hope

health

Northwest Houston bars hope to weather COVID-19 restrictions that keep them closed

Bars across Texas reopened their doors following Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 7 order allowing individual counties to determine if it’s safe.

However, Harris County is still not allowing bars that don’t serve food to reopen, including some in northwest Harris County. The county still has a high degree of community spread of the virus, county officials said.

“Indoor, maskless gatherings should not be taking place right now, and this applies to bars as well,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted in response to Abbott’s order.


While some bars have been able to reopen because they sell food, those without a kitchen or food truck are still left not knowing when they’ll be able to open again.

Franklin’s Tower, at 4307 Treaschwig Road in Spring, first closed in March for the initial shutdown, and was only open for a few weeks after being allowed to reopen in May.

“It’s absolutely terrible,” Franklin’s Tower owner Brandi Neal said. “We’re in the neighborhood where my venue has provided not only a lot of jobs, but also a community atmosphere around here.”

Neal said her bar was a community staple in Spring, offering local artists space to paint murals, live performances from area musicians every weekend and homemade goods from small business owners close by.

“Basically, I’m just trying to hold on,” Neal said. “I really thought we’d be able to stay open.”

Neal said she is working on acquiring a food truck for her bar so they can reopen. She said she wanted to be back open months ago but at this point isn’t sure when that will be possible.

She has applied for business loans to try to keep the bar afloat but said everything she applied for has either been denied or pending. Many of her employees are still waiting for the bar to reopen to start working again.

“Luckily, our customers have been really good for them, and they’ve been cleaning houses or mowing lawns or running errands for them,” Neal said. “Some have gotten a little part-time work with bars in other counties, but they’re all waiting for us to be open.”

Meanwhile, Ultra Bar, 744 Cypress Creek Parkway, was planning to debut in March before the pandemic hit, setting back their opening indefinitely.

“We were devastated,” Ultra Bar Co-Owner Jamie Woo-Hughley said. “We don’t know what the future is for the bar industry.”

Woo-Hughley said they had done a total reconstruction for their building, but didn’t add a kitchen — so now they’re unable to open their bar. Now, she said, they plan to add a food truck outside in hopes they will be able to open.

“That’s really the only thing we have to try and recover other than just acting as a venue,” she said. “Even with that, you don’t know how many people can come in.”

With indoor bars, Harris County epidemiologist Maria Rivera said it’s harder to stop the spread of viruses

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fitness

DC gyms and fitness studios adapt, hope for mild weather or close for good as winter nears

D.C. gyms and fitness studios have been faced with a daunting realization: winter is coming. See how they are making changes, building workout pods, opening new facilities and also closing for good due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Students joined Betsy Poos of Realignment Studio on Capitol Hill for one of the last yoga classes before the studio closes at the end of October. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

WTOP/Dan Friedell

Marcus Lowe leads a class at Cut Seven’s new location off 14th Street NW. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

WTOP/Dan Friedell

Election Studio, on H Street NE., has built individual workout pods hoping that students will come back to spinning classes this winter. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

Courtesy Candice Geller

Reggie Smith, the co-owner of BOOMBOX, has been leading classes on the roof of Union Market during the pandemic. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

Courtesy Reggie Smith

Chris and Alex Perrin, who own Cut Seven, leased and renovated a new space so they could run a hybrid indoor/outdoor class out of an old auto garage. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

WTOP/Dan Friedell

Betsy Poos will continue leading online classes during the winter, as will her studio’s teachers, even though Realignment Studio will close at the end of October. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

WTOP/Dan Friedell

David Guisao leads a BOOMBOX class on the roof of Union Market. Reggie Smith said he hopes people are willing to come back and exercise indoors when it gets cold outside. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

Courtesy Reggie Smith

When the coronavirus pandemic swept across North America in March, it closed schools, businesses, restaurants and fitness centers, forcing many people to work from home and limit their mixing in society.

There was one silver lining: the weather, while brisk and blustery some of the time, was generally good, and getting better. It made exercising outside tolerable, and even appealing most days.

While many people continued their fitness programs over the last seven months with Zoom classes or dripping sweat on a treadmill or Peloton bike indoors, many moved outside.

Lured by good weather in the spring and fall, some people even survived the sultriest days by working out early in the morning or late in the evening.

But now, winter is coming.

What will fitness studios and gyms, many of which have moved workouts outside, do at the end of October as days get shorter and frigid mornings make it harder for clients to peel back the blankets and get out of bed?

For the owners of four D.C. independent fitness studios, there are four distinct choices: invest in a new studio that supports a hybrid indoor/outdoor workout; encourage athletes to come back indoors while working out in masks and maintaining their distance; build individual workout “pods” separated by a frame and plastic sheeting; or, sadly, decide to shut down for good.

For Chris and Alex Perrin, the husband and wife team who own Cut Seven, a facility that offers an intense, boot-camp style workout in Logan Circle, the pandemic put on hold expansion plans, moved classes outside onto a D.C. school’s soccer field, and

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health

Pfizer delivers final blow to Trump’s hope for preelection vaccine

There won’t be a coronavirus vaccine ready before Election Day, despite President Donald Trump’s repeated promises and vaccine makers’ breakneck speed.

The president’s last best hope for meeting that deadline fizzled Friday as Pfizer announced that it would not seek emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration before the third week of November. The company is the only frontrunner in the vaccine race that has said it could have proof its vaccine works by Nov. 3.

For Trump, the failure to meet that deadline is a self-inflicted defeat. The Election Day target was always an artificial one, created by a president who for months has touted it on the campaign trail and press briefing stage. When his administration’s top scientists disputed the timeline, Trump accused them of slowing down progress for political reasons.

In the meantime, dozens of companies, universities and government agencies are working at record speed — cutting years off the normal development process to deliver a vaccine for the virus that has killed nearly 220,000 people in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide. That historic push is still on track to deliver a vaccine by early 2021, roughly a year after the virus first emerged.

“It was never going to happen. It was utterly unrealistic,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “Vaccines follow a timeline of good science, they don’t follow a timeline of electoral politics.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, federal health officials including infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar have said that a vaccine is most likely by the end of the year or early 2021.

But those projections have always been riddled with caveats. Enrollment in clinical trials to test the shots’ safety and efficacy does not always proceed as quickly as companies would like. Too few people in those trials may be exposed to the virus, delaying the collection of crucial data. And the studies may find that a vaccine is dangerous — or simply doesn’t work.

“Nature is hard. You can’t use your political rhetoric to bamboozle nature,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Emanuel penned a letter to Pfizer this month with dozens of scientists raising concerns about speeding the vaccine before safety data was clear.

Two manufacturers, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, recently paused clinical trials after each reported a serious illness in their studies. While J&J only halted the trials this week, AstraZeneca still has not resumed U.S. studies that stopped in September.

Executives at Moderna, another frontrunner whose vaccine relies on a still-unproven technology, has said it will not be ready to submit an emergency authorization application to FDA until late November. Pfizer, meanwhile, continues to expand its trial — first to enroll thousands more adults, and most recently to

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health

Pfizer delivers final blow to Trump’s hope for pre-election vaccine

Executives at Moderna, another frontrunner whose vaccine relies on a still-unproven technology, has said it will not be ready to submit an emergency authorization application to FDA until late November. Pfizer, meanwhile, continues to expand its trial — first to enroll thousands more adults, and most recently to include teens. Those moves could further push back its timeline, because the FDA expects companies applying for emergency authorization to submit two months of data on at least half of trial participants.

“Just because we are waiting until the end of the year instead of October — just to keep things in perspective, this is still a land speed record for vaccines,” said Peter Hotez, a virologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. Hotez has worked on several shots including a potential SARS vaccine, each of which has taken years if not decades of work to develop and test.

But the rapid pace of coronavirus shot development thus far hasn’t satisfied Trump, whose administration has put the quest for a vaccine at the center of its pandemic response efforts.

“We’ll have the vaccine soon, maybe before a special date. You know what date I’m talking about,” he said in an early September news conference. When FDA pushed to beef up its standards for authorizing emergency use of coronavirus vaccines, he called it “a political move more than anything else.”

The agency revised its guidance to make sure drug makers submitted enough data to reveal any side effects from their shots, Hotez said. It “wasn’t done to punish the president, it was done to protect the public to ensure that we have vaccines that work and are safe,” he said.

As vaccine timelines turned hazy, Trump turned his attentions to drugs known as monoclonal anitbodies. He declared an experimental antibody by drug a “cure” earlier this month, after receiving the treatment during his hospitalization for Covid-19. The president has repeatedly promised the cocktails will soon be available to every American who needs them.

Yet within a week of his initial promise, Eli Lilly — the other company with an antibody drug in late-stage clinical trials — paused its studies over safety concerns.

The bumps on the road to a vaccine or an antibody drug leave health officials with tools that Trump and other White House officials have long questioned: mask-wearing, social distancing and widespread testing.

Trump’s antibody rhetoric “was a pivot when it was clear that the vaccines weren’t going to fill his timeline. And its quite clear that the antibodies aren’t going to fill his timeline either,” said Emanuel.

But the longer timeline for vaccines could help public confidence in an eventual shot. Most registered voters want manufacturers to fully test vaccines even if it delays delivering the shots to Americans, according to a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Nearly half of those voters, across party affiliations, said they believe Trump is pressuring FDA to deliver shots sooner and 35 percent believe it will

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