News & Updates

COVID19: Fun & educational sites for your stay-at-home kids

Who likes to be cooped up? None of us!  But kids are in their formative, high-energy years so it’s particularly hard for them to be away from school, friends, playgrounds, sports, and other activities. And if you are a parent, your challenge is to keep your kid(s) engaged, learning, happy, and safe. Online school activities and homework are likely occupying a good amount of time, but as we approach the weekend, we thought we’d offer some fun resources for you and your kids to explore. At the end of the list, we’ve also included some resources for keeping your kids safe online.

To start, we point you to Common Sense Media, a nonprofit offering reviews for what your kids want to watch (before they watch it). It offers trusted ratings for movies, books & apps created with families in mind. See their Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic. OK, on to the site

The Smithsonian – Fun Stuff for Kids and Teens
Meet the animals in live video cams, play games in the Science Game Center, visit the Learning Lab, download coloring sheets from the collection and explore more than a million science, art, history and nature resources.

NASA Space Place – Science for Kids
The site’s mission is “to inspire and enrich upper-elementary-aged kids‘ learning of space and Earth science online through fun games, hands-on activities, informative articles and engaging short videos. With material in both English and Spanish and resources for parents and teachers, NASA Space Place has something for everyone.”

NASA Kids Club
This site offers games is geared to children pre-K through grade 4. These games support national education standards in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Sesame Street Caring for Each Other
In response to the unprecedented uncertainty facing young children and families, Sesame Workshop’s Caring for Each Other initiative marks the beginning of a commitment to support families throughout the COVID-19 health crisis with a broad variety of free resources. “Children thrive with structure in their lives and they learn best through play–even in everyday moments like mealtimes and morning and evening routines. So our site is filled with content you can use all day long to spark playful learning, offer children comfort, and focus a bit on yourself, too.”

Code.org
Respected nonprofit that provides the leading curriculum for K-12 computer science in the US. Learn computer science when schools are closed features “Hour of Code” one-hour tutorials, online courses for both pre-readers and kids aged 9-18, a video library, apps and APP Lab where you can learn to design and build apps. Take a Code Break  offers a weekly interactive classroom with special guests; A weekly activity or challenge; Options for beginners, experienced students, and even students without computers. Create an account or just start coding – no account needed. All courses are available at no cost.

The Best Kids’ Podcasts for Sheltering at Home
Compiled by Wired Magazine, who says, “These child-friendly podcasts will keep your children entertained and ease the stress of being stuck indoors.”

EarthCam’s Animal Cams
Watch animals from parks, zoos and sanctuaries worldwide.

Some of the Best Online Learning Apps & Games for Kids
Wirecutter spent more than 40 hours researching and testing 50-plus apps recommended by educators, experts, and parents – they offer some great suggestions.

Audible Stories
For as long as schools are closed, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids. All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

TIME for Kids
The school-based publication that has provided quality, trusted journalism to millions of students in elementary classrooms for 25 years, will provide free access to new issues of TIME for Kids and Your $, the financial literacy magazine for kids for the remainder of the school year. TIME for Kids will also make available a complete library of previously published editions from 2020 along with additional educational resources and activities.

The League of Young Inventors – Invent at Home
Nonprofit with a mission to make interdisciplinary hands-on science learning accessible to a wide range of kids, both inside and outside of school. They offer a growing series of free hands-on STEAM lessons for families with kids in grades K-5. Before you start, they offer a recommended that families build a Problem Solver’s Toolkit of basic school supplies, craft materials, and household recyclables.

The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks
Follow rangers on virtual tours of several national parks. From Google Arts & Culture.

Scholastic Learn At Home
Daily lessons that combine videos, stories and prompts for drawing and writing activities. Grade levels include pre-K through grade 9.

20 Amazing Places You Can Visit Without Leaving Home
For parents and kids, visit museums, aquariums, safari parks, zoos, Northern lights and more.

Internet safety for kids – parental resources

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.


COVID19: Even with the shutdown, you can still give blood

As the coronovirus crisis continues across the nation, many of us wonder how we can help. Here’s one way: The American Red Cross reports a severe blood shortage. With so many people in shutdown all over the country, many blood drives have been cancelled. Yet just because many things have stopped, Red Cross reminds us that life’s other emergencies haven’t gone on shutdown.

Each year on average, the Red Cross:

  • Responds to more than 60,000 disasters across the country.
  • Trains more than 4.8 million people in first aid, water safety and other lifesaving skills.
  • Collects more than 4.6 million blood donations and nearly 1 million platelet donations from more than 2.6 million volunteer donors.
  • Provides nearly 471,000 services to military members, veterans and their families.
  • Helps 230 million people outside the U.S. through American Red Cross disease prevention activities and disaster services.

Blood drives are still happening because they are controlled events with trained staff and provide an essential services. See more on safety protocols that the Red Cross follows below. Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

And if you absolutely can’t donate blood for whatever reason, consider making a donation to the Red Cross Coronavirus efforts.

COVID10 - Red Cross give blood poster

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.


Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Care Kit

If you are one of the millions who are confined to home during the Coronavirus outbreak, we have scoured the web for some of the best advice, tips and tools to help you make the most of things .. from working at home, keeping safe, stocking up, keeping kids safe and amused and dealing with anxiety and boredom.

Working from home

8 Tips To Make Working From Home Work For You – “Never before have workers telecommuted on such a broad scale. Millions of people are trying to work from home — if they can, of course. NPR’s Life Kit wants to help WFH work for you, especially if you’re doing so for the first time.”

Working From Home Because of COVID-19? These Tech Ideas Can Make It EasierConsumer Reports offers tools and services, to help you  increase productivity.

How to Set Up a Home Workstation to Avoid Muscle Strain, Headaches, and Sore Eyes – If the coronavirus outbreak is forcing you to work from home, follow CR’s advice for your home office, kitchen, or bedroom

How to Stay Sane When Working From Home With Kids – tips from Wirecutter

Keeping safe!

These Common Household Products Can Destroy the Novel CoronavirusConsumer Reports shows you how to use them and tells you which products to stay away from.

How to Clean and Disinfect Yourself, Your Home, and Your Stuff – Wired magazine offers their best in-depth best practices for keeping yourself (and just about everything else) clean and virus-free.

How You Can Kill Coronavirus in Your Car Without Damaging Interior Surfaces

Should You Disinfect Your Phone? Here’s How.

List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 – EPA.gov lists common household products and their effectiveness in protecting against Coronavirus.

Beware: Scams & hoaxes

Beware of Products Touting False Coronavirus Claims – Regulators and watchdogs warn consumers of hucksters playing on fears to make profits.

Phishing in the Time of COVID-19: How to Recognize Malicious Coronavirus Phishing Scams – good tips from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

How to Avoid Coronavirus Phishing Scams – Watch out for a surge in emails from cybercriminals pitching COVID-19 health information and fake cures

Stocking Up

Grocery shopping during the coronavirus: Wash your hands, keep your distance and limit trips Washington Post offers tips, including ideas for people who are 65 or older, or immune compromised.  .

How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus When Grocery ShoppingConsumer Reports offers precautions to take whether you shop in-store or online

Grocery rules for your coronavirus lockdown: Buy beans, freeze milk, don’t hoard, and more – Who knew you could freeze milk? CNN offers tips for the best foods to buy when  you’re going to be stuck at home.

Wirecutter: The Best Meal Kit Delivery Services

Keeping Kids Safe & Engaged

How to Cope at Home With Kids During the Coronavirus Outbreak – Keep your family healthy—physically and mentally—and minimize spread of the virus

How Parents Can Keep Kids Busy (and Learning) in Quarantine – from The Atlantic: As American schools close, parents are suddenly faced with the challenge of keeping their children occupied at home. Here are some ideas.

Wirecutter: Our Favorite Educational Apps and Learning Games for Kids

PopSugar: A List of Indoor Activities That Will Keep Kids Entertained While Stuck at Home

Passing the Time

New York Times: Comforting Streaming TV Shows for Stressful Times

Time: A Guide to the Most Calming, Anxiety-Free Content You Can Stream Right Now

NPR’s Fresh Air Archive

Fun for you & for the kids: Monterey Bay Live Web Cams

NY Times: Can I Jog Outside? Is That Drinking Fountain Safe? Exercise in the Time of Coronavirus

Bicycling: How to Ride Safely Amid Coronavirus Concerns

A 20-minute workout is perfect for social distancing – video and tips from the Washington Post

Dealing with stress

Coronavirus anxiety: Why the outbreak feeds worries and five simple ways to reduce coronavirus anxiety

Cleveland Clinic: 5 Ways to Manage Stress During the Coronavirus Outbreak – Tips for preventing a mental meltdown

Anxiety can be a general feeling of apprehension, fear, nervousness, or worry. It can also be a sudden attack of panicky feelings, or fear of a certain situation or object. Learn more about anxiety disorders and treatment options from Medline.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.


Wait for it … this could save your life.

This is a short post featuring a short, powerful video clip: Wait for it … this could save your life. We encourage you to watch it and share it – it’s just under 4 minutes. There’s a lot we could say about it, but we think it is more impactful to let the clip speak for itself.

Jacy Good, the young woman in the video who tells her story, is not an actress.  Here is more about how she became a passionate safety advocate.

Join 40 million other people: Take the It Can Wait pledge

Reminder: The new Massachusetts hands-free driving law is now in effect

Distracted driving – 5 seconds is all it takes

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.


Crooks, cons & criminals: the 2019 Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame

Insurance fraud is one of America’s largest crimes — at least $80 billion is stolen each year. Why should you care? This is a crime that you pay for in the form of higher insurance rates, for one thing. And often, the fraud includes theft, scams, staged accidents, and even violence. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), this is who commits insurance fraud:

  • organized criminals who steal large sums through fraudulent business activities,
  • professionals and technicians who inflate service costs or charge for services not rendered
  • ordinary people who want to cover their deductible or view filing a claim as an opportunity to make a little money.

Insurance fraud is a crime and police and insurance investigators fight back. It’s punishable by fines, jail and permanent criminal records. Unfortunately, sometimes the general public thinks of it as a petty or victimless crime. III says:

“Public attitudes have sometimes hampered insurers in their fight against fraud. Studies suggest that some portion of insurance fraud committed by consumers is driven by revenge or retaliation for a personal service exchange which they think is unfair. People may retaliate in order to “get a return” or “get their money’s worth.”

Understanding the scope of the crime and the ways that it affects all of the honest folks who pay for this crime can educate and help to change attitudes.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud works hard to educate the public about how insurance fraud is not a minor or a victimless crime.  Every year, they profile some of the worst crooks, cons and criminals from the prior year in the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame. Here are some of the worst fraudsters in 2019:

  • A Tallahassee man pushed his friend out of a fishing boat and told authorities alligators must have gotten him. In reality, he had shot his friend in the face as he tried to climb back in the boat and then buried his body. It turned out he was in cahoots with the deceased man’s wife to collect $1.75 million in life insurance.
  • A NY chiropractor was at the heart of a “slip and fall” shakedown ring that bilked businesses and their insurers out of $32 million for bogus injuries.
  • A wealthy Miami executive ran dozens of corrupt skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities that raided taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of $1.3 billion.
  • An heiress, socialite and political fundraiser made $20 million of false damage claims after fire in her family’s 5,600-foot mansion in the Philadelphia suburbs. To add insult to injury, she falsely blamed volunteer fire fighters who fought the fire of stealing $10 million in jewelry.
  • A Boston-area trolley driver was badly beaten up by a masked criminal on Halloween and collected workers compensation and long-term insurance to cover his injuries. Investigators later tracked down the mugger who turned out to be friend of the driver who had helped stage the “crime.”
  • There are more: A Pennsylvania man who died of burns when his home arson scam went wrong. A corrupt rehab network that forced desperate addicts to relapse in a $100-million plot to milk insurers in Pennsylvania. A staged workplace slip and fall that was caught on camera and then went viral. A $2.1-billion transnational crime ring that targeted seniors.Read more about detail about the stories of the 2019 inductees in the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.


Coronavirus facts, myths, travel issues and more

The coronavirus, also known as COVID19, originated in China, and has spread to at many other countries – the New York Times has an updated coronavirus tracking map where you can follow the outbreak across the globe. As of today, there are 60 identified cases in the U.S. – check the map for state breakdowns. We don’t yet know how we will be affected in the U.S. – we can only see that it spreads rapidly and viruses don’t respect borders.

As with many emerging illnesses, there’s a lot of fear about the potential impact. There’s also quite a bit of misinformation and many myths are circulating already. Fear and over-reaction create many additional problems. In times of health emergencies, it’s important to rely on trusted and authorized sources of information. Here in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has a dedicated coronavirus site with information for the public about how the illness spreads, symptoms, testing, FAQs, fact sheets and more. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, web resources from the World Health Organization (WHO), includes helpful, reputable information. Be careful about any information that you see posted on social media – make sure you know your source.

It’s important to keep perspective.  From what we know now, coronavirus has high contagion but relatively low number of deaths in proportion to cases. Like influenza, it is of most concern to elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Remember, our usual flu season is still in progress, and the CDC estimates that between Oct. 1 and Feb. 15, seasonal influenza, aka “the flu.” has claimed the lives of 16,000 people.

This 10-minute video interviews two pathologists about the most common myths about the coronavirus, while presenting many facts about the disease and offering sensible advice for self protection.

CDC Coronavirus Prevention Guidance

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus, but the best way to prevent the disease includes the everyday prevention methods that help spread of respiratory diseases, influenza and other viruses. The CDC says:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Travel issues and travel insurance

One big issue that people are questioning is whether it’s safe to travel. Right now, the countries on highest alert for travel are China and South Korea. The CDC is also warning travelers to Italy, Iran, and Japan to “practice enhanced precautions.” Check the CDC travel health advisories and the State Department’s travel advisories for the current status of countries you may be planning to visit. For more information, see CDC Travel.

The next question people have is if they should reschedule travel, and whether travel insurance will cover them if they have to cancel or have travel disrupted due to coronavirus. The bad news is, not always – it depends. It’s important to know the extent of your travel coverage and understand what is and what isn’t covered. PropertyCasualty360 addresses this in their article: Will travel insurance cover coronavirus?

“Tour operators and travel insurance brokers are reporting an increasing number of requests from customers asking to change their travel plans. Meanwhile, many U.S. airlines, including United, America and Delta, have canceled several flights to China.

Consumers may be surprised to learn that in either situation, their travel policy probably wouldn’t cover them.”

Most travel insurance is designed to protect you in case you need to cancel a trip, lose belongings, or require medical attention. But for cancellations related to coronavirus, only certain reasons qualify.”

They discuss the various scenarios in which a traveler may be covered, and those in which the traveler would not be. If you are planning a trip, it’s worth reading. And for more good travel planning advice, see Consumer Reports: How the Spread of Coronavirus Could Affect Your Travel Plans.

Additional coronavirus resources

Here are a few other resources that we’ve found helpful:

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.