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Iowa restaurant selling for $1 because of coronavirus challenges

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Iowa restaurant selling for $1 because of coronavirus challenges

A restaurant owner in Iowa is selling his eatery for just $1 after a difficult year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Li Zhang told Fox News over email that his restaurant and karaoke bar Lark & Owl in Iowa City has suffered huge losses over the last year and Zhang himself is “carrying a huge rent debt.” 

Though he’s already heard from several people interested in taking over the restaurant for just $1, he said they’ve all been hesitant about how expensive the rent is.

According to The Gazette, which first reported the story, Lark & Owl’s rent is $5,000 a month — which doesn’t include any of the other expenses the restaurant has to pay such as payroll. 

Despite the high expenses, the restaurant hasn’t made a profit since the pandemic hit the U.S., the newspaper reported. 

Lark & Owl was dependent on its karaoke room, which has been closed because of the pandemic. Delivery and takeout haven’t been able to make up the difference, according to The Gazette.

Zhang first opened Lark & Owl in August 2019, according to The Gazette. He also owns another restaurant in Iowa City called JiangHu Asian Street Food. 

That restaurant — which Zhang opened in 2018 — has received a bit more community support during the pandemic and has been able to break even regularly.

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Vaccine passports not for the jetset, says WHO

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Vaccine passports not for the jetset, says WHO

No need to pull your suitcase and neck pillow from storage just yet.

In light of hype and rumor surrounding the so-called “vaccine passport,” the World Health Organization has issued a statement warning transportation officials that such clearances would not guarantee travelers are immune from spreading COVID-19 in one way or another.

Proof of immunization would be a moot requirement, as there are still more “critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission,” WHO asserted.

“WHO also recommends that people who are vaccinated should not be exempt from complying with other travel risk-reduction measures,” they wrote in a Feb. 5 statement about the proposed digital passports that show a person has been vaccinated.

They also discouraged the possibility that cautious international travelers might put a squeeze on already scarce coronavirus vaccine doses, putting disadvantaged groups at a continued risk of exposure — and extend their period of lockdown isolation.

“Individuals who do not have access to an authorized COVID-19 vaccine would be unfairly impeded in their freedom of movement if proof of vaccination status became a condition for entry to or exit from a country,” WHO wrote. “National authorities should choose public health interventions that least infringe on individual freedom of movement.”

The US, UK and other European leaders have publicly mulled safe travel programs and strategies that would pave the way for a travel industry rehab, allowing greater mobility between countries in the wake of a pandemic which has seen over 2.5 million lives lost globally since last winter. In addition to international travel, the license might potentially allow for access to bars and restaurants.

Public health experts outside of WHO’s ranks have also criticized the proposition.

“I can see that they might be useful in the longer term, but I have several concerns about them being considered at this point in time when I think the scientific evidence doesn’t support them. And there are lots of ethical concerns about them that I think are legitimate,” said Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, according to a CNBC report on Thursday.

“We know very little about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection or even asymptomatic disease against several variants circulating in different countries,” Dr. Gurdasani added.

The statements come at a time when scientists are learning more than ever about the enigmatic disease, including a study reported on Wednesday which revealed that the coronavirus can survive on fabric, including cotton and polyester blends, for up to three days — removed only with scorching hot water and detergent.

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Arizona woman returns 1950s Purple Heart to man’s family after finding it at thrift store

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Arizona woman returns 1950s Purple Heart to man’s family after finding it at thrift store

A family has been reunited with their father’s Purple Heart more than three decades after he died, thanks to a bit of sleuthing.

Teresa Ferrin discovered the Purple Heart — along with several other military awards — at a thrift shop in Phoenix, Arizona, where she volunteers once a week. 

Ferrin explained to Fox News that her job involves pricing the donated items before displaying them on the shop’s floor. But about two weeks ago, someone dropped off the military awards, making sure to point out the Purple Heart among the collection. 

She inspected the medal and found a name on the back. That’s when she decided to track down the owner. 

“I just felt it needed to go to the family, and I was going to try to find the family,” Ferrin told Fox News.

At first, Ferrin she had trouble reading the name, but she eventually deciphered it: Erik Karl Blauberg. Blauberg was a veteran of the Korean War, where he received the Purple Heart, a medal presented to service members who have been wounded or killed in the line of duty. 

After doing some research online and making a few phone calls, Ferrin learned that Blauberg had been living in Apache Junction, Arizona, when he died in 1988 at the age of 58. 

Ferrin was later able to get in touch with a few of Blauberg’s eight children, including Lisa Walker, who lives in Florida.

Walker told Ferrin that Blauberg had left her family when she was young, leaving her mother to care for all eight children on her own. 

“They were estranged from him,” Ferrin explained to Fox News. “They knew who he was, they talked to him occasionally, but they didn’t really know him very well.” 

By the time Blauberg died, he didn’t leave anything to his children. So when Ferrin sent the military awards — and the Purple Heart — to the family, Walker described the gesture as “bittersweet.”

“This is one of the only things that we have [of his],” Walker told Fox News. “I’m very grateful to Teresa.

Walker said she and her siblings were also surprised to find out about their father’s military awards.

“We didn’t even know he had a Purple Heart,” Walker said. “I knew — and my brothers knew — that he had medals, but we didn’t know he had a Purple Heart, so that was very shocking.”

Ultimately, Walker said she’s thankful Ferrin was able to track her and her family down. “I can’t believe someone went above and beyond like Teresa did, and didn’t give up to find us,” Walker said.

As far as Ferrin was concerned, she said she couldn’t have done anything else, especially because her own father had also served in the military during the Korean War.

“I thought, if it was my father’s, I’d certainly want someone to return it to me,” Ferrin said. “I just felt the family needed to have that.”

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Italy’s Lombardy again in virus crisis as Brescia sees surge

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Italy’s Lombardy again in virus crisis as Brescia sees surge

ROME — Italy’s northern Lombardy region, where Europe’s coronavirus outbreak erupted last year, asked the national government Thursday for more vaccines to help stem a surge of new COVID-19 cases that are taxing the health system in the province of Brescia.

The province’s fast-growing caseload is contributing to another upswing in reported cases nationwide: Italy added another 19,886 confirmed infections Thursday, its highest daily number since early January. Authorities reported another 308 virus-related deaths, bringing the country’s official toll in the pandemic to just under 97,000.

Brescia, with a population of around 1.2 million, has seen its daily cases go from the mid-100s at the start of February to 901 on Wednesday and 973 Thursday, due to clusters of infections traced to the British variant. Doctors say the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the main public hospital went from an average of around 200 to 300 recently.

“We can’t talk about a third wave from our point of view, just because the second one never really ended,” said Dr. Cristiano Perani, head of emergency room at Brescia’s civic hospital. “The increase was gradual, but had an acceleration in the last few weeks.”

Lombardy’s governor, Attilio Fontana, said he told Italy’s health minister Thursday that the region needed an “immediate delivery (of vaccines) in the territory where the virus is growing.”

Already, Lombardy — Italy’s most populous region — has imposed new lockdown measures in Brescia and revamped its vaccine strategy to redirect the jabs it has on hand to the province and nearby towns in neighboring Bergamo. The aim of the strategy is to inoculate as many people as possible as quickly as possible in the hardest-hit areas.

Guido Bertolaso, who is in charge of the vaccine campaign, said the region was going to bypass the 30% reserves that the national government recommends keeping on hand for second doses, and starting Thursday would begin vaccinating residents ages 60-79, well earlier than scheduled. Lombardy only recently began vaccinating people aged over 80, after prioritizing health care workers and residents of nursing homes.

The aim of the strategy, Bertolaso said, is to create a “health cordon” in the area with blanket vaccinations. The approach is based on studies from Britain and Israel — and even on Lombardy’s own data — that show declines in infection rates as more people are vaccinated with only one dose.

“This is war,” Bertolaso said.

Brescia’s deputy mayor, Laura Castelletti, said residents were willing to accept new lockdown measures — which include closing all schools and day-care centers — as long as the vaccination schedule accelerated.

“We are ready to make sacrifices if the vaccination campaign goes forward 24/7,” she said.

Brescia and Bergamo were two of the Italian provinces hardest hit during the first wave of the pandemic, which began this time last year and quickly turned Lombardy into the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe.

Lombardy as a whole still accounts for nearly a third of Italy’s 96,974 confirmed COVID-19 dead, and a fifth of its 2.87 million confirmed infections. Italy has the world’s sixth-highest confirmed death toll, and the second in Europe after Britain.

Italy’s vaccine campaign, which has administered 3.92 million doses, has been slowed by delays in deliveries from the three pharmaceutical companies supplying the European Union: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the health ministry would redirect any vaccines to Lombardy, given previously established quotas which have already delivered the most doses there.

Italy’s virus czar, Domenico Arcuri, didn’t address Fontana’s request in a statement Thursday but boasted that inoculations showed “a comforting increase” this week, averaging around 100,000 a day nationally.

Nearly two months after Italy began its vaccination campaign on Dec. 27, the tiny Republic of San Marino administered its first doses Thursday. San Marino, a city state of about 33,800 people surrounded by Italy, had to buy Russian Sputnik V doses after delays in receiving allotted doses from Italy.

“This constitutes the most effective weapon we have to defeat this disease,” said Dr. Enrico Rossi, who was among the first inoculated. “It has been kind of a nightmare this year but we are hopeful that it will end.”

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