COVID Information Updates

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As the virus continues its rampage throughout the United States and in other parts of the world, I wanted to update my information center.

It can be found here: Covid Information Center

What follows is some related links that I am sharing here and will update their respective subject posts by next weekend. There will be more as news warrants it.

If there’s something that you found helpful that isn’t on one of my posts, please comment below or email me. Use the subject line so I don’t misread your email as spam.

Fauci: We won’t be able to sit in theaters without masks until a year after an effective coronavirus vaccine is created

Emergency Preparedness and Checklists for Everyone

Biden-Harris Transition Website

Biden-Harris Plan for Covid-19 Reponse

Clicking for entire thread will take you to Twitter. (c)2020

Travel in the Time of COVID

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Traveling during the covid epidemic offers several differing perspectives and our family seems to have lived through all of them. Should we go? Should we stay home? Stay local? Visit another state? For the better part of last year, we planned our August vacation to Canada. It became apparent that would not be an option. The Canadian border closed in the spring and remains closed.

We couldn’t help but notice that the rest of the country was not exactly cooperating in “flattening the curve”. It didn’t take long to make the decision to remain in New York State. We live here and we felt safe with the covid policies that the state has put into place.

Now that Thanksgiving is upon us, and Christmas not far off, if you are traveling, I hope you will benefit from our experience.

If you’ve decided to stay home, these will hopefully help you the next time you venture out.

Vacationing on COVID-time is *different*.

First, have a plan, have a second plan, and be flexible in all things. We decided on a location we’d only visited for a couple hours last year – Niagara Falls, located in western New York. We would spend one week; it would be an adventure. Customarily, we would change hotels mid-week. We did not. This was a direct result of covid.

We did many things outside: Niagara Falls State Park and the Falls, Broderick Park at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. Though I prefer indoor dining, we ate outside at restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream shops. We also visited three monuments that we may not have seen if I wasn’t looking for outdoor things to do.

Masks. You need more than one mask. Ideally, you should have one cloth mask for each day or at least two: one to wear, one to wash (and hang to dry).

Hand Sanitizer. Though you’ll find more hand sanitizer than you can ever imagine everywhere, a travel bottle of hand sanitizer is a must.

Hotels. I was very happy with our hotel. The prices did not seem to be any higher than a regular end of summer week. However, several amenities were not available or drastically changed. The pool and fitness center were closed, but vending machines and ice machines were available. I think they suspended the airport shuttle. We were required to wear masks in the public areas, hallways, elevators, and walking through the lobby. There were hand sanitizer stands next to every elevator on all the floors to use prior to pressing the elevator buttons.

The included free breakfast was a menu to choose items from, and then bring to your room, microwave, and eat there. It usually included a muffin, a fruit, water, milk, or juice, breakfast sandwich, yogurt, and other related items. There was no housekeeping unless you requested it. We did not. We chose to ask for necessary items at the front desk. These included new towels, shampoo, cups, toilet paper. They were extraordinarily nice and very accommodating. Considering the circumstances, I thought they did an excellent job.

Attractions. Many places were closed. Those that were open had restrictions. Masks required, hand sanitizer stations, 25%-50% capacity, 6ft. distancing between groups. Some displays – where placing your face close was necessary in order to see the item – were temporarily out of order. At interactive displays, we were provided with a sanitized mini stylus to use instead of our fingers. We returned them for cleaning when we were finished with the tour.

Due to reduced capacity requirements, several locations issued timed tickets. This combined with lower capacities meant that every day about mid-afternoon tours were sold out for the day, so this required going early, getting your ticket for later in the day and then coming back. Some places preferred that you buy tickets online and show the attendant the ticket on your phone.
Many places used directional arrows on the floor directing so people weren’t intersecting with each other. Many places would not accept cash. The Niagara Falls (NF) State Park as well as the NF Visitor Center only accepted credit/debit cards.

Contact Tracing. Many hotels, attractions, and restaurants asked for our name and phone number for contact tracing.

Restaurants. We felt comfortable at each location we ate at. One place, the Hard Rock Cafe, took our temperature. Due to lower capacity, we were required to wait…outside. If we got up to use the restroom, masks needed to be worn. Some restaurants had no menus and a QR code on the table allowed for viewing the online menu on our phones.

Shopping. Only some places offered samples, like chocolate or ice cream. Fitting rooms were closed as were some public bathrooms. A few places did not take cash.

One of the good things that I noticed was that as crowded as it was, it wasn’t that crowded. There was room to stand and move around on the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which is typically wall-to-wall people.

Because the Underground Railroad Heritage Center limited two at a time in the small gift shop, I was able to have a somewhat lengthy and very educational conversation with the attendant while I waited my turn.

People were both wary and friendly at once. There may have been a glare when you got too close to someone but it turned into a smile and a laugh as we both said “oops, sorry.” It was a delicate dance.

I didn’t know how much we needed to be out of our house. Overall, even with the changes and the restrictions, we still had a great vacation, and it was nice being out and about and almost-kind-of “normal”. Niagara Falls is one of those places that never gets old; we’re thinking about returning next year, although a trip across the border would also be welcomed.

A Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

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With Thanksgiving in two weeks, the Election over, and despite the continuing pandemic, we do have much to be grateful for.

This graphic will give you eight days to have your own scavenger hunt for the things you hold dear, that you’re grateful for.

I’ll be following up this afternoon and throughout the eight days, although not in a row of where I hold my gratitude, especially this year.

Graphic from Simple Acres Blog dot com. (c)2020

Election Connection: ELECTION DAY! IT’S HERE! IT’S NOW!

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Today is Election Day; the last day of the 2020 Election to make your voice heard.

My Home Page is now temporarily an Election Resource Page. It includes voter protection hotlines including for the deaf and hard of hearing, some informative graphics from Vote Save America including how to volunteer and help people waiting in long lines.

When the polls close tonight, it will probably not be over. Here are a few resources to follow or get on email lists. It is also a good idea to support investigative journalism. I can’t afford a lot, but the two things I subscribed to in the last year or so are The Washington Post (on Kindle) and Cafe Insider, which features former US Attorney Preet Bharara and a few of his closest friends and associates who bring national security information to life on several podcasts with interviews on a variety of other subjects as well. These are both well worth the monthly subscription.

Others:

Vote Save America

Dan Pfeiffer’s Message Box

Pod Save America

Marc E. Elias

Ron Klain

Rachel Maddow

Preet Bharara

Connie Schultz

Andy Slavitt

Andy Slavitt’s Podcast: In The Bubble

Penzeys Spices – they have really stepped up in the last four years to help Americans know the issues and walk the walk on their values and ours.

Jesus on Twitter – I know, I know, but this Twitter feed has a way of distilling things into simple terms and reminders and adds a calming feeling in the midst of chaos. (And this Jesus Twitter specifically)

And of course, your own Representatives and Senators. Know who they are, know their online and phone information and continue to hold them accountable. They work for you.

Please add any of your own recommendations in the comments.

Below the cut are some graphics related to VP Biden’s policies including a comparison and timeline between his and Pres. Trump’s covid response/reactions.

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Halloween or Hallowon’t

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Halloween during a pandemic. Well, at least everyone’s already wearing masks, right? My kids are in high school, so it’s less of an issue for us. They’re planning on going to friends’ houses and celebrating with a party instead of traditional trick or treating. They’ve already been hanging out with these friends since summer, so it’s equally safe as doing homework together.

On my neighborhood Facebook group, there have been some questions about neighborhood plans as well as some suggestions. One neighbor wants to do treat bags on a table at the end of the driveway, and limit trick or treating to certain hours – from five until eight. I thought that seemed reasonable.

Another thought was of a scavenger hunt with houses providing clues to their kids to find candy. The parents would do all the work and the neighbors who participated would volunteer so the kids weren’t randomly going to people’s houses who had no idea what was going on. I thought this was a great idea.

We usually have a bucket of toys and comic books in addition to candy, so the kids can choose which treat they prefer. They toys are the kind you get from McDonald’s Happy Meals or similar small items. Some are packaged, but some are gently used. We’ve decided to suspend this practice until next year (hopefully). I know our items are safe, but why put the parents in the position of having to say no to a toy if they have (legitimate) concerns.

I also thought that instead of having the kids reach into our candy bowl and choose their preference, we would have more of the same candies and hand it out ourselves. Two candies per child. We can wear gloves and put it right into their basket or bag.

I know some doctors and experts have talked about avoiding family during the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are closer than we think they are. We haven’t decided our holiday plans, but I also think that Halloween is a different circumstance. I don’t mean it’s more important than our traditional family holidays, but in some ways it kind of is. It’s fun. It’s dressing up. It’s candy. And it can be done in a responsible and socially distant way. Kids can come to the door one or two at a time. The candy givers can wear masks and gloves. There’s no hugging, shaking hands, sitting around a table talking and eating.

To be honest, it really sounds a lot easier.

Maybe we can have a Halloween inspired Thanksgiving. Drive thru. Go to Grandma’s house and she’ll give everyone a Tupperware filled with a portioned out turkey dinner. Same with Christmas; just add presents to the drive thru lane.

I don’t know. I’m still working on that one. In the meantime, let’s enjoy Halloween as best as we can. Teach our kids that we need to make some changes this year to keep everyone safe, and we can do that and still have fun. I’m planning on dressing up as a postal carrier if I can find my parents’ old work shirts.

We’ll find out in one week.

What are your plans for Halloween? Do you have any suggestions for making it fun and safe for kids in this unusual year?

Finding the Joy

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Several months ago, April to be precise, I was given a series of reflection questions related to the losses I’ve had since the March 17th lockdown. I may have mentioned this in my original post, In the Midst of Loss about that retreat session and over the course of the month following that first hour I would bring up the subject to myself and think about those losses, the reasons for them, as well as trying to name my feelings about them, and then question how to say goodbye to what’s been lost. It is obviously much harder to say goodbye to a loved one who has died during this pandemic; that loss is astronomically deeper and more upsetting than the loss of work or routine or our regular habits, although the loss of work is catastrophic in its own way and those of us struggling with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and others will feel that some of our losses are also catastrophic. How do we accept the losses we are experiencing and move forward even in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, a pandemic that will continue to be with us for many more months to come, if not at least another year or more? What strategies can be adopted and adapted to move on; to create a new ordinary for our lives?

There were two additional, important and hard to answer questions broached during that session. The first was do we really want back what we’ve lost? All of it? Are there some things that we have lost that we kind of want to stay lost? The second was to ask ourselves what was good about this time.

While we’ve all had losses, we’ve also had gains. There were good things that were perhaps only seen in retrospect. How do we find joy in the confusion and chaos of today?

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Signs of the Pandemic

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When our state went into lockdown, school was moved online and we converted to remote learning; church was cancelled, little by little restaurants closed, libraries closed, museums closed, playgrounds closed.

We stayed home for the most part.

We did go to the grocery store and to Target for our household supplies. We did this about once a week. My husband would go out between grocery shopping trips to get milk, which we always seemed to run out of. We began to buy two gallons at a time.

We also went for drives, sometimes grabbing lunch through a drive thru and parking in the park or near the river and ate our lunch. At least we were out of the house for a couple of hours.

I began to notice some things on our drives and our trips to the supermarket: Signs.

Here, there,  everywhere signs were popping up.

Signs for delivery, signs for take-out, signs for curbside pick-up, signs for new hours, signs for limits on purchasing necessities as toilet paper and soap ran out in our houses and on store shelves. Food and dry goods also. Everyone was home and everyone needed more of what they used while no one was leaving the house for work or school.

The signs popped up like dandelions in spring.

I said to my husband: I know one business that’s doing better during the lockdown. Sign makers.

They were literally everywhere.

As the rules changed and we adapted, more signs were brought out. One way and wrong way signs in the aisles. Limited capacity signs. Xs crossed in six feet spaces for shoppers to stand in and wait for their turn to enter the store. or to check out with their purchases.

Soon, there were mask signs, social distancing signs, and after awhile, all of the signs temporary closed signs were replaced with We’re Open signs. Single entrances and separate exits. We deliver signs were joined  by Dining Room Now Open and Dine In – Limited Capacity.

I began to document all the signs I came across. The photos below are only a small sampling of what I found. Once I started this project, I discovered signs in the strangest places and for the strangest things, and I drove my family a little batty pulling out my cell phone and taking photos of the signs everywhere.

Let me know if I’ve missed any.

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The President Who Cried Wolf

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Before I write anything else, I’d like to first extend my honest warm wishes for a full recovery to President Trump and the First Lady. I’d also extend this to anyone else who is symptomatic or who tests positive for covid-19 who came in contact with them, their staff, and to any of the Senators, Judge Barrett and her family. With a virus so unpredictable once you contract it, it can add to the stress of being sick in the first place. The unknown is often a scary place.

That said, I was on Twitter until the wee hours of the morning, about 3AM, reading, getting updates, laughing at inappropriate jokes, although none were really too bad or personal. I was also not the only one who thought the report of the president and first lady testing positive was another one of his lies, another distraction from her horrifying comments about Christmas and migrant children in cages, a way to ignore the NY Times story of his tax and bank fraud, a way to move beyond his horrendous performance at Tuesday’s debate, or any of the other fifty or so things that hit the news wires yesterday before the news of his positivity became the only story of the night.

After spending six months calling the virus racist nicknames, and clouding his response in what he termed a Democratic hoax and scare tactics, I didn’t think he would claim the virus if he wasn’t actually sick and/or infected.

It also wasn’t a Friday night news dump.

He also skipped out on a phone call with NY’s Governor Andrew Cuomo this afternoon, which I take to mean that he wasn’t up to it.

Sadly, I don’t trust the news that Mike Pence is negative. He, of course, will have to be tested again.

Their constant lying for three and three-quarters years have made any statement they make suspect.

Mitch McConnell continuing his farce of the confirmation of the Supreme Court seat only exacerbates the idea that this is a distraction that they are using to their advantage.

Mitch McConnell is one of many GOP Senators who were at Judge Barrett’s roll out last Saturday, and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who was there, not wearing a mask, shaking hands, and hugging people tested positive today. The entire Senate needs to quarantine for fourteen days as does Judge Barrett and her family.

And all these people need to wear masks.

All the damn time.

Nancy Pelosi needs to be kept in isolation to keep safe the line of succession.

This is a national security emergency.

According to NBC News the President of Notre Dame, who was at the nominating ceremony at The White House has tested positive for covid-19 and Judge Amy Coney Barrett was diagnosed with covid-19 earlier in the summer, which puts her at greater risk for reinfection according to studies within the WHO.

I’m glad that the President and First Lady have made public their tests and having the coronavirus. We should also be hearing from the White House doctor which twice daily updates on the President’s condition. This is not a time for hiding things; it is a time for transparency. 209,000 Americans have died. Now, maybe the third of the country ignoring this pandemic and this very contagious and very dangerous virus will finally come to their senses and listen to the science – wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance.

Being tested does not prevent you from contracting the virus. The test is a moment in time. You could be negative this morning and the virus then sheds this afternoon and you’re positive and don’t know it. The GOP are being very irresponsible by forcing the Senate to convene, especially in small groups of committees and not requiring masks at all times at the Capitol and the White House is dangerous to the non-political staff including Secret Service, food service, journalists, and guests.
It’s irresponsible and reprehensible.

Thoughts On An Overcast Day

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I keep a planner. The monthly part of the calendar is my personal calendar of appointments and scheduling, birthdays and anniversaries to be remembered, and the weekly pages are where I plan my writing for Griffins and Ginger Snaps. This year, writing has been a struggle.

I have been more or less reliable in the publishing of posts, but these last few weeks have certainly been more difficult. There was so much going on in August and when I looked back on it, it seemed that they were all mental worries.

Not that they were all in my head, but it wasn’t that my feelings of busyness was having a lot of appointments or places to go, but it was all mental gymnastics – getting dinner planned, communicating with the school for my kids’ return, planning our vacation while simultaneously planning on not going, keeping up on election news, and so many other things. It’s been rough, and I know I’m not alone in this.

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Election Connection: 13 Weeks: A Biden Covid Response with Ron Klain

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The following video features Ron Klain, a member of the Biden campaign. In addition to his current role with the campaign, he is a two time Vice Presidential Chief of Staff (Al Gore (1995-1999), and Joe Biden (2009-2011). He is a lawyer and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron White as well as a Capitol Hill counsel.

He served as the Ebola Reponse Coordinator from 2014-2015 and has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration’s response to the Covid-19 virus which has, as of this writing, killed more than 150,000 people in the U.S.

For a time, he co-hosted a podcast addressing these concerns with Dr. Celine Gounder.

On a personal note, when I’m asked when I’ll be taking a vaccine (how soon after it’s ready), my answer is always, “When this guy [Ron Klain] says it’s safe.

The following video was made for the Biden campaign and outlines what a President Biden would do to curb the ongoing virus and epidemic.