Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Care Kit


bored couple at home furing coronavirus

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.

Coronavirus facts, myths, travel issues and more


coronavirus

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:

Shopping tips to avoid dangerous toys


Little boy playing with toy cars

Right now, Santa is checking his lists, but don’t leave it all up to him. If you are a parent or give gifts to kids, we encourage you to learn about common toy hazards so that you can sort out the naughty from the nice when it comes to toys. In 2018, injuries related to toys sent an estimated 226,000 kids to hospital emergency rooms, according to data recently issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. While stronger safety standards have significantly reduced the number of dangerous toys for sale over recent years, there are still problem toys that can hurt kids. If you are shopping for children’s holiday gifts, it’s important to be aware of the risks – particularly when shopping online.

The 34th-annual Trouble in Toyland report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund helps identify dangerous products and provides tips for parents and gift-givers. These annual reports have led to more than 150 recalls of unsafe toys, inspired legislation to strengthen toy safety and empowered parents to take key actions to ensure toys are safe. We’re offering  safety tips from the report but encourage you to visit the site at the link above and to download and read the full report. Also, check for toy recalls and follow Safety Alerts issued by the US Consumer Protection Safety Commission

Here are “What to watch for” tips from the Trouble in Toyland Report

  • Toys with sound – If a toy is too loud for you, it could be loud enough to damage your child’s hearing. Turn off the sound, remove the batteries or return the toy.
  • Slime – Some slimes contain high levels of toxic boron. Consider making homemade alternatives without borax, or monitor your children at all times. If your child ingests a slime product, call Poison Control.
  • Fidget spinners and toys marketed to adults – Some products, such as fidget spinners or children’s makeup, are not classified as toys and avoid certain safety standards. These products could contain higher levels of lead, choking risks and other hidden dangers. Avoid these “toys,” or watch your kids closely while they play.
  • Toys with small parts – Toys marketed to ages six and older may contain small parts that are choking hazards for younger children. Parents should check all toys for age guidelines. Before your child plays with a toy for the first time, see if smaller parts fit through a toilet paper roll — indicating they pose a choking hazard. Watch our video to learn how.
  • “Hatching” toys – Toys with break-apart packaging can become choking hazards for small children. Monitor your child while they open the packaging and promptly dispose of the pieces.
  • Balloons – Never let a child under three play with balloons, and monitor any child under 8, as balloons are the number one choking hazard for children.
  • Smart toys – Sites, apps, games and smart toys may be collecting private data from your child and exposing their information to hackers. Consider running these smart toys without connections to the internet, evaluating privacy policies when you first activate them, and monitoring your child’s use. Check out this guide for more info.
  • Makeup – We found asbestos in Claire’s makeup last year. Makeup lacks necessary safety standards, which is why we recommend avoiding these products for children, or at a minimum purchasing alternatives without talc, as it can be a source of asbestos.
  • Toys with small magnets -Swallowed magnets can cause serious internal damage by bunching together. Keep away from young children and monitor older children when they are playing with toys containing magnets.
  • Toy jewelry with toxic metals – Cadmium is a toxic metal that can be used as a substitute for precious metals in inexpensive jewelry, including dress-up jewelry marketed to young children. If your child is under six, watch them carefully to confirm that they don’t swallow a piece of jewelry, chew on the item, or put it in their mouths. Also, consider avoiding cheaper, metallic jewelry that is imported.
  • Recalled toys sold secondhand – Before using an old or pre-owned toy from an online marketplace, garage sale or passed down from a family member, parents should confirm that the product has not been recalled by visiting www.SaferProducts.gov.
  • Toys already in your home, school, or childcare facility – A survey earlier this year by U.S. PIRG Education Fund found 1 in 10 surveyed childcare facilities still using recalled inclined sleepers, despite a heavily publicized recall. The same problem exists in the toy market, potentially to a greater extent, since many recalls receive less attention in the media, regardless of their risk.

2019 Worst Toy Nominees

The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.)  recently released its 2019 Nominees for the 10 Worst Toys – check out the report for photos and descriptions so you can recognize the toys, some of which would definitely have appeal. The W.A.T.C.H. report also cautions about chopping online, which it has likened to the Wild West when it comes to outlawed toys.

W.A.T.C.H. lists the following safety tips related to toys to watch out for:

  • Toys Marketed On The Internet, with product descriptions that may omit warnings and cautions or provide incomplete or misleading information
  • Battery Operated Toys For Children Under 8 Years Of Age since batteries may leak, overheat and explode.
  • Toys With “Fur” Or “Hair”, including dolls and stuffed animals, that can be ingested and aspirated by oral age children.
  • Toys With Small Removable Attachments at the end of laces and strings (e.g., bells, knobs, etc.).
  • Projectile Toys, including dart guns, sling shots, and pea-shooters which shoot objects and can cause eye injuries or blindness
  • Toys With Pointed Tips, And Blunt Or Sharp Edges that could crush, cut or puncture children’s skin.
  • Toys With Strings Longer Than 6 Inches which could strangle small children.
  • Any Crib Or Playpen Toys which are to be strung across cribs or playpens. This type of toy has resulted in strangulation deaths and injuries.
  • Toys Marketed With Other Product Lines, such as food, clothing, books, cassettes and videos which could have dangerous designs and are often sold with no warnings, instructions or age recommendations.
  • Toys Composed Of Flammable Material which will readily ignite when exposed to heat or flame.
  • Realistic Looking Toy Weapons including guns, dart guns, Ninja weaponry, swords, toy cleavers, knives, and crossbows which promote violence.
  • Toys Which Require Electricity to function and do not have step-down transformers to reduce risk of shock and electrocution.
  • Toys With Small Parts that can be swallowed or aspirated, causing choking.
  • Long Handled Toys For Children Up To 4 Years Of Age due to a tendency of such children to place these toys in their mouths and choke.
  • Toys With Toxic Surfaces Or Components that have the potential to be ingested or cause skin irritations (e.g., some children’s’ play makeup kits have components which contain ferrocyanide, a known poison).

Tips for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday


illustrated men and women in a shopping frenzy on Black Fridat
Fast on the heels of Thanksgiving Thursday comes Frenetic Friday, better known as Black Friday – the busiest retail shopping day of the year. If throwing yourself into the fray is how you choose to work off your Thanksgiving calories, we have some tips to make the best of it (below), as well as a few shopping safety reminders. But if you’d rather pull out your fingernails one by one than brave the bargain-hunting hordes, you can choose to celebrate the day as Buy Nothing Day. Whether you choose to buy nothing out of conviction or laziness, it’s a good day to practice the fine art of relaxation with friends and family.

But Friday is just the start. What began as a single shopping day has spawned a series of themed days.

  • Saturday is the 10th annual Small Business Saturday – and we really like that idea. It’s less crowded and crazy and it focuses on small local businesses in your home community. Small businesses are the lifeblood and personality of every community so we encourage you to get out and support your neighbors. Find a Small Business near you.
  • Cyber Monday is a huge online shopping day. A little know alternate name for the day is Low Productivity Monday because employees everywhere are surreptitiously shopping for deals at their desks.
  • Our favorite day is Giving Tuesday, December 03, 2019, a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world on December 3, 2019 and every day. It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good, and since its founding, it has raised more than $1 billion in online donations in the U.S. alone. If you’d like to give something back after all that shopping, search for an organization near you to help you find organizations, events, and ways to give back in your own community. The Better Business Bureau has some Giving Tuesday tips to ensure you don’t fall for fake charities:

If you plan to shop online or off over the holiday weekend, here are a few pointers for getting the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

And a few tips to be safe and secure while shopping:

  • Keep packages out of site in your car. Lock them in your trunk and keep car doors locked
  • Be aware of your purse and wallet at all times – pickpockets love crowds. If you can, avoid a purse or wallet entirely and store phone, cash, credit cards and IDs in a secure inner pocket.
  • Carry only the money and credit cards you need. Don’t flash cash.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Thieves and con-artists specialize in distraction techniques.
  • Don’t overload yourself with packages and impair your awareness, mobility or vision – take some to the car.
  • Remember where you parked your car. Have your keys ready and be alert for strangers when you approach it.
  • Shop with a friend or family member, particularly at night. There’s safety in numbers.

Here are a few safe online shopping tips:

  • Update your web security, anti-virus and malware detection programs snf be sure your firewall is on.
  • Be on alert for email phishing offers, the spoofed mails look authentic. Don’t click the link, type in the website.
  • Purchase only in a secure environment – check for “https” in the address in your web browser – the “s” stands for “secure” – never conduct a transaction without it.
  • Public Wi-Fi is not secure so avoid doing banking and transactions that would expose your credit cards, passwords, or personal info.
  • Update your passwords before shopping. Create unique passwords for each site.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for “free” gift offers and contests from unknown sites.
  • Don’t give away any personal information or credit card numbers to anyone you don’t know.

 

How to file a settlement claim if you were affected by the Equifax data breach


data breach illustrated by an open padlock

Were you affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach? You might have been because 147 million records in the US alone were exposed. If you’d like a refresher on the event, we talked about it in a blog post, along with the remedies available at the time Equifax Data Breach:

Before you dismiss this as ancient history, check this out: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced that Equifax has agreed to a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories. The settlement includes up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.

If you were affected, you might be eligible for

  • Up to 10 years of free credit monitoring
  • A cash payment of $125 in lieu of credit monitoring
  • Payment for time, expenses or losses related to the breach (capped at $20,000)

For more details on what you might be eligible for, see the FTC’s summary of the Equifax Data Breach Settlement

Here’s how to file a claim:

  • The first step is to find out if your information was exposed: use this look-up tool.
  • If your data was exposed, you must file a claim by January 22, 2020. You can file a claim online, or see instructions for filing a hard copy. It’s a fairly easy process. Here are FAQs if you want to learn more.

It may seem nearly impossible to protect your data from being exposed, but don’t give up!  See our post on 66 ways to protect your identity and privacy for tips.