 36 square feet and six feet apart from any other dancing areas or zones, the rules say.

And don’t even think about busting a move with someone in another zone.

Guests “cannot enter, use, or otherwise visit other dancing areas or zones,” the state says.

It’s OK for “select attendees” to join the bride and groom when they take their first dance “so long as they maintain six feet of separation from other attendees throughout the dance.”

The band can play, but only if at least 12 feet away from guests or separated by a barrier.

And guests must keep their masks on unless they are eating. They cannot eat or drink “if members of different parties/households/families are within six feet.”

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Generous tipper drops $1K at his favorite Chinatown joints

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Generous tipper drops $1K at his favorite Chinatown joints

As tips go, this is way over 20 percent!

A Mandarin-fluent foodie has filmed himself dropping $1,000 tips at five of his favorite, but struggling, take-out joints in Manhattan’s Chinatown — and the video of his startled beneficiaries trying to give him back the money is just heartwarming.

“I got five thousand dollars,” YouTuber XiaoMaNYC explains in the clip before handing out the huge tips, which he stuffs into the bright red envelopes that are traditionally exchanged as gifts for Chinese New Year.

“We’re going to be going to five different restaurants, and giving them each a nice little ‘hongbao,’” he says, referring to the envelopes by their Mandarin name as he stuffs each with ten crisp $100 bills.

“It’s actually a great time to do this because it’s Chinese New Year,” he explains of the holiday, which began Feb. 12 and ended Friday.

“I’m just going to be going to some of my absolute favorite Chinese restaurants here in New York City,” explains the three-million-fan YouTuber — a Manhattan-based video producer whose real name is Arieh Smith.

“Not only do they provide great food to the people in the neighborhood, but they also support a lot of employees and they’re all family run,” he says. “They’re just really amazing and great people.”

One of his first stops was Spicy Village on Forsythe Street.

“They work nonstop for 12 hours a day, he said of the restaurant. “And they definitely deserve a little something.”

“We’re just hanging in there, honestly,” owner “Wendy” tells Smith, as she takes his noodles order and they chat in Mandarin about how business has been damaged by the pandemic.

Not knowing she’s on camera, she stuffs Smith’s takeout bag full of complimentary tea and holiday candies for his wife, tells him the order comes to $15, and wishes him a happy New Year.

“Oh by the way, I wanted to give you something,” he says, handing over a hongbao envelope.

“No, I don’t want that!” she insists, backing away.

When Smith finally convinces her to take it, she looks inside and immediately tries to hand it back. The two practically tussle over the money. Smith insists, “Mei yo! mei yo!” — “No, don’t worry about it!” — as she repeatedly tries to stuff the envelope back in his backpack.

“Are you sure? I really can’t accept it!” she says, nearly in tears.

“I just wanted to thank you guys, on Chinese New Year,” Smith tells her. “Just keep doing what you’re doing and making great food!”

At other takeout windows, his red envelopes get similar reactions.

“This is crazy that you would do this!” one grateful owner tells him.

“Too much, dude!” protests a street vendor, who Smith speaks to in fluent Cantonese.

“No way!” shouts another restauranteur, after handing Smith a $1.50 milk tea and getting the huge tip in return.

Smith ends the clip by urging folks to support Chinatown or their own local eateries — though he concedes with a laugh, “You don’t have to tip them $5,000. You could just show up at any of these great restaurants and buy something delicious.”

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Hawaii considering a rescue fine if hikers don’t follow signs

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Hawaii considering a rescue fine if hikers don't follow signs

Hikers who don’t follow trail signs in Hawaii could face more than just danger to their lives — they could also be required to pay for their own rescue. 

Hawaiian lawmakers are considering a bill that could require hikers to reimburse local rescue teams if they had to be saved because they left marked trails, entered clearly-marked private property or ignored signs saying a trail is closed, according to recent reports. 

SB 363 would also give those hikers additional, criminal fines for petty misdemeanor charges.

State lawmakers are also considering another bill, SB 700, which has been revised to allow local rescue teams to choose whether they have hikers reimburse them for any fees associated with their rescue. 

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, similar bills have previously been introduced in Hawaii’s House and Senate before.

This time, the bills are being considered as a way to help Hawaii’s budget, which is “straining” because of the coronavirus pandemic, the newspaper reported.

“It’s an issue that has been brought up in the past in a number of ways, especially in times when budgets are thin and resources are limited,” state Sen. Chris Lee told the Star-Advertiser. “It’s a discussion that everybody is interested in having this year.”

According to the newspaper, the state’s Fire Department opposes the bills. 

“The Honolulu Fire Department does not want to deter anyone from calling 911, thinking there is going to be a cost associated with them getting help,” HFD spokesperson Carl Otsuka told the Star-Advertiser.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Chairwoman Suzanne Case, previously supported an earlier version of SB 700 that required hikers to pay back their rescue costs in written testimony, according to the Star-Advertiser.

“The Department is in support of any strategy that will incentivize the general public to stay within authorized managed areas and already has statutory penalties for violation of laws and rules adopted specifically for going into closed areas,” Case wrote. “While these penalties are in place, absent enforcement and citations, they are clearly not a deterrent.”

The Star-Advertiser reported that Case also noted in her testimony that the DLNR would defer to counties — who are responsible for search and rescue operations — on whether they required hikers to pay for their rescue or not.

According to the Star-Advertiser, hikers frequently get into trouble on the islands and rescuing them can be a dangerous and expensive task.

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