iStock/ChalabalaBy: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News (NEW YORK) — The ticket was free, but Dr. Ethan Weiss says the price was fear on a nearly full six-hour United Airlines flight home to San Francisco from the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus in New York.After volunteering for two weeks to treat virus patients in the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, Weiss was among 25 medical professionals on the flight that United flew home for free.But when he boarded the 737 on Saturday at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, Weiss said he realized the airline wasn’t doing what it promised to do in an email to keep passengers safe, including blocking off middle seats.Before take-off, Weiss posted a selfie showing what appeared to be a full plane with passengers and crew members wearing masks and lucky to have six inches of space between them, let alone six feet, as most government stay-at-home orders recommend.“I guess @united is relaxing their social distancing policy these days? Every seat full on this 737,” tweeted Weiss, a cardiologist and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine.The social media post went viral with other medical professionals on the same flight chiming in.“Hey @United: I appreciate you getting us home from New York, but I’d prefer there be some level of #socialdistancing,” tweeted Dr. Rebecca Plevin, a trauma surgeon at UCSF.Even before catching the flight, Weiss said in an interview with ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco that he was apprehensive.“I’m scared of getting on the airplane on Saturday. I’ve been taking care of COVID-19 patients for the last two weeks and I’m more scared of getting on the airplane on Saturday than I’m walking into the hospital,” Weiss said. “If I randomly happen to be seated in an aisle seat and the person in the window seat has COVID I’m probably more likely to get infected there than I would be in the ICU.”Once he set foot on the plane, he said he realized his fears were justified and decided to document the roughly six-hour flight home.He tweeted an email he says he received on April 30 from United’s chief customer officer, saying, “We’re automatically blocking middle seats to give you enough space on board.”“Also I guess this has changed in 10 days,” Weiss tweeted from his aisle seat after seeing many middle seats occupied.Toward the end of the flight, Weiss tweeted that “people on this plane are scared/shocked.” He added, “I have no idea why most of them are traveling” and noted, “I am with a group of 25 nurses and doctors who have been working in NYC hospitals for the past 2-4 weeks.”In a statement to ABC News, United Airlines disputed Weiss’ claim that the flight was completely full, saying the plane was about 85% of capacity with 22 seats left empty. While the airline said most of its flights have been 50% full, it added it is limiting advanced seat selection and “could not guarantee that all customers will be seated next to an unoccupied seat.”“We’ve overhauled our cleaning and safety procedures and implemented a new boarding and deplaning process to promote social distancing,” United said in a statement. “Our flight to San Francisco had an additional 25 medical professionals on board who were flying for free to volunteer their time in New York — we’ve provided complimentary flights for more than 1,000 doctors and nurses in the past few weeks alone — and all passengers and employees were asked to wear face coverings, consistent with our new policy.”Meanwhile, American Airlines passenger Sam Kirschner, 28, also tweeted a photo from what appeared to be a nearly full flight on Saturday morning from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport that showed him and other passengers wearing masks and some middle seats apparently unoccupied. “It was scary. It’s kind of … terrifying,” Kirschner, who works for a venture capital company, told ABC News on Monday. “You’re in this huge crowd of people and we’ve spent the past two months sitting in our apartment trying to stay away from people. I don’t know how this is legal.”He said he and his girlfriend caught a connecting American Airlines flight to Philadelphia, where his girlfriend, who just recently accepted a job in San Francisco, had to travel to clear out her apartment there because the lease is expiring.American Airlines told ABC News that there were 42 empty seats on the flight Kirschner and his girlfriend were on and that 73% of middle seats were unoccupied. The airlines said the flight included many families traveling together who purchased adjacent seats together.“On flights through May 31, American will limit the number of passengers on each aircraft,” the airline said in a statement. “As part of this limit, American will not assign 50% of main cabin middle seats or seats near flight attendant jump seats on every flight, and will only use those middle seats when necessary. Gate agents will also continue to reassign seats to create more space between customers or to accommodate families who need to be seated together. Once onboard — as long as there aren’t any aircraft weight or balance restrictions –customers can move to another seat within their ticketed cabin subject to availability.”Kirschner said he and his girlfriend had to sit in separate rows, adding that a flight attendant told them the plane was full.“If 50% of middle seats are empty, the other 50% of people who are sitting in these middle seats are having panic attacks,” Kirschner said. “I don’t know how you could put people in middle seats and expect them to be fine with that if they’re in any right mind.”Kirschner said he believes the federal government needs to step in to ensure the airline industry practices safe social distancing on flights.Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told ABC News that seeing photos of crowded planes, particularly the one tweeted by Dr. Weiss, was alarming. She alleges the airlines will continue to pack planes unless ordered by the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) to reduce capacity on flights.“The first thing I thought is, DOT needs to take action here,” Nelson told ABC News. “This really has to be directed from the government.”While the DOT has issued orders to airlines to refund customers whose flights have been canceled due to the pandemic, the agency has yet to issue directives regulating the number of passengers allowed on flights. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
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JAKE NAUGHTON/Herald photoGood recruiting typically leads to depth on any team’sroster. The 2008 Badgers can go four deep at the running back position, anasset few teams can proudly boast. Whether or not that number is too large willbe determined in the near future, starting with Saturday’s spring game.The backfield is led by junior P.J. Hill, the 2006 NationalFreshman of the Year. The East Elmhurst, N.Y. native rushed for 1,569 yardsduring his redshirt freshman campaign and, despite being nagged by injurieslast season, Hill was still able to accumulate more than 1,200 yards on theground.Injuries have been a chronic issue for Hill since arrivingin Madison, but the junior feels as healthy as he’s ever felt physically andhopes that can carry over into the fall.“Every day I’m just going out there, working hard. I’m notin the training room anymore, and I’m pretty proud of it,” Hill said.“I’m doing things right in the weight room, I’m taking care of my body,stretching a lot, eating right, getting some things in my body that Ineed.”Hill’s hard work and perseverance have paid off over thisoffseason, as his newfound health has equated to added quickness on the field,something both he and the Wisconsin coaching staff have noticed this spring.“P.J. is the guy right now that’s playing as good as hecan play,” said running backs coach John Settle. “He’s physical, andright now he’s showing a lot of burst at the line of scrimmage, which issomething that he showed flashes of last year. But now he looks quicker. He’strusting things to happen, and he believes what he sees.”Hill’s talent, experience and understanding of the game areduly noted by his coaches, which ultimately gives him the edge over the othercandidates vying for touches in the crowded Badger backfield.“P.J.’s probably the most complete back with having themost reps under his belt, but also being conscientious understandingprotections and being our style back,” offensive line coach and run gamecoordinator Bob Bostad explained. “He puts his shoulder down and gets youextra yards, yet is elusive enough and sudden enough to make that next man missin the box.”Close behind Hill on the UW depth chart is junior LanceSmith. Smith showed flashes of greatness last season, but was only able to playin home games after an off-field altercation involving him and his girlfriend.After being given two alternatives of serving his suspension, Smith opted tosit out the Badgers’ five road games as opposed to their first five games onthe schedule, a decision he wishes he could have back.“I suggested that the away games would be best becausethe first game of the season, you need a reliable back at running back, sothat’s how that situation went down,” Smith explained. “I reallywanted to play in the first game. But if I could go back in time, I’d pick thefirst five games because I believe my team needed me in Illinois and against[Ohio] State.”The Badgers lost both games away from home last season.Of the four backs, Smith is the most versatile of the bunch,which has given offensive coordinator Paul Chryst some options with which toplay.“You’ll see me in a lot of different looks (nextseason),” Smith said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to be successful outof those looks and help the team out.”This spring, Smith has lined up at wide receiver, both outwide and in the slot, and has run some of the spread offense with a few of theUW quarterbacks. Because of his array of skills, Smith isn’t worried about alack of touches come fall.“Last year, I feel like I showed that I have theability to do a lot of special things,” Smith said. “I’m just soanxious to have a full season and show the coaching staff and the fans what Ican do with a full season. Honestly, I feel like Coach Chryst will find a wayto get the ball in my hands, so I’m not worried about how many touches I get. Ihave my own plays and my own sets, so me being on the field won’t be aproblem.”According to Settle, an increase in Smith’s touches couldn’thurt the Badgers’ offensive production.“You do not want to have Lance Smith one-on-one,”Settle said. “If you can get him into one-on-one situations, you’ve got tofeel pretty good as a coach. He’s elusive, he has the ability to make you miss,and he can catch the ball from the backfield and we can spread him outwide.”With Hill’s injury and Smith’s suspension last season, awindow of opportunity opened for then-freshman Zach Brown, one that he tookfull advantage of. The Royal Palm, Fla., native rushed for 568 yards lastseason, including 250 in the regular season finale against Minnesota.Brown has all the tools to become a great Wisconsin runningback, something that his coaches keep stressing.“Zach Brown’s probably our all-around guy,” Settlesaid. “He can play first and second down, he can play third down becausehe understands the pass protection. If he ends up being a third-down guy, we’llplay him in that role. We have no problem getting different guys on the fieldif it’s going to help us win. Zach has shown that he has an all-around game. Heruns the ball well between the tackles and has enough speed to get into thesecondary.”Bostad couldn’t agree more.“Zach Brown has been a great utility back for us,”Bostad said. “The more reps he gets, the more he’s going to step into thatrole of a starter someday. He’s an extremely conscientious kid when it comes topass protection. He’s a patient runner; he runs the ball well to the outsideand he understands the scheme a little bit better. He’s a better perimeterrunner than some of the other guys because he understands blocking schemes andhas natural vision.”Freshman John Clay rounds out the depth chart for theWisconsin running corps. But just because he currently sits at No. 4 doesn’tmean Clay won’t see the field this fall.“He’s beginning to learn the system and put everythingtogether,” Settle said of Clay. “We’re working on consistency withhim. We want him to be able to string five perfect reps together so we candevelop some confidence in him. He’s had some really good days, but we’d liketo see it in scrimmage situations.”If running the football was based solely on physicalabilities, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Clay would have no trouble finding playingtime on any football team. However, the mental aspects of the game have givenClay some challenges this spring.“John Clay is a guy who doesn’t fully understandprotections as well as we want, but he’s a hard-nosed, downhill runner who willsurprise you with how fast he is and how sudden he is,” Bostad said.“He’s certainly got a tremendous amount of upside. The sky is the limitfor him.”Clay is aware of the necessity for him to improve mentally,and is eager to continue trying and learning.“My time’s going to come,” Clay said. “I needto be patient, know my assignments and make sure I study the playbook. In highschool, I didn’t have to pick up blitzes as much, so I’m learning how to dothat better.”With all the competition and fighting for playing time, itwould be easy for these four backs to be at each other’s throats. But instead,they remain friendly and continue to help each other improve.“We all get along,” Smith said. “It’s notlike, ‘I hate somebody’ or ‘he hates me.’ If somebody does something bad atpractice, we’ll all go up to each other and be like, ‘You need to do it likethis.’ It’s more like a friendly competition. On the field you’re competing,but off the field it’s friendly.”Brown feels the same way.“It’s funny because there’s no animosity,” Brownsaid. “We’re all cool; it’s like a brotherhood, and we’re all out theretrying to help each other. We’re obviously fighting for one position, but weknow that we can help each other out.”The brotherhood is part of the reason why each of these fourdecided to come to Wisconsin in the first place.“That’s one of the reasons why I came here,” Hillsaid. “This school is known for breeding great running backs, so when Icame here, I was like, ‘I want to be the best running back I can be.’ You’vegot Ron Dayne, (Brian) Calhoun and I could be next in line to come out of theUniversity of Wisconsin playing for the Badgers. So, right now, I’m very proudof my decision.”He’s also had some help along the way.“I’m pretty close with Ron Dayne,” Hill continued.“He has my number, and we keep in contact. He told me if I need any adviceto talk to him, and I have no problem talking to him because he’s a veryopen-minded guy, a guy that you can really talk to.”Like Hill, Smith enjoys the tradition of great backs thatexists in Camp Randall Stadium.“It means a lot, that’s honestly why I came here,”Smith said. “Just being able to watch them on TV and be productive on thefield; it’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I started watching them ineighth grade, so I wanted to come here and be successful, too.”For a coach, having too much depth is never an issue. Butfor a player, depth can certainly affect one’s playing time. All four of thesetalented backs are aware of the current situation, but none have shown anysigns of concern or discouragement — even Hill, who’s likely to see hiscarries decrease from the previous two seasons.“I know those guys can do the job,” Hill said.“I’ll cheer them on; those are my teammates. They have to win the game.I’m on the same team, so I want to win with them.”Brown, too, is enjoying the competition.“I look at it as a good scenario,” Brown said.“We’re all talented and we all push each other. Challenge brings the bestout of everybody. Everything is going to work out, so we’re just lookingforward to see what’s going to happen.”That said, playing time is still very much up for grabs,according to the entire UW coaching staff.“[Playing time will] take care of itself,” Settlesaid. “They understand that there’s stiff competition. They understandthat the guys that compete and produce, those are the guys that are going toplay. We play in the Big Ten; it’s a physical conference, so there’s always achance for injury, so we have to prepare all four guys expecting theopportunity to play. There’s going to be a time where all of them are going tobe forced to play.”Being the running backs coach, it’s also Settle’s job tomake sure that each of his four backs stay fresh at all times.“We tell them to make sure that they’re ready,”Settle said. “If you get five opportunities, you’ve got five opportunitiesto make something happen. It’s not about counting the reps; it’s about makingthe reps count. We’re not dumb as coaches; if there’s a guy that’s hot, we’llride him and they know that.”
Blue Jays’ Ken Giles sidelined with nerve inflammation after massage Oakland has acquired RHP Homer Bailey from Kansas City in exchange for MiLB IF Kevin Merrell.Bailey is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA (16 ER, 43.0 IP) with 37 strikeouts in his last 8 starts.— AthleticsPR (@AthleticsPR) July 14, 2019Bailey, 33, is 7-6 this season with a 4.80 ERA and has 18 starts with Kansas City. He spent his first twelve seasons in MLB with the Reds but was traded to the Dodgers in the offseason. Los Angeles waived him shortly after, freeing him up to sign with the Royals for the league minimum.Oakland entered Sunday’s game six games back from the American League West-leading Astros. The Athletics currently hold the second wild-card spot and are barely trailing the Rays for the first. Related News Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Oakland has landed a new pitcher.The Athletics announced Sunday that they acquired right-hander Homer Bailey from the Royals in exchange for infielder Kevin Merrell. Kansas City, on the other hand, is fourth in the American League Central and out of the postseason hunt.