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Millions suffer record cold without power; at least 20 dead

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Millions suffer record cold without power; at least 20 dead

 

A winter storm that left millions without power in record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives, including three people found dead after a tornado hit a seaside town in North Carolina and four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm.

The storm that overwhelmed power grids and immobilised the Southern Plains on Tuesday carried heavy snow and freezing rain into New England and the Deep South and left behind painfully low temperatures. Wind-chill warnings extended from Canada into Mexico.

In all, at least 20 deaths were reported. Other causes included car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning. The weather also threatened to affect the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. President Joe Biden’s administration said delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries were likely.

North Carolina’s Brunswick County had little notice of the dangerous weather, and a tornado warning was not issued until the storm was already on the ground.

The National Weather Service was “very surprised how rapidly this storm intensified … and at the time of night when most people are at home and in bed, it creates a very dangerous situation,” Emergency Services Director Ed Conrow said.

In Chicago, a foot and a half (46 centimetres) of new snow forced public schools to cancel in-person classes for Tuesday. Hours earlier, along the normally balmy Gulf of Mexico, cross-country skiier Sam Fagg hit fresh powder on the beach in Galveston, Texas.

The worst U.S. power outages were in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. More than 250,000 people also lost power across parts of Appalachia, and another 200,000 were without electricity following an ice storm in northwest Oregon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports. Four million people lost power in Mexico.

Texas officials requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and planned to prioritise hospitals and nursing homes. The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said.

More than 500 people sought comfort at one Houston shelter. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other warming centres were closed because they lost power.

After losing power Monday, Natalie Harrell said she, her boyfriend and four kids sheltered at a Gallery Furniture store in Houston. The warming centre at the store provided people with food, water and power to charge essential electronics.

“It’s worse than a hurricane,” Harrell said. “I think we are going to be more days without light, that is what it seems like.”

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity.

Blackouts lasting more than an hour began around dawn Tuesday for Oklahoma City and more than a dozen other communities, stopping electric-powered space heaters, furnaces and lights just as temperatures hovered around minus 8 degrees (minus 22 degrees Celsius) (minus 22 degrees Celsius).

Oklahoma Gas & Electric rescinded plans for more blackouts but urged users to set thermostats at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), avoid using major electric appliances and turn off lights or appliances not in use.

However, Entergy began rolling blackouts Tuesday night in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Southeast Texas at the direction of its grid manager, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, “as a last resort and in order to prevent more extensive, prolonged power outages that could severely affect the reliability of the power grid,” according to a statement from the New Orleans-based utility.

“Due to extremely cold temperatures over the last several days, the demand for electricity has reached an all-time high,” the Entergy statement said. “Additionally, these weather conditions have forced off generation resources across the system. The implementation of this load shed across the Entergy region will help ensure an adequate reserve margin, which helps ensure Entergy is better positioned to manage through additional extreme weather this week.”

Entergy has almost 3 million electric power customers in the four states.

Nebraska’s blackouts came amid some of the coldest weather on record: In Omaha, the temperature bottomed out at 23 degrees below zero overnight (minus 30 degrees Celsius), the coldest in 25 years.

The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states, said the blackouts were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”

The outages forced a Texas county to scramble to administer more than 8,000 doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine after a public health facility lost power early Monday and its backup generator also failed, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

County officials distributed the doses that could have spoiled at three hospitals, Rice University and the county jail because there were large groups of people available who would not have to drive and appropriate medical personnel present.

“It feels amazing. I’m very grateful,” said Harry Golen, a college sophomore who waited for nearly four hours with his friends, much of it in the cold, and was among the last people to get the shots, which otherwise would not have reached students until March or April.

Texas officials said more than 400,000 doses due now will not arrive until at least Wednesday because of the storm.

The tornado that hit North Carolina’s Brunswick County was an EF3 with winds estimated at 160 mph (257 kph), the weather service said on Twitter.

Three people died and 10 were injured when the tornado tore through a golf course community and another rural area just before midnight Monday, destroying dozens of homes.

Sharon Benson, 63, said her roof was damaged and her garage door blown off. Windows were shattered and nearby trees were uprooted.

“The sky lit up and there was a lot of pop-pop-popping” and thunder, she said.

Authorities in multiple states reported deaths in crashes on icy roads , including two people whose vehicle slid off a road and overturned in a waterway in Kentucky on Sunday, state police said. A Mississippi man died after losing control of his vehicle, which overturned on an icy road Monday night near Starkville, Oktibbeha County coroner Michael Hunt said Tuesday.

In Texas, three young children and their grandmother died in the Houston-area fire, which likely began while they were using a fireplace to keep warm during a power outage, a fire official said. And in Oregon, authorities on Tuesday confirmed the deaths four people last weekend in the Portland metro area of carbon monoxide poisoning.

At least 13 children were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, the hospital said in a social media post, which warned that families were “going to extreme measures to warm their homes” — with propane or diesel-burning engines and generators, gas ovens and stovetops. One parent died of the toxic fumes, paediatrician Phillip Scott told Fort Worth television station KTVT.

Other Texas deaths included a woman and a girl who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston at a home without electricity from a car left running in an attached garage, and two men found along Houston-area roadways who likely died in subfreezing temperatures, law enforcement officials said.

In western Tennessee, a 10-year-old boy died after falling into an ice-covered pond on Sunday during a winter storm, fire officials said.

Several cities had record lows: In Minnesota, the Hibbing/Chisholm weather station registered minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 39 degrees Celsius) (minus 39 degrees Celsius). Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dropped to minus 26 Fahrenheit (minus 26 degrees Celsius) (minus 26 degrees Celsius).

At midday, more than 2,700 U.S. flights had been cancelled, led by more than 800 at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and more than 700 at Bush Intercontinental in Houston.

Authorities pleaded with residents to stay home Tuesday. About 100 school systems closed, delayed opening or switched to remote classes in Alabama, where forecasters said conditions might not improve until temperatures rise above freezing Wednesday afternoon.

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12-year-old charged for bomb threat aimed at Hackett Middle School

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12-year-old charged for bomb threat aimed at Hackett Middle School

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A 12-year-old student was arrested after making a bomb threat at a local middle school.

Police were called to Hackett Middle School around 1 p.m. Friday after a male had called the school and indicated there was a bomb inside.

Police said a 12-year-old student communicated with a third party through instant messaging, and during the conversation, encouraged the third party to call in a bomb threat to his school.

Albany Police K-9, with the assistance of the New York State Police, cleared the school and deemed that the building was safe and that there was no device.

The student was charged with Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree and is scheduled to appear in Albany County Family Court in October.

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Rensselaer County sheriff responds to complaint filed against jail, ICE

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Complaint filed against Rensselaer County Jail

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Rensselaer County sheriff has responded to a complaint filed against the jail and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement over alleged abuse and neglect.

The complaint alleges physical abuse while in transit by ICE to the Troy facility as well as medical neglect and deplorable jail conditions. It was filed on behalf of a woman only identified as “Miss Q.”

It claims she was violently tugged, which caused her to fall without the ability to put her hands out to break her fall because of the shackles she was wearing. The complaint claims she suffered several injuries, including bleeding and bruising.

The sheriff’s office released the following statement in response:

The female inmate’s main complaint, who was scheduled for deportation, was she did not want to be quarantined upon arrival to the facility, which is, due to COVID-19, policy for all new admissions into the Rensselaer County Jail. She was given a grievance form, which she filled out, but later signed off stating everything was alright and no longer wished to further the grievance.

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Government shutdown looms amid federal budget feud

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Government shutdown looms amid federal budget feud

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The U.S. is facing a possible government shutdown next week because lawmakers are at odds over the federal budget.

Lawmakers have the power to avoid the shutdown but have so far failed to avert the crisis.

“They want to raise $5 trillion and spend it in the next month. They have a maxed-out credit card and want to get a new limit to go max out another one,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said of Democrats.

House Republicans voted against the bill that would raise the debt ceiling and keep the government open.

“It’s quite appalling because when Republican presidents were there, we always had bipartisan support for that,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

The fight is headed to the Senate where the measure could fail, prompting both a government shutdown and a default on U.S. loans, which could greatly impact Americans and the services they receive from the government. A shutdown also has the potential to damage the greater American economy.

“Republicans won’t agree to pay our past bills, the debt we owe,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Sen. Mitch McConnel (R-KY) replied, “Give me a break.”

Republicans refuse to vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling because they oppose Democrats’ proposed agenda that aims to spend $3.5 trillion on green energy investments and measures like universal preschool and childcare subsidies for lower income families.

But that spending plan is in danger of failing anyway because not all Democrats are on board.

Nevertheless, Republicans say they’ll oppose raising the debt ceiling on principal.

“If they want to tax, borrow and spend historic sums of money without our input, they’ll have to raise the debt limit without our help,” said McConnell.

“They can do it if they want to do it, and they should. But I’m certainly not going to help them do it,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).

Republicans say they would support a standalone bill to keep the government open. While Democrats can technically raise the debt ceiling alone, they don’t have enough votes to do so because their own party can’t agree on the spending plan and reconciliation package.

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No school bus? No problem. Colorado boy kayaks to school

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No school bus? No problem. Colorado boy kayaks to school

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) – As school districts across the nation deal with a shortage of bus drivers, a Colorado student is getting high marks for his creative way of getting to class.

The boy’s dad, Jason Smith, said the shortage prompted his son Josh, 12, to come up with a backup plan in case Josh was unable to get a seat on the bus when the school year started in Summit County.

“One night he said, ‘Hey, instead of waiting on the bus, why don’t I just kayak to school?’” said Smith.

The Smiths live in Silverthorne, about a five-mile drive from Summit Middle School, where Josh attends. But the shortest route — as the crow flies — is directly across Dillon Reservoir. 

“The easy answer would have been, ‘No, let me just drive you to school. If you can’t get on the bus, we’ll drive you to school, no problem,’” said Smith. “But I have a 12-year-old who wants to be adventurous, wants to do something none of his buddies would do, and how can I say no to that?”

So on a cool September morning, they loaded the kayak into the family car and drove the short distance down to the reservoir. 

Josh set off and made it across the entire lake to school — a distance of about three miles — arriving almost on time after he stopped to explore an island on the way.

“I was late to one of my classes, and everyone was like, ‘Josh, where were you? We were worried.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I was kayaking to school,’” he said with a smile.

“Instead of taking a shortcut, I took a long cut,” Josh joked. 

Josh’s dad said he kept an eye on Josh from overlooks around the lake. But Josh said he was only a little bit nervous, and mostly excited for the adventure.

“I was nervous when I started to go out a little more, and I realized how vast it was, and how far away I was from land,” he said. “When I got there, I felt like I was accomplished, but I also knew I was a little bit late to school, so I think I could have made a little bit better time.”

Now the 12-year-old Boy Scout — who hopes to reach Eagle Scout and potentially enroll in the Air Force Academy someday — is planning to try and ski to school across the lake once it freezes.

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Albany PD welcomes 15 new officers

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Albany PD welcomes 15 new officers

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Albany Police Department welcomed 15 new officers during a graduation ceremony on Friday morning.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins were on hand to welcome the new group of officers.

All of the recruits went through 31 weeks of training at the Albany Police Academy, which opened in 2016.

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Gabby Petito: Social media sleuths help unravel the case

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Gabby Petito: Social media sleuths help unravel the case

(NewsNation Now) — 22-year-old Gabby Petito embarked on a cross-country road trip with boyfriend Brian Laundrie in July, documenting every turn of their new van life on their nascent YouTube channel, where they invited the world to tag along.

But more than a week after Laundrie returned from the trip alone, her family reported her missing, and followers took that invitation to heart — scouring her posts and unpacking the mystery in real time.

The hashtag #gabbypetito has been viewed more than 867 million times on TikTok alone.

Paris Campbell, a comedian and TikTok user, saw some of herself in the videos she watched of Petito.

“I’m a new mother,” Campbell told NewsNationNow.com. “I saw an interview with Gabby’s mother crying, begging for people to help bring her daughter home.

“It just resonated with me.”

Haley Toumaian, 24, is a data analyst. But she’s also using her account and expertise to hunt for clues.

“My goal is to share as many things as I can because you just never know who’s going to see the video and who might know something,” she told NewsNationNow.com.

Millions have poured over the various posts — dissecting threads and theories. One of Toumaian’s videos scrutinizes the captions on Petito’s Instagram posts. Campbell flagged an apparent change in who appeared in the photos themselves in another video.

“I saw myself a lot in what was being reported about Gabby,” Toumaian said. “We’re similar age, we’re both engaged to be married. We’re both YouTubers and just live a kind of similar lifestyle.”

She said she also knew what it was like to be in a toxic relationship. That empathy became even more applicable after bodycam footage in Utah showed Petito and Laundrie after a recent fight.

After weeks of mystery, a break in the case came online. YouTubers Jenn and Kyle Bethune found video of a white van they happened to catch on their camera during a trip to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park on Aug. 27. That van matched the description of the one Petito and Laundrie traveled in.

The van was on the side of the road. Then they gave the footage to the FBI, who closed the area to the public.

Days later, on Sept. 19, they found Petito’s body nearby.

For the online community, the search for Laundrie, and justice, continues.

In a TikTok video, Miranda Baker claimed she picked Laundrie up in the park alone. She said she called the authorities after recognizing him in TikTok videos after the fact.

The community is also building on its own findings. Former Marine and self-described audio/video nerd, Brent Shavnore, said he enhanced the video of the van and believed he could see the door closing.

“When I zoomed in with a 4k video, it was clear as day to me on a large monitor that that door looked to be closing,” Shavnore told NewsNationNow.com. “I got chills up my spine, and when I saw that happen, I posted that to Twitter instantly to see if anybody else saw the same thing.”

Several people on Twitter commented on the video saying that it was “creepy” to see someone “abruptly” close the door in the enhanced video.

There has been some debate on whether the flood of speculation and analysis has been helpful or not, but Michael Alcazar, an investigator with the New York Police Department for 30 years, says it’s “very helpful.”

“There’s like bigfoot sightings of Laundrie right now. Everyone is handing in images, grainy images,” he told NewsNationNow.com. “And I think that’s a big help. It’s like a lot of investigators out there doing a canvas for this person of interest.”

There’s no signs the community, hungry for answers, will turn their energy away anytime soon.

“There’s something really powerful about a large group of people trying to get the same message across and a large group of people being focused on a single topic,” Campbell said. “And I think that the natural outcome from that would be some sort of progress.”

“If I can make a difference, then it’s worth it,” Toumaian said.

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Who’s eligible for Pfizer booster shots after CDC announcement?

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Who’s eligible for Pfizer booster shots after CDC announcement?

FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021 file photo, a nurse loads a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Jackson, Miss. Millions of Americans are now eligible to receive a Pfizer booster shot to help increase their protection against the worst effects of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(AP) – Millions of Americans are now eligible to receive a Pfizer booster shot to help increase their protection against the worst effects of the coronavirus.

A look at the nuts and bolts of this new phase of the vaccination campaign:

Who should get the Pfizer booster?

People who got two Pfizer shots at least six months ago and who fall into one of these groups should get the booster:

— People 65 and older, nursing home residents and assisted living residents.

— Others ages 50 to 64 with a long list of risky health problems including cancer, diabetes, asthma, HIV infection and heart disease. Being overweight or obese is a category that qualifies roughly 70% of people in this age group.

Who else can consider getting it?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these people may get a booster, but stopped short of a full recommendation:

— People 18 to 49 who got their Pfizer shots at least six months ago with risky health problems can consider the booster based on their individual benefits and risks.

— Anyone 18 to 64 with a risky job, such as health care, can consider boosters. Prisoners and people living in homeless shelters are also in this group.

What are the side effects?

Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses are exceedingly rare, including heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men.

Weren’t some people already eligible?

Yes, people with severely weakened immune systems were already eligible to get a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna. This group includes people taking immune-suppressing medications and those with diseases that tamp down their immune systems. They didn’t have to wait six months to get a third dose.

What if I got Moderna? Can I get a Pfizer booster?

Not yet. Health officials say they don’t have enough data on mix-and-match vaccinations. Moderna has applied to U.S. health regulators for its own booster, one that would be half the dose of the original shots. The Food and Drug Administration is considering that application.

What if I got J&J?

People who originally got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson also must wait. The government doesn’t recommend mixing-and-matching. J&J hasn’t yet filed a booster application. But earlier this week, the company released data showing two doses of its vaccine provided stronger immunity than one — whether the extra dose was given either two months or six months after the first.

Where can I get my booster?

Health departments, clinics and drugstores are offering boosters, and many people have already gotten them ahead of the official green light. You may have to show your vaccine card. Proving how you qualify is on the honor system. Your word about your risky job or health condition is likely to be enough.

Are boosters free?

Yes, shots given under FDA’s emergency use authorization are free. And there should be enough supplies.

Am I ‘fully vaccinated’ without a booster?

Yes, two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one of J&J, is still considered fully vaccinated.

Why were boosters so hotly contested?

The need is not crystal clear. Studies show the vaccines are still offering strong protection against serious illness for all ages. And many experts want to focus attention on getting shots to the unvaccinated, the group most in danger of infection, hospitalization and death.

On the other hand, there is a slight drop in the vaccine’s effectiveness among the oldest adults. And immunity against milder infection appears to wane months after people’s initial shots. Protecting health care workers from even mild illness may help some hospitals now struggling to care for unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Are other countries offering boosters?

Britain and Israel are already giving boosters over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries don’t have enough for their initial doses.

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Lawmakers call out Biden administration for extending Canadian border restriction

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Lawmakers call out Biden administration for extending Canadian border restriction

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Democrats and Republicans are calling out the Biden administration for extending the restriction at the Canadian border.

“I think it’s an outrage,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Gillibrand is disappointed travel restrictions at the Canadian border will remain in place at least until October 21.

“We need that border open for our economy and for families and communities that depend on those borders and cross border transactions,” Gillibrand said.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says Port Roberts, Washington is especially suffering.

“Their local economy depends on Canadian tourists, especially since, by the way, the only ferry between Port Roberts and the rest of Washington state is closed because of the pandemic,” Murray said.

In a statement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said the prolonged closure is “devastating” northern New York.

The current restrictions do allow air travel between the countries, but the Biden administration says it’s not ready to ease border crossings on the ground.

“It is a health decision by requiring vaccinations, and we wanted to do it in a way that was equitable,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

But Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) says the health rationale doesn’t make sense.

“Non-vaccinated Canadians who have a negative COVID test can get on a plane and fly to the United States, but vaccinated Canadians, and they have a higher vaccination rate than we do, cannot cross a port of entry into our country,” Hassan said.

Lawmakers say they will continue to pressure the president to repeal the restriction next month.

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EXCLUSIVE: Vicarious Visions design director talks Diablo II: Resurrected, game developing in Capital Region

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EXCLUSIVE: Vicarious Visions design director talks Diablo II: Resurrected, game developing in Capital Region

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Upstate New York native Rob Gallerani says he never thought he’d have a hand in one of his first and favorite computer games: Diablo II.

“The first computer I ever got, well really the first computer my family got, was the laptop I took to college. I got like a small stack from my friends who said you’ve got to play this game, you’ve got to play this game, and the first one on the top was Diablo II, and I don’t think I ever got to any of the other games in the stack,” Gallerani remembers.

Now 21 years after its 2000 release, Diablo II still claims a spot among the top hack-and-slash RPGs of all time. Gallerani and his team at Vicarious Visions in Albany took on the delicate task of resurrecting the game in the modern era. As the studio’s design director, Gallerani played a crucial role in deciding what stayed and what had to get upgraded in Diablo II: Resurrected.

“It would be like hey, we want you to repaint the Mona Lisa. It was just as much a remaster of a game as it was a preservation, like a little window of history,” he explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “If you look at other games that VV has recently done like Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, those we actually rebuilt the game from the ground up. We couldn’t do that with [Diablo II], because what makes the game so special is all these little quirks, all these little things that we knew we would miss one thing and fans would notice.”

Gallerani says Diablo II: Resurrected runs like an blanket of the latest 3D graphics, colors, and sounds laid on top of and powered by the original game’s code. He says some elements like console controller modifications, adding color blind mode, and font scaling all add to catching up to 20 years of game development. However, some bits and bugs were too reminiscent to fix.

“Even though people play differently now, Diablo II didn’t stop. People kept playing all this time, and because a certain bug has been in the game for maybe 20 years, it’s now not even seen as a bug. It’s perceived as that’s just how the game works, and so that was probably where we spent the most time. Deciding okay, this is a little quirk in the game, do we fix it and make it how it was originally supposed to be or do we actually keep it because that’s how people expect it to work?” Gallerani explains.

He says keeping some of the beloved elements of the game came from some of the original developers who still work at Blizzard. However, even though Vicarious Visions had the original code to work off of, Gallerani says many of the files used to create the game were lost. A large chunk of development time for Diablo II: Resurrected was spent tracking people down and asking to see their old computers, hard drives, or even paper sketches and marketing materials.

“In many cases, we didn’t create new concept art, we just went with the originals and in some cases, we even got to use the same models. So Tyrael’s wings, we were able to use the exact same model in our game. There were also texture maps for walls and things, we found those and just brought them over,” Gallerani says.

He says Thursday’s official release went well, with a few of the expected first launch bumps in the road. Gallerani adds new content and improvements for the game aren’t likely to come for some time.

“Our North Star right now is stick the landing, because we are going for a good foundation. We were really trying to make sure we made the same game people remember, so our main focus was on that, watching our feedback. We did an alpha, we did betas [tests] and we have a whole team of people dedicated to making sure things go well, but when you let the entire world play and you have millions of people, that’s really the true test of it,” he says.

Gallerani says Vicarious Visions working on such major projects proves you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to make great games.

“I was like this is perfect, so close to my family, still get to work on the cutting edge, new games,” he says. “You’re seeing more and more people moving out of the urban areas and looking to places where you have more balance.”

He says as more major games are developed in the Capital Region and as bright minds enter the industry from local schools like RPI, he’d love to see gaming take on an even bigger role in New York’s future.

“We are reaching a new era of the games industry, and to have that choice of multiple studios to come and pick from, I would love to see it continue to go,” he says.

“Because of a lot of the changes we had to do for COVID and working from home, people are starting to realize they can do their job from really wherever they want. Developing this game, we didn’t have the Albany team and the California team or the Europe team, it was like we were all invited to each other’s homes. I saw the kids growing through screens and endless, endless cats and then I got to show them our leaves and our snow. While [the pandemic] is something I would never want to do again and I’m certainly looking forward to being out of it, it did open up new opportunities,” he went on to say.

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Vaccine mandate could compound staff shortage at local hospitals

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Vaccine mandate could compound staff shortage at local hospitals

HUDSON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Capital Region is seeing the impacts of a nation-wide nursing shortage at local hospitals. With a vaccine mandate starting on Monday for workers, Columbia Memorial Hospital may be at its tipping point.

“They’re dealing with a seven-to-one ratio, which I feel is extremely dangerous. You know, they’re overworked. They’ve been underpaid for too long,” said Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson.  

Johnson said staffing at the hospital has been a long-standing issue, but over the last year it’s gotten worse.  

“A lot of the nurses that I have talked to, they are forgoing their breaks or taking 10-minute lunch breaks because, you know, patient care, they’re putting it above their own care,” Johnson said.  

An impending vaccine mandate for hospital workers is expected to crush an already fragile health care system. 83 percent of hospital workers in Columbia County have completed their vaccine series. That’s a number much lower compared to nearby counties.  

“Our ambulances throughout the county are experiencing longer wait times to be able to turn the patients over at some of the hospitals,” said Green County EMS Coordinator Sean Hotaling. 

Hotaling said ambulances are having to wait two to five hours in hospital parking lots until they can get a patient in. The coordinator said they’re keeping an eye on wait times to get patients in to other hospitals. 

“Luckily, we still have a bunch of options of places to go so we’re not bombarding one facility with the majority of emergency service calls,” Hotaling said. 

In a statement Columbia Memorial writes in part, “CMH has responded to these unique challenges by prioritizing our staff resources and deploying them to areas of greatest need.”  

“My biggest fear is that as we go into the colder months and people start to get sick more and more, we’re going to have serious issues in all of our hospitals,” Johnson said. 

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