Total Pageviews

Friday, April 3, 2020

HOW TO CORONAVIRUS PROOF YOUR HOME




GUEST BLOG / By Scottie Andrew, CNN--Life under coronavirus means staying at home as much as possible — but you’ll likely need to make a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy at some point. Use this tip sheet to make sure you don’t bring the virus back home with you.

Make a game plan
--Designate one person to be your errand-runner to limit your outside exposures
--Set up a disinfecting station — an area outside your home or in a room with low foot traffic where you can disinfect packaged food

When you’re out
--Avoid coming within less than six feet of others
--Wipe handles on carts or baskets while shopping
--You don’t have to have gloves or a mask — just wash your hands frequently while you’re out and avoid touching your face

When you get back
--Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
--Disinfect takeout boxes and packaged foods at your disinfecting station
--Thoroughly wash produce before putting it in your kitchen

Disinfect
--Disinfect everything you touch — doorknobs, light switches, keys, phone, keyboards, remotes, etc.
--Use EPA-approved disinfectants (these include Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and certain Lysol sprays) and leave surfaces wet for 3-5 minutes

Delivery
--Ask workers to drop deliveries off on your doorstep or an area of your complex
--If they need you to come to the door, keep six feet of distance
--Pay and tip online when possible
--After you pick up mail from your mailbox, wash your hands

Laundry
--Wash clothes, towels and linens regularly on the warmest setting
--Disinfect your laundry hamper, too, or place a removable liner inside it
--Don’t shake dirty laundry to avoid dispersing the virus in the air

Guests
--You shouldn’t allow guests over right now
--If you need to house a family member or friend, avoid shared living spaces as much as you can
--If they need to enter shared living spaces, ask them to keep six feet of distance

If someone in your home gets sick
--First, consult your doctor
--Isolate them in another room and ask them to use a separate restroom
--Disinfect frequently touched surfaces every day
--Avoid sharing items with them
--Wear gloves when washing their laundry
--Continue to wash your hands frequently
--Ask them to wear a face mask if they have one

Supplies you’ll need
--EPA-approved disinfectants
--If you don’t have disinfectants, make a bleach solution:
--Mix four teaspoons bleach per quart of water; or
--Use a 70% alcohol solution
--Laundry detergent
--Trash bags
--Prescription medicines (you can mail order these)
--Canned foods — fruits, veggies, beans
--Dry goods — breads, pastas, nut butters
--Frozen foods — meats, veggies, fruits

Pets
--Supervise your pet in your backyard
--It’s OK to play with them outside — just keep your distance from other humans
--If you’re sick, ask someone you live with to take care of them while you recover
--If you must care for them while you’re sick, wash your hands frequently

Note: Recommendations for Covid-19 may change as officials learn more, so monitor your local health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for updates.  Click here.

Sources:
--Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore City Health Commissioner and an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University in Washington.
--Dr. Koushik Kasanagottu, an internal medicine resident physician at John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and who is among the thousands of health care professionals treating patients with coronavirus.
--Dr. Richard Kuhn, a virologist, director of the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease and editor-in-chief of the journal “Virology.”
--Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources:
Obtain Hand Washing Reminder posters free. Click here.



THE BREWSPAPER / BEER GROUP NAMES SANTA CLARA BAR TOPS IN CALIFORNIA




Each year, CraftBeer.com produces a list of 50 Best Bars in America—one per state, including Washington, DC and Puerto Rico–to create the annual Great American Beer Bars list.

This year, CraftBeer.com claims the Best Beer bar in California is Taplands in Santa Clara.

One step into Taplands and you’ll know it was founded by craft beer lovers. With a vision to be the center of craft beer discovery in Silicon Valley, this California beer bar aims to be the neighborhood spot where beer aficionados and newbies alike can feel right at home. Inspired by the Disneyland map (think Frontierland and Futureland), Taplands offers 25 continuously rotating handles, including one or two of their own beers produced by the onsite nanobrewery.

For the state-by-state list click here.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

THE FOODIST / BARCELONA’S LAS RAMBLAS DESERTED

Images by Paula Mourenza, Culinary Back Streets



Culinary Back Streets, a remarkable foodie blog just published a dispatch from its edit/photo correspondent in Barcelona Spain.

One of the photos shows the iconic Las Ramblas devoid of pedestrian traffic, two more images show how La Boqueria marketplace is doing during the pandemic.
Fish mongers at Palmira, a fresh fish stall inside La Boqueria marketplace along Las Ramblas, Barcelona

SAN FRANCISCO AREA SEES 2 WEEK SOCIAL ISOLATION WORKING

Judging from the shadows this image depicts a rare glimpse of pavement during what would normally be evening commuter rush hour.    Politico.com photo.

GUEST BLOG / By Debra Kahn and Carla Marinucci, writers for Politico.com--California State leaders and doctors are cautiously optimistic that the Bay Area's early moves to lock down residents two weeks ago have prevented surges of coronavirus patients from overwhelming the region's health care capacity thus far.

Six Bay Area counties were first in the country to adopt aggressive tactics with an enforceable March 16 order requiring residents to stay at home. Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly followed with a statewide order three days later restricting the state's 40 million residents from all but essential activities.

After 14 days — the outermost period at which symptoms are believed to emerge post-infection — doctors at area hospitals are now reporting fewer cases than they expected to see at this point, and officials credit the lockdown with stemming the tide of patients they feared would flood into emergency rooms.

Northern California offered a rare glimpse of optimism Monday as the U.S. recorded its most coronavirus deaths in one day and Washington, D.C.-area jurisdictions — Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia — issued their first enforceable stay-at-home orders. Health officials across the nation are eyeing the Bay Area as a bellwether to determine the effects of social distancing, since the region's policies were replicated in various states and cities in subsequent days.

The Bay Area's primary goal two weeks ago was to slow the growth of serious cases, buying public officials and hospitals enough time to increase the number of hospital beds, respirators and staff necessary to handle a coronavirus surge.

"We believe very strongly the stay-at-home order has helped advance our efforts in reducing the stress on the system that we believe would have already materialized in more acute ways had we not advanced those protocols when we did," Newsom said Monday in his daily press conference.

While officials remain adamant that people stay home and adhere to social-distancing guidelines — the Bay Area Monday extended its stay-at-home order to May 1 — they also are praising residents for following orders and expressing optimism that the measures will continue to work.

“Just generally when you look around Oakland now, what you are seeing gives you hope that makes you feel good about what's going on here," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in an interview. “People really got the message … and I believe that it will show that we will have flattened that curve.”

Stephen Parodi, a infectious disease doctor and associate executive director with The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California, said that Kaiser Permanente is "seeing a leveling off of Covid-19 cases in our hospitals" across Northern California, where it serves 4.5 million members. Kaiser has also seen calls related to colds and coughs drop by more than half since social distancing took effect, a key indicator that precedes hospitalization, he said.

"While we still predict an upcoming surge, the partnership between the health system and public health officials on the local and state levels to implement social distancing has given us more time to put a lot of pieces in place to prepare for a potential surge," Parodi said in a statement.

Many Bay Area residents have faced restrictions for longer than 14 days. A week before the shelter-in-place order, Santa Clara County issued an enforceable ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people, a move that forced cancellation of pro sporting events and concerts. San Francisco and Oakland soon followed suit. The jurisdictions also strongly urged that employers shift to remote work.

Because testing remains uneven, it's difficult to draw broad comparisons between regions. A few weeks ago, America's most populous state drew the nation's greatest concern after community spread was detected here first. But California now has fewer total deaths than five other U.S. states, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. And on a per capita basis, 13 states had a higher death rate Monday.

Not all Bay Area counties are feeling as confident as others. Santa Clara County, which was the state's epicenter and took the earliest actions on social distancing, still has an outsize share of coronavirus cases for its size, with 848 cases and 28 deaths.

The Bay Area's other eight counties have been faring better, reporting 1,352 cases and 24 deaths total, according to the Johns Hopkins data. Statewide, California has 6,400 confirmed cases and 146 deaths.

Officially, hospital spokespeople are hesitant to identify trends. But individual doctors say the stay-at-home order has likely helped to keep numbers lower than they would be otherwise.

"It's really the only thing we can point to that reliably would suggest that's why we have fewer cases than other communities around the country," said Jahan Fahimi, medical director of the emergency department at University of California, San Francisco's Parnassus campus, which has about 15 patients with Covid-19, nine of them critically ill. "We're definitely cautiously optimistic."

Fahimi acknowledged that testing is still patchy, but said the low number of patients needing intensive care is evidence that the spread has been slower than feared.

"What I can say is how many critically ill patients we have, and that has not surged," he said. "Something is working."

On the supply side, hospitals have bought time by rescheduling elective procedures, setting up respiratory care units in parking lots and other areas and procuring more ventilators and personal protective equipment.

"The result has been we didn't get this huge influx of patients, and we emptied out the hospital in preparation," Fahimi said. "We have the capacity to meet the demand as it comes through the door."

The South Bay is further from declaring victory.

“I am not yet optimistic because we don't have enough data to really know,’’ San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in an interview. “And in the absence of surveillance testing at a scale that we see in places like Taiwan and Singapore, we simply don't have enough of a handle to understand whether we've contained this.’’

“I will say that we are looking at independent or other sources of data about movement and travel and it appears that there is relatively good compliance in places like San Francisco,’’ he said.

To be sure, California is far from being out of the woods. But it's on a slower upswing compared to the nation as a whole, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. While the nationwide curve is projected to peak on April 15, California is on a trajectory to hit peak demand on April 26, when it would need about 10,500 hospital beds and 1,250 ventilators.

The hospitalization total is far better than some projections; Newsom last week said California could need as many as 50,000 extra beds.

On Monday, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly struck a relatively confident tone, saying California currently has enough ICU beds and ventilators for anyone who needs them and is likely equipped for "weeks to come."

Still, California leaders are urging that residents need to stay the course and not let up one bit.

“We still have plenty of work to do,’’ Liccardo said. “And one thing I know is that we've got some rough weeks ahead. … This would be far too early for us to be patting ourselves on the back, because we've got very heavy slogging ahead.”
Normal commuter hour traffic flow

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

TAKING A DAY OFF

CELEBRATE GROWN UPS DAY
To show our utter disdain for the sophomoric practice of adults celebrating April Fool's Day, this blog will publish nothing on April 1. We understand the world could use good humor during this evil time, but we hope hurtful April Fool's pranks will not be coming forth during this vile period of pandemic illness and death.  Instead, let's celebrate and practice positive good humor all day and for the rest of this crisis.
--The Staff of PillartoPost.org daily online magazine.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

AMERICANA / MAKING SENSE OF THE RECENT CARES ACT




Presented as a public service by the global financial advising firm of Edward Jones in the spirit of best navigating this world crisis together.  Click here. 

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act was signed last week by President Trump to help provide financial stability and relief for individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19.

While the bill is very broad and addresses a number of areas and industries, and many of the specific details will still need to be analyzed, we believe the following are important to highlight for individuals and their families.

Cash Payments and Unemployment Assistance
--2020 Recovery Payment: All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 joint filers) are eligible for a $1,200 ($2,400) payment, as well as an additional $500 per child (under age 17).
--There are no minimum income requirements for the payment. Individuals with little or no income are eligible provided they are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a work-eligible Social Security number.
--This amount is reduced by $5 for every $100 over the income limit above, so it would be fully phased out for those with incomes over $99,000 (single) and $198,000 (joint filers) with no children.
--Increased Unemployment Assistance: Provides an additional $600/week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance for up to four months.
--Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through Dec. 31, 2020, for those who remain unemployed after state unemployment benefits are no longer available.
--Delay in Tax-filing Requirements: Individuals now have until July 15, 2020, to file their 2019 tax returns instead of April 15.
--The Treasury Department has also postponed the deadline for making IRA contributions until the date taxpayers file their 2019 tax return during the extended filing period.

Retirement Account Changes
The following apply to qualifying individuals including those who are diagnosed with COVID-19, have a spouse or dependent who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or experience adverse financial consequences as a result of COVID-19, including quarantines, layoffs, business closures or child care responsibilities.

--Elimination of Early Withdrawal Penalty: Waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty for withdrawals up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for retirement plan participants who qualify for COVID-19 relief. Income tax on the distribution would still be owed but could be paid over a three-year period. Individuals could "recontribute" the funds to the plan within three years without regard to contribution limits. While the law allows for these types of penalty-free distributions, individual plans can set more restrictive policies.

--Qualifying individuals include those who are diagnosed with COVID-19, have a spouse or dependent who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or experience adverse financial consequences as a result of COVID-19, including quarantines, layoffs, business closures or child care responsibilities.

--Increase in the Retirement Plan Loan Amount: Increases the amount that can be taken as a loan from a qualified retirement plan from $50,000 to $100,000 for 2020.

--In general, we recommend exhausting some of the other provisions associated with the CARES Act first, such as mortgage and student loan relief, or using the recovery payment to bridge the gap on current expenses before taking a distribution or loan from your retirement accounts.

--For any withdrawal or loan, we recommend working with your financial advisor to consider developing strategies to recontribute/pay back these funds over time to reduce any long-term impact to your retirement goals.

--Temporary Waiver of RMDs for 2020 for All Retirement Savers: Waives the required minimum distribution (RMD) requirement for retirement plans and IRAs in 2020. This provision also applies to RMDs due in 2020, but attributable to 2019. Individuals do not need to meet COVID-19 qualifying criteria to temporarily waive RMDs for 2020.

Items for Consideration:
--In general, we recommend exhausting some of the other provisions associated with the CARES Act first, such as mortgage and student loan relief, or using the recovery payment to bridge the gap on current expenses before taking a distribution or loan from your retirement accounts.

--For any withdrawal or loan, we recommend working with your financial advisor to consider developing strategies to recontribute/pay back these funds over time to reduce any long-term impact to your retirement goals.

Enhanced Tax Benefits for Charitable Gifts
--$300 Deduction of Cash Contributions: Ability to deduct up to $300 of cash contributions to charities, regardless of whether the individual itemizes deductions.

--Changes to Limits on Charitable Contributions:

--Individuals: For those who itemize their deductions for charitable giving, the 50% of adjusted gross income limit is suspended for 2020.

--Corporations: The 10% limit on charitable contributions is increased to 25% of taxable income.

Mortgages
--Mortgage Relief for Homeowners: Requires the servicers of federally backed mortgages to postpone mortgage payments at the request of the borrower, provided the borrower affirms financial hardship due to COVID-19. The postponement must be granted for up to 180 days and extended for an additional period of up to 180 days at the request of the borrower.

--Foreclosure Moratorium: Prevents the servicer of a federally backed mortgage loan to initiate any foreclosure process for at least 60 days beginning on March 18, 2020.

--Eviction Relief for Renters: For 120 days after the CARES Act date of enactment, landlords with mortgages backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other federal entities cannot pursue eviction for their tenants. Landlords also can't charge any fees or penalties related to nonpayment of rent.
Student Loans/Education

--Loan Payment Suspension: Suspends payments automatically for federal student loans through Sept. 30, 2020, with no interest accruing or penalties during the period of suspension.

--Additional Provisions: Contains a variety of other emergency-relief provisions related to education, and specifically the impact of many students being sent home mid-semester. For example, it allows universities to make payments to students who were unable to complete work-study programs.

Small-Business Owners
--Small-Business Loans: Many small businesses are now eligible for disaster relief loans from the Small Business Administration. Additionally, the CARES Act provides conditions for when loan payments may be deferred, and loan amounts forgiven.

--Other Provisions: There are additional tax and accounting provisions such as:

--An employee retention tax credit for employers subject to full or partial suspension of business due to COVID-19

--The ability to delay payment of employer payroll taxes

--Modifications for rules around net operating losses

--Modifications for rules around corporate AMT (alternative minimum tax) credits

--A temporary increase in the limitation on interest deductions imposed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act


Disclaimer: PillartoPost.org operating as a daily not-for-profit online magazine has been publishing since 2011.  Edward Jones has been our financial advisor each step of the way.