June is Men’s Health Month: Raising awareness about health checkups and screenings


Four generations of black men

Let the men in your life know how much they mean to you by encouraging them to get healthy! June is Men’s Health Month, a time to encourage and support all the men in our lives to get health screenings and checkups. Why? Quite simply, the founders of this initiative say that “men live sicker and die younger.” The dedicated month is sponsored by the Men’s Health Network (MHN), a national non-profit whose mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and pray with health awareness and disease prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation.

MHN says that part of the reason men have a shorter life expectancy than women is that men are “more likely to go long periods of time without going to the doctor, they’re less likely to adopt preventive health measures, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.” Men’s Health Month aims to raise awareness and to shine a spotlight on the need for men to a more active approach to their health.

This MHN pamphlet Get It Checked offers a handy, printable schedule of checkups and age-appropriate  screenings for both men and women, Among other resources and initiatives, MHN sponsors the Men’s Health Resource Center, which offers multimedia and articles on such health topics as aging, cancers, cardiovascular health, diabetes, mental health, prostate health, sexual & reproductive health, and much more. They also offer information on fatherhood, behavioral health and nutrition.

Part of the reason MHN chose June as the dedicated awareness month is that it’s the month in which we all think about one of the most important men in our lives on Father’s Day. In addition to the month-long observance, they also sponsor Men’s Heath Week, which falls in the week prior to Father’s Day, and a Wear Blue Day, which this year falls on Friday the 19th.

If you’re a healthy man, spread the word.  If you are a woman, make sure you remind the men in your life to look after their health!

Men's Health Month infographic

Prepping for an active hurricane season in a pandemic


hurrican statistics infographic

As if we all didn’t have enough on our plate this year – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is alerting us that we can expect an above-normal 2020 hurricane season, with 3 to 6 major hurricanes. The season runs from June 1 through November 30, so we have just dipped a toe in the water so far. CoreLogic’s annual Storm Surge Report estimates that yearly 7.4 million single and multi-family homes are at risk of storm surge – potential damage that could be intensified by the pandemic and the uncertain economy.

Emergency preparation for hurricanes is a vital priority every year, particularly for those who live in the southeast and in Atlantic coastal areas. This year, the pandemic poses additional planning challenges. NOAA says:

“Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more. With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now,” said Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA. “Natural disasters won’t wait, so I encourage you to keep COVID-19 in mind when revising or making your plan for you and your loved ones, and don’t forget your pets. An easy way to start is to download the FEMA app today.”

Vox offers a deeper dive on some of the challenges that a hurricane could pose: Imagine Hurricane Katrina during a pandemic. They note that response systems are already on overload and that evacuation and sheltering would have additional complications, suggesting that decisions about when to evacuate vs when to shelter in place may need to change:

Emergency evacuations are typically called for based on the expected impact of the hurricane, and may involve large populations moving to concentrated locations like emergency shelters or hotels — or leaving the area entirely. Even without a disease outbreak, evacuation decisions are always difficult, both practically and politically. The decision process should be altered during an epidemic because usual evacuation risks (traffic accidents, for example) will have to be balanced against the risk of increasing disease transmission, which could have longer-term effects than the hurricane itself.

The pandemic makes clearly communicating exactly who should evacuate even more important: Those in the storm surge zone should go while others should be encouraged to shelter in place and be prepared for wind, rain, and power outages.

Emergency prep is important up and down the coast, including in new England.  While hurricanes are a rarer occurrence in New England, the region still thinks back on the devastation of 1938, a hurricane which killed more than 700 people. Meteorologist Matthew Cappucci wrote a fascinating report of the great New England hurricane of 1938, which includes projections of damage that could occur today if the region were to experience a similar storm.

If you already have a disaster or a hurricane plan for your family or your business, update it to encompass the realities that the pandemic has imposed on your local area. It’s even more important than ever to have a checklist and to store supplies for up to a week. In addition, expand your time horizon – you may need additional time to execute any evacuations.

One preparation recommendation from nearly all safety officials: download the FEMA app and check your state or local emergency management authority for any available apps. Red Cross has a variety of excellent emergency prep apps.

We’re reprinting some tips about hurricane prep during a pandemic from the Houston Office of Emergency Management, and also include links for other prep tools and guides.

  • Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
  • Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water, and medicine supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
  • Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery or call in your prescription ahead of time and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available.
  • Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including potential shelters for your pets.
  • If you need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, or bar or liquid soap if not available, and two cloth face coverings for each person. Face covers should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet, about 2 arms’ length, from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional hurricane prep tools

 

RMV license renewal extensions in New England


woman driver giving thumbs up

As you transition from lock-down to “real life” and take your car out of mothballs to put it back on the road, here’s an important question: did your license or registration inadvertently expire while you were watching Netflix? Is your vehicle inspection overdue? If you forgot to renew vehicle-related credentials or your credentials are about to expire, you may be relieved to know that many states have offered extensions. For example, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles license renewal dates have been extended as follows:

  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020, will now expire in September 2020.
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in June have been extended until October 2020.
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in July have been extended until November 2020.
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in August have been extended until December 2020.

Learn more about changes in procedures, office openings, and more at MA RMV – COVID-19 Information.

Here are links where you can find out how other New England states are handling vehicle related credentials:

  • Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles issued a 180-day Credentials Extension for expiring DMV credentials. The extension includes all Connecticut driver’s licenses, learner’s permits, identity cards, emissions testing and registrations. The extension is effective immediately. See complete list at CT DMV.
  • New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles issued a series of bulletins, including  Options for Customers During Covid-19 Pandemic; New NH DMV License and Registration Extension Options; and NH DMV Extends Expiration Date of Previously Issued 20-Day Plates.  Stay up to date at NH DMV.
  • Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles – all road tests are cancelled through June 5.  Driver licenses, learner permits, IDs, CLPs, CDLs, registrations, inspection stickers, and disability placards scheduled to expire in the months of March, April, or May 2020 have been extended by 90 days. Find general information and updates at RI DMV
  • Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles – On May 26, 2020 the Governor signed Executive Order 53-A, which means if a person can register normally through their municipality or Bureau of Motor Vehicle Office they must do so immediately. If your municipality is NOT accepting payments through Rapid Renewal, by mail, by telephone, or in the municipal office the notice of March 20, 2020 still stands. See Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles for details and updates.
  • Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles – On May 8, the DMV issued a Continuity of Operations Plan for Alternative Services.  For more information, see VT DMV.

See our recent post: Get that idle car back on the road in tip-top shape

 

Beach lovers’ guide to Memorial Day in New England


sea shells, sunglasses and a facial mask_ beachgoing in the pandemic

The good news is that it’s Memorial Day Weekend, states are cautiously beginning to open beaches and parks, and the weather looks promising. The bad news is that the virus has not gone away so visiting your favorite coastal spots will come with many restrictions and limitations. If you are expecting a “normal” experience, you may be disappointed. You should “know before you go” and consider taking small steps to favorite outdoor activities rather than jumping in headlong … perhaps stay closer to home base to test the waters. Definitely don’t drive to another state without checking first – some states require 14-day quarantines for out-of-state visitors! But even if there is no quarantine requirement, check the status and availability of your destination, along with learning any rules and requirements that may be in place. Don’t count on lifeguards or public restrooms. Plan to bring face coverings, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and possibly your own food and beverages. Even if some restaurants are open for takeout or outdoor dining, they will likely have limited capacity.

We amassed some resources to help you plan before you go to the beach.

First, how safe are outdoor activities? The New York Times checked with experts who say that being outdoors with is probably fine and if you adhere to appropriate social distancing and think things through. They warn about lowering your guard too much and caution about outdoor dining, using locker rooms at pools, and navigating crowds in places like beaches. See What We Know About Your Chances of Catching the Virus Outdoors

They suggest that:

Ideally, people should socialize only with people who live in their homes, they say. If you decide to meet friends, you’re increasing your risk, but you can take precautions. It’s important to keep gatherings small. Don’t share food, utensils or beverages; keep your hands clean; and keep at least six feet from people who don’t live in your home.

 

Be cautious as you venture into public outdoor spaces … we all need to stay safe ourselves and keep our families and neighbors safe. Keep your expectations low, be flexible, and avoid crowded spots. This first weekend “free” might be too crowded, a walk or a bike ride in your local area might be the best bet. Public health officials will be keeping tabs on how things go in this first big holiday of the pandemic and it will affect how things go over the course of the summer, so let’s all be careful, safe, patient and respectful. We don’t want to undo all the good we did by staying at home over the last many weeks!

 

Traffic is down, danger is up on the nation’s roadways


speeding car approaching a city
If you need to venture out on the roads, be sure to drive defensively! According to recent reports, many streets and highways have turned into a dangerous environment of deserted streets given over to drag racing and speeding competitions. With so many businesses shut down and people under a stay-at-home advisory during the coronavirus crisis, nationwide, traffic has dropped by  more than 40%, according to transportation-data firm Inrix. Some large metro highways report even higher drops of between 50% to 70%. But if you think less volume makes for safer roads, think again! Unfortunately, people seem to be driving much more recklessly.

According to a report in Agency Checklists, new data from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation shows that despite a 50% reduction in overall traffic on Massachusetts roads, fatalities doubled in number during April. But this troubling trend is not unique to Massachusetts. Standard Publishing talks about a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA):

“State highway safety officials across the country are reporting a sharp spike in speeding incidents. Multiple states have reported speed increases, with Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah noting a significant surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more.”

In addition to the increase in MA fatalities, Rhode Island and Nevada state officials report that pedestrian fatalities are increasing. Even before the recent reports, pedestrian fatalities have been creeping up over time and pedestrian deaths are now at their highest level since 1988.

The Washington Post cites both the GHSA report and law enforcement and traffic experts throughout the country, and the story is the same: speeders have taken over the roadways. In addition to drag racing and high-speed competitions, the post Post reports:

What’s more, those speeding drivers are also more distracted. A study released Thursday by the data analytics company Zendrive found motorists are braking harder and using their phones more while driving. The analysis of millions of miles of driving data based on smartphone sensors found speeding is up by 27 percent on average, while hard braking climbed 25 percent. Phone usage on the nation’s roadways steadily increased in the weeks following the stay-at-home guidelines, up by 38 percent in mid-April, according to the report.

The Post says that people may think they can get away with reckless driving because law enforcement have limited resources or have reallocated resources during the pandemic. And some psychologists think it may be for excitement to counter the boredom or as an emotional release.

Hopefully, this troubling trend is a shutdown anomaly that will ease as states begin gradually reopening. But if and when you need to be out on the roads – particularly the highways – be super alert, avoid distractions, wear your seat belt, and keep your own speed down!