U.S. board urges helicopter manufacturers to add crash-data recorders

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Tuesday urged six major manufacturers to equip turbine-powered helicopters with crash-resistant systems to record data, audio and images, after former NBA star Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash in January.

The NTSB asked Airbus Helicopters (AIR.PA), Bell – a unit of Textron Inc (TXT.N) Leonardo, MD Helicopters, Robinson Helicopter Co and Sikorsky, a unit of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) – to act after U.S. regulators have not backed mandating the equipment despite a series of recommendations since 2013.

Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people died when a twin-engine Sikorsky S-76B helicopter slammed into a hillside outside Los Angeles in heavy fog on Jan. 26. The helicopter did not have a flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder.

The safety board found that a “lack of recorded data hindered their understanding of several crashes that could have serious flight safety implications.”

The manufacturers did not immediately respond to requests for comment or declined immediate comment. The Federal Aviation Administration did not immediately comment.

Some helicopters are required by the FAA to have crash-resistant systems to record flight data and cockpit audio but none are required to have image-recording capability. Some operators have voluntarily equipped their helicopters with recording systems, including image-recording capability.

The NTSB cited seven helicopter investigations between 2011 and 2017, in which the lack of access to recorded data impeded their ability to identify and address potential safety issues.

The NTSB said 86% of 185 turbine-powered helicopter accidents it investigated between 2005 and 2017 had no recording equipment installed. The NTSB also asked manufacturers to provide a way to retrofit existing helicopters with recording systems.

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Coronavirus: Government-backed loans to support virus-hit businesses top £31bn

Three government-backed loan schemes for UK businesses have paid out more than £31bn to date, according to updated Treasury data on taxpayer support for firms and workers’ wages.

The latest figures showed almost 750,000 companies had seen loans approved by Sunday 31 May under the emergency COVID-19 funding initiatives; the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) and Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS).

The data showed that £31.3bn had been paid out by banks – up from £27.5bn a week ago.

The growth continued to be led by demand for the BBLS, in which sums – 100% guaranteed by the government – can be borrowed up to a maximum of £50,000.

The Treasury said £21.3bn had been dispersed by lenders to 699,354 companies.

The total number of applications for bounce back loans stood at more than 873,000.

A sum of £8.9bn had been lent to nearly 46,000 companies under CBILS, and a further £1.1bn to 191 companies as
part of CLBILS, the figures showed.

It was also confirmed that the number of workers’ wages being supported by the Job Retention Scheme, also known as the furlough scheme, which is aimed at limiting the lockdown’s impact on employment, had topped 8.7 million – up from 8.4 million a week earlier.

The Treasury put the cost at £17.5bn to date.

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Coronavirus: Marvel comics artist creates ‘superhero’ masks for children flying with easyJet

A Marvel comics artist has designed “superhero” face mask covers for children flying with easyJet.

The move aims to help youngsters feel more relaxed on journeys after the airline resumes flights later this month with strict safety protocols in place for passengers and crew to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The face mask covers have been created by Irish illustrator Will Sliney, who has worked on Spider-Man and Star Wars comics.

They feature lion and pilot designs, and are to be worn over the top of a young traveller’s own face mask.

EasyJet said it would make thousands of the items available on selected routes when it restarts its operations.

The no-frills carrier announced last month that wearing face masks on aircraft would be mandatory for all customers, cabin and ground crew.

Other measures include no onboard food service, enhanced deep-cleaning of aircraft and the provision of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser.

Captain David Morgan, easyJet’s director of flight operations, said: “We have teamed up with a comic illustrator to create some bespoke children’s face mask covers as we know the airport environment could feel different and possibly daunting for younger travellers when flying initially resumes.”

Sliney added: “Flying with face masks is going to be a new experience for everyone, especially young children, so I hope these fun designs, inspired by comic book characters, help to encourage kids to wear their masks onboard.

“I have used a combination of a lion animal character and a futuristic pilot to create a set of mask covers to bring out the inner superhero in all young flyers.”

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Wall Street closes higher as recovery signs soothe protest, pandemic worries

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks posted gains on Monday as signs of U.S. economic recovery helped offset jitters over increasingly violent social unrest amid an ongoing pandemic and rising U.S.-China tensions.

All three major stock indexes began the month with gains of less than 1% on the heels of a strong May rally.

Market leaders Facebook Inc (FB.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon.com (AMZN.O) provided the biggest lift to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, while Boeing Co (BA.N) gave the Dow its biggest boost.

“Certainly the pace of the stock market recovery can’t continue at the pace it has been,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “I’m stunned at how well the market’s been doing.”

The White House called for “law and order” after six nights of widespread, violent demonstrations triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, even as the country reels from the economic effects of pandemic-related lockdowns.

“Most investors are saying (the protests) aren’t going to destroy the economy,” Nolte added. “It’s a roadblock but it’s not as big as a pandemic.”

The unrest has prompted retailers such as Target Corp (TGT.N) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) to shutter a portion of their stores, while Amazon.com (AMZN.O) has scaled back deliveries.

Further weighing on sentiment, China ordered state-owned firms to halt purchases of U.S. soybeans and pork, in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would end special treatment for Hong Kong following China’s move to tighten security measures in the territory.

But economic data boosted investor sentiment, with the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showing the contraction of factory activity was slowing.

A fuller picture of the economic damage wrought by pandemic-related lockdowns is expected on Friday, when the Labor Department’s jobs report is expected to show unemployment skyrocketing to 19.7%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 91.91 points, or 0.36%, to 25,475.02, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 11.42 points, or 0.38%, to 3,055.73 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 62.18 points, or 0.66%, to 9,552.05.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, all but healthcare .SPXHC ended the session in positive territory.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) fell 7.1% after the drugmaker’s breast cancer treatment was deemed unlikely to meet the main goal of a late-stage study.

Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) slid 3.4% following mixed results in a late-stage study of its COVID-19 drug candidate, remdesivir.

Meanwhile, rivals firms CTI Biopharma Corp (CTIC.O) and Proteostasis Therapeutics Inc (PTI.O) advanced 16.7% and 8.4%, respectively following reports that their potential COVID-19 treatments showed promise.

Shares in cosmetics company Coty Inc (COTY.N) jumped 20.9% after the appointment of Chairman Peter Harf as its new chief executive officer.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 3.26-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.58-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 20 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 98 new highs and 10 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 9.95 billion shares, compared with the 11.30 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

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Marriott opens all hotels in China, sees steady U.S. recovery: CEO

(Reuters) – Marriott International (MAR.O) has reopened all its hotels in China and is seeing a steady recovery in the United States, its biggest market, Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson said on Monday.

Shares of the hotel operator, which owns the Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis luxury brands, rose as much as 8.1% to $95.64 in afternoon trading after Sorenson said the occupancy rate in China was 40% currently, up from 7% to 8% in February, when COVID-19 started spreading.

“It’s not just leisure travel growing, but it is business travel. Chinese are flying again,” Sorenson said at a Goldman Sachs conference.

In the United States, Marriott’s hotels that remained open crossed the 20% occupancy threshold and continue to see an improvement, Sorenson said.

“The (U.S.) hotels that are performing strongest are those that are most dependent on drive to business.”

The company had an occupancy rate of about 12% in North America in April, with 16% of its hotels closed temporarily.

However, Sorenson warned that it could take Marriott a few years to get back to levels of occupancy seen in 2019, when its global occupancy rate was 71%.

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Spanish telecom operator MasMovil agrees $3.3 billion private equity bid

MADRID (Reuters) – KKR (KKR.N), Cinven and Providence said on Monday they had made an agreed 2.96 billion euro ($3.3 billion) bid for Spanish telecoms operator MasMovil (MASM.MC).

In the first European take-private attempt by major buyout firms since the coronavirus crisis struck, the private equity trio said holders of 29.56% of MasMovil’s stock had already agreed to sell for 22.50 euros per share.

Shares in MasMovil, which was founded in 1997 and sells fixed line, mobile and Internet services, hit 22.80 euros at 1015 GMT, around 22% higher than their Friday close and making them top gainers on Spain’s main index .IBEX..

MasMovil has built up a position in the fiercely competitive Spanish market in recent years by buying Pepephone and Yoigo and the bid for it follows Telefonica’s (TEF.MC) deal to merge its British business with Liberty Global’s (LBTYA.O) Virgin Media.

European telecoms operators have struggled to boost profit growth in a crowded market and in Spain, Euskaltel (EKTL.MC) has launched a service under the Virgin brand to take on Telefonica, France’s Orange (ORAN.PA) and Britain’s Vodafone (VOD.L).

MasMovil Chief Executive Meinrad Spenger said in a statement that it had signed an agreement with the bidders on a deal which he said would be “beneficial for the shareholders and other stakeholders in the company”.

It added that the bidders have said they would maintain continuity in MasMovil’s strategy, staff and executive team.

Although the offer price is below a five-year high of 25.52 euros hit in March 2018 and 23.68 late last year, it is well above the 12.20 euros it reached in March when Spain was reporting hundreds of coronavirus deaths each day.

The bid for MasMovil is conditional on acceptance from at least 50% of shareholders, the funds said.

Morgan Stanley, Barclays and BNP Paribas guaranteed financing for the deal, the offer document said. Morgan Stanley and Barclays also advised the private equity consortium, a source close to the deal said.

($1 = 0.8977 euros)

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Asia stocks scale 3-month peak, resilient to U.S. rioting

SYDNEY/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Asian shares advanced to three-month highs on Monday as progress on re-opening economies helped offset jitters over riots in U.S. cities and unease over Washington’s power struggle with Beijing.

There was also relief that while President Donald Trump began the process of ending special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong to punish China, he left their trade deal intact.

“With specific and verifiable measures against China appearing to be weak, markets may draw hollow consolation that the U.S. is treading carefully,” said analysts at Mizuho in a note.

After a cautious start Asian markets were led higher by China on signs parts of the domestic economy were picking up. Hong Kong .HSI managed to rally 3.3%, while Chinese blue chips .CSI300 put on 2.54%.

An official business survey from China showed its factory activity grew at a slower pace in May but momentum in the services and construction sectors quickened.

“Geopolitical risk can be sufficient to trigger an equity pullback. However, we remain comfortable with our preference for Chinese equities given they tend to be far more sensitive to domestic demand and policy stimulus than global drivers,” said strategists at Standard Chartered Private Banking in a note.

The hopeful signs in China helped lift MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan 2.45% to its highest since early March. Tokyo’s Nikkei .N225 added 0.84% to also reach a three-month peak.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 recovered to be flat, having been up 0.12% in afternoon trade. EUROSTOXX 50 futures firmed 1.48% and FTSE futures 1.3%.

The resilience was notable given major U.S. cities were cleaning up streets strewn with broken glass and burned out cars as curfews failed to stop confrontations between activists and law enforcement.

The turmoil was a fresh setback for the economy which was only just emerging from a downturn akin to the Great Depression. Following poor data on spending and trade out on Friday, the Atlanta Federal Reserve estimated economic output could drop a staggering 51% annualised in the second quarter.

The May jobs report due out on Friday is forecast to show the unemployment rate surged to 19.8%, smashing April’s record 14.7%. Payrolls are expected to drop by 7.4 million, on top of the 20.5 million jobs lost the previous month.

YEARS, NOT MONTHS

“Current unemployment numbers go far beyond what has been experienced in any post-war recession,” wrote Barclays economist Christian Keller in a note.

“To the extent that some sectors may never return to pre-pandemic business-as-usual, labour faces a substantial challenge to reallocate workers,” he added. “Such a process could be a matter of years rather than months or quarters and in the meantime it would weigh on consumer demand.”

Bond investors suspect economies will need massive amounts of central bank support long after they reopen and that is keeping yields super low even as governments borrow much more.

Yields on U.S. 10-year notes were trading steady at 0.66% having recovered from a blip up to 0.74% last month when the market absorbed a tidal wave of new issuance.

The decline in U.S. yields has been a burden for the dollar, but the world’s reserve currency also tends to benefit from safe-haven status to limit the losses.

In afternoon trade, the dollar was 0.3% softer on a basket of peers at 97.923 having touched an 11-week low of 97.944 on Friday. It was also down on the yen at 107.50.

Much of the dollar’s recent decline has come against the euro which has been broadly boosted by plans for an EU stimulus package. The single currency was last up at $1.1143, after climbing 1.8% last week.

Markets are awaiting a meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday where it is widely expected to raise its asset buying by around 500 billion euros to 1.25 trillion.

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  • Analysts' View: Impact of the U.S. protests on financial markets

In commodity markets, gold added 0.91% to $1,742 an ounce.

Oil prices initially eased on worries about U.S. demand, but found support from reports Russia had no objection to the next meeting of OPEC and its allies being brought forward to June 4 from the following week.

Brent crude futures were off 37 cents at $37.70 a barrel, while U.S. crude fell 31 cents to $35.38.

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Asia's factory pain worsens as China's recovery fails to lift demand

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asia’s factory pain deepened in May as the slump in global trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic worsened, with export powerhouses Japan and South Korea suffering the sharpest declines in business activity in more than a decade.

A series of manufacturing surveys released on Monday suggest any rebound in businesses will be some time off, even though China’s factory activity unexpectedly returned to growth in May.

China’s Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) hit 50.7 last month, marking the highest reading since January as easing of lockdowns allowed companies to get back to work and clear outstanding orders.

But with many of China’s trading partners still restricted, its new export orders remained in contraction, the private business survey showed on Monday. China’s official PMI survey on Sunday showed the recovery in the world’s second-largest economy intact but fragile.

Japan’s factory activity shrank at the fastest pace since 2009 in May, a separate private sector survey showed while South Korea also saw manufacturing slump at the sharpest pace in more than a decade.

Capital Economics said the region’s manufacturing sector is in deep recession.

“Industry is likely to have seen an initial jump from the easing of lockdown restrictions. And things are likely to continue improving very gradually over the coming months as external demand recovers,” Capital Economics wrote. “But output is still likely to be well below normal levels for many months to come as domestic and global demand remain very depressed.”

Taiwan’s manufacturing activity also fell in May. Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines saw PMIs rebound from April, though the indices all remained below the 50-mark threshold that separates contraction from expansion.

Official data on Monday showed South Korea extending its exports plunge for a third straight month.

Asia’s economic woes are likely to be echoed in other parts of the world including Europe, where economies continue to suffer huge damage in factory and service sectors.

With many countries starting to ease lockdown restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus, which has infected over 5.5 million people globally, equity markets are rallying on hopes for a swift return to health and prosperity.

But the trough in global economic activity will be deeper and the rebound is likely to take longer than previously predicted as the pandemic spreads in waves.

The International Monetary Fund warned last month the global economy will take much longer than expected to recover fully from the virus shock, suggesting a downgrade to its current projection for a 3% contraction this year.

A U.S.-China spat over Hong Kong’s status and Beijing’s handling of the pandemic could sour business sentiment and add to already huge strains on the global economy.

The final au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to a seasonally adjusted 38.4 from 41.9 in April, its lowest since March 2009.

South Korea’s IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) edged down to 41.3 in May, the lowest since January 2009 and below 41.6 in April.

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Wall Street ends mostly up; Trump comments on China but takes no action on trade

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks finished mostly higher on Friday after President Donald Trump announced measures against China in response to new security legislation that were less threatening to the U.S. economy than investors had feared.

The Dow ended the session slightly lower, but all three indexes registered gains for the month and the week.

The S&P 500 initially extended losses after Trump said he was directing his administration to begin the process of eliminating special treatment for Hong Kong in response to China’s plans to impose new security legislation in the semi-autonomous territory.

But Trump made no mention of any action that could undermine the Phase One trade deal that Washington and Beijing struck early this year, a concern that had cast a cloud over the market throughout the week.

“He began speaking in a very tough tone,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The market was worried he was going to announce something substantial, something detrimental to the U.S. economy. Then, as he spoke, it became clear the actions being taken were not going to be as dramatic as originally feared.”

Trump also said the United States is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, something he had threatened to do earlier this month.

S&P 500 technology shares .SPLRCT gave the index its biggest boost, while financials .SPSY were the biggest drag.

The latest confrontation between the U.S. and China has fueled concern that worsening tensions between the two world’s largest economies could derail the recent sharp gains in the stock market.

Expectations of a quick economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have driven the S&P 500 .SPX up more than 30% from its March lows.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 17.53 points, or 0.07%, to 25,383.11, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 14.58 points, or 0.48%, to 3,044.31, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 120.88 points, or 1.29%, to 9,489.87.

For the month, the Dow added 3.9%, the S&P 500 gained 4.5%, and the Nasdaq rose 6.8%. For the week, the Dow and S&P 500 each rose more than 3%, and the Nasdaq gained 1.8%.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that New York City is “on track” to enter phase one of reopening on June 8, and he said five upstate regions will now transition to phase two.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, speaking in a webcast organized by Princeton University Friday, reiterated the U.S. central bank’s promise to use its tools to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter (TWTR.N) was down 2% and Facebook Inc (FB.O) shares slipped 0.2%, a day after Trump signed an order threatening social media firms with new regulations over free speech.

Upscale department store chain Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) slumped 11% after it reported a near 40% fall in quarterly sales due to pandemic-led store closures.

Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N) slipped 3.5% as the cloud-based business software maker cut its annual revenue and profit forecasts.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.04-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.04-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 60 new highs and 14 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 13.62 billion shares, compared to the 11.3 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

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Colorado casinos ante up with proposals to reopen as coronavirus restrictions ease

Communities that are home to Colorado’s casinos are forging ahead with plans to reopen, even as they struggle to understand exactly how they get approval to do so.

Government and business leaders in Gilpin County have submitted a 50-page request for a variance from the state’s “safer-at-home” restrictions so the pinging of slot machines can rev up again. Teller County will likely resubmit its request to open the casinos, which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rejected in late May.

“I think we have a really, really solid plan for allowing the casinos to open for everything from the capacity on the floor, what kinds of things have to be checked as people are coming in to what kinds of controls you have on the (slot) machines and the table games,” said Gilpin County Commissioner Ron Engels.

The plan even addresses closing off the appropriate number of urinals in the men’s bathrooms “to maintain social distancing,” Engels said.

While confident of their plans, Engels and Teller County Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder are less sure about the right route for getting approval to reopen the casinos. The state’s response to Teller County’s request for variances said bars and casinos aren’t allowed to open and that the state would issue guidance soon.

However, Gov. Jared Polis indicated in a May 26 news conference that it is up to the counties to recommend plans for reopening.

“There are no plans to reopen casinos at this time and (the state health department) will review all variance requests as they are received,” Conor Cahill, the governor’s spokesman, said in an email.

Teller County is seeking clarification from the governor’s office, the state Division of Gaming and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Dettenrieder said.

“We were a little confused. We are in the process of looking at a potential new variance request specific to casinos,” he added.

The CDPHE approved the county’s request to reopen restaurants, gyms and other facilities and included several conditions.

“It’s kind of a hot potato right now about where the approval is going to come from for the casinos to open,” said Matt Andrighetti, the general manager at Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek.

Despite the uncertainty, Andrighetti said Wildwood is preparing to open. People’s temperatures will be taken before entering. The casino has invested in ultraviolet light equipment for disinfection. Cleaning crews will move from one section of the casino to another throughout the day. Crews will keep slot machines, chairs and other such “high-touch” areas as rails and elevator buttons clean.

“We have been in constant contact with our players, our customers, our employees and there’s definitely a lot of pent-up demand,” Andrighetti said. “We’re looking forward to a reopening for sure, but we also want to make sure that we do it in a responsible manner and that anything that we do isn’t go to incite a large outbreak.”

The casinos in Black Hawk and Central City have also been busy with preparations and are starting to bring back workers, Engels said. Gilpin County’s variance request, sent to the CDPHE May 26, includes the recommendation that each casino limit its occupancy to 30% of the capacity allowed by the fire code.

Engels anticipated getting an answer from the state in a few days. Closure of the casinos as part of statewide restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 has dealt the communities a huge economic blow, the commissioner said.

“Of the people who work in Gilpin County, 90% work in casinos. There are a lot of people who come up from the metro area,” Engels said. “About 5,500 work in Black Hawk and about 600 in Central City. That’s over 6,000 people who are pretty much out of a job.”

The county’s unemployment was 23% in April, the second highest behind Pitkin County at 23.1%, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Dettenrieder said close to 1,500 people in Teller County work for the casinos. The town of Cripple Creek has been hit the hardest, he said.

“The casinos, in my mind, have a lot of resources. They can deploy those resources to ensure the guidelines are put in place and acted upon,” Dettenrieder said.

The fallout from casinos shutting down has rippled out from the gambling communities across Colorado. The state garnered  $12.2 million in taxes in March 2019 from the 30-some casinos, but only $5 million this March. The casinos were open just 16 days last month.

The grand total for April: $00.0.

For more than two months, CinDee Spellman, her sister and brother have kept the family-owned Dostal Alley and Brew Pub in Central City open by offering take-out fare. She hopes to bring back as many of the 19 employees on furlough who feel comfortable returning.

“We pretty much have daily conversations about reopening,” Spellman said. “We can probably turn on every third machine for social distancing. We’re redoing our floor plan so that we can accommodate that.

“I’m very much looking forward to getting the doors open again, but doing it in a way that’s safe for everybody,” Spellman added.

 

 

 

 

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