COVID-19

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Wellness | 3 Posts
July
29

 

 

After adjusting to our lives during quarantine, we are now beginning to think about the end of the crisis, and what the world will look like afterward. As our states emerge from lockdown at different paces, opening back up one-by-one, we, as a nation, are adjusting to our "new normal", asking ourselves, "What will our new lives look like?"

Lessons From the Past

The 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed about 675,000 people in the U.S., changed hygiene forever. In the following years, signs bearing the message, "Spitting is Unlawful" sprouted up in places like train stations. Covering your cough grew to be considered common courtesy, where before the pandemic, this etiquette was almost unheard of.  

In the wake of COVID-19, certain habits we've adapted will likely stick around as well, says Kate White, a behavioral scientist at the University of British Columbia. "Our vigilance around things like disinfecting surfaces — that's probably going to continue," she says.

Our new ways of greeting (elbow bumps or "live long and prosper" salutes instead of handshakes), and interacting with each other (video chats instead of conference-room huddles) are also likely to stick to some degree. 

People are accessing more educational resources online for their kids; finding unconventional ways to connect with coworkers, friends, and family; and employers are being more flexible in how they respond to employee needs through more dynamic, cloud-based technology. 

Working From Home Will Become the New Normal

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, says "The pandemic has resulted in what is effectively the largest "work from home" experiment ever conducted in human history. I think we'll see these shifts last well beyond the immediate fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak."

Companies are becoming more comfortable with at least some of their staff working from home. Some CIOs say they might consider letting as much as 25% of their staff work from home. That would mean less people in the office, and in turn, possibly less demand for office space. According to Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies, "I believe that this could signal the death of open space work environments. The experience with COVID-19 will for years make people more aware of working in shoulder-to-shoulder open offices where it is easy for viruses to spread."

Vivek Ravisankar, CEO and cofounder of programming-challenge platform HackerRank says,

"Remote hiring of technical talent will become the norm, accelerated by the normalization of remote work. This is a win-win for the economy and the talent pool, as it allows companies to fill positions quickly with qualified talent and opens up high-paying tech positions to developers everywhere."

Connecting Digitally Will Accelerate

It's becoming more evident every day that the way people are using technology to spend quality time with loved ones, engage with businesses, and perform their jobs is fundamentally shifting to a new normal. Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger, Facebook explains, "Loved ones who hadn't seen each other in years are now seeing each other daily, people are getting creative with virtual happy hours and keeping up with their formerly "physical" lives with shared workouts and virtual birthday parties on products like Messenger. Of course, there will be some tough consequences when we come out the other side of this, but I believe the growing acceptance of technology to help us feel connected will have lasting benefits."

Education Goes Virtual

The change we are seeing right now in education is not something that is likely to revert back to "normal" in the fall. Although teachers will always be integral to the education process, there will need to be continued flexibility and agility when it comes to things like the delivery of content, testing, and grading. "I expect that we will see an increase in blended learning environments that include learning in both the physical classroom setting and online," says Simon Allen, CEO of McGraw-Hill.

Healthcare Will Embrace The Digital Age

The healthcare industry will be greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and we can expect digital health technologies to form an essential part of the way forward. Dr. Claire Novorol, cofounder and chief medical officer, Ada Health, explains, "The adoption of digital health tools—from assessment services to telemedicine—has rapidly accelerated…and we are witnessing a step-change in the adoption of digital health solutions, and that this has long-term potential." 

Other Possibilities

  • Restaurants might permanently link up with delivery service platforms or expand their reach via ghost kitchens.
  • Quantum computers "Within the next 12 to 18 months, we're expecting quantum computers to start to routinely solve problems that supercomputers and cloud computing cannot. When humanity faces the next pandemic, I'm hopeful that a quantum computer will be able to model the virus, its interactions within the human body that will drive possible solutions, and limit the future economic damage and human suffering." - Peter Chapman, CEO and president, quantum-computing company IonQ
  • According to Joe Brotherton, chairman of Democracy Live, proven technologies now exist that offer mobile, at-home voting while still generating paper ballots. "This system is not an idea; it is a reality that has been used in more than 1,000 elections for nearly a decade by our overseas military and disabled voters. This should be the new normal."

 

AARP's List of 10 Things the Pandemic has Changed for Good

  • Working from home
  • Seeing your doctor
  • Shopping for groceries
  • Staying in touch
  • Wearing face masks
  • Going to the movies
  • Traveling by air
  • Riding public transportation
  • Protecting your privacy
  • Washing your hands

https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/coronavirus-lifestyle-effects.html

 

As the world emerges from the crisis, employees will find new ways to interact, entrepreneurs will realize business opportunities, consumers will take advantage of new environments, and policy and regulation will adapt to keep everyone safer in the future. With foresight, the results of these innovations may allow our economic infrastructure to grow stronger as it overcomes these challenging times.

 

Categories: Community, Health, Education, Safety, COVID-19, Wellness

 

July
29

 

After you have read all the books you have and binge watched Ozark on Netflix 6 times, why not broaden your horizons by visiting a national park or touring a famous museum? "But I have to stay home!" you say. Well, yes you do…but don't let that stop you! You can visit all those wonderful destinations you've always hoped to see right from the comfort and safety of your own home. Check out some of our favorite virtual destinations!

 

Feeling like you need a bit of culture after hours of Tiger King?

Visit all those famous museums you've always wanted to see but never had the time or money. Best thing is; you can now do it for free and in your jammies!

> Start your tours here <

 

Cancel your vacation this year? 

Check out these GORGEOUS 360 degree aerial panoramas and virtual tours of some of the world's most interesting places. Travel around the world without jet lag:

> Choose your destination here <

 

Missing the adrenaline rush of your extreme hobby? 

Go to YouTube and search for VR 360 Extreme for videos of everything from roller coaster rides, white water rafting, hang gliding and rock climbing.

 

Craving the excitement of attending a live concert?

NPR has a continuously updated list of artists performing live or sharing previously recorded concerts. You can find just about any musical genera that you can tune in to at almost any time. 

> Click here to find NPR's list

 

Feeling cramped in your home?

Feel like a royal for an afternoon while you virtually tour some of the world's most famous castles. Appreciate that you don't have to worry about cleaning a space that big!

> See them all here <

 

Needing to enjoy some of the great outdoors?

Try virtually visitng some of the country's best National Parks. These places are full of beauty, history and excitement and you don't even have to leave the couch to see it all. 

> Visit your favorite here <

 

And when you can't endure any more excitement, take a walk around your neighborhood. Sometimes there's nothing better than moving your bones and breathing some fresh air.  Stay safe!



July
29

 

With so many people out of work due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are living in a different world right now. One huge effect is that the mortgage industry is teetering on the lowest interest rates in history. During the Coronavirus pandemic, the home purchase market has not slowed down. There are currently more eager buyers than willing sellers. What does this mean to you?

Are You Thinking of Refinancing?

If you are looking to refinance and do not plan to take any cash out of your new loan, and if your loan is currently guaranteed by Fannie Mae, you can do an exterior only appraisal because of COVID-19.  There are also many property inspection waivers where appraisers can sit at their desk and look at the pictures in MLS without ever stepping inside the home. But, if you want cash back, then you have to do an interior appraisal.

When Does it Make Sense to Refinance? 

Ask yourself how much you are really spending to get this loan. You will find your Loan Costs on your Loan Estimate, page 2. Also, check to see if there is a Lender Credit offered to pay all or some of this amount. Look for the Mortgage Tax amount and government fees. Your loan amount may be adjusted by these amounts. You will need to decide if it is worth it, and how long will it take you to recoup this amount. Measure the benefit of refinancing against upfront costs you will spend. 

Shopping to Buy a New Home?

The mortgage world has adapted to continue to facilitate home purchase mortgages and refinances, but if you are shopping to buy a home, the rules are changing, and underwriting criteria is tightening:

  1. One of the largest lenders, Chase Home Mortgage, announced April 14 that any new mortgage application will require 20% down (or 20% equity if you are refinancing), and a minimum of a 700  FICO   score – which is a significant tightening. (There is a special program for low and moderate income people that will allow for less than 20% down.) 

Note: There are independent lenders who are still offering 3% down as a minimum for loan amounts of up to $510,400.

  1. The mortgage industry is under great stress right now. Jumbo loans (or loans over the Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac limit of $510,400) are becoming rare. Many mortgage companies and banks have stopped doing loans above $510,400. That's a big deal. 
  2. FHA and VA loan mortgage servicers have increased their minimum credit score. Historically, FHA allowed and insured credit scores as low as 550, but what we are seeing now is a requirement of 640 to 680 to try to minimize their risk.

The mortgage lending industry is a moving target right now. As quickly as the rules keep changing, if you applied for a loan and received your pre-approval letter even two weeks ago, you need to call your lender to make sure you still qualify.

 

State of the Mortgage Business

According to Brian Wickert, CEO and founder of Accunet Mortgage, remember that a lot of people are losing their jobs, and, "You have to have a job and income to refinance or get a new loan."

The CARES Act 

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act -The CARES Act provides fast and direct economic assistance for American workers. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has a website giving you information about the CARES Act. For everything you need to know, plus information about your personal finances, check out: 

https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares

In short, if you are having trouble making your mortgage payment, and you have a federally backed mortgage (a loan owned by Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac and insured by FHA, VA or USDA ) you can call up your mortgage servicer and tell them you have a financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 emergency. Because of the CARES Act, that mortgage servicer has to ask you if you would like the Forbearance Plan where you don't have to make any payments for 180 days, (extendable for another 180 days after that) or reduced payments. Key is: Forbearance is not free. Delayed payments must be repaid. That repayment plan will be worked out between you and your mortgage servicer. They will want you to pay it back as soon as possible. After the Forbearance period, you may be asked to make double payments or add a few hundred dollars a month to your regular payment until the total amount is paid back. So if you don't really need the relief, don't ask for the free ride. Also, there are a lot of people who do need it, so the phone lines to all mortgage lenders are jammed right now and you may have to start the process early. One good resource about Forbearance:

 https://www.accunet.com/blog/the-mortgage-f-word-of-the-day-is/

If you are in the process of getting a new mortgage loan, do not ask for Forbearance before making that first payment. During the period after closing until the first payment is made, your funds are not federally backed or insured and the Cares act only applies to federally backed loans. So find out first if your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac. If you have a freshly closed mortgage, it may not be yet. If your loan is a few years old and you really need the help, then it is an excellent method to help with your loan payments. Don't ever just stop making your payments! Have a conversation with your mortgage servicer so that foreclosure doesn't begin.

Current mortgage rates are very low, and demand has gone through the roof. The wait is a bit longer, so think ahead, and get in line!

If you decide to buy a home, have a conversation with your lender to see if they can get it done by the time you want to buy. Refinance can take 90 – 120 days. Your lender may not be able to lock in a rate until you've been approved. Be clear and do not make assumptions. Also, because of the high unemployment, lenders are checking within three days of closing to make sure your employment status and income has not changed since your application.

July
29

 

Time keeps ticking away, reminding us that another day has gone by and we are still mostly quarantined to our homes. We've binge-cleaned, exercised, watched TV series, baked all the bread, and boredom is really setting in. So what do we do? Some of us have work to keep us busy, but even that work doesn't fill the void. Where is the fulfillment we used to get when completing a project in the office, and how do we get it back? 

There is something in the nature of each of us that generates joy when we are being generous to others. Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." During this time of COVID-19, there are many ways to help others. 

 

  1. Get connected!

How fortunate we are to live in a time when socializing with a person is just a click away! Take advantage of the wonderful technology at our disposal to communicate with others: 

  • Help lift your spirit, as well as your circle of friends or family by having group phone calls or zoom meetings. 
  • Use social media to get connected to your community. Many neighborhoods and complexes have a community Facebook page. Check to see if yours does.
  • Create an event on social media to help out in your neighborhood or community, such as grocery delivery for those that can't leave their house, or a car parade to celebrate graduating seniors whose graduation ceremonies were canceled. 
  • On your community page, post humorous videos of how you are handling quarantine so your neighbors don't feel so isolated during this period. 

It only takes a few minutes out of your day so grab your phone or computer and connect with someone in your community today!

 

  1. Knock, knock, "Who's there?" "Orange"

As mentioned above, some people in your community need help getting groceries. It could be an elderly person, an immune-compromised friend, or a neighbor who lost their job. During your trip to the grocery store, why not pick up a few extra items for a home-bound neighbor (and deliver to their front door), or to donate to your community food bank? 

If you feel more comfortable donating money, many schools are taking donations to help feed needy families. Contact your child's school teacher to find out how to contribute.  If everyone in your school district contributed $10 each, think how much food that would buy!

 

  1. Eat. Drink. Shop...Local!
  • Order take-out

We have been sheltering at home long enough now that most of us have run out of meal ideas and are ready for a dinner out. This is the perfect time to help local restaurants that may be struggling. It's a win-win for both parties. You don't have to cook and they get to stay open during and hopefully even after COVID-19. 

  • Order local produce 

There are several websites set up to help local farmers deliver produce to your home. One is:  https://localfarmok.com/. Buying from your local farmer ensures your produce will taste better and last longer. Eating fresher, less processed produce can help you to eat and feel better, all while supporting your local food movement. Shopping on-line for a farm near you that will deliver it to your home eliminates the stress of going to the grocery store and trying to figure out which veggies to buy. 

  • Shop local

When you need to shop, try to patronize your local merchants. Their business has likely been hit hard by this virus and they will be appreciate your support during this hard time.

 

  1. Gifts! Gifts! Gifts!

Everyone loves getting gifts, even if it is a little thing: 

  • It could be as simple as a postcard or a funny letter to bring joy to your friends. You could get your sister one of those makeup box delivery for the next month. Sign your cousin up for goofy socks delivered twice a month. 
  • Send an Edible Arrangement or buy lunch for people working at the hospital, fire stations, and police stations.
  • Create a gift basket with essentials like Germ-X and fuzzy socks for someone special. 
  • Get your children involved and have them make art and letters saying how thankful they are for essential workers. 

 

A little something goes a long way. When you give to others, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, it can really make you and someone else feel better!

 

Get inspired to help your community during this time of challenge. Remember, in addition to helping someone else, giving will also bring you joy.



July
29

 

Social distancing can take a toll on our mental wellness. It seems like one minute our lives were normal - going to work, eating dinner in crowded restaurants, and gathering with our friends in each other's homes or public meeting places – and the next, we were asked to stay home, alone

"Understand this is a new and unique situation that will take some adjustment. Cut yourself some slack and realize you will be unproductive and anxious initially, but with mindfulness and creativity, we can adjust to this new normal," says David Stern, M.D. and co-director of the Office of Student Mental Health and Wellness and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. 

For most of us, connecting with friends, family, and coworkers has moved online. While it may take some getting used to, it is comforting to see a familiar friendly face. Choosing which platform to use to get this digital face-to-face can be overwhelming. Below is a list of some of the best programs for digital meetings with links to a tutorial for each. 

Connecting in person is still an option, it just has to be adjusted. By maintaining safe distance, you can still see and talk to your circle of friends and family. Get creative:

  • Do a drive-by visit to see family. Establish a drive-by time; get out and wave, cartwheel or dance…whatever feels right!
  • Deliver a surprise package on someone's front porch. Whether it is a sack of necessities, flowers, or a book or puzzle to help pass the time, your gift is sure to lift spirits.
  • Invite a friend to meet for lunch at a drive-thru restaurant. Park you cars side-by-side with the windows down, and enjoy food and conversation at a safe distance from each other.
  • Invite a neighbor to take a walk or bike ride with you – on the opposite side of the street! 
  • Don't stop your weekly wine night, morning coffee or book club. Just meet now on screen.
  • Have the kids on the block visit using walkie-talkies, just like you did as a child.
  • Form a neighborhood seed swap. Choose a drop-off place where everyone can "take some, leave some" to complete everyone's new gardens.

Sometimes when we feel helpless, helping someone else is the best remedy. Your whole community has been effected by this disruption. Think of ways you can help those around you that may be in need.

  • Add groceries to your local food bank each week
  • Donate Blood at your local blood bank
  • Build a network of neighbors who gather specific items to keep on hand for others in the same area. Each household is designated to store an essential item such as toilet paper, eggs, or flour, keeping it on hand so everyone in the network never goes without.  
  • Help others find the best deals on groceries. Communicate which store is cheaper this week, or has just stocked up on certain items. Let you friends know where they can go on-line for coupons
  • Send cards, notes or joy items to nursing homes

Remember, as we isolate from close human contact, loneliness can be a side effect…but loneliness is avoidable. Stay connected!

Categories: Entertainment, Tips, Health, COVID-19, Wellness



July
29

 

These days, living life looks a lot different than how it did at the beginning of this year. We all want to do our part to keep ourselves, our famlies, and our community safe. But, with all the media hype and rumors going around, it can be hard to figure out what you really need to do (or not do) to stop the spread of COVID-19. Here is a an easy guide with actual facts from the CDC. Follow the link at the bottom to get further information.

  1. Wash your Hands!

Washing your hands is a good practice in general, but during this time, washing your hands is so important to stop the spread of COVID-19. The standard for washing hands is with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Some people get very creative with this 20 seconds and sing portions of classic songs that are 20 seconds long to make sure they wash for the proper amount of time. Some favorites are: "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees (chorus), "Truth Hurts" by Lizzo (chorus), and the classic "Happy Birthday".  If one of those doesn't fit your vibe then there is a website that generates a poster with the song of your choice that last 20 seconds (https://washyourlyrics.com/)! Washing your hands should be done frequently, especially when you cough or sneeze or when you have been in a public place. So, get you grab your favorite tunes and have a happy hand washing party!

  1. Distance makes the Heart grow Fonder.

Staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with others when you do go out are essential right now. The easiest way to do this is to try to limit your shopping trips to once a week or every two weeks. You can also get things delivered to your home or use curbside pick up. Many local restaurants are even doing curbside or carry out, too. If possible, try to support your community by shopping local! If you do have to go out remember to stay 6 ft. apart from others. If you have a hard time visualizing how far that is just imagine your 6 ft. husband or brother army crawling to sneak a donut out of the kitchen. Also, remember to avoid shaking hands, high fives, and hugs. This one is probably the biggest adjustment to most of our lives, so be kind to yourself and take a deep breath when you are figuring out how to maintain social distance

  1. *Aaachoo*

If you become sick stay home. See if you can have a friend pick up your groceries for you and leave them at your front door. If you are coughing and sneezing use a tissue and then immediately throw away the tissue and wash your hands. If you absolutely have to go out, wear a face mask and gloves. Although this doesn't protect you, is does keep your germs from becoming airborne, potentially infecting others. If you are unable to find any to purchase because of the current shortages, you can fashion one out of a bandana, sew one with old t-shirt material or check out Facebook for friends that might be making them in their own homes. 

  1. Clean, Clean, Clean

Sanitation is key to kicking COVID-19 to the curb. Use surface cleaners and disinfectants to clean your house and car frequently, especially the places you use a lot like the kitchen and bathroom. Get some gloves on and go to town on cleaning, just make sure to read the instructions on the container first. If your kids need something to do, you could create the clean my house olympics and give them points every time they do a cleaning task in the house. Turn on your favorite dance music or clean a little every commercial break or between binged episodes and your house will be sanitized in no time!

CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

July
29

The Coronavirus pandemic has forever changed our world, and no industry has been changed more than the travel industry. Airlines have gone bankrupt, travel companies have laid off countless employees, and empty hotels became temporary hospitals.

We are all ready for things to return to normal and are anxious to move about the world. We don't know when travel will recover completely, but before the flood gates open, you need to have a plan so that you are ready when it does. Here are a few tips to consider before paying the outlandish prices we know are coming and getting in line with everybody else: 

Track Flights

Think about where you want to go and begin your research with Google Flights. Once you put in your desired destination, Google Flights will track every flight over $300, giving you an idea of how high or low these prices are. It will also track the history of the prices of these flights compared to what they have been in the past. 

https://support.google.com/travel/answer/2475306?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

Southwest allows you to switch at the last minute from one US location to another US location for no additional fee. A real plus if you decide to extend your vacation to visit family or friends while you're out and about. 

Do You Have the Right Credit Cards?

Finding the right credit cards is difficult at first, but once you get into it, it's not hard to gain traction. Some cards give you a mile for every dollar spent. Many people travel only using their card miles. To earn miles fast, use your card for everyday items like daycare, groceries, gas  – then pay off the card balance with your debit card, or even by making monthly payments. Some cards give you more flexibility, rewards, insurance or protection while you're traveling outside of the US. 

Have You Heard of the Trusted Traveler Program?

US Customs and Border Protection offers a global entry option. It requires a $100 non-refundable fee and in-person interview, along with a lot of the same items you need to get your passport. Once approved, you receive the benefits for five years. (After five years, you will have to re-enroll.) Some benefits you will receive:

  • For re-entering into US airports, you can just check in at the Global Entry kiosk which keeps you moving - saving you two hours or more in lines
  • Faster entry into other countries
  • TSA pre-check, meaning no paperwork or long processing lines
  • Some credit cards will actually reimburse you the $100 fee

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply

Refunds

Book hotels that will allow free cancellations. If at some point you are unable to travel, or there is another COVID19 recurrence, you will not be at a loss. 

 

Handy Hacks 

Make a list of the WIFi passwords to the airports you'll be in ahead of time: 

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1Z1dI8hoBZSJNWFx2xr_MMxSxSxY&ll=40.64131110000006%2C-73.77813909999997&z=8

 

Go Incognito

Browse through your travel plans in INCOGNITO. Don't do any searches without doing this!

https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95464?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

Airlines store your cookies, giving them information about your travel plans and leverage to raise their prices. 

 

Order Ahead

At Grab.com you can order any menu items at the airport you are going to. Your order can be ready for pick up as you breeze your way through to your gate. No lines, no waiting and you get fresher food!

 

Label Your Luggage "FRAGILE"

 Luggage labeled "Fragile" is usually put on top of the piles, which also means first one out.

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