The stay-at-home orders didn’t stop some celebrities from collaborating on a viral video to thank medical workers, at the direction of Army veteran Ian Truitner. Rita Wilson, Constance Wu, Noah Wyle, Air Force veteran Jon Huertas, Kit Williamson, John Halbach, Kate Flannery, Chris Chalk, Angelica Maria, Simon Helberg, Parminder Nagra, Joan Lunden and others came together for a PSA supporting the American Nurses Association.
Self-shot in their homes under the collective vision of director Ian Truitner and producer Randall Scerbo Truitner, over 30 parts from both coasts combined for a fun, heartfelt project to raise money for nurses on the frontline who are treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inspiration for the PSA came from Randall Scerbo Truitner, whose sister Tonya is a registered nurse in Georgia. Tonya had shared a video on social media of a doctor who was treating COVID-19 patients, describing the stress medical professionals were under as they were saving people’s lives. The video moved Randall to tears, and compelled her to want to do something to help the doctors, nurses and first responders on the front lines. Having produced documentaries to raise money for NGOs, she was accustomed to using her production skills for charitable causes.
Randall’s husband Ian Truitner had shown her some creative film work people were doing during the lockdown. It sparked a discussion about how they could make something compelling through their production company RANDIAN, but without the lights, cameras and crews required of normal production. The talent would film themselves remotely, with a through-line connecting everyone and a strong message at the end.
While Ian mapped out how all the parts and transitions would come together, Randall reached out to colleagues to get people involved. The response was immediate, with celebrities quickly offering their time to participate.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) had recently put together a funding arm, the American Nurses Foundation, specifically for nurses treating COVID-19 patients, which made them a perfect fit for the campaign. The foundation is designed for multiple support initiatives for nurses, including direct financial assistance, mental health services, critical information to help protect them and their families, and national advocacy for nurses and patients.
One of the first celebrities to come on board, who also reached out to fellow actors to get them involved, was Brianna Brown Keen. “I wanted to support this PSA to help shine a light on the real heroes during this crisis and help raise money to support them during this difficult time,” she said. Parminder Nagra, who played a doctor on NBC’s ER, said, “Being able to be a part of a PSA that sends a simple message of thanks in a fun way, was an honor. I hope it felt like a message of support and brought a smile to some faces.”
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4 million registered nurses. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. Founded in 1896, and with members in all 50 states and U.S. territories, ANA is the strongest voice for the profession. #thanksnurses
Founded by Randall Scerbo and Ian Truitner, RANDIAN is a media technology and production company based in Los Angeles, CA.
From the Marine Corps to the medical field, Onur Yenigun has exemplified a commitment to service in remarkable ways. A first generation American, Yenigun was the child of a Turkish immigrant and though he always knew he wanted to be a doctor, first, he wanted to give back to his country.
He served in 1st Battalion 5th Marines after telling his recruiter he “wanted to get his butt kicked.” After his service, he used the G.I. Bill and graduated with highest honors from UC Davis, before attending medical school at UC San Francisco.
Now, he’s in his third year of residency in the ER of Stanford Hospital, fighting on the front lines of a new threat: COVID-19. I had the chance to talk with him about the virus, what it’s like for our medical professionals right now, and why it’s still important to “flatten the curve.”
Here’s what he had to say:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Fr6D8hBjo/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I’ve seen those pictures – folks so beat by the daily grind that they’re passed out and photographed by a passer-by. Sure, it happened to…”
Yenigun: It keeps changing because we’re learning new things all the time. Our overall volume is down. There are fewer patients — but the ones that do come in are sicker. People who are sick keep waiting it out at home because they’re afraid to go to the hospital so when they do come in, they’re really sick.
And then there’s more overall fear in the hospital. I used to greet my co-workers with a hug and now we can’t do that. We’re a close-knit family and that camaraderie means a lot to me, so it’s really hard to not be able to high five everyone. One of the interesting things about it, though, is that usually our [attending physicians] are the ones doing the teaching, but due to the nature of the virus, we’re all learning together. We’re growing together and I like that aspect.
WATM: What would you say to citizens who are putting off health treatments because of the virus? When should people go to the hospital?
Yenigun: People should call their doctor for advice. A lot of out-patient visits are shut down, but physicians are still pretty accessible and they can give medical advice.
Anyone with serious symptoms should come in, but if someone feels like their symptoms are manageable at home then they can safely do that. It is risky to come to a hospital if someone doesn’t need to be there — not just because of COVID-19.
People’s primary care doctors are still a really good resource.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_DWDYhhRcy/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “Behind these doors lies a convention center turned medical facility with over 200 cots, neatly lined and ready to accept and care for the…”
WATM: What treatments have been effective for patients with COVID-19?
Yenigun: Supportive therapy is still the most effective right now. There are a lot of drug and vaccine trials and antivirals being studied right now but if you were to come into the hospital today with COVID, the major things would be supportive treatments: administer oxygen, control fevers, monitor symptoms, and intubate when necessary.
WATM: Is your hospital doing proning?
Yenigun: Proning is something that has been around for so long. Proning has been an effective treatment for patients with bad lung diseases like ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome], which is what we call the syndrome these patients are getting with bad COVID. It’s not always effective, but in certain cases it can improve outcomes.
WATM: What kind of recovery rate are you seeing for COVID-positive patients?
Yenigun: The majority of patients I see are healthy enough to be discharged and they go home to get better. I don’t know the exact percentage, of course. I have seen some very sick people who end up in the ICU. Most of them have been elderly or they’ve had risk factors that we know lead to more serious infections. The big four that we know about are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and lung disease, so when we see COVID patients at higher risk then we monitor more closely.
WATM: What does the hospital do to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading to patients/staff?
Yenigun: Even just to get into our hospital, staff members have to get their temperature checked. People with fevers have to go home. We also have very strict policies with regards to our PPE [personal protective equipment].
For patients, we can see many who are less critical in a drive-through outside and they will “iPad in” — we can tell a lot about a person from looking at them. Looking at you, I can tell that you’re breathing comfortably, that your color is good, that you can talk easily. I can tell that you don’t have a bad respiratory condition. We could swab you, you could go home, you could call in and get results.
For patients who are “persons under investigation” or that we think might have COVID in the hospital, we try to place them in negative pressure rooms. We also have HEPA filters in the rooms that are purifying the air. Anytime we go into those rooms, we wear full protective gear: gloves, N95 masks, goggles.
We’re fortunate now to have a rapid test so we can quickly determine who has COVID and who doesn’t so we’re able to separate COVID-positive patients from other patients.
WATM: Why is social distancing and “flattening the curve” important?
Yenigun: I don’t really like the term “social distancing” — I prefer “physical distancing” because I don’t think anyone should be forced into complete isolation, distancing themselves from the people they care about most in their social circles because that’s going to lead to a whole host of issues surrounding mental health.
It is important, however, to reduce the number of infections at any one time. The whole point of flattening the curve isn’t necessarily to reduce the number of infections — it’s to reduce the number of infections at once.
The worst thing we could do is have everyone go out and spread this thing like wildfire; suddenly everyone would present critically ill, flooding our emergency department. Many would need to get intubated, we would run out of ventilators, the ICU would fill, and then people would die in the waiting room. That’s our biggest nightmare — we don’t want people to die.
The whole point of distancing is to provide time for this virus to trickle through the population. The people who are going to get sick will get sick, but it will be manageable for hospitals. We’ll be able to take care of them and save as many lives as we can.
That time will also give us the opportunity to run these clinical trials and develop vaccines.
WATM: Have you seen any cases of reinfection?
Yenigun: I haven’t seen any reinfections. There has been talk about reinfections overseas, but we haven’t seen anyone personally who has gotten sick, gotten better, then gotten sick again here.
WATM: Are you worried about getting the virus?
Yenigun: I’m not too worried about my own personal well-being. I don’t think I would get critically ill. I’m more worried about the fact that I interact with multiple people and patients every day. I don’t want to pass it on to other people.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B-it1Q1Bc10/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I remember driving home from work last night wishing I had a way to spend my day off that would in someway contribute to the community. I…”
WATM: What is life like for doctors and nurses right now? What’s your work-tempo like and how is morale?
Yenigun: Work hasn’t necessarily increased because we’re able to manage the patients as they come in. I’ve personally been able to volunteer with Team Rubicon to staff a convention center here we’ve turned into a medical respite. I’ve had a lot of 24-hour days, but this is what I love and I’m happy to do it.
As far as morale, our community has really come together. We’ve been getting donations of food and snacks and letters from grateful locals. We had a great Black Rifle Coffee Company donation — shout out to those guys. Our staff has Zoom social hours. I put together a Zoom work-out for nurses and staff. We’ve found ways to come together.
WATM: What can people do to support hospitals and people in the medical field?
Yenigun: Everyone in health care would really appreciate it if everyone can just take measures to stay healthy. That’s what’s going to get us through this in the long run — that’s how we’re going to end these lockdowns. Wash your hands. Stay healthy. If you feel like you just have a cold, stay home. Unless you become afraid that you cannot manage the symptoms, you might be safer at home.
WATM: What are the benefits of taking an antibody test?
Yenigun: If you have been exposed, even if you were asymptomatic, you should have developed antibodies. In most cases, when you have antibodies for an illness you’re most likely protected from it. We can’t say that for sure about COVID-19. Antibody testing is interesting from an epidemiological perspective, but it might not necessarily mean anything conclusive for individuals yet.
WATM: Finally, and this is arguably the most important question, there’s an article about whether COVID-19 could be spread through farts…would you like to comment on that, Doctor?
Yenigun: Oh god…
WATM: I just want people to stay safe.
Yenigun: Do I think it could be…spread through a fart?
Yenigun: They have isolated the viral RNA in stool but that doesn’t necessarily mean it could be passed fecally…still, this is probably where common sense and courtesy come in.
WATM: Thank you for that and, sincerely, thank you for your continued service.
I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, too! Thank you.
Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.
Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.
This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.
Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.
The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.
Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.
Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]
Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.
(Photo by Ingrid Cold)
I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.
Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.
This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.
Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.
For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.
(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)
I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.
I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.
I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.
(Picture by Eric Milzarski)
It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.
If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.
Three multistate coalitions have formed, in the northeast, west, and midwest, to coordinate measures to reopen their economies, but they have yet to make concrete plans.
That’s because the reopening plans are dependent on various factors, like controlling the rate of infections and hospitalizations, making testing and contact tracing more widespread, making sure healthcare facilities are properly equipped to handle another resurgence, and employing social distancing practices in the workplace.
Some of these states (Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina), were among the last to issue stay-at-home orders, doing so in April after many other states already had in March.
In several of the states that have begun to reopen, however, the number of new cases of COVID-19 seem to still be steadily rising. Where most cases early in the outbreak were reported primarily in urban areas like New York and Seattle, recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that from April 13 to April 27, rural counties saw an average 125% increase in new coronavirus infections, leaping from 51 to 115 new cases per 100,000 people.
Here are the states beginning to reopen their economies.
Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey lifted the state’s stay-at-home just 26 days after it began, and reopened beaches and retail stores.
Alabama had one of the shortest-lived stay-at-home orders, which began on April 4 and ended on April 30. Now, retail stores may operate at 50% capacity and beachgoers must stay 6 feet apart. Hair and beauty salons remain closed, and restaurants are restricted to takeout only.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy permitted some restaurants and nonessential services to begin reopening on April 24, with certain restrictions.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed some restaurants and nonessential services to reopen for business, with certain restrictions. Open restaurants must take reservations and refuse walk-ins, they can be filled to only 25% capacity at one time, customers must either dine alone or with members of their household (meeting up with friends is not allowed), and restaurants must provide hand sanitizer for guests to use. Also, restaurant employees must wear protective face masks while working.
Governor Dunleavy also eased restrictions on public gatherings, saying that they can include people from different households, as long as individuals stay six feet apart. If you plan on singing or projecting your voice, however, the minimum distance apart is 10 feet.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis initiated a new ‘safer at home’ order on April 27, allowing elective medical procedures to resume and curbside delivery options for retail stores.
Colorado’s stay-at-home order expired on April 26, replaced by a “safer-at-home” policy that permitted some businesses to open their doors. Childcare facilities could reopen under certain safety measures, including keeping rooms to less than 10 children, staggering meal times, and frequently sanitizing common areas. Some retail stores and beauty salons began reopening on May 1, allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
Gyms and nightlife destinations remain closed, however, and restaurants are still restricted to take-out service. Schools will remain remote for the rest of the semester.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order expired April 30, and he allowed some beaches in northern Florida to reopen as early as April 17.
On Friday, April 17, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed some beaches in northern Florida to reopen, The Associated Press reported, even though the state has continued to see an increase in coronavirus cases.
In a press conference, he said that some counties could start reopening their beaches if they wanted to, adding that it was important for people to get fresh air, the AP reported. “Do it in a good way,” DeSantis said. “Do it in a safe way.”
Gatherings of 50 or more people are still banned, and people are encouraged to socially distance on the beach as they exercise or do activities like surfing, reported Business Insider’s Dominic-Madori Davis. But photos showed hundreds of locals flooding Jacksonville Beach, apparently without adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp allowed many businesses, including gyms and movie theaters, to reopen in phases beginning in April.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp allowed businesses to begin reopening in phases over the weekend, he said during a news conference on Monday, April 20.
Gyms, hair salons, barbershops, fitness centers, and massage-therapy centers were allowed to reopen on April 24, as long as they follow social distancing and “regular sanitation,” reported Business Insider’s Jake Lahut. On Monday, restaurants, private social clubs, and movie theaters could also reopen. But bars, night clubs, amusement parks, and other businesses will remain closed pending further advice from public-health experts.
Kemp didn’t give much specific detail, but said businesses should “adhere to the minimum basic operations.”
Kemp said Georgia’s rate of new infections had flattened. In response to backlash about the decision, Kemp told Fox News that “it’s a tough balance.”
“We are talking about a few businesses that I closed down to help flatten the curve, which we have done in our state,” he said. “But for us to continue to ask them to do that while they lose everything, quite honestly, there are a lot of civil repercussions of that, mental health issues. We are seeing more patients in our trauma centers in our state.”
But both President Donald Trump and local mayors have criticized the decision. “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump said on April 22.
Kemp didn’t issue a statewide stay-at-home order until April 3, saying during a press conference at the time that a key part of his decision was that “we didn’t know … until the last 24 hours” that asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus could infect other people.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little initiated a four-phase process to reopen the state, beginning May 1.
Idaho’s stay-at-home order also expired on April 30, and Gov. Little enacted a four-stage reopening plan over the months of May and June. The first stage began on May 1 and allowed daycares, childcare centers, summer camps, and places of worship to reopen. Other nonessential business may begin reopening during the second phase, which starts May 16.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order expired on May 1, and a partial reopening began May 4.
Gov. Eric Holcomb rolled out a multi-phase plan that involves different reopening dates for different counties. Retail businesses and restaurants may operate at 50% capacity, and personal services salons may see customers by appointment only. Office workers can return to work in small or staggered groups.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds allowed gyms, libraries, and other venues to reopen in certain regions on May 1.
Gov. Kim Reynolds extended the state’s emergency declaration until May 27, but allowed businesses (including restaurants, gyms, libraries, and indoor malls) to reopen in select counties beginning May 1, under social distancing restrictions.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly began to lift the state’s lockdown measures on May 4.
Kelly’s “Ad Astra” plan breaks the reopening into three phases, which allowed some businesses to reopen May 4 as long as social distancing measures were in place, and crowds were limited to no more than 10 people.
The initial phase will last 14 days. Bars, casinos, fitness centers, museums, hair salons, and swimming pools will remain closed, and large community events will remain prohibited.
Phase two of the plan will start no earlier than May 18 and will allow childcare facilities, libraries and some organized sports facilities to reopen.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills extended a new ‘safer at home’ order through May 31, but allowed some businesses to reopen on May 1.
Beginning May 1, residents of Maine were able to resume hunting and fishing, go to drive-in movie theaters, get car washes, and visit beauty salons, under set social distancing restrictions.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 18, but allowed certain nonessential businesses to begin reopening on May 4.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves began easing restrictions on April 27, but backtracked the reopening after COVID-19 cases spiked in the state on May 1.
Restaurants and some retail stores began reopening on April 27 in Mississippi, and were told to operate at 50% capacity and maintain six feet of space between customers, while tattoo parlors, beauty salons, and gyms to remain closed. However, when the state’s infections and death count reached a new high on May 1, Governor Reeves decided to put additional reopening on hold.
Missouri’s stay-at-home order expired May 3, and Gov. Mike Parson has since reopened restaurants and stadiums.
Gov. Mike Parson allowed the reopening of movie theatres, sports stadiums, and other large venues, encouraging patrons to maintain social distancing regulations. Retail spaces are restricted to maintaining customers at 25% capacity.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock allowed select retail businesses to reopen on April 27, and restaurants and bars to resume dine-in service on May 4.
Places of worship were permitted to open on April 26, and told to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people that make social distancing difficult. Restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries were allowed to reopen on May 4 if they adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Businesses where sanitation and social distancing is less possible, such as gyms, music venues, movie theaters, and bowling alleys, were to remain closed.
Nebraska never had a stay-at-home order, and on May 4, Gov. Pete Ricketts eased restrictions to allow personal services businesses to reopen.
As of May 4, Gov. Pete Ricketts allowed dine-in restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. Beauty parlors and tattoo shops may also open, with a limit of serving 10 customers at one time.
Nevada’s stay-at-home order is in effect until May 15, but Gov. Steve Sisolak allowed all retail businesses to operate via ‘curbside pickup’ beginning May 1.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said certain areas upstate (not New York City) may be able to partially reopen beginning May 15.
Gov. Cuomo has placed some of the heaviest restrictions in the country on New York state, and has been hesitant to lift any so far. He is closely adhering to guidelines set by the CDC, requiring officials to show a steady, continual decline in new coronavirus infections in their area over a two-week period before considering reopening nonessential businesses.
Regions in New York that do meet this criteria by May 15 and are permitted to reopen will have to follow strict sanitary and social distancing precautions. While the infection rates in upstate areas may be more promising, Cuomo said that “unless a miracle happens,” it’s highly unlikely that New York City or nearby counties downstate will be able to anytime soon.
North Dakota never had a statewide mandatory stay-at-home order, and Gov. Doug Burgum invited most businesses to reopen when they want to beginning May 1.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum placed restrictions on schools, gyms, dine-in restaurants and bars, and movie theaters in early April through the end of the month. Other businesses which weren’t told to close were welcome to reopen at any time, the governor said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initiated a multi-phase reopening plan to begin May 1, with veterinarians and dentists allowed to return to work.
In Ohio, medical procedures, dental offices, and vet clinics were allowed to reopen on May 1. Later in the month, on May 12, retail stores can reopen with certain restrictions. Gov. DeWine has yet to say when beauty salons or dine-in restaurants will be able to welcome customers again.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt began a three-phase plan on April 24, and allowed personal care services such as spas, nail and hair salons, and pet groomers to reopen.
Under relaxed guidelines in Oklahoma for personal care businesses, customers must make appointments ahead of time and the business should maintain social distancing protocols as much as possible by staggering appointment times.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster opened up beaches and some businesses previously deemed nonessential on April 21.
South Carolina was one of the last to issue a statewide stay-at-home order from all the states that issued such orders, doing so on April 7.
On April 20, Gov. McMaster said that department stores and some other businesses previously deemed nonessential would be allowed to reopen if they abided by social distancing guidelines. That includes clothing stores, furniture stores, and florist shops, reported Josiah Bates for Time.
“We are still in a very serious situation … we must be sure that we continue to be strict and disciplined with our social distancing,” McMaster said in a press conference. “Our goal was to cause the most damage possible to the virus, while doing the least possible damage to our businesses. South Carolina’s business is business.”
South Dakota never had a stay-at-home order, and Gov. Kristi Noem began encouraging a ‘back to normal’ approach in late April.
Gov. Noem encouraged local people and businesses to resume activities, but also to be careful and maintain social distancing as much as possible. When asked about potential surges of COVID-19 infections, Gov. Noem said she will handle those locally as they come.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowed restaurants to resume dine-in operations on April 27, and retail stores reopened on April 29.
In Tennessee, gyms were allowed to reopen on May 1 under rules to operate at 50% capacity and maintain a clean and sanitized environment. Reopened restaurants must also follow additional restrictions, including using disposable menus, limiting each table to six customers, and eliminating shared condiment stations.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed restaurants and movie theaters to begin operating on May 1, at 25% capacity.
Malls, retailers, and dine-in restaurants reopened in Texas on May 1 at reduced capacity. Curbside delivery and to-go service has already been permitted at certain eateries since since April 27. Gyms, bars, and salons remain closed.
On May 1, Gov. Greg Abbott concurred with the dangers of reopening the state on a private phone call with members of the state legislature and Congress, according to an audio recording obtained by local Texas political site Quorum Report. He had publicly acknowledged the week earlier that “It’s only logical to see there would be an increase and the number of people that test positive.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert never enacted a stay-at-home order, and eased other restrictions starting May 1.
Dine-in restaurants, public parks, and gyms reopened in Utah on May 1, and Gov. Gary Herbert increased limits on public gatherings from 10 people to 20 people, provided they adhere to social distancing protocols. Schools, however, remain closed.
Vermont’s stay-at-home order is in effect through May 15, but Gov. Phil Scott allowed certain businesses to reopen on April 27.
Governor Phil Scott allowed “outdoor retail spaces” to return to in-person shopping on April 27, with a restriction of 10 shoppers at one time. Outdoor farmers markets also reopened on May 1, under rules to “transition away from shopping and social events, to primarily a food distribution system.”
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s new ‘safer at home’ order began on May 4, and allowed restaurants to open for outdoor dining.
Beginning May 4, hair salons, barbershops, and pet groomer were allowed to resume operations, and must maintain social distancing and proper sanitation between customers.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon had never put in place a stay-at-home order, and he began lifting other restrictions May 1.
On May 1, Gov. Gordon allowed the reopening of gyms, beauty salons, barber shops, massage parlors, and tattoo shops, among other personal service businesses.
Other states are slated to partially reopen later in May, including New Jersey, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
Covid-19 has left many families physically isolated in their homes. A lot of people have a lot of questions, and parents who are furloughed, laid off, or ordered to close their small businesses are facing the specter of financial insecurity. Unfortunately, anxious parents make for anxious kids. And, despite their best efforts, the massive social disruptions caused by the coronavirus are impossible to hide from children. (School being canceled for the rest of the year is a dead giveaway.) During this time, parents need to model effective stress and anxiety management for their kids. The tricky part is finding a language to help parents and children communicate about what emotions they’re feeling. That’s where a feelings chart can help.
A feelings chart is really any tool that helps a child expand their emotional vocabulary. It helps kids reflect on their feelings and describe them with more precision. “It can be a list of feeling words or a picture chart of words and expressions – whatever the child finds easier to use,” says Ellen O’Donnell, Ph.D, pediatric psychologist at MassGeneral for Children in Boston, instructor at Harvard Medical School, and co-author of the book Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World. “It’s a fairly intuitive idea, as anyone who has sent an emoji in a text, rather than a prolonged description of their emotions, can attest to.”
Feelings are nuanced, and a lot of times sad/mad/scared/happy doesn’t cut it. A feelings chart — or wheel or whatever you feel is best — presents kids with more options for reflection. It can also help them understand that they can experience more than one emotion at a time, even feelings that seem to contradict each other.
Understanding emotions is complex stuff and young children lack the cognitive reasoning skills to name theirs properly. Having a tool like a feelings chart helps parents and children communicate better. This is always a crucial skill for families, but even more so now that with everyone feeling trapped in the house.
“Having an accurate and specific label for a feeling helps kids (and helps parents help kids) feel their feelings, validate them and accurately empathize with them,” says O’Donnell. “And it helps parents find an effective solution if and when the kids are ready for one.”
Many kids who initially felt happy to have time off from school, O’Donnell adds, are now feeling sad to miss their friends, bored without their usual activities, and maybe a bit more irritable and angry. “If we can help them accurately label these feelings we can help them come up with coping skills to practice, like FaceTiming a friend when they’re feeling sad, lonely, bored and irritated with siblings.”
Kids may not want to speak about their feelings right away, and that’s fine. Feelings charts don’t have to be printed sheets, or take place during a formal discussion. Making things too serious can sometimes be counterproductive. Parents simply being present with their children can draw out these feelings, and the feelings chart can grow out of that.
“I recently had a five-ear-old patient who independently started her own feelings chart by drawing a heart and writing some words with arrows pointing to the heart to describe how she has been feeling while home on quarantine with two medical provider parents,” says O’Donnell. “We added new feelings words to it in our session.”
Things are not normal now, and normal is probably not going to be the same as it was. In the meantime, while families are staying at home and cut off from their routines and their regular support network, they will need to be able to communicate and solve problems that they perhaps were able to avoid before, when work, school, or activities offered respite. But once normal returns – whatever that will look like – reflection and communication are skills kids and parents will use for the rest of their lives.
James Ruvalcaba was the lead operational planner and Joe Plenzler was the public affairs officer for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. They were responsible for authoring the III MEF CONPLAN 5003 to protect all U.S. forces, their families, and Defense Department personnel in Japan. They are both retired Marine lieutenant colonels.
As former lead operational planners for the Biohazard Defense Contingency Plan for all military service members, their families and Defense Department employees in Japan, we noticed the strong possibility of a COVID-19 pandemic in early February of this year.
There are lessons to be learned from an earlier viral outbreak.
In response to the H5N1 or “bird flu” outbreak in 2005, President George W. Bush issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (PI) that November.
Thirteen days later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace issued a planning order (PLANORD) directing all combatant commanders to conduct execution-level planning for a DoD response to pandemic influenza.
The guidance was clear and broad: Develop a contingency plan that specifically addressed the three major missions of force health protection, defense support for civil authorities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
As leaders of the planning efforts, we recruited medical experts and researched preventive health materials from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, and disease exposure control studies from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This 18-month planning effort included tabletop exercises with State Department officials and local government officials and resulted in a 650-page biohazard response plan for all Marine Corps forces in Japan.
The plan also involved the additional major mission of continuity of operations to ensure that local governments and military installations continued to provide essential and emergency services during a pandemic.
The plan required all units and critical support agencies and businesses to classify their employees or service members as nonessential, essential or emergency-essential personnel.
The lessons we learned in this comprehensive 2005 planning effort are extensive, but they have not been fully implemented in response to COVID-19.
So what can policymakers, emergency medical responders and today’s planners learn from our plan?
Expect a “new normal” until a proven vaccine is developed. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings must continue until the population has been vaccinated and the current COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat.
Just like we adapted to the post-9/11 terrorist attacks by instituting new security measures, we must also adapt to the pandemic by continuing social distancing measures until a proven vaccine has been developed, tested and administered to the entire global community. We must do this to avoid subsequent pandemic waves.
Our plan operated under the advice from health experts that a vaccine may take about a year to develop and that it will take months more for it to be readily available to the entire population. We recommend that the vaccine be prioritized and allocated first to medical responders and other personnel designated as emergency-essential responders. Local public health experts should draft immunization plans, to include the prioritization of immunizations to emergency-essential personnel.
The public should expect to experience additional shortages of medical equipment. We’ve seen the shortages of N95 masks, ventilators and ICU beds in hospitals; however, when restrictive measures are eased or lifted, our planning revealed that there will be a huge demand for infrared thermal detection systems (IR thermometers) in order to conduct public health febrile surveillance — especially prior to boarding flights or mass transportation. The post-pandemic environment will most likely involve febrile screenings to ensure viral threats are contained.
Ongoing surveillance and contact tracing are extremely critical after the first pandemic wave is contained to a manageable level, in order to prevent a second wave or spreading it to another region. We should leverage technology in our smartphones to self-report if we have been in contact with infected people. China successfully implemented these protocols in Wuhan province through a phone app.
The demand for mortuary services may exceed available capacity. Additionally, new protocols must be established for conducting funerals.
Public Service Announcements are critical to shape public action to comply with evolving restrictive measures implemented by public health officials. Additionally, PSAs alleviate fear and anxiety by providing reassurance and critical educational material to assist the public in helping to contain and reduce the pandemic. Simply stated, PSAs help to reset the expectations of the evolving crisis and the associated escalatory or de-escalatory restrictive measures.
A pandemic may produce a second wave after the first outbreak, and sometimes even a second cycle outbreak after a few seasons. This is due to previously undetected pockets of viral outbreaks, a lapse in compliance to restrictive measures, the reintroduction of the virus from an external source, or the possibility of the virus mutating gradually by antigenic drift, or abruptly by antigenic shift. It is important for medical responders, public officials and the public to understand that we must not let our guard down when we start seeing a reduction in the transmissibility of the COVID virus or a reduction in the number of people infected.
We cannot lean on unfounded messages of hope; rather, we should look to science and condition-based assessments to decide when to ease or lift restrictive measures. The message to policymakers and high-ranking preventive health officials is clear: Demand science-based justifications for lifting restrictive measures.
For all that have closely tracked the evolution of this COVID-19 virus from its initial outbreak to a pandemic, the writing on the wall is obvious: National leaders made grave mistakes by not taking the threat seriously.
The lack of early mitigation has now cost us more than 427,000 sick Americans, more than 14,000 deaths and more than .3 trillion.
Our nation is paying a terrible cost for not taking this pandemic seriously enough, early enough. We must act in earnest to implement these lessons to help contain the viral spread so we can safely ease the restrictive measures while preventing a second pandemic wave or subsequent pandemic cycle.
Memorial Day is often a conflicting moment for those of us with friends or loved ones who were killed during military service. Traditionally, the three-day weekend has been celebrated in America as the unofficial summer kick-off — a time for sales events and parties.
For those of us who remember the fallen, however, the weekend is bittersweet. Some honor it with service while some prefer solitude. Others gather with friends to celebrate the lives of lost companions.
With COVID-19 numbers remaining dangerously high (at the time of publishing, the CDC reports 1,551,095 total U.S. cases — 22,860 new cases compared to the day before — and 93,061 total deaths — 1,397 new dates compared to the day before), it still isn’t safe to pay tribute the way we might prefer.
Here are some ways to honor the holiday during the quarantine:
(Let this double as your weekend safety brief; while states are slowly reopening and we can go out, it isn’t necessarily safe to do so — and while we all feel invincible, let’s remember the military core value of putting others before ourselves, lest we risk becoming an asymptomatic carrier who exposes someone at risk to a fatal infection.)
Salute Across America will be a first-of-its-kind live stream honoring fallen service members. Prominent veteran companies such as Kill Cliff, Combat Flip Flops, Nine Line Apparel, Grunt Style and many more are joining forces to send a message of gratitude for those who have defended our freedoms while promoting togetherness during this time of isolation.
During the live stream, New York Times Best Selling Author John Brenkus will be joined by influencers and celebrities including NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, MMA Legend Randy Couture, actors Donnie Whalberg and Jenny McCarthy, Bruce Arians, Dan Quinn, Nate Boyer, Jay Glazer, Rich Salgado and musicians Ryan Weaver, Tim Montana, Joey McIntyre, Ted Nugent and Jesse Hughes.
Viewers will have the opportunity to simply click a link and make a donation. Likewise, the Salute Across America webpage will have links to the military charities supported by the companies behind this initiative in an effort to drive awareness and donations for some incredible non-profits doing great work to support our troops, including the Navy SEAL Foundation.
The Murph Challenge is an annual fundraiser that raises funds for the LT. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation in honor of Mike Murphy, a U.S. Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in action on June 28, 2005.
This Memorial Day tradition will continue on May 25, 2020, where participants are invited to complete the Crossfit Hero WOD (workout of the day) ‘MURPH’ then return to TheMurphChallenge.com to submit their ‘MURPH’ time and compare their achievements with those of others around the world. All times will be displayed on a worldwide leaderboard and the top five men and top five women will be recognized for their efforts.
Since 2014, the foundation has raised over id=”listicle-2646068043″,000,000 in addition to bringing the community together to push each other and pay tribute to LT. Michael P. Murphy.
Team Rubicon has been actively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by launching initiatives to help local communities. Called #NeighborsHelpingNeighbors, Team Rubicon volunteers have activated to meet the needs of their communities through safe individual acts of service.
“During this time of the COVID-19 crisis, many people are unable to access and afford their most basic needs, including food. Team Rubicon and Patient Advocate Foundation have partnered to provide emergency food assistance to those who have cancer, Multiple Sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, and have been affected by COVID-19.
Most military veterans took their oath to serve because they felt the call to take action and help others. Finding “service after service” is healing and therapeutic for vets — and Memorial Day is a perfect time to answer the call once more.
The greatest beer run in the history of beer | Drink Like a Sailor
Stoke the fire, grill or cook up your favorite summer foods, and jump on a Zoom or Google Hangout with your friends. Memorial Day is about remembering the fallen and raising a glass in their honor. The act of cooking or grilling is a great way to pass the time — and talking with friends is a cathartic experience for anyone grieving a loss.
Talk about the people you lost. Share their stories online. Acknowledge how it feels to miss them. Take comfort in the virtual company of your friends.
You’ve been eating enough microwave food — give yourself the gift of a home-cooked meal and enjoy.
5. Go to a Drive-In Movie
Parks, trails and beaches sound great after you’ve been cooped up inside, but face masks and the aerosol range of potentially contagious partiers really puts a damper on the experience. Still, if you’re craving an experience out of the house to boost your mood, find a local outdoor movie theater and catch a flick.
Drive-In Movie Theaters are making a comeback with safety restrictions in place to help protect people. Viewers remain in their vehicles, which are parked further apart. Anyone entering restroom facilities must wear masks and most locations are limiting the number of people allowed in the restroom at any given time.
This makes a great date to enjoy with anyone you’ve been sheltering in place with. It’s also an opportunity to park near your buddies and either live-text or zoom together from car-to-car. The shared experience and change of pace can give you just the kind of morale boost you’ve been craving.
6. Donate to your favorite veteran non-profit organization
Many nonprofits are working hard to stay afloat and continue their initiatives. If you have money to spare, consider making a contribution to causes you believe in. If you’re also hurting financially, share their content online and show your support.
We’re going to be separated for a while longer — but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. Whatever you do this Memorial Day weekend, reach out to your friends, take care of each other and stay safe.
So you’re stuck inside, and it kind of sucks — just a slight understatement, really. For many, Covid-19 is a life-changing (or crushing, even) event, so those of us whose biggest worry is remembering what day it is and making ourselves put on real pants, doing something is highly encouraged.
Also recommended? Breaking up the monotony with a challenge. When every day feels like Wednesday, becoming one with your couch is tempting. The couch doesn’t care. It’s a couch. You, on the other hand, probably will care when endless hours of Netflix leaves you with major brain fog. Try these activities to stay sharp. If you do them every day, you may get out of quarantine smarter than you were before!
Or jump rope, try a Zumba class on YouTube, or do a HIIT workout. It doesn’t matter what activity you pick, as long as it elevates your heart rate. Lifting weights can improve muscle tone and bone density, but aerobic activities are the ones that give your brain a boost. In some studies, sprinting was more effective at improving IQ than playing brain-training games. In other words, if you’d like to get smarter without thinking about it, just go for a run! Your brain will thank you, and your couch potato butt probably will too.
Bring out the chessboard
I’m not a huge fan of chess. Trying to remember what all the little people do bugs me. I want to make the knight elope with the queen in a scandalous twist, but apparently that’s not how you play. If you play by the rules, however, it’s amazing for your brain. The strategy involved exercises both hemispheres of your brain and strengthens the connection between them, which is amazing for increasing mental acuity. The moral of the story? Don’t play chess like me.
Review your high school French textbook
Few of us learned a language fluently in high school, but we probably should have. Learning a new language helps you better understand how your native language works and changes how you think for the better. It also reduces the likelihood of developing dementia later in life. Oh…and it’s pretty hot.
Brush off the dust on your guitar
Learning an instrument is similar to learning a language, except the language sounds extra awesome. Like learning a language, it uses both sides of your brain and gives your memory a workout, with the added benefit of strengthening your coordination and speeding up sensory processing. So what if you sound terrible at first? It’s fun and good for your stressed out, underutilized noggin.
In high school, I tried to convince my mom that I couldn’t study without a nap. It turns out I wasn’t too far off. (Suck it, mom!) While you admittedly can’t review history notes while unconscious, your brain consolidates memories while you sleep. Not getting enough zzz’s is a surefire way to slow down the learning process, and if it gets bad enough you can actually start losing IQ points– about one point lost for every hour of sleep you lose each night.
Welp, guess it’s time to do some jumping jacks, torture my neighbors with mediocre violin and take a nap. Maybe I’ll wake up a little smarter.
Parents, it’s time to get those creative juices flowing! Take advantage of extra time with the kiddos and see what everyone can do with their best art skills at work. Look to local inspiration (and plenty of grace for the non-artists among us), for a fun way to spend some of your quarantine.
Stained “glass” decor
This trend has probably blown up your newsfeed. Get some tape, some paint or chalk, and map out a pattern with triangles and squares. It’s perfect for anyone living on post who wants to share some beauty for all to see. Best of all, it’s colorful!
Straight out of elementary art class, this project can be adjusted for any age. Provide kids with a subject (vehicle, animal, design), along with a few art supplies. Let each kid create their own masterpiece, then have a discussion about what they liked most. Kids can even comment on which aspects of their siblings’ pieces they like the best. Take it a step further and set up a gallery.
Let your inner control freak go and let them make a mess! Set up sheets, canvases, paper, or t-shirts in the lawn and let them get wild. Our favorite methods include: paint-filled balloons or squirt guns, and sponges launched from far away.
Grab a piece of wood and strategically place nails. (Older kids can even do the nails themselves.) Next, provide some colored string and let them weave away. Do this in the backyard, or (if open) head to some beautiful open spaces on base for a change of scenery.
These days slime is a big deal. Grab a slab of it and have kids make their own marker drawing, yes, right on the slime. Once done they can stretch and mold the artwork to change its entire look. Mix it all back together and start all over again!
This is a fun project that allows kids to create and transform their art project. Help them grind up old crayons and encourage them to spread it out and make a design on some waxed paper. Once finished, add another layer and iron the whole thing for a lasting project you can hang on the fridge or in a window for colorful light.
What are your favorite art projects to do with kids during quarantine?
Desperate times call for desperate measures and 93-year-old Pennsylvania resident Olive Veronesi wasn’t about to let things get too bleak.
CNN Pittsburgh affiliate KDKA shared a photo of Veronesi taken by a family member, with a Coors Light in hand and a plea written on a white board: “I NEED MORE BEER!!” The picture was shared more than 5 million times and Coors Light delivered on the request in a major way.
Local 93-Year-Old Woman Who Went Viral For Requesting More Beer Gets Her Wish
Veronesi said she drinks a beer every night and was down to her last few cans.
“When we saw Olive’s message, we knew we had to jump at the chance to not only connect with someone who brought a smile to our faces during this pandemic, but also gave us a special opportunity to say thanks for being a Coors Light fan,” a Coors spokesperson told CNN.
Our favorite part? She cracked one open on the front porch as soon as the cases were delivered. Cheers, Olive! We’ll definitely be raising a Coors to you.
Joseph V. Micallef is a best-selling military history and world affairs author, and keynote speaker. Follow him on Twitter @JosephVMicallef.
Of all the world’s commodities, petroleum best epitomizes the geopolitical consequences of natural resources. Countries that were fortunate to possess large reserves of hydrocarbons found themselves with incredible wealth and in control of a powerful driver of economic development. Countries that were unable to produce enough oil and gas for their needs found themselves vulnerable to supply disruptions and at a major geopolitical disadvantage.
The oil and gas industry had a significant Achilles heel, however. Oil and gas development had significant up-front development costs but, in many cases, relatively low operating costs. Once a well was brought into production, the cost of keeping it operating was relatively low, even if the revenue was insufficient to amortize the development cost. The result was that, historically, the oil and gas industry has been subject to volatile swings in pricing.
In 1919, the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) was charged with setting production levels among Texas oil producers in order to control the supply and stabilize prices. From 1930 through 1960, the TRC was largely responsible for setting the price of oil worldwide.
In 1960, a group of oil-producing countries, led by Saudi Arabia, adopted the TRC model and formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to regulate oil production and stabilize prices. OPEC did not eliminate oil price volatility, but its willingness to regulate its production levels helped moderate some of the pricing instability. Between 2000 and 2020, average yearly oil prices varied from a low of .99 per barrel in 2001, to a high of 2.58 per barrel in 2011. The average price in 2019 was .92 per barrel. Currently, average oil prices are approximately per barrel.
Canada, Russia, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, all significant oil producers, were among the oil-producing countries that did not join OPEC. The U.S., a major producer, began to import oil in 1959. Although the U.S. still imports oil, it has been a net exporter of both refined petroleum products and crude oil since November 2019.
OPEC’s share of the global oil market peaked at slightly more than 50% in 1973. In 2019, it was approximately 30%. Energy conservation; new discoveries; improvements in drilling and production technology; and, most significantly, the development of horizontal drilling to open “tight” oil- and gas-bearing formations and the development of the Canadian tar sands, have all cut into OPEC’s market share. In addition, Asia, principally China, India and Japan, have now become the main market for OPEC’s exports.
In 2017, Russia, along with 10 other non-OPEC oil-producing countries, agreed to coordinate production cuts with the group in order to stabilize prices. The countries were referred to as the “Vienna Group” and the arrangement as OPEC+. The agreement represented a strategic alignment of Saudi Arabia and Russia to rationalize prices. It lasted through March 2020.
One of the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was a sharp drop of approximately one to two million barrels per day (BOPD) in world demand for petroleum. In early March, OPEC agreed to extend its current cutbacks of 2.1 million BOPD and to reduce production by an additional 1.5 BOPD to a total of 3.6 million BOPD.
OPEC requested that Russia and the other 10 oil-producing countries in the OPEC+ group decrease their production by an additional 500,000 BOPD. Russia refused to accept the additional production cuts, arguing that any production cutbacks would simply be made up by American shale oil producers.
In retaliation, Saudi Arabia declared that it would flood world oil markets in a quest to regain lost market share and indirectly punish Russia for its unwillingness to cooperate.
Within a matter of days, world oil prices cratered by approximately 60%. The collapse of oil prices, coupled with rising anxiety over the economic consequences of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, triggered widespread economic turmoil and a marked decline in financial markets.
U.S. Strategic Interests and OPEC
The governments of both Russia and Saudi Arabia are heavily dependent on petroleum exports to fund the bulk of their expenditures. In Riyadh’s case, oil exports supply 70% of its revenues; in Moscow’s case, the number is approximately 46%. Both countries have sovereign funds designed to cover shortfalls in government revenues from falling oil prices. Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund had 0 billion in assets, while Russia’s National Wealth Fund had approximately 4 billion at the end of 2019.
The Trump administration was quick to characterize the Saudi and Russian decisions to increase oil production as a thinly veiled attack on American shale oil producers. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that 7.7 million BOPD, or about 2.81 billion barrels, of crude oil were produced from tight oil formations in the United States in 2019. This was equal to about 63% of total U.S. crude oil production last year.
This was not the first time that Saudi Arabia had tried to use low prices to force the producers of the more expensive shale oil out of the market. In response, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would buy up to 77 million barrels of oil from American producers for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Funding for these purchases was not, however, included in the recently passed 2020 Cares Act. In the meantime, the TRC announced that it would consider limiting Texas oil production to stabilize prices. Texas represents 40% of U.S. oil production.
Pundits were quick to take positions on which country, Saudi Arabia or Russia, would be able to hold out the longest in the ensuing price war. Meanwhile, television commentators pointed out that lower gasoline prices represented a boon for American consumers.
The more germane questions, however, are where does the U.S. interest lie? Is the U.S. better off from lower or higher petroleum prices? What are the consequences of lower oil prices on America’s strategic interests around the world?
From the 1960s through 2013, the U.S. was the largest net importer of petroleum in the world. Lower petroleum prices were in America’s interest as they decreased the balance of payments deficit created by oil imports and represented savings to American households. Today, gasoline costs represent around 2% of average household income. So even significant reductions in gasoline prices are not going to represent a major change in a family’s income — certainly not in respect to the current economic turmoil.
Moreover, given that the U.S. is now a net exporter of oil and natural gas, lower prices reduce its export earnings. Additionally, over the last two decades, the U.S. shale oil industry has emerged as an important driver of economic development and a source of high-paying blue-collar jobs. On balance, the U.S. economy would be better off if prices returned to their -to- pre-crash levels than if they continue at their current depressed levels.
From Washington’s standpoint, the strategic implications of low oil prices around the world are mixed. On the one hand, low oil prices are a significant constraint on the Russian government and on the Kremlin’s ability to fund the expansion and modernization of Russian military forces. Russia needs oil prices at around a barrel or higher to balance its budget, and closer to to finance the more ambitious social and military programs that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to implement.
On the other hand, low oil prices threaten to destabilize countries that are American allies and to create new areas of regional instability or aggravate existing ones. This is particularly true of the Gulf region, but also of countries such as Nigeria and Mexico. Roughly one-third of Mexico’s federal budget comes from oil exports.
The average cost of producing a barrel of oil in the world is around . It’s a difficult number to pin down because operating costs are typically in local currency and are affected by exchange rates, as well as each country’s relative market share. Costs per country, however, can vary dramatically.
The U.K., whose North Sea oil fields are mature and declining, has a production cost of per barrel. Norway, whose oil fields are in a similar position, has an operating cost of .10 per barrel. On average, the amortization of capital costs typically represents about 50% of operating costs. Direct production, overhead, taxes and transportation costs represent the other half.
The U.S., where oil shale production represents two-thirds of output, has an equally high cost at .20. Brazil and Canada, whose new oil production is particularly capital intensive, have costs of .80 per barrel and per barrel, respectively. Russia’s average production cost is around .20, although the cost of new production, especially in its Arctic oil fields, is much higher.
At the other extreme, Saudi Arabia has a production cost of .90 per barrel, while Kuwait has the lowest production cost at .50. Across OPEC, the average production cost is probably between and per barrel. That means, at current prices, most OPEC producers’ costs exceed revenues after they factor in capital costs.
Only Iraq, Iran and the UAE have costs comparable to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. In short, current oil prices are unsustainable long term. Even those countries that can produce oil profitably at these levels cannot produce enough to make up in volume the revenues they need to fund government expenditures. In the short term, prices may drop even lower but, in the long term, low prices are both unsustainable and extremely destabilizing politically.
The trends that produced the current instability in petroleum markets are not new. They have been in process for some time. The COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated those trends and brought them to a culmination faster and more dramatically than would otherwise have been the case. Ironically, instead of dealing with the consequence of “peak oil” and skyrocketing prices, today we are dealing with too much production capacity and insufficient demand.
For much of its existence, OPEC has been an American nemesis, a position underscored in 1973 when the Arab members of OPEC (OAPEC) embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. in response to American aid to Israel. Historically, as a net consumer of oil, the U.S. wanted lower prices, while producers wanted higher prices. Today, however, it’s a different world, one in which the interests of OPEC and the U.S. are more closely aligned.
Prices in the to range are sufficient to keep the U.S. shale oil industry economic and afford OPEC members a basis of financial stability. It’s also in Russia’s interest, as it stabilizes the Kremlin’s finances, even if it falls short of Moscow’s more ambitious goals. In the meantime, the U.S. petroleum industry will continue to innovate and to bring down its shale oil production costs, while continuing to expand its liquefied natural gas export capability. Moreover, the U.S. would likely get Canada, Brazil, the U.K. and Norway to participate, even if unofficially, in such an arrangement. The Alberta provincial government is already limiting oil production.
In light of the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. and the global economy, stabilizing the oil market and a key American industrial sector would be a first step in repairing the economic damage. It’s time for Washington to make a deal with OPEC and Russia to stabilize the oil market, even if that means the U.S. must agree to some production cuts or export curtailment to ensure price stability.
Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.
Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.
Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.
Broggi jumped into action.
“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.
Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.
“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.
He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.
“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.
Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.
“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.
They just got creative.
“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.
Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.
“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.
One workout at a time.
To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.
You’re stuck at home, mail is at the ready, so why not get rolling on some home improvement projects that have long since been pushed to the backburner? After all, you finally have the time! Put this quarantine to good use!
Start by organizing. If you haven’t already Marie Kondo’d your entire house, now is a good time to start. Order new organizing bins online for new gear that comes from a safe distance. Just be sure to thank your delivery person by staying at least six feet away from them and their good deeds.
Next, you can paint! Home improvement brands are offering entire kits that come to your house, while local stores allow you to do a curbside pickup for all the necessary gear. If you own your home or have permission from the owner, paint away. Interior walls and decks make great afternoon projects. However, if you live on post, you’re better off sticking to DIY furniture remodels.
Landscaping is another great way to spend the day. Improve your home and enjoy the outdoors by planting flowers, adding rock, pulling weeds or even planting a garden. Better yet, you can spruce up your curb appeal, even when living on post.
It’s time to get your Pinterest on and start tackling your favorite projects. Everything you’ve been wanting to do, now is the time. Luckily, craft stores, too, are offering curbside pickup. Or order online and find some potential extra savings.
Finally, take a look at all the repair work you’ve been avoiding. Sure, these projects aren’t fun … that’s why you’ve avoided them in the first place. But think how accomplished you’ll feel once your home is back in working order.
What home projects have you completed during quarantine?