As a second grade teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Candice Fallon is always thinking about the spread of germs.
“My second graders aren’t the best at keeping germs to themselves,” Fallon told We Are The Mighty. “When I initially heard about coronavirus, I was concerned about the fact that it would spread so easily.”
When the novel coronavirus began circulating around Pennsylvania and the nation, Fallon’s senses heightened. She was no longer just worried about herself or her students.
Candice Fallon, like many schoolteachers, has transitioned to a Google Classroom during quarantine.
Courtesy of Candice Fallon
“I was worried about bringing home any germs to my son as he has asthma,” she shared, referencing her toddler son, Tristan.
Almost immediately, Fallon’s school shuttered and she transitioned into an online teaching platform, a routine that was entirely new to the 31-year-old educator.
“Initially, we were sending emails to parents of activities that they could do online,” Fallon explained. “After two weeks, we switched over to all online education. We moved to all teachers having a Google classroom and all teachers pushing out lessons through an educational resource called Clever-Edmentum. Each week, I push out instructions online for all subjects: reading, writing, math, science/social studies. Prior to this, I had no knowledge of how to use Google classroom. It has been a lot of work setting that up and keeping in contact with parents, trying to get them all connected to our new classroom.”
Just one example of a virtual lesson for her second grade class.
Courtesy of Candice Fallon
Though she makes it seem effortless, Fallon’s pivot in teaching is just a small part of how COVID-19 has impacted her central Pennsylvania family.
“My husband lost his job due to his employer closing temporarily, so that has been a challenge figuring things out financially,” she said. “In addition, both my parents are still working. My mom is a nurse and my father is semi-retired and works part time at a grocery store.”
Fallon’s father, Scott Heller, works in the produce department at his local Giant Food Store.
“When COVID-19 first arrived in Pennsylvania, I didn’t think it would shut the whole state down,” he told We Are The Mighty. “But I can see why they have done so to stop the spread of the disease. It appears that it may be working.”
Fallon shared that his employer encourages them to wear masks to help protect themselves while working and that shoppers have similar lists.
“Everyone wants the same few items: toilet paper, Lysol wipes and meat,” Scott Heller explained. “These products sold out as quickly as they came in. As time has passed, Giant has gotten many items back into stock, but you can tell people are buying more than usual because they don’t plan on returning to the store as often. People that would typically shop once a week now are coming every two or three weeks.”
On the other side of the front line, Heller’s wife, Bonnie, works as an operating room nurse at the local hospital.
As an operating room nurse, Bonnie still reports to work everyday.
“A nurse is always on the front lines,” Bonnie Heller shared. “The hospital is never closed. Once the governor shut things down, the hospital stopped all elective surgeries. With the operating room being slow, I was told I may be asked to work elsewhere in the hospital. I want to help and enjoy taking care of others.”
Through it all, Fallon shares that the hardest part of handling coronavirus hasn’t been transitioning to a virtual classroom or teaching preschool to her son, but the missed quality time with her parents.
“It’s been hard not to see family,” she said. “My son has asthma and loves spending time with his grandparents. Since they are still working, we cannot see them in person due to possibly sharing germs. We are doing lots of FaceTiming.”
Fallon’s parents agree.
“It’s hard not being able to spend time with the ones you love,” Bonnie Heller added. “I am hopeful that it will end sooner than later.”
As more and more states issue mandatory lockdowns and stay-the-f@$% home orders in the wake of COVID-19, people are finding any and every app they can to try and stay connected. While we’re all wishing we would have bought stock in these services in December, we’re just grateful they exist so we can have a beer with a buddy via a screen. Here are our favorite 6 apps for video chatting.
If you’ve all of a sudden found yourself homeschooling or working from home (bottoms up if it’s both!), then you’re probably already familiar with Zoom. Used for meetings, webinars and group conferencing, Zoom has a lot of great built in features for everything from the online classroom to an office happy hour. Share your screen, raise your virtual hand to be called upon and even customize your background so it looks like you’re sitting on a beach instead of hiding in your laundry room. Or, better yet, fancy yourself on the set of Top Gun: Maverick, which premieres this summer.
This is a no brainer if everyone has an iPhone. With a quick press of the button you can easily video chat with up to 31 other fellow Apple-loving users. But, let’s be honest: we all have that one friend or family member who insists that their Android takes better pictures. Fine Susan, we’ll all download a new app just so you can be included.
Houseparty is where it’s at. Simple to use with a visually pleasing layout of your fellow party goers (have up to eight in your party at a time), there are even fun little games to play while you’re using the app if you want to for the ultimate social distancing game night. When one of our neighbors had a birthday, we poured a glass of champagne and toasted our friend on Houseparty.
It’s easy to create groups and notifications so that you’ll always know when your party people are “in the house” and you can see what party they’re in. This is either super convenient or the most FOMO-inducing feature we’ve ever seen on the interwebs.
Yes, Skype is still around! We know you might have flashbacks to a frozen screen circa 2005 while you were downrange, but the technology and ease has made vast improvements since Skype’s early days. Chat with up to 50 people at a time, leave voicemails, share pictures and you can even still use that same screen name that you had back in the day.
5. Google Hangouts
Whether you want to livestream your Crossfit WOD in solitude or have 250 friends in a chat (COVID-19 wedding, anyone?), Google Hangouts is making it possible. With interactive features like posting statuses, GIFs, emojis, stickers and more, Google Hangouts is being widely praised for extending their premium capabilities to all users for freeeeeeee.
Who knew that everyone’s favorite filter app had video chat capability? Well, apparently kids these days. This popular app allows you to connect 15 users at a time and still has the fun filters for which it’s known. Which is extra helpful in the era of not knowing what day it is or how many days since you’ve washed your hair.
No matter what app you turn to, stay connected while keeping your social distance.
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.
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?
The Pentagon’s top leaders said Thursday they can see a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that the U.S. military remains a force in readiness, with fewer than 2,000 cases out of more than two million troops available to support contingency operations.
During an internet broadcast Thursday morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned adversaries that it would be a “terrible, tragic mistake if they thought that … [they] can take advantage of any opportunities … at a time of crisis.”
“The U.S. military is very, very capable to conduct whatever operations are necessary to defend the American people,” Milley said. “We will adapt ourselves to operating in a COVID-19 environment. We are already doing that.”
As of Thursday, 1,898 service members had confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 389 soldiers, 367 airmen, 164 Marines, 597 sailors and 381 National Guard members.
Given that the Defense Department has 2.3 million troops, including the National Guard and reserve components, the services are “ready today and will be ready tomorrow,” Milley said.
“I’m absolutely confident that we are very ready to handle any mission that comes our way,” added Defense Secretary Mark Esper during the broadcast. “Why is that? It’s because our commanders and NCOs have taken measures to protect our members.”
Less than .09 percent of U.S. forces have confirmed COVID-19 infections, and nearly all are “mild or moderate” cases, according to Esper. Sixty-four service members have been hospitalized for the coronavirus.
By contrast, .13 percent of the U.S. population have confirmed cases of the illness.
“We also have far, far, far smaller numbers of hospitalizations. …. I attribute that to the measures we took very early on, going all the way back to 3 February when we issued our first guidance to the field in regard to health protection,” Esper said.
According to Esper and Milley, the DoD has more than 50,000 service members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes 29,400 National Guard members, as well as 17,000 members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and thousands of military medical personnel.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Thursday that many of the military medical personnel are now serving in civilian hospitals, filling in for staff members who have become ill or need rest — especially in hard-hit areas like New York City.
The strategy is a switch from the initial intent for military health professionals to treat patients transported to field hospitals such as the Javits Center in New York, he said.
“We have thousands of reservists — medical professionals — deployed all over the country from their normal lives at home to the middle of New York City, in hours or days, leaving their families, leaving their homes, running toward the trouble,” Hyten said.
Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.
A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.
The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.
Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Infections Could Be Higher
Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.
Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.
Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.
In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.
The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.
The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.
Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.
The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea in June. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier. PHILIPPINE SEA (June 1, 2020) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea June 1, 2020. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier)
When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.
In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.
“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”
Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.
“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”
Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.
Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:
Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.
Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
Minimize contact with delivery personnel.
Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.
“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.
“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”
Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.
Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.
Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”
As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.
“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”
Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.
“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”
As America works quickly to find ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it might not always be easy to know which industries are being affected and in what ways. Restaurants are offering takeout, cable companies are giving rebates on data usage, and the mail… well, the mail is working just like it always has. And for good reason.
Some people have expressed concerns that the coronavirus known as Covid-19 seems to have a fairly long survival window on hard surfaces like kitchen counters, so it seems feasible that one could be exposed to Covid-19 through a letter or package they receive. Others have worried that isolation procedures could disrupt delivery of mail and other shipments. Fortunately, most of these concerns can be readily dismissed.
So, here are some frequently asked questions, along with expert-backed answers.
Q:Is it safe to send and receive mail or packages amid the coronavirus outbreak?
A: Yes, according to the CDC and WHO.
Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has already considered our concerns about viral transmission through the mail. They point out that the likelihood that the virus could potentially survive throughout the duration of shipping is so small, there’s really no risk associated with sending or receiving packages.
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” the CDC website reads.
The CDC aren’t the only ones saying mail is safe to send and receive. The experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) have echoed the CDC’s sentiments in their own releases.
“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” the WHO said.
Q: Are mail rooms shutting down at basic training?
A: No, and if that changes, we’ll let you know right away.
Sandboxx News’ close relationship with Sandboxx Letters gives us a unique insight into how the letters apparatus runs, and just how closely our friends on the Letters side of the business keep in touch with the mail rooms at basic training installations all around the country.
Sandboxx’s operations team have been working double time to keep open lines of communications with mail rooms around the force, making sure they’ll be the first to know if there’s an issue and relaying the updates to Sandboxx’s executive leadership, Customer Happiness team, and us at Sandboxx News.
“Under normal operations we call every mailroom that we ship to across all 5 branches of the military once a month,” explains Bobby Vigil, Sandboxx’s Operations Manager and a Marine Corps infantry veteran. “Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have been calling mailrooms once a week and will continue doing so, so we can stay on top of any changes made to base operations.”
The mail printing procedure at Sandboxx is also particularly safe for a number of reasons. Most of the Sandboxx staff has switched to working remotely, so the operations crew has limited exposure to others. The process of printing and even stuffing the letters into envelopes is all handled by machines, so there’s very little chance for issues to arise.
Sandboxx Letters works with FedEx for to ensure rapid delivery. You can see what they’re doing to make sure packages get through on their site here.
Q: Will mail be delayed because of the coronavirus?
A: It isn’t now, but we’ll let you know if that changes.
It may be safe to send and receive letters, but many have found themselves wondering if letters will still reach their destination in a normal amount of time amidst all the changes businesses have made to minimize the spread of Covid-19.
At least for now, the answer is that things are progressing more or less as usual. Letters are still being delivered in the usual amount of time through the regular postal service, and most letters sent through Sandboxx will still reach basic training the next day, just like always.
Of course, this is one answer that may change over time. As America continues to manage this outbreak, some services may run into delays. Remember that if delays do come, they’re likely the result of ensuring the safety of the package carriers.
Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.
Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.
Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.
Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.
Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.
When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”
But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.
“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”
While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”
When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”
Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”
Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”
One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.
If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.
Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.
Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.
Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.
The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.
Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.
For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:
We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.
The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.
After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”
The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.
Every day we use words and phrases, yet we rarely take the time to think about what they mean.
For example, think about the phrase, “Spending time”.
Typically we when we talk about spending, we use it in the context of time or money. However, we treat both very differently. We’re stingy with our money, spending days or weeks mulling over how we want to spend, save it or invest it. We track it down to the penny in our checkbooks or online checking accounts.
But time is different. Many of us don’t think twice about how or where we spend it. We get in a routine or let life happen and then all of a sudden, time is spent. As a result, we neglect important relationships, miss out on great achievements or let ourselves go physically, mentally and emotionally. Then, one day we look in a mirror and ask ourselves where the time went.
This isn’t a 21st century problem; this is a human problem. The Stoic Philosopher Seneca commented on time wasters almost 2000 years ago, writing:
“Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind…No person hands out their money to passerby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”
In addition to treating time differently than money, there is another major difference between the two: We can always earn more money, but as Tim Urban points out on his blog Wait But Why, “Time is finite.” Once it is gone, it is gone. We can’t get it back.
He emphasizes the preciousness of time by saying the weeks of our lives are like a fine gem. If you multiply the volume of a .05 carat diamond by the number of weeks in 90 years (4,680) it adds up to under a tablespoon. We have to be deliberate about what we do with each carat – each day – each week – because they will quickly disappear.
So we have a choice.
Time can be wasted or it can be a powerful force multiplier. We can either focus on the fatalistic aspect of time, or we can use this awareness to motivate ourselves into doing something with the time we are given. Small investments of time in relationships, a skill or toward a goal can add up and produce amazing results. Our relationships can be more rewarding, we can achieve things we once thought were too daunting and all we have to do is spend our time wisely.
For example, the author Stephen King has written over 60 novels and over 200 short stories. When asked about his productivity he said,
“One word at a time…It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherf*cker from space without a telescope.”
Time is what I’m thinking a lot about as I sit at home during this uncertain period in America. I’m not sure how long social distancing will last or how long the gyms, restaurants, and schools will be closed. I only know that I don’t want to get to the end of this –weeks or months from now and have nothing to show for my time.
So, I guess my advice to myself and to you over the next several weeks is to remember: One word at a time. One workout at a time. One moment at a time with a loved one. It adds up and it is time well spent.
Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.
RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?
Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.
RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?
Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.
I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).
These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.
So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.
RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?
Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.
RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?
Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.
RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?
Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.
RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?
Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.
The United States Postal Services has been in the news lately as they, just like the rest of us, are feeling the impact of the economy. Now, there’s a way to support everyone’s buddy the USPS and a cause more than worthy of your support: PTSD.
In late March, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, issued the following statement after House Democrats introduced a stimulus package with emergency funds to save the Postal Service from imminent bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus crisis:
“The Postal Service is in need of urgent help as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House. Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America’s help, and we must answer this call.”
According to the Postal Service, it is facing a potentially drastic direct effect in the near term on mail volumes and could be forced to cease operations as early as June.
A halt in Postal Service operations could have grave consequences across the country. For example, the Postal Service delivered more than a billion shipments of prescription drugs last year, and that number is expected to grow rapidly as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
These negative effects could be even more dire in rural areas, where millions of Americans are sheltering in place and rely on the Postal Service to deliver essential staples.
In addition, more than 25% of votes cast in recent elections are distributed through the mail and are critical to America’s democracy.
The resources included in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, would:
provide a billion emergency appropriation;
eliminate the Postal Service’s current debt; and
require the Postal Service to prioritize medical deliveries and allow it flexibility to meet crisis conditions.
So, how can you help? Buy stamps. And, for 10 cents more than a regular stamp, you can buy a “Healing PTSD” stamp. The additional cost is diverted to fundraising efforts for veterans with PTSD. The photo depicted is by Mark Laiata and is an illustration of a green plant sprouting from the ground, covered in fallen leaves. The image is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, growth and hope.
“The Postal Service is honored to issue this semi-postal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD,” David C. Williams, vice chairman on the service’s board of governors, said in a press release issued when the stamp was introduced in December. “Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”