Tag: COVID-19

Coronavirus Impact: How a Crisis Is Changing the U.S. Image

The coronavirus is changing how we live our daily lives. Taking a look at how the global pandemic has affected various aspects of life in the United States reveals the unique nature of this crisis.

Workers in the tourism industry are worrying about their livelihoods as governments across the world close borders, prohibit large gatherings and implement strict quarantines on entire regions and countries.

We spoke with several travel and hospitality workers. Each had their own story, but echoed similar concerns about the uncertainty about their future. In looking at an unprecedented worldwide coronavirus outbreak, they turned to the past: how their tourism industry had survived devastating hurricanes and destructive civil wars. They will survive this, too, they said.

A selection of their remarks is below. These interviews, conducted by telephone and email, have been edited and condensed for clarity.

TRANSPORTATION

Carlos Tamarit, 62, has worked as a driver for EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services in New Jersey for more than five years. He was laid off on Sunday.

With your family’s health concerns, are you worried about being exposed to the coronavirus?

As drivers we’re putting ourselves at risk. If coronavirus is coming from other countries, it’s coming from the airports, and who’s going to the airports? We do. Everyone who gets into the car is potentially a carrier. But in our position it’s either work and eat, or don’t work and don’t eat.

TOUR GUIDES

Jacob Knapp, 39, a tour guide working for Bespoke Lifestyle Management and living in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, has been out of work since Monday. On Sunday, the territory issued one of the most restrictive lockdowns in the United States.

You’ve not been able to give a tour since Sunday. How does it feel to be out of work?

I have a lot of worries. I have two boys — 2 and 4 years old, and one is diabetic and I have to be sure there’s always money for insulin — so I always have to provide. I just can’t not provide.

Something I learned with Hurricane Maria is you have to have a Plan B in life, and it has to be a complete opposite of your Plan A. After the disaster, the whole infrastructure was down and the only people who worked were those who worked with their hands — so I got certified as an electrician. I’m worried right now but, down the line, I have many doors open.

AIRLINES

A Chicago-based flight attendant for United Airlines, Maria Alpogianis, 51, has worked in the field for 25 years.

What is the physical and psychological toll?

I don’t feel I have a sense of job security. I really don’t. I’m flying with several very junior flight attendants who are terrified of losing their jobs and their insurance. I’ve been flying for 25 years and I, too, am afraid that I’m going to be furloughed.

When I leave somewhere I become concerned about not being able to get home because of the border closures. When we land we cringe because we don’t know what’s changed during the time we’ve been in flight.

How the World’s Richest Country Ran Out of a 75-Cent Face Mask

A very American story about capitalism consuming our national preparedness and resiliency.

Why is the United States running out of face masks for medical workers? How does the world’s wealthiest country find itself in such a tragic and avoidable mess? And how long will it take to get enough protective gear, if that’s even possible now?

I’ve spent the last few days digging into these questions, because the shortages of protective gear, particularly face masks, has struck me as one of the more disturbing absurdities in America’s response to this pandemic.

Yes, it would have been nice to have had early, widespread testing for the coronavirus, the strategy South Korea used to contain its outbreak. It would be amazing if we can avoid running out of ventilators and hospital space, the catastrophe that has befallen parts of Italy. But neither matters much — in fact, no significant intervention is possible — if health care workers cannot even come into contact with coronavirus patients without getting sick themselves.

That’s where cheap, disposable face masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns come in. That we failed to procure enough safety gear for medical workers — not to mention for sick people and for the public, as some health experts might have recommended if masks were not in such low supply — seems astoundingly negligent.

What a small, shameful way for a strong nation to falter: For want of a 75-cent face mask, the kingdom was lost.

I am sorry to say that digging into the mask shortage does little to assuage one’s sense of outrage. The answer to why we’re running out of protective gear involves a very American set of capitalist pathologies — the rise and inevitable lure of low-cost overseas manufacturing, and a strategic failure, at the national level and in the health care industry, to consider seriously the cascading vulnerabilities that flowed from the incentives to reduce costs.

Perhaps the only way to address the shortfall now is to recognize that the market is broken, and to have the government step in to immediately spur global and domestic production. President Trump, bizarrely, has so far resisted ordering companies to produce more supplies and equipment. In the case of masks, manufacturers say they are moving mountains to ramp up production, and some large companies are donating millions of masks from their own reserves.

But given the vast global need for masks — in the United States alone, fighting the coronavirus will consume 3.5 billion face masks, according to an estimate by the Department of Health and Human Services — corporate generosity will fall short. People in the mask business say it will take a few months, at a minimum, to significantly expand production.

“We are at full capacity today, and increased production by building another factory or extending further will take anywhere between three to four months,” said Guillaume Laverdure, the chief operating officer of Medicom, a Canadian company that makes masks and other protective equipment in factories around the world.

And though some nontraditional manufacturers like T-shirt factories and other apparel makers have announced plans to rush-produce masks, it’s unclear that they will be able to meet required safety standards or shift over production in time to answer demand.

Few in the protective equipment industry are surprised by the shortages, because they’ve been predicted for years. In 2005, the George W. Bush administration called for the coordination of domestic production and stockpiling of protective gear in preparation for pandemic influenza. In 2006, Congress approved funds to add protective gear to a national strategic stockpile — among other things, the stockpile collected 52 million surgical face masks and 104 million N95 respirator masks.

But about 100 million masks in the stockpile were deployed in 2009 in the fight against the H1N1 flu pandemic, and the government never bothered to replace them. This month, Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, testified that there are only about 40 million masks in the stockpile — around 1 percent of the projected national need.

As the coronavirus began to spread in China early this year, a global shortage of protective equipment began to look inevitable. But by then it was too late for the American government to do much about the problem. Two decades ago, most hospital protective gear was made domestically. But like much of the rest of the apparel and consumer products business, face mask manufacturing has since shifted nearly entirely overseas. “China is a producer of 80 percent of masks worldwide,” Laverdure said.

Hospitals began to run out of masks for the same reason that supermarkets ran out of toilet paper — because their “just-in-time” supply chains, which call for holding as little inventory as possible to meet demand, are built to optimize efficiency, not resiliency.

“You’re talking about a commodity item,” said Michael J. Alkire, president of Premier, a company that purchases medical supplies for hospitals and health systems. In the supply chain, he said, “by definition, there’s not going to be a lot of redundancy, because everyone wants the low cost.”

In January, the brittle supply chain began to crack under pressure. To deal with its own outbreak, China began to restrict exports of protective equipment. Then other countries did as well — Taiwan, Germany, France and India took steps to stop exports of medical equipment. That left American hospitals to seek more and more masks from fewer and fewer producers.

Staying home due to the coronavirus? Here’s what to stock in your fridge and pantry

It’s important to stock up on foods that pack a nutritional punch. Here’s what to add to your shopping list.

The latest CDC recommendations call for people at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) to take action, including stocking up on groceries and any medications they may need. If you’re preparing to stay home more than usual, it’s important to have healthful foods on hand. That means selecting foods that pack a  nutritional punch in order to ensure you’re getting the fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health- and immune-supporting compounds you need. It also means shopping for food that will last for an extended period of time — about two weeks’ worth for those who are quarantined. We hope you won’t be holed up for too long, but just in case, here’s a list of foods to buy.

See our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Fruits and vegetables

It’s a good idea to keep both your freezer and pantry loaded up with fruits and veggies. These foods supply the same nutrients as fresh produce but last a lot longer. Pick up unsweetened fruits, and unseasoned or low- or no-added-sodium veggies. You’ll also want to load up on some hardier perishables, which you can eat before going for your longer-lasting stash. Here are some fruits and veggies to add to your shopping list.

  • Long-lasting fruits: Think bananas, apples, grapefruit, oranges and clementines. Unripe bananas will ripen over the course of several days, so you can enjoy them as you go. You can also slice and freeze them for snacking or to toss in smoothies down the line. Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, which is crucial for keeping your immune system strong.
  • Frozen fruit: Load up on frozen berries, pineapple, mangoes and peaches which are perfect for making smoothies or topping yogurt and oatmeal. In addition to fiber, these gems contain phytonutrients, which play a key role in gut and immune health.
  • Freeze dried fruit: Crispy, freeze dried fruit supplies vitamins and minerals and is perfect for snacking and adding to trail mixes. You can find freeze dried blueberries, mangoes, and others at Trader Joe’s as well as all the mainstream markets.
  • Dried fruit: Shop for dried raisins, mango (which is a year-round nutritionist favorite), dates, figs, apricots, prunes, and whichever dried fruits you fancy. Just watch for dried fruits coated in added sugars (such as cranberries).
  • Canned and jarred fruits: No-added-sugar canned and jarred fruit are good, shelf-stable options. Shop for applesauce, pineapple, pears and peaches that are canned in 100 percent juice.
  • Long-lasting veggies: Start your at-home stay with hardy veggies, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers and cauliflower, which, when unwashed and uncut, stay fresh for several days. Carrots (in the refrigerator) and potatoes (on the counter) last even longer.
  • Frozen veggies: Pick from any you like! Try frozen spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, riced cauliflower, butternut squash and green beans. Stock up on these since they should form the foundation of the majority of your meals.
  • Dried veggies: For more variety and fun, try dried veggies, like, beets, carrots and kale. It’s another way to get ample nutrition.
  • Canned veggies: Dietitians keep these canned foods on hand for everyday eats. Canned pumpkin, canned tomatoes and canned olives are some top picks.

Protein

You want to make sure you’re getting sufficient protein throughout the day since your immune system cells rely on it. Without enough, you may start to feel weak and tired. In addition to chicken, shrimp and fish (which all freeze well for long-term use), Here are some solid sources:

  • Canned beans: Look for no-added-salt varieties, but if you can’t find them, rinse your beans under running water. It removes a good portion of the sodium. Stock up on chickpeas, lentils, black beans and others, and don’t overlook other bean-based canned foods, like canned, lower-sodium lentil and split pea soup, such as those from Amy’s Kitchen. These foods supply protein and fiber, along with health-supporting minerals, like magnesium and potassium. Research suggests that people who consistently eat these foods tend to outlive those who don’t.
  • Canned fish: Tuna, salmon and sardines are all great options. Our dietary guidelines call for two servings of seafood each week and canned fish is a convenient way to meet the mark. Try canned fish on top of salads or crackers, mixed with pasta, or get cooking and make fish cakes.
  • Chickpea and lentil pasta: These shelf-stable foods pack way more protein and fiber than ordinary noodles. Look for brands that feature one ingredient, such as Barilla Red Lentil Pasta.
  • Seeds: Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds, supply some protein as well as fiber. Add them to your breakfast cereal (hot or cold) or use them to top salads, sautéed veggies or avocado toast.
  • Nuts: Pick up a variety of nuts, such as pistachios, pecans, walnuts, peanuts and almonds. You can use them to boost the nutrition and tastiness of a range of meals and snacks.
  • Dried, roasted beans: Along with plant-based protein, these foods supply fiber, vitamins and minerals. Look for dry roasted chickpeas, broad beans and edamame. If you like flavored versions, make sure to read labels and consider limiting those with added sugars, artificial sweeteners and excess sodium.
  • Cheese: Some hard cheeses, like Cheddar, can last more than two weeks as long as you make sure to store them properly. Shredded cheese can last even longer when frozen. You can also grab some dried cheese crisps (like Whisps and Just the Cheese). Cheese crisps stand in well for crackers and croutons, whether over salads or in a bowl of soup.
  • Eggs: Store eggs in their carton on a fridge shelf (rather than the door), where they’ll last for about three weeks. Boiled eggs will stay good in their shell for a week. They’re a convenient way to get a protein fix and they pair well with fresh or frozen veggies.
  • Milk: A cup of dairy milk provides 8 grams of protein — more than an egg. Unflavored, shelf-stable varieties sold in aseptic packaging are a great choice for emergency situations. You might want to load up on milk made for lunch boxes, like Horizon Organic low-fat milk, to get through your at-home stay. If you’re choosing plant-based options, only pea- and soy-based versions come close or match the protein content in dairy milk. Choose no-added-sugar versions of these dairy alternatives.

Grains and grain alternatives

Grains and grain alternatives, like bean-based pastas, provide fiber and other nutrients to keep you healthy during your at-home stay. Plus, they’re great as stand-alone side dishes or mixed in with other on-hand ingredients. You’ll definitely want to shop for these items.

  • Single ingredient grains: Shop for whole grains, such as steel cut oats, quinoa and brown rice. These make tasty and nutritious side dishes, and they’ll keep in your pantry the entire time you’re holed up — and beyond.
  • Pasta: Though whole grain options don’t contain the fiber and protein that chickpea and lentil versions supply, they’re still a worthwhile side dish and can serve as a good delivery vehicle for veggies and protein (such as sautéed shrimp or canned tuna).
  • Flours: Stock up on an assortment of flours, such as chickpea flour, almond flour and whole-grain flour. You might as well bake if you’re staying home! These flours provide more nutrition than processed, white flour.
  • Breads: It won’t stay fresh on the counter, but sliced, frozen bread will last for months. Make sure to buy 100 percent whole grain varieties or gluten free versions if needed.
  • Crackers: Whole grain (like Triscuits), seed (try Mary’s Gone Crackers) or nut-based (such as those from Simple Mills) varieties are delicious on snack plates. Serve them with cheese and fruit for a satiating and fun way to refuel. Swap the cheese for nuts if you want to keep it dairy free.
  • Cereal: Whole grain, low-added sugar and fiber-full cereals cover off on a lot of nutrients when fortified. Shop for varieties with at least three grams of fiber and less than 6 grams of added sugar (though no added sugar is ideal). Add fruit, nuts or seeds, and milk and breakfast is served.
  • Popcorn: You might be surprised to learn that this whole grain is loaded with antioxidants and fiber. You’ll appreciate having some of this on hand since you’ll no doubt have some extra time to watch Netflix. You can buy the kernels and pop them on your stove, or opt for a microwavable option, such as Quinn Snacks Microwave Popcorn

Extras

Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you want to cook everything from scratch. Make sure to buy some healthier convenience options, like veggie burgers, frozen entrees and even some dark chocolate. After all, it will be a long two weeks if you don’t have a treat handy.