Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19

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.

Read the full story on whether rental cars are safe.

Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19

Are hotels safe?

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.”

Read the full story on whether hotels are safe.

What are hotels’ new cleaning policies?

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.”

Now, that work is being replicated in hotels for regular guests, placing technology at the forefront. In addition to adhering to strict CDC guidelines on health and safety, some brands including InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), Loews, and Best Western are adopting American Hotel Lodging Association’s (AHLA) StaySafe campaign to help facilitate everything from how to conduct a contactless check-in to a new set of cleaning standards and protocols.

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.

Here are the new plans and precautions being taken from major hotel brands around the world.

Are Airbnbs safe?

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.

Read the full story on whether Airbnbs are safe.

Hotels vs. Airbnbs: Which one is safer?

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.”

Read the full story on which is safer: Airbnbs or hotels?

Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19

Is flying safe right now?

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.

Read the full story on whether flying is safe right now, including a sample of airlines’ current COVID-19 policies.

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.

Read the full story on key takeaways to learn from travel agents and tour operators about how to book travel right now, and into next year.

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.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

It’s almost impossible to get COVID-19 on an airplane, new military study suggests

A new military-led study unveiled Thursday shows there is a low risk for passengers traveling aboard large commercial aircraft to contract an airborne virus such as COVID-19 — and it doesn’t matter where they sit on the airplane.

Researchers concluded that because of sophisticated air particle filtration and ventilation systems on board the Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft — the planes tested for the study — airborne particles within the cabin have a very short lifespan, according to defense officials with U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Air Mobility Command, which spearheaded the study.


“The favorable results are attributable to a combination of the airframes’ high air exchange rates, coupled with the high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration recirculation systems, and the downward airflow ventilation design which results in rapid dilution and purging of the disseminated aerosol particles,” Vice Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command, said during a virtual roundtable with reporters.

DARPA teamed up with biodefense company Zeteo Tech, scientific research company S3i and the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) for the trials. Industry partners included Boeing and United Airlines.; the study was funded by TRANSCOM, according to Army Lt Col Ellis Gales, spokesman for the command.

“All areas on both aircraft proved to be extremely effective in dispersing and filtering out the aerosol particles,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Pope, TRANSCOM Operations directorate liaison for the airflow particle test. “So specifically, can I tell you to sit in seat XYZ? No; they all performed very well.”

During the tests, held Aug. 24-31, analysts released two types of aerosols that had specific DNA signatures. The tagged fluorescent tracers allowed for researchers to better follow their distribution path, both in flight and on the ground.

Sensors throughout the aircraft measured over 300 iterations of aerosol releases — at rates of 2 to 4 minutes — across four cabin zones on the 777, and three zones on the 767, Mewboourne explained. The dispersions were mapped in real-time, he said.

The particles were quickly diluted, however, and only remained detectable for fewer than six minutes on average, TRANSCOM said in the report. By comparison “a typical American home takes around 90 minutes to clear these types of particles from the air,” the command said.

While the more time spent on an aircraft correlates to a potential infection rate, according to the study, even passengers on long-haul flights wouldn’t be able to pick up a sufficient viral load under the test conditions. Passengers traveling on board the 777 would need to spend at least “54 hours when sitting next to an index patient in the economy section,” and more than 100 hours in the other cabins of both the 777 and the 767 to be exposed to an infectious dose, the study said.

Mannequins representing passengers were positioned throughout the aircraft, some wearing masks and some without. David Silcott of S3i and one of the authors of the report said the dispersed mannequins were part of both breathing and cough tests.

During the simulated cough tests, masked mannequins showed a “very, very large reduction in aerosol that would come out of [them], greater than 95% for most cases,” Silcott said. “It definitely showed the benefit of wearing a mask inflight from these tests.”

Pope said it is important to consider that the study was specific to aerosols and not ballistic droplets, those that are emitted while coughing, sneezing or breathing heavily.

That said, “the mask is very important in that the larger droplets that travel ballistically through the air will be caught by your mask,” Pope said. “And if you don’t have the mask on, then you cannot reduce those numbers of ballistic particles.”

Scientists also collected samples from surfaces like armrests and video screens, considered “high-touch” zones; the tests showed that while the distribution on surfaces was minimal, flat surface areas — like armrests — are more likely than vertical surface areas like seatbacks or screens to collect deposits of particles.

There are other caveats: The scientists didn’t try to simulate passengers freely moving about the cabin, moving around to switch locations or turning toward one another to have a conversation.

“While … we’re very encouraged by the results, that’s part of the reason why we’re making the results public, and sharing them with the scientific community so that that follow-on research can be done,” Pope said.

The study next heads into a peer review before its findings can be submitted for a scientific journal. TRANSCOM is examining the results, which could spur new travel policies or proposals, Pope said.

Following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, TRANSCOM identified an immediate need to move passengers in a safe manner, including high-risk patients as well as military members and families traveling aboard the Defense Department-contracted Patriot Express flights. The two Boeing aircraft used for the aerosol simulations are the aircraft most typically used for Patriot Express flights.

The officials stressed service members should still follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and airline protocols when boarding a flight.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Peloton instructor leans on military mindset to push riders through pandemic

Current times can’t quarantine the hustle of one Long Island-native who continues to embolden thousands of Peloton enthusiasts up the leaderboard.

Senior instructor Alex Toussaint is known for motivating riders with his no-excuses brand born from years of training at a military school. The child of a sailor and nephew of an airman, he exudes the discipline needed to formulate a workout that can help someone PR while entertaining them with a Biggie-versus-Tupac track battle. He tailors each class to be its own individual vibe, whether it’s a HIIT ride, intervals & arms, or pays homage to a specific decade — and crafting that experience requires precision when sculpting message, music and song placement.


“Depending on what class it is, the prep can take anywhere from an hour to the entire day, honestly. … I always start with the playlist and that may require me to sit down and be like, how many hills do I want to have in this playlist? How many flat roads; how many recoveries? And that will determine the style and the music that I go for. Once I lock the playlist in, then I have to figure out the transitions and how everything flows because I’m very, very critical of, you can have a 10-song playlist but if song 2 and song 8 are in the wrong placement, the playlist can sound terrible.”

Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.

Toussaint’s meticulous nature was instilled in him at military school in Missouri. His parents enrolled him for grades 6 to 11 in response to behavioral issues he experienced as a kid. He said his dad thought the discipline and structure would be helpful, and in fact, he has leaned on the principles ever since.

After graduation he pursued audio and video production — skills that also proved useful as he climbed the ranks of the fitness industry.

“I was that kid that graduated high school and went to college just to buy time and to please my parents, knowing that wasn’t really the general direction I wanted to go. But then again, I had no direction — I had no idea of what I wanted to do. While I was up in school, my car was stolen and I kind of went through this weird, dark depression stage that eventually had me come back to East Hampton,” he said.

He was introduced to the bike when he started working as a maintenance worker at an indoor cycling studio. Toussaint says he approached the owner about an opportunity to audition.

“I would listen to the instructors teaching through the door and literally get inspiration based off their playlist and based off what they were saying. At the time, I was never even on a cycling bike. So, I walked into work and asked the owner, who is now my life mentor, I asked him, ‘hey, can I be an instructor?'” Toussaint said.

Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.

The combination of training from military school and years in the marching band made him proficient at formulating a script for classes, attributes he said would tie all of his capabilities into one useful package.

“I literally went from one week mopping floors to the next week teaching a class,” he added.

That was in 2013 and he has since taught around the U.S. and opened a studio in Dubai before landing at Peloton. And now he finds himself among an elite group of instructors pushing onlookers through the current COVID-19 pandemic. As people were forced into isolation, Peloton became a gathering place for novice and advanced riders to bond over a common need for connection. The company also offers yoga, meditation, and boot camp, among other classes.

“Honestly, it’s that discipline over distraction mindset. It’s that military mindset which has honestly pushed me through this. It’s essentially the people who are on the frontlines — medical workers, police officers, things like that who are on the frontline right now — I kind of view what we’re doing as a service to the people. Because everybody’s at home, I feel like I’m obligated as an instructor and as a person in a position that can provide light to others, that I must,” he said.

Though Peloton is structured as an in-home program, instructors logistically perform workouts from studios in New York and the United Kingdom. That is until the coronavirus impacted operations and its team had to get creative on how to deliver its live programming. Toussaint and his fellow instructors are now offering classes live from their own homes, or through a pivot he would describe as adapting and overcoming.

“Throughout these tough days there’s absolutely light at the end of the tunnel. We’re going to get through this together. We just have to stick together as a family, as a unit, and I think that right now, more than ever, you just have to really have hope. The support from one another will be a strong enough foundation to make sure we get through this. We will come out stronger on the opposite side,” Toussaint said.

Ready to lock and load? Follow Alex Toussaint on Instagram for messages of motivation and check out Peloton’s range of classes including the 90-day free trial for new users who sign up by April 30.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

41 small, nice things to do for an overwhelmed partner

In times of stress, it’s the little things that make a difference. They always are, but they’re particularly important now, as the coronavirus pandemic looms, we’re more or less housebound, and levels of anxiety, fear, and grief mix together into a strange emotional slurry. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, if you sense your husband or wife might be feeling a bit more stressed than normal because of the kids and well, everything, noticing that and making some small, thoughtful gestures can go a long way. Things like giving them the time and space to take a Zoom fitness class, getting the kids out of the house for a few hours, ordering from that takeout place they love, and validating their emotions. The little things always matter, but in times of crisis they matter even more. So, to offer some assistance, here are 43 small, nice things to do for a partner who’s feeling overwhelmed. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Doing what we can to help our loved ones, well, feel loved and appreciated will help us all get through it.


  1. Take the kids to the park for two hours. And don’t sit on your phone for those two hours: Ride bikes, kick the ball, play games — the goal is to tire them out. Give them a solid block of time during the day when they can make calls, uninterrupted, and you deal with the kids. And by dealing with them, you keep them quiet and occupied and tend to their needs.
  2. Create space to let them get their ‘me-time’ — is it exercising? a nap on a Saturday? Sleeping in? Meditation? — and don’t make a big deal out of it.
  3. Get wine and lug it home. Do laundry. All the laundry. Dry it. Fold it. Iron it if needed. Put it away. And do it without telling them.
  4. Fix that thing that’s adding minor annoyances to their day. Are Internet dead zones around the house making their Zoom or Facetime calls all the more frustrating? Fix it. Does the front door sound like a cackling spirit every time it shuts? Fix it.
  5. Take turns making dinner. If you already do so, great. If not, start now. And by doing dinner, we mean cleaning up afterwards, too.
  6. Instead of asking how you can help, offer to help with a specific thing you have noticed they’re struggling with.
  7. Pour coffee for them on busy mornings.
  8. Don’t take longer in the bathroom than you need to.
  9. Tell them you believe in them. Just remind them how strong they are
  10. Give them a hug every day. Don’t forget it.
  11. Rub their shoulders. Or their feet. Or their hands. Actually, whatever they need rubbed, rub it.
  12. Protect their space from intrusions when they need to focus on something.
  13. Plot out an after-dinner walk. Even if the destination is the Old Oak Tree, it’s getting away.
  14. Take something small off their plate — a chore, a bill — without telling them first. Just do it.
  15. Sneak out of bed in the morning. Tidy up while they rest.
  16. Appreciate them professionally by paying attention to how they work — and how they work well.
  17. Don’t try to make them rationalize why they’re overwhelmed. just let them be stressed, complain, and say ‘that sucks.’
  18. When it’s happy hour, ask them what they want to drink. Make them that drink
  19. Ask them if they want to watch their favorite show. Especially the one that you don’t like all that much.
  20. Validate their emotions. Don’t say that they’re “freaking out over nothing.” Whatever it is, it’s important to them. Listen. Understand.
  21. Draw them a bath. Fill it with the nice smelling bath bomb and fancy soap. Yeah, that one. Light some candles. Give them however long to be in it.
  22. Figure out their love language — and then speak it. Even if you think that love languages are stupid and wrong, it will help you think about how best to communicate your affection. Does your partner tend to give you gifts? Or compliments? Do they seem particularly moved by affection? Think about it, then do it, even and especially if it feels awkward.
  23. Let. Them. Sleep. Do whatever needs to be done to make that happen.
  24. Is a family outing you suggested adding more stress to their world? Cancel it. Schedule something else. There’s a lot going on right now and more to plan means more to think about.
  25. Listen actively. That is, ask them a question, let them speak without interruption, and ask questions to help them say more. Listen again. Only offer guidance if they ask for it. Otherwise, just listen.
  26. Do they need you to just leave them alone for a half hour? Sometimes, this can feel rude. It doesn’t matter. They need it. Give it to them.
  27. Sing them a song. If that feels too weird, sing it and record it and send them the recording when you’re not around. If that still feels too weird, send them a song with meaningful words at an unexpected time.
  28. Order food from their favorite take-out spot, even if it’s a spot that you hate.
  29. If your kid is old enough, teach them to sing your partner’s favorite song/draw their portrait/say a favorite movie line/do a dance/etc. and then surprise them with it.
  30. Text them to say you’re thinking of them. Text them a compliment. Text them something whose sole purpose is just affection, at a time when they’re not expecting it. Even if you’re just in the other room.
  31. Say sorry — an actual sorry, where you mention specific failings, not a half-assed one — for something you fucked up that you never said sorry for. It’s never too late. They haven’t forgotten.
  32. Do whatever sex thing they like that you don’t. Prioritize their pleasure.
  33. Better yet, tell them that they are always so good at giving you what you need in bed and that, tonight, it’s all about them. A compliment and a complete night of pleasure? Smooth.
  34. This one sounds really weird, but it’s surprisingly nice: Read to them in bed.
  35. Order from or go to their favorite coffee place/lunch place/cupcake place, order what they normally order, and bring it home to them. We’re all grieving the routines we once had.
  36. Is the state of the world adding to their state of mind? Suggest some house rules around phone usage. Set them together. Follow them together. Help one another when it’s hard.
  37. Speaking of phone usage, restrict your own. Do you find yourself spacing out on your phone too much? Reading too much news? Phubbing — aka phone snubbing — your partner? Take measures to hold yourself accountable.
  38. Set up a Zoom call with friends they haven’t seen in a while. Call their friends. Make sure everyone can attend. Surprise them with it.
  39. When they’re waffling on whether or not they want to take a mental health day, tell them to do it. Back them up.
  40. Do everything you can to make sure they have the time — and space — to do their weekly Zoom workout class without interruption. If you have to, schedule the workout class for them.
  41. Tell them you love them and that you’ll get through this together.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

President Trump announces Operation America Strong: Flyovers by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels across the USA

Look! Up in the sky!

In the next few weeks, residents of various cities around the country will get to see a pretty awesome sight. The United States Navy’s Blue Angels and the United States Air Force’s Thunderbirds will be carrying out flyovers over selected cities.


Operation America Strong was announced Wednesday by President Donald Trump during his daily press briefings on the coronavirus outbreak. The purpose is to honor the health care workers that have been working tirelessly around the clock at great risk to their own health during the coronavirus outbreak that has closed down much of the country, as well as unite Americans around the world.

Trump said, “I’m excited to announce that in the coming weeks, the Air Force Thunderbirds – are incredible – and the Navy’s Blue Angels, equally incredible, will be performing air shows over America’s major cities. What we’re doing is we’re paying tribute to our front-line health care workers confronting COVID. And it’s really a signal to all Americans to remain vigilant during the outbreak. This is a tribute to them, to our warriors. Because they are equal warriors to those incredible pilots and all of the fighters that we have for the more traditional fights that we win and we win.”

The Thunderbirds have already been flying in honor of health care workers at various locations over the state of Colorado and at the United States Air Force Academy Commencement. Some cities will see one unit or the other, while select cities will get to see a joint flyover.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_QQE3LhEuW/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]AirshowStuff on Instagram: “Another awesome view of this afternoon’s combined flyby. #Repost @kalibellemk • • • • • • Pensacola Beach, Florida ??????Always proud.…”

www.instagram.com

The event was an idea of several senior level military officers who think this will be a great way to show the unified resolve of the country.

Even though the news was just announced, several questions have already arisen over if the intended purpose is necessary and if it could cause any issues as most cities are under lock down. Flyovers are expensive endeavors and can cost up to ,000 an hour. However, Pentagon officials have said that these flyovers have already been accounted for in the yearly budget (safe to say, numerous canceled shows have helped)

As for crowds, the Pentagon has stated that these will not be airshows and aim to have flyovers be over areas where crowds can not congregate, although that might be harder to do in reality than on paper.

While set dates have not been announced, a DOD memo did state the cities which have been initially selected to see a flyover.

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

San Antonio, TX

Oklahoma City, OK

Phoenix, AZ

San Diego, CA

Los Angeles, CA

San Francisco, CA

Portland, OR

Seattle, WA

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U.S. Navy Blue Angels

Miami, FL

Tampa, FL

Tallahassee, FL

Jacksonville, FL

Norfolk, VA

Virginia Beach, VA

Joint Flyover of Both Teams

Washington, DC

Baltimore, MD

New York, NY

Newark, NJ

Trenton, NJ

Philadelphia, PA

Atlanta, GA

Dallas, TX

Houston, TX

Austin, TX

As dates are set, we will update this list. ‘Merica strong!

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

It Sure Looks Like Cats Can Contract COVID-19

A Belgian housecat may be the first feline with a confirmed case of COVID-19, joining the more than 800,000 humans around the world who have contracted the disease to date.

Belgium’s Federal Public Service announced that the cat’s owner contracted the disease after a trip to Northern Italy, one of the most infected regions in the world. About a week after the onset of their human’s symptoms, the cat followed suit, with diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Poor kitty.


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Tests conducted at a veterinary school in Liège on vomit and feces samples from the cat confirmed the vet’s suspicions: High levels of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus were found. Blood tests will be conducted once the feline exits quarantine and antibodies specific to the virus are expected to be found.

When COVID-19 first hit our shores, many media outlets (ahem, New York Times) were quick to jump on the fact that the virus was not yet shown to infect dogs. This has proven untrue — two dogs in Hong Kong were infected — and is beside the point. Dogs are not a primary vector for the disease, but if their owner is infected, they can certainly pass on the virus. This is why experts advise steering clear of strange dogs when you’re on solitary walks no matter how friendly they are.

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Still, the experts don’t seem too panicked about this development.

“We think the cat is a side victim of the ongoing epidemic in humans and does not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus,” Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.

That’s good news for the humans of the earth, especially the cat people. The good news for the felines of the earth is that the cat in question recovered from the virus after just nine days with all nine of its lives intact.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military community is rallying around this immunocompromised Marine

The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.

Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.


Pin-Ups For Vets on Facebook Watch

www.facebook.com

Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.

Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.

“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.

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LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.

“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FIJAqwoMMMFgBbL_ZCKF1TLooCJI5yLryiSan4mkecudwFI0ptLWUYTWDgdZ1GDknqClIhDJVOJImDBRXspXWDumjH57rInPLFPVHmWbe7c3kpEnDT-iQTmPB6oncpWRbG-IG2tvZ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=900&h=4b98db184d1b717d840799fa43d7f9e4dce9b77a85822f56b56bfa8b97e298e0&size=980x&c=426830869 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FIJAqwoMMMFgBbL_ZCKF1TLooCJI5yLryiSan4mkecudwFI0ptLWUYTWDgdZ1GDknqClIhDJVOJImDBRXspXWDumjH57rInPLFPVHmWbe7c3kpEnDT-iQTmPB6oncpWRbG-IG2tvZ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D900%26h%3D4b98db184d1b717d840799fa43d7f9e4dce9b77a85822f56b56bfa8b97e298e0%26size%3D980x%26c%3D426830869%22%7D” expand=1]

Deputy Sheriff Sweeney and a future law enforcement officer, clearly!

(Courtesy photo)

Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.

“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.

Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.

And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.

Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography

MIGHTY CULTURE

Stuck inside? Get free e-books at Project Gutenberg

Veterans stuck inside can turn to reading a catalog of more than 61,000 classic, free e-books and audio books at Project Gutenberg.

People can read books online or download them for reading offline, including popular e-readers.

In addition to reading, there’s a selection of audio books available on the site. The site also offers books in dozens of languages, including hundreds in Spanish.


The books are mainly older literary works whose copyright expired. Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Jack London and Jane Austen are some of the celebrated authors. People can read about characters such as Moby Dick, Frankenstein, Peter Pan, Tiny Tim and Alice in Wonderland.

Searching for books

Users can search for books a variety of ways. Project Gutenberg offers a list of the most popular books, latest books, a search feature, or a random book selection. Users can also browse the digital bookshelves by categories, genre, age group or topic.

The bookshelves are broken into categories. These range from animals to history to science.

One of these categories is a section called the “Wars Bookshelf.” This section has books about the Revolutionary War, Boer War, English Civil War, Spanish-American War, U.S. Civil War, and both world wars. Selections from this bookshelf range from Marine landings in the Pacific during World War II to stories of Bull Run to audio versions of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. The U.S. Civil War and World War I are the biggest sections, with hundreds of titles.

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live.staticflickr.com

There’s also a “Children’s Bookshelf” that offers fairy tales, fiction books, school stories and more.

Project Gutenberg also needs help digitizing, proofreading and formatting, recording audio books, and reporting errors. People interested in helping can find more information on the website. They can help produce e-books by proof-reading just one page a day.

The website receives hundreds of thousands of downloads each day and several million each month.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

An experimental vaccine is fighting the latest Ebola outbreak


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.

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Siah Tamba is an Ebola survivor who now works at the Ebola treatment unitu00a0in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount, Liberia, after losing her mother, sister, and daughter.
(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.”

Storage temperature

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.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

As COVID-19 Hits Russia, A Self-Styled Psychic Healer And Soviet-Era Icon Returns

MOSCOW — Last week, Russians of a certain age saw a familiar face return to their screens. Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a self-styled psychic healer who entranced TV audiences as the Soviet Union was coming apart three decades ago, is back as an octogenarian YouTuber offering solace as the coronavirus spreads.

And some are taking what he has to offer, apparently, helping revive the career of a man who had become an almost forgotten symbol of a time when desperation ran high.


Almost 250,000 viewers have watched Healing Seance, a video posted on April 9 to Kashpirovsky’s channel on YouTube:

Кашпировский: Оздоровительный сеанс. Прямой эфир из Москвы. 09.04.2020г.

www.youtube.com

He sits immobile against a background of beige wallpaper and asks viewers to cover their eyes with their hands — not normally advisable as a pandemic rages.

“Over the coming days,” he says toward the end of what is essentially an hourlong monologue, “comments will keep coming in from people who have been cured.”

Kashpirovsky, now 80, achieved celebrity status in the Soviet Union through a series of televised sessions beginning in 1989 — two years before the country ceased to exist. Fixing his steely gaze on viewers who sat at home, some transfixed, he claimed powers to cure the sick and heal a nation that was hurting from the effects of economic decline.

At the peak of his celebrity in the early 1990s, Kashpirovsky was traveling the country to appear before packed halls and placed second only to President Boris Yeltsin in surveys of Russia’s most popular public figures.

In the waning days of the U.S.S.R. and the early years after its collapse, millions of people looking for meaning amid the chaos of change and stark economic challenges turned for relief to people like Kashpirovsky, who years earlier might have risked being sent by the Soviet state to a psychiatric hospital but now found a prominent place on prime-time television.

Early Morning Psychics

Kashpirovsky was not alone. Hundreds of thousands watched Allan Chumak, his main rival, as he flailed his arms in a “healing” ritual on his early morning TV slot. Viewers would place water bottles or tubs of cream in front of their TV sets to “charge” them with Chumak’s energy, which the mystic claimed was enough to heal ailments if drunk or smeared on the skin.

Kashpirovsky’s most famous stunt came in March 1989, when he appeared on a screen inside an operating room in Tbilisi, Georgia, via video link from Ukraine, and proceeded to guide a woman who could not use anesthesia through open abdominal surgery.

“Now everyone who watched me can go to the dentist and have their tooth pulled,” he told viewers afterward. “There will be no pain at all.”

The woman, Lesya Yershova, said in an interview several months later that she had felt “terrible pain” throughout the operation, which required a 40-centimeter incision, and had only cooperated because she didn’t want to let Kashpirovsky down. She agreed to forego anesthesia because Kashpirovsky had promised to make her thinner and bring her along to his shows around the world as an example of his healing powers, she told the newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta.

He didn’t keep his promise, she said.

Kashpirovsky’s claims of supernatural powers soon drew comparisons with the 20th-century healer Rasputin, whose malign influence on the family of Tsar Nicholas II sparked accusations that he was meddling in affairs of state and contributed to the collapse of Russia’s war effort in 1917 and the ultimate downfall of its monarchy. Rasputin was said to ease the pain of the tsar’s hemophiliac son simply by talking to him.

A former weightlifter and a trained psychologist, Kashpirovsky has largely retreated from the spotlight since the 1990s. In 2009, with Russia reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis, he sought to stage a comeback of sorts by launching a TV show devoted to “paranormal investigations.” But in a country where there’s no shortage of such offerings — a show called Battle Of The Psychics is now in its 20th season — his star soon faded again.

In 2010, shortly after he announced that comeback, Kashpirovsky — who did not immediately respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment — launched his YouTube channel. Since then he has posted videos from auditorium shows performed in various countries, where he meets with locals and members of Russian emigre communities who pay money in hopes of being healed. The videos are posted with titles like Instantaneous Cure For A Slipped Disc and Salvation From Pain.

In a video he posted last August, an elderly man who appears to have a heavily curved spine walks across a stage in Taraz, Kazakhstan, to meet Kashpirovsky, before disappearing backstage. Minutes later he runs back onstage, waving his arms in triumph to rapturous applause from the audience, his back seemingly healed.

Кашпировский. Мгновенное избавление от спинно-мозговой грыжи.

www.youtube.com

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have drawn new attention to Kashpirovsky as it spreads in Russia, where the numbers of confirmed cases have risen sharply in recent days and President Vladimir Putin said on April 13 that the situation was “changing for the worse.”

Officially, the number of confirmed cases now exceeds 21,000, with 170 deaths, but experts suspect the real numbers may be higher.

Viewership of Kashpirovsky’s YouTube channel has risen substantially in recent weeks: His March 25 monologue — titled Coronavirus. Its Pluses And Minuses — has almost half a million views.

As he spoke during his “healing seance” on April 9, a scrolling text chat displayed comments from viewers.

“My tinnitus has completely gone,” one woman wrote. Another reported that a chronic neck pain had passed within three minutes. “I’ve believed in you since 1989,” wrote a third — though it was unclear whether in earnest or in jest.

After 53 minutes, Kashpirovsky signed off with a message to gullible viewers.

“Our meeting will naturally provoke in you an explosion in your immune system, which will protect you,” he said. “I crave that from the bottom of my soul.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Governments across the world are galvanizing every surveillance tool at their disposal to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Countries have been quick to use the one tool almost all of us carry with us — our smartphones.


A live index of ramped up security measures by Top10VPN details the countries which have already brought in measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.”

Samuel Woodhams, Top10VPN’s Digital Rights Lead who compiled the index, warned that the world could slide into permanently increased surveillance.

“Without adequate tracking, there is a danger that these new, often highly invasive, measures will become the norm around the world,” he told Business Insider. “Although some may appear entirely legitimate, many pose a risk to citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of expression.

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“Given how quickly things are changing, documenting the new measures is the first step to challenging potential overreach, providing scrutiny and holding corporations and governments to account.”

While some countries will cap their new emergency measures, otherwise may retain the powers for future use. “There is a risk that many of these new capabilities will continue to be used following the outbreak,” said Woodhams. “This is particularly significant as many of the new measures have avoided public and political scrutiny and do not include sunset clauses.”

Here’s a breakdown of which countries have started tracking phone data, with varying degrees of invasiveness:

The US is reportedly gathering data from the ads industry to get an idea of where people are congregating

Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the federal, state, and local governments have begun to gather and study geolocation data to get a better idea of how people are moving about.

In one example, a source said the data had shown people were continuing to gather in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and this information had been handed over to local autorities. The eventual aim is to create a portal for government officials with data from up to 500 US cities.

The data is being gathered from the advertising industry, which often gains access to people’s geolocation when they sign up to apps. Researcher Sam Woodhams says using the ad industry as a source poses a particular problem for privacy.

“Working closely with the ad tech industry to track citizens’ whereabouts raises some significant concerns. The sector as a whole is renowned for its lack of transparency and many users will be unaware that these apps are tracking their movement to begin with. It is imperative that governments and all those involved in the collection of this sensitive data are transparent about how they operate and what measures are in place to ensure citizens’ right to privacy is protected,” Woodhams told Business Insider.

The US’ coronavirus economic relief bill also included a 0 million for the CDC to build a “surveillance and data collection system.”

South Korea gives out detailed information about patients’ whereabouts

South Korea has gone a step further than other countries, tracking individuals’ phones and creating a publicly available map to allow other citizens to check whether they may have crossed paths with any coronavirus patients.

The tracking data that goes into the map isn’t limited to mobile phone data, credit card records and even face-to-face interviews with patients are being used to build a retroactive map of where they’ve been.

Not only is the map there for citizens to check, but the South Korean government is using it to proactively send regional text messages warning people they may have come into contact with someone carrying the virus.

The location given can be extremely specific, the Washington Post reported a text went out that said an infected person had been at the “Magic Coin Karaoke in Jayang-dong at midnight on Feb. 20.”

Some texts give out more personal information however. A text reported by The Guardian read: “A woman in her 60s has just tested positive. Click on the link for the places she visited before she was hospitalised.”

The director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jeong Eun-kyeong, acknowledged that the site infringes on civil liberties, saying: “It is true that public interests tend to be emphasized more than human rights of individuals when dealing with diseases that can infect others.”

The map is already interfering with civil liberties, as a South Korean woman told the Washington Post that she had stopped attending a bar popular with lesbians for fear of being outed. “If I unknowingly contract the virus… that record will be released to the whole country,” she said.

The system is also throwing up other unexpected challenges. The Guardian reported that one man claiming to be infected threatened various restaurants saying he would visit and hurt their custom unless they gave him money to stay away.

Iran asked citizens to download an invasive app

Vice reported that Iran’s government endorsed a coronavirus diagnosis app that collected users’ real-time location data.

On March 3, a message went out to millions of Iranian citizens telling them to install the app, called AC19, before going to a hospital or health center.

The app claimed to be able to diagnose the user with coronavirus by asking a series of yes or no questions. The app has since been removed from the Google Play store.

Israel passed new laws to spy on its citizens

As part of a broad set of new surveillance measures approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 17, Israel’s Security Agency will no longer have to obtain a court order to track individuals’ phones. The new law also stipulates all data collected must be deleted after 30 days.

Netanyahu described the new security measures as “invasive” in an address to the nation.

“We’ll deploy measures we’ve only previously deployed against terrorists. Some of these will be invasive and infringe on the privacy of those affected. We must adopt a new routine,” said Netanyahu.

TraceTogether: Community-driven contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19

www.youtube.com

Singapore has an app which can trace people within 2 meters of infected patients

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency and the Ministry of Health developed an app for contact tracing called TraceTogether which launched on March 20.

Per the Straits Times, the app is used: “to identify people who have been in close proximity — within 2m for at least 30 minutes — to coronavirus patients using wireless Bluetooth technology.”

“No geolocation data or other personal data is collected,” TraceTogether said in an explanatory video.

Taiwan can tell when quarantined people have left the house

Taiwan has activated what it calls an “electronic fence,” which tracks mobile phone data and alerts authorities when someone who is supposed to be quarantined at home is leaving the house.

“The goal is to stop people from running around and spreading the infection,” said Jyan Hong-wei, head of Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security. Jyan added that local authorities and police should be able to respond to anyone who triggers an alert within 15 minutes.

Even having your phone turned off seems to be enough to warrant a police visit. An American student living in Taiwan wrote in a BBC article that he was visited by two police officers at 8:15 a.m. because his phone had run out of battery at 7:30 a.m. and the government had briefly lost track of him. The student was in quarantine at the time because he had arrived in Taiwan from Europe.

Austria is using anonymized data to map people’s movements

On March 17 Austria’s biggest telecoms network operator Telekom Austria AG announced it was sharing anonymized location data with the government.

The technology being used was developed by a spin-off startup out of the University of Graz, and Telekom Austria said it is usually used to measure footfall in popular tourist sites.

Woodhams told Business Insider that while collecting aggregated data sets is less invasive than other measures, how that data could be used in future should still be cause for concern.

“Much of the data may remain at risk from re-identification, and it still provides governments with the ability to track the movement of large groups of its citizens,” said Woodhams.

Poland is making people send selfies to prove they’re quarantining correctly

On March 20 the Polish government announced the release of a new app called “Home Quarantine.” The point of the app is to make sure people who are supposed to be quarantining themselves for 14 days stay in place.

To use the app first you have to register a selfie, it then sends periodic requests for geo-located selfies. If the user fails to comply within 20 minutes, the police will be alerted.

“People in quarantine have a choice: either receive unexpected visits from the police, or download this app,” a spokesman for Poland’s Digital Ministry said.

The Polish government is automatically generating accounts for suspected quarantine patients, including people returning from abroad.

Belgium is using anonymized data from telcos

The Belgian government gave the go-ahead on March 11 to start using anonymized data from local telecom companies.

Germany is modeling how people are moving around

Deutsche Telekom announced on March 18 it would be sharing data with the Robert Koch Institute (Germany’s version of the CDC).

“With this we can model how people are moving around nationwide, on a state level, and even on a community level,” a spokesperson for Deutsche Telekom told Die Welt.

Italy has created movement maps

Italy, which has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, has also signed a deal with telecoms operators to collect anonymized location data.

As of March 18 Italy had charged 40,000 of its citizens with violating its lockdown laws, per The Guardian.

The UK isn’t tracking yet but is considering it, and is reportedly working on an opt-in contact tracing app

While nothing official has been announced yet, the UK is in talks with major telecoms providers including O2 and EE to provide large sets of anonymized data.

Google has also indicated it is taking part in discussions.

Sky News also reported the NHS and NHSX (the digital wing of the NHS) have been working on an opt-in contact tracing app. The app would work similarly to Singapore’s, using Bluetooth and self-reporting to establish whether you’ve been near someone with suspected coronavirus.

According to Sky, alerts will be sent out on a delay to stop individuals from being identified. The app will be released either just before or just after Britain’s lockdown is lifted.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Featured

A top German doctor recommends whiskey to protect against COVID-19 (he’s joking…but still)

Updated: In keeping with Facebook’s efforts to report fake news, we have updated this article to include the doctor’s full statement.

While the World Health Organization vehemently disagrees, Dr. Juergen Rissland, a lead doctor at the Institute for Virology at Saarland University Hospital in Germany, went on the record to say: Drinking whiskey can protect against COVID-19.

And that is definitely one report we can all get behind.


While appearing on “The Morning Show,” Dr. Rissland was asked about whether or not drinking could kill any viruses a person may have ingested. “Yes, of course, that’s true,” Dr. Rissland responded. “And the higher the percentage of alcohol, the better it is. For example, if you are a whisky lover, then that certainly isn’t a bad idea,” he continued, while offering this bit of sage advice to pace yourself: “But of course you need to bear in mind that you can’t do that every 15 minutes, that is something else to consider.”

Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19Virologist Jurgen Rissland, who says alcohol can protect against COVID-19. Credit: Newsflash/Newsflash

After being prodded a little further by the show’s co-hosts who asked him if he was really suggesting folks drink high-proof alcohol, Dr. Rissland laughed. “I would like to say it can’t hurt, but in the end, it is definitely not a panacea. For God’s sake, you shouldn’t get me wrong here. I just wanted to make the point that the virus is vulnerable to high-proof alcohol, because it has an outer layer made of fat, and high proof alcohol destroys the virus. And one would need to drink quite a lot to get any sort of protection from infection.”

So we’ll take his advice with a good sense of humor… and probably a shot of whiskey.

Prost!

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!


Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours.
Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.

What You Need:

  • Things to jump over, onto, or from. Interlocking foam play mats and tumbling mats are great. So are ropes, toys, cushions, and very stable pieces of furniture.
  • Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
  • Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
  • Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
  • If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.

How to Play:

The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):

  1. Balance beam.
  2. Knock down all the cans.
  3. Jump from block to block.
  4. Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
  5. Crawl through the tunnel.
  6. Drag a heavy thing past the line.
  7. Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19

The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.

It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.

To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.

Wrap Up:

Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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