It’s time for a mask upgrade. As COVID-19 variants rage across multiple continents and a faster-spreading strain make its way further across the US, it’s time to splurge on a new mask. Infectious disease experts have recommended we double up on masks or enhance our layers with masks that have better coverage. Wear your best masks to run errands or in crowded, hard-to-avoid areas. If you don’t have a three-layer cloth mask, buy some disposable masks to wear underneath your cloth layer. The KCM team picked nine masks that we keep coming back to. Mask up and stay vigilant!
#1 Lilla P Face Mask (Set of 3)
Lilla P’s three-ply cotton masks are colorful, comfortable, and offer adjustable behind-the-ear elastic loops. Plus, masks that are adjustable and fit tighter on your face are recommended for protecting yourself in public spaces. Each set comes with three cloth masks, and are completely washable and reusable.
Athleta Girl’s new adjustable 5-pack everyday masks are optimal for non-crowded walks for the kids. They have positive messaging like “Love” “Kindness,” “Peace” and come in five fun, classic colors! Athleta is also donating 100,000 non-medical masks to a major healthcare organization in support of our heroes on the front line.
Vistaprints face masks are designed with a replaceable filter system that can be used for 12 hours of active filtering time. The filters are thick and high-quality that slide right in and are available in packs of ten. The lightweight, machine washable masks are made with materials that wick away moisture and have adjustable latex-free straps. This might be your new favorite mask.
DIOP’s face masks come in 37 (yes, you read that right, t h i r t y – s e v e n) exquisite patterns and are perfect for layering on your mask game. They’re durable and lightweight, have ear loops designed for comfort, and are machine washable. They have three layers of 100% woven cotton with a pocket for filters (sold separately). Filti’s patent-pending Nanofiber material can filter up to 95% of airborne particles (0.3 microns), including bacteria and viruses. A portion of the profits from sales of DIOP Masks will be donated to Feed the Frontlines in Detroit (where DIOP is based), which supports Detroit restaurants and provides meals to emergency and healthcare workers.
Tanya Taylor’s 3-piece printed cotton poplin face mask set is a pleated design, with adjustable elastic ear straps, and is washable and made from cotton/elastane. The cheerful and bright abstract patterns are the perfect outer layer to your medical mask and almost make masking up a fun, fashionable time.
Anthropologie’s reversible face masks not only have vibrant, stylish designs but they come in a pack of three and can be worn primarily in warmer climates. These are the perfect layering piece to go over your sturdier filter mask layer. Per usual, we’re obsessed.
Outdoor Research Face Mask Kit is our favorite self-care beauty kit (because being safe and healthy is absolutely gorgeous). The kit comes with a face mask and a 3-pack of filters that provide naturally breathable protection that filters greater than 95% of virus, bacteria, and particles when worn together. OR’s masks with nose wire is adjustable and washable, as well as treated with HEIQ V-BLOCK® and C0 DWR, rendering it resistant to spoilage from microbes. Outdoor Research designers created masks for the Department of Defense and later for essential workers and hospital staff.
Medical masks, or KF94 masks, you’ve seen many people sport in lieu of N-95 masks, will continue to be popular and widely-worn as the Covid variant surges throughout the world. We recommend getting a couple packs of these now to wear under your cloth masks to create multiple layers of protection.
Meet the face mask we can’t live without. Care+Wear’s Antimicrobial Reusable Face Masks are woven with 6-layer technology, moisture-wicking, and anti-odor fabric. They’re comfortable, durable, and feature adjustable ear loops to tailor your face. The best part?Care+Wear came out with tons of new spring colors.
Covid-19 has claimed millions of lives around the globe. While social distancing is key to staying healthy, avoiding routine medical screenings could have dire consequences down the road
Did you know that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined in the US? March marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and we are working with our partners at Exact Sciences, the makers of Cologuard®, to help raise awareness about the disease. We’ll be sharing crucial information on the importance of screening, details about who is most at risk, and how you can take action to best ensure early detection and prevention of the disease.
In the past year, Covid-19 has claimed over half a million lives in the US alone. While this number is already staggering, there is a secondary consequence of Covid-19 that will likely cause hundreds if not thousands of unnecessary deaths- missed colorectal cancer screenings. This is a matter of national urgency— President Biden even recently released a proclamation on the issue, saying “I urge every American to take the precautions they need in order to stay vigilant against cancer — don’t delay your recommended screenings.” We spoke with Dr. Lisa Ravindra, Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, about the long-term impacts of the pandemic on colorectal cancer, the different screening options available to patients, and why you have no excuse to wait another day if you’ve been putting off your screening.
Wake Up Call: Before the pandemic, colorectal cancer deaths have been decreasing for older Americans. Why is that?
Dr. Lisa Ravindra: Our screening efforts for colon cancer have been very good over the last decade, so the incidence and deaths related to colon cancer have decreased. As we screen more people, we can find cancers and precancerous lesions much earlier. When they’re treated early or removed, there are far fewer deaths and complications down the line.
That’s the main reason why the numbers had been falling, but since the pandemic, a lot of people have missed screenings. We know for sure that there are early cancers and pre-cancerous lesions that are going undiagnosed or will be delayed in being diagnosed because of these missed screenings.
What will be the long term impacts of these missed screenings?
I think it depends. At the beginning of the pandemic, so now we’re talking a year ago, screenings dropped off by almost 90%. But then starting in mid-June, appointments and screenings started to pick back up, but there’s still a backlog. The latest study that I read from September of 2020 showed 36% of adults had delayed care in the previous months. It’s going to be hard to know until we get more updated data if that number is improving, but that’s still a significant chunk of people that may not have gotten screened. Another more recent study showed that the disruption of cancer screenings will mean that many cancers won’t be detected in patients until they’re in later stages and will require more complex care, with lower likelihood that patients will respond to therapy and be cured of these diseases. Years after the pandemic, we’ll still be seeing the impacts that Covid-19 has had on cancer. I’ve seen an estimate that there will be around 10,000 additional deaths from breast and colon cancer over the next 10 years because of missed screenings. That’s just an estimate, and it was taken pretty early on in the pandemic. I’m really hoping that we’ve caught up somewhat.
What exactly is a cancer screening versus a diagnostic test?
The definition of a screening test is one that’s done for somebody that doesn’t have any symptoms. When someone has symptoms, so in the case of colorectal cancer that might be bleeding, blood in the stool, or bowel changes, then that would automatically lead to a diagnostic test. A diagnostic test is done to look for a cause of a problem, where a screening test is always done on an asymptomatic person to potentially find a problem before it starts.
If you’re showing any symptoms, tell your doctor, because you will likely need a test done regardless of your screening interval. So if somebody wasn’t due for a colorectal cancer screening for another year but they were experiencing rectal bleeding, they should be tested immediately.
Can you tell us a little bit about different screening options?
When I talk to patients about colon cancer screening, I first assess the risk of colon cancer. People who are considered to be at higher risk are anybody that’s had a history of polyps, a family history of colon cancer, or has had any bowel changes or symptoms that could suggest a bowel issue.
One option and the preferred option for high risk people is a colonoscopy. These screenings are not only diagnostic, they can also be therapeutic. So if there is a polyp that is seen on a colonoscopy, it can be removed at the time of the colonoscopy and sent in to be checked to see if it is precancerous.
If a patient does not have any risk factors that would place them in the high risk category, they’re probably at average risk for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopies are not the only option for screening average risk patients. One at home option is Cologuard®. It’s for people 45+ at average risk for colorectal cancer. It’s a simple stool test where a patient collects their stool from the comfort of their own home and then sends it back to be processed. The sample is analyzed for blood and DNA fragments that can be associated with cancer. It’s an effective way to screen for cancer, particularly for people who don’t have time or are uncomfortable with the idea of coming into the hospital. Patients with a positive Cologuard test result should be referred for a follow-up colonoscopy. Depending on the patient’s insurance, there may be a cost share for the follow-up colonoscopy for any stool-based screening tests.
As a healthcare provider, have you seen an increase in the number of people that have requested to use Cologuard since the start of the pandemic?
Yes— I think people are much more open to Cologuard as a screening option. Since the start of the pandemic, many people have been hesitant to go into the doctor’s office for in-person screenings, because they think going into a hospital might increase their chances of Covid-19 exposure. We are so used to doing things from home now, between school and work and meetings and everything else. People have become much more open to telemedicine and home testing in general. Anything that can be done from the comfort of home these days seems to be of interest.
When I discuss what colorectal cancer screening options are with my patients, a lot of times people will say, “Oh, I’ll just wait until after the pandemic and then I’ll get a colonoscopy.” I always push these patients to try to pick whatever option that they’re comfortable with doing now, because as we all love to say, “the best test is the test that gets done.” Cologuard is a good screening option for those 45+ at average risk that are worried about exposure. I also try to really reassure patients that we are doing everything we can at the hospital and in my office to make sure it’s safe and clean, so that the risk of Covid-19 exposure is really minimal.
We know that family history is a big factor when it comes to colorectal cancer. What does that mean when it comes to screenings?
Usually the rule of thumb is to get screened 10 years before a first degree relative was diagnosed. So if a first degree relative, meaning either of your parents or a sibling, was diagnosed at age 45, you are high risk and should get screened at age 35.
If it’s a second degree relative, like an aunt, uncle or cousin, the guidelines are less clear. Guidance might also change if you have multiple second degree relatives who have had colorectal cancer. Sometimes I’ll send people for genetic testing to see if they have a familial predisposition, but colorectal cancer is so common that many people have a relative who has had it. That doesn’t always mean those people are at a higher risk than the general population. Really what’s most important is to make sure to get screened regularly, look out for any symptoms, and talk to your doctor about your family history.
What do you have to say to anyone who has put off a screening?
The bottom line is that cancers don’t stop just because our attention is elsewhere. Even though Covid-19 is a concern, it doesn’t mean that cancer cells will stop growing. We can’t ignore that. We’re still behind on cancer screenings since this pandemic started. I urge patients not to put off screenings any longer. Talk to your doctor about your screening options, there is really no excuse to put it off. To physicians, I would say please talk to your patients about all of the ways to get screened. Patients need to know about all of their options, so they can pick something that they are willing to do now.
You can learn more about colorectal cancer and your screening options here. When it comes to colorectal cancer screening, the best test is the one that gets done. Guidelines recommend several colon cancer screening options for average risk patients, including stool- based tests. If you are 45 and older and at average risk for colon cancer, talk to your doctor to see if Cologuard may be right for you. Rx only. See Cologuard.com for Important Risk Information.
Lori Beckstrom, a teacher and mother of four, discusses what quarantine life is like for her family.
The coronavirus pandemic has revived family life as we know it. For the first time since the early 19th century, many parents and kids — and even extended family — are all under the same roof around-the-clock.
Caretaker and mother of four, Lori Beckstrom, said the experience overall has been a positive one. In addition to raising her kids and teaching, Beckstrom also helps take care of her granddaughter and stepmother, who has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease.
“I’ve had to tell myself we’re embracing a new opportunity,” Beckstrom told Wake-Up Call. “We’re learning things we didn’t know before.”
Beckstrom shared some tips on how to balance family life amid these challenging and uncertain times.
Wake-Up Call: In many homes across the U.S., the pandemic has put newfound stresses on families. What are some tips you have for caretakers or parents?
Lori Beckstrom: The biggest thing for us has been finding things that can remain normal and holding onto those. There are routines that we establish — bedtime routines, morning routines.
We’ve been trying to put a really positive spin on that whole idea of — this is something new, and this is something different and there is stress because you’re trying to protect the people you’re caring for and try to help them make it through this whole process, not only healthy physically but emotionally and mentally.
I know we’ve found some creative ways to be outside whereas before not everyone that we care for outside is a really great choice, but we’ve done that because we felt like that was important to physical and mental health.
I also care for my stepmom who has advanced Alzheimer’s. So just helping her get outside a little bit, has been good for her. And for my little fellow, not being able to play with his friends has been kind of a thing. He has PTSD and some things. So we have also had to really limit how much he hears on the news because he can’t hear things that will add to his anxieties. So we limit his exposure to the scary news. We certainly talk about what’s going on and he’s aware of that, but not every nitty, gritty detail.
What are some other ways you’ve been kind of navigating this newfound togetherness?
We have always played a lot of games in our house and we have continued to play games, especially games that give us the opportunity to talk about how we’re feeling.
We have ordered some things that keep everyone’s brains challenged. We pull those out at quiet time. It’s been helpful for everybody to just have a little space at different times. We’ve been trying really hard to enforce respecting people’s time in their bedrooms.
So how have you been personally kind of balancing your responsibilities, but also kind of taking care of yourself and your wellbeing?
In a lot of ways, I’m not sure that that has changed dramatically. I think the biggest thing for me continues to be trying to make sure that I do sleep, that I do eat things that are healthy, that I do get out of the house and do something. That’s a walk, reading a book — things I have always done.
I also teach and so I’ve had to teach online some and that’s very different. That’s caused a little more stress.
And so I’ve had to tell myself we’re embracing a new opportunity. We’re learning things we didn’t know before. And, you know, we’re kind of all in this together. I think just the perspective is helpful. Attitude goes a long way.
What are some things you credit with helping you sleep better?
We do have a pretty good bedtime routine at our house. The kids go to bed first and then my husband and I take time to do the things that we need to get done that haven’t gotten done. And then we kind of wind it down and get ready for bed. We make sure that it’s nice and dark in our room. We both sleep much better when it’s dark and we usually have some kind of light music on. And we lay in bed and talk for a little bit first, to just kind of relax from the day, even when we’re in bed.
And then really, truly, I know it sounds cliche, but our bed is huge. I mean, it makes such a difference. We had a house fire two years ago and we lost everything. And so while we were rebuilding our house, we were just sleeping on a traditional mattress that was provided by the insurance company. And I thought I would never sleep again. And so literally the Sleep Number bed is the very first thing we purchased when we started repurchasing. It really is just a totally different sleeping experience.
Speaking of routines that you’ve started with your family, are there any ones you hope to keep once the pandemic is over?
Before the pandemic, we would just tell our son: “These are the things that you need to do next.” But during this time, we’ve made charts for quite a few of his daily activities and that is really helping him. He looks at them every night and he’s memorizing them in order.
I do think we all have had more outdoor activity than we had before. We definitely want to keep that!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This is part of WUC’s New Normal series in partnership with Sleep Number.
The Democratic Senate candidate believes partisan politics should be taken out of the conversations around school reopening plans.
As school districts across the U.S. prepare to return for the fall semester, a bitter battle has emerged over whether or not to reopen classrooms for in-person learning. While there is universal agreement that in-person instruction is superior to online classes, school officials don’t have a clear idea of what a safe return looks like. Thousands of students and faculty members have already been sent home due to exposure to the virus.
Texas Democratic hopeful M.J. Hegar, who is challenging Republican Sen. John Cornyn in November, said at least part of the struggle with school reopenings has to do with the fact that the conversations around them have been extremely polarized instead of solution-focused.
“I am very concerned that the conversation is only about open or don’t open,” Hegar told Wake-Up Call. “The conversation does not seem just like so many other things in politics — it’s very this or not instead of being solution-oriented.”
Amid conflicting data from health officials, Hegar said school reopening plans should be more centered around science, data models, best practices from other countries, and guidance from public health officials. Hegar, a combat pilot and healthcare worker, said she draws upon her own experience when weighing school reopening plans.
“I’m trained in crisis management — both from the military and then from my time in healthcare. And in crisis management, when you have a crisis and lives on the line — you set milestones and rubrics and decision gates,” she said.
Ultimately, Hegar believes that the U.S. needs to get schools open again, emphasizing that in-person classrooms are especially vital to at-risk students. As a mother of two young sons of her own, plus three stepchildren, the issue is especially personal for Hegar.
“There are a lot of reasons we need our kids in schools both to support working parents, but to give kids adequate nutrition, to screen for abuse, there are social isolation issues. Not to mention, I have no replacement for a teacher — every day around here is teacher appreciation day,” she said.
Hegar said school closures have also highlighted another crisis that existed long before the pandemic: childcare. Working mothers shoulder most of the child care responsibilities and this includes taking more a more active role in their child’s virtual learning. In fact, 66% of women said they are primarily responsible for helping children with remote learning during the workday, compared with 41% of men, per a survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA Today and LinkedIn.
“Women do disproportionately shoulder, that,” Hegar said in reference to childcare. “It’s important to acknowledge that men are also struggling with childcare issues too,” she said. “We need to get childcare facilities in schools. We need to get to a place where we can open them again.”
As the pandemic rages on and all eyes are on the presidential election, Hegar faces an uphill battle of her own in what has long been considered a historically conservative state. Cornyn currently leads 43%, compared to Hegar’s 34%, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
But Hegar, who is set to have her first debate against Cornyn on October 9, remains hopeful about her chances.
“Life and death issues here in Texas are becoming less and less partisan and more about let’s find someone who is willing to listen to us who has faced our challenges and who is going to present solutions based on solving, based on accomplishing the mission,” she said.
Dr. Rebecca C. Brightman discusses pandemic weight gain and how hormones could be at play.
The pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted daily life, and many Americans have found themselves carrying around some extra pounds. Dr. Rebecca Brightman, a New York-based gynecologist, believes this isn’t a coincidence. She said the new normal of working from home and sheltering in place have resulted in quarantine weight gain, or as it’s become known as, “the Covid 15.”
“In our day to day lives, we move around a lot. Whether it is commuting to the office, running errands, going to the gym, using stairs more often, these activities all burn calories,” she told Wake-Up Call.
In addition to eating and drinking more than normal, Brightman also pointed to the role that hormones can play in potentially gaining weight. She noted that women tend to gain more weight around their midsection as they age — and the stress of living under quarantine doesn’t help.
Brightman offered us some tips on how to fight that spare tire below.
Wake-Up Call: Dr. Brightman — HELP! I seem to be six months pregnant with Covid! I have a serious spare tire. Are you hearing this from a lot of your patients?
Rebecca C. Brightman, M.D.: I hear this from my patients every day!! The Covid 15! Many who WFH in very forgiving athleisure wear. Spandex is very stretchy and the home office is usually in close proximity to the kitchen. Many are unaware of their expanding waistlines as a result. I too lived in my workout wear, but performed a jean “not gene” test every few days just to make sure my jeans still fit!
Now granted, I’ve been enjoying some delicious meals. But I used to have a waist! Why is everything migrating to my belly?
As women age, they tend to gain weight in their midsection or belly. During the height of the pandemic, many of us were at home, not as active, eating, and drinking so much more. The increased caloric intake coupled with fewer activity results in weight gain, particularly in the midsection. Some people are “stress eaters” and aren’t even aware of extra snacking, increased drinking, both of which contribute to weight gain.
Also, so many people stopped exercising regularly, using the excuse that the gym was closed. Streaming platforms really work, though do require motivation and time.
Is this particularly problematic for those of us who are a bit more…um, mature?
As we age, metabolism slows, so in order to maintain one’s weight, we need to maintain an active lifestyle and pay attention to the quality and quantity of the food we consume. Those who could once “get away” with eating everything they wanted, frequently are the first to find that they need to change their habits. If someone has a healthy lifestyle and participates in a regular exercise routine, maintaining weight will be so much easier.
What about stress hormones like cortisol that might have increased during this time. What impact do these have on our bodies?
The stress hormone, cortisol, is released by the adrenal glands which are small glands that sit on top of our kidneys. During times of stress (such as a pandemic) cortisol levels may increase. An increase in cortisol can increase appetite and cause insulin resistance. This results in higher blood sugar levels and fat deposition, particularly visceral fat, which is belly fat as well as the fat that surrounds vital organs. This type of fat deposition correlates with an increase in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other medical conditions.
What kind of exercises should we be doing to address this issue?
Maintaining a regular exercise routine that includes cardio as well as weight-bearing exercise. Individuals with greater lean body mass (more muscle) and less fat, will burn more calories. So, it is a combination of both. Ideally 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Both cardio and working out with weights, or resistance training.
Exercise and relaxation techniques as well as a good night’s sleep will decrease cortisol release and facilitate metabolism.
Dr. Anthony Harris believes daily screenings are a necessity
As U.S. coronavirus cases continue to soar, public schools are grappling with how to safely and responsibly reopen. Many districts and colleges have yet to make final decisions, even with the fall term already underway in some parts of the country. And with some students already testing positive for Covid-19, teachers are threatening to go on strike.
Dr. Anthony Harris shared his insights on the challenge ahead. Harris currently leads Covid-19 response operations at occupational health center WorkCare, where he serves as an Associate Medical Director. In response to the pandemic, the company has transitioned into helping businesses get back to work without putting employees or customers at risk. This includes helping them come up with a plan to implement temperature checks and daily screenings, two strategies he believes are also essential to school reopenings.
For Harris, who has a three-year-old about to start pre-K, the issue of whether to reopen schools is personal. “It is incumbent on us as a nation to recognize that under-resourced public schools will require increased attention and resources to pull off successfully bringing students back safely,” he told Wake-Up Call. For more on our discussion, read on.
A lot of parents are feeling helpless right now. What would you tell them in terms of keeping their kids safe?
First and foremost, the teachers and the faculty and the staff all need to be in a surveillance program. And I’ll back up a notch here. So we call it Covid surveillance. In occupational health and medicine, we help employers implement what we call surveillance programs oftentimes that are mandated by OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and other governmental agencies.
So schools will need to have their employees — the staff, the faculty — enrolled in that type of surveillance program. It consists of screening on a daily basis.
That’s going to help prevent the transmission between faculty members as well as from faculty to kids. Now, when we talk about child-to-child or student-to-student transmission, obviously that becomes more difficult. But still first things first: We have to be doing screening across the board with regard to symptoms —and those kids and youth that are sick shouldn’t show up . We have to have a way to screen them out before they come to school. And so, the digital platform is what we’re using with universities to accomplish that.
Public schools face a particular challenge, given funding issues. So is this realistic for public schools? Does it put them at a disadvantage?
What we are seeing, unfortunately, is a divide between a best practice approach of public versus private. You see private schools putting in place more controls for prevention because they have more resources oftentimes. That is definitely a concern, in regards to what is practical from a public school standpoint. But it is incumbent on us as a nation to recognize that under-resourced public schools will require increased attention and resources to pull off successfully bringing students back safely. I got a three-year-old starting pre-K, so it definitely hits home. How do we send her in there safely here in Chicago?
What are the sort of the safety measures you’re looking for your own kid? What would recommend other parents watch out for?
Is there a process by which the parents are required to signify to the school and verify that my kid does not have — and has not had — any symptoms within the last 48 hours? That’s the easiest thing to pull off. You can do that with pen and pad. You can do that with a simple email. You don’t need a digital platform, necessarily — it’s great to have one out of convenience but if screening’s not there that’s a red flag.
Then if the protocols of arrival aren’t there — how’s a kid going to get from school? Obviously busing is going to be an issue. You can’t bus students with strong social distancing in place. It just doesn’t work. Alternatives for arrival and departure with regard to using one exit, multiple exits, partitioning how kids move in and out of the schools with the parent pickup. Those things all become germane to the process of safety. If they’re in place, that means the school hasn’t done a deep dive on what’s the best practice to keep kids safe and I would have dramatic concerns in those circumstances.
Many teachers are also worried about their own safety, given that some districts are not mandating that students wear masks, only teachers. What would you tell them?
My mom was a teacher — she’s retired now. My grandmother and my grandfather — they were all in education. So if they were working today and had to show up to a public school either as an administrator or a teacher, I’d say, “Look, let’s get you the same level of PPE — personal protective equipment — as we do with healthcare workers. Wear a N95 mask.”
Now, the requirement to wear masks as students — that should be in place. Is it going to be difficult to pull off? Absolutely. But does that mean we deviate from something that can potentially have a dramatic impact on transmission? I think the answer is we move forward with the recommendation that kids wear masks. I don’t see an alternative to that in terms of safety protocols. The distancing is going to be difficult in schools and so you have to have another barrier and means of protection.
Would staggering schedules or doing outdoor classrooms be effective?
In regions where outdoor classrooms are doable, absolutely. Let’s move forward with that. We know that being outdoors means being less risky, based on the research that we’ve seen.
Our clients have been doing altered schedules since March. Instead of just three schedules for the workforce, you’re breaking it out in such a way that you minimize the number of people that have to be at any given place at the same time. The same process should work as we see this play out in schools, in terms of that staggered schedule, because the whole name of the game is to limit individual contact — and physically doing that by administrative controls, such as scheduling, are key.
Do you think schools can afford to wait until there’s a vaccine?
We recommended to businesses, “Should you reopen or should you stay remote? If you can do remote, remote is a good option.” I can’t say for schools it’s the best option.
What percentage of the population is not being reached through distance learning because of resource limitations? Those need to be considered, but if it is effective to do remote learning, then that is preferred.
In terms of, “Should you wait overall?” This is perhaps me talking a little beyond a clinical hat, so let me put my MBA hat on. We just can’t afford to have no education. We need to have kids and students learning. The vaccine is not promised at any given time.
Emily Ramshaw on why the organization is launching at such a “critical” moment for women
Ignited by protests nationwide over racial inequality, American newsrooms are having a reckoning of their own. Protests, petitions, and internal complaints about inequalities have come into public view at major publications, including The New York Times and Bon Appétit.
Emily Ramshaw, co-founder and CEO of news organization The 19th*, believes the recent reckoning in newsrooms has been a long time coming. “This racial reckoning in newsrooms is so important — it’s so overdue,” Ramshaw told Wake-Up Call.
While many media companies make pledges to ramp up diversity and inclusivity efforts, Ramshaw said the nonpartisan newsroom has hired journalists of color from the ground up. She estimates that women of color compromise about 75 percent of her newsroom, adding that “those were also just the absolute best hires for those jobs.”
The 19th* is a nonprofit news organization, with a focus on gender, politics and policy. The name comes from the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — and the asterisk shows that there’s still work to be done. The organization is hoping to make a splash with its inaugural virtual summit, commemorating the suffrage centennial, which begins Monday, August 10. The event features high-profile speakers, including Stacey Abrams, Hillary Clinton, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.
Ramshaw emphasized that even before the protests against racism following the police killing of George Floyd in May, representation was at the center of their focus. Ramshaw launched the new brand, alongside fellow former Texas Tribune colleague Amanda Zamora.
“We were trying to build the nation’s first newsroom that was truly representative of the nation’s women,” Ramshaw said.
Ramshaw, who was previously Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, was first inspired to launch the venture four years ago during the 2016 presidential election. At the time, she was on maternity leave with her daughter — and watching the tense race between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton play out.
“We were navigating all of these concerns around electability and likability that, to me, were just so obviously gendered and I thought to myself, we should have a news organization that is by women and for women,” she said.
While the idea quickly came to fruition, the launch of the new company during the middle of the pandemic was no easy task. Before officially launching this month, Rashaw said fundraising took a major hit and corporate underwriting stopped dead in its tracks due to the impact of the pandemic. Ultimately, she said that they felt like they had to take a “bigger risk,” emphasizing that women have had to bear the brunt of the coronavirus crisis.
“There was a moment in March and April where we basically stopped and said, ‘Are we going to be able to make this happen? Do we need to just stop, hold off, wait a year, see if we can ride this out?’ But the moment felt too critical for women.”
It’s true — the economic shock of the pandemic has hit women particularly hard. In April alone, women accounted for 55 percent of the job losses. And, though the U.S. added 1.8 million jobs in July, women are still joining the jobless rolls at a higher rate than men. Per the July jobs report, women are losing their jobs at 10.5 percent compared to 9.4 percent of men. There’s also the added responsibility of caregiving, which continues to largely fall on women. This has been especially tricky for working mothers who have to watch their kids while balancing their jobs.
Ramshaw believes one of the silver linings of launching in the midst of a pandemic has been being able to confront these issues head-on. The company offers six months of fully paid family leave for all new parents and four months of fully paid caregiver leave so employees can spend time with a dying loved one or a sick relative. “I think we’re proving the case that you can provide these kinds of benefits and flexibility and opportunities and still do the highest caliber of work,” she said.
More broadly, Ramshaw said the ongoing pandemic that has forced many to work from home has also led to a whole new level of empathy among both men and women. “All people are starting to get a view of what we’re up against in our home lives right now,” she said.
A new survey offers insights — plus, restaurant owners open up about enforcing mask rules and taking safety precautions
For many, dining out was once a relaxing way to bond with friends or family — or pick up a quick bite when cooking seemed too daunting. But now, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, dining out can present new health risks.
Although opting for outdoor seating or take-out is generally considered safer, experts say there’s currently no way to make the experience completely risk-free. But during these uncertain times, the restaurant industry’s been suffering. It’s projected to lose $240 billion in revenue this year, and as cases spike in new areas, many states’ reopenings have been halted.
With social distancing guidelines across the country in flux, the online neighborhood hub Nextdoor asked 745,000 people in the U.S. how they feel about dining in — or out. The survey, conducted in late June, showed some clear trends.
Nearly 9 in 10 respondents indicated that they’re ready to support their local restaurants in some capacity. Most just aren’t sold on indoor dining — 53 percent of respondents said they prefer outdoor seating or takeout. Furthermore, 9 percent of those surveyed said they’re sticking to delivery. But 11 percent said they’re avoiding restaurants altogether.
Nextdoor users also submitted some pressing questions about how restaurants are working behind-the-scenes to keep patrons safe. So our Wake-Up Call newsletter turned to eateries across the U.S. — from a ramen restaurant in New York City and a vegan soul haunt in Detroit, to a French restaurant in Richmond — for answers. Here’s what they had to say.
You can’t wear a mask while eating. How are you planning on keeping your customers safe?
Carol Foster of Caffé Molise & BTG Wine Bar in Salt Lake City, UT: “All of our staff wear masks. We have separated staff into ‘table delivery’ and ‘table clearing’ to avoid any contamination. Patrons are asked to wear masks unless they are seated at their tables. We ask that anyone who enters the building has a touchless temperate check by a manager. Those who have a temperature of 100.4 F or above are not allowed entry, and are encouraged to seek medical attention. We have an optional ‘contact information’ form that patrons can fill out in case we should need to get in touch after their dining experience. These forms are kept securely in our office and destroyed after 30 days. The information is not used for marketing.”
JunkiIkedaof Cocoron in New York, NY: “Our goal is to avoid any droplets spreading. We’ll have air purifiers in our small spaces and air circulators, especially near the entrance of the door. We’ll also have a strong kitchen fan. We won’t seat people near the entrance, and we’ll tie a rope to prevent people from coming inside.”
How will you make sure that there won’t be too many patrons dining at your restaurant at once? Can you tell us how you’ve rearranged your restaurant to ensure that people are sitting six feet apart? What will you do to enforce this rule?
Carol Foster of Caffé Molise & BTG Wine Bar in Salt Lake City, UT: “We have spaced all tables to six feet apart or further. Our capacity is impacted by about 50%. According to county mandates, we can offer tables of up to 10 people maximum. When larger groups wish to dine, we inform them that tables cannot be moved together and seating is a max. of 10 per table. Management oversees this process.”
Whitney Cardozo of Chez Foushee in Richmond, Virginia: “It’s much more than seating people six feet apart. I have to build a new business around an invisible enemy. We have to anticipate how customers are going to feel comfortable when the stakes are so high.
Gone are the days of walk-ins and last-minute reservations. Restaurant operations will need to be meticulous. Staffing will have to change to meet the cleaning protocols and reservation numbers. Additionally, a new job, Captain of Clean, a staff member solely dedicated to wiping, cleaning all common areas, and assisting the servers in best safety practices, may be created.”
JunkiIkeda of Cocoron in New York, NY: “We’ll be accepting customers only through reservations on our website, and will be marking six feet apart. If people don’t comply, we’ll ask them to leave. We’ll also be offering private dining for small groups of families and friends.”
What is your policy on masks for servers and the kitchen staff? What are your cleaning protocols? Can you tell us the safety measures you’ll put in place inside the kitchen to ensure that the kitchen staff is safe?
JunkiIkeda of Cocoron in New York, NY: “We’re checking body temperatures and not allowing staff to work if they have a fever above 98.6F. We’re also requiring employees to wear doubled-masks or masks with a thick paper towel, and use gloves and tongs to pick up food. We’ll be washing all equipment in a dishwashing machine, and cleaning the restaurant with towels soaked in bleached water. We’re also having employees get tested for Covid-19 every month. “
Kirsten Ussery of Detroit Vegan Soul:“We clean every hour and throughout the day. We do a deep cleaning once a week. All staff have temperature checks and health screenings prior to starting their shifts each day and they are required to wear PPE all day. Kitchen staff wear cloth masks as well as protective face shields and gloves.”
Carol Foster of Caffé Molise & BTG Wine Bar in Salt Lake City, UT: “All staff are required to wear masks in the building, wash their hands frequently, and have their temperature taken and recorded. We have a three-step cleaning and sanitation protocol that all staff are trained on. We have cleaning and sanitation logs for the kitchen and front-of-house, carried out every 30 minutes, checked by management throughout the shift. We focus especially on high-touch surfaces in addition to other areas.”
Whitney Cardozo of Chez Foushee in Richmond, Virginia: “I have an 83-year-old mother living with me, so we have had the policy of wearing masks since March. I provide them for the staff and anyone that enters the building. When staff clocks in, they get their temperatures checked. In addition to the masks, I’m hoping to do a significant reorganization of kitchen space to allow the staff to space out more.”
If you have a customer who’s not following social distancing rules or who isn’t wearing a mask, what will you do? Have you thought about when you would refuse to serve a customer? If so, what are some reasons?
Carol Foster of Caffé Molise & BTG Wine Bar in Salt Lake City, UT: “When we have encountered customers who refuse to comply with our in-house policies and county mandates, we try to accommodate them as best as we can. When space allows, we seat them far away from any other tables. If we can’t safely accommodate them, we offer take-out service.”
JunkiIkeda of Cocoron in New York, NY: “We’ll be offering masks to people who don’t have them. We will cancel your reservation if you break social distancing rules or make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
Whitney Cardozo of Chez Foushee in Richmond, Virginia: “This is tricky because we are in the hospitality business. By going to a reservation-only policy, we’ll be able to ask if anyone has been sick and if they’re okay with following policies on mask-wearing when not eating, beforehand. We are living with a new social contract, and certain behaviors are expected of everyone. Social distancing and wearing a mask are reasonable measures to avoid making others sick! At the end of the day, we do not force non-compliant customers to eat at our restaurant. If it is too much trouble, we can suggest they dine elsewhere or order from the take-away menu and wait outside.”
Jeff LaPadula of P.S. Kitchen in New York, NY: “If someone doesn’t want to wear a mask we will refuse them service.”
How can neighbors be most helpful?
Kirsten Ussery of Detroit Vegan Soul in Detroit, MI:“Be patient with us as we try to adapt to this new normal and deliver the best service we can.”
Carol Foster of Caffé Molise & BTG Wine Bar in Salt Lake City, UT: “The vast majority of our customers have appreciated the additional measures we have undertaken to ensure the safety of our staff and community. As a family-owned and operated business, we are eager to keep serving our community as we have for the past 27 years. We have received wonderful feedback from our patrons. We encourage our neighbors to dine with us when they can, and if they can’t, we continue to offer curbside pickup, and gift cards. “
Jeff LaPadula of P.S. Kitchen in New York, NY: “Neighbors can be helpful by following the rules, whatever they may end up being.”
Whitney Cardozo of Chez Foushee in Richmond, Virginia: “Chez Foushee is on a street with many restaurants and bars. As restaurants and small businesses we need to support each other through standard policies. Implementing similar safety practices in day to day operations consistently would send a strong message for safe and peaceful dining.”
The expert behind a popular Johns Hopkins course answers pressing questions
As cities and states begin to reopen, contact tracers will serve an important role in curbing the spread of Covid-19 across the country. With job options scarce right now — and the U.S. officially in a recession — contact tracing is emerging as a “fast-growing job opportunity.” Over 250,000 people have enrolled in a free course on Coursera, which teaches a person what they need to know before pursuing training as a contact tracer. The course was developed by Dr. Emily Gurley, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
But what exactly is contact tracing? And why is it necessary? Gurley answers these questions and more below.
Wake-Up Call: You’re an authority on this, as you’ve created this important contact tracing course for Johns Hopkins. In simple terms, can you explain what a contact tracer does?
Dr. Emily Gurley: Contact tracers find people who are infected or who have been exposed and could be infected. They make sure they know what they can do to keep from infecting other people, and help them put together a plan to prevent this — this is often referred to as isolating or quarantining.
Isolation and quarantine mean that you don’t have contact with other people while you could be infectious. This is difficult to do so contact tracers also put people in touch with resources they may need to do this successfully. It’s about people helping other people to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Most people don’t know that contact tracing has been around for a while. When else has it been used? What results has it yielded?
Contact tracing is a tried and true public health strategy to identify people who have been exposed to an infected person because they themselves may have been infected in that encounter.
The goal is to help them to change their behavior to prevent them from transmitting the infection to others, or to provide curative or therapeutic treatments. Public health departments use contact tracing to stop transmission of TB, syphilis, and HIV every day, and it’s been an important strategy in reducing the burden of these diseases. Contact tracing is also used to help stop outbreaks of infectious diseases — like measles and Ebola. Contact tracing was an important tool in stopping the recent, large outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.
As the country starts to reopen, what role will contact tracing play in the process?
If we ramp up our contact tracing programs to the scale and speed that we need to stop transmission of Covid-19, then we can feel more confident that as we open up our societies, we’re not going to suffer large increases in transmission.
We’d love to hear a bit about the course you designed. What are some of the biggest lessons you teach your students about contact tracing?
I worked with a fantastic team of people at JHSPH to put the course together. We decided what someone would need to know to be able to start training at a local health department, assuming they had no background in public health or infectious diseases.
It’s a basic introduction to the concepts of contact tracing for Covid-19. The idea was to give folks some minimal understanding of what the job is and the things they need to know to do their job including the disease and how it’s transmitted, what contact tracing is, how you do it, the ethical considerations, and how to communicate effectively with people.
Some important take-home messages for students are that: 1) This infection is transmitted very quickly, so contact tracing has to work fast; 2) Contact tracing must be done with very high ethical standards including respect for privacy and confidentiality; and 3) You must be a good communicator to do your job well — including speaking, but probably more importantly, actively listening.
What should someone expect if they get called by a contact tracer?
Well, there are two scenarios here. You could be getting a call if you’ve tested positive. Someone will be calling you to follow up on your plans to isolate yourself from others and make sure you have the resources you need to make this work. Next, they will be asking you about who you’ve had contact with since you’ve been infectious — this includes the time that you’re sick as well as the two days before you became ill. They will want to know the names and contact numbers for people you may have infected so that they can let them know about their exposure.
They will not disclose your name to any of your contacts. A contact is defined as anyone that you’ve had physical contact with, or been within six feet for more than 15 minutes, or maybe been in a room for an hour or more. If both you and the other person were wearing masks, then it might not be considered a contact. So, it’s important to realize that this is not everyone you passed on the street, or had a brief conversation with, or stood six feet away from at a checkout line.
The second scenario is that you’re getting a call because you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. This can be a distressing call, but it’s important to know if you’ve been exposed. It’s possible that you were infected through that exposure, and that you could infect others, even before you have signs or symptoms.
So, you need to take some steps to quarantine yourself so that you don’t inadvertently infect someone else. You should expect the contact tracer to talk to you about what your plan is going to be for quarantining for 14 days since your last exposure to the case. They will likely have resources to offer you, particularly if you need assistance with getting food and medicines that you need to successfully quarantine.
Restaurants and other businesses are starting to reopen in certain places, and many Americans are likely anxious or unsure of what’s actually safe. As an infectious disease epidemiologist, what advice do you have for them? What’s safe right now and what isn’t?
We’re still learning about exactly how this virus is transmitted and more research is needed to fully assess risks. However, the evidence we have so far suggests that most transmission happens when someone has very close and long contact with someone who is infectious. For example, cases are most likely to infect the people they live with and spend a lot of time with.
This poses difficulties for stopping transmission within households but suggests that more casual contact outside the home is lower risk. There is no “zero risk” life for Covid-19, unless you truly live a life without contact with the outside world. However, current recommendations to spend time with others outdoors is a good one as transmission risk is much, much lower if you’re outside. Wearing masks indoors is a good idea so that you don’t unknowingly infect anyone else — face coverings can help protect others from you. And keep washing your hands.
Lastly, groups of people have been gathering this week for protests. What are the Covid-19 risks, if any, associated with these gatherings? How can protesters stay safe?
Again, there is no “zero-risk” life. There are risks for transmission during protests, but of course, there are also huge risks to our society if we fail to protest police brutality.
While there is some risk for transmission during protests, it is much, much less likely to happen outside. Protesters should wear masks to protect each other and try, as best as possible, to maintain some distance from each other. If you’re sick, please call about getting tested and do not attend protests if you could be infectious.
Off Their Plate will be throwing the event to honor a group of teens in Boston who donated their prom money to help frontline workers.
As schools across the U.S. remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, many high school students won’t get to attend prom — but one grassroots initiative is making sure that a group of teens in Boston will get theirs.
When it became apparent that they would not be able to have a prom, students at Newton Country Day High School donated their funds for the event to Off Their Plate to help frontline workers and now the initiative is throwing a virtual prom for the group as a way to say thanks.
“If we’re able to get the word out, and if more people are able to hear about Off Their Plate and are able to donate, wonderful,” Bonnie Cao, a founding member of Off Their Plate, said. “But at the end of the day, I think we just wanted to throw a celebration for these teenagers.”
Off Their Plate, which is affiliated with celebrity chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, will be hosting an online dance on Saturday, May 9. The event will be streamed live on YouTube, and tickets are available online through the initiative’s Eventbrite page.
Though attendees can pay as little or as much as they want, the recommended amount is $10. All proceeds will be donated to providing economic relief for restaurant employees and meals for health workers at the frontlines of the Covid-19 crisis.
Helping lead the initiative is a group of high-school volunteers across a dozen different high schools in Boston and New York, who have formed a mini prom committee to support Off Their Plate and get the word out about the prom itself. Cao said one industrious teenager in Staten Island has even started an online bake sale to promote the virtual event and raise money for Off Their Plate.
Even though seniors won’t be able to have the in-person experience, Cao said she still hopes to recreate as many of the beloved prom traditions as possible. The virtual event will be MC’d by Access Hollywood co-host, Sibley Scoles, and will feature surprise appearances from as many as 15 artists, including indie-pop band Smallpools and Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora.
There are also some pre-prom activities planned: Andrew Day, a backstage photographer for New York Fashion Week, will be giving advice on how to take the best prom photos to post on their social profiles, and Maybelline Global Makeup Artist Erin Parsons will be giving some beauty tips for the big night.
But high schoolers won’t be the only ones joining in on the fun. Cao said they have received video submissions from doctors in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles doing Tik-Tok dances that will be featured during the event.
Sarah Shanfield, a New York-based volunteer for Off Their Plate, emphasized that the event is also about celebrating all high school students across the country who are finding ways to give back to their communities. “It’s like they’re thinking outside of the box of ways to contribute beyond just staying home,” she said.
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