In April 1944, my grandmother, Elaine Harmon, traveled to Sweetwater, Texas to begin her training as one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. These 1,102 women pilots volunteered to fly military aircraft for the Army within the United States. By doing so, they freed up male pilots for the crucial role to fly combat missions overseas to maintain constant pressure from the sky against enemies in Europe and the Pacific. The mortality rate for combat aircraft crews was high.
Although they avoided enemy fire while flying within the United States, the WASP still lost 38 women who died in airplane accidents. Flying as test pilots, ferrying airplanes from factories to bases and providing a moving target for teenage ground gunners to learn the art of anti-aircraft fire still carried risks.
“We did something great that was needed for the war effort,” my grandmother used to say about her flying days for the United States Army in 1944. She volunteered because she loved her country and wanted to use her needed skill as a pilot to help out the war effort. Many women during that era did not even drive cars. Those women who could not enter the cockpits of Army planes, instead, built those planes and became known as “Rosie the Riveter,” the face of a famous wartime poster encouraging that, “We Can Do It!”
Roughly 12% of Americans served in the armed forces during World War II. The rest of the population, from small children to the elderly, found ways to pitch in too. Professional sports were suspended. People collected tires, bottles, cans and scrap metal. They submitted to government-induced rationing of many products from gasoline to meat.
I once told a friend who was praising the contributions of my grandmother that I may never do anything as trailblazing as what she had done, but if it meant that during my lifetime we did not have to suffer through another world war, I was content to be “normal.” Less than half a percent of Americans serve in the armed forces these days. While the United States, like other nations, has been at war for many years now and more than 7,000 servicemembers have died, the nature of these wars do not constitute a world war.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website defines a pandemic as, “a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people sustainably. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.” COVID-19 is the illness that manifests from the novel coronavirus that appeared in 2019 and is spreading globally. The CDC estimates that “most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus” over the next several months. There is currently no available vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.
Tragically, instead of a world war, we now have a pandemic whose possible death toll could far exceed the 405,000 American service members who died in World War II. More than 10,000 people worldwide have already died, at least 214 of those in the United States. The numbers are likely to rise exponentially as the virus spreads.
As during World War II, everyone can play a role in the success or failure of the efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus. Professional sports are suspended. Each day we learn new characteristics of this illness, one being that people who feel fine may be transmitting the virus. Accordingly, states are closing schools, reducing or eliminating business trading hours and asking everyone to move around town as little as possible and stay home. These emergency declarations and requests are done with the assumption that most people will eventually be exposed but the best way to reduce the accompanying number of deaths is to “flatten the curve” – not overwhelm hospitals all at once with patients exceeding their capacities of care.
Each of us has an opportunity right now to do “something great.” It doesn’t require spending our time from dusk until dawn sweating as we carry old tires to a rubber collection area or traversing town searching for bottles, cans, and scrap metal. All we have to do is stay at home.
These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.
This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.
I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:
MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.
Schedule video conference calls.
Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.
Create a virtual water cooler.
Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.
Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.
Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!
Dedicate a space.
This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.
Don’t neglect hygiene.
Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.
This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 110,000 with almost 1.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Russia on April 12 reported the largest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, as the authorities announced restrictions on Easter church services in and around Moscow to contain the spread of the disease.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which will observe Easter this year on April 19, ordered churches to close their doors to large groups during the holy week leading up to the holiday.
Meanwhile, Russia’s coronavirus crisis task force reported 2,186 new coronavirus cases in the country, raising the total number to 15,770.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 24 to 130, it said.
The official tally has been doubted by critics in Russia and abroad, who suspect the number is being undercounted by health authorities.
Moscow and many other regions have been in lockdown for nearly two weeks, but Russian officials on April 11 warned of a “huge influx” of new coronavirus infections and said that hospitals in the Moscow area were quickly nearing capacity.
“We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a television interview.
Peskov described the situation in both Moscow and St. Petersburg as “quite tense because the number of sick people is growing.”
Authorities and doctors in Bulgaria are urging citizens to stay home and pray in their homes for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services.
Churches have remained open in Bulgaria despite the coronavirus outbreak. Services at major churches are due to be broadcast live for worshippers.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on April 11 that churches will remain open, saying many people were desperate and in low spirits. He, however, urged Bulgarians to stay home.
“A difficult decision but I am ready to bear the reproaches,” Borisov told reporters.
“The bishops told me that there are many people who are in low spirits, desperate. So I just cannot issue such an order [to close churches],” he added.
Thousands attend Easter church services in the Balkan country.
Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips are banned.
The country has so far reported 669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 28 deaths.
Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen by 117 in the past day to 4,474, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on April 12.
The country has recorded 71,686 cases of the coronavirus that causes the disease, Jahanpur added. Some 1,657 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, he said.
Iran has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. Many Iranian and international experts think Iran’s government, which has been criticized for a slow initial response, is intentionally reducing its tally of the pandemic.
Ten thousand graves have been dug in a new section of the Behesht Zahra cemetery south of the Iranian capital to deal with coronavirus deaths, an official with Tehran’s municipality was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA on April 12.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that restrictions on travel between cities within each province in the country have been lifted.
He said restrictions on travel between provinces will be lifted on April 20.
In the past days, Tehran has reopened some “low-risk” businesses in most parts of the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran, where they will reopen from April 18, official media have reported.
Iranian authorities have called on citizens to respect health protocols and social-distancing measures as the country struggles to curb the deadly outbreak.
The government is concerned that measures to shut down businesses and halt economic activities to contain the outbreak could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.
The United States has offered humanitarian aid to Iran, but the country’s leaders have rejected it and demanded that sanctions be lifted.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to international stakeholders for urgent debt relief for Pakistan and other developing countries to help them deal more effectively with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video message released by the Foreign Ministry on April 12, Khan said that “highly indebted countries” lack “fiscal space” to spend both on the fight against the virus and on health and social support.
He said he appealed to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions, and the secretary-general of the United Nations to get together to announce a debt relief initiative for developing countries.
Pakistan has recorded 5,232 coronavirus cases, with 91 deaths.
The South Asian nation’s already struggling economy has been hit hard by nationwide lockdowns that have brought economic activity to a halt.
Pakistan is more than 0 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spends the largest chunk of its budget on servicing its debt.
In his Easter sermon, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, urged Armenians to display “national unity” in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Leading the Mass at an empty St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan on April 12, Garegin called on “the sons and daughters of our nation in the homeland and in the diaspora to give a helping hand to our government authorities in their efforts to overcome the difficult situation created by the pandemic.”
He also called for global solidarity to contain the spread of the virus and what he described as even greater “evils,” including “materialism,” poverty, and armed conflicts.
The Mass, broadcast live on national television, was attended by only two dozen clergymen and a smaller-than-usual choir.
After the service, Garegin blessed a small group of believers who had gathered outside Armenia’s largest cathedral.
Sunday services in all churches across Armenia have been held behind closed doors since the government on March 16 declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which has officially infected 1,013 people in the South Caucasus country and killed 13.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has restricted church attendance on weekdays and instructed parish churches to live-stream liturgies online, when possible.
We knew the members of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M*A*S*H) were well-equipped to handle any situation, but this new hybrid from five episodes of the popular 1970s series is showing us how to handle COVID-19 as well.
While the sun may have set after 11 seasons on the beloved characters stationed in South Korea during the Korean War, their advice on everything from how to wash your hands, hoarding in a time of toilet paper shortage and social distancing seems almost prophetic.
In the M*A*S*H montage put together by Frank Vaccariello, we see unbelievably timely themes: How to wash your hands from the episode, “Fade In, Fade Out,” social distancing from the episode,”Cowboy,” don’t touch your face from the episode, “War of Nerves,” working from home from the episode, “Hepatitis,” and yes, even a toilet paper shortage from the episode,”Crisis.”
When asked what prompted his creativity, Vaccariello said that he started comparing the guidance the nation is receiving on protecting ourselves from COVID-19, to scenes from M*A*S*H in his head. “I have been a M*A*S*H fan since the days it originally aired,” he said in an interview with WATM. “I loved the show, the writing and the acting. I can actually be said to be more of a M*A*S*H freak,” he admitted. “I had intended just to make a couple memes, but then last Saturday morning I woke up and decided to create the video.”
If working out from home is bumming you out, it’s time to suck it up and work hard anyway. This time in quarantine will separate the winners from the losers and the wheat from the dang chaff.
I get it, working out where you sleep and watch Netflix sucks. But no one knows how long this will last and if you want to have some level of fitness at the end, you’ll have to make the most of the situation.
If you’re finding it difficult to establish a workout routine at home, here are a few ideas to get back on track.
Even though this is the simplest and most obvious idea on this list, you need to make a plan.
The main problem when you’re locked in your home is that it’s way too easy to convince yourself to sleep an extra hour or watch that next episode. If you’re alive and sentient at all, you know how easy it is to rationalize getting that workout in tomorrow instead of now.
If you want to come out of this pandemic in decent shape, make a plan to train daily and stick to it. Even 10 minutes of dedication each day will eventually lead to more.
As you would with gym workouts, make a plan that establishes the type of workout you’ll do, the body parts you’ll hit, and the end goals of each workout. With a plan, you’ll be less likely to skip out.
Or better yet get out of the house and go to an open and spacious space that you can train at.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale
Set up a workout area
Almost everyone knows that stepping into a gym means go time. You’ve invested time, money, and effort to be there. These factors make getting into the groove much easier.
But training where you live and sleep can be challenging.
If this describes your situation, set up a specific area for your training, and keep your equipment there.
By dedicating specific space to your workouts, you’ll no-doubt be able to create a different mindset once you step into that “gym” area. This mindset can help you challenge yourself and get the most out of your workouts.
Not to mention, walking past that gym area can help remind you of the importance of your fitness goals. This reminder will help motivate you and make it less likely that you’ll skip a workout.
1000 squats… not my favorite challenge but definitely not the worst thing I’ve ever heard of.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale
Decide on new goals to pursue
If you had specific fitness goals before this mandatory lockdown, you probably feel a bit defeated, especially if you were making some serious progress.
No one knows how long you’ll be without your standard equipment. Instead of sulking about your lost gains, pick something new and incredibly challenging to achieve.
Maybe you’ve been slacking on your runs. Fortunately, exercise is considered “essential,” during this quarantine as long as you keep your distance from others. What if you decided on specific running and endurance goals?
What if instead, you set crazy goals like lunging a full mile or performing 1,000 bodyweight squats in less than an hour? Do you think you could?
Even though these goals might not have been what you envisioned, stuff happens, and times change. Suck it up and figure out a new way to be your best self.
There’s no wrong way to get your family involved as long as you aren’t a dick. There’s no reason to make family life harder than it already is.
Photo by Graham Snodgrass
Get your family on board
Last but not least, if you have roommates or live with your family, try to get them on board with your workouts.
On top of promoting a healthy lifestyle and promoting quality family time, exercising with others can make the process much easier.
While not a guarantee, implementing an exercise routine that includes everyone is an excellent way to establish a workout routine. Plus, it can be fun if you’re not in drill instructor mode.
With any luck, you’ll come out of this quarantine with a new vision, strengthened family bonds, and new achievements on your belt. That’s a win-win-win.
We all know Nine Line Apparel. We wear the gear, we have seen the amazing social media content and perhaps most importantly, we have seen them support the veteran community time and time again.
Well they are coming in clutch once again.
Nine Line announced that they will be shifting operations to produce and distribute masks for doctors and nurses who are working around the clock to care for Americans during the coronavirus outbreak that has gripped the nation. There has been a shortage of masks across the country; hospitals have resorted to using ultraviolet light to ‘clean’ and reuse masks. The most commonly used mask, the N95 mask, is supposed to be used only once. Every time a doctor or nurse sees a patient, they are supposed to discard the mask and use a new one for a different patient.
One big issue is that a lot of masks are being sent from China. With the high demand of masks combined with pricing changes from Chinese manufacturers, there is now a scarcity for nurses and doctors. Masks that used to cost just 70 cents are now being billed at each. And the materials to make the mask that cost ,000 a ton have now seen an increase to 0,000 a ton according to Nine Line Apparel founder and CEO Tyler Merritt.
According to a statement Nine Line put out, the estimated number of masks needed in the next few months will be between 1.7 and 3 billion, but the country currently has a stockpile that only numbers in the millions.
Merritt went on Fox and Friends to discuss what Nine Line was planning on doing.
This outbreak strikes close to home for Merritt, like many Americans.
“I’m an engineer, I’m also a former Army officer, I’m also a member of the special operations community, I’m also the son of a person who will die if he contracts this, I’m also the son of a nurse, I’m also the father of children who could potentially die,” said Merritt. “So, this is not about money. This is about coming together, cutting through the red tape. This is also about identifying those horrible, massive conglomerates that are hoarding materials.” Partnering with Bella+Canvas out of Los Angeles, Nine Line is working to circumvent the red tape from the government as well as corporate conglomerates who may be using this pandemic for financial gain.
Merritt’s vision is to create and sell (at cost) a mask similar or better than the N95 mask and distribute the Personal Protective Equipment to hospitals and health care workers around the country. This mask would be made out of apparel fabric and would be created by both Bella+Canvas and Nine Line using the equipment that makes those awesome shirts that you and I wear.
Nine Line says they can shift operations and create up to 10 million masks in the next few weeks but are limited by waiting on the FDA. They are looking for help from the federal government to speed up testing of their mask and approve it so they can mass produce it and get them to hospitals ASAP.
Nine Line does have a mask (not for hospital use) that is selling to the public which can be purchased here.
Thanks for thinking outside the box and once again, doing your best to serve the public, Nine Line! Bravo.
According to the Small Business Association, over 99% of America’s businesses are small businesses and employ nearly half of U.S. employees. Nearly 10% of all U.S. businesses are majority-owned by veterans.
In normal economic times, only half of small businesses survive their first five years. In fragile economic times, that number is much higher.
There has been a lot of attention on small businesses lately, but those of us in the military community need to take extra steps to support veteran-owned businesses specifically. We can’t let out veteran entrepreneurs fail during these months. It is not only about supporting one or two businesses, but the entire cycle of veteran employment – veteran-owned businesses are 30% more likely to employ other veterans.
Here are five ways to support veteran entrepreneurs right now:
Call your local USO and ask if they know any veteran-owned businesses in the area. Veteranownedbusiness.com has a database of businesses by category and state. The American Veteran Owned Business Association also has a list. Consider these businesses not just for your personal needs, but for your business’s needs as well. A lot of these businesses are B2B (business to business) instead of B2C (business to consumer).
Don’t forget about military spouses.
A lot of active-duty servicemembers have spouses who are business owners, and they count on that money to make ends meet. Use your military network (Facebook groups, email list, etc.) to ask around about spouse businesses that might be struggling. This includes artists and creators who have lost their source of income. You can find them through the Military Spouse Fine Artists Network.
Spread the word.
Use your social media to spread the word about supporting small veteran-owned businesses. I have had great success getting the word out about businesses I like using Nextdoor, a local neighborhood app where neighbors can recommend services and businesses. If you find a business you like, mention them by name specifically.
Buy gift cards.
A lot of restaurants and gyms are owned by veterans or military spouses, and they’re among the businesses struggling the most right now. Do an online search or ask around to see if any of them are selling gift cards for future use. What they need most of all is a cash influx to sustain them right now.
Identify nonprofits that are investing in veteran entrepreneurs.
The PenFed Foundation, for example, has a Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program that invests in veteran-owned businesses. VetFran support veterans in franchising. Warrior Rising was founded by combat vets and provides grants and mentorship to veteran entrepreneurs. All of these nonprofits count on the support of donors to help the veteran community.
Offer your mentorship.
If you are a business owner or have experience in business consulting, volunteer your time. You can become a mentor to a veteran-owned business through Warrior Rising, ementorprogram.org, or SCORE.
While active-duty military are fortunate to have a steady paycheck and healthcare right now, many reservists, veterans and spouses don’t. The military and veteran communities have to support each other. Do what you can to find someone you can help during this time. Even if you can only give $20 or 20 minutes of your time, it’s worth it.
Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.
Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.
Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.
Broggi jumped into action.
“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.
Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.
“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.
He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.
“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.
Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.
“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.
They just got creative.
“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.
Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.
“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.
One workout at a time.
To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.
As states lift restrictions around the novel coronavirus, many of us are eagerly wondering: is it safe to travel right now?
The answer depends on many variables, namely, how you plan to do so, where you want to go, the rates of infection in your chosen destination, and your anticipated behavior once you arrive.
For example, driving your own car and renting a house where you’re the only inhabitant is quite different from entering a crowded airport, boarding a plane, and checking-in to a large resort.
Ultimately, resuming travel without a vaccine will come down to the level of risk that makes you feel comfortable. And it’s sure going to look a lot different.
Insider Reviews reached out to experts including infectious disease and ER doctors, cleaning specialists, travel industry professionals, and representatives from major rental cars, hotels, Airbnb, and transportation organizations, to reveal both the risks and best practices associated with various forms of travel and lodging during an ongoing pandemic.
We also interviewed travel agents and tour operators, to find out how they’re advising and planning travel for clients later this year and in 2021. And if you do book a trip that is ultimately postponed or canceled, it’s important to understand your cancellation policies and consider options for the best travel insurance.
Of course, this is an evolving situation and it’s crucial to follow guidelines and advice set forth by organizations such as the CDC and WHO, and practice safety measures no matter where you go, including wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing.
Below, our experts address popular questions and concerns around each mode of travel, and major brands share their updated cleaning policies, so you may make fully informed decisions about where to go. And if you need ideas on socially-distant locations, we’ve got some inspiration for that, too.
Are rental cars safe?
If you’re among the many urban dwellers without a car of your own, you might be wondering if rental cars are safe to drive in a pandemic. For guidance, we talked to several experts, including Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo.
“Remember that most of the transmission of the coronavirus is respiratory — it’s not through inanimate objects,” says Dr. Russo. “When you’re in a rental car, the greatest risk is if you happen to be in the car with someone else and they could be infected.”
When it comes to the car itself, the risk is reasonably low. “Even if there’s an area you touch that wasn’t properly wiped down and might have been contaminated, as long as you don’t touch your mouth, nose, and face, and have good hand hygiene in between, you should still be protected,” Dr. Russo says.
Additionally, rental car companies are taking rigorous new cleaning measures under recommendations from various health authorities to sanitize key high-touch areas.
Many regular travelers are long-time hotel devotees who adore a beautiful property or sprawling resort filled with high-end amenities and services. But even these frequent hotel guests are likely concerned that staying in one risks exposure to the virus.
After all, checking-into a hotel means mingling with other guests and staff in common spaces like the lobby, elevators, pool decks, spas, and golf courses. When it’s time to eat, there are busy restaurants to consider, and that’s all assuming your own guest room is clean and sanitized.
In the latter, objects and furnishings are shared and reused by visitors, sometimes with only hours in between. So, is it safe to stay in a hotel right now?
Dr. Russo says the answer is highly individual. “If it’s a trip that is important and necessary, I feel relatively safe using the proper protective measures like wearing a mask, distancing, disinfecting, and hand hygiene.”
We also asked him about the worst-case scenario, in which an infected person stayed in your room hours before you. If the housekeeping crew cleaned and sanitized according to guidelines, would you escape risk?
“The answer is probably yes,” Dr. Russo says. But, “that’s not an ideal scenario.” You’d be better off specifically requesting a room no one has stayed in for a day or two.”
He also adds, “Wear a mask during the check-in process, going in the elevator up to your room, or even the stairwell. I’m a big fan of mask use because this magical six-foot zone is based on probability. The closer you are to someone, and the longer you’re close to someone that’s infectious, the more likely you are to get infected.”
Most major hotel chains have announced wide-reaching new cleaning policies made in combination with health experts. These policies also focus on social-distancing and contact-free transactions such as virtual check-in and out, digital keys, limited dining, and more.
Dr. Robert Quigley, who serves as the senior vice president and regional medical director of global medical travel risk management company International SOS, spent four days and four nights transforming an Upper East Side hotel into a utilitarian home base for health care workers on the front lines.
“We came in and converted what was a very high end, very luxurious hotel into a laboratory with the objective to protect the health and safety of the employees that were willing to come in and work.”
Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy hotels rolled out the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council, focusing on treating high-touch surface areas with hospital-grade disinfectants, providing disinfecting wipes in each guest room, and reducing person-to-person contact by removing furniture and installing hand-sanitizing stations. More than 3,200 Marriott hotels will now allow guests to use their phones to check-in, access their rooms, make requests, and order room service without contact.
Similarly, Four Seasons worked with experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine International on its new Lead With Care program for cleanliness and safety. The program promises that restaurants and bars will operate with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing, and the hotel will leverage technology for safety, by way of its Four Seasons app and chat.
Just as some people have always preferred hotels, others choose Airbnbs to enjoy more space in residential-style houses or apartments that are well-suited for longer vacations, or family and group stays.
These days, they may seem especially attractive given the fact that you are often booking an entire home that is protected from interaction with any others. However, cleaning practice vary by property, where everything from kitchen utensils to bed linens were used by previous guests.
Airbnb has, however, announced rigorous new procedures including a program known as the Cleaning Protocol, which includes guidelines on personal protective equipment for hosts or cleaners, as well as only using disinfectants approved by regulatory authorities. Additionally, these listings are required to maintain a 24-waiting period after a guest checks out before entering to clean, followed by another 48-hour waiting period before a guest may check-in.
As a second measure, hosts may instead opt into a new feature called Booking Buffer, which enforces a longer vacancy period of 72 hours between stays so guests may feel more secure knowing there has been no activity other than cleaning the property.
And third, hosts can also choose to do neither of those things.
Dr. Russo estimates that staying in a private Airbnb is likely to be safer than booking a hotel, given there is generally less direct person-to-person contact. But he also encourages taking extra preventative measures such as running “utensils and dishware through the dishwasher when you get there” and laundering bed linens and towels “so you have control of what you want to be washed and cleaned.” He also suggests running a disinfecting wipe over all flat surfaces, phones, TV remotes, door handles, bathroom faucets, and toilet handles.
Of course, that also means you’re now cleaning the home for which you already paid a lofty cleaning fee.
After breaking down the risks of both hotels and vacation rentals such as Airbnb, no matter the type of lodging you pick, the main factors to consider are the likelihood you’ll encounter other people, the number and length of such encounters, and whether the location and region are experiencing high rates of infection.
“When booking any type of lodging, consider how many people you’ll be surrounded by, when was the last time someone stayed in that accommodation, and how is the state or city doing in regards to flattening the curve,” said Dr. Neil Brown, K Health‘s chief diagnosis officer.
With either choice, be aware of high-touch areas and flat surfaces that might facilitate virus transmission. If possible, book accommodations with a significant margin of time since the last guest stayed in the same space.
The doctors we spoke with agreed private Airbnbs, however, are likely safer than hotels because they come with fewer person-to-person interactions.
“While there is no question hotels are working diligently to keep their hotels clean and sanitized, Airbnb has a huge advantage given that the renter is generally the only one occupying the property,” said Dr. Brown. “With Airbnb’s new Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, the company provides a better option than public hotel spaces … Double-check to see if the host is participating in the program,” he said.
Dr. Russo “absolutely agree[s]” that staying in a private Airbnb, especially one that allows no-contact check-in, such as through a lockbox, is the safer option.
But both doctors recommend seriously evaluating the risks versus rewards with either choice, with Dr. Brown noting, “Personally, I would do my best to avoid traveling altogether, but if it is necessary, I would feel more comfortable staying at an Airbnb after doing my own disinfecting upon arrival.”
In comparison to renting a car or booking lodging, air travel seems like a larger gamble. Entering an airport, waiting in long lines, and sitting next to strangers of unknown backgrounds, for a prolonged period, in a closed setting, all seems about as high-risk as it can get right now.
To help determine is flying is safe, we turned to a diverse panel of experts including an infectious disease doctor, an ER doctor, a pilot, a medical advisor for an aviation trade association, and the founders of popular flight deal platforms to discuss the risks of flying during COVID-19, and precautions to mitigate those risks.
First the good news: airports are trying various tactics to minimize contact between people, promote social distancing, and conducting temperature checks. Additionally, airplanes are designed to clean and filter air quickly according to Dr. David Powell, a medical advisor for a trade group that represents most of the world’s major passenger airlines and cargo carriers. “Customers sit facing forward and not toward each other, seatbacks provide a barrier, and the limited movement of passengers once seated adds to the onboard protection. Moreover, airflow is less conducive to droplet spread than other indoor environments: flow rates are high, directed in a controlled manner (from ceiling to floor), to limit mixing, and the use of High Efficiency Particulate Air filters ensures that the air supply is pure.”
But while these features help reduce risks, they do not eliminate them. Commercial airplane travel still means flying in a confined space with other people. Another passenger’s droplet can easily invade your personal space even with no one in the middle seat beside you.
Says Dr. Russo, “Once you’re on the flight, you’ve been dealt a hand. Hopefully, everyone around you isn’t infected, but you just don’t know for sure. A longer flight is going to be a greater risk even though the air is handled pretty well because it’s a close space, exposed to other individuals, and the time of exposure is longer.”
If you must fly, wear your best mask, sanitize all surfaces, and try to avoid eating, drinking, or using the lavatory.
How travel agents and tour operators advise clients to book travel
While many travelers previously booked travel independently, some are returning to travel agents. These seasoned professionals have spent years in the business and are well-equipped to help clients identify viable locations with vetted, flexible policies. They may also have better insights into new practices at specific hotels to help determine how clean and safe they will be, and whether facilities and amenities may be impacted.
Their advice is to plan now, travel later (most of their clients are looking to travel between March and May of 2021), book refundable options, be aware of cleaning policies, try to travel domestically or close to home, opt for socially distant places, take advantage of deals, and assess your own comfort level with risk before booking.
Socially distant travel: safe vacations during COVID-19
As noted by various experts, no matter your destination, your risk of infection largely depends on factors such as whether you’ll encounter other people, the intensity of such encounters, and if the location is experiencing high rates of infection.
While nothing can be guaranteed safe 100 percent safe, if you heed expert advice, take necessary precautions, and make informed decisions led by CDC and WHO guidance, you may be able to explore the world again soon.
If you find yourself in such a position, consider these locations within the United States that are well-suited to outdoor activities, offer socially-distant-friendly lodging, and remove the need for international travel.
If you have a smart phone and Google, you can take photos of various animals in your house and it’s basically the greatest thing that’s ever happened in quarantine (and if we’re being honest, maybe outside of that, too).
Using Google’s AR (augmented reality) technology, kids and adults alike can spend an unbelievable amount of time seeing animals up close and personal, and, the best part? To scale. There’s nothing like seeing a Great White take up your backyard to understand how large these creatures are. With a few clicks on your phone, your Tiger King selfie is mere moments away.
To get started, open Google on your smart phone’s browser. Type in any one of the animals currently featured (they continue to add, so if your favorite isn’t listed, keep checking back!). Currently, they have:
Once you’ve googled the animal, scroll down a tiny bit until you see “Meet a life-sized (animal) up close.” Click on the “View in 3D.”
Once you click the view in 3D, you’ll have the option for AR or Object. The object will just be the animal. AR is where it’s at. Move your phone around until you see the animal’s shadow and then touch it until it appears. Then, enjoy having your children pose with an interactive, 3D, life-size animal in your house. Quarantine just got a million times better. Thanks, Google.
Military support organizations have distributed thousands of dollars in financial assistance to service members and their families impacted by COVID-19, with services available for living expenses, emergencies, education and more. The application process, eligibility requirements and availability of funds vary by organization. Below is a breakdown of information provided by officials from each organization:
AIR FORCE AID SOCIETY
The Air Force Aid Society has distributed ,414 in assistance for financial needs attributed to COVID-19.
Services available: Emergency assistance through no-interest loans and grants; need-based educational grants, merit-based scholarships; and on-base community programs.
How to apply: Our central point for seeking assistance is the local base Airman Family Readiness Center. They have all been declared mission-essential by local commanders. All of them can and do take applications online and any contact is minimized. For members not near a base, we have reciprocal with our fellow relief societies. They will render assistance and we will reimburse them (see the list below). This mutual support extends to our partners at the American Red Cross, particularly for those not near any military installation. Airmen can call the dedicated American Red Cross Military Service line and be assisted.
For airmen not near a base, the Air Force Aid Society has reciprocal agreements that allow you to receive assistance through these other agencies:
Army Emergency Relief (located at Army installations, worldwide)
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (located at Coast Guard installations, worldwide)
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (located at Navy installations, worldwide)
American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces: call 877-272-7337
Army Emergency Relief has supported 128 soldiers with 2,000 disbursed in grants and zero-interest loans related to COVID-19, as of the beginning of May, according to AER officials.
Services available: Active-duty soldiers and their families are eligible for the full range of 30+ AER benefit categories if they were impacted by the DOD travel ban or PCS stop movement order. They can apply online here.
Additionally, in March, AER extended travel ban/stop movement benefits to non-Title 10 reserve and National Guard soldiers who had been impacted. More recently, AER also turned on new benefits for Title 10 and Title 32 soldiers who have been activated for any length of time by the president or their state’s governor to help with the COVID-19 response. The new Title 10/Title 32 benefits are active whenever the activation begins and for 30 days past the end of their activation. Any soldiers who are Title 10/Title 32 can apply for help with basic living expenses and/or personal transportation costs.
How to apply: Recognizing that face-to-face meetings to apply for assistance may be limited or not advisable, AER has arranged a new process to allow for soldiers to electronically submit requests for assistance. Soldiers can go to the AER website to determine the easiest way to get benefits. Soldiers who cannot get in touch with a local AER office for whatever reason can also submit a request 1) by contacting one of the other military aid societies and/or 2) through the American Red Cross by calling 1-877-272-7337 and selecting option 1 for financial assistance.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provided COVID-19-related relief to 502 clients with over 3,000 in interest-free loans and grants, as of this month.
Services available: The services we provide are to assist with the financial needs that arise from the current pandemic, whether that is assistance with paying bills, rent etc. We currently offer a COVID-19 Rapid Response for up to 00; no lengthy application and no need for financial counseling. We also have our traditional loan services available for greater needs
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance serves the entire Coast Guard community. To date, it has worked with 438 clients and distributed 2,034.97, according to its website.
Services available: Varying rates of assistance are available to those with lost wages, members in medically-induced quarantine, and travel fee reimbursement. Additional assistance exists for childcare and education assistance, and medical assistance. The full list can be viewed here.
USAF C-130s Flew Self-Contained Care Unit to Aviano Air Base in Italy on Friday.
The U.S. Air Force has deployed a C-130J Hercules transport from the 86th Airlift Wing from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Italy’s Aviano Air Base in the ongoing coronavirus relief mission. The U.S. aircraft arrived on Mar. 20, 2020, and joins other relief aircraft in the region, including a number of Russian Aerospace Forces Il-76 transports that departed Russia earlier today.
Photos released by the USAF show Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron loading pallets of medical equipment on board a Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules transport.
Part of the cargo deployed to Italy in the U.S. relief mission is the En-Route Patient Staging System, or “ERPSS”. The system can support the medical transport of up to 40 patients in a 24-hour period. It is equipped with 10 patient staging beds for treatment of patients.
Commander of U.S. Air Force, Europe (USAFE-AFAFRICA), General Jeff “Cobra” Harrigian, told reporters, “The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we work with our allies and partners to [meet] the challenges together. This effort demonstrates our mutual support as we team together in response to this public health crisis. We are working closely with our Italian friends, the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to ensure we provide the right equipment in a safe and timely manner. It’s our privilege to support the Italian response, and our continued commitment reflects the values of the American people to provide to whenever and wherever it is needed.”
A USAF Airman assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, loads pallets of medical supplies and equipment onboard a C-130J Super Hercules in preparation for relief flights to Aviano Air Base in Italy on March 20, 2020 in support of the COVID-19 relief effort.
The 86th Airlift Wing received one of their most recent, new C-130J Super Hercules transports from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia in early December, 2017. The C-130J Super Hercules is the most advanced version of the celebrated C-130, which first flew over 65 years ago in 1956. The C-130J is the only version of the C-130 that remains in production today. The aircraft features a fuselage that is 15-feet longer than previous versions of the C-130. The aircraft is also designed to work with advanced loading/unloading equipment for specialty palletized cargo like the En-Route Patient Staging System.
The aid from the U.S. military several days ago, and Russia’s air force beginning today, along with missions from China, Cuba and other nations, support the Italian government’s escalating response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Italian government has deployed troops in some areas to monitor quarantine and help slow the spread of the deadly disease.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, exhausted parents are trying to juggle work, joblessness, rambunctious children, the emotional needs of spouses, the safety of aging parents, and fear of infection from a virus that can ravage the lungs, leaving its victims sick for weeks at a time. While the war metaphor is often tossed about carelessly — a virus is not a living lifeform, let alone an “enemy” — to parallel the mental impact of this time to soldiers at war is useful.
The sense of fear and stress many are experiencing now is familiar for many families of military service members, as well as those who help them through crises. Faced with separation, dangerous deployments, and untimely deaths, parents and children can cope by practicing a resilient mindset. “We serve families who experience a loss, and put on resilience retreats for children, siblings, spouses, and others who have lost a service member. We are helping them learn to stay health in the face of grief and loss, ” says Mia Bartoletti, the clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation and an expert on helping families navigate crises. Bartoletti acknowledges that the same process can help families navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Bartoletti frames it, resilience is a practice of acknowledging “normal reactions to extraordinary circumstances.” This means working to strengthen the attributes that make one “resilient” including hardiness, personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, acceptance of change, personal control, and spirituality, according to a review in PTSD Research Quarterly, a publication by the National Center for PTSD. These traits are “like a muscle,” says Mary Alvord, psychologist and the founder of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit program that teaches resilience to children, adolescents, and young adults in schools. “You just keep working it out and you can build it.”
Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines or a stay-at-home parent, having a strong reaction to the pandemic is to be expected. Bartoletti divides these reactions into three categories: Intrusive reactions, avoidance and withdrawal reactions, and physical arousal reactions. Intrusive reactions involve memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks that take you back to the psychologically traumatizing situation after the fact. Avoidance and withdrawal can happen during and after a distressing event, causing you to repress emotions and even avoid people and places. Physical arousal reactions involve changes in the body itself, including trouble sleeping, irritable outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance.
All of these reactions are normal, as long as they remain acute. Are you dreaming about Genghis Khan stealing your wallet, or breaking into a co-workers house to steal their toilet paper? Those vivid, COVID dreams are an acute intrusive reaction. Are you finding the need to shut yourself in a room and cry? That’s acute withdrawal. Do you find the news about COVID-19 in your area rockets up your heartbeat and blood pressure? That’s an acute physiological reaction. “I think that anyone can be experiencing these things, depending on your own reaction to this pandemic situation, these are common reactions,” says Bartoletti. “We expect to see more of these in this time frame.”
What is not normal is when the acute reaction morphs into a long-term psychological problems.
If these symptoms persist, acute stress in the moment can morph into post-traumatic stress after the fact. That can mean intense physiological feelings of stress, avoidance and withdrawal behavior, or intrusive flashbacks that impede normal social and emotional functioning for days, weeks, or months even after the pandemic subsides.
How does one prevent this all from going down? As with so many things, it starts with communicating those reactions, grappling with them and forming them into verbal thoughts. “If you don’t acknowledge your emotional state, that’s a risk and puts you in jeopardy for adverse lasting consequences,” says Bartolleti. “If you engage in narrative sharing open and effective communication with kids and other selective resilience skills — these are mechanisms of resilience. We can strategically set these mechanisms in motion to enhance individual and family resilient adjustment during this time.”
In many ways, parents and children can practice resilience in similar ways—through dialogue, social connection, and focusing on self-care and controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t. Of course, parents also act as aids and models for their children, helping their kids let go of negative thoughts, providing warmth and support, and helping them connect with friends while getting outside enough. Under non-pandemic circumstances, Alvord and her colleagues have found that the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can really help that child overcome stressful or traumatic circumstances. In a pandemic, which affects everyone, parents need to remember to take care of themselves, too.
To foster resilience in kids, the first step is talking it out. “Dialogue is really healthy for kids and teens for actual brain development,” Bartoletti says. “Having conversations about workplace safety and hazards is a healthy thing.” It’s good to gauge what your children are thinking and experiencing, as well as explaining to them your role in this situation. You can set the record straight on anything they have misunderstood. You can offer calm and reassurance while explaining the actionable steps you are taking to cope with the situation. You can model a problem-solving mindset to help your children as they figure out how to manage their emotions.
For both children and parents, social connection will be crucial for staying emotionally healthy through this time, says Alvord. While we may be physically distant, we should still be socially connected. For parents of children old enough to have friends and social groups, this will mean helping those children connect with their friends via phone or video chat. If your children are older, it may mean encouraging and allowing time and space for your teen to spend time with their friends online. For parents, make time to stay connected to your normal group of friends and family. And if you don’t have a parent support group already, it’s a good idea to seek one out so you can share tips and tricks and commiserate about parenting in lockdown. And of course, take the time to connect as a family and make the most of being stuck together.
Self-care really is essential to overall well-being. Alvord recommends trying to get plenty of sleep and taking a break to be by yourself, even if that means getting in your car to get away from everyone in the house. Physical activity and getting outside helps too, says Alvord. Bartoletti cautions that you can overdo it on the exercise, however, and that becomes its own form of avoidance. Being resilient, “really means getting in tune with your own internal landscape,” she says.
Finally, Alvord says resilience means letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on the things that you can. Taking initiative in one’s life is one of the primary characteristics of resilience, Alvord wrote in a 2005 study published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness and so resilience is the opposite,” she says. “No, you’re not helpless, you do have control over many aspects of your life.” For example, Alvord’s neighbors recently went out and bought a cheap pool for their backyard. If pools can’t open this summer, they have their own to keep their five children occupied. Recognizing you have agency in this situation — that’s resilience. “It’s action-oriented, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen,” she says.
“Our mindset in this timeframe matters in terms of brain health and how we react in this experience,” says Bartoletti. Our bodies are primed with hormones to react to stressful situations. “We need to practice a mindset of challenging that at times,” she says.
Research shows it is possible to come out of a traumatic experience even stronger than before. And Bartoletti’s research in military families shows that these coping skills, taken together, can help families “become more cohesive and supportive and more resilient in the face of adversity.” Some days are still going to be challenging, and there will certainly be moments of grief and stress. But if parents and kids alike start to stretch and work that resilience muscle, they can get through this together.