Mark Blum, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ star, dies of COVID-19 at 69

Actor Mark Blum has died of complications from the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, according to an executive with the labour union SAG-AFTRA. He was 69.

The actor, who appeared in films like Desperately Seeking Susan and Crocodile Dundee, died Wednesday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital of complications from COVID-19, his wife Janet Zarish confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter.

Blum’s most recent work included playing the bookstore owner Mr. Mooney on the Netflix series You, and he also appeared on HBO’s Succession. 

Madonna called her Desperately Seeking Susan co-star Blum “a remarkable human.”

She says she remembers him as “funny, warm, loving and professional.” She says his death is “another reminder that this virus is no joke.”

“I Want to Acknowledge the Passing of a remarkable Human, fellow actor and friend Mark Blum, who succumbed to Coronavirus,” she wrote on Instagram. “This is really tragic and my heart goes out to him, his family and his loved ones. I remember him as funny warm, loving and professional when we made Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985!!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-NZ4cnooM2/

I Want to Acknowledge the Passing of a remarkable Human, fellow actor and friend Mark Blum, who succumbed to Coronavirus. This is really tragic and my heart goes out to him, his family and his loved ones. I remember him as funny warm, loving .and professional when we made Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985!! Another reminder that this virus is no joke, nothing to be casual about or pretend wont affect us in some way. ♥️ we need to stay grateful -be hopeful- help each other-and follow the quarantine rules! #covid_19 #markblum #desperatelyseekingsusan

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Blum was involved in the New York theatre community, frequently appearing on Broadway in shows such as the revival of Twelve Angry Men.

Playwrights Horizons, a not-for-profit, off-Broadway theatre located in New York City, remembered Blum in a Twitter post.

“With love and heavy hearts, Playwrights Horizons pays tribute to Mark Blum, a dear longtime friend and a consummate artist who passed this week,” the theatre company wrote. “Thank you, Mark, for all you brought to our theater, and to theaters and audiences across the world. We will miss you.”

Rebecca Damon, executive vice-president and New York president of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) labour union, also paid tribute to Blum on Twitter.

“It is with such deep sorrow that I’m writing to share the news that our friend and former board member Mark Blum has passed away as a result of complications from the coronavirus. Mark was a dedicated Screen Actors Guild and SAG-AFTRA board member serving from 2007-2013,” Damon wrote.

She called him a “master teacher, a loyal friend and a beautiful human.”

“Mark was smart, funny, and a true actor’s actor. He will be deeply missed. Thinking of you all. Please #stayhome. #COVID19,” she added.

Many others took to Twitter to send their condolences once news of Blum’s passing spread.

 

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from the Associated Press

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Halifax bus service to be ‘significantly impacted’ on Friday due to staffing issues

Bus service in Halifax is expected to be ‘significantly impacted’ on Friday due to staffing issues, Halifax Transit announced late on Thursday.

“Based on current staff availability, Halifax Transit anticipates that conventional bus service will be significantly impacted at the start of service tomorrow, March 27,” a press release reads.

Halifax Transit says travellers should expect route delays or cancellations and they are encouraging riders to make alternate plans if possible.

The staffing shortage comes less than a day after the municipality confirmed that a Halifax Transit employee working in the Burnside Maintenance Department tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a notice sent to Halifax Transit staff from director Dave Reage, the agency learned of the positive case Wednesday. All maintenance staff on the evening shift were sent home, while staff scheduled to work Thursday morning were told not to come in.

Reage told Global News that Halifax Transit has been in contact with Public Health and will take direction on their next steps.

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Coronavirus: Unemployed workers lining up outside Service Canada locations in Winnipeg

Lineups have been forming outside Service Canada locations around Winnipeg, as the COVID-19 global pandemic leaves many unemployed.

A group of about 15 people, lined up outside the Service Canada location on St. Marys Avenue Wednesday morning, told Global News they had been waiting for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Omow Atiku says she came to the physical location because she was having trouble applying for unemployment insurance through Service Canada’s website, and the webpage wasn’t loading.

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“I was trying to fill out E.I. only and it’s just been completely impossible to do that right now, so I just came here to see if I could get help,” Atiku said.

“The website is not loading at all right now, so you couldn’t even get to the page to apply.”

She says it’s frustrating to have to come to the physical location, when she should be practicing social distancing.

“I just hope this whole system could just get simplified soon,” Atiku said.

Service Canada was not available for comment on Wednesday, but signs on their doors said they were limiting the amount of people allowed inside due to COVID-19.


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Marigolds Project will not include students this year due to coronavirus outbreak

The founder of the Marigolds Project has announced student participation has been suspended for this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Barry Ogden made the declaration in an email announcement Wednesday.

The annual Marigolds Project saw students plant thousands of marigolds at different locations around the region, highlighted by a group planting effort in the median of Main Street North.

In 2019, more than 200,00 marigolds were planted at 67 locations by students from seventy area schools. It set a Guinness World Record in each of the last six years for the largest number of students planting flowers at one time.

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Earlier this year, Ogden said the project was on track for a seventh straight record.

“We purchased all of our supplies and all our orders are in so we are ready for next year,” Ogden’s email said. “We are talking to municipalities and institutions about planting some marigolds in June but without children.”

The project also includes painting murals and planting spruce trees. Ogden said more than 80,000 people have participated over the last 23 years.

Ogden said annual preparation for the project begins in the fall with the search for sponsors and the purchase of supplies. Supplies are delivered to schools in time to begin growing the flowers after March Break.

The flowers are used in class, Ogden said, to help children learn math, germination rates and photosynthesis.

He said students also use the flowers as inspiration for art projects and music. The flowers are transplanted around the city in June.

Schools in New Brunswick have been closed since March 16th due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced last week the initial two-week closure would be extended indefinitely.

“The marigolds and children are such a great symbol of hope that we want to keep the spirit alive,” Ogden said. “These are trying times that we will see through.”

Ogden said the Marigolds Project has been copied in British Columbia, New York and Europe.

 

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Idris Elba angrily denies ‘stupid’ celebrity coronavirus conspiracy theory

Idris Elba has responded to a “stupid” conspiracy theory that he and other celebrities are being paid to say they have the new coronavirus.

Elba, who revealed he tested positive for the illness earlier this month, spoke about the conspiracy theory on Instagram Live after Cardi B’s recent comments about the U.S. government allowing asymptomatic famous people to access tests, while others with symptoms have to wait up to a week to even apply.

“I think the debate about rich and poor and who’s getting it and who’s not, I think, is not a healthy debate,” Elba said on Instagram Live. “It’s like, I got a test but I also got COVID. Does that make me preferential? I don’t understand that.”

“I think that the negativity around test-shaming is counterproductive. I don’t see what people get out of that. And also this idea that someone like myself is gonna be paid to say I’ve got coronavirus? That’s absolute bullsh-t.

“Such stupidness. People wanna spread that as if it’s news. That’s stupid. It’s the quickest way to get people sick because there’s no benefit to me and Sabrina sitting here saying we’ve got it or we ain’t got it. I don’t even understand the logic of that,” Elba said of himself and his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, who also tested positive for COVID-19.

The 47-year-old actor told his followers that they need to understand that “this is not a movie.”

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“I’m not an actor right now,” he said. “I’m just a human being and I just happen to be in the public eye. So I want people to understand that this is very real. I don’t feel like I’m privileged because I got a test because I actually contracted it.”

Elba never mentioned Cardi B’s name during his Instagram Live.

In Cardi B’s recent Instagram Live, she said celebrities who say they’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus without symptoms sound like they are in a “Flat Tummy Tea commercial,” which is a detox tea that influencers are paid to promote on social media.

“I’m starting to feel like y’all n—as is paying n—as to say that they got it,” she said in a recent Instagram Live video. “If y’all are paying n—as to say that they got it, pay me too.”

Elba revealed that he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 16.

“This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus,” Elba wrote on Twitter.

“Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing. No panic.”

In the video he shared on social media, Elba said “it sucks” but that he was “doing OK.”

“Sabrina hasn’t been tested and she’s doing OK. I didn’t have any symptoms but I got tested because I realized I was exposed to someone who had also tested positive.

“I quarantined myself and got a test immediately and I got the results back today. Look, this is serious.”

He said it was the time “to really think about social distancing, washing your hands.”

He said there are “people out there who aren’t showing symptoms and that can easily spread it.”

“So now’s a real time to be really vigilant about washing your hands and keeping your distance.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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From deploying the army to banning funerals: Coronavirus prompts unprecedented measures around the world

The coronavirus, which has killed more than 14,600 people globally, have prompted countries around the world to take extreme measures to combat the virus. In some places, the moves have upended social norms, led to strict social distancing rules being enforced and the shutdown of some of the world’s key landmarks. Here’s a look at some of them.

CHINA: WUHAN, THE FIRST LOCKDOWN

China was the first to impose a lockdown on its cities – a move now seen in many countries around the world – with its quarantine of the city of Wuhan where the virus first appeared in December. The restrictions imposed on Jan 23 shut down transport links into and out of the city of 11 million, with people ordered to stay home and allowed to leave only for grocery runs and medical care. Schools, offices and factories were also shut. The authorities also conducted house-to-house searches, rounding up the sick and housing them in quarantine centres. While the draconian measures initially drew scrutiny, they have been credited by the World Health Organisation for helping to limit the global spread of the virus.

ITALY: NO MARRIAGES AND FUNERALS

In Italy, where the virus death toll of more than 5,000, has already overtaken that of China, some of the country’s worst-hit regions have stepped up social distancing measures to get people to stay at home. The northern region of Veneto shut parks and said residents could no longer go for walks, while the adjacent Emilia-Romagna banned jogging and bicycle rides, saying people had to stay indoors to prevent infections. The latest measures effectively banned the only types of outdoor exercise that Italians in those regions had been allowed to do. A lockdown imposed nationwide since earlier this month – the first during peacetime – has banned all non-essential travel, closed schools and most shops, and even outlawed marriages and funerals.

FRANCE: REFRAIN FROM KISSES

France, which has seen more than 16,000 cases of the virus and at least 600 deaths, earlier this month advised the public to refrain from giving greetings with kisses or air kisses that are also popular in Europe. In addition to refraining from the greetings, known as “la bise”, Health Minister Olivier Veran also urged the public to cut back on giving handshakes. The social distancing recommendations are part of France’s efforts to combat the coronavirus, which include the shutdown of popular tourist sites such as the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower, as well as a nationwide lockdown that limits citizens to going out of the their homes only for groceries, work, solitary exercise or medical care.

GERMANY: THREE’S A CROWD

In Germany, where the virus has infected at least 22,00 and killed more than 80 people, any gathering more than three, is a crowd. For at least the next two weeks, people in Germany will not be allowed to form groups of more than two in public unless they live together in the same household or the gathering is work-related, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Sunday (March 22). As part of a bundle of stricter social distancing rules, restaurants will only offer takeaway services and hairdressers and beauty, massage and tattoo parlours will also be closed.

BRITAIN: PUBS, THE ‘ANCIENT’ BRITISH TRADITION, CLOSED

The coronavirus brought the shutters down on British pubs last Friday (March 20), a “heartbreaking” decision Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he made to slow down the accelerating spread of the coronavirus. Announcing the measure, Johnson said: “I do accept that what we’re doing is extraordinary: we’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub, and I can understand how people feel about that. It’s a huge wrench.” In addition to pubs, restaurants, clubs and gyms have also closed and the government may impose curfews and travel restrictions if the social distancing measures are not heeded. The virus has killed more than 280 people and infected more than 5,500 in Britain.

AUSTRALIA: BONDI BEACH CLOSED

A warm autumn spell brought droves of Australians to hit Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach last Friday (March 20), defying the government’s orders to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The crowds prompted authorities to close the country’s most famous strip of sand as well a s other beaches in the country. The government also announced further social distancing measures that kicked in on Monday, which ceased many non-essential services, such as pubs, clubs, cinemas, gyms and houses of worship. Australia has seen least 1,600 cases and seven deaths from the virus.

SAUDI ARABIA AND MUSLIM WORLD: COMMUNAL PRAYERS SUSPENDED

Saudi Arabia last Thursday (March 19) suspended Muslims from conducting their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer in the overflow area just outside the walls of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The kingdom, which has recorded more than 500 cases of the virus, has already taken drastic measures, including halting international flights, suspending the Umrah year-round pilgrimage to Mecca, closing mosques, schools, malls and restaurants, and asking people to stop going to work. Aside from Saudi Arabia, many governments in the Muslim world have also suspended communal prayers or closed mosques entirely, leaving many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to pray at home, at work, in parks or in the street.

MALAYSIA: DEPLOYING THE ARMY

Malaysia, which has South-east Asia’s highest number of coronavirus cases, deployed the army last Sunday (March 22) to enforce a two-week curb on travel after some people defied the restrictions that came into force last Wednesday. The police and army have been deployed at road blocks and markets, on patrols in urban and rural areas, as well as assisting in maintaining security at hospitals. Since last Wednesday, Malaysia has closed its borders, schools and non-essential businesses and ordered people to limit going outside. The country has so far reported at least 14 deaths and more than 1,500 infections, most of them linked to a religious gathering last month.

SINGAPORE: 1M RULE BETWEEN PATRONS

Singapore, which has seen more than 400 cases of the virus and at least two deaths, announced stricter social distancing guidelines last Friday (March 20), suspending all events and gatherings with 250 or more participants until June 30. Meanwhile, events with fewer than 250 people and operators of venues accessible to the public must implement measures to ensure a separation of at least 1m between patrons. The measures will apply across the board for all events, including religious and private gatherings.

INDIA: TAJ MAHAL CLOSED TO VISITORS

India on March 17 took the unprecedented step of closing the Taj Mahal, its top tourist site as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus. Along with the Taj Mahal, dozens of other protected monuments and museums across in the country including the Ajanta and Ellora caves and religious sites such as the Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai, have been closed. The country last Sunday stepped up its measures to combat the pandemic, with hundreds of millions staying indoors as part of a 14-hour voluntary curfew aimed at testing its ability to fight the pandemic. At least eight people have died from the virus while more than 400 have been infected. Following Sunday’s curfew, New Delhi announced it will be under lockdown until March 31, while public transport will be suspended.

SOURCES: AFP, REUTERS, NYTIMES

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Rand Paul becomes 1st U.S. senator to report positive test for coronavirus

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Sunday that he had tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, becoming the first member of the Senate to report a case of COVID-19. He said in a tweet that he was feeling fine and was in quarantine.

Paul, a doctor, said he has not had symptoms and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He said he was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.

Paul, a deficit hawk, was among eight Senate Republicans who voted against a House-passed bill last week that provided more than $100 billion to boost testing for the coronavirus and guarantee paid sick leave for millions of workers.

He also was only Republican senator who opposed an earlier bill authorizing $8.3 billion for initial response to the coronavirus.

The senator was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon, which was the last time the Senate held floor votes, including on one of his amendments. While Senate Republicans have lunched together as a group most days since, it is unclear if Paul was among them.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican senator, said on the Senate floor Sunday that lawmakers will consult with the attending physician at the Capitol about those senators who have been in contact with Paul.

Two House members, Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah,, have tested positive.

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HRM closes parks, trails and beaches as province declares state of emergency

The Halifax Regional Municipality is shutting down its parks, beaches, playgrounds, sports fields and trails as the provincial government declares a state of emergency.

The new measures are “consistent” with Nova Scotia’s decision to close provincial parks and outdoor amenities, it said in a Sunday afternoon press statement.

“Municipal staff are currently determining service level adjustments related to a provincial state of emergency, including Halifax Transit, and will issue announcements as decisions are confirmed,” it said.

The news comes as Nova Scotia’s public health officials announced the province’s 28th case of COVID-19 — an increase of seven cases from Saturday.

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said his team is working to expand COVID-19 testing options, anticipating new community spread of the virus.

The municipality says the provincial state of emergency does not impact public safety, and all standard essential services – including 311, fire and police – are operational and adhering to guidance from the Health Department.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Nova Scotia, residents and businesses are being advised that failure to adhere to self-isolation and social distancing orders could result in fines.

Those tickets can be $1,000 for each day an individual breaches the orders and $7,500 for business and corporations.

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Coronavirus: Loblaws stores place markers to ensure social distancing

As many people around the world practice social distancing, grocery stores remain crowded, as people prepare for a potential quarantine.

One of Canada’s largest grocers, Loblaws, announced Friday that it will begin several precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The executive chairman of the company, Galen Weston, released a video on Twitter saying that Loblaws stores are reducing hours to allow its staff time for extra sanitization and rest.

Weston continued to say that stores will open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the first hour dedicated to seniors and those with disabilities.

Aside from that, Weston is implementing a limit on the number of customers allowed in Loblaws’ busiest stores in an attempt to increase social distancing.

At the two Kingston, Ont., Loblaws locations, staff were seen labelling two-metre markers with blue and duct tape in front of the checkout and telling customers to stand behind each marker.

Global News spoke to several customers inside the Princess Street and Sir. John A. MacDonald location and many were pleased with the health and safety adjustments.

“I think it’s great to see companies take this step and put our health as a priority,” said Cassidy Van Stiphaut as she waited in line to pay for her groceries.

“I think it’s a great idea, and it’s nice to see people on board with it,” said Paul Gornsey.

The feeling, however, wasn’t mutual for one Loblaws shopper.

“I think it’s pointless,” said Andrew Hayes, and when asked why he believes it’s pointless, he answered with, “I don’t think a five-foot gap won’t make any difference.”

Canada’s public health agency defines social distancing as steps to “minimize close contact” with people in the community, such as “quarantine or self-isolation at the individual level,” along with broader steps such as avoiding crowds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to stay two metres from one another as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

In an emailed statement, Weston said when the aisles are jam-packed, giving people the appropriate amount of space is just too difficult. High-volume stores will open every other checkout lane to encourage social distancing.

The stores will also be eliminating loose or bulk items in some locations, and some service departments, such as seafood, will pre-package products.

“Food sampling, removed beauty testers in Shoppers Drug Mart and suspended cosmetic services like makeovers and skincare consultations. We are also encouraging you to use debit or credit as much as possible. In short, the less touching, the better,” said Weston.

Lastly, Loblaws will waive the $0.05 plastic bag fee to discourage the use of reusable bags.

These changes were put in place on Friday, Nov. 20 and will continue until further notice.

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Ontario care homes find creative way to connect amid COVID-19 lockdown

As COVID-19 continues to spread, drastic measures have been put in place to protect those most vulnerable.

Nursing homes and senior care centres across the country have been put under lockdown, which means visits with family and friends have been put on hold.

But that hasn’t stopped long-term care residents near Kingston, Ont., from connecting with family and friends.

Residents at Helen Henderson Care Centre in Amherstview, and Gananoque’s Carveth Nursing Home have written personalized messages on pieces of paper which were then posted on social media by centre staff.

“This project was just a way to connect the residents with their families and friends. The families are very much missing them,” says Shannon Buell, the activity director for Carveth Nursing Home.

Buell said she saw the idea on social media and decided to try it with her residents.

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