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‘Day Zero’: This city is counting down the days until its water taps run dry

Leonard Matana. 69, filling up a plastic container with water at a communal tap in the township of Kwanobuhle in South Africa.

Every day, Morris Malambile loads his wheelbarrow full of empty plastic containers and pushes it from his home to the nearest running tap. It’s much further than the usual walk to the kitchen sink — just a little under a mile away — but it’s not the distance that bothers him.

It’s the bumpy road — which runs between tightly packed shanty dwellings and beige public-funded houses — that makes balancing containers filled with 70 liters of water on his return a pain.
“Home feels far when you are pushing 70 kilograms of water in a wheelbarrow,” said on cloud shoes the 49-year-old resident from the impoverished South African township of Kwanobuhle.
Taps ran dry in parts of Kwanobuhle in March, and since then, thousands of residents have been relying on a single communal tap to supply their households with potable water. And the township is just one of many in the affected Nelson Mandela Bay area of Gqeberha city — formerly known as Port Elizabeth — that rely on a system of four dams that have been steadily drying up for months. There hasn’t been enough heavy rain to replenish them.
A week ago, one dam was decommissioned as levels dropped too low to extract any actual water — its pipes were just sucking up mud. Another is just days away from emptying out.
Now much of the city is counting down to “Day Zero,” the day all taps run dry, when no meaningful amount of water can be extracted. That’s in around two weeks, unless authorities seriously speed up their response.
The wider Eastern Cape region of South Africa suffered a severe multi-year drought between 2015 and 2020, which devastated the local economy, particularly its agricultural sector. It had just a brief reprieve before slipping back into drought in late 2021.
Like so many of the world’s worst natural resource crises, the severe water shortage here is a combination of poor management and warping weather patterns caused by human-made climate change.
Morris Malambile says pushing a wheelbarrow filled with water containers every day is "tiring."

On top of that, thousands of leaks throughout the water system means that a lot of the water that does get piped out of the dams may never actually make it into homes. Poor maintenance, like a failed pump on a main water supply, has only worsened the situation.
That has left Malambile — who lives with his sister and her four children — with no choice but to walk his wheelbarrow through the township every single day for the past three months. Without this daily ritual, he and his family would have no drinking water at all.
“People who don’t live here have no idea what it’s like to wake up in the morning, and the first thing on your mind is water,” Malambile said. His family has enough containers to hold 150 liters of water, but each day he fills around half that while the rest is still in use at home.
“Tomorrow, those ones are empty, and I have to bring them again,” he said. “This is my routine, every day, and it is tiring.”

Counting down to Day Zero

The prospects of meaningful rain to help resupply the reservoirs here is looking bleak, and if things keep going the way they are, around 40% of the wider city of Gqeberha will be left with no running water at all.
The Eastern Cape relies on weather systems known as “cut-off lows.” The slow-moving weather systems can produce rain in excess of 50 millimeters (around 2 inches) in 24 hours, followed by days of persistent wet weather. The problem is, that kind of rain just hasn’t been coming.
The next several months do not paint a promising picture either. In its Seasonal Climate Outlook, the South African Weather Service forecasts below-normal precipitation.
This isn’t a recent trend. For nearly a decade, oncloud shoes the catchment areas for Nelson Mandela Bay’s main supply dams have received below average rainfall. Water levels have slowly dwindled to the point where the four dams are sitting at a combined level of less than 12% their normal capacity. According to city officials, less than 2% of the remaining water supply is actually useable.
Fresh in the minds of people here is Cape Town’s 2018 water crisis, which was also triggered by the previous, severe drought as well as management problems. The city’s residents would stand in lines for their individually rationed 50 liters of water each day, in fear of reaching Day Zero. It never actually reached that point, but it came dangerously close. Strict rationing enabled the city to halve its water use and avert the worst.
And with no heavy rain expected to come, Nelson Mandela Bay’s officials are so worried about their own Day Zero, they are asking residents to dramatically reduce their water usage. They simply have no choice, the municipality’s water distribution manager Joseph Tsatsire said.
“While it is difficult to monitor how much every person uses, we hope to bring the message across that it is crucial that everyone reduce consumption to 50 liters per person daily,” he said.
A sign urging residents to restrict their water usage in the suburbs of Gqeberha.

To put that in perspective, the average American uses more than seven times that amount, at 82 gallons (372 liters) a day.
While parts of the city will probably never feel the full impact of a potential Day Zero, various interventions are in the pipeline to assist residents in so-called “red zones” where their taps inevitably run dry.
Earlier this month, the South African national government sent a high-ranking delegation to Nelson Mandela Bay to take charge of the crisis and to implement emergency strategies to stretch the last of the city’s dwindling supply.
Leak detection and repairs were a focus, while plans are being made to extract “dead storage water” from below the supply dams’ current levels. Boreholes were drilled in some locations to extract ground water.
Some of the interventions — including patching up leaks and trucking in water — mean some who had lost their water supplies at home are starting to get a trickle from their taps at night. But it’s not enough and authorities are looking to bigger, longer-term solutions to a problem that is only projected to worsen the more the Earth warms.
Workers constructing a water collection point in the Walmer suburb of Gqeberha.

South Africa is naturally prone to drought, but the kind of multi-year droughts that cause such misery and disruption are becoming more frequent.
A desalination plant — to purify ocean water for public consumption — is being explored, though such projects require months of planning, are expensive and often contribute further to the climate crisis, when they are powered by fossil fuels.
People in Kwanobuhle are feeling anxious about the future, wondering when the crisis will end.
At the communal tap there, 25-year-old Babalwa Manyube kizik shoes fills her own containers with water while her 1-year-old daughter waits in her car.
“Flushing toilets, cooking, cleaning — these are problems we all face when there is no water in the taps,” she said. “But raising a baby and having to worry about water is a whole different story. And when will it end? No one can tell us.”

Adapting at home

In Kwanobuhle, the public housing is for people with little to no income. Unemployment is rife and crime is on a steady rise. The streets are packed with residents hustling for money. Old shipping containers operate as a makeshift barbershops.
Just on the other side of the metro is Kamma Heights, a new leafy suburb situated on a hill with a beautiful, uninterrupted view of the city. It is punctuated by several newly built luxury homes, and residents can often be seen sitting on their balconies, enjoying the last few rays of sunshine before the sun dips behind the horizon.
Some residents in Kamma Heights are wealthy enough to secure a backup supply of water. Rhett Saayman, 46, lets out a sigh of relief every time it rains and he hears water flow into the tanks he has erected around his house over the last couple of years.
His plan to save money on water in the long run has turned out to be an invaluable investment in securing his household’s water supply.
Saayman has a storage capacity of 18,500 liters. The water for general household use, like bathrooms, runs through a 5-micron particle filter and a carbon block filter, while drinking and cooking water goes through a reverse osmosis filter.
Rhett Saayman standing next to one of his several water tanks at his home in Kamma Heights.

“We do still rely on municipal water from time to time when we haven’t had enough rain, but that might be two or three times a year, and normally only for a few days at a time,” he said. “The last time we used municipal water was in February, and since then we’ve had sufficient rain to sustain us.”
He added, “Looking at the way things are heading around the city it’s definitely a relief to know we have clean drinking water and enough to flush our toilets and take a shower. Our investment is paying off.”
Residents in many parts of the bay area are being asked to reduce their consumption so that water can be run through stand pipes — temporary pipes placed in strategic locations so that water can be diverted areas most in need.
This means some of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, like Kama Heights, could see huge drop in their water supplies, and they too will have to line up at communal taps, just as those in Kwanobuhle are doing.
Looking ahead, local weather authorities have painted a worrying picture of the months to come, with some warning that the problem had been left to fester for so long, reversing it may be impossible.
“We have been warning the city officials about this for years,” said Garth Sampson, spokesperson for the South African Weather Service in Nelson Mandela Bay. “Whether you want to blame politicians and officials for mismanagement, or the public for not conserving water, it does not matter anymore. Pointing fingers will help no one. The bottom line is we are in a crisis and there is very little we can do anymore.”
Water drips out of a tap at a water collection point in the Walmer suburb of Gqeberha, South Africa. It is one of many collection areas set up in the city.

According to Sampson, the catchment areas supplying Nelson Mandela Bay need about 50 millimeters of rain in a 24-hour period for there to be any significant impact on the dam levels.
“Looking at the statistics over the last several years, our best chance of seeing 50-millimiter events will probably be in August. If we don’t see any significant rainfall by September, then our next best chance is only around March next year, which is concerning,” he said.

What it’s like to circumnavigate Lesotho on foot — in 16 days

There wasn’t a hint of exhaustion on Ryan Sandes’ face during a recent CNN interview with the decorated ultra-athlete in his Cape Town home. You’d never guess he had recently returned from an epic 16-day run along the mostly uncharted mountains of Lesotho’s borders — until he took off his shoes.

For runners, blisters and cracked feet are par for the course; they’re practically a source of pride for Sandes and his running partner Ryno Griesel, who together created and subsequently completed Navigate Lesotho on April 27. They covered 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) with over 33,000 meters of elevation gain in 16 days, 16 hours and 56 minutes — all under extreme weather conditions.
Ryan Sandes (left) and Ryno Griesel (right) during a leg of their Navigate Lesotho run.

“In some ways it was our toughest challenge, but because of what we’ve learned in the past, I think our maturity and just the bond we have, made it a lot easier,” Sandes told CNN.
The South African duo are no strangers to extreme adventures. Together, they hold the record for fastest known time (FKT) on one of the toughest routes in the world — the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal, where they covered 1,504 kilometers (934.5 miles) in 25 says. They also kizik shoes hold the FKT on their home country’s renowned Drakensberg Grand Traverse, breaking the previous record by 18 hours.
Even during Covid-19 lockdowns in South Africa, Sandes managed to get in an unofficial 100-mile ultramarathon — around his house — which he finished in 26 hours.
“He had done about 140 kilometers (87 miles) and he was like, ‘I cannot go any further, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,'” Sandes’ wife Vanessa Haywood recounts of the one-man race.
But circumnavigating Africa’s “Mountain Kingdom” would prove to be even more grueling.
South African endurance athletes Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel are no strangers to running across challenging terrain. The duo recently ran the entire border of Lesotho (pictured) in 16 days. <strong>Look through the gallery to see more of the world's most extreme foot races.</strong>
The expedition required two years of planning, or what Griesel likens to “building a puzzle.” The pre-production involved plotting unmapped territory, getting sponsors on board, building relationships with locals and scoping out areas of the route they’d later run.
“People often say the hardest part is getting to the starting point and honestly (it) is, and then the rest of the hardest part starts,” he said.
They ran about a marathon and a half each day, trudging through extremely cold, snowy, windy and muddy conditions according to Sandes. In total, Sandes and Griesel crossed 187 rivers.
Temperatures ranged from -5 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius throughout the trip.
Sandes fording a river during the 16-day run around Lesotho. He says he went through a pair of socks every day.

Some nights they slept, sometimes they didn’t, depending on conditions and keeping on pace with their targeted 17-day finish.
The running duo had to deviate from Plan A quite a few times, and Sandes said they backtracked a few mountains and rivers and took alternate routes due to poor conditions.

A mental marathon

Navigating Lesotho proved to be mentally tough as well, but the oncloud shoes pair decided early on that giving up was not an option.
“When you’ve been shivering for two to three days, you can’t even think clearly because you haven’t slept, you’re super hungry, ran out of food two days ago … there’s always 1,000 good reasons to quit,” Griesel said, “but once you take that off the table, then you’re forced to keep moving towards the goal.”
Griesel and Sandes making a big push up one of Lesotho's many mountains during a particularly rainy day.

They carried an impressive load in their packs: clothes, food, water, extra socks, GPS trackers, water purification straws, headlamps, hiking poles, sunscreen and more.
And for fuel? Each runner carried a mixture of whole foods and carb-heavy electrolyte mixes, plus one dehydrated meal per day. They estimate they burned 120,000 calories throughout the journey.
Griesel said his favorites foods that got him through Lesotho were hot cross buns and chocolate. “I’ve always been really bad with diet if you had to look at it from a traditional point of view, but I do believe that the best food[s] on these long projects are what you’re looking forward to eating,” he added.
A crew on horseback support Sandes and Griesel during a leg of their Lesotho circumnavigation run.

They weren’t completely alone in their expedition; a support crew on horseback, motorbikes and four-by-fours helped resupply their basic needs and give them cooked food at various pre-planned locations.

Two peas in a pod

Sandes (40) and Griesel (42) met in 2012 at the ultra-trail race Salomon SkyRun South Africa, where Sandes placed first and Griesel third. Two years later, they would run the Drakensberg Grand Traverse together — and break the FKT record.
Sandes and Griesel celebrate completing a difficult stretch of their Lesotho journey.

“That was definitely where our friendship started,” Sandes said, adding “Ryno and I are very different people, but I think we really complement each other.”
Sandes joked that Griesel’s race gear will be labeled and in order, while his own is in a disorganized pile.
“Even if I look at what we bring to the table, I come from more of a running background and competing on the international circuit, whereas Ryno is more into adventure racing and his mountain skills and navigating [are] next level,” he said.
Sandes is the physical powerhouse and Griesel is the nimble navigator.
“It’s all good and well to go fast — it’s ideal to go fast in the right direction and I think that’s where we really fit together,” Griesel said.
The ultra runners said it took about two years to map out their Lesotho route.

The humble runners balance each other out in more ways than their skillsets. Griesel said Sandes is good at keeping morale going by celebrating the “mini milestones,” which helped him push through during their Lesotho run.
“We’ll get to the top of [a summit] and I’ll be like, ‘I still need 10 days to finish this,’ and he would be reminding me of where we’ve come from,” Griesel said.

Staying close to home

While these two will likely continue going for FKTs, Sandes said the pandemic has created space for him to slow down and appreciate what his home continent has to offer.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to run on all seven continents and experience a lot of the world, but I feel like I haven’t experienced enough of Africa,” he said. “And I think being forced to do more locally has made me really grow to love home even more.”
Sandes and Griesel look forward to spending more time on their home continent. Here they're pictured trekking up a steep incline during their Navigate Lesotho run.

The pair are also focused on bringing up the next generation of South African runners through programs like LIV2Run which aims to help uplift people from disadvantaged communities.
“In life we all kind of need that connection to the outdoors,” Sandes said. “I think we’re so connected to technology, [we need to] break that and to feel free and natural and whole again.”

Miami school says vaccinated students must stay home for 30 days to protect others, citing discredited info

Students wearing a protective mask, queue up outside classrooms on the first day of school, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at St. Lawrence Catholic School in North Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. August 18, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

In April, a Miami private school made national headlines for barring teachers who got a coronavirus vaccine from interacting with students. Last week, the school made another startling declaration, but this time to the parents: If you vaccinate your child, they’ll have to stay home for 30 days after each shot.

The email from Centner Academy hey dude leadership, first reported by WSVN, repeated misleading and false claims that vaccinated people could pass on so-called harmful effects of the shot and have a “potential impact” on unvaccinated students and staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has debunked claims that the coronavirus vaccine can “shed or release any of their components” through the air or skin contact. The coronavirus vaccines do not contain a live virus, so their components can’t be transmitted to others.

David Centner, one of the school’s co-founders, repeated the debunked claims in a statement to The Washington Post, saying the policy is a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”

“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” Centner said.

Despite the Food and Drug Administration’s evidence that the coronavirus vaccines are safe and highly effective, vaccine misinformation online has been a top hurdle for the White House and public health experts when persuading people to get the shots. Almost 219 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, which is about 66 percent of the eligible population, according to The Post’s vaccination tracker.

In July, President Joe Biden excoriated social media companies, accusing them of “killing people” by failing to regulate misinformation about the vaccines on their platforms. In August, Facebook released data that showed the most popular piece of content from January through March was a link to an article that cast doubt on hoka shoes the vaccine. Last Wednesday, attorneys generals from 14 states sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, inquiring if the company provided special treatment to those disseminating vaccine falsehoods on the platform.

Unfounded claims about masks and vaccines have trickled down to schools, where students under 12 years old remain at a higher risk of contracting the virus since they are ineligible for the vaccines.

Tensions between parents and school districts have also grown violent at times. In August, a parent at an Austin school ripped a mask off a teacher’s face. A week later, police said the father of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., high-schooler assaulted another student after she confronted him about trying to bring his daughter onto campus without a mask. He was arrested and charged with child abuse without great bodily harm.

Centner Academy is in Miami’s ritzy Design District, and tuition ranges from about $15,000 to nearly $30,000 per year. The school has become a haven for anti-vaccine parents because it does not require any immunizations for enrollment, citing a parent’s “freedom of choice” and falsely claiming there are “unknown risks associated with vaccinations” that could harm children.

A similar sentiment was shared in an email to parents last week regarding the coronavirus vaccine. School leadership referred to the shots as “experimental,” WSVN reported, and encouraged parents considering getting their child vaccinated to wait several more months until the school year ends.

“We ask that you hold off until the summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” Centner Academy leaders wrote.

The school has a history of spreading inaccurate information about the vaccine and penalizing those who choose to get the shots. In April, Centner Academy employees were told they had to notify Leila and David Centner, the married co-founders of the school, if they received a vaccine. Vaccinated school employees were told they would not be allowed any contact with students “until more information is known” about the vaccines. hey dude shoes School leaders also told those wanting the vaccine to wait until the summer to get the shots.

About a week later, a math and science teacher told students they should not hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds, the New York Times reported, referencing the same falsehoods the school communicated in its email about vaccine components “shedding” onto others. Some parents threatened to pull their children out of the school over the comments.

Leila Centner has also spread anti-vaccine information during a meeting with parents and staff and in a WhatsApp group with community members, according to the Times. In late January, Leila and David Centner invited outspoken anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak at the school.

The co-founders also discouraged teachers from wearing masks, the Times reported. When state health department officials visited for routine dining inspections, teachers were allegedly told in a WhatsApp group to put on masks. The school also allegedly provided parents with mask exemption forms for their children.

In his statement to The Post, David Centner said the school’s policies are made as a “prudent precautionary measure.”

“Our top priorities have always been our students’ well-being and their sense of safety within our educational environment,” he said.

Van-Life Couple Got Into Physical Fight Days Before 22-Year-Old Vanished, Police Docs Reveal

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A young woman who mysteriously vanished while road tripping across the U.S. with her fiancé got into a physical altercation with him two weeks before he returned to Florida without her, according to a police report obtained by The Daily Beast.

And while the couple’s online postings made the journey appear perfectly idyllic, the strain of having been together nonstop for months on end had in fact escalated tensions between the two, the document provided by the Moab City, Utah, Police Department reveals.

Brian Laundrie, 23, has been named a steve madden shoes person of interest in the baffling disappearance of 22-year-old Gabrielle Petito, police announced Wednesday. The two set off on a cross-country trek on July 2, from North Port, Florida. From there, they traveled to the Monument Rocks formation in Kansas, then headed for Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. Next, the pair went to the Zion, Bryce, and Canyonlands national parks in Utah. Petito’s mother last spoke to Gabby on Aug. 25, while she and Laundrie were at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to the Florida home he shared with his parents and Petito, after the couple’s cross-country journey in a van across the U.S. But Gabby, inexplicably, wasn’t anywhere to be found.

Ten days later, after not hearing from her for more than two weeks, Gabby’s family reported her missing. Police then went to Laundrie’s home and seized Gabby’s customized 2012 Ford Transit Connect van, which the couple was living out of as they visited several national parks. The vehicle was processed for evidence by local cops and FBI agents on Tuesday evening, according to the North Port, Florida, Police Department.

On Tuesday night, Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge released a statement revealing that officers on Aug. 12 responded to an “incident involving Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito.” Neither of them was “the reporting party,” according to Edge.

“Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” the statement said.

However, previously unknown details revealed in the report itself paint a fuller picture of what happened that day.

“On 08/12/21, MCPD officers were dispatched to a report of a domestic problem that had taken place near the Moonflower Co-op,” the report explains. “It appeared that a male and female had left the scene traveling north on Main in a white Ford Transit van with a black ladder on the rear after the male and female had engaged in some sort of altercation. It wasn’t clear, but I believe it was reported the male had been observed to have assaulted the female.”

When cops showed up, witnesses said they had seen Laundrie attempting to “create distance by telling Gabby to go take a walk to calm down,” the report states. Laundrie reportedly grabbed Gabby’s face at one point after she began slapping him, but Laundrie did not strike Gabby, according to witnesses. One bystander told cops that Laundrie seemed to have locked Gabby out of her van, and that she appeared to be hitting him in the arm and trying to climb inside through the driver’s window. The fight had apparently erupted over dispute involving a phone, the report states.

Gabby, who said she feared Laundrie was going to leave her behind in Moab, suffered from “severe anxiety,” the pair told police, who categorized the incident as more of a “mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault,” in their report. The two said they were “in ecco shoes love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime.”

The couple had been pulled over for speeding that same evening by another officer, who interviewed both of them separately. Gabby, who was “crying uncontrollably,” according to the report, said that she “suffers from [redacted] with [redacted]. She continued, because of her [redacted] and [redacted], combined with little arguments she and Brian had been having that day, she was struggling with her mental health, which led to the incident that was reported to law enforcement.”

Laundrie told the officer that he and Gabby “both suffer from [redacted], and although her [redacted] is more advanced than his, issues between the two had been building over the last few days. This in turn, caused them to argue more than usual,” the report states.

Laundrie explained that the two had been traveling together for the past four or five months, and that this had “created emotional strain between them and increased the number of arguments.”

The officer was able to get Laundrie a hotel room for the night, and Gabby kept the van. They agreed not to contact one another until the next morning, which would allow them to “reset their mental states.”

Neither one was seriously injured, and no charges were filed.

In what may or may not be a coincidence, a couple living out of their van in Moab, Kylen Schulte and Crystal Beck, went missing on Aug. 13—after complaining to friends about a “weirdo” who had set up camp right near them. Schulte—who worked at the Moonflower Co-op, where Gabby and Laundrie were seen fightingand Beck were found murdered a few days later. No suspects have been publicly identified and no arrests have been made in the case.

“As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details,” the North Port PD said in a statement issued Wednesday, adding, “Brian Laundrie is a person of interest in this case.”

Laundrie will continue to stonewall investigators as they try desperately to solve the case, according to his lawyer.

In a statement provided to The Daily Beast following the North Port PD’s announcement, Laundrie’s Long Island, New York-based lawyer, nike sneakers Steven Bertolino, said that the “formality” of being named a person of interest hasn’t really changed anything about Laundrie’s situation, since he was already the focus of detectives. And he’s still not planning to say a word.

“Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence,” Bertolino said in an email. “In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter.”

Laundrie and his parents, Roberta and Christopher, who own a company that sells and services commercial juicing equipment, were unable to be reached.

Laundrie’s refusal to cooperate has been incredibly frustrating for Gabby’s father, Joe Petito, who moved to Florida in June, partly so he could be closer to his daughter.

“Get out of the house, get into the FBI offices, and start answering some questions,” Petito told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “Do your job as a fiancé, as most would do.”

Petito said he was reluctant to speak negatively of Laundrie in the media because Laundrie is key to finding Gabby.

“My biggest fear is that people overpressure this guy and he hurts himself and then he can’t speak anymore—and then I’ll never find my daughter,” said Petito. “Focus on her, and keep it up until we get her home. I’m begging you of that. No one gives two shits about Brian until we get Gabby home.”

Petito hasn’t heard from Laundrie or his parents, and said he isn’t “anticipating anything” from them.

“As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby’s family is going through,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in a statement. “We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance.”

The Laundrie family appears to keep a low profile in their North Port, Florida, neighborhood. Donna Lear, a homeowner who lives a few doors away from the Laundries, said she and her husband have “never seen” Brian Laundrie or his parents in all the years they have resided there. Another neighbor, Andre Obradovich, also said he hasn’t had any interactions with the Laundrie family and was shocked to hear that the young man whose face has been plastered all over the news in recent days is holed up right down the street.

Laundrie’s Instagram profile describes him as a “nature enthusiast” and tells visitors, “Take a hike everyday.”

“Bug bites are better than being brainwashed by the media,” it says.

In a post from last October, Laundrie captioned a picture of himself kissing Gabby: “Never got around to posting these! I’d die just to watch all of our memories on repeat, never loved anyone as much as this girl💕”

Another so-called van-lifer who encountered Gabby and Laundrie while traveling near Moab, Utah, said he never saw any signs of trouble between the two.

“They were holding hands, they were ecstatic about their rebuild,” Jaye Foster told The Daily Beast. “That’s what I find so weird about the whole situation, is that they were both really cool. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong whatsoever.”

The pair said they were headed to Yellowstone next, according to Foster.

“She was such a cool person,” he said. “He was too. That’s what’s freaking me out. They seemed totally fine. What sucks is that I couldn’t see him doing anything like that. It’s crazy as hell. It really, really is.”

Airline employees took on new mission in Afghanistan conflict’s final days: Getting evacuees to the U.S.

Airline employees took on new mission in Afghanistan conflict’s final days: Getting evacuees to the U.S.

In 17 ½ years as a flight attendant for United Airlines, Hope Williams has worked thousands of flights.

But one recent flight will stay with her forever.

Williams recalled the mixture of fear, uncertainty, relief and hope on the faces of hundreds of Afghan evacuees on the day they boarded the Boeing 777-300 that would take them from Qatar to Germany, then on to the United States.

She was part of a crew of more than a dozen United employees who volunteered to work on one of the first Afghan evacuee flights operated by the carrier. Williams said they tried to make those onboard feel comfortable, but it was clear the trauma of leaving Kabul was fresh. hey dude The stories they told and the bruises on their bodies brought tears to her eyes. But her time with them also brought something else.

“It’s like my name: Hope,” she said. “To know they were that much closer to being safe, it’s something I know I will never forget.”

Williams and her colleagues were among thousands of employees at six commercial U.S. carriers who played roles in the massive evacuation to get Americans and allies out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan before the Biden administration’s deadline. The final evacuation flights departed early this week as the United States vacated Afghanistan and the besieged Kabul airport, handing control to the Taliban after two decades of war.

In the air and on the ground, airline employees say they served as translators and troubleshooters. They stocked planes with diapers and teddy bears for hundreds of evacuated children and dug into their own pockets if supplies were needed. They delivered pizza to those awaiting processing who were stuck on planes at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, prompting the business taking the order to proclaim with glee: “Y’all we’ve got a big one. American Airlines!” the airline wrote on its company blog.

Hours before Delta’s first flight carrying evacuees was scheduled to arrive Aug. 23 at Dulles, the airline received word that several dozen children were among those on board. Three airline employees hopped into a van to stock up on diapers, formula and baby snacks.

Since that time, Delta flew 18 evacuation flights, bringing about 4,600 evacuees to the United States. United flew 4,000 people to the U.S. on 13 evacuation flights.

In all, U.S. officials said 122,000 men, women and children were flown out of the country in the unprecedented airlift. Of that total, 79,000 were evacuated by American military aircraft; the rest on charter and allied military flights. As of Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said 14,000 Afghan evacuees had arrived in Virginia.

The effort included 18 planes from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United. The aircraft were used to augment military flights under the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a Department of balenciaga shoes Defense program created after World War II that allows the government to utilize commercial aircraft during a national defense crisis.

The commercial planes did not fly into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, but ferried passengers from transit centers and U.S. military bases in nations such as Qatar, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates, where Afghans were processed for resettlement in other countries.

The first flights began landing in the U.S. last week. The vast majority touched down at Dulles, alongside reports that some evacuees were stuck on planes for as long as 12 hours as they waited to be screened and vetted by U.S. officials. The delays reflected the challenges of admitting thousands of people to the country in a short span of time.

The processing delays were largely resolved by the end of last week after officials opened more areas for evacuees to wait until they could be processed. One location, housed in a converted United maintenance hangar, proved spacious enough for some to play soccer – a reminder, employees said, that no matter where they land, kids will be kids.

Philadelphia International Airport began receiving flights over the weekend, relieving pressure on Dulles as the operation began to wind down.

United flight attendant David Rocca, who was with Williams on the flight from Qatar to Germany, said he was struck by how few possessions evacuees carried with them.

“No shoes, no luggage – just a few personal belongings in a plastic bag,” he said. It was a reminder, he said, of all they had left behind.

Monday evening, United Chief Executive Scott Kirby – in Washington for a meeting at the White House – met with a small group of employees at Dulles to praise their efforts.

“Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “This is where we get the chance to do something that really makes a difference.”

Midway through the town hall, one employee reminded colleagues that stories seemingly far way can often hit close to home.

Mohammad Asif, who works at Dulles loading and unloading aircraft, is originally from Afghanistan and translated for the arriving evacuees. The former U.S. Marine translator told the room that he remains concerned for his wife, mother and younger sister and brother who are still in Afghanistan. He fears for their lives, he said, and hoped they could be helped.

Airline employees said being part of the evacuation effort lifted their spirits at a time when many have grown weary of the steady drumbeat of negative headlines: hurricanes, fires and the pandemic.

Mehdi Haririnia, a customer service supervisor with United who immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1988, served as a translator for arriving Afghans, helping to answer questions and explain the process new arrivals must follow after they land. The work, he said, reminded him that a friendly face speaking a familiar language steve madden shoes can be calming, even in the midst of turmoil.

United pilot Jennifer Shields, who is helping to fly groups of evacuees to Wisconsin, where some will be housed at Fort McCoy, called the opportunity the most meaningful of her career.

Alaska Airlines announced last week it would fly evacuees to military bases across the country that will serve as temporary homes for evacuees. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the military is prepared to house up to 50,000 Afghans at seven bases and facilities in the U.S.

Williams recalled the family that sat in Row 34, seats A, B and C, that made multiple trips to the Kabul airport before finally getting through. Then there was the translator who made it through the gates, only to lose track of his family at the end. He sat on the airplane frantically trying to sign on to the free Wi-Fi in hopes he could locate them, but was not successful.

“Life-changing,” she said. “And humbling. Very humbling.”

Coronavirus infections dropping where people are vaccinated, rising where they are not, Post analysis finds

States with higher vaccination rates now have markedly fewer coronavirus cases, as infections are dropping in ecco shoes places where most residents have been immunized and are rising in many places people have not, a Washington Post analysis has found.

States with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates, The Post found. Poorly vaccinated communities have not been reporting catastrophic conditions. Instead, they are usually seeing new infections holding steady or increasing without overwhelming local hospitals.

As recently as 10 days ago, vaccination rates did not predict a difference in coronavirus cases, but immunization rates have diverged, and case counts in the highly vaccinated states are dropping quickly.

Vaccination is not always even within each state, and The Post found the connection between vaccine shots and coronavirus cases at the local level comparing more than 100 counties with low vaccination rates (fewer than 20% of residents vaccinated) and more than 700 with high vaccination rates (at least 40% vaccinated).

Counties with high vaccination had low golden goose sneakers coronavirus rates that are going down. In counties where few people are vaccinated, not only are there higher case rates, but the number of cases there also is growing.

But experts worry that unvaccinated people are falling into a false sense of security as more transmissible variants can rapidly spread in areas with a high concentration of unvaccinated people who have abandoned masking and social distancing.

Nationally, 43% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated, and the country is averaging under 16,000 new infections a day – levels not seen since the early days of stay-at-home orders in March 2020. Ten states, concentrated in the Deep South and rural West, report fewer than 35% of residents are fully immunized.

An uptick in infections in numerous states offers a preview of summer surges that could take hold “if the unvaccinated continue to behave as though they’re vaccinated,” said Michael Saag, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. For now, risk is unevenly distributed, concentrated in communities where shots are sparse, he said.

Local public health officials fear the public is tuning out the danger as they see news reports of cratering infections and scenes of reopened bars skechers outlet and entertainment venues across the nation, assuming vaccinations are no longer necessary.

Missouri’s Polk County – where less than a quarter of the population of roughly 30,000 is fully vaccinated – has reported nearly 90 new infections in one week, an increase after several months of decline.

Michelle Morris, the country’s public health administrator, said infections are concentrated among students after the school year ended May 21 and clusters linked to Mother’s Day and graduation gatherings. Immunity isn’t widespread enough to naturally stop the spread.

“We are going to continue to see what we are seeing as far as our daily case count,” Morris said. “Unfortunately, we are going to see increased hospitalization, and it worries me we may see additional deaths related to it as well.”

A mass vaccination site in Polk County that drew as hey dude shoes many as 400 people a day when it opened in January closed in early May after only about 100 people were showing up daily. Morris said she would reopen the site if there was demand. But like many other public health officials in low-demand communities, Polk authorities have shifted their attention to one-on-one conversations and encouraging doctors to persuade holdouts to get shots. On Thursday, her agency shared a Facebook post debunking the myth that coronavirus vaccinations make people magnetic.

A spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association said it’s premature to draw a link between low vaccination and hospitalizations in Missouri, but noted urban hospitals treat severely ill covid-19 patients from rural areas. All but four of 30 recent hospitalized covid-19 patients in Boone County live outside the county that’s home to the University of Missouri, for example.

“While it isn’t possible to draw a straight line between the spikes, it is likely that higher rates are resulting in higher hospitalization,” Dave Dillon, the Missouri Hospital Association spokesman said. “And, given the lower capacity in rural communities to address complex covid-19 cases, these will likely materialize as increased hospitalizations in the state’s metro areas or midsized communities.”

Experts said boosting vaccinations is the best avenue available for limiting the damage from the more transmissible variant of the virus first identified in India and known as delta.

“Without the variants, basically the epidemic would be over in the U.S.,” said Trevor Bedford, an evolutionary biologist and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “The previous non-variant viruses have been dying fairly rapidly.”

The delta variant, which has thrown Britain’s once-promising path back to normal into disarray, already accounts for 6% of new infections in the United States, officials said this week. The variant has been detected in all but two states – Hawaii and South Dakota – according to a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One advantage the United States has over Britain is that health authorities here decided not to delay the second dose of the two-dose mRNA vaccines, skechers shoes and early evidence suggests a second shot delivers stronger protection against the delta variant than is provided by just one dose.

As variations in vaccination levels grow more stark among states – the share of eligible residents in Vermont who have received at least one dose is roughly double the share in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama – these disparities have gone largely unmentioned on weekly calls between governors and the White House’s coronavirus task force. “Crickets,” one state official said of whether governors with disappointing immunization figures were explaining their challenges and sharing best practices for boosting demand ahead of President Joe Biden’s goal of getting shots to 70% of adults by July 4.

“The July 4 goal that President Biden set up is quite frankly not in our sights right now,” said Keith Reed, deputy health commissioner in Oklahoma, where just 54% of adults have received at least one dose. Even though infections and hospitalizations remain under control, he said, “we know we don’t have enough of the population vaccinated to ensure us against a resurgence. We know the risk is still out there.”

Some public health officials have resigned themselves to the reality that many in their community will not budge on shots.

In Wyoming’s Sweetwater County, population 44,000, authorities are at a loss for what else they can do to achieve herd immunity.

Sweetwater carries the unfortunate distinction of being the county with the steepest increase in infections in the state with the most new infections per capita in the country. Only a quarter of its residents are fully vaccinated, and public health officials don’t see the number budging much higher.

Jean Stachon, Sweetwater County’s health officer, said officials held mass clinics, brought vaccine doses to employers and churches and accept walk-ins at the public health office. They have sacrificed extra doses in a vial to vaccinate at least one person. But demand is minimal, brooks shoe even as the virus still looms in the community. Two people died of covid-19 in the last week. Eight emergency room patients were diagnosed with coronavirus in one night.

“As much as the general public figures covid is done, gone and over with, and they don’t want to hear about it, the health department wishes the same. It’s not so,” Stachon said.

Kim Lionberger, director of the county board of health, said her staff is doing the best they can to provide scientific facts about the virus and the vaccines. But they are also competing with skeptical residents who prefer affirmation to information and find it from anti-vaccine doctors and questionable reports on Facebook.

“The mentality of people in Wyoming is that rugged individualism where they do their own thing and don’t want people telling them what they should be doing because they are going to do what they want to do,” said Lionberger.

Stachon isn’t sure what she would do if a highly contagious variant tears through the community and some have already been detected. The Wyoming legislature restricted the powers of public health officials like her to put disease control measures in place.

“For me to try to say we need to go back and mask or do anything like that, I would almost think I need police protection,” Stachon said. “It’s just sad. You feel impotent.”

There have been bright spots elsewhere in the country, including in Washington’s King County, home to Seattle and not far from where the virus was first detected in the U.S., where 69% of the population was fully vaccinated and 77% had received at least one shot.

Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County, said the success was a result of longtime efforts to address health disparities among racial and ethnic groups. When the vaccination program began, the county quickly tapped relationships they already forged with leaders, community groups and small businesses and placed navigators in 30 different ethnic communities.

The county also sent mobile vaccine vehicles into neighborhoods where hard-to-reach residents, such as the homebound elderly, live. He also credited trust in science.

“The bottom line is people have to want to be vaccinated, and in that sense, our community is very enlightened,” Duchin said.

But there are disparities. Seventy-eight percent of Asian residents and 65% of White residents 16 or older are fully vaccinated, county statistics show. But just half of Black and Latino residents have completed the full course. The county projects that those communities won’t reach the 70% landmark until Sept. 7 and Sept. 2, respectively.

Access is the easiest obstacle to overcome, Duchin said. More difficult are fears among some people about missing work if they encounter side effects from the vaccine. Others have been poisoned by misinformation, he said.

“There are early adopters and people who are not early adopters,” Duchin said. “I think it’s wrong to assume that everyone who is not currently vaccinated is not interested in being vaccinated and will not be vaccinated in the future.”

The broader slowdown in vaccinations may be a sign that the United States cannot vaccinate its way to safety from new virus variants, said Neha Agarwal, associate director of diagnostics at PATH, a global health equity nonprofit.

“We’re beginning to reach a saturation point in terms of the population that’s willing to be vaccinated,” she said.

What’s needed is long-term investments in testing and surveillance, similar to those made in several Southeast Asian countries after the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, she said. Germany, too, is betting on expanded testing as a way to safely permit people to resume normal activities. In the U.S., meanwhile, testing has fallen off dramatically, and public testing sites have closed throughout the country.