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Changing Lives: Jokes Turn Serious as Chris Cuomo Tests Positive for Coronavirus

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Changing Lives: Jokes Turn Serious as Chris...

During an unrelenting news cycle, CNN is probably the last place you’d turn for a laugh. But when the coronavirus crisis hit New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo began regularly appearing on his younger brother Chris’s show, “Cuomo Prime Time,” and a comedy act was born.

First Chris said their father, Mario, the 52nd governor of New York, said that Andrew had “hands like bananas and can’t play ball.” Then, on Monday night, Chris said their mother, Matilda, only trusted him with her sauce recipe. That’s probably true, since Gov. Cuomo acknowledged during a news conference Sunday that he would try to pass off store-bought meatballs as homemade to his children while trying to carry on the family’s Sunday dinner tradition after his divorce.

The brothers continued to trade barbs Monday, about Andrew’s “ill-fitting jacket” and Chris’s broadcasting from his basement. “Momma didn’t raise an armchair general in me, anyway, I’m not going to sit in my basement,” Gov. Cuomo said before signing off. “Thanks … Meatball.”

On Tuesday, however, things turned serious, when Chris announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would be isolating himself in his basement, where he will continue to host his show. “He will be fine,” Andrew Cuomo said in Tuesday’s news conference, just minutes after the announcement.

With parents clamoring to find somethinganything for their kids to do while quarantined, Chris Colin, a freelance journalist in San Francisco, gave his neighbors an assignment. The 44-year-old, who has two kids, put out a call for young reporters and artists to contribute to “Six Feet of Separation, a youth newspaper for Bernal Heights and beyond.”

Colin kicked off the project with an email to about a dozen families, asking for pieces from their children about going to school at home and sheltering in place. He expected to get half of them to play along. But, the original group forwarded his proposition, Colin kept remembering more people he could ask and used social media to get the word out. “I stopped counting at 40,” he said when discussing the number of submissions he’d received.

They are all in the finished product, which includes poems, drawings, reviews, recipes, trivia, horoscopes (!), nature writing and service journalism, with contributors ranging in age from 2 to 19. A piece by Elise, 2, titled “What I Know About Coronavirus,” is more of an “as told to,” Colin admitted.

Maddy, 9, made MADdy Libs that start with “Many families are stuck at ______ (adj.) home. You may feel ___ (verb), ___ (verb), and ___ (verb).” Ava, 10, recounted a dream about milk sprinklers. Delilah, 14, recommended books for other kids of all ages.

“I really think kids are just as confused by this whole situation as grown-ups are, but they experience it totally differently. These stories sort of reflected that,” Colin said.

Critics reviewed books, including “Wings of Fire” by Tui T. Sutherland and “Big Game” by Stuart Gibbs; TV’s “The Good Place”; the movie “Spies in the Skies”; and food. Ender, 7, gave “tonight’s dinner,” linguini with meat sauce, three out of five stars. Griffin, 14, made a map of all the restaurants still serving food on Bernal’s usually busy Cortland Street.

The project took off, in Colin’s estimation, because “I made it clear that my editorial process is ‘yes’ so that helped people feel like they could do this,” he said. “The main point was to give them something to do, but I wanted to sneak in a little anti-perfectionism.” He also found out kids write much faster than grown-ups.

At 7 and 11 years old, Colin’s kids pitched in with a joint advice column called “Tips for Squabbling.” When people asked if they could send the project to families outside of Bernal, he stuck to his “yes” policy by adding a foreign correspondent section, which may expand in Issue 2, now in the works.

“We pay zero dollars and offer a generous benefits package featuring satisfaction, civic pride and probably some other stuff,” Colin wrote in his call for new submissions. “They’re already pouring in.”

Check out Issue 1 of “Six Feet of Separation” here.




Low Pay, High Risk: Nursing Home Workers Confront Coronavirus Dilemma

“Who else is going to take care of them?” We spoke with nursing home workers about their fear of catching and spreading coronavirus.

“You may have just that one patient with the coronavirus that come into your facility, and you don’t know. I can go to work today, wind up feeding them. And then find out two hours later, ‘Oh, they have that virus.’ And I’ve already been exposed. Nursing Assistants, CNA’s, we’re the closest ones, we’re the front line.” The work of nursing assistants has always been difficult and low paying. But add coronavirus, and it’s become dangerous. TV announcers: “Across the country, nursing homes are especially vulnerable —” “One elder care facility, where 19 residents have died —” “In Palo Alto —” “In the New Orleans area —” “In DuPage County —” “In Sacramento County.” “Covid-19 spreading through our most vulnerable population.” We met up with caregivers from nursing homes in Northern California. They attend to the kind of patients who are most likely to die if they get the virus. “So can you do your job without touching people, or without —” “It’s impossible. Everything is touch.” “Bathing. Feeding.” “Assist them to the restroom.” “Brushing their teeth.” “Turning.” “It’s almost like a holding and cleaning at the same time.” “Helping nurses with wound care.” “Cleaning their ears, tying their shoes.” “We do everything.” “Well, you could be feeding that patient or you could be doing something and the patient starts coughing. It’s too late to turn around, you already done got crap all over you. You know, you just run to the bathroom, wash your face or whatever. And then go about your day. Social distance? Can’t do it. It’s impossible.” If this video were filmed at a different time, you’d be seeing footage of these workers with their patients. But nursing homes are closed to visitors right now to protect the people inside. Actually everything you’re seeing here we filmed from afar, following recommendations to slow the spread of Covid-19. But these caregivers can’t maintain that kind of distance in their work. And now, shortages of protective gear like masks are putting them at risk, not just for getting the virus but for spreading it. “If you want to speak, press star 6.” “We’re running out of supplies of masks in our building. And trying to take care of these patients without us also getting sick is worrisome.” “We’re rationing right now, masks, protective gear. But it’s like, what happens if we run out? It scares me.” “They gave us the N95 mask, and told us to maintain it. If the elastic comes off by accident or something, staple and reuse it.” “So you’re actually cleaning the N95 masks in between uses?” “Yeah, with — with alcohol.” “You like wipe off the outside of it or how do you do that?” “The outside, the inside and just let it air dry, and put it back in a Ziploc bag for the next day.” “A lot of people in this field, we have families. So you don’t want to take nothing home. My granddaughter, she’s special needs. So she has a low immune system. When she was born, she was really sick. So we’ve been cautious ever since she’s been born.” “I am very concerned of taking it home. My mom, she’s diabetic, and my dad also just beat cancer in the thyroid. I have asthma. So if I were to get Covid, It would affect my lungs. And how am I going to pay my bills? Because it’s paycheck to paycheck, what I’m doing.” The pay for this work is low: In the U.S., the median salary is less than $30,000 a year. As a result, many nursing assistants work multiple jobs. And as they move between facilities, so can disease. “Usually when I finish the first job, I go right to the second job. I work 16 hours, that’s not including driving time. And I’m not the only one — majority of my co-workers, they work two jobs.” “I work home health care too, on top of taking care of my mom and my grandmother. I’m kind of worried because you don’t see the virus because they’re droplets, and you don’t know who’s coughing or sneezing on you. Even though I do try to sanitize, like along the way, going to my next client. But sometimes it’s just not enough I think. But who else is going to take care of them?”

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“Who else is going to take care of them?” We spoke with nursing home workers about their fear of catching and spreading coronavirus.CreditCredit…Elie Khadra for The New York Times

Social distancing protects us physically, but it can also worsen feelings of isolation and fear. It’s a problem that compounds itself: Many people who need therapy during an especially stressful time can no longer access it in person.

So mental health care professionals have been forced to find new ways to reach their clients. For many, virtual appointments have been a lifeline.

“It’s really important for us as mental health providers to get creative and think outside the box,” said Amanda Fialk, the chief of clinical services for The Dorm, a mental health treatment community for young adults. “Doing that face-to-face individual session, or face-to-face group session, isn’t responsible or safe right now.”

The Dorm serves clients in New York City and Washington D.C., many of whom used to visit the facilities at least five days a week for intensive treatment. Two weeks ago, those services had to be moved online.

“You can get Zoom fatigue sitting in virtual therapy sessions hour after hour,” Dr. Fialk said. “We added in a lot of creative and fun programming for home, because we’re trying to let them know that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.”

Robyn Suchy, the chapter manager for Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to metal health awareness for college students, said that talking to his own therapist online in recent weeks has been a little jarring because he was accustomed to having more separation between those sessions and his personal life. Now, everything happens on the same screen.

“It’s been weird to be on this computer that I use for work and then just click into another video meeting for therapy,” he said.

Across the United States, therapists and patients are suddenly grappling with a whole new set of questions: Is telemedicine covered by insurance? Can I still talk to my therapist in California after I move back home to Iowa? Which online chat forums are compliant with patient privacy laws?

“There’s a lot of really interesting and complex conversations happening, but it all kind of comes down to that service delivery, and making sure that people have access to these support networks,” Mr. Suchy said.

He added that it was good to see providers and their patients experimenting with different, more accessible forms of communication that might prove useful even after the threat of coronavirus fades.

Peeping at the flaws and flourishes in others’ living spaces is one of the sustaining pleasures of 21st-century self-isolation.

Can’t go outside? The new Switch video game offers a candy-colored substitute for real life.

Are you feeling squeezed out by your makeshift home school? There are ways to make your space work for the whole family.

Reporting was contributed by Farah Miller, Jacey Fortin and Melissa Hoppert.


In tales of collective adaptation, a TV host reveals he is in quarantine to protect his family, while therapists look to avoid “Zoom Fatigue.”


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