Tag: COVID-19

The wave of British tourism when Turkey leaves the red list

Thousands of Britons are expected to return to Turkey, one of their favorite vacations, after the booking frenzy broke out when overseas travel rules…

The wave of British tourism when Turkey leaves the red list

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

Potential Next Vaccines Don’t Require Needles Or Fridges To Be Effective

Image via ID 197617503 © Feverpitched | Dreamstime.com

Vaccines are being investigated more today than before thanks to the widespread rollout of COVID-19 doses across the globe.

As crucial as they are, vaccines aren’t the most logistics-friendly piece of medical equipment. Most are required to be kept at very low temperatures, so the mRNA and their protective lipid nanoparticles don’t begin to break down.

As reported by Fast Company, the Moderna vaccine is shipped within -58ºF and 5ºF while the Pfizer option is kept between -130ºF and -76ºF. Both can only last in a fridge for about a month.

This makes transporting them to, and storing them in, remote areas without electricity quite the feat.

There’s also the question of needles, which may be the final hurdle that some have yet to cross to receive the dose.

An alternative method of administration is needed—perhaps it’ll come in the form of an edible vaccine, or perhaps it’ll take the form of this University of California, San Diego concept: a small, sticky patch.

Nicole Steinmetz, director of the University’s Center for Nano ImmunoEngineering, and her team have come up with a fridge-free vaccine developed using viruses from either plants or bacteria. This doesn’t need a needle or to be kept firmly in icy temperatures.

Instead, the vaccines could be integrated into something like an adhesive bandage. These would easily be mailed to the users’ homes, where they’d be able to self-administer them without even needing to leave their room.

Convenience aside, this makes vaccines possible to access by people who live in far-flung remote areas where mobile vaccinations are hard to set up, or traveling to get vaccinated is too much hassle.

As detailed in the study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the formula tested on mice showed that the potential vaccines triggered their bodies to produce SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies.

This level of antibodies, Steinmetz states to Fast Company, is comparable to Moderna’s reported amounts during its preclinical phase.

These “high thermal stability” vaccine candidates come in two virus options: plant or bacterial. Copies of both were grown into a cluster of nanoparticles, then the team attached a bit of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the surface.

The full length of the protein isn’t being incorporated as the team has already narrowed it down to just a few key sequences necessary to produce the antibody response, according to Steinmetz.

Both of these viruses aren’t infectious to humans. Additionally, they’ve also adapted so they can withstand various environmental conditions, including temperature. This makes them entirely fridge-free.

“When the next challenge hits—it could be a local epidemic somewhere where you need something heat-stable or something that could be self-administered—then the technology would be ready to do this plug-and-play, and have this readiness for the next virus,” Steinmetz concludes.

[via Fast Company, image via ID 197617503 © Feverpitched | Dreamstime.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415773/Potential-Next-Vaccines-Don-t-Require-Needles-Or-Fridges-To-Be-Effective/

This COVID-19 Calculator Estimates How Likely You Are To Contract The Illness

[Click here to view the video in this article]

Image via Shutterstock

As most of us venture out into the world again, it’s often difficult to gauge which activities are safe to partake in. As the Delta variant rages on in most of the world, even though most of us have returned to some sense of normalcy, it’s not over just yet.

Now, an online site—the microCOVID Project—helps you analyze and quantify everyday risks. For example, you’ll be able to calculate the risk rate of dining out at a pub in the UK, or another part of the world, while vaccinated.

“It gives you a kind of common playing ground for understanding all sorts of activities. It separates some of the emotional load out of it,” said Ben Shaya, a contributor to the project, who recognizes the emotional toll COVID-19 has taken on most of us.

One 50 minute class and that’s more than my alotted risk for the week 🤷🏻

— Joshua Raclaw (@joshraclaw) August 26, 2021

The idea for the microCOVID Project blossomed when Shaya’s group of friends and housemates wanted to ensure they were taking the right safety precautions. Using a scientific method, they came up with the tool, allowing others “to have a better way to be fair about what people could do.”

The project makes use of a mathematical model that analyzes the latest research available on masks, vaccine efficacy, the number of cases in each country, and more. It then translates the data into a numerical percentage, allowing users to assess the chance of contracting the illness.

On the site, users can choose between the calculator or risk tracker function. The former allows one to calculate the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 at a single event or scenario, while the latter takes all of a user’s activities into account to generate an overall risk rate.

To measure the probability of contracting the virus, the group came up with their own measurement: microCOVIDs, referring to a one-in-a-million chance of being infected.

Users can select from a whole host of scenarios, such as where they’re headed to, the mask they’re wearing, vaccination status, and if the event is indoors or outdoors. They’re then given the risk rate of each event.

For example, according to The Smithsonian Magazine, a fully-vaccinated user in Manhattan, New York, heading out to the grocery store for an hour with a N95 mask may be given a risk of 4 microCOVIDs. This would be considered a “low risk” activity, with the default of 200 microCOVIDs allocated to each user per week.

The project could eventually save users from engaging in activities that they’d thought were not dangerous, but had a high chance of infection. With its allocated budget, the tool functions similarly to a financial tracker, allowing users to place their “risks” on more important activities.

I built out my elementary kids’ school Covid risk scenario in Multnomah county with the @microcovid calculator. This is for ONE day at school. Just one: pic.twitter.com/VPB2Ll4kLs

— Cameron (@cameronmace) August 27, 2021

“Nobody thinks they’re being dangerous. Careful means different things with different people,” explained Jenny Wong, a contributor to the project.

While tools such as the microCOVID Project can give you a better idea of the risks you’re taking on a day to day basis, it still doesn’t mean you won’t be infected.

F. Perry Wilson, an epidemiologist at Yale University, cautioned that such tools may give users “a false sense of security,” so all precautions should still be taken despite an activity being labeled as “low-risk.”

Take a look at the video below to understand how the microCOVID Project works.

[via The Smithsonian Magazine, cover image via Shutterstock] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415737/This-COVID-19-Calculator-Estimates-How-Likely-You-Are-To-Contract-The-Illness/

Boris Johnson to hold major press conference next week to unveil Covid winter plan – here’s what is expected

BORIS Johnson will hold a major press conference next week to unveil his Covid winter plan for the country. The Prime Minister is expected to tell …

Boris Johnson to hold major press conference next week to unveil Covid winter plan – here’s what is expected

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

Ad Spotlights The Mental Health Crisis Of Healthcare Workers With New ‘Hopeline’

[Click here to view the video in this article]

Video Screenshot via Frontline19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic first surfaced early last year, it’s taken a toll on all of us — be it physically, mentally, or emotionally. However, one group of people who’ve been hit the hardest by its negative effects are frontline workers, who had to work through the worst of times.

Even though we’re slowly returning to normalcy, the effects on healthcare workers haven’t gone unnoticed.

According to UK charity Frontline19, 40% of healthcare workers are suffering from PTSD as a result of the pandemic. A recent CDC Survey backed this up, showing 53% of public healthcare workers in the US reported mental health symptoms in the wake of COVID-19.

To highlight the efforts of these frontline workers, as well as to allow the public to give back, Frontline19 has launched Hopeline19 — a free phone service enabling the public to leave messages of support. Simply dial 0808 19 665 19, and press 1 to leave a message, or 2 to listen.

This hotline is being promoted together with a new advertorial campaign by adam&eveDDB, displaying the myriad emotions critical workers have gone through in the one and a half years since the whole world descended into chaos.

As per Fast Company, every story portrayed in the advertisement is based on a true story they’ve heard from someone in the NHS. Those casted in the campaign are also working within the health organization.

Claire Goodwin-Fee, who first started Frontline19 in March 2020 to counsel workers, has seen over 3,000 volunteers join her non-profit since. It provides NHS and other critical workers with free counselling, in closed, confidential sessions.

“They are struggling with almost incomprehensible, battle-like experiences without adequate support. We wanted to create a platform for the voices of these amazing human beings, who have worked through the most horrific experiences,” Goodwin-Fee told Fast Company.

“They need to know that we are here to offer support and to create sustainable long-term change for them.”

Take a look at the heart-wrenching video below, and follow the directions to leave a message of thanks for frontline workers if you’re in the UK.

[via Fast Company, cover image via Frontline19] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415683/Ad-Spotlights-The-Mental-Health-Crisis-Of-Healthcare-Workers-With-New-Hopeline/

Thailand Develops Gadget To Detect COVID-19 From Armpit Sweat In Just Minutes

Image via ID 126296072 © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com

Thai researchers have been developing a portable COVID-19 gadget that can detect for the virus via a person’s sweat.

This week, they took the detector to the streets, testing it on shopkeepers at a food market in Bangkok. And it does seem this might actually work.

“From the samples, we found that people infected with COVID-19 secrete very distinct chemicals. We used this finding to develop a device to detect the specific odors produced by certain bacteria in the sweat of COVID-19 patients,” explained Chadin Kulsing from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

While Chadin believes the device’s test is 95% accurate, the gadget is still being developed in laboratories. Plus, the scientists’ research into armpit sweat from COVID-19 patients has yet to be published in a journal or peer-reviewed by other researchers.

According to Channel News Asia, the scientists hope this new gadget will become an affordable alternative to swab tests, which require processing in a laboratory. It could also provide faster results, especially for those working on the front-line.

To run the test, users will have to place a cotton swab under their arms for 15 minutes. Then, the swab is placed in a glass vial and sterilized using UV.

“The technician then draws an appropriate amount of the sample using a suction hose, and pressurizes it into the analyzer to check the results,” Chadin continued.

The results will appear in 30 seconds. So far, shopkeepers in Bangkok have expressed approval for the new gadget, saying it was a more comfortable experience than nasal swab tests, despite having to hold a cotton swab under your arms for 15 minutes.

“This sweat test is more convenient because I get to work while waiting for the results. With the PCR (nasal swab test), I’d have to be at a testing center, sit and wait for the result, and it just wastes my time,” a 43-year-old watermelon seller told AFP, as reported by CNA. 

Hopefully, with the way in-person tests are going, Thai researchers can bring the device to market as soon as possible, so we won’t have to wait in line to get a test shoved up our noses anymore.

[via Channel News Asia, cover image via ID 126296072 © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415682/Thailand-Develops-Gadget-To-Detect-COVID-19-From-Armpit-Sweat-In-Just-Minutes/

Beware: That COVID-19 Email From HR Could Be Part Of New Phishing Scam

Image via ID 217843758 © Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime.com

Cybercriminals, like other kinds of grifters, aim to take advantage of fear. As the COVID-19 Delta variant surges across the nation, it seems that pandemic-related phishing scams are on the rise, too.

Researchers at Proofpoint, a security firm, found that pandemic-related phishing attempts increased by 33% in June, a large increase from this Spring, when the virus appeared to be it on its way out. Notably, the number of phishing scams spiked at the same time Google searches did for “delta variant.”

Phishing, for the unfamiliar, is a type of scam where cybercriminals send fake emails in an attempt to trick recipients into clicking on a link or attachment. Through that, the grifters can then access recipients’ information, including personal or credit details.

Now, as most of the country returns to work, and employers are requiring submission of paperwork such as test results and proof of vaccination, scammers have more ways of disguising their phishing attempts.

“That almost makes it easier for the bad actors because people are getting used to: ‘Upload your negative test here, go download this COVID form, fill it out,’” Sherrod DeGrippo, Vice-President of Threat Research and Detection at Proofpoint, told The Washington Post.

Recently, the firm uncovered phishing scams posing as human resource departments, asking for recipients to submit proof of vaccination.

If you receive a similar email, be sure to take the time to verify that it’s come directly from the organization you work for. One’s vaccination card contains useful information such as birthdates or full names, which hackers could target.

Other phishing scams to look out for are ones coming from “health organizations,” which could ask for sensitive information such as a recipient’s social security number and vaccination card. While the hackers may not use the information collected immediately, they could sell them on the dark web to other bad actors.

One should also look out for messages disguised as work-related pandemic measure updates. Scammers often include figures about COVID-19 infections in the “office” or outline new precautions employees are supposedly required to take, compelling recipients to click on the attached file.

Proofpoint’s research has shown that emails telling employees they’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19 are also on the rise. “It quite literally is clickbait,” DeGrippo said.

“They need you to click on them, so in order to get the person to take the action, you’ve got to escalate their emotional state to one that has them emotional, instead of intellectual,” he explained.

And what better way to do that than tell someone they’ve been fired?

As a general rule, The Washington Post suggests a few tips for spotting phishing emails. Key giveaways are altered domain names, or mistakes such as misspelled company titles or sender addresses. If you receive an email from HR you’re unsure of, it’s best to check directly with the department to ensure the link or attachment is genuine.

And if an email seems to make you particularly angry, worried, or curious – it’s best to pause for a moment before you click.

[via The Washington Post, cover image via ID 217843758 © Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415420/Beware-That-COVID-19-Email-From-HR-Could-Be-Part-Of-New-Phishing-Scam/

Pope Francis Leads COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign Encouraging The ‘Act Of Love’

[Click here to view the video in this article]

Video screenshot via Ad Council

To some, getting vaccinated or choosing not is a political statement, but that’s now how some of the world’s most prominent religious leaders see it. The Pope, for one, views it as “an act of love,” as you’d be protecting and considering the welfare of people around you.

Keen to counter a swarm of anti-vaxxer misinformation, the Ad Council and COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative have invited Pope Francis and six Cardinals and Archbishops from the United States and Latin America to encourage all to place their trust in the medical field and work towards a common good of overcoming COVID-19.

“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19,” Pope Francis addresses in a new PSA. “They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together.”

He describes being vaccinated as “a simple but profound way” of caring for humankind, “especially the most vulnerable.”

“I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love,” continues the Pope, who had gotten vaccinated earlier this year.

The Ad Council is also directing to visit GetVaccineAnswers.org to find out more about COVID-19 vaccines.

[via The Drum, video and cover image via Ad Council] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415330/Pope-Francis-Leads-COVID-19-Vaccine-Campaign-Encouraging-The-Act-Of-Love/

New York City Makes It Compulsory For Museum Staff & Visitors To Be Vaccinated

Image via Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

If you’re a true lover of culture and the arts and live in New York City, prove it by getting vaccinated.

That’s the only way to enter museums and other cultural institutions in the city, as Mayor Bill de Blasio has revealed plans by the government to mandate vaccines for staff and visitors, with the Delta variant still at large.

In a news conference on Monday, De Blasio expressed that tackling the variant head-on would be “the best way to support cultural institutions, because it brings us all back.”

According to the New York Times, the mayor also outlined the importance of reviving the city’s cultural heart in a safe and cautious manner. “We are defined by our arts and culture in this city… All these pieces lead us forward to the day when we won’t need these rules and our cultural institutions can open 110%,” he said.

The mandate will join the city’s ‘Key to NYC’ policy, which requires proofs of vaccination at indoor venues like bars, gyms, and theaters. It will kick off on Tuesday but will only be fully enforced from September 13, so as to give establishments and the public time to adjust; meanwhile, a US$10 million media campaign is in the works to educate residents about the changes.

Visitors and employees can present proof in the form of an official vaccination card in hard copy or photo form; an Excelsior Pass; an official, authorized vaccine record; or by showing their status on a New York City vaccination app.

De Blasio stressed that people would only need to “get at least the first vaccination” to be able to work at or visit the places they love. “Of course the goal is to get everyone fully vaccinated,” he added. In addition, children under the age of 12 would have to be accompanied by a vaccinated person to visit these venues, and are encouraged to mask up.

The New York Times reports that 34 museums and arts groups from city-owned buildings or lands, along with non-city-owned establishments, were mostly in favor of the vaccination mandate.

“The City’s recovery depends on culture coming back strong,” describes Jimmy Van Bramer, chairman of the City Council committee in charge of cultural affairs. “Our audiences must feel safe and vaccine mandates are necessary for that to happen… people will want to know that the person sitting next to them in the theater or standing next to them at the Met are vaccinated also. This is the smart thing to do for everyone — patrons, artists and staff.”

[via The New York Times, cover image via Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415284/New-York-City-Makes-It-Compulsory-For-Museum-Staff-Visitors-To-Be-Vaccinated/

Amazon Will Reward Vaccinated Employees To ‘Max Your Vax’ With $2M Lottery

Image via Natee Meepian / Shutterstock.com

Amazon, in an effort to incentivize more of its frontline workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, is offering a lottery of cash and prizes that amounts to nearly US$2 million. Previously, the city of New York had also offered a US$5 million lottery for those who got vaccinated.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the lottery—called ‘Max Your Vax’—will comprise a total of 18 prizes, including two US$500,000 cash prizes, six US$100,000 prizes, five brand-new vehicles, and five vacation packages.

Recently, the company mandated that warehouse workers wore masks at work, though it had previously relaxed the rule. This comes as the COVID-19 Delta variant surges across the nation, leading companies to take a more cautious approach.

The ‘Max Your Vax’ lottery will be open to Amazon’s frontline workers, including hourly workers at Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh grocery stores, as well as workers in Amazon Web Services data centers.

“We strongly believe that the best way to protect our frontline employees and communities from COVID-19 is through vaccinations. And we are proud to have hosted more than 1,100 on-site vaccination events to help make getting a vaccination as easy as possible for our employees and their household members,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told GeekWire.

[via GeekWire, cover image via Natee Meepian / Shutterstock.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/415158/Amazon-Will-Reward-Vaccinated-Employees-To-Max-Your-Vax-With-2M-Lottery/

Tate Modern Turns Into Vaccine Clinic With Art On The Side As UK Reopens

Image via NoyanYalcin / Shutterstock.com

In this time of solace, museums have opened up their spaces to get as many people vaccinated quickly as possible. With the UK officially reopening on July 19, the Tate Modern is the latest to transform itself into a mass walk-in vaccine site. And just like any other cultural experience pre-COVID, you’ll come out of the institution’s doors feeling enriched.

On Friday night, Londoners over the age of 18 can head to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall to get their first or second Pfizer jab.

Meanwhile, those with a fear of needles will just have to put up with one for a few seconds, as they’ll be rewarded with exclusive after-hour viewings at Tate Modern’s permanent and temporary showcases later on. New exhibitions include the raved-after Sophie Taeuber-Arp retrospective and The Making of Rodin.

According to Archinect News, all four galleries of Tate Modern had fully reopened back in May. As the UK treads into normalcy, the museum’s visitor numbers should pick up once more.

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[via Archinect News, image via NoyanYalcin / Shutterstock.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414738/Tate-Modern-Turns-Into-Vaccine-Clinic-With-Art-On-The-Side-As-UK-Reopens/

Edible COVID-19 Vaccine Now In The Works So You Can Avoid The Needle

Image via QuickStrip

If you’ve gotten vaccinated, you’d have experienced the nervous wait before facing the needle. Not to mention, the soreness that hits your arm the day after. While we’re fortunate enough to have access to vaccinations, the downtime needed after a shot can be tedious.

Now, a Canadian biotech company is creating a brand-new solution to vaccine woes: a vaccine that dissolves in your mouth.

Rapid Dose Therapeutics has teamed up with McMaster University to develop an “oral strip” version of the COVID-19 vaccine, so you can avoid the needle.

By using the orally-dissolvable QuickStrip technology, the team believes proteins can be delivered through the inside of the cheek, or under the tongue, to recreate the same immune response as when you’re injected.

According to Complex, edible vaccines could have benefits aside from ease of access. Currently, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have to be stored between -15°C to -80°C (5°F to -112°F) at all times. However, with the edible QuickStrip, the vaccine can remain stable even at 40°C (104°F), not requiring to be refrigerated.

“60% or more of the countries are warm—Africa, Mexico. You think of all these countries that don’t have the logistics that we have in North America,” Mark Upsdell, CEO of Rapid Dose Therapeutics, told CBC Hamilton.

“You could put, whether it’s dengue or the follow-on influenza, the COVID vaccine into this strip and send that out to those countries that don’t have the infrastructure, [and] at a lower cost.”

Although the launch of the edible vaccine is still some time away, the National Research Council of Canada has supplied the team with the necessary protein needed to be infused into the QuickStrip for stage two of the testing, which will include animal trials.

Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll say goodbye to injections for good and simply pop an edible strip in our mouth instead.

[via Complex, cover image via QuickStrip] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414658/Edible-COVID-19-Vaccine-Now-In-The-Works-So-You-Can-Avoid-The-Needle/

MIT & Harvard Researchers Develop Face Mask That Can Detect COVID-19

Image via Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Researchers from MIT and Harvard have developed a face mask that can detect SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in a wearer’s breath within just 90 minutes.

This new sensor technology can be tweaked to detect any kind of virus or toxin, and is small enough to be integrated into daily wearables, such as clothing.

According to New Atlas, the sensor has been in development by MIT and Harvard for several years and is based on wFDCF (wearable freeze-dried cell-free) technology. Previous biosensors had required the incorporation of living cells, but the wFDCF system extracts and freeze-dries the cellular machinery needed to detect organic molecules instead.

In the past, wFDCF technology had been used to create experimental tools to detect the Ebola and Zika viruses. When the pandemic hit a year ago, the researchers reacted swiftly to pivot this technology into a useful product to help combat the COVID-19 virus.

“We wanted to contribute to the global effort to fight the virus, and we came up with the idea of integrating wFDCF into face masks to detect SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19),” said study co-author Luis Soenksen.

Here’s how it works. With the press of a button, several biosensors in the mask are activated, releasing a small reservoir of water. The water then hydrates the previously freeze-dried molecules in the sensor, which helps to analyze droplets from a wearer’s breath.

Within just 90 minutes, a small strip of paper attached to the mask will register if the wearer has contracted COVID-19.

As per the New Atlas report, preliminary results have shown that the diagnostic face mask is highly accurate, even comparable to current PCR tests for COVID-19. Apart from detecting the coronavirus, the researchers note that the new technology could be incorporated into myriad uses.

“This technology could be incorporated into lab coats for scientists working with hazardous materials or pathogens, scrubs for doctors and nurses, or the uniforms of first responders and military personnel who could be exposed to dangerous pathogens or toxins, such as nerve gas,” said Nina Donghia, a co-author on the study.

The MIT and Harvard researchers are currently looking for commercial manufacturers who can mass-produce the COVID-19 mask, which will be a handy tool in combating the virus and stopping its spread, especially with more deadly variants in the mix.

Image via Felice Frankel and MIT News Office (MIT License)

Image via Courtesy of the researchers (MIT License)

[via New Atlas, images via various sources] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414501/MIT-Harvard-Researchers-Develop-Face-Mask-That-Can-Detect-COVID-19/

US Events Introduce Color-Coding As Protective Measure For The Pandemic

Image via jatanen_ok / Shutterstock.com

As the pandemic wanes and schedules start filling up for the summer, some event hosts in the US are introducing a new color-code system for in-person events.

Using the traffic light system of green, yellow, and red, each color is meant to help partygoers communicate their comfort level with physical touch, as per the Wall Street Journal.

It makes perfect sense; though most people might be vaccinated, some would still be touch-adverse, considering COVID-19 isn’t completely out of our lives just yet.

According to The Guardian, at events hosted by the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce in Virginia, hosts have been giving red, yellow, or green stickers to attendees.

Red is taken to mean no physical contact wanted, with those wearing yellow feeling alright with elbow contact, and attendees with green stickers allowing hugs.

For other events, the colors may not be so straightforward, but a little more playful.

For example, at an annual conference hosted by the southeast chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives in Georgia, guests could choose from red, yellow, and green wristbands.

Green signaled “celebrating like it’s 2019,” with yellow meaning “2020 has me confused,” and red-labeled partygoers feeling like “wake me up in 2022.”

As the world returns to in-person meetups, this color-code system is a smart and efficient way of respecting one another’s boundaries while partying. Are you a green, yellow, or red?

Image via Social Bands

Image via Amazon

[via The Guardian, cover image via jatanen_ok / Shutterstock.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414307/US-Events-Introduce-Color-Coding-As-Protective-Measure-For-The-Pandemic/

Washington State Is Giving Out Free Weed Joints To Those Getting COVID Vaccines

Image via Chokniti Khongchum / Shutterstock.com

Washington state has recently approved an initiative affectionately nicknamed “Joints for Jabs,” allowing approved retailers to offer free marijuana to those getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

This is part of an entire slew of initiatives being rolled out around the country to encourage more people to get their shots. From free fries to a lottery and dating app perks, free marijuana is the latest push to increase the percentage of vaccinated adults in the US.

In a statement released by the state’s liquor and cannabis board, licensed retailers will be allowed to offer customers 21-years-old and above a pre-rolled joint when they receive their COVID-19 vaccinations at an in-store clinic. This initiative will last till July 12, as per HuffPost.

Current figures place over half of adults in the US having received at least one shot. Hopefully, ingenious initiatives such as ‘“Joints For Jabs” will encourage even more people to get themselves vaccinated.

Limited Allowance for Cannabis Retailers to Provide One Joint at No Cost to Customers who receive a COVID-19 Vaccine at In-Store Clinic https://t.co/wiOVqP4JWo

— WA Liquor & Cannabis Board (@WSLCB) June 7, 2021

[via HuffPost, cover via Chokniti Khongchum / Shutterstock.com] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414273/Washington-State-Is-Giving-Out-Free-Weed-Joints-To-Those-Getting-COVID-Vaccines/

Amazon Pulls Down Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Cards From Its Website

Image via Shutterstock

As you might have observed at the dawn of the pandemic, some people would jump through hoops to circumvent COVID-19 precautions. Now that vaccinations have been added to the list of safety measures, consumers are thinking a little too creatively to avoid their jabs.

It thus comes as little surprise that counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine cards have made their way onto online retail platforms like eBay and Amazon. A listing found on Amazon, for instance, was for a pack of 10 blank cards that buyers could use to forge vaccination records.

Sold for US$12.99, the cards were advertised as suitable for “Meetings, Senior Centers, Reunions, Festivals, Retreats, Office, Family and School Reunions, Store Tags, etc.,” inadvertently leaving unwitting peers at risk if they got close to someone infected with the coronavirus.

Insider contacted Amazon about the listing, and it has since been taken down.

“We do not allow the products in question in our store,” a spokesperson for Amazon told the media outlet. The website said it has also “taken action on the bad actors” behind the listing.

The FBI has cautioned that circulating fraudulent vaccine cards is against the law. “The unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal [such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] is a crime and may be punishable under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws,” it warned in March.

Now Amazon is selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards https://t.co/GgqaopXqyy pic.twitter.com/B9mcHhao4f

— Olivia Little (@OliviaLittle) June 7, 2021

[via Insider, image via Shutterstock] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414262/Amazon-Pulls-Down-Fake-COVID-19-Vaccine-Cards-From-Its-Website/

World Health Organization Gives COVID-19 Variants New Names To End Stigma

Image via Shutterstock

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced it will begin using a new naming system when referring to variants of COVID-19.

Instead of terming the variants based on the country they originated from or were detected by, such as the “UK Variant” or “Indian Variant,” the WHO will be using letters of the Greek alphabet instead. For example, the “UK Variant” will now be known as the “Alpha Variant.”

According to the BBC, the WHO said this would help to streamline discussions and prevent discrimination due to the names.

Last month, the Indian government had criticized the naming of the B.1.617.2 COVID-19 strain as the “Indian Variant,” though it was never an officially-recognized name.

The new names will not replace the existing scientific names, but are there to help facilitate public discourse. If more than 24 variants are identified and all of the Greek letters have been used, the WHO will decide on a new naming system.

“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” said WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead, Maria Van Kerkhove.

Today, @WHO announces new, easy-to-say labels for #SARSCoV2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) & Interest (VOIs)

They will not replace existing scientific names, but are aimed to help in public discussion of VOI/VOC

Read more here (will be live soon):
https://t.co/VNvjJn8Xcv#COVID19 pic.twitter.com/L9YOfxmKW7

— Maria Van Kerkhove (@mvankerkhove) May 31, 2021

[via BBC, cover image via Shutterstock] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414193/World-Health-Organization-Gives-COVID-19-Variants-New-Names-To-End-Stigma/

Uber & Lyft Are Offering Free Rides To And From Vaccination Sites

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Image via Lyft

As part of a partnership with the White House, ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft have launched free rides for anyone getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The free rides will be available till July 4.

According to TechCrunch, Uber and Lyft will be covering the costs of the trips. Both companies have been helping underserved communities access vaccines, such as Uber’s free rides and deliveries, or its vaccine appointment booking with Walgreens.

Lyft had also participated in a vaccine access campaign, providing 60 million rides to and from vaccination sites for at-risk communities.

Uber is offering four one-way (two round-trips) rides of up to US$25 off each. Each of the two round-trips must be used three weeks apart, which is the wait period between vaccine doses.

Lyft is also offering two round-trip rides, of up to US$15 each way. If a ride costs more than US$15, or a user chooses to tip their driver, the additional charges will be taken from their personal form of payment. These free round-trips have to be three weeks apart, too.

The campaigns follow dating apps’ introduction of perks for users who have been vaccinated, also part of an initiative with the White House.

[via TechCrunch, cover image via Lyft] http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414131/Uber-Lyft-Are-Offering-Free-Rides-To-And-From-Vaccination-Sites/

United Airlines Could Let You Fly First Class For A Year—Free—If You’re Vaxxed

Image via travelview / Shutterstock.com

From free fries to dating app perks, and even lottery tickets, getting vaccinated comes with an entire slew of benefits beyond health-related ones.

Now, United Airlines has announced its ‘Your Shot to Fly’ sweepstakes, which will see five grand prize winners receive one year of free travel in any class of service for themselves and one companion.

30 other winners will also receive a free roundtrip flight for two in any class of service, for any destination they choose.

To participate, MileagePlus members over the age of 18 have to upload their vaccination card to their United account by June 22 to qualify. This can be done either on the http://www.designtaxi.com/news/414128/United-Airlines-Could-Let-You-Fly-First-Class-For-A-Year-Free-If-You-re-Vaxxed/

Adam Thomas’ six-year-old son raised £13,000 for charity after Captain Sir Tom Moore inspired him to walk 10k

PROUD dad Adam Thomas has revealed his six-year-old son raised £13,000 for charity after Captain Sir Tom Moore inspired him to walk 10k. The former …

Adam Thomas’ six-year-old son raised £13,000 for charity after Captain Sir Tom Moore inspired him to walk 10k

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

How Facebook is Helping Brands Adapt for the Mindful Consumer

2020 has been a challenge — particularly when it comes to mental health. From online fitness classes to recipe inspiration and DIY projects — consumers have a renewed sense of appreciation for the simpler things in life as they carve out new mindful habits. While this has become apparent, what this will ultimately spell out for the industry is still up for discussion.

Facebook recently embarked on a report to uncover some of the trends that will have a lasting impact on health and well-being and what they mean for brands as they prepare their strategies ahead of 2021.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the key topics and findings.

Self-care as an essential ritual

During a time where widespread working-from-home arrangements have blurred the boundaries between work and leisure, wellness routines and creative pursuits have become instrumental in carving out “me” time. For consumers, this is regarded as essential for relaxation and as a means of entertainment in lieu of regular social events.

Per the report findings, over half (58%) U.S. consumers who have worked on a craft or DIY project for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic say this is an activity they could see themselves continuing to do for years to come. Further, 80 percent of Americans intend to regularly practice self-care post-pandemic.

What is the moral here for brands? Self-care is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Consumers are more likely to engage in mindful purchases with a treat yourself mentality as opposed to impulsive ones and crave opportunities to create small moments of serenity day-to-day. In turn, there is a tremendous opportunity for brands to step in and reshape their narratives in ways that empower the consumer to establish their own health-building habits.

Altruism and purpose

Seventy percent of survey respondents reported they are now more aware that human activity threatens the climate than they were before the outbreak of COVID-19. Roughly the same percentage (71%) of consumers say they’d lose trust in a brand forever should it be seen placing profit over people.

Beyond helping people care for themselves, it is table stakes for today’s brands to take a stand on social and environmental issues and consumers will be quick to flag when they don’t or an attempt is disingenuous. In this vein, customers want to be thought of as humans, not consumers, and have their values and interests reflected in the companies they support. More than ever, they want the affirmation their purchasing power is being used to create positive change.

The prioritization of brands to display human qualities including empathy, compassion, and kindness is not only one consumers look to in a brand’s external communications, but also across their organization. As an example, 55 percent of U.S. consumers find it important that a brand offers medical and paid sick leave benefits to all employees. In other major markets like the U.K., this figure is even higher at 75 percent.

Social listening and empathetic experiences

As the report refers to it, “future-proofing” is on the rise with consumers tackling tough, longer-term decisions amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19. This ranges from career choices to saving or relocating, and even lifestyle specifics such as diets. More specifically, 75 percent of global consumers plan to eat and drink healthier as a result of the pandemic.

In addition to self-care, this year peace of mind has largely been derived from planning and brands can continue to play an instrumental role in this regard as consumers seek safety and stability. Experiences are varied so this can present obstacles by way of not being able to lean back on a one-size-fits-all strategy. To overcome this, brands must lead with adaptability, practice regular social listening to ensure alignment with values and needs of consumers, and reflect this effort through empathetic messaging.

COVID-19 has not only sharpened the individual level of mindfulness but what it means to be collectively well as a society. Consumers expect brands to step up, be active listeners, and assume responsibility for their communities as definitions of care and wellness evolve. As the brand-consumer relationship faces growing complexity, marketers should focus on several basic questions as their guidepost including who are you marketing to, how can you appropriately target them, and how has their mindset shifted?

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The post How Facebook is Helping Brands Adapt for the Mindful Consumer appeared first on Social Media Week.


Welsh Business News – Welsh Government to support small businesses with innovative ideas #WelshBiz

The Welsh Government is making funding available to support businesses with innovative products and services that will help communities and the public sector adapt to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which can offer up to £50,000 to promising projects able to start in January 2021 and complete by the end of March, will also be important for schemes that can support the public sector after the EU Transition period.

The focus will be on creating better lives closer to home, by delivering against three key objectives that support the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan. These are to:

Build Back Green – enabling businesses and communities to adapt to the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19 with a focus on a healthier, cleaner and more sustainable Wales. We are looking for solutions that enable people to continue to work closer to home, considering accessibility and safety whilst maintaining a sense of community and connection.
Create sustainability and security in supply chains – supporting place-based and needs-led driven business supply chains to secure jobs for the future and to safeguard against further supply chain disruptions so that communities have access to healthy food sources.
Support mental and physical wellbeing for all generations – developing new products and services to address mental health, improve access to care, and support the resilience of communities throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Solutions could include ways to use emerging digital and smart technology to support the mental wellbeing of people within communities; reduce the impact of emissions on health; tackle the impacts of food poverty; or reduce unemployment and the need to commute.

Minister for Economy, Transport, and North Wales, Ken Skates, said: “The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest public health emergency this country has ever faced. We need people with expertise, entrepreneurship and innovative thinking to work with us and help deliver sustainable solutions to the challenges it poses to the long term wellbeing of our communities and economy.

“I am incredibly proud of the ingenuity and sense of community Wales has demonstrated in dealing with the impacts of coronavirus virus, but there is much more to be done as we continue to adapt to the ever changing landscape in which we live and work.

“The Small Business Research Initiative provides important funding for firms to link with the public sector and deliver important solutions to specific challenges. I encourage those with an interest to get involved.”

Lynda Jones, SBRI Centre of Excellence manager, said: “COVID 19 has affected us all, and for this challenge we are seeking innovations that will help support long term health and wellbeing whilst supporting communities and the economy.

“Successful applicants will have the unique opportunity to collaborate and work closely with a team of experts from the relevant sectors to help develop their solutions.”

The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) has a total of £250,000 available to offer successful projects.

Businesses have until 12pm on November 27, 2020 to submit their ideas.

For more information, e-mail: SBRI.COE@wales.nhs.uk

For more information and to submit a project for consideration, visit: sdi.click/betterlives
— Read on www.wales247.co.uk/welsh-government-to-support-small-businesses-with-innovative-ideas/

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

Welsh Business News – Over 5,500 businesses apply for Welsh Government’s £100m Economic Resilience Fund in two days | North Wales Chronicle

THE first-come-first-serve business grants of the Welsh Government’s £100million Economic Resilience Fund has been fully subscribed with more than 5,500 businesses applying for support in just two days.

Demand from businesses of all sizes across Wales has been received since the latest round of the ERF Development Grants which opened to applications on Wednesday, October 28.

Businesses can still however benefit from the £200m available from the third phase of the fund.

The £100m business grants are part of the £300m made available in the third stage of the ERF by the Welsh Government to support businesses continuing to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. £20m of this is ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality businesses.

The Welsh Government said applications will now be processed as quickly as possible and it expects to start getting support out to businesses from mid-November.

Businesses can still benefit from the £200m available from the third phase.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that are required to close and which occupy a property with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000 will be eligible for a share of the £200m funding and all businesses eligible for Small Business rate relief will also receive support. Businesses have to register and update their details via Business Wales or their Local Authority to receive financial support.

Eligible firms that do not qualify for business rates linked grants are able to apply for awards of up to £2,000 from a £25m discretionary fund via their local authority.

Economy minister Ken Skates said: “The importance of the Economic Resilience Fund to Welsh businesses is evident in the sheer number of applications that have been received. We know that businesses have been preparing for this for some time, ever since the eligibility checker opened earlier this month.

“We know this is an incredibly difficult and challenging time for companies. We will work hard to get this much needed funding out of the door and into the bank accounts of businesses that need it as quickly as we can.
— Read on www.northwaleschronicle.co.uk/news/18834258.5-500-businesses-apply-welsh-governments-100m-economic-resilience-fund-two-days/

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed cycling in Dublin City? – Weekly News & Analysis

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, people have looked for alternative methods of travelling to avoid busy public transport. Eibhin Kavanagh investigates how the pandemic is affecting cycling in the city.

Is cycling in Dublin City safe? Photo by Eibhin Kavanagh
With our movements once again restricted, people in Ireland are limited to travelling within 5km of their homes. Walking and cycling have become a more popular means of exercising as a result of gyms closing and sporting events being cancelled.

In the last ten years, Dublin has seen an increase in the number of people cycling. A number of bike share schemes have become well established. However, 2020 has seen an exponential increase in cyclists, which Dublin City has had to accommodate. This change, due to social distancing restrictions, means more space is required for both pedestrians and cyclists to make their way around the  city.  

Councillor Michael Pidgeon talked to The City about the recent changes related to cycling in Dublin City.

“In some ways I think the people are ahead of where the city is,” Pidgeon said. “We know that outside of peak hours there are now more people cycling than there were at this time of the year last year; there’s been a huge increase.”

Dublin City Council projected  a 200% increase of cyclists in Dublin City from 2019 to 2020.This would be an increase from 13,131 to 39,000.

  2019 Figures Likely Future Change Potential Future Figures
All Public Transport 116,287 80% Capacity Reduction 30,000
Car 57,985 Approx. 30% reduction 41,000
Taxi 2,661 Assume 30% reduction 1,900
Walk 24,691 Target 100% increase 50,000
Cycle 13,131 Target 200% increase 39,000
Goods 983 No change 1,000
Motorcycles 1,485 No change 1,485
Total (persons) 217,223   164,385
Source: Dublin City Council 
Source: Dublin City Council 

The Canal Cordon Count was analysed by Dublin City Council to determine where the greatest demand for walking and cycling was recorded. The table below shows the number of people crossing the canal cordon (both directions) during the morning peak period from 7am to 10am in November 2019.

Source: Dublin City Council 
From 1997 to 2019, the number of cyclists crossing this cordon heading into the city centre between 7 am and 10 am increased by 133%, from 5,628 to 13,125.

The number of cyclists remained between  4,000 and 6,000 between 1997 and 2010 before increasing by approximately 15% year on year until 2015 when the increase slowed up until 2017.  There was a small decrease in 2018,  but cycling numbers increased by 7.3% in 2018 and 2019. 

Source: Dublin City Council 
According to research conducted by the Road Safety Authority, 4 in 5 cyclists are injured on urban roads. More cyclists are  injured during morning and evening commutes. Of all collisions involving another vehicle – 4 in 5 cyclists are injured by cars. 1,056 cyclists were injured in collisions in 2018.

In Dublin, the number of cyclist deaths since 1997 has remained relatively low with a slight increase in 2017, according to figures collected by the Road Safety Authority.

Image Source- Irish Cycle.com
Dublin has over 120 miles of cycle routes. While changes have been ongoing to improve cycling infrastructure in the city, especially since lockdown in the spring, the demand is high for safe and accessible cycling.

“It felt like at the start of the pandemic there was a real understanding that we needed to take more space for cycling to encourage more people to do it, but it feels like that momentum has dropped a bit,” said Pidgeon. “So, I think that we need to get that going again.

“In terms of infrastructure, I think the big changes we have seen are some of the temporary measures along the quays, particularly along the northside quays.”

Some of the Cycle Safety interventions introduced since April include the installation of Nassau Street contra-flow cycle track from Clare Street to Dawson Street, the partial installation of key sections of the Interim Liffey Cycle route, removal of on-street car parking from Inns Quay and Ormond Quay, and a section of work from Church Street to Ha’penny Bridge, according to Dublin City Council.

Dublin City Council also discussed other plans to ensure safe cycling in the city, including the reduction of the number of traffic lanes to accommodate protected cycling facilities on both sides of the road, while maintaining a balance for other required services. While there have been major changes made within Dublin City Centre to ensure safe cycling, other parts of the city have yet to see changes that will make cycling accessible and safe.

“One of the things is to start looking at the urban villages, so instead of just focusing on the very core city centre, you would be looking at areas like Inchicore, Rialto, Stoneybatter, Phibsborough, Rathmines,” Pidgeon said in relation to making cycling consistent for everyone.

“What we seen in the pandemic is that people are happy enough to stay within a few kilometers of where they live, so we shouldn’t just be designing a cycle lane with a view that will just take office workers from the suburbs to the city centre, because that’s not what the demand is right now. That’s important, we should definitely do that, but it will have to also be about making sure that local routes around your home are safe.

“There’s still a lot to do, but equally I’d like to say that cycling in Dublin City is safe. There’s a perception of danger that I don’t think is entirely there. There’s a lot the city needs to do to feel a lot safer and be safer with segregated lanes, but if anyone’s considering it, I’d say just ask a friend who does cycle regularly and they can show you some good routes give you some tips and you’ll be up and running in no time.”
— Read on thecity.ie/2020/11/04/how-has-the-covid-19-pandemic-changed-cycling-in-dublin-city/

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

How LinkedIn is Combining Paid and Organic Tools to Boost Virtual Events

In May Linkedin debuted Virtual Events to help smooth the transition to virtual events. Since then, more than 200,000 events have been hosted on the platform, reaching nearly 10 million digital attendees. Seven months of this “new normal,” however, there is still a lot to navigate and new questions and virtual surrounding hybrid and virtual events continue to surface.

To improve its Events options even further, LinkedIn solicited feedback about the offering and identified several key areas of improvement. More specifically, the company is introducing new discovery features, promotion options, and data capture processes.

Here’s a high-level overview of the updates and how you can bring them into your strategy for your next event.

Driving organic discovery

First off, LinkedIn is enhancing organic discovery through personalized recommendations in the “My Network” tab and weekly Event email digests. “So far, we’ve seen a +40% increase in event attendees from recommendations found in the ‘My Network’ tab,” the company shared.

Separately, when you post an event from your business Page, LinkedIn will automatically notify your followers who are most likely to attend based on various criteria, including their interests. In an age of information overload, hyper-targeted and relevant messages are critical to rise above the noise and earn attention. Ideally, these efforts will help reduce the clutter in this regard and limit potential spam.

Capturing leads

As part of the feedback, Linkedin also heard from businesses that they’d like more streamlined options for tracking attendees and gathering important data on those who have registered their interest in their event. In response, the platform is introducing registration forms for events where details including names and details can be captured.

A bonus? These lists are downloadable directly from your event page and used to send personalized notes including thank you emails. In addition, you can bring these into your CRM or share it with your sales teams to build your outreach lists over time.

Promoting and retargeting events

Per Linkedin, Page followers who are exposed to your organic content are 61 percent more likely to convert on your paid ad. What does this really mean in the grand scheme of your strategy planning? Successful promotion involves a mixed media strategy.

To help boost the reach of organic posts around events, the company is rolling out “Sponsored Content Single Image Ads.” Per LinkedIn’s Head of Product, Ajay Datta, these will be particularly effective in engaging executives, decision-makers, and other hard-to-reach audiences. In addition, when included with an Event URL, these ads can be a straightforward way to trace how it performs against new, specified metrics, such as the total number of registrants, as well as views and clicks on the ad that resulted in a registration. To continue the conversation with prior event registrants, simply create a custom target audience in Campaign Manager based on those who have RSVPed to any of your LinkedIn Events.

The growing usage of video connection

According to Linkedin, 60 percent of members want to use video meetings on LinkedIn for networking. This added layer of human connection while keeping a safe distance amid the current pandemic, is more important than ever and gives an opportunity for people to bring humanity to their conversations and practice digital empathy.

In this vein, LinkedIn announced the full roll-out of its new video meeting options within InMessage. The platform hinted at this update a few weeks back as part of its overall refresh including new colors and visuals. To initiate a video call with another person or group in a thread, click on the video meeting icon and select a provider including Blue Jeans or Zoom, to sign-in or register. LinkedIn isn’t stopping here, either. The company hinted that it is also working on advanced event analytics, a new Events Ad format, and attendee networking options slated for roll out soon.

Let’s face it — B2B events will likely never be the same but rather become a hybrid of the physical and digital. COVID-19 has taught us that we can use technology and re-think the various aspects of in-person events from ticketing and registration to presentations and networking and redesign them in meaningful ways to maximize impact for everyone involved.

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