We’re all distancing and keeping to ourselves as much as possible — at least we all should be social distancing through the pandemic. But for many business owners, this is a scary thought. Yeah there’s a virus out there … but foot traffic is their way of life. It’s their entire income. For small business owners, losses will hit harder than for big corporations.
That means, if you have the ability, it’s a great time to give back and support small businesses whenever possible.
Food to go
When you’ve got that craving for something good, pounce on the urge to eat out! Curbside pickups and drive-thrus help keep locally-owned restaurants afloat. Just be sure to stay as distant as possible and to pack on the hand sanitizer. Your contribution helps build their income … and it gets you some yummy food!
Stop on post to help out local entities who lend their services to on-base residents, or head into town for a meal at a local spot.
Need new clothes? Shoes? Starter plants for the garden? Continue to shop as normal … but online. Utilize local websites or Facebook groups to see what local shops are offering and order your goods. Many stores are providing free delivery so you don’t have to worry about unnecessary contact.
COVID-19 package deals
More businesses still have gotten creative with how they reach customers. For instance, artists are creating take-home kits, tutors or instructors are selling fun lesson kits and more. Everyone who normally works one-on-one or through a studio is likely hurting with their income. Consider keeping your family busy with their timely goods.
You don’t have to spend money to lend your support. Share social media posts, leave comments, like posts and give positive reviews. All of this interaction helps brands be seen easier online by others. Your feedback helps! Don’t overlook seemingly simple quips on social media — each one could potentially reach a new customer.
What are your favorite ways to give back to local businesses in a time of need?
Rare criticism by an Iranian Health Ministry official of China’s controversial COVID-19 figures has angered hard-liners in Tehran, some of whom asked if he was speaking on behalf of the country’s archrival, the United States.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said at a press briefing on April 5 that China’s statistics about the number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus are “a bitter joke.”
He added that, if Beijing said it got the coronavirus epidemic under control within two months of its outbreak, “one should really wonder [if it is true].”
The comments did not go down well with Chinese officials or hard-liners in Iran who reminded Jahanpur that China has stood with Iran at a time of severe crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak and crushing economic sanctions applied by Washington.
Many questions have been raised in the Western media recently about China’s official coronavirus figures amid suggestions that the real numbers are likely much higher.
Officials wait outside a Beijing metro station to monitor for anyone infected with the coronavirus.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China’s ruling Communist Party on April 3 of being involved in a “disinformation campaign” regarding the virus that is being used to “deflect from what has really taken place.”
But similar criticism from an Iranian official whose country enjoys strong relations with China led to raised eyebrows and has provoked crunching criticism.
“At a time when China has been Iran’s major helper in the fight against the coronavirus and has provided the country with several strategic products while bypassing the [U.S.] sanctions, Jahanpur suddenly becomes the spokesperson of [U.S. President Donald Trump] and [Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu,” the editor of the hard-line Mashreghnews.ir, Hassan Soleimani, said on Twitter on April 5.
Others, including Hossein Dalirian, a former editor with Tasnim news, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), went as far as calling for Jahanpur’s dismissal from the ministry.
China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, also joined the chorus, telling Jahanpur he should follow press briefings by China’s Health Ministry “carefully” in order to draw his conclusions.
Amid the mounting criticism and in what appeared to be damage control, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi tweeted in support of China, saying the country has led the way in suppressing the coronavirus while also “generously” helping other countries.
“The Chinese bravery, dedication, and professionalism in COVID-19 containment deserves acknowledgement,” Musavi tweeted on April 5, adding that Iran has been grateful to China in these trying times with the hashtag #Strongertogether.
Musavi’s tweet was retweeted by Chang, who said “Rumors cannot destroy our friendship.”
The Gvt. ppl. of #China lead the way in suppressing #coronavirus generously aiding countries across . The Chinese bravery, dedication professionalism in COVID19 containment deserve acknowledgment. has always been thankful to in these trying times. #StrongerTogether
For his part, Jahanpur attempted to calm the waters by publicly praising China for supporting his country during the outbreak.
“The support of China for the Iranian nation in [these] difficult days is unforgettable,” he said on Twitter on April 6.
He also said the Iranian government and the nation are grateful and will not forget the countries that stood with them during the pandemic.
Jahanpur’s tweet was welcomed by Ambassador Chang, who retweeted it while writing in Persian: “Friends should help each other, we fight together.”
Citing current and former intelligence officials, The New York Times reported last week that the CIA has told the White House since February that China has understated the number of its infections.
China has claimed that it has been open and transparent about the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, which emerged in December in Wuhan, where the virus has officially claimed the lives of 2,563 people and a nationwide total of 3,331 as of April 6. Beijing also claims some 81,708 total infections.
Radio Free Asia issued a report on March 27 suggesting tens of thousands of more people had died in Wuhan from the coronavirus than the official total given by Beijing.
Some Iranian officials believe the country’s coronavirus outbreak, by far the worst in the Middle East, began because of Tehran’s ties to China, which has been buying a limited amount of Iranian oil despite strict U.S. sanctions and penalties.
Iranian officials think the virus reached Qom, Iran’s epicenter of the outbreak, through Chinese workers and students residing in the city who had recently traveled to China. Flights conducted to and from China by Iran’s Mahan Air — even after coronavirus cases were registered — have been also blamed for exacerbating the epidemic.
Since the outbreak in Qom in February, Chinese officials have sent Iran regular shipments of relief materials — including masks, test kits, and other equipment — to help the country battle against the coronavirus.
According to official figures released on April 6, COVID-19 in Iran has killed 3,739 people and infected 60,500.
Much like the case of China, many people inside and outside of Iran have questioned Tehran’s official figures on the pandemic.
An ongoing investigation by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that studies figures released by officials from Iran’s 31 provinces puts the total number of deaths in Iran at 6,872 people as of April 5, with some 94,956 infections.
At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.
President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?
Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News
In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”
Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”
New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.
So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?
Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.
“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”
See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.
In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.
Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.
In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.
Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).
Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.
But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.
The first batch of 4,000 experimental Ebola vaccines to combat an outbreak suspected of killing 23 people arrived in Congo’s capital Kinshasa on May 16, 2018.
The Health Ministry said vaccinations would start at the weekend, the first time the vaccine would come into use since it was developed two years ago.
The vaccine, developed by Merck and sent from Europe by the World Health Organization, is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa in the biggest ever outbreak of Ebola, which killed 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014-2016.
Health officials hope they can use it to contain the latest outbreak in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo.
8,000 doses needed
Peter Salama, WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said the current number of cases stood at 42, with 23 deaths attributed to the outbreak.
“Our current estimate is we need to vaccinate around 8,000 people, so we are sending 8,000 doses in two lots,” he told Reuters in Geneva.
“Over the next few days we will be reassessing the projected numbers of cases that we might have and then if we need to bring in more vaccine we will do so in a very short notice.”
Health workers have recorded confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in three health zones of Congo’s Equateur province, and have identified 432 people who may have had contact with the disease.
(Photo by Martine Perret)
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the supplies sent to Congo included more than 300 body bags for safe burials in affected communities. The vaccine will be reserved for people suspected of coming into contact with the disease, as well as health workers.
“In our experience, for each confirmed case of Ebola there are about 100-150 contacts and contacts of contacts eligible for vaccination,” Jasarevic said. “So it means this first shipment would be probably enough for around 25-26 rings — each around one confirmed case.”
The vaccine is complicated to use, requiring storage at a temperature between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.
“It is extremely difficult to do that as you can imagine in a country with very poor infrastructures,” Salama said.
“The other issue is, we are now tracing more than 4,000 contacts of patients and they have spread out all over the region of northwest Congo, so they have to be followed up and the only way to reach them is motorcycles.”
The outbreak was first spotted in the Bikoro zone, which has 31 of the cases and 274 contacts. There have also been eight cases and 115 contacts in Iboko health zone.
The WHO is worried about the disease reaching the city of Mbandaka with a population of about 1 million people, which would make the outbreak far harder to tackle. Two brothers in Mbandaka who recently stayed in Bikoro for funerals are probable cases, with samples awaiting laboratory confirmation.
The WHO report said 1,500 sets of personal protective equipment and an emergency sanitary kit sufficient for 10,000 people for three months were being put in place.
The novel coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It spread throughout the nation in January, and then across the world. Now, there are over 1.2 million confirmed cases across more than 183 countries and regions.
The Chinese state’s slow response to the outbreak and its lack of transparency have led some to claim that Covid-19 will be China’s ‘Chernobyl moment’. These criticisms remain valid despite China’s later mobilisation to contain the virus’s spread, which was largely the result of work by medical professionals and a strong community response. The Chinese Communist Party’s ineffective command and control mechanisms and its uncompromising restrictions on information in the early stages of the crisis helped transform a localised epidemic into a global pandemic.
Chinese authorities only confirmed the outbreak three weeks after the first cases emerged in Wuhan. As the virus spread, the CCP’s crisis-response mechanisms slowly kicked into gear. On 20 January, President Xi Jinping convened a politburo meeting, which put China on an effective war footing. Wuhan and all major Chinese cities were locked down and the People’s Liberation Army assumed command over disease control efforts.
Shortly after the politburo met, an order was issued to the National Defence Mobilisation Department (NDMD) of the Central Military Commission to launch an emergency response to combat the epidemic. The order required the ‘national defence mobilisation system to assume command of garrison troops, military support forces, and local party committees and governments at all levels’.
As ASPI’s Samantha Hoffman has noted, the NDMD ‘creates a political and technical capacity to better guarantee rapid, cohesive, and effective response to an emergency in compliance with the core leadership’s orders’. To that end, the NDMD has subordinate departments at the provincial level responsible for mobilising economic, political and scientific information and equipment and organising militia, transport readiness and air defence.
The CCP’s defence mobilisation system is based on the Maoist ‘people’s war’ doctrine, which relies on China’s size and people to defend the country from attack. The aim is to lure the aggressor deep into the battlefield, wear them down and then strike decisively. In this whole-of-society approach, civilians, militia and the PLA all play a part.
On 26 January, the World Health Organization reported 1,985 Covid-19 cases in China. One day later, premier Li Keqiang, by then in charge of containing the outbreak, visited Wuhan to inspect its disease control measures. On 2 February, Li and Wang Huning (a member of the politburo and one of the top leaders of the CCP) chaired a meeting of the Central Leading Small Group for Work to Counter the Coronavirus Infection Pneumonia Epidemic (新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情工作领导小组). Chinese authorities were starting to develop situational awareness as Covid-19 spread to all provinces.
The number of confirmed cases more than doubled from 11,821 on 1 February to 24,363 on 5 February. On 6 February, Chinese state media reported that Xi had referred to a ‘people’s war‘ in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. News of Xi’s declaration reached Western media, which had earlier noted his public absence. On 7 February, Li Wenliang—the doctor detained by police for alerting the public to the virus in November 2019—died of Covid-19, triggering significant public anger and frustration at the Chinese authorities.
The CCP attempted to neutralise this anger by having officials and public figures express sympathy for Li Wenliang on social media. As public discontent waned, Xi took a more prominent role in the national response. His visit to Beijing’s disease control centre was covered by state media outlets, indicating that his ‘people’s war’ declaration was intended to garner public support for his campaign.
The CCP’s next step was to shore up support within the PLA. On 11 February, the PLA’s official newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, ran an editorial explaining the urgency and achievability of the mission and followed that with numerousarticles that sought to boost the PLA’s morale. The messaging was intended to ensure that the party had the military’s absolute cooperation.
The deployment of state-owned enterprises, the militia and the PLA was a major test for the CCP’s mobilisation system. While it proved effective in the middle and later stages of the pandemic, the lack of transparency and poor command and control systems in the early stages heightened the risk to international public health to unacceptable levels.
Effective crisis management requires more than whole-of-society mobilisation. A senior WHO official, Michael Ryan, observed that Covid-19 ‘will get you if you don’t move quickly’. If there’s anything to learn from the CCP’s response, it’s that decisiveness, transparency and rapid response are crucial to effective disease control in a crisis.
It appears that Xi did too little before it was too late.
Are you kids bouncing off the walls? Are you fighting needlessly with your spouse? For most American families (and families around the world) the answer to these questions is an obvious “yes.” But are your kids also swearing like sailors?
Over at The New Yorker, one Rumaan Alam has suggested that not only are we all freaking out and figuring out what to do with our kids, but we’re also swearing around our kids more, and thus, they too, are becoming even more foul-mouthed than we thought possible. In other words, the biggest side-effect of COVID-19 is that our kids are hearing us swear way more than they normally do, and thus, will probably start swearing more, too. Granted, this is mostly anecdotal, but when Alam mentions that one of his friends said: “I think the problem in our house is that I am using more bad language out of my own weakness and frustration” and that their kids are “emboldened” to use bad language as a result, many of us can relate.
Personally, I have never said, “f—” or “f—ing” in front of my three-year-old. That is, until about two weeks ago. I’m not even sure why, or if it was justified in any kind of way that makes sense. It was just one of those moments where I blurted out, “I don’t know what to f—ing do!” It wasn’t even directed at anyone. It was like I was a malfunctioning robot, my basic programming was receiving contradictory information, and smoke was starting to come out of my circuits.
Right now, I’m lucky. My daughter has not started saying “f—” because I said it. But, as we continue to shelter-in-place, I have no doubt that at some point, my little one will become a master of colorful metaphors well before she can spell.
SAN ANTONIO – USAA, the country’s fifth largest property-casualty insurer, will be returning $520 million to its members. This payment is a result of data showing members are driving less due to stay-at-home and shelter-in-place guidance across the country. Every member with an auto insurance policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums in the coming weeks.
As a member-owned association, USAA historically returns a portion of profits to members. In 2019, we returned $2.4 billion in dividends, distributions and bank rebates and rewards. This brings the total amount returned to members since January 2019 to nearly $3 billion.
“We understand the impact this pandemic is having on our country, and especially our military community and their families, many of whom also are working on the front lines of the crisis. Returning premiums provides timely help for our members,” said USAA President and CEO Wayne Peacock. “USAA has been facilitating the financial security of military members for nearly 100 years, and this is another way we can serve them well.”
Early data trends show USAA members are heeding the calls to suspend nonessential travel, leading to fewer miles driven and fewer accidents.
How it works
Members will automatically receive a credit applied to their bill. They do not need to call, and no additional action is required.
Ways USAA is providing financial relief for members
This is just one of several steps USAA has taken to provide financial assistance to members, including:
Special payment arrangements are available to assist members experiencing financial difficulties. USAA will not cancel members’ auto or property insurance policies or charge fees due to late payments on USAA auto and property insurance coverage through June 17, 2020.
Expanded auto insurance coverage for members who use their personal vehicles to deliver food, medicine and other goods for commercial purposes.
USAA Bank is offering special payment assistance programs for eligible members including a 90-day credit card payment deferral, a 60-day payment extension on consumer loans, and special mortgage and home equity line of credit payment assistance.
USAA Life Insurance Company is offering special payment arrangements on life and health insurance policies, including a 60-day extension to the 30-day grace period.
USAA Life Insurance Company is waiving and reimbursing deductibles and co-payments for coronavirus-related testing received on or after Feb. 4, 2020, for members who have USAA Medicare Supplement plan.
USAA Investment Management Company is reducing managed portfolio fees 50% (effective April 1 through May 20‚ 2020).
Additionally, USAA has taken steps to help ensure its employees stay safe and able to serve members by enabling nearly all 35,000 employees to work from home and committed .4 million to help military-focused and other nonprofits respond to this pandemic.
President Donald Trump has approved the US military’s deployment of a Navy hospital ship to Los Angeles, California, to bolster coronavirus response efforts.
During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.
FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor in the press conference that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Sunday, Washington state has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York.
California ranks fourth as of Sunday, with nearly 1,500 cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked Trump in a letter on Thursday to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within one day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.
Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”
The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.
The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
Diego Urbina is an engineer who took part in an experiment conducted on the ground to simulate conditions of human isolation that could be faced in a future expedition to the planet Mars.
From his home in Brussels, where he has been confined for a week by the Coronavirus pandemic, Urbina provides some tips to resist these days’ “imprisonment”. Like millions of citizens around the world, Diego also lives with concern the current situation and tries to adapt his behavior to the new scenario created by COVID-19.
But Diego has a significant advantage: in 2010, along with five colleagues from the European Space Agency (ESA), he took part in the experimental mission MARS-500, a project that simulated a trip to Mars in which they stayed for 520 days inside a special complex (located on the Institute of Biomedical Problems’ site in Moscow), completely isolated from the outside world.
“It’s like a deja-vu, although today’s situation is clearly different, because this coronavirus is no longer a simulation. I believe that my experience during the MARS-500 mission can serve to give some advice on how to better organize and use our daily time,” Urbina explains.
“First we must be aware that now we will have a certain period of time at our disposal, which we had previously occupied in social activities (work, hobbies, sports). It can be heavy, but on the other hand we must see the benefit: we can take advantage of this time to study and learn new things. In our case, our 6-crew member team of MARS-500 didn’t have an internet connection and we could communicate externally only by email.
We only had books and few things, so that once our planned activities are finished we have 8 hours free each day. So I started studying Russian, to better communicate with my mission mates. And I also learned to draw; in the end I made some drawings and that made me very happy. These activities helped me to keep my mind more active, and a not falling into a spiral of laziness that caused damage in my daily activities, where we also simulated stressful situation, as a real space mission.
We read a lot: during year of MARS-500 mission I read about 30 books. Currently, however, in my daily life I have very little time to read. Remembering that period, I must admit that I miss having all that available time.”
According to Diego Urbina, it’s very important to organize the hours, so as not to interrupt the biological rhythms of the human body.
“In our case, we had no chance of being exposed to the sun. The lack of light alters the heart rhythms, so we were exposed to a special blue light. It also altered the metabolism, for which we were forced to take vitamin D. That’s why I recommend you take advantage of the daylight hours, perhaps by spending time near the windows. Since we are entering the months with more light of the year, this should not be a big problem.
It’s also important not to alter our sleep patterns. We have to set very regular times, to avoid getting up too late and doing nothing all morning, as it can negatively affect our sleep patterns. In the case of our MARS-500 project, we were trying various ways to organize daily activities.
For example, dealing with the cleaning activities, we understood that the best way was to do them one day a week, all together, at the same time, so it was also fun and broke the routine. In addition to doing new things every day, it’s also important to distribute the tasks, and at the same time alternate them.”
“For any space mission, physical exercise is mandatory, because in microgravity conditions the muscle tissue deteriorates very quickly if there is no physical activity. For people who are home these days for the COVID-19 emergency, this is a key factor. Here in Brussels jogging is allowed, but in places like Italy where this alternative doesn’t exist it’s possible to do many exercises in limited spaces, such as the living room at home.
If this current situation seems overwhelming to you, it may perhaps comfort you to know that during the simulated mission we faced additional difficulties that made it even more complicated: we had to take urine samples every day to keep our values in check; we didn’t have services such as internet connection or telephone (which now we take for granted); while we simulated the communications that will be made when we go to Mars we couldn’t speak directly to anyone else besides ourselves; and we haven’t seen sunlight for many months.”
“Our crew of the MARS-500 mission were alternately given some menus, always taking care that it was a healthy and varied diet. After eight months, however, we got a little bored with the food cycle. I therefore recommend changing dishes as much as possible. It’s also very important to limit the goodies, and don’t eat sweets every day, even if it’s tempting.
The positive side of the isolation period is that you don’t have such easy access to ‘junk food’ and that you can cook at home. In this way you have the opportunity to see what we are about to eat, know its nutritional value, and balance it well so as to be healthier after isolation.”
“In space missions, like a Mars trip, the possibility of conflicts between people is one of the greatest risks; which in a situation like the one we are living now can become relevant. We must learn to have a special patience. It’s quite complicated to manage conflicts, because there can be many different variables.
Our crew of the MARS-500 mission have been facilitated, because ESA psychologists had previously excluded potentially problematic people during selection phase. The technique we used during the 520 day isolation was not necessarily to sit around a table and talk to each other directly; when there was some friction, we tried to address issues less explicitly, doing nice things for each other. It’s an easy way to act, without the need to impose or criticize, to get everyone back in a good mood. In real life these days you have to be very tolerant, and understand the other person’s needs. We will probably be locked up for many days: there is no point in being in a bad mood with someone for the rest of the time.”
“When the simulation of the MARS-500 project was over, when we came out of isolation after having been so long without seeing anyone, without even seeing the sun, nature and animals, it was a very positive shock. We were able to see all those normal things again.
Even the simple sight of a tree was a marvel. The first time we saw the sun rise, heard a dog bark or looked after a child, it was an emotion.
Now it will be a little less intense, but for all of us it will still be a good opportunity to appreciate all the usual things we took for granted every day.
It certainly will be like this when this coronavirus emergency is overcome.”
A special thank you to Emiliano Guerra for translating the interview and to Antonio Martinéz Ron for allowing us to publish part of his article. Make sure you follow ESA MARS-500 crew member Diego Urbina on Facebook here and Twitter here.
I’m a Green Beret, US Army Special Forces. Right after I earned my green beret and reported to my unit for this first time, I found out we were going to combat in a few weeks and I would be leading a team of older, battle hardened green berets into battle. My commander told me right before he introduced me to my team, “You’re in command now…. Do something with it.”
Now, I’m a veteran and I find myself wearing a few hats – I’m a business owner, Executive Director of a non-profit, and author. COVID-19 has really hurt my companies – all of my business contracts this year are canceled / postponed. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its forced me to grow my hair out – I look like Moses from the ten commandments.
I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat.
What do you do? Do you sit and wait for something good to happen? Do you close shop and use COVID-19 as an excuse for why you failed?
Or do you follow my company commander’s advice and do something about it?
Things are tough for everyone.
People are feeling uncomfortable to say the least.
Let’s be honest about who we are and what we are experiencing. That feeling of discomfort isn’t something we should hide or pretend we’re not going through. Let’s embrace this deliberate discomfort and be vulnerable. Most of the time, we put up a front – we fake it until we make it. We’re pretending to be someone we are not. COVID-19 has given us a beautiful gift. This is a time where there’s no more faking. Its just us – stripped down – stressed out – trying to hold it together.
No more pretending that everything is fine.
Here’s what I believe – If COVID-19 is affecting you, I believe that YOU can do something about your situation. I believe you can dare to win by getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe that its only through discomfort that we find solutions, learn, grow, and improve. It’s only through deliberate discomfort that you can achieve your full potential.
In the past 8 years, my company has worked with 13 x NFL teams, MLB teams, and numerous corporate clients to identify, assess, and develop the leadership behaviors required to win. We help them to do this by showing them the DELIBERATE DISCOMFORT mindset.
Now I appreciate that you may not have served in the military, but I know that at some point all of you realize that something needs to change. I hope that you don’t wait for something bad to happen to be the person you were destined to be.
There are a million “experts” out there telling you to seek comfort, to look for the easy path. I’m telling you the opposite. I’m telling you to seek discomfort. To take the road less traveled. To be vulnerable. To dare.
I am looking at COVID-19 as a blessing. I took my company commander’s advice and did something. I transitioned my business model to online training. One of the ways we reach our tribe is through our best-selling book, Deliberate Discomfort: How US Special Operations Forces Overcome Fear and Dare to Win By Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.
If you want to learn more, Deliberate Discomfort is available in hardback and e-book on Amazon, Barnes Noble, and other book sellers. This week we are launching our e-book for a limited, one-week only .99 price.
Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, FORSCOM’s command sergeant major, survey the work of soldiers deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to the 458th Engineer Battalion at Camp Taji, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2017.
Across the military, service members and their families are working through the new normal brought about by COVID-19. Everyone is dealing with a fair amount of stress and we understand how important great leadership is right now. So, we reached out to the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston (socially distanced, of course) to get his advice for leaders while we work through this pandemic.
He opened up his green notebook and provided the following insights.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, senior enlisted leader for Army Forces Command, presents the FORSCOM Eagle Award during a ceremony Jan. 9, 2019.
Leadership matters right now. This isn’t harder than what is required of leaders in combat, but it is a very difficult time. In combat, you can physically bring everyone together. Now, how do you lead during this time of uncertainty? How do you get the information out? How do you make sure they stay the course? How do you make sure your soldiers are following orders –- which in some cases may be to stay at home and keep everyone healthy?
Everyone agrees that face-to-face leadership is the best and leaders can tell a lot about someone’s emotional condition by looking them in the eyes. We still have to do it. Don’t fall in the trap of relying on text messages to communicate. I recommend leaders develop a communications PACE plan. Make video chats your primary means of communication. If that isn’t available, make a phone call so you can hear their voice. Finally, leaders can use text and email to keep the lines of communication open.
Remember, these are difficult times and leadership is what is going to make the difference for the people in your formation.
2. Get innovative
There are so many opportunities right now for leaders to get innovative with how they maintain readiness and keep their soldiers motivated.
For example, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a battalion conducted an individual 6-mile foot march competition. Everyone used either cell phone apps or GPS watches to track their progress and then posted their times online. The winner with the fastest time received an Army Achievement Medal.
Another unit in Poland conducted EIB training, but included hand-washing and social distancing enforcement during the event.
At the Department of Army level, we are looking for ways to maintain readiness. We started running the Basic Army Leader Course via distance learning. I expect the same of our leaders down at the unit level — look for innovative ways to accomplish the mission.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 15.
We all have a responsibility to maintain our fitness and stay focused on personal readiness during this period.
We also have a responsibility and a great opportunity to focus on the operational readiness rate of our equipment so that when we come back to train, our vehicles and weapons are ready to go. Leaders can take advantage of this pause in training to bring mechanics and crews in to bring equipment up to 10/20 standard.
4. Stay informed
Besides company-level leadership keeping soldiers and their families informed, there are also plenty of opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest news by Department of the Army and Garrison Commands.
I know that unit-level leaders are doing weekly virtual town halls, most garrisons are doing them several times a week and we have done a few at the Army level. Don’t rely on hearsay to get your information; tune-in and stay informed with facts.
5. Set goals
Treat this period like a deployment. We not only want to survive it, we also want to thrive in it. A great way to do this is to set personal and professional goals.
Gyms are closed and many of the conditions we had pre-coronavirus have changed. So, we need to reassess our goals. While we can’t go to gyms, there are workouts we can do in our living rooms to stay fit. Look for opportunities; there might be online courses or credentialing classes that you can take advantage of to achieve professional goals.
I recommend everyone try to figure out some kind of routine to work toward your goals. Don’t wake up everyday and muddle through it — keep moving forward.
Team Rubicon is used to jumping in head first to support those in need. From serving during natural disasters like earthquakes or supporting the aftermath of a hurricane, they’ve done it all. Or at least they thought they had. The COVID-19 global pandemic may have changed everything, but Team Rubicon was ready.
After watching the slow relief efforts for the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince in 2010, two marines didn’t like what they saw. So, they decided to change the narrative. Jake Wood and William McNulty gathered supplies, a volunteer group filled with veterans, first responders and medical professionals. Within days they deployed to Haiti.
Team Rubicon was born in those moments and has spent the last decade serving the world. They support those in need by doing things like partnering with Feeding America and coming in to administer aid after natural disasters internationally. Ten years after those marines decided to act, Team Rubicon continues to support the world. It is through this service that they are giving purpose and community to transitioning veterans.
Their mission is to serve the underserved.
Army Reserves Lieutenant Colonel Michael Gorham knows all about the importance of purpose. When he transitioned from active service to the reserves, he was a bit lost himself. He found Team Rubicon in the midst of needing something more in his life. He is now the Deputy Director of operations for California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. After watching the pandemic wreak havoc on normal volunteer operation capability, he had an idea.
“I was on the next door app and saw people who need a roll of toilet paper…elderly people who were afraid to go out,” said Gorham. So, he started talking about the need for neighborhood support. Within days, Team Rubicon launched a new initiative, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which gave volunteers the ability to safely serve their communities through the pandemic. To date they have over 3,000 acts of service in neighborhoods throughout the country.
That’s not all they are doing.
Team Rubicon is also setting up field hospitals and building COVID-19 testing sites. “Two months ago, nobody would have thought this is where we’d be. We need to be prepared to pivot to help wherever society needs us,” said Gorham. He continued, sharing that Team Rubicon has many opportunities for those who want to serve to get into their communities and make an impact.
Although Team Rubicon has a mission for veterans, you do not have to be one to be a volunteer. “I think Team Rubicon is a space for veterans and like-minded servants. You don’t need to be a veteran or a first responder or have some sort of title in order to be a servant,” shared Gorham. He explained that many people have a deep need to do more and feel like something is missing from their lives and Team Rubicon wants to help fill that.
Gorham shared that the CEO of Team Rubicon has said repeatedly that they are aiming to be the world’s largest volunteer fire department.
They are well on their way.
To learn more about Team Rubicon and how you can serve, click here.
Elleana Bowler cleans a headstone Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia.
Volunteers are returning to national cemeteries under certain circumstances, following strict COVID-19 guidance.
More than 40 volunteers displayed the new policies during an event Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia. A group from a local Latter-day Saints church cleaned headstones while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“The reason we wanted to do this is every year we look for service to do in our community,” said Tyler Herring, who organized the volunteers. “It’s an honor to be able to come out to do this every year.”
Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Justice Cruzan, a Culpeper County High School student, said she volunteered because she had family members who served. She added cleaning the headstones is a way of repaying the fallen.
“Keeping their headstones clean is honoring them,” Cruzan said.
The cemetery director said groups spending time volunteering during a pandemic is inspiring.
“Witnessing these volunteers dedicate their time and energy on this beautiful autumn day always renews my commitment to NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with a final resting place in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation,” said Matthew Priest, cemetery director. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, Americans are going to safely gather to help us honor our servicemembers who have come before us and stood for something greater than themselves.”
Herring said the event was different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions. He said that didn’t stop the group from coming out.
“We’re still able to social distance,” Herring said. “We’re still able to follow all the mandates we need to, but we’re still able to serve.”
National cemetery directors may allow volunteers to return to the cemetery on a limited basis. The decision to bring back volunteers will be a local cemetery decision based upon current cemetery conditions. Cemeteries use federal, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Any volunteers who are considered at risk due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wait until conditions improve prior to resuming any volunteer activities.
Volunteers are essential
Priest said volunteers are an essential part of national cemeteries honoring Veterans and ensuring no Veteran ever dies.
“This is the second year that Tyler contacted me about how his team can help memorialize the men and women interred at Culpeper National Cemetery,” Priest said. “I am always amazed when I see so many patriots volunteer their time to help remember those who stood their final formation for us. Service and commitment are two words that are etched in the core of all Americans. That is evident today.”