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Football fans enjoy game on the big screen
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Watching the action on the big screen as they would a summer blockbuster movie, football fans clapped and cheered Saturday as the Nebraska Cornhuskers took an early lead against Penn State.

The Rivoli 3 Theatre, 528 W. Second St., has been opening its doors to Husker fans for games this season, streaming the games on the 30-feet-high screen usually reserved for the latest movie releases.

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Dakota Hutchins puts butter on popcorn while filling a concession order at the Rivoli Theatre Saturday during the Husker football game.

Scott Bedlan of Hastings came to watch the game with his father. It was the second time he had been to the theater on Game Day, and he enjoyed the atmosphere more than going to a bar.

“This is the ultimate big screen,” Bedlan said. “It’s quite an experience. I definitely support it.”

Jay Rodgers, manager at the Rivoli, said Saturday’s was the third game the theater streamed. He said the idea came from another Fridley Theatres venue in Des Moines, Iowa, deciding to stream high school football games. Fridley Theatres owns the Rivoli as well as 17 theaters in Iowa.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Husker quarterback Luke McCaffrey takes the field against Penn State Saturday as fans watch the game at the Rivoli Theatre.

“To see it on a screen this size is amazing,” he said.

Under the new directed health measures released by the state Wednesday, the indoor venue is limited to 25% of its 460-seat capacity in the main theater.

Every other row of seats has been blocked off to help attendees spread out for social distancing. Between each viewing, the seats are cleaned to help keep patrons safe.

Rodgers said about 20-30 people have attended the games each week.

“People who come really do enjoy it,” Rodgers said.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Husker fans attend a football watch party Saturday at the Rivoli Theatre.

The streaming games are free to the public, and the theater offers concessions to help offset the operating costs. Along with the standard movie fare of popcorn, candy and other snacks, they have been offering hot dogs for patrons looking for a meal.

Rodgers said business has been slow with the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic. Movie production has slowed which, in turn, led to fewer new releases to draw moviegoers.

In addition to streaming Husker games, the theater has been offering curbside pickup of popcorn and renting out the theater for private showings. They also have brought in older movies to help fill the void.

“It’s been a rough year,” Rodgers said. “We’re trying different things to see what works.”

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

The Rivoli Theatre marquee in downtown Hastings advertises a Husker football watch party Saturday.

To that end, he has been asking for feedback from patrons and decided to bring alcohol offerings in for the games. Rodgers worked with First Street Brewing Co. to provide alcoholic options for attendees enjoying the game.

Nathan and Jessi Hoeft, owners of First Street Brewing Co., said they were glad to be able to help another downtown business. They offered beer, mixed drinks and some non-alcoholic options, as well.

“It’s exciting to partner with another business downtown,” Jessi said. “It’s fun to try something different in these times.”

Tim Torczon of Hastings has come out for the games over the last few weeks because he likes watching on the theater screen. He said it is also a way to help support the theater through the pandemic.

“It’s nice of them to offer it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Annual Goodfellows program now under way
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Applications are now available for the Hastings Tribune’s annual Goodfellows program, which provides food and toys to area families for the holiday season.

Goodfellows applications will be accepted through Dec. 10. They are available at the Hastings Tribune, 908 W. Second St.

Also the Goodfellows toy drive has begun. Bins have been placed around town for the donation of new, unwrapped toys for children 12 and under.

Due to the novel coronavirus disease pandemic and directed health measures, the week-long box packing will be altered this year.

To allow room for social distancing and help prevent community spread, fewer volunteers will be called upon to work each night. Families will be provided wrapping supplies rather than receiving toys already wrapped.

Pick-up and delivery will look different as Goodfellows switches to curbside only.

People accepted by the program will have boxes of food and/or toys delivered to their homes on Saturday, Dec. 19. Anyone who may not be home at that time can pick up a box on Friday, Dec. 18.

The program began in 1926 when Hastings Daily Tribune publisher Adam Breede and editor Harry Smith decided to serve as “good fellows” to less fortunate families.

As Breede and Smith discussed the idea with people around town, more people and businesses got involved. Before long, the Goodfellows program became a Hastings tradition that continues today.

Monetary donations to Goodfellows can be sent to the Hastings Tribune, Attention: Goodfellows, P.O. Box 788, Hastings, NE 68902.

Goodfellows toy donation boxes can be found at the following locations:

Adams Central High School, 1090 S. Adams Central Ave.

Adams Central Elementary, 975 South Adams Central Ave.

Adams Central Preschool, 512 N. Brass Ave., Juniata

Alcott Elementary, 313 N. Cedar Ave.

Allen’s, 1115 W. Second St.

Bank of Doniphan, 800 N. Burlington Ave.

Five Points Bank, 322 N. St. Joseph Ave.; 320 S. Burlington Ave.; 2815 Osborne Drive West

Great Western Bank, 700 N. Burlington Ave.

Heartland Bank, 3701 Osborne Drive West

Hastings Middle School, 201 N. Marian Road

Hastings High School, 1100 W. 14th St.

Hastings Tribune, 908 W. Second St.

Hawthorne Elementary, 2200 W. Ninth St.

Levander’s Body Shop, 208 E. J St.

Lincoln Elementary, 720 Franklin Ave.

Longfellow Elementary, 731 N. Baltimore Ave.

Pinnacle Bank, 530 N. Burlington Ave.

Roger’s, 1035 S. Burlington Ave.

Watson Elementary, 1720 Crane Ave.

Wells Fargo Bank, 747 N. Burlington Ave.

Zion Classical Academy, 465 S. Marian Road

Surging virus cases get a shrug in many Midwestern towns
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ELMWOOD — Danny Rice has a good sense of how dangerous the coronavirus can be.

What puzzles him are the people who have curtailed so much of their lives to avoid being infected by the virus.

“I’m not going out and looking to catch it,” he said, sitting at a cluttered desk in his auto repair shop in the tiny eastern Nebraska community of Elmwood. “I don’t want to catch it. But if I get it, I get it. That’s just how I feel.”

Plenty of people agree with Rice, and health experts acknowledge those views are powering soaring COVID-19 infection rates, especially in parts of the rural Midwest where the disease is spreading unabated and threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

It’s not that people in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and elsewhere don’t realize their states are leading the nation in new cases per capita. It’s that many of them aren’t especially concerned.

Wayne County, home to 6,400 people in southern Iowa, has the state’s second-highest case rate, yet its public health administrator, Shelley Bickel, says mask-wearing is rare. She finds it particularly appalling when she sees older people, who are at high risk, shopping at a grocery store without one.

“I just want to get on the speaker and say, ‘Why don’t you have your mask on?’ It’s just amazing,” Bickel said.

Jenna Lovaas, public health director of Jones County, Iowa, said even now that her rural county has the state’s highest virus rate, people have opted not to make any changes, such as protecting themselves and others by wearing masks.

“They don’t think it’s real,” she said. “They don’t think it’s going to be that bad or they just don’t want to wear a mask because we’ve made it a whole political thing at this point.”

In part, though, some of those views are hard to fight because of the reality that many people have no symptoms, and most of those who do get sick recover quickly. And treatment advances mean that those who become seriously ill are less likely to die from the virus than when it first emerged in the spring. Even though cases and the death toll are rising, infectious disease experts note that death rates appear to be falling.

Like most people, Jay Stibbe, 52, of Fargo, North Dakota, said he and his family are respectful of COVID-19 protocols and wear masks where required. However, Stibbe said he doesn’t see enough “concrete information” about the virus to stop him from going about his normal life, even though North Dakota leads the nation in the number of virus cases per capita.

“We have an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old, and we certainly believe this is an important time of life to maybe shine a little bit,” he said. “We’re trying to create as much normalcy as we can. We try not to live in fear. We’ve traveled. We go out to dinner.”

In Plattsmouth, Nebraska, Karen Prohaska, 76, said she generally doesn’t wear a mask in her downtown purse and jewelry shop but will put one on at the request of a customer. When customers come into the store with a face covering, she asks if they’d like her to don one as well. Most say no and ask if it’s OK for them to remove theirs.

“I hope that I don’t get the virus, but I’ve never really been a germophobe,” Prohaska said.

The pandemic hasn’t stopped Mary Gerteisen, of Eagle, Nebraska, from visiting her 96-year-old father on weekends to watch football. Gerteisen said she understands the risks, given her father’s age and vulnerability, but she also weighed the fact that he’s in the early stages of dementia and often believes family members have abandoned him.

“There are times when I think that I do need to take the pandemic more seriously,” she said. “But I want to see my dad, and I don’t know much longer I have with him. I would love for him to live to 100-some years old, but if he comes down with (the virus), he’s lived a good, long life.”

Even as virus rates have soared in the Midwest, the Republican governors of Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota have ruled out requiring masks in all public places, though Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this week required masks for indoor events with more than 25 people and outdoor events of more than 100 people. Iowa schools are exempted, and bars and restaurants are only required to ensure social distancing. Meanwhile, North Dakota’s Republican governor, Doug Burgum, imposed statewide mask and business restrictions on Friday after resisting doing so for months. The state had only nine free Intensive Care Unit hospital beds as of Friday.

Although doctors and public health officials have criticized the governors for their lack of action, voters in all of the states last week backed Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who has mocked mask wearing and downplayed the seriousness of a pandemic that has killed more than 240,000 people.

That has left Midwest medical professionals wondering how they will reverse a tide of people being treated for the coronavirus if residents of their states still aren’t taking the illness seriously.

Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, said they’re managing the surge of patients for now but don’t know what will happen if the numbers keep rising.

“The real question is where are we going to be in December? Where are we going to be in January?” he asked. “These are the kinds of questions that I think that we as a state have to continue to ask ourselves but more importantly each local community has to ask themselves.”

SpaceX flying ex-football players, flight controller, Scout
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.

The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center with three Americans and one Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top — named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 — reached orbit nine minutes later. It is due to reach the space station late Monday and remain there until spring.

“And Resilience rises ...,” a launch commentator announced at liftoff.

Sidelined by the coronavirus himself, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar. He tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. NASA policy at Kennedy Space Center requires anyone testing positive for coronavirus to quarantine and remain isolated.

Sunday’s launch follows by just a few months SpaceX’s two-pilot test flight. It kicks off what NASA hopes will be a long series of crew rotations between the U.S. and the space station, after years of delay. More people means more science research at the orbiting lab, according to officials.

Cheers and applause erupted at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, after the capsule reached orbit and the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic.

Moments before liftoff, Commander Mike Hopkins addressed the employees of NASA and SpaceX.

“By working together through these difficult times, you’ve inspired the nation, the world, and in no small part the name of this incredible vehicle, Resilience,” he said. “And now it’s time for us to do our part.”

The flight to the space station — 27 1/2 hours door to door — should be entirely automated, although the crew can take control if needed. As the capsule settled into orbit, SpaceX reported pressure pump spikes in the capsule’s thermal control system, but flight controllers worked quickly to clear the issue.

With COVID-19 still surging, NASA continued the safety precautions put in place for SpaceX’s crew launch in May. The astronauts went into quarantine with their families in October. All launch personnel wore masks, and the number of guests at Kennedy was limited. Even the two astronauts on the first SpaceX crew flight stayed behind at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, traveled from Washington and joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to watch the launch.

“I didn’t start breathing until about a minute after it took off,” Pence said during a stop at SpaceX Launch Control to congratulate the workers.

Outside the space center gates, officials anticipated hundreds of thousands of spectators to jam nearby beaches and towns.

NASA worried a weekend liftoff — coupled with a dramatic nighttime launch — could lead to a superspreader event. They urged the crowds to wear masks and maintain safe distances. Similar pleas for SpaceX’s first crew launch on May 30 went unheeded.

The three-men, one-woman crew led by Hopkins, an Air Force colonel, named their capsule Resilience in a nod not only to the pandemic, but also racial injustice and contentious politics. It’s about as diverse as space crews come, including physicist Shannon Walker, Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover, the first Black astronaut on a long-term space station mission, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, who became the first person in almost 40 years to launch on three types of spacecraft.

They rode out to the launch pad in Teslas — another Musk company — after exchanging high-fives and hand embraces with their children and spouses, who huddled at the open car windows. Musk was replaced by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in bidding the astronauts farewell.

Besides its sleek design and high-tech features, the Dragon capsule is quite spacious — it can carry up to seven people. Previous space capsules have launched with no more than three. The extra room in the capsule was used for science experiments and supplies.

The four astronauts will be joining two Russians and one American who flew to the space station last month from Kazakhstan.

The first-stage booster is expected to be recycled by SpaceX for the next crew launch. That’s currently targeted for the end of March, which would set up the newly launched astronauts for a return to Earth in April. SpaceX would launch yet another crew in late summer or early fall.

SpaceX and NASA wanted the booster recovered so badly that they delayed the launch attempt by a day, to give the floating platform time to reach its position in the Atlantic over the weekend following rough seas.

Boeing, NASA’s other contracted crew transporter, is trailing by a year. A repeat of last December’s software-plagued test flight without a crew is off until sometime early next year, with the first astronaut flight of the Starliner capsule not expected before summer.

NASA turned to private companies to haul cargo and crew to the space station, after the shuttle fleet retired in 2011. SpaceX qualified for both. With Kennedy back in astronaut-launching action, NASA can stop buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets. The last one cost $90 million.

The commander of SpaceX’s first crew, Doug Hurley, noted it’s not just about saving money or easing the training burdens for crews.

“Bottom line: I think it’s just better for us to be flying from the United States if we can do that,” he told The Associated Press last week.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.