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Covid 19

Nominate a Healthcare Worker For a 7-Day RV Getaway

Illustration for article titled Nominate a Healthcare Worker For a 7-Day RV Getaway

Image: Oliver Eitel/Getty Images (Getty Images)

Eight months into the global pandemic, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging at unprecedented levels. Healthcare workers have shouldered so much of the psychological and emotional burden wrought by this marathon plague, and you may be wondering how you can show a healthcare worker that you appreciate their sacrifices.

Luckily, El Monte RV wants to hear from you to make this a reality. The company is seeking nominations for a healthcare hero for a weeklong RV getaway, open to any doctors, nurses, technicians, medical researchers, general hospital workers, or pharmacists who work in the continental United States. A week’s reprieve from the chaos of treating COVID patients probably sounds like bliss to the prospective healthcare hero in your life.

How to nominate a healthcare worker

Unlike the thorny mess of the stanching the spread of this virus, the requirements for submitting nominations are very straightforward. All information for the nominator can be supplied within the contest’s form. Requirements for the nominee, however, are a bit more stringent:

To be eligible for this contest the nominee must (1) be a medical professional currently licensed in the United States or (2) be a member of an eligible branch of the medical profession. Eligible branches are listed in the ‘Official Rules’ accessible at the bottom of this page.

The application must include a written story about the nominee, in addition to a photo or video of the healthcare worker. All nominators must select a healthcare worker whom they know personally; no doctors you know exclusively through TV or social media. Medical residents are welcome to be nominated as well.

The winner will be selected by “popular vote,” according to the contest details, which ostensibly means a vote conducted online. You have until December 13 to make your nominations and the winner will be announced on December 16.

In a press release, Gordon Hewston, the Chief Operating Officer of El Monte RV’s parent company, Tourism Holdings Limited, said the winner will receive “a seven-day RV road trip to the most breathtaking outdoor sites the U.S. has to offer.” It remains to be seen what those “breathtaking outdoor sites” are, but you can trust that whoever wins the trip will relish the much-needed escape.

If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that focusing on what you’re able to control is key to maintaining a positive headspace. Nominating someone for a getaway who’s labored to keep people safe in this historic health crisis is a decision that’s decidedly within your control. It’s high time you take it.

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Covid 19

Its Time for the Annual Romaine Recall

Illustration for article titled Its Time for the Annual Romaine Recall

Photo: GCapture (Shutterstock)

We’ve been warned about visiting family and friends, and asked to stay at home on Thanksgiving, but it appears that another threat to our health may already be lurking inside our homes: Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. has voluntarily recalled some of their romaine lettuce because of concern over possible E.coli contamination.

By now, the annual recalling of the romaine is almost as much a Thanksgiving tradition as the pardoning of the turkey and celebrating the false narrative of American mythology. In fact, this marks the third November in a row that Lifehacker has covered a romaine lettuce recall (interestingly, each between November 20—24), though the first during a pandemic. Here’s what to know about this year’s recall.

What is being recalled

Although Dole has a wide variety of lettuce products, the only two being recalled are the Dole Organic Romaine Hearts 3pk (UPC 0-71430-90061-1), combined English/French packaging, with Harvested-On dates of 10-23-20 and 10-26-20, and Wild Harvest Organic Romaine Hearts (UPC 7-11535-50201-2), with Harvested-On dates of 10-23-20 and 10-26-20, according to an announcement from the Food and Drug Administration.

To find the “Harvested-On” sticker, look on the upper-right corner of each bag. Meanwhile, the UPC code is located on the bottom-right corner of the back of each bag. Each package contains three organic romaine hearts, and the Wild Harvest product is packaged in a 12oz bag.

At this point, there have been no illnesses from E.coli reported, and given that it can cause diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting, let’s keep it that way. Another thing to note is that because these products were harvested and packed almost a month ago, they really shouldn’t be in stores (or ideally, your fridge). Still, if you have either of the romaine products above, check the label, just to be safe.

The possibly contaminated romaine was sold in 15 states: Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Virginia.

If you have any lettuce with these UPC codes and Harvested-On dates, definitely throw it out. And if you have any questions, you can call the Dole Consumer Center at 1-800-356-3111, which is open 24 hours a day.

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Covid 19

Is Credit Card Insurance Worth It?

Illustration for article titled Is Credit Card Insurance Worth It?

Photo: Boy_Anupong (Getty Images)

A payment protection plan is a form of insurance for your credit card, and it sounds tantalizing: in the event of hardship you can use it to pause minimum monthly payments for months on end, avoiding extra fees and leaving your credit score untouched. But is it worth the monthly fee it costs to sign up for it?

What is a payment protection plan? 

Payment protection (aka “credit card protection insurance,” “credit shield,” or “credit safeguard”) is an add-on service that typically costs you a few bucks in monthly fees, with the amount based on a small percentage of your overall balance. The service will pause payments (usually for up to 18 months) if a “triggering event” leads to unemployment or disability. Additionally, some payment protection plans will cancel credit card balances owed in the event of death. So far so good, right?

The downside 

Qualifying for payment protection isn’t straightforward even if you choose to pay for it in advance of experiencing a hardship, as many plans have a long list of conditions and exclusions buried in the fine print. A GAO report found that 24% of benefit claims were denied and that more than half of those denials were due to the cardholder’s inability to provide adequate documentation. This lack of transparency attracted the scrutiny of regulators in 2012, leading some major banks to ditch the product altogether (which also might explain why it’s currently marketed under so many different names).

The following is a list of reasons why you might not be able to claim full benefits or otherwise get the most out of your claim, according to Investopedia :

  • You have a preexisting health condition.
  • If you’re a seasonal worker, or a part-time worker, or self-employed, you might not qualify for unemployment benefits.
  • You hit a limit on the number of triggering events per year.
  • There might be caps on bigger payouts like debt cancellation.
  • You might need to be employed a few months prior to enrolling to qualify.
  • Inadequate documentation (as defined by your insurer) to prove your disability, job loss, or other condition exists.
  • You might have to be disabled for any job you’re qualified for, not just the job you have.

The list of loopholes goes on. You really have to read every detail of the policy carefully—and even if you think you’re going in with your eyes open, the interpretation of the terms can be a battle between you and your lender.

The bottom line

Payment protection plans offer limited benefits that typically only suspend your minimum payments and interest accrual for a short period of time, and these benefits may not cover all emergency situations. The money spent on monthly fees could instead be spent on life or disability insurance that will offer better coverage. Another option is to build up an emergency fund in anticipation of potential hardship down the road. Better yet, during the pandemic many credit cards are already offering forbearance programs; all you need to do is contact them directly to claim a hardship. After all, why pay for something you can get for free?

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Covid 19

How to Safely Intervene in a Conflict

A white knight chess piece faces down a row of black pieces

Photo: Refat (Shutterstock)

For those of us who are conflict-averse, situations involving harassment or discrimination may feel easier to avoid or ignore in hopes that the threat will go away or someone else will intervene. But whether it’s casual racism or micro-aggressions within your friend group, street harassment toward a stranger, or police brutality during a protest, there are plenty of opportunities for you, as a bystander, to speak up or step in.

“Bystanders have power,” says Lani Shotlow-Rincon, a board member at Stop Street Harassment. “And this power can be utilized to prevent harassment, defuse harassment when it occurs, and help victims of harassment ultimately cope and heal from the harassment experience.”

Here’s how to decide when—and how—to step in.

Be observant

The first step to deciding whether and how to intervene in conflict is to notice what’s going on around you, says Jenna Templeton, assistant director of health education at the University of Utah’s Center for Student Wellness, adding that intervention depends on our ability and willingness to see potential harm.

Prioritize your own safety

Before you intervene, consider the risk to your physical and emotional well-being. For example, it’s not advisable to step directly into a violent altercation in which you could get hurt.

Similarly, avoid situations that would be triggering, unsafe, or simply exhausting—protect yourself first.

Become an active bystander

Shotlow-Rincon says that direct intervention using both words and body language can help diffuse conflict and censure unacceptable behavior. There is no “right” response for every situation, but there are a few basic tools you can use even if you don’t have formal active bystander training.

  • Ask if help is wanted or needed. A simple “Do you need help?” informs the person being harassed that you see the situation they are facing and empowers them to communicate what they need.
  • Respond verbally without escalating. Insulting a bully will likely make the situation worse. Call out the specific behavior rather than attacking the individual.
  • Deflect, distract, or disrupt. If you’re a bystander, you can redirect attention from the person being harassed or disrupt the normalization of bad behavior. For example, respond to the harasser directly with something like “How’d you know I’m…” to redirect insults onto yourself. Or call out supportive comments to the person being targeted.
  • Check in. If the conflict diffuses, check with the victim and ask if they’d like any additional support. Shotlow-Rincon says that simply acknowledging the experience can help people feel safer and less alone.
  • Report if appropriate. Not every situation requires a report to law enforcement (more on that in a minute), but you can reach out to various anti-harassment organizations for support, such as RAINN, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and Stop Street Harassment. If you are considering calling the police, try the strategies in this guide to reporting.

Check your privilege

Both Shotlow-Rincon and Templeton say that privilege, such as race or gender, plays into every decision to intervene. If you are a white person, for example, you may be able to leverage your privilege on behalf of a person of color.

However, just because you benefit from various privileges doesn’t mean you get to decide the best course of action for someone who is being harassed or victimized.

“Avoid stepping into a savior role,” Templeton says. “Check in with those who may be experiencing harm and ask how you can support.”

Finally, keep in mind that calling the police or reporting harassment is not the best choice or the only answer in every situation. Templeton says to think broadly about what kinds of support you can offer—and not to assume that the solution involves law enforcement. Individual and community actions can also help hold people accountable for harassment or stop it in its tracks.

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Covid 19

How to Take a Safe(r) Pandemic Road Trip

Illustration for article titled How to Take a Safe(r) Pandemic Road Trip

Photo: Suzanne Tucker (Shutterstock)

However you feel about road trips—whether you rack up the mileage on the regular or are still working through the trauma of family vacations that forced you to pack into a station wagon for hours on end—they are the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of Americas traveling by air is way down, and that’s not likely to change any time soon: The American Automobile Association (aka AAA) predicts that 80% of fall travel will be road trips, and the upcoming holiday season will likely bring even more traffic.

While it’s great that so many people have that option, we also can’t forget that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. No matter how tired we are of all the extra precautions, this is absolutely not the time to let your guard down. Road trips are no exception.

Pandemic or not, we should always to head into a road trip willing to be flexible, but also highly prepared. (It’s a fine line.) This travel mentality has never been more important or relevant than it is now. We’ve previously covered how to plan a (before-times) road trip, so if you’re looking for general information and tips for maps, apps and other tools, start there. Here, we’re going to focus on how to plan and take a socially distant pandemic road trip. Squirt on some hand sanitizer and buckle up.

The basics

At this point, we shouldn’t have to tell you to keep up with all your usual COVID public health strategies—like mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent hand-washing/sanitizing—while on the road. Please, be a decent person and do what you need to do to keep yourself and others safe.

What to bring

At the very least, you’re going to want to pack a few face masks, some hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes (or another way of cleaning surfaces) and a decent supply of food and beverages (to minimize the number of times you have to stop).

So far, I’ve taken one road trip during COVID, and put together my own ultra deluxe travel kit featuring all of the above, plus: a small container of liquid hand soap (if a rest stop doesn’t have any and I want to wash my hands with actual soap and water), a roll of toilet paper (always a good idea, but also prevents you from having to ask your stall neighbor if they could spare a square, and useful if you’re passing through an area with no indoor bathroom options), a keychain stylus/door opener (if there’s an opportunity not to touch door handles and buttons, I’m going for it) and a fanny pack (so I wouldn’t have to hang a bag—or worse, put it on the floor—at a rest stop).

Do you really need all of these things? Probably not. But with the exception of the extra toilet paper, I used all of them.

Plan your stops

One of the best parts of a pre-pandemic road trip was pulling off the highway without a plan and seeing what type of food options and attractions you could find. Now, that’s not the best idea. First of all, as the CDC explains: “Making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and frequently-touched surfaces.”

As fun as it is to wing it, you should plan at least some of your stops ahead of time, and fortunately, there are plenty of new and existing apps to make this easier. First, there’s a map from AAA that provides updated information on state and regional travel restrictions. We’re also fans of this interactive map of rest stops—especially since several have closed during the pandemic.

And you’re going to want to download Nexit, if you haven’t already; it will guide you towards the best exits along your route, with additional information on specifics like where to find vegan food and the local hotels and motels that are pet-friendly.

Gas stations

Stopping for gas is an unavoidable part of road trips, even now. You may not love the idea of coming in contact with all those high-touch surfaces, but it’s all part of it (unless you’re traveling through New Jersey). Anyway, the CDC’s gas station COVID safety tips aren’t surprising, but bear mentioning:

  • Use disinfecting wipes on handles and buttons at the gas pumps before you touch them (if available).
  • After fueling, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. When you get to your destination, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Bathrooms and rest stops

Again, the usual COVID rules apply here. Per the CDC:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom and after you have been in a public place.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

For what it’s worth, every time I stopped somewhere to use the restroom during my road trip, I was always the only person in there and everything looked—and smelled—as though it had recently been sanitized.

Food

Your best bet here—according to the CDC for health reasons, and my mother for cost-saving reasons—is to bring your own food. If you forget, or it’s not an option, the CDC recommends using drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick-up options. And, of course, wash and sanitize your hands thoroughly before eating anything.

Keep a mask handy in the car

After you’ve been driving for hours, you may be so relieved to get out of your vehicle that you forget to put your mask on before getting gas, visiting a rest stop, or going through a drive-thru. To avoid this, keep your mask somewhere in your car that is visible and convenient. This could mean hanging it from the rearview mirror, or the lever on the side of the steering wheel that controls the windshield wipers. You could also have a designated “car mask” that’s always there when you need it, just as a backup.

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Covid 19

Actually, Video Games Can Be Beneficial to Your Mental Health

An illustration of many different video game systems and controllers

Graphic: Darcraft (Shutterstock)

As the global pandemic batters economies and consigns billions of people around the world to isolation in their homes, our collective mental health is understandably taking a nosedive. With many people lacking their usual outlets for initiating contact with family, friends, and co-workers, depression has soared globally.

But maybe you can do something about it—and without leaving the house. A new study from Oxford University indicates that mental wellbeing can be bolstered by one of the most sedentary, indoor activities of them all: playing video games. According to the study, it seems vegetating on the couch in defiance of your spouse or parent’s familiar admonitions can have a positive effect on your psyche, provided you’re playing the right games.

The study is the first of its kind

The study charts new territory for video game research. By analyzing patterns of player behavior in two games, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, researchers tailored a survey to the specific game times of 3,274 players. (Previous studies relied upon players’ self-reported game times, which leant itself to more dubious conclusions.)

The study sought to measure the link between objective game time and an individual’s mental wellbeing, citing several factors relating to player experience, such as “feelings of autonomy, relatedness, competence, enjoyment and feeling pressured to play.”

According to Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and lead author of the study, the findings defy much of the stereotypical framing of video games as having detrimental effect on mood. These learnings could prove instructive for policymakers, especially as internet addiction and screen time become more pervasive issues across society.

“Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a persons’ well-being. In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.”

More key findings

It’s important to note that both games used in the study have a sunnier premise than many violent or apocalyptic games on the market. The happiness of the players surveyed might stem from Animal Crossing’s more congenial mood, and the fact that in order to play, players must interact with each other to perform mutually beneficial tasks.

“I don’t think people plough a bunch of time into games with a social aspect unless they’re happy about it,” Przybylski told the BBC, likening the effect of both games to a “digital water cooler.”

The study went on to conclude:

  • Actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s wellbeing
  • A player’s subjective experiences during play might be a bigger factor for wellbeing than mere play time.
  • Players experiencing genuine enjoyment from the games experience more positive well-being
  • Findings align with past research suggesting people whose psychological needs weren’t being met in the ‘real world’ might report negative well-being from play.

Data can help inform public health policy

Still, the study doesn’t entirely refute four decades worth of previous video game research, much of which has observed negative links between various games and the mental health of players across age groups. The study does offer, according to Przybylski, a chance for researchers to better impart accurate data to public health authorities about video games that was previously unavailable due to technological constraints.

“You have really respected, important bodies, like the World Health Organization and the NHS, allocating attention and resources to something that there’s literally no good data on,” he told The Guardian.

As governments across the west consider to impose new lockdown measures, its serves a bit of reassurance knowing that cheery games like Animal Crossing might help people weather the solitude better than we previously thought.

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Covid 19

AstraZeneca and Oxford University Say Their Vaccine Is ‘Highly Effective’

A volunteer in Oxford, England, last week received the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The drugmaker AstraZeneca announced on Monday that an early analysis of some of its late-stage clinical trials, conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, showed that its coronavirus vaccine was 70.4 percent effective in preventing Covid-19, suggesting that the world could eventually have at least three working vaccines — and more supply — to help curb the pandemic.

The British-Swedish company, which has been developing the vaccine with the University of Oxford, became the third major vaccine developer in this month to announce encouraging early results, following Pfizer and Moderna, which both said that their vaccines were about 95 percent effective in late-stage studies.

AstraZeneca’s results are a reassuring sign of the safety of the vaccine. It came under global scrutiny after AstraZeneca temporarily paused its trials in September to investigate potential safety issues after a participant in Britain developed a neurological illness.

Oxford and AstraZeneca said they would submit their data to regulators in Britain, Europe and Brazil and seek emergency authorization.

The company said its early analysis was based on 131 coronavirus cases. The trials used two different dosing regimens, one of which was 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 and the other of which was 62 percent effective.

The regimen that was 90 percent effective involved using a halved first dose and a standard second dose. Oxford and AstraZeneca also said that there were no hospitalized or severe cases of the coronavirus in anyone who received the vaccine, and that they had seen a reduction in asymptomatic infections, suggesting that the vaccine could reduce transmission.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to come with relatively simple storage requirements, which would be an asset once it gets rolled out. The company has said it anticipates the vaccine will require refrigeration, though it has not provided details about how long and at what temperature it can be kept. Moderna’s vaccine can be kept for up to a month at the temperature of an ordinary refrigerator. Pfizer’s can be kept for up to 5 days in conventional refrigerators, or in special coolers for up to 15 days, but otherwise needs ultracold storage.

AstraZeneca has said it aims to bring data from its studies of its vaccine being conducted overseas to the Food and Drug Administration — which would mean that the agency will likely review and authorize a vaccine before late-stage data are ready on how well the vaccine works in American participants. British regulators already have been conducting a so-called rolling review of the vaccine.

“Today marks an important milestone in our fight against the pandemic,” AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said. “This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against Covid-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency.”

Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said that “these findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives.”

The first Americans to receive the vaccine are likely to be frontline medical workers and residents of nursing homes.
Credit…Pfizer, via Reuters

In the wake of results suggesting that two prospective coronavirus vaccines are remarkably effective, the official in charge of the federal coronavirus vaccine program explained on Sunday news shows how the vaccines might be distributed to Americans as early as next month.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed, said that within 24 hours after the Food and Drug Administration approves a vaccine, doses will be shipped to states to be distributed. “Within 48 hours from approval,” the first people would likely receive injections, Dr. Slaoui said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, announced this month that their vaccines were about 95 percent effective, and Pfizer formally submitted an application to the F.D.A. for emergency approval. Regulators at the agency will spend about three weeks reviewing the application. On Dec. 10, an outside advisory board on vaccines will meet to discuss the application, and the agency is expected to make a decision shortly after that meeting. Moderna is expected to submit its own application soon.

Even if the first vaccine is authorized in mid-December, officials and company representatives have estimated that there will only be enough doses available to treat about 22.5 million Americans by January. Each vaccine requires two doses, separated by several weeks.

Dr. Slaoui said vaccines would be shipped to states, proportioned according to their population, and that states would decide how and where to distribute the doses. He said that likely within a day after a vaccine receives F.D.A. authorization, a committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue recommendations for which groups should be first to receive a vaccine.

High-priority groups are likely to include frontline medical workers and residents of nursing homes. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former F.D.A. commissioner, said on the CBS show “Face the Nation” that those groups would likely be followed by other older adults and then expanded to younger adults in the spring. Both he and Dr. Slaoui estimated that tens of millions of adults could be vaccinated by sometime in May.

Immunizations for children would follow. Dr. Slaoui said on the CNN show “State of the Union” that the youngest participants in the clinical trials so far have been 12 to 14 years old and that approval for younger children and toddlers would likely not occur until late in 2021, after clinical trials for those age groups are conducted.

On “Face the Nation,” Larry Merlo, the chief executive of CVS Health, said that pharmacists and other medical staff from CVS plan to immunize residents of more than 25,000 long-term care facilities, beginning about 48 hours after a vaccine is approved. He said that for several years, CVS has been going to nursing homes to administer the seasonal flu vaccine, so “we have the systems, we have the processes, and we have built the logistics directly for the Covid vaccine.”

Mr. Merlo, whose company runs 10,000 pharmacies across the country, also said as the supply of the vaccines increase, they would be administered by CVS pharmacies and also by kiosks and mobile trailers that have been doing coronavirus testing in underserved communities.

Nurses picketed outside St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, Pa., last week, saying the hospital does not hire enough nurses or pay them competitive wages.
Credit…Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer, via Associated Press

Coronavirus patients are swamping U.S. hospitals in record numbers, straining the health care system much more widely than the first acute outbreaks did in the spring.

The total number of patients in hospitals with Covid-19 nationally has hit new highs every day since Nov. 11, when hospitalizations first exceeded the April peak. There were nearly 84,000 on Sunday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

The surge comes as the Thanksgiving and the December holidays approach, when travel and family visits are expected to accelerate the spread of the virus and further strain hospitals.

With a week of November left to go, the United States has already had its highest monthly case total, reporting more than 3,075,000 new coronavirus cases since Nov. 1, according to a New York Times database. By the time the month is over, the tally could top four million, more than double the number in October.

November’s case total is nearly 2.9 million more than March’s total.

The landscape has changed markedly since March, when the virus was concentrated mainly in outbreaks on the East and West Coasts and in a few big cities like New Orleans and Detroit. In New York City, especially, when hospitals were flooded with patients in the spring, medical workers were flown in from across the nation to help, and the Navy deployed a hospital ship to the city.

Now, though, with the strain being felt nearly everywhere, few hospitals can spare anyone to help in other places, and the focus is on acute shortages of staff, more than of beds.

The explosion of cases in rural parts of Idaho, Ohio, South Dakota and other states has prompted local hospitals that lack such experts on staff to send patients to cities and regional medical centers, but those intensive care beds are quickly filling up.

After months of unrelenting stress from the pandemic, many workers are getting sick themselves, suffering from burnout or even retiring early. Hundreds of nurses near Philadelphia went on strike last week over the trauma of the pandemic, low pay and limited resources.

The military deployed medical crews to help overwhelmed hospitals in El Paso, and the Texas state government has been dispatching thousands of workers to assist in other hard-hit areas of the state. The traveling nurses that some hospitals depend on for crisis staffing are in high demand in many states, and their rates have shot up. Overall, about one-fifth of U.S. hospitals are now short-staffed, according to an NPR analysis of data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Hospitals can set up more beds, but “where they’re going to get stretched is on personnel,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “They just won’t have the people to staff them.”

Angelia Gower, a patient access manager in the SSM Health system in St. Louis, said she has seen the problem firsthand. She has been filling in on night shifts after several of her employees contracted Covid-19 and one lost a parent to the disease, creating both a logistical challenge and a morale crisis for her department.

“That takes a toll, on not just my employee and her life, but all of the staff that knows her,” Ms. Gower said.

Early in the pandemic, she said, her team was strained by furloughs brought on by the financial pressures that the coronavirus put on the hospital system. Those furloughs are over, she said, but “we are still working short-staffed.”

At Miami International Airport on Sunday. Up to 50 million people in the United States could be traveling for Thanksgiving this week, according to AAA.
Credit…David Santiago/Miami Herald, via Associated Press

The nation’s health experts on Sunday pleaded with Americans to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday and forgo any plans to travel or celebrate at large family gatherings, even as airports have recorded a significant rise in passengers.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist, and other health experts relayed a clear message on Sunday morning news shows: with coronavirus cases surging to record levels across the country, turning nearly every state into a hot zone of transmission, the risk of getting infected, whether in transit or in even small indoor gatherings, is high.

Up to 50 million people could be traveling on roads and through airports in the United States over Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA, the biggest travel surge since the pandemic began, despite strong cautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities. A video of a packed airport in Phoenix has been circulating widely on social media. As of Sunday, 47 states — all but Hawaii, Maine and Vermont — were considered high-risk zones for viral transmission, and nationwide hospitalizations were at a record 83,227.

“Please seriously consider decisions that you make,” Dr. Fauci said on the CBS show “Face the Nation.” Encountering large numbers of people in airports and on planes is particularly dangerous, he said. Although airlines have invested in air circulation and ventilation systems to minimize viral transmission, Dr. Fauci said, “sometimes when you get a crowded plane, or you’re in a crowded airport, you’re lining up, not everybody’s wearing masks — that puts yourself at risk.”

And gathering indoors, whether you travel or not, carries risk. “When you’re eating and drinking, obviously, you have to take your mask off,” Dr. Fauci said. “We know now that those are the kinds of situations that are leading to outbreaks.”

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said on Fox News on Sunday that because about half of infections are spread by people who don’t have any symptoms, “you can’t assume that you don’t have the virus, and you can’t assume that the people whose home you’re about to enter don’t have the virus, at this point in our pandemic.”

He recommended celebrating Thanksgiving only with the people you live with. People who choose to visit others’ homes should spend as much time as possible outdoors and “should be wearing masks indoors when they’re together, and only removing them when they’re eating.”

In Tulsa, Okla., Victory, a megachurch, canceled a “Friendsgiving” service on Sunday that had called on members to bring a friend after it prompted an outcry, instead opting to give away boxed meals, NBC News reported. The church did not respond to a request for comment regarding its planned “Thanksgiving Day Brunch,” which, according to its website, is set to be held on Thursday in the church’s cafeteria.

Dr. Fauci and others warned that Americans’ behavior over Thanksgiving would have critical implications for the coming weeks of the winter season, including risks to people gathering to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, because the country is still months away from having wide access to vaccines and therapeutics and the cold weather drives more people indoors.

“We’re going to have to, you know, hunker down, reduce our interactions,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Trump administration Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said on “Face the Nation.”

As an example of the risk, he said that in a state like North Dakota, where case levels are high, there’s a 50 percent chance that someone in a group of 10 people has Covid-19. “That’s the kind of risk we’re facing individually right now,” he said. “And that’s only going to get worse.”

Workers gather for Covid-19 testing at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Monday.
Credit…Associated Press

Since the pandemic erupted in China, the country has grown adept at swiftly smothering coronavirus flare-ups by ordering residents across entire cities to line up for nucleic acid tests that can pinpoint carriers. So officials snapped into action after a cluster of infections linked to Pudong International Airport in Shanghai grew over the weekend.

On Sunday, Pudong International Airport ordered cargo handlers and other potentially exposed workers to immediately undergo tests. But this time, the plan faltered badly.

The urgent order prompted a crush of hundreds of workers who merged on an airport parking garage that had been converted into a temporary test center, and video that spread first on Chinese social media showed guards in protective suits struggling to hold back a seething, anxious crowd trying to walk up a ramp. Other video shared by Shanghai residents appeared to show a worker who had fainted being carried out of the garage.

Shanghai authorities ordered the blitz of tests after testing confirmed five cases since Friday linked to the airport, including three workers and two of their spouses. The scenes of workers jammed together drew criticisms that the poorly organized testing only exposed them to greater risks of infecting each other, and the video quickly began to disappear from Weibo and WeChat, China’s two main social media platforms, as censors apparently stepped in.

“Even if the outbreak is urgent, there aren’t even the most basic safety and distancing measures,” said one comment widely shared on Weibo. “This can cause big problems.”

The government moved quickly to combat the anxiety about the cluster and scenes of mayhem. The Shanghai police issued pictures of airport workers in orderly lines, waiting to be tested in the garage — apparently after officials had restored control. “Currently everything is normal and there is an orderly queue for tests,” said The Paper, a news website based in Shanghai.

Chinese health officials appear likely to step up tests and disinfection at airports and other sites that handle imported goods. Earlier this month, tests revealed two infections among freight handlers at the Pudong Airport, and Chinese experts have repeatedly raised the theory that the virus may be carried on goods from abroad.

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Covid 19

How (and Why) You Should Wander Aimlessly

Illustration for article titled Strolling, It Turns Out, Is Good for You

Photo: Lenti Hill (Shutterstock)

For many of us—especially before the start of the pandemic—walking was a means to an end, a straightforward way to get to a planned destination. Since COVID hit though, more people are walking around their neighborhoods or on trails simply for the benefit of their physical or mental health.

But even if you do go on strolls without goals, you’re probably checking your phone, or thinking about what’s for dinner, or listening to a podcast, or doing any number of other things to distract yourself from the actual walk.

Instead, try flaneuring—the art of leisurely wandering. Taking a stroll (especially in an unfamiliar place) with a “goal” to simply notice your surroundings can have a calming effect and possibly increase your sense of happiness and well-being.

Aimless wandering is also used as a mindfulness practice. It’s a technique taught in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs, which encourage “choiceless awareness,” or openness to what is unfolding in front of you. Instead of focusing on a specific movement or activity, aimless wandering encourages you to notice what’s around you, move toward those things, and observe and appreciate them.

While the overall experience is unstructured, there are a few ways to maximize your wandering. Here’s what to know before you go.

  • Leave your phone at home (or put it out of reach in a bag) to avoid inevitable distractions.
  • Find a safe place so you can relax while you walk. It’s probably best to avoid aimless wandering across busy intersections. Likewise, consider whether you need to be hyperaware of your surroundings, and tell someone where you’re going.
  • Dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather. It’s tough to embrace aimless wandering when you’re cold or if your feet hurt.
  • Make it a game. Erika Owen, author of The Art of Flaneuring, suggests adding a tiny bit of structure to your wandering can be a good idea. For example, plan to turn around when you see a certain color car.
  • Get off autopilot. In choiceless awareness, you move toward anything that catches your eye rather than of toward a destination. You may also try matching the pace of your breath to your footsteps or taking very slow steps to notice each part of your foot touching the ground.

As winter approaches, you can also incorporate flaneuring into your friluftsliv (open-air living) practices.

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Covid 19

How to Dye Your Own Hair and Maintain Your Color

Illustration for article titled How to Dye Your Own Hair and Maintain Your Color

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images (Getty Images)

Yesterday, the Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani held a press conference and unintentionally redefined the notion of a public meltdown. Facing the cameras, Giuliani began to sweat, causing what many journalists and fascinated onlookers thought to be a torrential downpour of the former New York City mayor’s hair dye.

Brown liquid oozed down his face. Cameras snapped. Twitter was awash with jokes about the man’s shoddy hair treatment, likening it to a burst sewage pipe. Though it was a momentary viral comedy goldmine, a follicular disaster of this magnitude is easily avoided, regardless of whether you’re outside on a warm day or standing at a podium in front of the entire country.

Everyone’s hair is different, but some common rules apply

Of course, everyone’s hair is different, and not everyone dyes their hair for the same reason. But there are a few rules that apply across the board. Since pandemic lockdown measures might be inching closer where you live, it’s good to take stock of the basics, as you might not have access to the skills of a real hair care professional.

As an in-depth look at the process from Men’s Health explains:

  • Wash your hair beforehand, but don’t add any styling product. Colorist George Papanikolas told the magazine: “Wash it the day before and don’t put any styling product in. You want the natural oil on your scalp.”
  • The article further explains that those natural oils form a protective barrier on the hair that guards against scalp irritation.

Know your color

Are you bleaching your hair because you were inspired by the Slim Shady LP as a youth? Are you concealing the natural graying of your hair because you are American Psycho-vain and want people to think you bathe in the fountain of youth every morning?

Regardless of your reasoning, understanding what color you want—and that will look good with your complexion—is paramount. Under normal circumstances, a colorist will guide you through the process. As Kara Hoskins of Bumble and Bumble explained to Esquire:

Find images of the hair color that you like, ideally a few of them. If we know what specific shade and tone you’re looking to achieve, we can figure out the best way for you to get as close to it as possible. And we’ll give recommendations based on this, too.

Perhaps it isn’t safe to sit in a chair with your colorist, though, so maybe you can only get their feedback through video chat, email or text. If your trusted hair care professional is MIA, you can shift this responsibility to a friend whose opinion you value.

Apply the dye

Make sure you’re doing this in a clean environment, preferably your bathroom or kitchen sink. Usually, you’ll have to mix your dye yourself. When you do this, it’s crucial to wear gloves if they were provided in the dye kit.

Men’s Health explains how to physically apply whatever dye you’re using:

Put on your gloves and begin to mix, if that’s what yours requires. Then start applying it to your hair in sections. Typically you should start in the front and work your way back if you’re going full-coverage and back to front if you’re doing a gray camouflage situation. If your hair dye kit comes with a brush, you can use that, or you can use your hands.

Maintenance is key

There are a number of best practices that will prevent you from going the way of sweaty Giuliani. That is to say, using the right hair care products will help keep your color from running down your face the moment your sweat glands activate.

Especially right after coloring, use a color-specific shampoo and conditioner can go a long way. As Sal Misseri, owner and creative director of Reverie a Sal Misseri Salon told GQ: “After every color service, the hair has gone through sometimes multiple processes and needs to be treated appropriately with color specific shampoo and conditioner.”

And with hair priorities comes sacrifice; there are also a bunch of things you should avoid like the plague. As GQ explains:

As expected, there’s a shortlist of things to avoid when it comes to preserving hair color. Swimming (chlorine), heat styling (with a blow dryer), and sun exposure (the UV damages) are the biggest culprits, says Misseri, but are of course hard to avoid entirely. This is why heat protectants, clarifying shampoos, and color conditioners are so imperative.

You’re also going to want to touch up the color periodically, because sunlight and all sorts of other facts of everyday existence can erode your color. That’s why people who are serious about maintaining their look usually build relationships with their colorists. In the absence of a trusted professional, however, just follow the steps above and you should be fine.

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Covid 19

Brexit talks now making better progress – EUs von der Leyen – Reuters UK

FILE PHOTO: European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen gives a news briefing at the end of a virtual conference with EU leaders about EU government’s measures against the coronavirus disease (COVID19) crisis, in Brussels, Belgium, October 29, 2020. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union and Britain are making better progress in talks on their future relationship, including in difficult areas such as the EU’s demand for level playing field guarantees, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

“After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, now we’ve seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good,” she told a news conference.

“Within the frame of the level playing field, progress for example has been made with state aid but there are still quite some metres to the finish line so there’s a lot of work to do.”

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by John Chalmers