While it’s true that there is a nearly endless choice of craft beers these days — along with the ol’ standbys on the supermarket shelf — it’s a fact that there is something supremely satisfying about brewing up your own beer. Admittedly, you might not end up with results quite as tasty as those from the pros, but that’s not really the point.
It’s the joy of taking on an endeavor that’s part science experiment, part art, part a whole lot of patience (be aware that the entire process takes at least a month). The best part is, of course, ending up with a refreshing glass of beer straight from your very own home brewery when all’s said and done.
Like many hobbies, home brewing requires a fair amount of equipment before you can get started and that equipment — or at least a portion of it — is what beer-making starter kits come with in the box. With the majority of kits, you’ll need to add a few extra pieces yourself, but a kit is still a very convenient, and generally cost-efficient, way to gather up supplies.
Finally, you need beer ingredients: This is where the fun really starts. While you can visit a local brew shop and browse a vast assortment of ingredients, most beginners prefer to start with a kit. Ingredient kits typically contain the grain, sugar extracts, hops, flavorings, and yeast needed for beer production. You can find ingredient kits for a wide range of beer varieties, including many IPAs, but be aware that you’ll need to restock for each batch of brew.
With all that in mind, we sorted through the many homebrew kits out there to find you five of the best for the newbie on the brewing scene. Read on to see which of our top picks are best for your needs.
“Right now, tens of thousands of National Guard members are deployed to help us fight back against COVID-19, including those in critical medical specialties. Normally, they lead ordinary civilian lives as neighbors, coworkers, coaches and parents. However, when this crisis struck, they sprang into action as citizen soldiers and airmen, putting their lives on hold — and on the line — for our safety. If you appreciate those who are doing double duty to keep us safe, this is the time to donate!
Until the tide turns and our Guard troops can return to their families full-time, this will continue to be a huge and extremely stressful deployment. The extra comforts and support the USO can provide all of our deployed troops make a world of difference. Help us bring a little home to our heroes while they fight to keep our homes safe.”
Tricare is warning customers that scammers are preying on coronavirus fears to steal personal information by offering Covid-19 test kits.
As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States continues to climb, some Americans have growing concerns about the availability of testing. Nefarious actors, it seems, are taking advantage of that uncertainty by contacting people over the phone claiming to be Tricare representatives and offering Covid-19 test kits.
“The scam involves direct calls to beneficiaries with an offer to ship or sell COVID-19 testing kits. The calls include requests for personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank or credit card information,” the release states. “Beneficiaries should avoid any solicitation regarding a COVID-19 test kit by anyone other than their attending physician.”
Tricare will only provide Covid-19 test kits upon order from a physician, and currently physician orders require that a patient meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for a test.
Testing is authorized based on the clinical judgment of a provider, exposure, travel history and symptoms,” Tricare’s webpage reads.
“You must have an in-person or virtual telephone/video visit with a provider who will arrange testing in a military treatment facility (if MTF-enrolled) or in the private sector (if enrolled to the network provider with TRICARE Prime or if you’re using TRICARE Select or TRICARE For Life). If network, the cost of the test is covered in the cost of the visit itself.”
As a result of these scammers, Tricare is asking that any unusual or suspicious calls from people claiming to be Tricare representatives should be reported on their Fraud and Abuse page here.
There have been more than a half million confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection around the world thus far, with more than 23,000 deaths attributed to the disease. America recently crossed over the 75,000 confirmed cases mark, with more than 1,000 deaths.
Tricare beneficiaries can be tested for Covid-19 at no cost provided they meet Tricare’s aforementioned testing criteria.
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.
Our mothers put up with so much and they never get the credit or recognition they deserve. They carried us for nine months, spent every waking moment of our first few years diligently caring for us, and tried their best to make us our best. Then, after we turn 18, we go to war and we stop calling.
We rarely ask for their advice and often jump face-first into the very potholes they told us to avoid — and still, they couldn’t be any prouder.
This one goes out to all you lovely military moms out there. This is why you’re the best.
The “My child is an Airman/Soldier/Marine/Sailor” bumper sticker is far more impressive than any college.
(Photo by Cpl. Mackenzie Carter)
They’re brought into the military life while stuck with civilians
More often than not, our mothers don’t really get a say on whether we join the military. Sure, she’ll be a little disappointed when it finally sets in that their kid isn’t going to be a millionaire brain surgeon who can afford to buy her a beautiful mansion (sorry, mom, but we both knew that wasn’t going to happen with my high-school grades), but they’re still proud of their baby.
Next, they’re sucked into the military lifestyle and there’s no way of backing out. They’ll try to move on as if everything is normal, but they’ll find that their patience with civilian moms will quickly wear thin.
The pain is all worth it for the moment that plane lands, though.
(Photo by Capt. Richard Packer)
They’re heartbroken almost the entire time we’re gone
Deployments are rough on everyone. In our absence, friends we once knew change entirely and even some lovers fade away. But our mommas will always remain. They’ll never stop thinking of us as their babies.
Sure, most moms can keep their composure in front of others, but there isn’t a moment that goes by that they’re not thinking of us.
They may not get info on the exact moment you’re landing until just hours beforehand, but you can be certain they’ll be there!
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)
They go months without knowing if we’re okay
Communications blackouts are no joke. When something major happens, troops will be told to cut off all communication with the folks back home. These blackouts happen without notice.
Not to make everyone feel horribly guilty, but, uh… sometimes we tend to do this accidentally by using our few phone calls back home to check up on our significant other instead of letting our mothers know that we’re doing fine.
And in return, one of the few gifts we can give back is allowing them to pin rank on our uniforms. It may not seem like much but, to them, it means the world.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alana Langdon)
They’re always on-point with care packages
Without exception, care packages are loved and appreciated by deployed troops. It’s always nice when schools, churches, and other organizations send out the standard collection of socks, baby powder, and Girl Scout Cookies, but our moms know how to out-do everyone.
Our moms have read through every single article on the internet about care packages and what to put in them. They’ll toss in home-made cookies, personal photos, and things we’ll actually cherish while deployed. After all, mom knows best.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson)
They do everything in their power to keep you stress-free
If there’s one skill that every mother learns to master over 18+ years of childrearing, it’s how to handle insane and ridiculous problems. Putting out match-sized fires is nothing when they’ve learned to deal with forest fires.
You might realize it, but our moms are our best friends while we’re deployed. They’re our bakers, our financial advisers, our babysitters, our confidants, our emotional rock, and, if you’re like me and had the pleasure of enduring a deteriorating marriage while deployed, our enforcers (my mom is badass like that).
Above all, your mother is the one woman on this Earth who will love you most.
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.
It’s okay not to do anything. Right now, we’re living through history, which is both unpredictable and stressful. It’s also turning out to be a time when everyone feels pressure to do something more than what they’re doing.
Here’s the thing. You don’t need to learn a new language, take up complex model building or learn how to bake the perfect loaf of bread – especially if you weren’t already interested in doing those things. These are challenging times for everyone. From dramatic schedule shifts to suddenly learning how to become an at-home worker/teacher/caregiver, everyone is feeling the strain.
As a military community, changing on the fly is part of what we do – which is one of the reasons so many of us might feel like this new-normal isn’t too far from the old standard. There’s this huge push to making the most of the “extra” time that’s now available to us because we’re all forced to shelter in place.
Now more than ever, you deserve to give yourself a mental break. Military communities are adept at handling the unknowns that come with deployments, overseas postings, and other emergencies, but no one ever plans for a pandemic. Some of us might have schedules that aren’t as compressed, or you might have so much more on your plate because everyone is home, and no one is going anywhere.
Self-care means that you should take time to tend and nurture yourself, so you’re in the best mental space possible to care for others. There’s a reason that airlines tell us to secure our own masks first. It’s the most critical adage to remember as we continue to navigate these unknowable times.
No matter what your self-care looks like, from searching for the ends of the internet to binge reading listicles, the point is that it’s important you carve out some space for you. Remember that you don’t need to accept every single invite for streaming fitness classes or group meetings. There’s nothing wrong with saying no right now.
Not sure where to start? You’re not alone. The truth is that the path to mental rest is different for each of us. The simplest advice: pause and take a break. Evaluating how you’re feeling – especially when you’re stressed – is the first step to understanding how best to cope. One of the disadvantages of our very connected world is that we have access to content all the time. It’s okay to take a break from scrolling, refreshing, and reading the latest coverage about the current conditions.
Comparison is hard in our digital culture, but remember that your family setting and your life isn’t the same as others. Just because someone down the road is able to manage learning four new languages and is creating meals from scratch every day doesn’t mean you need to do that, too.
Research suggests that even just ten minutes of meditation a day can help improve your overall brain chemistry, which in turn might offer you the bit of respite you need during these challenging times. Check out this 10-minute mindfulness meditation channel.
Feeling pressured to be productive is as much a coping mechanism as it is a way to reimagine normalcy. The thing is, we might never return to a pre-COVID world, which means that this pandemic is likely to change the world completely. It’s going to change the way we move, connect, learn and build. Give yourself a chance to breathe, to accept that nothing is the same today as it was at the start of the year, and nothing will look the same come December.
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.
After thousands of Army retirees responded to a voluntary recall request for those in health care fields to help the service fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials quietly issued another call-out — this one to recently separated troops in the Individual Ready Reserve.
On March 29, the Army’s Human Resources Command sent messages to nearly 10,000 soldiers in the IRR asking for volunteers to put the uniform back on, Lt. Col. Emanuel OrtizCruz, an Army spokesman, confirmed to Military.com. The messages went out to those who had served in military occupational specialties including family nurse practitioner; critical care nursing; emergency nursing; nurse anesthetists; generalist nurse; and respiratory specialist, he said.
The newest voluntary recall request was issued just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the military services to recall members of the Selected Reserve and the IRR to active duty in light of the strain the global pandemic is placing on the force.
While each service has slightly different IRR parameters and requirements, troops typically join the IRR for a period of four or five years following the conclusion of their active-duty service. A service member may have a contract that stipulates four years on active duty, but a total mandatory service obligation of eight years; the balance of that service is completed in the IRR. Troops in the IRR receive no pay and don’t need to drill, but may participate in periodic muster events — and they must remain ready for the possibility of involuntary recall by presidential order.
The Army, however, is beginning by soliciting as many volunteers as it can to meet medical provider gaps created as a result of deploying mobile field hospitals to urban regions in the U.S. hardest hit by the virus.
“The U.S. Army is reaching out to gauge the interest of IRR Soldiers who would be willing to assist with COVID-19 pandemic response efforts should their skills and expertise be required,” OrtizCruz said.
It’s not clear how many soldiers the Army needs to fill its staffing gaps and whether it will be able to meet the need with a voluntary recall alone. To date, the service has ordered the deployment of three mobile field hospitals — each staffed with about 330 soldiers — to New York City and Seattle.
Human Resources Command, he said, is still processing and validating requests, and sorting them by specialty. It’s not immediately clear how long it will be before the first volunteers can re-don their uniforms. Lt. Gen. Raymond Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army, told reporters last week that the first step for the service would be to ensure that all volunteer qualifications and certifications are valid and up to date.
“Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission,” he said.
Over the course of four weeks in June, I flew seven flights on the largest airlines in the US including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
After on flight on Delta, two flights on American, two flights on United, and two flights on Southwest, I’ve been adequately reacquainted with flying having been grounded since February.
The experiences have been unlike anything I’ve seen before in a lifetime of flying with each airline having its own, unique way of handling the pandemic. No two airlines have been exactly alike on any of my journeys and seemingly ever-changing policies are creating confusion for passengers.
Social distancing, for example, has different definitions depending on what airline you fly on. Some airlines have chosen to block middle seats and limit capacity in an effort to achieve social distancing while others have given up entirely or only give the appearance of social distancing.
Here’s what you can expect on each airline.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Starting July 1, American began filling its flights to capacity and not blocking any middle seats. If a passenger is on a crowded flight, there is an option to change flights free of charge to an alternate flight, if there is one available.
Middle seats can be selected in advance and passengers flying in basic economy may be automatically assigned a middle seat, even if other aisle or window seats are available. Only check-in or gate agents typically have the power to change seat assignments if a passenger isn’t happy with their seat location.
American has not stated what factors determine whether the option to change flights is offered. The airline has been operating a reduced flying schedule so alternate flights have not always been available for passengers but an airline spokesperson told Business Insider that more flights being flown starting July 7 should give passengers more options.
American operates a normal boarding process and passengers still board in their assigned groups, which vary based on seat location, fare type, and elite status. First class still boards first and basic economy boards last, regardless of seat location.
This results in economy passengers in the back of the plane walking through an entire aircraft of people before arriving at their seat.
Signage at the gate informs passengers that masks are required and that the airline has adopted new cleaning standards but does not go into detail.
Onboard the aircraft
American is limiting the in-flight service depending on the duration of the flight. Flights under 2,200 miles will no longer have a snack or drink service with non-alcoholic canned or bottled beverages being served on request in economy.
Flights greater than 2,200 miles will see a beverage service but no snack service in economy. The airline will also not distribute wipes or hand sanitizer kits to passengers upon boarding or as part of the in-flight service.
Flight attendants on American are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Delta Air Lines
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Delta is blocking middle seats and certain aisle seats on its flights until September 30. Passengers who still do not wish to travel on a crowded flight even with the capacity restriction will have the option to request a free rebooking to a later flight, a Delta spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.
Delta is boarding its aircraft back to front with passengers being asked to remain seated until their row is called. Elite status holders and first class flyers can still board first.
Signage at the gate area informs passengers that aircraft are being “sanitized and inspected,” asks passengers to social distance, and reminds passengers that face coverings are required onboard the aircraft.
The airline has also installed placards both on the floor and in jetways at hub and outstation airports reminding passengers to social distance. In its Atlanta hub, Delta employees were distributing hand sanitizer to passengers of all airlines after the security checkpoint.
The traditional in-flight snack and beverage service has been replaced by flight attendants distributing a sealed bag containing snacks, a water bottle, and sanitary products.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
United is not blocking middle seats but won’t assign them until there are no more aisle or window seats to assign. Passengers on flights with greater than 70% capacity will have the option to change their flight for free but as United’s flying schedule has been reduced due to the pandemic, options are limited.
United is boarding its aircraft back to front with first class passengers and elites still boarding first. Economy passengers are boarded from the last row forward in groups of five rows.
Gate agents are asking passengers to scan their own boarding passes when they board to reduce interactions between staff and passengers. Every passenger is given a sanitary wipe when they step on the plane that can be used to clean the seat.
Signage at the gate area informs United passengers of the sanitary measures the airline is taking including requiring face masks to be worn and the new fogging procedures. The displays, however, were inconsistent and were only prominent at United’s hubs and not outstations.
United has suspended the in-flight snack and beverage service for shorter flights in economy, including those less than two hours and 20 minutes. Passengers can, however, request beverages from the flight attendant.
On flights longer than two hours and 20 minutes, passengers in economy will receive a snack bag that includes a sanitary wipe, water bottle, stroopwafel snack, and package of pretzels.
Flight attendants on United are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight change
Southwest is limiting capacity by around one-third so that there is only a maximum of two people in each row, with exceptions for family. The airline does not assign seats in advance.
Southwest is boarding its aircraft in groups of 10 based on a boarding number given at check-in. The system is similar to the airline’s current procedure except only 10 passengers line up and board at a time instead of 30.
Some airports were not following the rule of 10 procedure, as I found on a recent Southwest flight, and passengers who boarded first chose to sit in the front of the plane. As Southwest allows for open seating, this meant passengers boarding last would have to walk passed crowded rows of people.
There is some signage at the gate asking passengers to social distance and informing them of the new boarding procedure but no visuals or anything pertaining to the airline’s new cleaning procedure.
Southwest is suspending the in-flight service on flights under 250 miles. Passengers on flights over that threshold will receive a cup of ice water and a snack bag served by flight attendants.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Delta Air Lines is the clear winner here as nearly every aspect of a flight has been revised to become more passenger-friendly during this pandemic while not compromising too much on service. From placards and informational signage in the gate area to blocking middle seats and maintaining an in-flight service, albeit limited, Delta is leading the way in multiple aspects.
Southwest Airlines comes in a close second with the low-cost airline earning its reputation for good customer service even more so during this crisis. The only downsides were the boarding process, the lack of informational signage at the gate area that I found on most other airlines, and a lack of consistency in staff following the new procedures.
United Airlines is the second-runner up mainly because I found its policies to be more empty gestures than actually helpful. The airline is offering free flight changes despite having few back-up options and restricting the advance selection of middle seats rather than blocking them but are still allowing flights to fill up,
United did have some positives in that it revised its boarding procedure and offered sanitary wipes upon boarding but I did find a lack of consistency in informational signage at different airports. Flights on United were boring, above all, as the in-flight service was also suspended.
American Airlines was the least passenger-friendly airline I found on my travels with a complete lack of social distancing policies and abandonment of in-flight service on most of its domestic flights. It’s largely business as usual when flying on American as if there is no pandemic occurring, with the airline happy to assign middle seats to basic economy passengers when entire empty rows are available and keep the standard boarding procedure.
I will say, however, that all aircraft I flew on from all airlines were clean and I was never worried I was getting on a dirty aircraft.
Diego Urbina is an engineer who took part in an experiment conducted on the ground to simulate conditions of human isolation that could be faced in a future expedition to the planet Mars.
From his home in Brussels, where he has been confined for a week by the Coronavirus pandemic, Urbina provides some tips to resist these days’ “imprisonment”. Like millions of citizens around the world, Diego also lives with concern the current situation and tries to adapt his behavior to the new scenario created by COVID-19.
But Diego has a significant advantage: in 2010, along with five colleagues from the European Space Agency (ESA), he took part in the experimental mission MARS-500, a project that simulated a trip to Mars in which they stayed for 520 days inside a special complex (located on the Institute of Biomedical Problems’ site in Moscow), completely isolated from the outside world.
“It’s like a deja-vu, although today’s situation is clearly different, because this coronavirus is no longer a simulation. I believe that my experience during the MARS-500 mission can serve to give some advice on how to better organize and use our daily time,” Urbina explains.
“First we must be aware that now we will have a certain period of time at our disposal, which we had previously occupied in social activities (work, hobbies, sports). It can be heavy, but on the other hand we must see the benefit: we can take advantage of this time to study and learn new things. In our case, our 6-crew member team of MARS-500 didn’t have an internet connection and we could communicate externally only by email.
We only had books and few things, so that once our planned activities are finished we have 8 hours free each day. So I started studying Russian, to better communicate with my mission mates. And I also learned to draw; in the end I made some drawings and that made me very happy. These activities helped me to keep my mind more active, and a not falling into a spiral of laziness that caused damage in my daily activities, where we also simulated stressful situation, as a real space mission.
We read a lot: during year of MARS-500 mission I read about 30 books. Currently, however, in my daily life I have very little time to read. Remembering that period, I must admit that I miss having all that available time.”
According to Diego Urbina, it’s very important to organize the hours, so as not to interrupt the biological rhythms of the human body.
“In our case, we had no chance of being exposed to the sun. The lack of light alters the heart rhythms, so we were exposed to a special blue light. It also altered the metabolism, for which we were forced to take vitamin D. That’s why I recommend you take advantage of the daylight hours, perhaps by spending time near the windows. Since we are entering the months with more light of the year, this should not be a big problem.
It’s also important not to alter our sleep patterns. We have to set very regular times, to avoid getting up too late and doing nothing all morning, as it can negatively affect our sleep patterns. In the case of our MARS-500 project, we were trying various ways to organize daily activities.
For example, dealing with the cleaning activities, we understood that the best way was to do them one day a week, all together, at the same time, so it was also fun and broke the routine. In addition to doing new things every day, it’s also important to distribute the tasks, and at the same time alternate them.”
“For any space mission, physical exercise is mandatory, because in microgravity conditions the muscle tissue deteriorates very quickly if there is no physical activity. For people who are home these days for the COVID-19 emergency, this is a key factor. Here in Brussels jogging is allowed, but in places like Italy where this alternative doesn’t exist it’s possible to do many exercises in limited spaces, such as the living room at home.
If this current situation seems overwhelming to you, it may perhaps comfort you to know that during the simulated mission we faced additional difficulties that made it even more complicated: we had to take urine samples every day to keep our values in check; we didn’t have services such as internet connection or telephone (which now we take for granted); while we simulated the communications that will be made when we go to Mars we couldn’t speak directly to anyone else besides ourselves; and we haven’t seen sunlight for many months.”
“Our crew of the MARS-500 mission were alternately given some menus, always taking care that it was a healthy and varied diet. After eight months, however, we got a little bored with the food cycle. I therefore recommend changing dishes as much as possible. It’s also very important to limit the goodies, and don’t eat sweets every day, even if it’s tempting.
The positive side of the isolation period is that you don’t have such easy access to ‘junk food’ and that you can cook at home. In this way you have the opportunity to see what we are about to eat, know its nutritional value, and balance it well so as to be healthier after isolation.”
“In space missions, like a Mars trip, the possibility of conflicts between people is one of the greatest risks; which in a situation like the one we are living now can become relevant. We must learn to have a special patience. It’s quite complicated to manage conflicts, because there can be many different variables.
Our crew of the MARS-500 mission have been facilitated, because ESA psychologists had previously excluded potentially problematic people during selection phase. The technique we used during the 520 day isolation was not necessarily to sit around a table and talk to each other directly; when there was some friction, we tried to address issues less explicitly, doing nice things for each other. It’s an easy way to act, without the need to impose or criticize, to get everyone back in a good mood. In real life these days you have to be very tolerant, and understand the other person’s needs. We will probably be locked up for many days: there is no point in being in a bad mood with someone for the rest of the time.”
“When the simulation of the MARS-500 project was over, when we came out of isolation after having been so long without seeing anyone, without even seeing the sun, nature and animals, it was a very positive shock. We were able to see all those normal things again.
Even the simple sight of a tree was a marvel. The first time we saw the sun rise, heard a dog bark or looked after a child, it was an emotion.
Now it will be a little less intense, but for all of us it will still be a good opportunity to appreciate all the usual things we took for granted every day.
It certainly will be like this when this coronavirus emergency is overcome.”
A special thank you to Emiliano Guerra for translating the interview and to Antonio Martinéz Ron for allowing us to publish part of his article. Make sure you follow ESA MARS-500 crew member Diego Urbina on Facebook here and Twitter here.
I’m a Green Beret, US Army Special Forces. Right after I earned my green beret and reported to my unit for this first time, I found out we were going to combat in a few weeks and I would be leading a team of older, battle hardened green berets into battle. My commander told me right before he introduced me to my team, “You’re in command now…. Do something with it.”
Now, I’m a veteran and I find myself wearing a few hats – I’m a business owner, Executive Director of a non-profit, and author. COVID-19 has really hurt my companies – all of my business contracts this year are canceled / postponed. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its forced me to grow my hair out – I look like Moses from the ten commandments.
I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat.
What do you do? Do you sit and wait for something good to happen? Do you close shop and use COVID-19 as an excuse for why you failed?
Or do you follow my company commander’s advice and do something about it?
Things are tough for everyone.
People are feeling uncomfortable to say the least.
Let’s be honest about who we are and what we are experiencing. That feeling of discomfort isn’t something we should hide or pretend we’re not going through. Let’s embrace this deliberate discomfort and be vulnerable. Most of the time, we put up a front – we fake it until we make it. We’re pretending to be someone we are not. COVID-19 has given us a beautiful gift. This is a time where there’s no more faking. Its just us – stripped down – stressed out – trying to hold it together.
No more pretending that everything is fine.
Here’s what I believe – If COVID-19 is affecting you, I believe that YOU can do something about your situation. I believe you can dare to win by getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe that its only through discomfort that we find solutions, learn, grow, and improve. It’s only through deliberate discomfort that you can achieve your full potential.
In the past 8 years, my company has worked with 13 x NFL teams, MLB teams, and numerous corporate clients to identify, assess, and develop the leadership behaviors required to win. We help them to do this by showing them the DELIBERATE DISCOMFORT mindset.
Now I appreciate that you may not have served in the military, but I know that at some point all of you realize that something needs to change. I hope that you don’t wait for something bad to happen to be the person you were destined to be.
There are a million “experts” out there telling you to seek comfort, to look for the easy path. I’m telling you the opposite. I’m telling you to seek discomfort. To take the road less traveled. To be vulnerable. To dare.
I am looking at COVID-19 as a blessing. I took my company commander’s advice and did something. I transitioned my business model to online training. One of the ways we reach our tribe is through our best-selling book, Deliberate Discomfort: How US Special Operations Forces Overcome Fear and Dare to Win By Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.
If you want to learn more, Deliberate Discomfort is available in hardback and e-book on Amazon, Barnes Noble, and other book sellers. This week we are launching our e-book for a limited, one-week only .99 price.
The Defense Production Act will be used for the first time to secure critical supplies for the coronavirus fight on Tuesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor announced on CNN.
“We’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today,” he said, adding, “There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. We’re going to insert some language into these mass contracts that we have for the 500 million masks.”
Gaynor told John Berman on CNN’s “New Day” that the DPA would be used to obtain roughly 60,000 test kits. “We’re going to use it, we’re going to use it when we need it, and we’re going to use it today,” he said.
FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor says the agency will use the Defense Production Act “for the first time today” to secure 60,000 test kits.
The DPA gives the federal government the power to direct companies to prioritize production to meet US national defense demands.
President Donald Trump, facing pressure from lawmakers and others, tweeted on March 18 that he had signed the Defense Production Act, “should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario.”
The president has until now been unwilling to use the DPA. He and and other members of the coronavirus task force have suggested that companies are stepping up to offer supplies without the strong hand of the government forcing them to do so.
Trump continues to signal that he does not intend to fully use the DPA.
The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.
US associations representing doctors, nurses, and hospitals recently sent a letter to the president Saturday that said that “America’s hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses urge you to immediately use the DPA.”
The letter said this was necessary “to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front line providers so desperately need.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Monday that “we need the federal government to use the Defense Production Act so that we can get the medical supplies we desperately need,” adding, “We can’t just wait for companies to come forward with offers and hope they will.”
“This is a national emergency,” Cuomo said as New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, reports more than 20,000 coronavirus cases.
COVID-19 is here and schools have been cancelled across the country for weeks, even months. No matter if you are a working parent who is now teleworking or a stay at home parent with an unexpected long Spring Break, this list will help you get things done around the house without using copious amounts of screen time. All while saying screen time, especially education-focused learning, is important and a great tool to use within moderation.
Legos are a useful tool. When I give my boys a box of Legosand minimal direction they can play for hours. But when I can channel their energy into learning while playing, Legos become worth their weight in gold. Check out these 20 educational ways to use Legos. Even with all of these, the best way to use Legos is through free-play and imagination.
Depending on where you live the weather might not be ideal for going outside, but luckily Spring is almost here to stay, and even a 10-minute walk in the rain is a way to break up the schedule. On nicer days, send the kids outside to play. Some of my favorite games are race around the house, tag, sending the kids to find various objects in nature and puddle jumping in the rain. Make it a point to spend at least an hour outside each day. It will be good for you and the kids. Bonus if you can bring your laptop so you can get work done too.
Similar to Legos, but not as sturdy. One of my favorite things about Magna-tiles is that you can use them on the fridge to practice learning shapes and colors, but they are also great for building. Give your kids a theme and watch them use their imaginations. My boys especially love building rockets that we count down to blast off (aka total destruction of the said rocket).
Read Books Alone or Together
Even with a six and four year old, my boys can sit and read books for at least 30 minutes on their own. Sometimes longer. I often set a timer for the boys to read and then reward their independent time by me reading them a story. It gives them something constructive to do and allows me to get work done. And having a reward at the end of the time is an added bonus for them.
To be fair, not all art projects are created equally, but drawing with markers and crayons is a great way for kids to use their imaginations and keep them focused on a project for an extended period of time. You can leave it basic with coloring or go on Pinterest and become the art queen or king.
Last summer we had every intention of doing school work during the break, but life happened and the school workbooks we bought went unused. Luckily for us we still have them and each day we will be working through the workbook.
What ways are you finding to keep your kids entertained with this sudden life interruption? Has there been something that you have felt has helped you the most or are any of these suggestions something you want to try at home this week?