Days passed, he said, before it was clear that the virus circulating was the Delta variant, “and I went, oh, OK. Delta is a different thing.”

“I don’t think we could have anticipated what Delta would do here,” he said.

Infectious disease specialists have praised the community’s meticulous contact tracing, carried out largely by four nurses in Barnstable County, for helping them to understand the scope of the outbreak.

As town leaders debated what health measures to reintroduce, Mr. Morse said he was concerned about overreacting, or making decisions “based on the loudest and most frantic voices.”

But successive waves of tests showed a rising positivity rate, hitting a peak of 15 percent on July 15. The town issued an indoor mask advisory four days later, Mr. Morse said, and made it mandatory on July 25.

“We are entering a new era of having to live with the virus,” he said. “In the long term, it’s not going to be feasible to mask up one weekend and let it go the next.”

Late-summer Provincetown is a different Provincetown — still crowded, but cautious, alert for bad outcomes. The town’s positivity rate dropped to 4.6 percent on Thursday; its mask mandate will automatically become an advisory, and then be lifted, if it remains low.

Rick Murray, the general manager of the Crown and Anchor, a beachside inn that houses bars and nightclubs, says it is part of the community’s DNA to be “very, very responsible” in a health crisis.

“When the AIDS epidemic came, we took care of our own, and we will take care of our own now,” said Mr. Murray, who has been H.I.V. positive for 37 years. He said he anticipated that guarding against the virus will be challenging “for another two or three years, easily.”

“This is not going to go away,” he said.

It was simple enough for Liz Carney, 50, who owns the Four Eleven Gallery on Commercial Street, to revert to strict coronavirus protocols. There was muscle memory. For an opening scheduled for Friday, she went back to that old, restrained style: masks required, no beverages served, and only three people allowed in the gallery at a time.

Thinking back to the exuberant crowds of June, she said it was “a bit naïve” to think it was safe to congregate inside — but also, she misses them.

“There was just a joy and an exhilaration,” she said. “It was very exciting. I wish I had taken a twirl on the dance floor while I had a chance.”

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As Fears Grip Afghanistan, Hundreds of Thousands Flee

KABUL, Afghanistan — Haji Sakhi decided to flee Afghanistan the night he saw two Taliban members drag a young woman from her home and lash her on the sidewalk. Terrified for his three daughters, he crammed his family into a car the next morning and barreled down winding dirt roads into Pakistan.

That was more than 20 years ago. They returned to Kabul, the capital, nearly a decade later after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime. But now, with the Taliban sweeping across parts of the country as American forces withdraw, Mr. Sakhi, 68, fears a return of the violence he witnessed that night. This time, he says, his family is not waiting so long to leave.

“I’m not scared of leaving belongings behind, I’m not scared of starting everything from scratch,” said Mr. Sakhi, who recently applied for Turkish visas for himself, his wife, their three daughters and one son. “What I’m scared of is the Taliban.”

earlier this month. “A failure to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan and stem the current violence will lead to further displacement.”

The sudden exodus harks back to earlier periods of heightened unrest: Millions poured out of Afghanistan in the years after the Soviets invaded in 1979. A decade later, more fled as the Soviets withdrew and the country fell into civil war. The exodus continued when the Taliban came to power in 1996.

Afghans currently account for one of the world’s largest populations of refugees and asylum seekers — around 3 million people — and represent the second highest number of asylum claims in Europe, after Syria.

Now the country is at the precipice of another bloody chapter, but the new outpouring of Afghans comes as attitudes toward migrants have hardened around the world.

After forging a repatriation deal in 2016 to stem migration from war-afflicted countries, Europe has deported tens of thousands of Afghan migrants. Hundreds of thousands more are being forced back by Turkey as well as by neighboring Pakistan and Iran, which together host around 90 percent of displaced Afghans worldwide and have deported a record number of Afghans in recent years.

Coronavirus restrictions have also made legal and illegal migration more difficult, as countries closed their borders and scaled back refugee programs, pushing thousands of migrants to travel to Europe along more dangerous routes.

civilian casualties reach record highs, many Afghans remain determined to leave.

One recent morning in Kabul, people gathered outside the passport office. Within hours, a line snaked around three city blocks and past a mural of migrants with an ominous warning: “Don’t jeopardize you and your family’s lives. Migration is not the solution.”

Central Europe have called to increase their border security as well, fearing the current exodus could swell into a crisis similar to that in 2015 when nearly a million, mostly Syrian migrants entered Europe.

But in Afghanistan, about half of the country’s population is already in need of humanitarian assistance this year — twice as many people as last year and six times as many as four years ago, according to the United Nations.

Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi, 40, borrowed $1,000 to bring 36 relatives to Kabul after the Taliban attacked his village in Malistan district. Today his three-room apartment, situated on the edge of the city, feels more like a crowded shelter than a home.

The men sleep in one large living room, women stay in the other and the children cram into the apartment’s one small bedroom alongside bags of clothes and cleaning supplies. Mr. Mohammadi borrows more money from neighbors to buy enough bread and chicken — which have nearly doubled in price as food prices surge — to feed everyone.

Now, sinking further into debt with no relief in sight, he is at a loss for what to do.

“These families are sick, they are traumatized, they have lost everything,” he said, standing near his kitchen’s one countertop — out of earshot from his family. “Unless the situation improves, I don’t know what we will do.”

Asad Timory contributed reporting from Herat; Zabihullah Ghazi from Laghman; Fahim Abed and Jim Huylebroek from Kabul.

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HGTV’s ‘Battle on the Beach’: Did the Right Bedroom Win? Plus, the Reality Star Romances You Won’t Believe

House Party” is the official® podcast about the overlapping worlds of real estate and pop culture, hosted by Natalie Way and Rachel Stults. Click the player above to hear our take on this week’s hot topics.

We’re back to recap another episode of HGTV’s “Battle on the Beach,” and this time the three renovating teams are tackling the main bedroom.

Of course, there are several twists along the way, and our couples are getting increasingly snippy with one another. And, dare we say, we’re here for the drama.

But we might not be here for the winning team’s bedroom design. We’re calling this the show’s first flop—but what do you think? Click the player above to hear our recap, and then email us at and let us know if we’re wrong!

Other topics we discuss on this week’s podcast:

  • The steamy relationship status of our favorite real estate reality TV stars: Everybody’s getting cozy! Ty Pennington is engaged! “Selling Sunset” star Chrishelle Stause is reportedly dating her boss, Jason Oppenheim. (Insert “wow” emoji here.) Christina Haack‘s been vacationing with her new beau, and Jonathan Scott and Zooey Deschanel are still going strong.
  • And we’ve got no winners but two celebrity real estate losers this week. That’s right—double the trouble!

Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please: Throw us a five-star rating if you like what you hear. The more good ratings and reviews we have, the easier it is for people to find us.

Want to chime in? Have your own crazy home-related story you’re dying to share? We’re all ears, eagerly waiting to discuss all of your burning real estate questions on “The Mailbox” segment. Email us at, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or tweet us @housepartypod on Twitter.

The post HGTV’s ‘Battle on the Beach’: Did the Right Bedroom Win? Plus, the Reality Star Romances You Won’t Believe appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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Rams Tackle Andrew Whitworth Stiff Arms Father Time While Eclipsing $100 Million In Career Earnings

Veteran Los Angeles Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth is ready to cap his extraordinary career. When that might be is still to be determined.

“I keep saying at some point you’ve got to hedge your bet that this is the last one,’’ said Whitworth, as he goes about his 16th NFL training camp. “I don’t know when that is but this could be it, but I’ve said that seven or eight times in a row now so we’ll see.’’

Whitworth is earning $6.6 million in base salary and signing bonus to protect what quarterback Matthew Stafford can’t see and that’s his blindside. Whitworth, one of the team’s unquestionable leaders, is buckling up his chinstrap for at least one more lap around the league.

“My NFL career could have a driver’s license now,’’ said Whitworth, who’ll turn 40 during the season. “It’s pretty wild.’’

What’s crazy is that Whitworth, a second-round pick out of LSU is 2006, will eclipse the $100 million mark in career earnings this season in the second year of his three-year, $30 million deal.

Reaching that $100 million milestone as an offensive lineman speaks to Whitworth’s level of production and commitment to keep playing while most the colleagues he started with are at home, rubbing their sore bones.

Although it was Whitworth who was acting his age last year, skipping seven games with tears to two knee ligaments. He returned for the playoffs and is primed to contribute to the Rams’ enhanced passing game this season.


Stafford is being asked to stretch defenses with L.A. going for chunk plays that require more time in the pocket. Whitworth is all in in supplying Stafford with those extra ticks as he reads through his progression and loads his strong right wing.

Whitworth didn’t have his arm twisted to board the Stafford bandwagon. Few NFL players are as forthright as Whitworth so when he blows someone up he’s not just blowing smoke.

After the Whitworth and Stafford families clicked over the offseason, Whitworth is upbeat about Stafford, the man acquired to replace Jared Goff and lead the Rams on a deep playoff run.

“You can tell he’s one of the guys that does it the right way and is a great representation of this league,’’ Whitworth said.

The NFL is fortunate to have Whitworth as a glowing example of how to shine on and off the field. That he’s collected more than $100 million along the way proves what can be accomplished by staying healthy and motivated.

Whitworth’s first deal of $2.9 million for four years was only the beginning. Now with the sand in his NFL hourglass quickly dissipating, Whitworth is determined to finish strong.

“I’m fresh,’’ he said. “Mentally, physically and ready for the journey.”

It’s a trek with an expiration date. Although pinning it down is as tough as getting around Whitworth.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing,’’ he said. “I still have a passion to be really good at it.’’

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Disney tells salaried and non-union employees in the US they must be vaccinated by end of September

A performer dressed as Mickey Mouse entertains guests during the reopening of the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, U.S., on Friday, April 30, 2021.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Walt Disney Company said Friday it is requiring all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of September.

Employees who are still working from home will be required to provide verification of vaccination prior to returning to any Disney sites, including theme parks and offices.

Disney said it has begun conversations with the unions that represent its other employees, particularly those that work at its theme parks.

“Vaccines are the best tool we all have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees,” the company said in a statement.

The notice comes shortly after Disney said it would begin requiring theme parks guests to wear masks while in indoor locations at its domestic theme parks regardless of vaccine status.

This policy was put in place after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course and recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates. These hot spots include states like California and Florida where Disney’s U.S. parks are located.

The CDC warned Thursday that the delta variant sweeping across the country is as contagious as chickenpox. It also has a longer transmission window than the original Covid-19 strain and may make older people sicker, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated.

Other companies that have instituted new vaccination policies include Google, Facebook and Walmart.

Disney has updated its safety policies in accordance with local health regulations both domestically and internationally since the pandemic began. Most recently, the company began requiring proof of a Covid vaccination or a negative Covid test prior to entry at its Paris-based theme park based on French guidelines.

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U.S. Authorities Seek Documents From Troubled Vaccine Manufacturer

The Maryland manufacturer that ruined 75 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has received requests to hand over records from a host of federal and state law enforcement agencies, regulatory documents filed Friday show.

The company, Emergent BioSolutions, disclosed that it had received “preliminary inquiries and subpoenas to produce documents” from the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the attorneys general of Maryland and New York and committees in both houses of Congress.

The disclosure suggests broadening scrutiny of the politically connected company, which received a $628 million federal contract to be the primary domestic manufacturer of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines. Production at a company facility in Baltimore was halted for more than three months after a batch of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was found to be contaminated and a subsequent inspection by regulators uncovered serious quality-control problems.

Emergent is already facing a congressional investigation and multiple shareholder lawsuits related to its manufacturing problems. In its disclosure on Friday, the company provided no further detail on the previously unknown requests, but said it was “producing and has produced documents as required in response and will continue to cooperate with these government inquiries.”

resume manufacturing at the Baltimore site, which had been shuttered since April as the company worked to address deficiencies cited by inspectors.

The agency’s decision does not mean that it has broadly authorized Johnson & Johnson to distribute doses made by Emergent on an emergency basis. The F.D.A. signed off on previous batches of vaccine made at the Baltimore factory but with a warning that the agency could not guarantee that the company had followed good manufacturing practices.

In a conference call with investors on Thursday, Emergent executives announced a $41.5 million hit from being forced to discard vaccine doses deemed unusable by the F.D.A., and said the company had spent another $12.4 million to address manufacturing problems at the Baltimore site.

The newly disclosed inquiries from federal and state agencies underscore a dramatic reversal of fortune for a company that had spent much of the last two decades effectively cornering the market for biodefense, becoming the government’s go-to contractor for products to protect against infectious disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks with bioweapons.

record profits and awarded executives record bonuses.

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Back To The Office? Not Yet. Companies Scramble To Adjust To The Delta Variant

Employees elbow bump at a JLL office in Menlo Park, Calif., in September. With the delta variant surging, mask mandates are returning, and some employers are now requiring employees to be vaccinated before coming to the office. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Employees elbow bump at a JLL office in Menlo Park, Calif., in September. With the delta variant surging, mask mandates are returning, and some employers are now requiring employees to be vaccinated before coming to the office.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a while there, it seemed like things were finally heading back to normal. Now, not so much.

In the span of just a week, plans for a September return to the office have been pushed back. Mask mandates have made a comeback. And a growing number of employers, including the federal government, are laying down the line on vaccines.

On Friday, Walmart — the country’s largest private employer — reversed its policy and will once again require all workers to wear masks in areas most affected by the delta variant of the coronavirus. Grocery chains Kroger and Publix are following suit. The New York Times indefinitely postponed its planned return to the office.

The delta variant is much more transmissible, and health officials are concerned it may also make people sicker and can even be spread by fully vaccinated individuals. That means, almost a year and a half into the pandemic, companies are facing a difficult task of yet again recalibrating what steps are necessary to keep workers safe.

Do You Need To Wear A Mask Indoors Where You Live? Check This Map

“This is a Rubik’s Cube with a thousand colors on each side,” said David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources consulting practice. “There just continue to be a lot more questions than answers.”

The CDC’s reversal on masks was a tipping point

First came the reversal from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Tuesday, in response to the delta variant, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said fully vaccinated Americans should once again wear masks indoors in places where the coronavirus is surging, citing new research that showed vaccinated people can spread the virus to others.

The automotive world was ready to act. Ford said it was once again mandating masks at its facilities in Missouri and Florida, effective Wednesday. It has since added Kentucky. Earlier, General Motors was reported as reinstating mask requirements at its plant in Wentzville, Mo.

The response from Big Tech was swift as well. On Wednesday, Twitter said it was closing offices in New York and San Francisco that had just recently reopened. Google announced it was delaying its return-to-office date for most employees from September to mid-October. Google and Facebook also said they would now require employees to be vaccinated before coming into the office, a requirement Twitter already had in place.

Then on Thursday, calling deaths among the unvaccinated “an American tragedy,” President Biden ordered federal civilian employees and contractors to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing. The Pentagon later said members of the military would be subject to the same rules.

harassed, attacked and even killed as they were forced to become enforcers of masking mandates.

Walmart and its Sam’s Club arm, for now, are “strongly encouraging” but not requiring shoppers to wear masks in stores. The company is among others, such as Target and Dollar General, that have been paying workers bonuses for vaccinating. On Friday, Walmart said it’s doubling the bonus to $150.

Kroger said it would reinstate mask requirements for workers in areas most affected by the delta variant. Florida-based Publix said all staff will have to wear masks at all store locations starting Monday.

NPR has reached out to almost two dozen major retail, hotel, food and pharmacy chains. Many, like Costco, say they continue watching for regulations to come from local and state authorities.

“We do work very closely and monitor the local situation and we adapt accordingly. So if it means that we have to wear masks again, even if vaccinated, that’s what we’ll do,” Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky told reporters Thursday.

Olsavsky added that Amazon is “still aiming for a return to office in September,” working to provide more vaccines to its employees but not requiring them.

Expect a range of responses from employers

Lewis, the HR consultant, is advising clients against rushing into decisions to postpone return-to-work plans, given the uncertainties around how the long this latest COVID-19 surge will last. But he said those who can wait to go back should consider waiting, and regardless, communication is key.

“Tell your employees what you’re thinking and at least give them a sense that you’re paying attention,” Lewis said.

As with every stage of the pandemic, what employers ultimately decide to do will vary greatly by industry and by region.

One size does not fit all, Lewis said, and no decision is simple. Companies that do choose to reinstate masks, for example, run the risk of stirring up greater levels of resistance among employees who may already have concerns about coming back to the office.

This week, as the number of new coronavirus cases continued to soar, a sense of exasperation could be felt all across the country.

“It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned,” the National Retail Federation said on Tuesday, “when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination.”

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