Posts tagged with "virus"

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Covid Risk Increases During Holidays

By Hannah DiPilato

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Covid cases are skyrocketing all over the country and officials are advising people to social distance this holiday season.

According to CNN, more than 12 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and over 260,000 people have died. With those that are elderly or immune-compromised, the risk of complications due to COVID-19 is higher.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the safety guidelines for traveling. “CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, said in a conference call.

“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Walke continued.

The CDC has also recommended people stay in their immediate households for the holiday season. Even without traveling across the country, seeing those you don’t usually see can lead to a breakout of coronavirus.

Walke said he does not plan to visit his own family for the holiday season. “I haven’t seen my parents since January. I’m staying home and that’s been difficult as I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children as well,” he said.

“It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that and people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it,” he continued, “But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”

If you plan to gather with those outside of your immediate household, there are important precautions to take to prevent the spread of coronavirus. First, keep gatherings as small as possible. Many states have restrictions in place which limit the number of people allowed to gather inside. Check your local and state regulations to ensure your gathering is following the laws.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz said, “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household.”

If possible, move your Thanksgiving dinner outside. Coronavirus is less likely to spread outside where there is better ventilation than indoors. Although many places are getting cold, tell your guests to load up with blankets and winter gear. If it’s too cold for an outside gathering, keep the windows open to ventilate the area.

One of the most important and simplest things you can do to stop the spread of Covid is to wear a mask. In many states, masks are required in public places and Thanksgiving dinner should be no exception. Keep your mask on unless eating and remain six feet away from other guests.

It is also recommended that guests handle making their own food and bringing their own utensils to Thanksgiving dinner this year. This prevents the spread of germs as well as cross-contamination between households. Remember to frequently wash your hands when cooking, eating and generally to stop the spread of germs.

Covid cases are rising in communities as well as healthcare networks which is making the virus even harder to handle. Many more people are becoming hospitalized due to the virus and healthcare workings are at risk.

According to the Associated Press, 905 staff members at The Mayo Clinic Health System have been infected with coronavirus in the last two weeks. The Mayo Clinic Health System is a network of clinics and hospitals in the midwest that are run by Mayo Clinic.

Executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, Dr. Amy Williams, said that most cases came from exposure within the community and not from work. “It shows how widely spread this is in our communities and how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the communities here in the Midwest,” she said.

If a virtual gathering isn’t in your Thanksgiving plans this year and you will be seeing people outside of your family in person, consider isolating yourself beforehand. Since the incubation period of the virus is 14 days, a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean a person does not carry the virus. Although a negative test result for coronavirus isn’t a sure sign of safety, it is an extra precaution everyone should add before mingling this holiday season.

Besides getting a coronavirus test, people should also consider a 14-day quarantine before seeing loved ones, or afterward. Isolating before seeing family will decrease the risk of spreading the disease within your holiday circle. If you plan on traveling for the holiday, consider isolating yourself after returning to prevent the spread of covid in your community.

The CDC has predicted this will be a dark winter and although a vaccine is in the works, it likely won’t be ready for mass distribution for a few more weeks. The holiday season will only lead to more cases with an increase in travel and group gatherings. As the weather in many places gets colder, inside gatherings are more likely to occur.

The CDC also recommends everyone get their flu shot for the upcoming flu season. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can help the healthcare system more easily manage the large influx of people going to the hospital.

In all states except Hawaii, Maine and Vermont, there is an active or imminent outbreak of coronavirus according to Covid Act Now. Even these three states are at risk for an outbreak. Currently, North Dakota has the highest number of new daily cases per 100,000 people with 159.6 cases. Wyoming and New Mexico follow closely behind.

Many states have separated their cities and counties into different zones depending on the number of Covid cases present. The restrictions in place for these areas are then determined by the number of cases.

New York City is starting to enforce tighter restrictions as cases start to rise. “In the next week or two we should see some substantial restrictions,” said Mayor, Bill de Blasio. “I think indoor dining will be closed, gyms will be closed.  I’m not happy about it. No one is happy about it but that’s what’s coming.” There is currently a 10 person gathering limit and a curfew for nonessential businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Similarly, in Boston, Governor Charlie Baker has released a stay-at-home advisory for the same time frame. People are urged to only go out between these hours for essentials. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people while outdoor gatherings should be capped at 25 people.

Things on the west coast seem just as bleak. According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries will be closed for dine-in services for at least three weeks. People in Los Angeles are being advised to stay home and have a similar curfew to Boston and New York City.

In some cities where cases are skyrocketing, restrictions are not being put in place as heavily as in California and New York. In Miami, restaurants are able to be open to 100% capacity and seat 10 people per table. Most things in Miami are reopened, but with restrictions such as requiring masks.

It is crucial for everyone to work together to bring covid cases back down over the coming weeks. As cases spike, it is important to remember that each state has precautions in place for a reason. Although many states won’t fully shut down, you can decide to continue social distancing and only going out for essentials.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

New Possible Key for Targeting Viruses

“Position 4” didn’t seem important until researchers took a long look at a particular peptide. That part of the peptide drawn from a SARS-CoV virus turned out to have an unexpected but significant influence on how it stably binds with a receptor central to the immune system’s ability to attack diseased cells. 

In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed models at an atomic resolution that detail not only the binding but also, for the first time, the unbinding mechanisms that underlie a key component of the immune system. 

They say a better understanding of the entire mechanism could lead to advancements in immunotherapy that boost the body’s ability to fight disease. 

Rice computer scientist Lydia Kavraki, alumnus Jayvee Abella and postdoctoral researcher Dinler Antunes, led the study.

“Finding good targets to trigger a protective immune response is very challenging, especially in cancer research,” Antunes said. “The fact that this particular peptide was predicted not to bind to HLAs (human leukocyte antigens) by sequence-based methods highlights a blind spot in our current prediction capacity.”

“By incorporating structural analysis, we can detect the contribution of these secondary interactions to peptide binding and stability, hopefully enabling us to find better targets for antiviral vaccine development and T-cell-based cancer immunotherapy,” he said.

The researchers used their simulations to illuminate details of how the intracellular SARS peptide, QFKDNVILL, binds to an MHC receptor protein known as HLA-A24:02, primarily at dominant anchors on both ends of the peptide (at positions 2 and 9) and presents them for inspection to the immune system’s T cells. 

Stable binding of a peptide and MHC is a prerequisite to the activation of T cells, which look for peptides not normally found in healthy cells. If the peptide and protein don’t bind, the T cell is not prompted to attack. 

“That much was known from previous studies of the bound and unbound states of many such complexes,” Kavraki said. “What they didn’t capture was the intermediate states and the transitions that lead from one state to another, especially the unbinding.

“I think this is the only analysis that shows the unbinding of peptides from the MHC with atomic resolution,” Kavraki said. “Other peptides have similar characteristics and we think they would have similar behaviors.”

All of these interactions were revealed in great detail through Markov state models that analyze how systems change over time. In this case, the models revealed the importance of secondary sites that support the peptide’s primary anchors. That’s where position 4 stood out.

“There are the main, canonical anchors that people know, but there are these secondary interactions that contribute to the binding and the stability,” Antunes said. “These are harder to capture, but in this study, it seems that position 4 plays a very important role. When you mutate it, it affects the behavior of the peptide as it unbinds from the molecule.”

The researchers modeled mutations of the MHC to see how they would influence binding and found they supported the importance of position 4 to the stability of the complex.

“Our computational approach was able to make predictions on the effect of mutations that are then experimentally verified,” said co-author Cecilia Clementi, a former Rice professor who recently became Einstein Professor of Physics at the Free University of Berlin. 

The researchers developed a two-stage process to simplify the computational complexity of atom-scale analysis of large molecules. The first stage used a technique called umbrella sampling to accelerate the initial exploration of the molecules. The second, exploratory stage used adaptive sampling, in which simulations are driven to accelerate the construction of the Markov model.  

“The challenge is that these MHCs are pretty large systems for computational chemists to simulate,” said Abella, whose research on the topic formed much of his doctoral thesis. “We had to make some approximations and leverage advances in these classes of methods to move forward.”

“We’re not the first one to study unbinding, but what characterizes our work over others is that we keep full atomic resolution in our simulations,” he said. “Other works use a technique known as a Markov chain Monte Carlo, whereas we use molecular dynamics, which lets us incorporate time into our computation to capture the kinetics.”

Their methods can be applied to other peptide-MHC complexes with existing 3D models. “This was, in some sense, a feasibility study to show we can use molecular dynamics and build a Markov state model of a system this size,” Abella said. 

The researchers also noted the study’s relevance to the current fight against COVID-19, as the SARS peptide they viewed, QFKDNVILL, is highly similar to the NFKDQVILL peptide in SARS-CoV-2, with the same binding pockets in positions 2, 4 and 9.

“These results suggest that both peptides can bind to HLA-A*2402 and provide targets for anti-viral T-cell responses, which are of great interest in light of the current pandemic,” said co-author Gregory Lizée, a professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at MD Anderson. “But these results also shed light on many other potential immune targets, including those of other viruses and even human cancers.”

Kavraki noted that experimental work by long-term collaborator Lizée and Kyle Jackson, a graduate research assistant at Lizée’s lab who produced the mutant proteins, were critical to validate their simulations. Kavraki’s own lab won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response Research grant to help identify fragments of SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins as possible targets for vaccine development. 

Kavraki is the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and a professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. 

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the Gulf Coast Consortia, the NSF, the Einstein Foundation Berlin and the Welch Foundation supported the research.

Are We Living Too Clean?

By Jessica ter Haar, Ph.D., scientific director of the International Probiotics Association

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that proper hygiene is vital to keeping ourselves and the members of our communities safe and healthy. We are constantly reminded of the need to disinfect our hands, avoid touching our faces, keep our distance and take COVID-19 safety measures seriously.
But could all the hand washing, antibacterial cleansing and social distancing cause another health problem?

It may seem counterintuitive, but the extreme clean living our society has adopted could in fact make our body’s innate immune system weaker. Many people have entered into a sort of “microbe-phobia” to avoid the coronavirus, but it is important to remember that not all microbes are bad. In fact, many are essential for good health.
Sterilizing everything can have the unintended negative consequence of eradicating the good germs that we would normally be exposed to in our daily lives. In doing so, we are weakening our body’s own natural defenses to everyday threats.

Microbes—including bacteria, fungi, and viruses—are invisible to the naked eye, and our bodies host trillions of these microorganisms inside and out. Scientifically, this population is known as the microbiome. The gut microbiome, for example, is a concept that has been around for centuries but has only been commonly used in conversation since the early 2000s.

Some microbes are harmful and can make us sick, but many keep us healthy and should not be feared but appreciated. Understanding the role of the human microbiome has been complicated further by the confusion surrounding terminology – a big one being the differences between bacteria, fungi and viruses. It’s important to know more about them and how they differ when considering good versus bad microbes.

Bacteria are single-cell organisms, and most are not dangerous to humans. In fact, less than 1% of all bacteria are responsible for disease. Many bacteria live in our bodies and help us stay healthy. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, which kill the bacteria or at least stop the bad bacteria from multiplying.

Fungi are single-celled or multi-celled organisms that are similar to bacteria in that they live in different environments and cause disease. Fungal infections can become life-threatening if the immune system is weak, but certain fungi also have many beneficial qualities. The discovery of penicillin, a type of fungus, was due to a variety of mold which is now used to produce this antibiotic.

Viruses, including the coronavirus, are more challenging. They have no cells of their own and instead rely on host cells to multiply and replicate. Many viruses peacefully co-exist with humans, but some can cause diseases, including the relatively harmless common cold, while others can be deadly and bring about serious diseases like AIDS, measles and COVID-19. It is difficult to fight a virus with medication, which is why vaccinations are often used to support the immune system to better prepare the body to fight the virus.

As we begin practicing good hygiene and social distancing recommendations, life is feeling far from normal. But similar to the emotional effects of our isolation, by not living life, we are failing to be exposed to the good natural microbes needed to support our immune system’s defenses, metabolism, digestion and the brain’s ability to modulate mood and focus.

The question is, how can we continue hygiene measures to prevent COVID-19 without weakening our immune systems?

This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics can be the hero in our current germophobic environment to help counter the lack of microbe exposure and stimulate our body’s own bacterial population in the gut microbiome and cells. Probiotics can literally wake up sleepy bacteria and cells and assist in protecting our health.
If you are unfamiliar, probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host. Experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and WHO created this definition of probiotics, and to date, probiotics have more than 8,000 different scientific research studies indexed by PubMed.

Something as simple as a probiotic supplement can help compensate for our ultra-clean lifestyles and add beneficial microorganisms to our daily health arsenal. Probiotics add to the functional diversity of healthy microbes within our microbiome that bolster our immune system and overall health resilience. Probiotics have quickly risen in popularity and took center stage in the past decade, primarily because of how probiotics make people feel and how they work.

According to research, people report feeling better when they are taking a probiotic, which makes perfect sense because when the gut is happy, the rest of the body seems to be in synchronicity. But let’s not forget that probiotics can also work beyond the gut. There is a lot of probiotic science that continues to evolve, and everything seems to point to positive health outcomes.

Many of the microorganisms in probiotic supplements, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are similar to those naturally found in the body. Different types of probiotics have many different effects on the body like helping to maintain balance of good bacteria; producing certain vitamins and other substances; impacting our mood; and regulating weight.

Interestingly, studies of probiotics have shown beneficial immune impacts. While no probiotic has been found to treat COVID-19, research studies are currently assessing their impact. To date, more than 1,600 human clinical trials have been published about probiotics on ClinicalTrials.gov and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform of WHO databases. The International Probiotics Association is another great resource for updates on studies and new findings with probiotics.

As we wait for life to return to normal, taking something as simple as a probiotic supplement can help our immune systems compensate for an ultra-clean lifestyle and put our minds at ease as we take steps forward to boost our health during these uncertain and challenging times. In learning more about microbes, we can embrace the power of these organisms, take the fear out of equation and develop a plan to keep our immunities strong in the face of any health crisis.

About Jessica ter Haar, Ph.D.,

Jessica ter Haar is director of scientific affairs for the International Probiotics Association (IPA) and is a microbiology expert and probiotic educator focused on digestive and women’s health. She holds a doctorate from the University of Groningen in medical microbiology and probiotics for vaginal infections, and a master’s degree in nutrition and nutraceutical sciences from the University of Guelph. Ter Haar is also the founder and chairwoman of “Women and their Microbes,” a scientific conference directed at scientists, clinicians and industry professionals focused on helping women achieve their best possible microbial health during every stage of life. In her professional work with probiotics, she uses her thorough knowledge base to underscore the importance of probiotics, make scientific knowledge accessible, and address unmet medical and research needs. Additionally, ter Haar consults with a variety of companies in the probiotic, pharmaceutical and food industries on strategies to clearly communicate, valorize and leverage scientific benefits and best practices.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

New COVID-19 Strain In Southeast Asia

By Eamonn Burke

A mutation of the COVID-19 virus called D614G has been discovered in Southeast Asia, mostly in Malaysia and the Philippines but also in China. The outbreak can be traced back to a man who did not quarantine after his trip from India, causing a 45-case outbreak in Malaysia. The man has since been fined and sentenced to five months in prison. D614G is the leading strain in the United States and Europe, after being discovered in Chicago in June. Now the mutation is quickly spreading across Asia and the entire world.

The mutation is estimated to be up to 10 times more infectious, but “We still don’t have enough solid evidence to say that that will happen,” says Phillipines’ Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Verviers. A study from Johns Hopkins points to evidence showing that the new virus is not more deadly than the previous strain. Benjamin Cowling of University of Hong Kong agreed: “(D614G) might be a little bit more contagious. We haven’t yet got enough evidence to evaluate that.” A Cell Press paper also corroborates this, saying that the strain will most likely not impact vaccine development. However, Malaysia’s Director-General of Health, Noor Hisham, warns that this may mean that vaccine studies may be incomplete without accounting for the new strain.

A mutating virus is far from an exceptional thing, because it is how they can continue to spread. In fact, the genome of the coronavirus changes about 2 times a month, according to Science Magazine. Some of them help the virus reproduce, others damage it, and some are neutral. These changes can be just a single letter in the genetic code, but it can make the virus much more transmissible. Dr Thushan de Silva, at the University of Sheffield, says that there is not enough evidence to say whether the D614G mutation helps or harms the virus, but he knows that it is not neutral.

This comes as the FDA has just granted emergency authorization for COVID-19 spit tests, which will make testing much easier and much wider spread. The SalivaDirect test, developed at Yale University, will expedite testing by eliminating a time consuming step in the process.

Meanwhile, the United States passes 170,000 deaths from the virus, with infections of children rising as they return to school. New information from the CDC says that rates of COVID-19 in children are increasing. While they make up only 7% of cases in the country, they are responsible for over 20% of them. In addition to this, and in contrast to previous beliefs, “Recent evidence suggests that children likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults and that children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings.”

Data to reinforce this claim can be found in the rising cases among children at schools that have already reopened, including 7,000 in Alabama. Many schools have debated or committed to reversing course and going online. These rising cases correlating with schools reopening “may explain the low incidence in children compared with adults,” says the CDC, suggesting that children’s perceived resistance to transmitting the virus may have been partly a result of simply staying inside – a sobering reminder of the ever changing narrative of COVID-19.

Dog and Cat illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

First American Dog Dies of COVID-19

America has its first canine coronavirus death, with a Staten Island German Shepherd being the first American dog with the virus that has succumbed to the deadly effects of the coronavirus. The dog contracted the virus after living in a household with family members testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Jean Shafiroff, an Ambassador of the American Humane, is available to discuss the symptoms of this deadly virus in four-legged friends and the CDC’s recommendations to keep household pets safe from COVID-19 call Brian at (917) 243-1647 to arrange SKYPE/Zoom/phone.

Jean Shafiroff is an international animal advocate and has worked with several dog advocacy organizations for the fair treatment of canines in the United States and abroad. Activist Jean Shafiroff has been a member of the American Humane, the Southampton Animal Shelter, and several other organizations. Shafiroff continues to advocate for the fair treatment of all animals and adoption.

Follow American Humane: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Cityscape illustration by Mina Tocalini

NYC in Phase 4

By Eamonn Burke

While the better half of the country is riddled with a massive spike in coronavirus cases, New York City is in the fourth and final phase of reopening, an achievement that governor Andrew Cuomo calls a “hallmark.”

Phase 4 means that sports can resume, as can the entertainment industry. Venues like zoos and gardens can open at 33% capacity. People will also be able to visit popular attractions like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. These developments come as the U.S hits 4 million coronavirus cases and adds 1 million new cases in just 15 days, mostly coming from southern and western states.

Officials are not overstepping bounds however, careful to remain cautious after seeing the negative effects of early reopening in other states. “I want all New Yorkers to be on high alert,” said Cuomo on Friday, warning of the second wave coming. Indoor dining is still prohibited in the city, and malls, movies theatres, and museums remain closed. Perhaps most impactful is Mayor De Blasio’s statement that schools will not fully reopen. He says the decision will be made in September. He plans for a hybrid open, but the teachers union is prepared for a legal fight if schools are forced to reopen unsafely.

Jean Button illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

Covid-19 on Clothes

By Eamonn Burke

As a relatively new virus, new information is coming out about Covid-19 every day. While much is known, such as the fact that it spreads through air and is most dangerous to the elderly, there is much that remains unknown.

One of these unanswered questions is that if clothing: can the coronavirus survive on clothing? What we do know from evidence is that the virus can in fact live on other surfaces like plastic and steel for up to nine days. There is no evidence, however, that answers the question about clothes.

What we do know is that viruses similar to Covid – MERS, SARS – do not survive on clothes, as they are porous surfaces that can trap the virus and dry it out. A study from Johns Hopkins Medicine corroborates this, finding the probability of the virus being transferred through clothing is low. However, another study did find that the virus can live on shoes.

While the most important protective measures against COVID-19 remain social distancing and wearing masks, the CDC still recommends to air on the side of caution and wash clothes, specifically on the warmest setting to dry them out. The findings also pose issue for companies who need to handle clothing returns. Many large companies like Macy’s and Gap have amended their return policies to consider this, but it is also important for small businesses to do the same.

Doctor illustration

Nurse Hospitalized Despite Negative COVID Test

By Eamonn Burke

Heather Valentine, a 24 year old ICU nurse in Houston, is now in the ICU with a case of the novel coronavirus. After noticing heightened exhaustion during her shifts and later a fever and cough, she got an antibody test. She came back negative, but according to the CDC these tests can be wrong around 50% of the time. A viral test for COVID, taken the next day, also came back negative. Her doctor, however, asked her to come in for a CT scan, and based on these results he was certain that she had the illness.

Initially skeptical that she had the virus, Valentine now spreads an important message. “You never think it’s going to happen to you, but I’m a perfect example,” she said. “Take every precaution, wear a mask, don’t go out if you don’t have to, it’s not worth it.”

This comes as Texas sees one of the worst bouts of COVID-19 in the world, seeing new records in cases daily. The hospitals are overrun and running out of supplies, as are many others across the country with the recent surge of the coronavirus across the nation.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Alabama Students – COVID-19

By Jason Tayer

Various states within the U.S. have taken extreme caution, little caution, and everything in between when it comes to controlling the spreading of COVID-19. As Summer came around, certain states began to open many more businesses and public areas, including bars, restaurants, parks, etc.

These policies, coupled with many citizens yearning to return back to “normal” life, led to a specific group of students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama purposely trying to catch the virus and spread it further. ABC News reports that a number of students, already tested positive for COVID-19, have been organizing parties to “intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States.” These students have orchestrated a sort of game where they put money in a pot and whoever contracts the virus wins the money at the end. WAVY News calls this activity playing “Russian Roulette” with the health of these students. Tuscaloosa’s Fire Chief Randy Smith spoke out about this reckless behavior and the Alabama Department of Public Health has reiterated that those tested positive for the virus should remain quarantined for at least 14 days, or else they are subject to violations up to $500.

Since these parties have been reoccurring for several weeks, the state of Alabama has confirmed 10,000 new cases in the past 14 days, which is an alarming amount, considering the fact that there have been a total of approximately 38,000 confirmed cases since March. In this sense, there is a clear correlation between the presence of these coronavirus parties and a huge lump of new confirmed cases in the past two weeks. The CDC denotes the United States as a country with widespread ongoing transmission, and specifically, WHNT News admits that Alabama’s cases have doubled ever since the stay-at-home order was lifted on May 1st. For this reason, it is crucial that all citizens social distance, positively tested citizens quarantine themselves, and students refrain from spreading the virus in any way, especially in the case of parties.

Emily Simon, 360 MAGAZINE, illustrations, vegas, hotel

Excalibur Reopening

MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) announced it will reopen Excalibur Hotel & Casino Thursday, June 11 following its closure earlier this year amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Excalibur joins MGM Resorts’ Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand Las Vegas and The Signature, which all opened their doors in Las Vegas Thursday, June 4.

“We are very pleased by the enthusiasm we are seeing from guests ready to come back to Las Vegas,” said Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts’ Acting CEO and President. “As business demand increases, we are able to open additional properties and bring more of our employees back to work.

Getting people back to work coupled with providing a safer environment for our employees and our guests are our top priorities.”

Health & Safety

MGM Resorts’ comprehensive “Seven-Point Safety Plan” reflects a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to mitigate the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees and rapidly respond to potential new cases. The company will continue to evaluate and evolve its safety protocols. Key initiatives include:

* Employee screening, temperature checks and COVID-19 specific training

* COVID-19 testing offered for employees as they return to work in partnership with the local medical community

* Employees will be required to wear masks; Guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks, and in some settings where physical distancing is more difficult and/or barriers do not exist, will be required to do so. Examples of where masks will be required include salons, table games where physical barriers are not in place and elevators, if riding with guests outside of their travel group. Masks will be provided, free of charge

* A physical distancing policy will be implemented, with floor guides serving as reminders

* For areas where physical distancing presents challenges, plexiglass barriers will be installed, or other measures will be used to reduce risks

* Standalone handwashing stations designed by MGM Resorts conveniently located on casino floors

* Contactless Check-In through the MGM Resorts App allows hotel guests to go through the check-in process on their personal devices, minimizing interactions

* Guestroom Attendants wear masks and gloves while cleaning each room and will change gloves between guestrooms

* In addition to increased and enhanced routine cleaning of guestrooms and public spaces based on CDC guidance, electrostatic sprayers are utilized in many large public spaces so that disinfectant is applied efficiently

* Digital menus are available to view on personal mobile devices via QR codes in the company’s food and beverage outlets

* To minimize groups congregating while they wait, restaurant guests will receive text message notification when their tables are ready

* MGM has compiled its own internal team and processes to respond if a guest or employee tests positive for COVID-19. They ask that if a guest tests positive after visiting one of our properties, they alert us through a special email address. They will immediately report any positive test results to the local health department and assist with contact tracing to support the health department investigators.

A glimpse at what guests can expect at Excalibur: Within Excalibur’s castle walls, in addition to a full casino experience, guests will enjoy the playful pool complex including the slide pool and the Drenched Pool Cafe, the popular Fun Dungeon Arcade, as well as a variety of bars and dining destinations. Hotel guests also will have access to the Fitness Center.

Hornbuckle added, “We will continue monitoring business trends in the weeks and months ahead and look forward to sharing news around additional property openings here in Las Vegas, and around the country, as it becomes available.”

About MGM Resorts International

MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) is an S&P 500(r) global entertainment company with national and international locations featuring best-in-class hotels and casinos, state-of-the-art meetings and conference spaces, incredible live and theatrical entertainment experiences, and an extensive array of restaurant, nightlife and retail offerings. MGM Resorts creates immersive, iconic experiences through its suite of Las Vegas-inspired brands. The MGM Resorts portfolio encompasses 29 unique hotel and destination gaming offerings in the United States and Macau, including some of the most recognizable resort brands in the industry such as Bellagio, MGM Grand, ARIA and Park MGM. The Company’s 50/50 venture, ROAR Digital LLC, offers U.S. sports betting and online gaming through market-leading brands, including BetMGM and partypoker. The Company is currently pursuing targeted expansion in Asia through the integrated resort opportunity in Japan.

Through its “Focused on What Matters: Embracing Humanity and Protecting the Planet” initiative, MGM Resorts commits to creating a more sustainable future, while striving to make a bigger difference in the lives of its employees, guests, and in the communities where it operates. The global employees of MGM Resorts are proud of their company for being recognized as one of FORTUNE Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies(.