Posts tagged with "COVID-19"

Nursing Home Staff Shortages

Amidst the perseverance of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry has taken a massive blow. There are intense staffing shortages in the field, and the public is suffering from these scarcities. The Washington Post gave a detailed report on these worsening staff deficiencies, more specifically in long term care facilities.

Nursing homes tend to lessen the stress on hospitals as recovered patients typically move there after being released. Without proper staffing, though, facilities have not been able to take in patients from hospitals. A specific example of this misfortune stems from the Terrace View nursing home in Buffalo, New York. The home is currently not running at full capacity, and there are up to 22 beds not being used due to lack of staff.

The Washington Post article elaborates on this disaster, highlighting another facility affected. “That means some fully recovered patients in the adjacent Erie County Medical Center must stay in their hospital rooms, waiting for a bed in the nursing home. Which means some patients in the emergency department, who should be admitted to the hospital, must stay there until a hospital bed opens up. The emergency department becomes stretched so thin that 10 to 20 percent of arrivals leave without seeing a caregiver — after an average wait of six to eight hours, according to the hospital’s data.”

Many long-term care facilities across the country are facing these same troubles. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) found 58% of nursing homes are cutting down on arrivals, again, because of the shortage of staff members.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that 425,000 long term care workers left the industry since February 2020. Though other industries have seen economic growth since the onset of the pandemic, nursing homes have not had the same luck. “Remarkably, despite the horrific incidents of death and illness in nursing homes at the outset of the pandemic, more staff departures have come during the economic recovery. As restaurants and shops reopened and hiring set records, nursing homes continued to bleed workers, even as residents returned.”

These troubles are heightened in more rural areas. The article, too, depicts the story of Diakonos Group in Medford, Oklahoma, that had to shut down since there was simply not enough staff. The facility provided care for patients with mental health needs, but after the pandemic started, they found that their staff had endured too much. Diakonos Group CEO Scott Pilgrim explained that although the business offered a raise in hourly wages, bonuses and overtime, employees continued to leave, and they could not withstand these absences.

AHCA/NCAL urges lawmakers to work with the long term care division of healthcare to fix this staffing crisis and devote resources to employ caregivers. As hospitals continue to be directly affected by this catastrophe, change must be made as soon as possible. AHCA/NCAL encourages Congress to take action and ease these tensions placed on both hospitals and long term care facilities.

Alex Bogdan for use by 360 MAGAZINE

Tips to Maintain a Healthy Back

With the COVID-19 pandemic reaching another surge this holiday season, its more important than ever to stay safe, protected and healthy. With the pandemic continuing throughout the winter season, it’s easy to forget that the chilling winter weather can result in the muscles and ligaments of our bodies to contract and tighten significantly more. The muscles and ligaments that strengthen the back and spine, as well as the shoulders and knees, are considerably impacted by these seasonal changes.

From the Pinkston News Service comes a series of tips from Dr. Rita Roy, Chief Executive Officer of the National Spine Health Foundation, on how to protect and keep your back healthy during these frostier months.

Stretch regularly

Implementing a consistent stretching routine can lower your risk of injury, and can even elevate the healing process of a previous injury. Engaging in basic back stretches such as the child’s pose or cat-cow and enhance strength and flexibility to your spine.

Wear proper footwear

Dr. Rita Roy encourages everyone to be mindful of the shoes that you plan to wear depending on the weather you may be dealing with. Make sure that your footwear is a fitting size, by trying them on in-store first, if you can. Ensure that your shoes have proper lining to keep you warm during the chilling temperatures. Making note to purchase a set of footwear that has non-stick rubber soles and treads on the bottom of the shoe for an extra level of safety from slipping. Remember to also take those shoes off when you head indoors, replacing them with socks or slippers, so you don’t run the risk of slipping inside as well.

Be aware of your surroundings

If you know that you may be heading outside, make sure to pay attention to what surfaces you step foot on. To get ahead of the game, keep up on the weather conditions heading your way. If you live in an area with a lot of icy roads and sidewalks, make sure to take your time, walk slowly and steer clear of carrying large items along your path. Make sure to look around you and use the objects that are not moving to your advantage; hold onto a handrail or tree to give yourself some extra balance. Keep your eyes peeled and watch around you to avoid unwarranted hazards.

Stay active

While winter follows the holiday season, this may warrant a lot of eating, sitting around and mood shifts. Seasonal depression is ever apparent through this time of year, so it’s extremely crucial to get your body moving to aid the dreariness that comes with winter. Moving around in between meals through exercising can help you in more ways than you may know.

Don’t overextend yourself

While it is crucial that you keep exercising, be sure to not overreach these efforts. The end of the holiday season raises a whole new set of physical activities, such as, hanging Christmas lights and shoveling snow. These unique tasks pose risks to the body because these are not activities that are regularly carried out year-round. Shoveling snow can cause intense stress to your back. It is vital that you use proper techniques and equipment when carrying out these tasks. Give yourself well-needed breaks and time to rest while participating in these endeavors.

Always wear a seatbelt

This may seem like a misplaced tip among the rest, but nonetheless this one is exceptionally valuable. Studies have found that a large amount of weather-related auto accidents happen throughout the winter, and around 76,000 people become hurt in accidents that result on snowy or slushy roads. Back pain can result from a mere low-speed fender-bender since the body was not anticipating the impact. So, keeping your seatbelt on can limit these sudden movements.

Five Reasons to Sanitize Your Home Using Steam Cleaners

The global pandemic has brought the need for sanitizing into the spotlight. While treatment for Covid-19 is still in the works, your best bet is to practice self-protection and make your home a safe haven. Using hot pressurized steam is a great way to get rid of germs brought from the outside. It is a zero-waste and non-toxic way to combat pathogens!

1. Versatile

By sanitizing your home with portable steamers for cleaning, you not only remove visible contaminants like dirt and dust. Hot steam also acts as a sanitizer. It reduces the number of microbes and bacteria to a safe level and prevents their growth. You can use it on most surfaces in your home, from floorboards to fabrics.

2. Simple and Efficient

How do you feel after cleaning your home the conventional way? This is an arduous task, as you need to exert pressure on all surfaces. Body pain and allergic reactions are common consequences of exhausting housework. Steam cleaning is much more efficient, as you do not need to get up close and personal with the surfaces. Applying pressurized steam requires less effort. Clean and sanitize your space more quickly without the need for elbow grease.

3. Chemical-free

This sustainable method lets you cleanse every crevice and corner of your home without chemicals. Steam removes germs and bad odors without harming the environment, and you do not need to use detergents that may contaminate your food. Clean your furniture and carpets without compounds that could be dangerous to children and pets.

4. Pathogens-eliminating

Hot pressurized steam kills pathogens, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and dust mites. These are commonly found in most households. To maximize the sanitizing effects, you can also use some non-toxic detergent.

Dust mites are allergens that cause sneezing. The reactions they trigger in kids may even develop into asthma! Steam is a great alternative to traditional cleaning products. You can eliminate dust mites without chemicals that contain allergens themselves!

5. Cost-efficient

Different cleaning tasks require different detergents. With a steam cleaner, you will no longer need to buy special products for the floor, oven, and kitchen countertop. No need for rubber gloves, either! These machines can clean almost anything, from cupboards to car interiors. They are versatile and eco-friendly. Using different attachment brushes, you can clean any type of surface and crevice.

Final Words

Sanitizing is surrounded by a lot of confusion due to fake news and misleading articles. Steam cleaning is an efficient and convenient way to sanitize surfaces, but there are still a few guidelines to follow. Choose a proper temperature for every item (refer to the manufacturer manual). Note that some objects and surfaces are very sensitive to steam. For example, silk, velour, thin plastics, and water-based paint require special care.

Rita Azar for use by 360 Magazine

Travel Tips During the Holidays

Travel Preparedness Expert Cheryl Nelson has generated a few travel tips to keep you and your family safe during the holidays! Let’s break down these travel tips.

Packing

Nelson encourages holiday travelers to not overpack! Ensuring that you and your traveling party have not overpacked can save a lot of time, stress and even money. Make sure that you only pack what you really need and know you will use! If you are traveling by plane and must check a bag, know your airline’s weight restrictions prior to check in. If you’re traveling with a roller bag, make sure that you can lift that bag into the overhead bin by yourself. If you also plan on buying more items on your trip, make sure to save extra space in your suitcase.

Another specific tip that Nelson has is to roll your clothes when packing them instead of folding. This surprisingly saves a lot of room!

When packing your medications, try not to pack every single medication or supplement bottle. Pack your pills in a pill container or small bags and label them. Nelson recommends keeping a cold shortening product with Zinc on-hand, such as Zicam, to deliver general health while traveling.

Vaccination cards

Travel expert Nelson recommends having your physical vaccination card on hand when traveling this holiday seasons. Some states and even restaurants (like New York City) require proof of vaccination, so it’s best to do your research on the area you’re traveling to beforehand. Definitely make note to bring your vaccination card when traveling outside of the U.S. Nelson also urges travelers to make copies of both the front and back of the card, and to also keep a spare copy in your luggage as well as at your home. Another smart tip would be to take photos of the card to keep on your smartphone.

Nelson suggests keeping your card in a sleeve like this to ensure its protection. She also advises to not laminate the card as there is a potential to add to the card with future booster shot information.

Read the updated CDC guidelines

Continue to consider the plans of your travel leading up to the anticipated dates of travel. Evaluate the amount of people you may be around, if there are COVID-19 outbreaks in the location and if there are specific restrictions in your place of travel. Although traveling by air is not risk-free, Nelson believes that traveling on a commercial airline to be safe. The cabin’s air is run through a HEPA filter and refreshed every few minutes, and airlines also still require masks as protection tactics.

Be mindful of others around you

Prioritize good personal hygiene throughout your trip. Wash your hands in warm water for at least 20 seconds, carry hand sanitizer and use it after touching common surfaces. If you are vaccinated and still feel more protected by wearing a mask, wear a mask. Throughout the duration of your trip, continue to make time for rest. Drink a lot of water and don’t forget to exercise, even by just walking. Remember that it is OK to give yourself a mental break! Nelsons encourages travelers to relax, and

Covid patient image created by Sara Davidson at 360 Magazine use by 360 Magazine

Long-lasting COVID-19 Protection

In what could be very good news for the immunocompromised, an antibody cocktail tested at the University of Virginia School of Medicine appears to offer long-lasting protection from COVID-19.

The cocktail, manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, reduced the risk of COVID-19 infection by more than 80% for more than eight months, the company announced in a news release. The 81.6% risk reduction seen in the second to eighth months after administration continues the robust, 81.4% risk reduction seen in the first month.

William A. Petri Jr., MD, PhD, was one of the leaders of UVA’s testing of the antibody cocktail. He was pleasantly surprised by the durability of the protection reported by Regeneron. He said the drug could be of particular benefit for immunocompromised people who do not develop a strong response to vaccination.

“The significance of the finding is that the antibody cocktail can prevent COVID-19 in immunocompromised individuals whom we know sometimes fail to respond to the vaccine,” said Petri, an infectious disease expert.

Lasting COVID-19 Protection

Regeneron’s new analysis looked at the results from 1,683 people who were not infected with COVID-19 and did not have antibodies to the virus. Among trial participants who received the cocktail, none was hospitalized for COVID-19 during the following eight months. Only seven were infected with SARS-CoV-2, compared with 38 who received a placebo. Thus, the antibody cocktail provided more than 80% protection for 2-8 months.

The federal Food and Drug Administration first authorized Regeneron’s cocktail in November 2020 to treat patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. The federal regulators then expanded the authorization in July to allow its use as a preventative treatment in people exposed to COVID-19 and those at high risk of exposure, such as nursing home residents. Regeneron’s antibody cocktail is not a vaccine and is not a replacement for a vaccine. However, it may greatly benefit people who do not develop a strong immune response to vaccination, such as patients receiving treatment for cancer and other people who are immunocompromised, said Petri, of UVA’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health. 360 Magazine is interested and excited to see what science can do in order to help protect us. 

For such patients, getting a periodic dose of the cocktail – annually, perhaps — could provide the immune protection that their own bodies can’t, Petri said. (More research will be needed to determine the best dosing interval.) “While these results still require peer review to ensure their accuracy, this is likely to be a significant step forward in the prevention of COVID-19 in the immunocompromised,” Petri said.

image by RED hospitality for use by 360 magazine

RED Hospitality and Leisure

RED Hospitality and Leisure is a leading provider of resort services including destination services, watersports, beach and recreation operations, destination management services and transportation. Their clients include premier brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and leading hotel REITS in North America and the Caribbean. Their company motto is “Exceptional Experiences by Exceptional People.” RED specializes in providing critical guest-facing departments with subject matter experts, passionate associates, and dedicated management.

With a vertically integrated model, it allows them to provide an end-to-end, highly curated guest experience, driving increased guest satisfaction and revenue for our hotel partners. We work closely with clients to ensure seamless and transparent integration of brand standards. The RED team is made up of hospitality professionals dedicated to turning revenue negative or neutral departments, such as recreation and concierge, into profitable and engaging areas of our client hotels.

Last week, 360 Magazine got the opportunity to speak with Jason Campbell who is responsible for leading RED’s five markets and its subsidiary businesses. With over twenty years of experience in hospitality – focusing on hotel integration, opening project management, guest service standards, and organizational capabilities – Jason provided a lot of insight and useful information to understand the industry.

What brought you into the hospitality industry?

I couldn’t wait to get my work permit when I turned 14 and my first position was at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery in Northern Virginia. I got a thrill out of managing the ‘rush’ each day and the ability to put a smile on someone’s face by providing them genuine service. I went on to study Hotel Management in high school and after competing in DECA, I was confident I would make my passion for hospitality my profession. I later joined Great American Restaurants and learned the importance of team service, which transformed me into thinking more about ‘we’ and less about ‘me’. There was so much more we accomplished together than as individual contributors, which became a part of my management philosophy thereafter. One afternoon we toured a nearby full-service, Marriott hotel and it opened my eyes to all the positions you could learn in the hotel business – from accounting, management, events, food and beverage, front office, valet, concierge, retail, and spa, it put me on a path to seek out a company which I could grow within to learn as much as I could. I started with Marriott as a pool server in Orlando at The World Center hotel, our biggest property at the time, and worked my way up to a Senior Director at their Corporate office in Bethesda leading various teams of operational subject matter experts.

What would you say helped get you where you are?

I was fortunate to start working early and understanding how organizations function. This allowed me the opportunity to be groomed by incredible mentors early in my career. I had a ‘fire in my belly’ which kept me curious to learn more and push beyond my comfort levels which accelerated my learning. Reading books like ‘Setting the Table’ by Danny Meyer broadened my perspectives on how other companies were building their success and created inspiration for me. Throughout my career, I would raise my hand to take on a new project or move into unknown territory. I found I enjoyed projects which required the ability to work well in ambiguity, innovate ideas and test hypothesis, then refine and document processes and procedures to drive sustainability of those initiatives. These projects then presented themselves more frequently and I’ve been thankful to be able to write my own job description for the past decade of my career, focused on building organizations moving from the startup phases of a company’s lifecycle, into to their adolescence and growth stages.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced/currently facing?

The hospitality industry is one of many industries experiencing a labor shortage right now, further compounded by the return of unprecedented demand it’s going to be a constraint over the upcoming quarters as the workforce resets and restabilizes post-COVID. We’ve turned this challenge into a strength by focusing on the development of our current employees, up and down the organization. Our philosophy is if we can recruit the best and invest in their continuous development, we will be able to build our bench over time and capitalize on the human equity which differentiates us from our competitors. We have been allocating resources to not only respond to the weekly demand and provide quality products and services, but to further enhance the training tools and resources we have available to our team members. Additionally, we provide various coaching programs for our management team, making them more versatile, compassionate, and effective in their roles, as well as consistency driving the company’s culture across five marketplaces. This will continue to translate to us having low turnover than industry averages, and a solid foundation to build momentum behind. We run a fast-paced business with high expectations, and if we can show someone a path to continue to grow their career, the future opportunities are endless.

How would you describe your efficiency of operations?

We lead our business units by empowering our managers and employees to make decisions which they believe are in the best interest of the customer, our clients, and the business. This allows us to be more productive as an organization and gives us the opportunity to admit when we make a mistake, which is really a win-win, in that it encourages continuous improvement in a comfortable, trusting environment. We would rather our teams try and fail, than fail to try. If we do fail, we fail fast, learn what didn’t work, pivot, and try again. We are thankful in that our teams are highly committed and highly motivated individuals, who have embodied this framework, which has allowed us to launch new initiatives such as retail operations on land and at sea, developing and accrediting a new sailing academy, creating marine biology expositions to teach guests about local marine life, and activating community programming events to support the neighborhoods we do business in.

Any exciting collaborations in the future?

This quarter, we will be launching a social media management strategy, including a once in a lifetime position to hire a brand ambassador who will travel and experience our brands around South Florida and the Caribbean, curating the content they create to share our company’s story and the first-hand experiences our customers and employees experience. We recently engaged a Public Relations agency who is helping us identify additional opportunities to participate in and sponsor industry conferences, guest speak on discussion panels, and network with lifestyle companies in similar spaces to support the fast rebound of travel.

We’re fortunate to have incredible partners in the luxury and boutique hotel space today, which really resonates with our customers and our brand. From a guest perspective, our goal is for our teams to be in differentiated from the hotel employees, and because RED employees share similar core values, ethical alignment and exemplary hospitality skills as the hotels and brands we work with, this is another advantage of both parties. We operate as an extension of their executive teams, leading and supporting departments they can depend on, which results in the continued collaboration of group efforts to coordinate and plan special events such as unique Festive Season offerings.

Any advice for those working in the hospitality industry?

More of a thank you. This downturn has had the worst impact to our industry in history. I’m inspired by those who double downed and had faith in the recovery of travel and the tenacity to see through what an accelerated return to business demands is now. There are still challenges which lie ahead and I think those who have invested in themselves and their company’s success over the past year are going to have many opportunities to grow into their next roles. A shared benefit to those who have stayed engaged and been fortunate to remain a part of a company, have adapted to wear many hats and understand the intricacies of other parts of the business, the connectedness and importance of each of those disciplines. The human equity which RED has produced over the past year is one we will continue to cultivate as we build our bench strength, deploying our top performers into more complex markets and higher visibility opportunities, such as the launch of new markets and properties next year.

How did COVID impact RED?

RED, like all travel companies, had to significantly consolidate operations when demand evaporated at the start of Covid. Interestingly, the closure of international borders created a change in domestic traveler’s preferences, and encouraged them to seek homeland destinations, often gravitating to the sun and sea. This summer, we had record demand with travelers from Texas, New York, Florida, and North Carolina being the first to return, most notably to our Sebago offerings in Key West.

The pent-up demand led to travelers staying in destination for longer, and often spending more than years prior, because they had more expendable income after foregoing their annual vacation the year prior. RED offers outdoor experiences, which were in high demand as guests returned, and we continue to see stronger than anticipated demand through September and October which are our typical shoulder slower months. This is encouraging to us, and we predict a busy year lies ahead, especially as inbound international travel returns.

Any plans for expansion?

Indeed. It’s one of our company goals for the next year. We launched our first international market and operations at The Ritz-Carlton in Turks and Caicos in June, which we plan to expand upon very soon. We also expanded to two new hotels in Key West and signed a new contract to launch at two new hotels by the end of 2022.

There are many hotel owners who reinvested in their properties during the pandemic and are preparing to reopen operations in the upcoming quarters. Over that same period, RED has further solidified its value proposition, which provides owners and operators a turnkey solution to their recreation, tour and activity and watersport experience offerings. Our background in preopening project management, operational execution and building high performing work teams with exemplary service and technical watersports skills tells a compelling story. We will continue to look for clients we can build more of these symbiotic relationships with.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

There is a specific competency and skill set we’ve begun to speak about internally and are starting to see gain traction in social and training platforms, which is Emotional intelligence. The recovery from this pandemic is one which has impacted everyone in the world and has provided a common experience amongst all of us which didn’t exist before. Although each of us may have experienced it differently, it is something which we hope can bring us back together and teach us to be more empathetic to one another, building on those connections amongst us. Of course, we recommend one of the best places you can have those conversations is onboard one of our catamarans with a beverage in hand, watching the sunset fall off the horizon. Safe travels to everyone and thanks for the time. We hope to see you soon.

More on RED Hospitality and Leisure here.

Art by Symara of 360 for use by 360 Magazine

Israel Reopens to International Travelers

For the first time in more than 18 months, vaccinated individual and group travelers from the United States are welcome to enter Israel and explore the country’s rich culture, history, and stunning landscapes.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism announced that as of today, vaccinated tourists from the United States can resume all travel to Israel. After kicking off the pilot reopening program in May of 2021, which initially allowed a select number of tour groups to enter the country, all vaccinated travelers may now visit Israel after the extended closure due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“To say we are excited that Israel is reopening to travelers today is an understatement,” said Eyal Carlin, Tourism Commissioner for North America. “Israel has taken incredible steps to protect its people and visitors and we pride ourselves on ensuring a COVID-safe and unforgettable trip to those who will be entering our beautiful country. With leading vaccination rates and endless opportunities for outdoor activities, we are eager to welcome visitors back with open arms — of course, at a safe social distance.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett along with several other Ministers within the country (Tourism, Health, Transportation, etc.), have come together and formed the following plan which has been approved by the COVID cabinet and will take effect today, November 1 – with developments and new COVID variants being monitored closely.

“We have been awaiting this moment, to bring back international travelers into our country, for a very long time now,” said Yoel Razvozov, Israel’s Minister of Tourism. “We’re ecstatic to share our country with everyone once again and I’m proud to be working closely with our Prime Minister Naftali Bennett among other Ministers within the country to ensure a thoughtful, safe return to tourism.”

As of today, the guidelines for entry include:

Taking a PCR test 72 hours before an outbound flight, filling out a passenger declaration, and a taking a PCR test upon arrival in Israel (needing to quarantine in hotel until results return or 24 hours pass – the lesser of the two).

To enter the country, one must:

  • Have been vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least 14 days prior to the day of entry into Israel (14 days must have passed since receival of second dose upon arrival into Israel, but no more than 180 days upon leaving Israel – I.e., if it has been six months since the second dose, you will need the booster shot to enter).
    • Those that have received the booster vaccine dose, and at least 14 days have passed since received, can enter Israel.
  • Have been inoculated with one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least 14 days prior to the day of entry into Israel (14 days must have passed since second dose receival upon their arrival into Israel, but no more than 180 days upon leaving Israel – I.e., if it has been six months since your second dose, you will need the booster shot to enter).
    • Those that have received the booster vaccine dose, and at least 14 days have passed since received, can enter Israel.
  • Have recovered from COVID-19 and who present proof of the results of a positive NAAT test at least 11 days prior to the day of entry into Israel (no more than 180 days upon leaving Israel).
  • Have recovered from COVID-19 and have received at least one dose of the WHO-approved vaccines.

In-depth guidelines can be found HERE. For more information, please visit the official website for all updates on entry protocols and forthcoming answers to FAQs.

The Best Ways to Have Family Fun During a Lockdown

By: Marie Miguel

It hasn’t been easy trying to navigate everything during the pandemic. The tragic loss of life has been difficult for many families around the world. It’s also been hard adjusting to not being able to go out and do things that you normally like to do. If you’re raising kids, then you might feel as if you’re going stir crazy being stuck inside together with your family. 

The kids want to be able to do something fun, but you’re going through another lockdown. What are your best options to keep everyone occupied and happy? Keep reading to learn about the best ways to have family fun during a lockdown. This might give you a few good ideas that will make your time spent together at home a lot more entertaining. 

Play Board Games

Have you sat down as a family to play a board game recently? This is a tried and true family activity that has helped many families bond over the years. There are a wide variety of different board games out there that you can try out. You just need to find one that the entire family can enjoy and understand. 

If you have younger children, then you might wish to pick a board game that is a bit on the easier side. If you’re playing with older kids, then you might be fine playing more complex games such as Trivial Pursuit. Whether you’re going to play Monopoly together or if you want to have a rousing game of Scrabble, it’ll be a good time. It’s a fun way to pass the time that you should take advantage of. 

Play Video Games

What if your kids aren’t quite so into old-school board games? You could always try sitting down to play video games with them. Even if you don’t play a lot of video games, it’ll be fun to interact with your kids. There are all sorts of good family-friendly titles that you can choose from. The Nintendo Switch is a particularly good console choice if you’re looking for games that will be fun for kids (and adults) of all ages. 

You can start a little family rivalry in Mario Kart. Or you can work together to try to solve puzzles in games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There are hundreds of games that you could choose to play, but the important thing is to enjoy your time with your kids. Games can be magical because they can help you to escape when you need to the most. 

Arts & Crafts

Sitting down and doing arts & crafts with your kids could also be a good time. Sometimes it’s nice to just take it easy and try to create something artistic as a family. There are all sorts of little art projects you could take on if you’re so inclined. Create decorations for various holidays or help to teach your kids how to paint. 

Many have rediscovered their love of art during the pandemic. This could be a good weekend activity that you can enjoy with your significant other and your kids. You’ll simply need to ensure that you have the materials for whatever art project you’re interested in. You’ll be able to admire the results of your work when you’re finished, too. 

Listen to Music

What about just relaxing in the living room as a family and listening to music? Yes, sometimes it’s hard to agree on what to listen to when everyone in the family has different tastes in music. However, it can still be fun to share your favorites with your family. Some families have decided to let each kid pick one record, and they will sit down to listen to all of them on a special music day each weekend. 

Another idea is to share your love of music by teaching your kids how to play instruments. If you’re a musician, then this could be a good time. Of course, your kids will need to be interested in music or it might not be so fun for them. Music is powerful, and it can help you have a great time even when you’re stuck inside during a lockdown. 

Watch Family-Friendly Shows

Most families will spend copious amounts of time watching shows on Netflix or Disney Plus during the pandemic. Your family might wind up being no different. That doesn’t mean that watching some great shows with your family won’t be a valuable experience. You can enjoy movies and all sorts of other entertainment media together. 

With so much great content to watch, it’ll be easy to find a new movie to enjoy with your family each weekend. Make some popcorn and sit down in the living room to watch something together. It gives you something to look forward to as a family. Turning it into a fun occasion with snacks and mood lighting should be a good time. 

Cook Together

Have you thought about cooking together? Depending on how you feel about cooking, this might sound like a great idea or a terrible one. Cooking can be a lot of fun when you approach things with the proper attitude. It can also be valuable to teach your kids how to cook early on in life. 

You can make simple dishes together, and the kids will enjoy it. If you want to make things really easy, you can have kids help you with baking. When you’re making cookies it’ll be easy to let the kids cut out the cookie shapes with cookie cutters. Family cooking time could become a staple in your household even once the lockdown is finished. 

Remember That You’re Never Alone

Remember that you’re never alone when you’re starting to feel depressed or anxious. These are trying times, and you can reach out if you feel like you need help. BetterHelp has some awesome resources on parenting, which can help you get through difficult times. Whether you need parenting advice or if you just need to talk to someone about the stress that you’re experiencing, BetterHelp can assist you in the process of putting things into perspective. 

Don’t hesitate to contact an online therapist if you’re feeling uneasy about things in life. Online therapy has helped many people to work through significant problems. It’s easy to talk to a therapist from the comfort of home, and it’s great that this therapy option is so affordable. Look into things today if you’ve been having a tough time and would like to start feeling better. 

Adventure created by Heather Skovlund from 360 Magazine for use by 360 Magazine

Difference Between a Good vs a Great Vacation

Eager travelers are increasingly convinced that getting the right help when planning a vacation is priceless in today’s confusing travel atmosphere.

Andra E. of Indiana completed her first Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park getaway in July with Austin Adventures, a Montana-based boutique tour operator. Between the pandemic and a cancer diagnosis, her journey to the perfect vacation wasn’t easy. Austin Adventures sympathetically navigated multiple rebookings for her. The result? Her highly anticipated trip exceeded expectations.

“We were looking forward to not having to make all the decisions and arrangements while exploring a large and beautiful part of the country. What we got was a great trip with guides who were knowledgeable, personable, and thoughtful. They planned out the meals and activities; they truly handled every detail. We were completely spoiled! (The Austin Adventures) team has been nothing but kind, helpful, and accommodating.”

COVID-19 aftereffects rage on in the travel industry in the form of volatile border reopenings, record-setting crowd numbers in National Parks and worldwide iconic destinations, and availability shortages due to the soaring travel comeback.

But planning experts like Active Adventures and Austin Adventures, newly merged brands as of August 2021, are proving their worth by easing the stress of traveling in today’s era.

​​“Our numbers are definitely showing that travelers are anxious to get back out there,” said Dan Austin, Founder of Austin Adventures. “Between January and September, we’ve seen a 200% increase in travel inquiries compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019. Bookings are also breaking records, up 130% over 2019.”

Active Adventures and Austin Adventures have covered all the bases of vacation planning and execution for over 60 collective years. In the last year, their time-tested expertise has proved priceless as more and more travelers turn to professionals for travel planning help.

Professionals and agents find partnering with a reliable tour operator just as valuable. Kristin Cless of Houlahan Travel concurs: “As Travel Professionals, we are extremely concerned about the safety of our clients when they are traveling. Working with Austin Adventures takes all the guesswork out of that process. We know the great lengths they go to ensure the safety and well-being of their clients and it is a huge weight off our shoulders.”

The menu of helpful services offered by tour operators and travel professionals is endless:

  • They are travelers’ number one fans and advocates. Operators and professionals are there to clean up the pieces when previous vacation plans have been destroyed and they can provide an extra layer of protection when facing confusing rebooking and cancelation conditions. What they always want for travelers is a seamless, stress-free experience from start to finish!
  • Operators and professionals alike serve as the eyes and ears on the ground at clients’ desired destinations. They are nimble navigators, in tune with the ever-changing environment, and they are vital insiders’ resources into border openings, restrictions, and inventory. When plans seem bleak, operators and professionals have a plan B, C, D, and are more ready to fill in last-minute requests.
  • Years of operating and finding time-tested good practices result in genuine expertise on how safe travel really works. Whether there is a global pandemic or not, operators and professionals know what it takes to pull off a safe vacation.
  • All logistics are handled and mapped out for groups of all traveler types: Families, adults, couples, and solo adventurers. Operators and professionals can round up all the details needed to plan high-end requests and distribute the information and paperwork needed for each traveler, making it easy to check those items off the planning list. Travelers who may have relied on their own independence when planning their getaways in the past are also increasingly recognizing the priceless value travel professionals and agents bring to the table. Having professionals and agents on their side amplifies travel planning security and confidence.

360 Magazine is excited to see so many travel options and to enjoy active adventures. The future of travel and all the requirements and planning that come along with it may continue to evolve, but help from travel professionals and tour operators is here to stay.

Art by Mina Tocalini for use by 360 Magazine

Scientists Mapping Next Pandemic

An international team of scientists has created a powerful new resource to speed the development of vaccines and treatments to battle the next pandemic.

University of Virginia School of Medicine researcher Wladek Minor, PhD, and collaborators in China and Poland have developed an Internet information system, called virusMED, that lays out all we know about the atomic structure and potential vulnerabilities of more than 800 virus strains from 75 different virus families, including SARS-CoV-2, influenza, Ebola and HIV‑1. Several of the collaborators, including the lead investigator, Heping Zheng, are former students and members of Minor’s lab at UVA. 

This new panorama of the proteins of potential threats will help scientists respond quickly and effectively against the next pathogen poised to wreak havoc on humanity. Minor and his collaborators compare the resource to Google Maps, in that it organizes and annotates major points of interest on a virus that scientists can use as a roadmap in drug and vaccine development.

“The battle with COVID-19 is not over yet, but we cannot wait to start preparing for the next pandemic. VirusMED is a step towards an advanced information system that brings together researchers with diverse expertise to tackle complex biomedical challenges,” said Minor, the Harrison Distinguished Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at UVA. “The information contained in virusMED will help viral researchers from many disciplines, especially those working on drug design or anti-viral therapies. We provide novel structural analysis and integrate pertinent information from various resources to provide a comprehensive picture of the proteins’ most important and vulnerable regions.”

Virus Hotspots

By quickly unlocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus mechanism of action, scientists were able to develop safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19. Minor’s new database aims to put that type of critical information at scientists’ fingertips in one convenient location.

VirusMED contains extensive information on virus species and strains, hosts, viral proteins and antibodies, as well as drugs that have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, among other important scientific data. The researchers call the points of interest on a virus its “hotspots,” and these hotspots make for strong starting points for drug and vaccine development.

“One of the most promising strain-indifferent antibody therapies developed for the treatment of COVID-19 used this type of information to improve upon a unique antibody isolated from a survivor who was infected by the SARS virus back in 2003,” said David Cooper, PhD, research faculty in Minor’s lab. “People who are surprised by rapid drug and vaccine design don’t realize that researchers today are building upon decades of previous research.”

One of virusMED’s major advantages is that it brings together the extant knowledge about viruses in one location, Minor said. Previously, that data was spread across multiple resources and often “siloed” so that it was not easily accessible. With virusMED, researchers can browse the information by virus or by their hotspot of interest.

The free and accessible database can be found HERE.

“One of the goals of my lab is to make tools that other scientists can use. We look at the forest and find ways to help others focus on the trees,” Minor said. “Resource generation is not glamorous, but the ultimate goal of science is to make life better. One of the anonymous peer-reviewers of the paper claimed they instantly became an enthusiastic user of the system. We expect virusMED to really make a difference.”

Findings Published

The researchers have published their findings in the scientific IUCr Journal. The work will be featured on the journal’s cover. The research team consisted of HuiHui Zhang, Pei Chen, Haojie Ma, Magdalena Woinska, Dejian Liu, Cooper, Guo Peng, Yousong Peng, Lei Deng, Minor and Zheng. .

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.