Showing posts with label How To. Show all posts
Showing posts with label How To. Show all posts

21 December 2020

Being Safe At Work: What You Need To Know

Being Safe At Work: What You Need To Know
Being Safe At Work: What You Need To Know (Image by malateronald)
Being safe at work is something that all employers and employees need to bear in mind at all times. Although it is the employer’s responsibility to put systems in place that make working safer, the employee also has a responsibility to ensure they are following the rules and not making any mistakes that could ultimately be dangerous.
Read on to find out more about healthy and safety at work and how you can ensure you are always keeping as safe as possible.

Know The Risks

The first thing that anyone, employer or employee, is going to need to know about are the risks involved in any tasks or processes that take place within the business. Some will be more problematic than others, but everything will need to have a risk assessment carried out.

This is particularly true of equipment and tools. There must be a risk assessment about each item, looking at what might be an issue and working out ways to resolve it. If you have ladders, for example, that need to be used a lot, then you might minimize the risk by having harnesses available to use or ensuring that working at heights is always done in pairs (with one to hold the ladder). If you use a conveyor belt then wearing the right safety equipment is essential, and so on.

Once you know the risks you can determine how to avoid or reduce them, and everyone will be much safer. This might involve additional training which is always a good idea.

Implement Regular Break Times

Although it might seem as though it would be more productive to work non-stop without breaks – you will get more done in the same amount of time – it is actually the opposite. Working without breaks leads to less productivity due to tiredness or neglect. The brain needs to rest regularly for it to work at its best, and by forcing someone to work without taking regular breaks, you are causing problems. It is unsafe for someone who is tired due to lack of breaks to continue working.

As a business owner, you should implement regular break times throughout the day, or allow your workers to take breaks as they are required to ensure the safest and most productive team. As a worker, you should always make use of the break times you are given to ensure you are always safe.

Use Protective Equipment

If a task’s risk assessment identifies that you need to use protective equipment or clothing – otherwise known aspersonal protective equipment’ or PPE – then this is what you must do when carrying out a specific task or using a piece of equipment.

If you are an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that this equipment is provided, and if you are an employee, you must wear the equipment as instructed. If PPE has not been provided and you need it, then you must speak to your employer about the issue so that it can be addressed.

15 December 2020

MasterClass Announces Salman Rushdie to Teach Storytelling and Writing [Trailer Included]

MasterClass Announces Salman Rushdie to Teach Storytelling and Writing
Salman Rushdie (Courtesy of MasterClass)
MasterClass announced today that Booker Prize–winning author Salman Rushdie will teach a class on storytelling and writing. Drawing from his celebrated career as a novelist and essayist, Rushdie will help members explore their innate storytelling ability to write and tell the stories they are meant to tell.
"Salman's prose is magical; his storytelling, worldly," said David Rogier, founder and CEO of MasterClass. "In his MasterClass, Salman discusses the seminal works that have influenced him, providing all writers—even those just starting to put pen to paper—lessons in how to harness the power of words."
In his MasterClass, Rushdie will share his storytelling framework, which is equal parts discipline and freedom, from how to build rich and complex story structures to crafting characters, researching and editing, providing a wealth of examples and insights from the global literature that has influenced his work. 

In addition to offering big-picture advice and his seven useful tips to becoming a better reader and writer, Rushdie will offer valuable insights on the psychological aspects of writing, including navigating writer's block, negotiating feedback with editors and more. 

Through intimate stories of the struggle and learnings from Rushdie's early career, members will get an insider's look into his journey, leaving the class inspired by his wisdom and eager to write their own unique stories.

MasterClass Announces Salman Rushdie to Teach Storytelling and Writing
Salman Rushdie (Courtesy of MasterClass)
"I've always been fascinated with the universality of storytelling and how shared human experiences unite us all, no matter where we are in the world," Rushdie said. "In my MasterClass, I hope I can help members transition to the other side of the page and reach new heights creatively with their writing."
Rushdie is an award-winning novelist, essayist, fiction and nonfiction writer known for his humorous and often-surrealist style. Rushdie's work examines themes of movement across cultures, modernity and the influence of world events on individuals' lives. 

His second novel, Midnight's Children, was a commercial and critical success, earning the esteemed Booker Prize in 1981, as well as the "Best of the Booker" prize twice in the years following. In 1983, his third novel, Shame, won the French literary prize Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, cementing Rushdie's place among the literary elite.

Over the course of his career, Rushdie has published 14 novels that have been translated into more than 40 languages. He has been internationally recognized with many of literature's highest honors, and in 2007, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the literary world. Some of his top accolades include the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy), the Writer of the Year Award in Germany, PEN Pinter Prize (U.K.), Golden PEN Award, Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, and Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism.

The Trailer:

  • Rushdie's class is now available exclusively on MasterClass, where subscribers get unlimited access to all 100+ instructors with an annual membership.

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SOURCE: MasterClass

13 December 2020

Pandemic December: How to Stay Connected and Resilient in a COVID-19 Holiday Season


A new perspective and approach may be required to get through this year’s pandemic-heavy holiday season. (Shutterstock)
A new perspective and approach may be required to get through this year’s pandemic-heavy holiday season. (Shutterstock)
This year’s holiday season will no doubt be different. The holidays are already a time of increased mental health risks because of anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder, alcohol/substance use and other factors. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic will add a major pressure to the festive season.

Whether you mark holidays in December or not, typical winter customs are being disrupted. The pandemic has had a significant impact on society’s ability to connect and has also reduced individuals’ access to wellness-maintaining strategies and activities. For example, COVID-19 has limited and in some cases halted visits with loved ones, gatherings with friends and colleagues, and as cold weather comes, our options for outdoor activities will decrease.

A new perspective and approach may be required to get through this year’s holiday season.

The rewards of gratitude and compassion

As a health psychologist and a psychiatrist, our work at The Ottawa Hospital over the last decade has been focused on staff and physician wellness. When people are experiencing a chronic crisis, it’s exhausting, and leads to wear and tear on both body and mind. This can lead to “survival mode” in which we can become more focused on our own needs.

As we feel the impact of COVID-19 fatigue, there is increasing acknowledgement of the impact on health and wellness of the front-line workers. One of the biggest boosts we can give ourselves is to give to others. Self-transcendent emotions, which include compassion and gratitude, have a positive physiological impact by stabilizing our heart rate and blood pressure. In fact, giving to others stimulates the brain’s reward centre, and that’s why it feels so good.

Giving doesn’t have to be monetary. Messages of gratitude can be delivered throughout this pandemic to everyone working on the front lines, including health-care professionals, teachers, delivery services including post office outlets, and all of the those working in businesses like stores, pharmacies and restaurants. Thank you.

Rebooting and connecting

For many people, technology may be the only way to connect to others during the pandemic, and for some this might be the safest way to connect to family and friends over the holidays. (Pexels/Koolshooters)
In uncertain times, people can get overloaded by too much information. One way to reboot is to get out of your head. Try to pick activities that use your hands and your body. This slows you down and can shift your focus into the here and now. This can give you a sense of control and anchors you to the present. Art and crafts, photography, exercise and playing a musical instrument can all provide a means to focus our attention on a specific and in in-the-moment task.

For a bigger boost, think back to activities you loved as a kid, such as colouring, dancing, baking, singing at the top of your lungs.

We used to worry about how attached we were to our devices and particularly concerned about total screen time for kids. For many, this may be the only way to connect to others, and for some this might be the safest way to connect to family and friends over the holidays. It may be even more essential for those who live alone and/or who may have lost a significant person in their lives this year.

Part of “Zoom fatigue” may be linked to inactivity and repetitiveness of our daily activities during the pandemic. There may be innovative ways, through technology, for you to enjoy activities you used to do, and reach out for support and connection.

Expectations and expressions

As we reflect on how to approach the holiday season, it’s important to scale our expectations and be compassionate with ourselves and others in these unusual times. We do need to make space for all of the emotions — good and bad — that we are experiencing. This may include frustration, anger, anxiety, sadness and disappointment.

It’s important to proactively set up activities and actions that can connect us to our humanness: expressing our kindness and gratitude to others, being in harmony with our technology, and trying to reconnect with moments and times in our lives that were meaningful or joyful.

About Today's Contributor:

Kerri Ritchie, Professional Practice Coordinator, Psychology, The Ottawa Hospital, & Clinical Professor, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa and Caroline Gerin-Lajoie, Psychiatrist, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa, and Executive VIce-President, Physician Wellness and Medical Culture, Canadian Medical Association

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

5 December 2020

The Elves Are Flying Off the Shelf - 'The Elf on the Shelf' and 'Elf Pets' Are Scarce but Can Still Be Found in Select Locations

The Elves Are Flying Off the Shelf - 'The Elf on the Shelf' and 'Elf Pets' Are Scarce but Can Still Be Found in Select Locations
The Elf on the Shelf® and Elf Pets® Are Scarce but Can Still Be Found in Select Locations (PRNewsfoto/The Lumistella Company)
Breaking news from the North Pole Press Room! Santa is aware that families are having difficulty finding The Elf on the Shelf Scout Elves and the Elf Pets this holiday season.
 "The Scout Elves really are flying off store shelves this season," states The Lumistella Company president, Mike Champion. "But Adoption Centers across the nation remain open and a few still have Scout Elves and Elf Pets ready to be taken home."
"More families are searching for safe and innovative ways to provide entertainment for their children or to lighten the family's mood this year," notes The Lumistella Company Co-CEO Christa Pitts. "Though it might be difficult to find our products, I encourage families to look at Party City, Michael's, Target, and Barnes and Noble. Those retailers still have available but limited supply. I also suggest visiting to find out how to support community businesses and shop locally. Our website lists all of our adoption centers through a store locator feature."
  • There are lots of ways to engage with The Elf on the Shelf this season. Families can visit the official The Elf on the Shelf YouTube channel for music videos and shorts, watch the Elf Pets movies on streaming services, or visit the website for fun, engaging Christmas recipes or elf inspiration. "We are devoted to helping families create more joyful family moments this holiday season," Ms. Pitts added.
The Elf on the Shelf Scout Elves and the Elf Pets are Santa's official helpers from the North Pole. With over 17 million Scout Elves and Elf Pets adopted worldwide, and with this year marking their 15th year in business, The Lumistella Company's banner of Christmas-inspired brands proves once and for all that while their products might be tricky to find, Christmas spirit is soaring higher than ever.

4 December 2020

COVID-19: Henry Ford Health System Launches "Tough Love" Campaign [Video Included]

COVID-19: Henry Ford Health System Launches "Tough Love" Campaign
Henry Ford Health System is mounting a multi-media, multi-platform effort to encourage Michiganders to show their toughness and compassion through a renewed commitment to protecting those we love.
Nearly ten months into the pandemic, with disruptions to everyday life spreading "COVID-fatigue" almost as fast as the disease itself, Henry Ford Health System is mounting a multi-media, multi-platform effort to encourage Michiganders to show their toughness and compassion through a renewed commitment to protecting those we love.
The "Tough Love" campaign will launch publicly across TV and social media on Saturday, December 5, and later on radio and in print, acknowledging that, while it is not tough to wear a mask, wash your hands, or practice social distancing, "It's tough as nails to keep at it…months after we thought this thing would be behind us," to cancel holiday plans or to show your family and friends how much you love them by NOT seeing them.
"It's one thing to talk about infection and death rates, and repeating that people should wear masks, keep washing their hands and continue social distancing," said Heather Geisler, Henry Ford SVP and Chief Marketing, Communications and Experience Officer. "It's quite another to demonstrate in the starkest terms how we have endured and overcome past challenges as a community, and how we can be tough enough to get to the other side of this one. These individual acts of resolve will make all the difference."
Using archival images of other tough situations faced by Michiganders, including civil unrest in the 1960's, monstrous snow storms, as well as the determined and dedicated faces of Henry Ford frontline healthcare workers, the campaign calls on people to be tough and to persevere for the love of their neighbors, family and friends so that we can all celebrate the holidays next year "with no more empty chairs around the table."

  • In addition to radio, TV, print and social media, and Tough Love webpage, the campaign will also include other non-traditional efforts, including "Tough Love Letters" - an ongoing collection of select letters and notes from our frontline workers about the toughness they face on the front lines of the pandemic every day.
"At its core, this campaign acknowledges the fatigue we all feel and encourages perseverance, but it's also a love letter to our team members and those who are struggling," said Geisler. "We have been so inspired by the grit and compassion we've seen in our organization and our communities and we want to honor that."

The Video:

3 December 2020

Office Decor Ideas For A Practical Workplace


 Office Decor Ideas For A Practical Workplace (Photo by bantersnaps)

Office decor is not generally a priority that the average office manager thinks about. You paint the walls a neutral colour and put in the furnishings you need, and you’re done, right? In fact, the decor you choose can make a big difference to the way your team feels and their ability to be productive.

Here’s how to decorate for a practical workplace. 


Make sure you offer enough storage space. A lot of office managers think that they want a ‘clear desk’ policy for a paper-free office, but then don’t offer enough storage space for people to actually keep their desk surfaces tidy. As well as communal storage space for things like the stationery cupboard, individual employees need space to put things away too. Add sets of drawers under desks, or trays or boxes to go on desks. Stationery, paperwork, and personal items can be put away, keeping desks clear and free of distraction. 


Remember to consider safety when you’re planning your office. The most common accidents in offices are trips and falls. Your storage will come in handy here, as clutter can be put away. Secure any trailing cables with trunking so people can’t get their feet caught, and consider finishing any stairwells with anti-slip stairs


The office needs to be well lit. Too bright and not bright enough can both cause problems like headaches and eye strain, especially for those looking at backlit computer screens all day. Get in as much natural light as you can, so avoid covering windows or opting for heavy blinds where possible. Overhead lighting shouldn’t be too bright. Instead, add task lighting on desks, so people can light their own workspace to the level they need, without struggling with glaring lights overhead. 


Comfort should be thought about in two ways. First, make sure that any workspaces have been set up in an ergonomic way. An ergonomic set-up will make a desk more comfortable to sit at for long periods and reduce the risk of back and shoulder pain. Make a workspace ergonomic by adding adjustable chairs, and extra items like footrests, wrist supports and stands for screens. 

You should also think about comfort in a less practical way. Is there anywhere for employees to sit other than their desks? Some comfortable places to sit around the office, like sofas or banks of chairs. These spaces can be used on lunch breaks, as break-out spaces for meetings, or just somewhere quiet to sit away from the desk. 


Offices don’t need to be stark. Most offices choose bland colours and don’t think much about adding extra items except maybe their logo on a wall. You can add some personality and make the space more interesting to be in by bringing your brand colours into your decor choices. Avoid boring corporate looking artwork, and instead display your best ad campaigns or other relevant artwork that says something about who your company is. This looks more interesting for employees and visiting clients alike. 


20 November 2020

'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19 [Video Included]

'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19
'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19 - Poster
The holidays normally are a time to get together in person with friends and family. However, the pandemic may mean virtual celebrations this year. Regardless of how you celebrate, it's important to protect yourself from possible dangers associated with holiday trees, candles, and cooking fires, as well as unsafe toys.

To keep the season safe, here's what you need to know:

'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19
'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19 ( Photo by Polesie Toys)


  • Choking on small parts and riding toy injuries: CPSC reports that in 2019, there were an estimated 162,700 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries and 14 deaths to children younger than 15, with most of the deaths associated with choking on small parts, like small balls and small toy parts and riding toys.
  • Toy recalls: continue to decline, with nine toy recalls in fiscal year 2020, three involving a lead violation, compared to 172 recalls in 2008, with 19 involving lead violations. Toys were also recalled for defects, such as choking, entrapment, ingestion and laceration hazards. Recalled toys present choking, entrapment, ingestion and laceration hazards, among other hazards that pose the threat of death or injury to a child.
  • Scooters: The number of injuries associated with non-motorized scooters significantly decreased from 2015 to 2019 for children younger than 15, from about 45,500 to about 35,600 injuries.
  • Follow age guidance and other safety information on the toy packaging, and choose toys that match your child's interests and abilities.
  • Get safety gear, including helmets for scooters and other riding toys–helmets should be worn properly at all times and be sized to fit.
  • Keep small balls and toys with small parts away from children younger than age 3, and keep deflated balloons away from children younger than 8 years old (discard broken balloons at once).
'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19
'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19 (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)


  • Cooking fires are the # 1 cause of residential fires.
  • An average of 1,700 cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day each year, more than three times the average number on any other day of the year.
  • In the last two decades, there were 220 fire or scald/burn incidents involving turkey fryers, resulting in 81 injuries and $9.7 million in property loss.
  • Never leave cooking food unattended on the stove.
  • Keep children away from the cooking area, and keep flammable items, like potholders and paper or plastic bags, away from the stove and oven.
  • Only fry a turkey outside and away from your home–not inside your garage, or on your porch. Do not overfill the oil in the turkey fryer and follow the manufacturer's instructions on use, including thawing your turkey thoroughly and maintaining control of the oil temperature.

'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19
  'Tis the Season to Be Safe: Top Tips for Your Family During COVID-19 (Photo by Jonathan Borba)


  • On average, there are about 200 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season, with about half of the incidents involving falls. And in the 2018 holiday season, about 17,500 people were treated in emergency rooms due to holiday decorating-related injuries.
  • In the 2019 holiday season, there were six deaths associated with holiday season decorations.
  • From 2015 to 2017, on average, there were about 100 Christmas tree fires and about 1,100 candle fires (in November and December), resulting in 20 deaths, 160 injuries and nearly $50 million in property damage each year.
  • Make sure your live Christmas tree has plenty of water, and look for the "Fire Resistant" label when buying an artificial tree.
  • Place burning candles in sight, away from flammable items, and blow them out before leaving the room.
  • Only use lights tested for safety by a national recognized testing laboratory. Throw out sets with broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.

The Video:

About the U.S. CPSC:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.

  • Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.

17 November 2020

Ranked: The Environmental Impact Of Five Different Soft Drink Containers


Ranked: The Environmental Impact Of Five Different Soft Drink Containers
Ranked: The Environmental Impact Of Five Different Soft Drink Containers (AndriiKoval/Shutterstock)
People are increasingly aware of the harm plastic waste causes to wildlife, and many would avoid buying single-use plastics if they could help it. But are the alternatives to plastic much better?

Let’s look at one example – fizzy drinks. You might assume that plastic bottles are the least green option, but is that always the case?

To find out, we compared five different types of pressurised drinks containers. We tested their environmental impact according to a range of criteria, including how each contributes to climate change and the pollution each produces during manufacture, use and disposal.

Here they are, ranked from worst to best.

Fifth place: glass bottles

It might come as a surprise, but glass bottles actually ranked last in our analysis. You might instinctively reach for a glass bottle to avoid buying a plastic alternative, but glass takes more resources and energy to produce. Glass making involves mining raw materials such as silica sand and dolomite, and that can release pollution which, when inhaled, can cause the lung condition silicosis.

High temperatures are also needed to melt these materials, a process overwhelmingly powered by fossil fuels. During production, the glass itself releases carbon dioxide.

Our analysis found that glass bottle production used the most natural resources, due to the sheer amount of material used. A one-litre glass bottle can weigh up to 800g, while a similar plastic bottle weighs around 40g. That extra weight means vehicles transporting glass bottles consume more fossil fuels to deliver the same amount of liquid. For these reasons, we found that glass bottles have about a 95% bigger contribution to global warming than aluminium cans.

More weight means more emissions. (Makushin Alexey/Shutterstock)

Fourth place: recycled glass bottles

If a regular glass bottle is the worst, then surely those made from 100% recycled glass are much better, right? Unfortunately, no.

Some energy is saved in recycling rather than extracting, processing and transporting raw materials. But recycling glass still uses a lot of energy because of the high temperatures needed to melt it. More energy means more greenhouse gas emissions, and during the process, the glass may release carbon dioxide again.

In the UK, the recycling rate for glass is 67.6%. This would need to improve for glass bottle production to be self-sufficient by recycling alone.

Third place: plastic bottles

In third place is the plastic bottle. Plastic has ideal qualities for containing drinks. It’s strong, resistant to chemicals (so the ingredients in your drink don’t degrade the plastic), and it’s lightweight, meaning more can be transported on less emissions. That gave plastic a significantly lower impact on global warming than glass in our analysis.

But the effects of plastic waste globally are well documented. Glass and aluminium don’t break up into harmful microparticles like plastic does.

Plastic recycling requires less energy due to the lower temperatures involved in melting the raw material. But plastic, unlike glass or aluminium, cannot be endlessly recycled. Each time it’s recycled, the chains of molecules that make up plastics are shortened. All plastic reaches a point when it can no longer be recycled and so becomes destined either for landfill, incineration or the environment.

Second place: aluminium cans

In second place are aluminium cans. We found that they contribute less to global warming than glass and plastic because making them consumes less energy and resources. Cans are lighter than glass and aren’t made from fossil fuels either, like plastic.

Because of the processes involved in making them, cans also contribute less to environmental problems like acid rain and oxygen-free zones in the ocean. That’s because creating glass and plastic requires more electricity, and so it generates more sulphur dioxide pollution on average – a leading cause of acid rain. Making glass and plastic, and extracting the materials to make them (particularly soda ash for glass production), also releases more phosphates into the environment, which can overload rivers and coastal seas and deplete oxygen from the water.

But aluminium has its own environmental impacts. Making it involves refining bauxite ore, and mining bauxite can pollute water in the countries it’s sourced, including Australia, Malaysia and India. Rivers and sediment contaminated with heavy metals threaten the health of people and wildlife near mines.

Ranked: The Environmental Impact Of Five Different Soft Drink Containers
Bauxite exists in the topsoil of some tropical and subtropical countries. (Alexey Rezvykh/Shutterstock)

First place: recycled aluminium cans

Recycled aluminium cans were the least environmentally damaging single-use container we looked at. Aluminium can be constantly recycled with no change in properties. Recycling an aluminium can saves 95% of the energy used to make a new can and no new material needs to be mined or transported.

But aluminium isn’t always recycled. The UK’s recycling rate for aluminium packaging is just 52%. This must be drastically improved to make recycling the main supply of new cans.

Even if some of these containers are better than others, all of them have an environmental impact. The best option would be to phase out single-use packaging entirely, and introduce a system of reusing containers. Think self-serve drinks machines in local shops, where you could fill a bottle that you bring from home, or bottle return and reuse schemes.

Reducing waste and reusing materials, where possible, should come before recycling something. By reusing bottles, we reduce the amount of single-use packaging that needs to be created, reducing waste and a whole host of global environmental problems.

About Today's Contributors:

Ian Williams, Professor of Applied Environmental Science, University of Southampton and Alice Brock, PhD Candidate in Environmental Science, University of Southampton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Related Stories:

13 November 2020

A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better [Video Included]

A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better [Video Included]
A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better (screengrab)
Dr. Biplav Srivastava, professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, and his team have developed a data-driven tool that helps demonstrate the effect of wearing masks on COVID-19 cases and deaths. His model utilizes a variety of data sources to create alternate scenarios that can tell us “What could have happened?” if a county in the U.S. had a higher or lower rate of mask adherence. In this interview, he explains how the model works, its limitations and what conclusions we can draw from it.

What does this computer model do?

This is a nationwide tool which can show the effect that wearing masks can have. If it’s a county where people wear masks regularly, it will show you how many COVID-19 cases and deaths they avoided. If you pick a county where people don’t wear masks, it will show you how many cases and deaths could have been prevented there.

How does it do it?

We need a lot of data to do this. The New York Times surveyed almost every county in the U.S. over the summer and assigned a mask-wearing score of 0-5 to each of them, so this is at the heart of the model. We also use New York Times and Johns Hopkins data for real-time case numbers; census data for demographics such as population size, median age and more; and geographic data to measure the distance between counties.

It is based on a mathematical technique called robust synthetic control, which is often used in drug research, where there is a control group and there is a treatment group.

For example, let’s look at Wyandotte County, Kansas. It has a relatively high mask-wearing score of about 3.4. Because the model is designed to tell us the “what if?” scenario, it will look at what would have happened if the mask-wearing score was reduced to 3.0, which is our cutoff for “low mask-wearing,” but the user can experiment with other values too just to see what happens. We arrived at 3.0 based on analysis of nationwide mask-wearing habits. The actual values ranged between 1.4 and 3.85, with a national average of 2.98.

We can set a date at which the mask-wearing score changes to 3.0. If we set it to run from June 1 to Oct 1, it tells us that Wyandotte County would have had 101.5% more cases and 150 more deaths in that period. It tells the user how many deaths have occurred or been prevented based on a mortality rate parameter that the user can set. In this example, it was set at 2%.

How does the model create the “what if?” scenario if it didn’t actually happen? It does this by looking at other counties that are close by and have similar demographics and case count but a lower mask-wearing threshold. It tries to come up with a weighted average to form a synthetic control group which is similar to our county of interest (treatment group). The model then looks at how much the two groups have diverged in terms of the case counts. The difference in case counts between the two groups is converted to a difference in deaths using the mortality rate parameter.

A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better [Video Included]
Computer scientist Biplav Srivastava provides a demo of the simulation to show that earlier policies to recommend mask-wearing make a bigger difference on the spread of the coronavirus.(screengrab)

What does this tell us about the impact of mask-wearing policies?

Keeping up mask-wearing or implementing a mask policy at any time can be helpful. But its impact is highest when you do it early. When you run this model multiple times using different dates, you see that the impact reduces as you delay implementing a mask-wearing policy. So if a county implemented a mask policy on June 1, it would have prevented many cases. If it acted on July 1, it would have a smaller impact. If it acted in August, it would still have prevented cases, but a very small number.

What are the limitations of this model?

This tool works better for some counties than others. In general, it works best with counties that are closer to the average, because it will have closer matches to compare against. There is also a limitation in the sense that The New York Times mask adherence survey was done in the summer, and things keep changing. So if other researchers use this tool, they will have to account for the changes.

But what you see is that when you implement a mask policy or the population regularly wears masks, it makes a positive impact. And the earlier you do it, the more effective it is.

I would like to acknowledge the work of my team, Sparsh Johri, Kartikaya Srivastava, Chinmayi Appajigowda and Lokesh Johri, in developing this program.

The Video:

About Today's Contributor:

Biplav Srivastava, Professor of Computer Science, University of South Carolina

The computer model simulates how many COVID-19 cases could have been prevented in a particular county in the U.S. (Leontura/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

The Knight Bros. Slay COVID-19 [Video Included]

The Knight Bros. Slay COVID-19
Wee Beasties - Written and Illustrated by Dr. David Knight, Music by Bradford Knight (The Knight Bros.) - a handwashing book and song for kids
Amid ongoing pressure from COVID-19 to keep kids and communities healthy, The Knight Bros. have created an illustrated children's book and song called Wee Beasties, that uses humor, art and rhyming verse to encourage good handwashing habits for early learners age 2 – 8, releasing November 16, 2020.
Wee Beasties is the first in a series of new illustrated books and songs by two brothers. Author and illustrator, Dr. David Knight, is a professor from Colorado State University who was en route to help lead an international program in Wuhan, China when the coronavirus effectively changed the world and put everyone on lockdown. His brother, Bradford Knight, is a singer-songwriter-musician living in southern California. 

  • In an unexpected twist of fate, the brothers found themselves quarantined together for five-months, giving rise to a steady stream of creativity and the launch of The Knight Bros. Their works now include more than two dozen titles.
The Knight Bros. Slay COVID-19
The Knight Bros. (image via
Commenting on Wee Beasties, Colleen Fracisco, a veteran nurse of 25 years' experience, said, "This book and song are great tools for parents and teachers to make handwashing meaningful for children. The book takes a hilarious look at germs and how they need to be washed away. It will help build quality hand hygiene skills that will last!
Preschool teacher, Kelly Gross, who has two decades of teaching experience at Los Angeles Unified School District, said, "Wee Beasties is an adorable picture book bound to inspire my preschoolers to wash their hands. The author's peppy and engaging rhyming text, combined with the bright and vibrant illustrations, and a creative song, lead to a fun reading and singing experience."

The Video:

Five more titles from The Knight Bros. collection will be released November 23 and December 12, building on safe, clean themes that both entertain and educate
  • BONNIE McBOWER is about a girl who has an insatiable showering experience 
  • BRUSHING brings attention to oral hygiene 
  • SMELLY FEET focuses on cleaning relentlessly stinky feet
  • BALLOON and ROLLER COASTER promote safety
Imparting important life lessons in a humorous way is the common thread woven through The Knight Bros. stories. While the primary audience is younger, the big kid in many of us will also enjoy it. 

SOURCE: The Knight Bros.

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5 November 2020

Improve Customer Experience Online in 3 Steps


Improve Customer Experience Online in 3 Steps
Man with headphones facing computer monitor (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)
The Coronavirus has led to significant changes for the entire world. For many businesses, the epidemic has created a climate of uncertainty and a battle for survival. During these tough times holding onto customers is even more of a challenge than ever before. Consumers are likely to be extra cautious in their spending, and their loyalty to particular brands will be over-ridden by their desire to save money. Operating a business in this climate requires increased sensitivity to the needs of customers. 

Limited face to face customer contact and your employees working from home, can make it particularly challenging to deliver a high standard of customer service. It is crucial to address this issue and to find a way to provide high-quality customer service remotely. Without a robust customer service offering, your business may struggle to compete in these testing times. 

So, how do you deliver high-quality customer service remotely? Here are some tips to help:

1. Introduce a Live Chat Function

While delivering customer service face to face may not be possible, technology has the next best solution. Implementing Live Video Chat into your customer service offering will enhance the customer experience and set your business apart from your competitors. Live video chat has many benefits, but one of the most significant is the ability to offer your customers a personalised online experience tailored to their needs. Live video chat is an excellent way to bridge the gap between customers and your support team and deliver the best customer experience possible.

Many live video chat services are available, so it is best to do some research to find the best live video chat software. Choosing the best chat software will minimize the chances of glitches, which could harm your customer’s experience when using the service.

2. Focus on Response Times

Have you ever tried to get in contact with a company via their contact form and then waited for days, weeks, and months with getting a reply? If so, you will know how frustrating it is for customers to reach out to a company only to be ignored. Not receiving a response to a message via a contact form can leave customers feeling under-valued and unfairly treated.
Dealing with customer queries is a task that should be carried out promptly to show that you are competent and that you value your customers.

Setting an agreed response time with your staff and making it part of the daily workflow to check for customer messages should mean that they never get overlooked.

3. Offer Seamless Customer Service

Customers that become frustrated with your service could quickly begin to look to your competitors to receive the level of customer service that they expect. To address many frustrations experienced by customers, it is necessary to find ways to make your customer service offering seamless. As well as incorporating the live chat function into your customer service offering, you may want to introduce a customer relationship management (CRM) system into your business for a fully joined-up approach.

Improve Customer Experience Online in 3 Steps
Young woman browsing laptop in living room (Photo by Ketut Subiyanto)

2 November 2020

A Step-by-Step Guide to Direct Car Insurance Provider

A Step-by-Step Guide to Direct Car Insurance Provider
White and black car scale model (Photo by fotografierende)
Direct Car Insurance Providers come in all shapes and sizes, and their fees match accordingly. Finding the right provider can save you time and money.
On the downside, if you are struggling to find a suitable car insurance provider due to past misdemeanours relating to car convictions, you may then have your work cut out to find an insurer who will even give you the time of day.

However, don’t give up; there are many direct car insurance provider services available and affordable.

Searching the internet can be a minefield of potential dead ends, but once you’ve found the right place to grab the opportunity to get yourself some freedom.

Car insurance is essential, and finding a quote is the best place to start your journey ahead.

Saving Money

You can save money, but you may need to shop around to find the best deal to meet your needs. Try not to fall into auto-renewal; don’t limit your options to find cheaper car insurance.

Take the time to compare quotes, and it may take time. Consider increasing your excess; this can reduce the cost of your car insurance cover.

The Impact of COVID19

You do not need to contact your car insurance provider about any changes in your driving habits. There is currently a temporary system in place by the ABI until 31st December; if you need to make changes with your car insurance provider, you should be able to after this date. For example, a reduction in using your vehicle due to changes in your circumstances, Lockdown and restrictions can be easily addressed.

If you need to self-isolate, but want someone else to drive your vehicle, please do not despair; as long as your helper has their own fully comprehensive car insurance that includes driving other cars, you should be covered. You may not be covered if your vehicle is involved in an accident.

You may also reduce the cost of your car insurance premiums by switching to paying by a monthly direct debit.

During COVID19, you could use a telematics insurer via a downloadable app to track your driving via GPS. This type of insurance requires you to have a black box installed that monitors your driving. Currently, there is a backlog due to COVID19 restrictions.

Comics and Cars

Even comic book heroes have to invest in car insurance. Kia And Comic Book Giant Join Forces To Make Superhero Cars. But your rich rewards may come at a price if you don’t have the right insurance or creative resources, don’t give up hope.

Thinking outside the box may also help you find the right solutions, and keep you heading in the right direction towards success and financial freedom.
Driving forward, you can find the opportunities to stay safe, move ahead, and keep motoring. Although the world is now starting to grind to a halt once again, you need to keep a positive mindset - rise above your fears, and set yourself on the path to readily embrace success.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Direct Car Insurance Provider
Yellow die cast car on rack (Photo by fotografierende)

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