Region movie theaters shutting down in coronavirus outbreak response
John J. Watkins, The Times
AMC is closing its movie theaters for at least six to 12 weeks, GQT Portage 16 IMAX is closed through at least the end of the month, and Cinemark theaters are closed starting Wednesday until further notice, all in response to the deadly coronavirus epidemic.
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Kansas-based AMC shuttered AMC Schererville 16, AMC Schererville 12, AMC CLASSIC Hobart 14 Michigan City and AMC CLASSIC Hobart 12 Tuesday "in compliance with local, state and federal directives, and as a precaution to help ensure the health and safety of moviegoers and theatre staff."
AMC decided to take the action after more than a dozen states mandated the closure of movie theaters, bars and restaurants in some of its largest markets. The federal government recommended no public gatherings of more than 10 people, which AMC said made running a movie theater "essentially impossible."
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“We are ever so disappointed for our movie-going guests and for our employee teams that the new CDC guidelines that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 people make it impossible to open our theaters," AMC CEO and President Adam Aron said. "Still, the health and wellbeing of AMC guests and employees, and of all Americans, takes precedence above all else. We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and look forward to the day we can again delight moviegoers nationwide by reopening AMC movie theatres in accordance with guidance from the CDC and local health authorities.”
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AMC will monitor the situation and is flexible about reopening whenever the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health authorities say it's safe to do so. All A-List memberships are paused with no billing or payments taking place during the duration of the closure. The chain can still serve movie-goers with AMC Theatres On Demand, where people can buy or rent more than 3,500 movies online.
Cinemark announced closure of its Valparaiso theater and others in its chain Tuesday afternoon.
"Each of our theaters will be closed beginning Wednesday, March 18, until we believe it is safe to once again welcome moviegoers to our auditoriums," Cinemark announced.
Cinemark is extending the expiration date for all Cinemark Movie Rewards points to June 30 and is pausing Movie Club memberships while theaters are closed. It will not bill the monthly fee.
Kroger announces more measures to protect people from coronavirus
INDIANAPOLIS (WNDU)- Kroger announced on Tuesday that it's adding more measures to help protect workers and customers from the spread of the coronavirus.
Kroger is asking government officials for help in securing protective masks and gloves, for workers to wear during their hours.
Kroger says it will also soon install plexiglass partitions at many cash registers, to help promote physical distancing.
The partitions will be installed at every checklane, pharmacy counter and Starbucks register in the stores.
The company is also having educational floor decals to promote physical distancing at checklanes and other counters.
"Kroger continues to enhance its daily sanitation practices, including increased cleaning of commonly used areas such as cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, food service counters and shelves," according to a statement from Kroger.
"These and other recently announced steps will help Kroger ensure the safety of associates and help our communities flatten the curve while at the same time meeting our obligation to be there for our customers."
Walmart starts to require workers to wear masks, encourages customers to do same amid COVID-19 outbreak
Joseph S. Pete Apr 22, 2020
Wearing a mask at a store used to be a big no-no, but it's quickly become a social norm.
More and more retail employees around the Region are wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic that's infected more than 2.5 million people worldwide, killing more than 180,000 people around the globe.
Family Express, a Valparaiso-based chain of 75 convenience stores around Indiana, has started to provide its employees with masks. And national retail giant Walmart, which has popular superstores in Hammond, Schererville, Hobart, Portage, Valparaiso and Michigan City, is now requiring its employees to wear masks while at work.
"As the world continues to deal with the spread of COVID-19, Walmart remains focused on the health and safety of their associates and customers," Walmart said in a news release. "As a result, the company continues to implement extensive measures to help keep stores safe and clean."
Walmart has been taking various steps to create a safe environment to protect customers and employees, such as installing plexiglass sneeze guards at checkout lanes and floor decals at the checkout aisles and entrances to encourage customers to keep six feet apart to maintain proper social distancing during the pandemic.
The Arkansas-based retail giant also has made payment, pickup and delivery completely contact-free to try to limit the spread of disease.
Employees are required to wear masks or other face coverings at work and customers are encouraged to do the same.
"We know that it’s a time of uncertainty for many," Walmart said in the news release.
ARE WORSHIPPERS GUINEA PIGS FOR STATE?
When Gov. Eric Holcomb last week announced his plan for reopening Indiana businesses and facilities in stages, one group of institutions was given more leniency than others – houses of worship
The governor said all houses of worship can resume hosting normal services, statewide, even in counties where other restrictions remain in place.
And he said they will be a good “control group” to test how the coronavirus plan is working out over the next two to three weeks.
Holcomb said he is allowing churches, synagogues and mosques to open first because their leaders will be likely to look after their flocks, and follow reopening and COVID-19 safety measures.
"What we're going to do is learn from these steps that we're taking. We just thought a good place to start, or a good place to have a test or a control group, would be houses of worship," Holcomb said during a press conference last week.
"If we can manage this, this gives us a lot of confidence in some other arenas as well."
The state is recommending families be seated 6 feet apart during religious services; that hand sanitizer be made easily available; that masks be worn during services; that commonly touched surfaces be disinfected regularly; and that person-to-person contact be avoided.
Holcomb's plan also recommends that parishioners over the age of 65, and those with underlying health conditions, avoid attending in person, and continue to watch online.
However, he said those recommendations and not regulations.
"When it came down to making the ultimate decision on places of worship, we said going forward that we would recommend allowing this now to see, as we look back 14 days or 21 days in terms of houses of worship, what effect it might have," Holcomb said.
And while stores, restaurants and other businesses that reopen will be limited to 50 percent capacity, no limit was placed on the number who can attend religious services if the guidelines are followed.
The governor has said the plan for reopening was fluid, and could change depending on the number of new COVID-19 cases at the end of May, and the accessibility of ICU beds and ventilators.
Those numbers will show whether the guidelines are being adhered to, and whether the plan to further ease restrictions in June can proceed.
"People in our state, 6.7 million Hoosiers, will determine where we are in July and in June," Holcomb said. "The brunt of the responsibility falls on me and you. We'll have the most impact on where we are and how the virus spreads."
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Blue Chip Casino announces massive layoffs due to COVID-19 'uncertainty'
By JEFF MAYES Staff Writer
MICHIGAN CITY — Just six months ago, Blue Chip Casino Hotel and Spa management and employees celebrated 20 years in Michigan City. How times have changed.
This week, Boyd Gaming, which owns the casino, announced that massive layoffs could be coming this summer, affecting 25 percent to 60 percent of the 1,000 employees.
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