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Job seekers: These 9 careers let you work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off

Job seekers: These 9 careers let you work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off
[Photo: Aidan Bartos/Unsplash]

The 40-hour workweek is a bad deal: Most of your day-to-day time is consumed by eight hours of daily work, plus eating and self-care and errands, leaving no time for your own interests.

If the coronavirus pandemic is forcing you to consider other career paths, why not seek one with an awesome schedule? “Capitalize on this unique opportunity to explore,” says Ariel Schur, CEO of New York recruiting firm ABS Staffing. “Are there certain aspirations that you’ve never explored?” Yes! Weeks off, every month. Here are “equal time off” roles.

  • Commercial shipping and fishing crews. Ships and barges hire seamen to live and work on board, often 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.  Deep-sea routes can be 30-45 days on/off, though those schedules can be psychologically brutal. Bigger ships hire cleaners, cooks, crew, and engineers.
  • Traveling and live-in nurses. Traveling and emergency flight nurses often work long stretches on/off. Live-in nurses live 1-2 weeks in a home caring, sleeping over, followed by 1-2 weeks off.
  • Magazine fact-checkers. Editorial publications often hire fact-checkers to proof articles. At monthly magazines, this can mean working 7-14 days per month.
  • Hospital workers. Everyone from nurses and x-ray techs to physician assistants and administrative staff work on/off shifts. There are many shift varieties: Some work three 12-hour days, followed by 4 days off, or week on/week off stints of 12-hour shifts.
  • Firefighters and medics. Firehouse staffs typically work 24 hours on, 48 hours off, or 48-72 hours on, 96 hours off. Wildland firefighters work seasonally for employers like the National Park Service with 1-2 week on/off shifts.
  • Remote camp staffers. Everything from mountain base camps to arctic research camps need camp managers and staff, who typically work schedules of 3-6 months on/off, and seasonally in harsh weather environments.
  • Miners and oil field/rig workers. These locations hire a variety of positions, including camp support, security, engineers, carpenters, cleaners, field hospitality, etc. Shifts of 1-3 weeks on, 1-3 weeks off are common, working 12-hour days.
  • Wilderness trekking. Leaders of teen and adult programs typically run or assist on 2-week trips, and then enjoy 2 weeks off. Pay can be low.
  • Overseas contractor. Companies with government contracts to work abroad, often in war zones or violent regions, often work a few months a year.

Pro tip: Blocks of more than a few days can damage romantic and family relationships. Workers without children often do best by finding a partner on the same schedule. Enjoy your equal time off.

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Here’s what’s included in the $3 trillion HEROES Act

Here’s what’s included in the $3 trillion HEROES Act
[Photo: Keith Mellnick/AFGE/Flickr; Darren Halstead/Unsplash]

Update Friday, 10:15 p.m. ET:

The House passed the HEROES Act. You can read the full text here.

Original story: 

A massive $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, put forth by Democrats in the House of Representatives Tuesday, is headed into voting today. Dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act, the legislation spans 1,815 pages and lists a number of provisions for Americans struggling economically during the coronavirus crisis.

Here are some of the main highlights:

  • Funding for coronavirus testing and containment measures: The bill provides $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing implementation, and also allows all Americans to receive free coronavirus treatment.
  • Direct payments to Americans: The bill provides $1,200 to individuals making less than $99,000 per year, or $2,400 to married couples making less than $198,000, and additional payments for up to three dependents.
  • Extended unemployment benefits: The bill extends $600 weekly unemployment benefits until January 2021.
  • Student loan debt forgiveness: The bill offers $10,000 loan cancellations to “economically distressed borrowers,” defined as borrowers already under pressure before the start of the pandemic.
  • Support for homeowners and renters: The bill offers $100 billion to low-income renters to protect them from eviction, and $75 billion to homeowners for mortgage payments, to protect them from foreclosure.
  • Support for frontline workers: The bill establishes a $200 billion “Heroes’ Fund” to cover hazard pay for essential workers, and supplies $850 million to states to assist with childcare and family care for essential workers.
  • Support for farmers: The bill provides $50 million to farmers, farmers markets, and local food producers impacted by supply chain disruptions, and another $50 million to fledgling farmers and ranchers.
  • Funding for the U.S. Postal Service: The bill provides $25 billion to the USPS.
  • Funding for state and local governments: The bill provides $500 billion to state governments, $375 billion to local governments, $20 billion to U.S. territories, and $20 billion to tribal governments.
  • Election security: The bill provides $3.6 billion to states to prepare for upcoming elections and to increase election security.

Capitol Hill legislators’ response to the proposal has been mixed, with Democrats saying it doesn’t go far enough to ensure healthcare and economic security for Americans, and Republicans saying the price tag is far too high. If the proposal passes a House vote today, according to reports, some Republicans have indicated that the bill is likely “dead on arrival” in the Republican-led Senate.

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  • 3:05 pm

Trump announces ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ not to be confused with the new ‘Star Trek’ show from CBS

Trump announces ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ not to be confused with the new ‘Star Trek’ show from CBS
[Photo: Andrea Hanks/The White House/Flickr]

President Trump, who had paused his daily coronavirus briefings lately, took a break from his break this afternoon to announce “Operation Warp Speed,” an effort to fast-track the development of an effective vaccine for COVID-19.

“That means big and it means fast,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon.

Moncef Slaoui, a former executive at GlaxoSmithKline, will lead the effort, along with General Gustave Perna of the U.S. Army. Trump told reporters a vaccine could be available in the “near future,” possibly by the end of the year, CBS News reported. Public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have generally said that a vaccine would take at least a year to 18 months, and some have predicted we won’t see one for years.

The announcement comes as states begin to slowly reopen their economies, and as the administration shifts its focus away from the immediate public health crisis and toward getting Americans back to work. Weirdly, the news also came on the same day that CBS announced yet another Star Trek series for its All Access streaming service, an aptly titled series called Strange New Worlds.

Nothing against the milking of beloved sci-fi franchises for all they’re worth, but this is about all the Star Trek saturation we can stand for one day. Beam us out of here.

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‘Contact tracer’ is the hot well-paying job of our era, and you can train to be one for free

‘Contact tracer’ is the hot well-paying job of our era, and you can train to be one for free
[Photo: Pablo Cordero/Pexels]

American states are scrambling to staff up on contact tracers, hiring 100,000-300,000 employees to keep tabs on COVID-19 patients and their contacts. The job is often (though not always) well paid, up to $65,000 per year, and ideal for furloughed workers with strong social skills.

To get up to speed and stand out on your application, enroll in COVID-19 Contact Tracing, a free five-hour course by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, offered through Coursera. The course is taught by an epidemiologist and covers the fundamentals of the coronavirus, guidelines for contact tracing and isolation, how to be an active listener, and common difficulties. It includes scenes with professional actors, demonstrating typical contact-tracing interactions. New York State, which is hiring as many as 17,000 contact tracers, will require the course for new tracers.

The course was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies in an effort to help contact-tracing programs worldwide aggressively scale and quickly train new hires.

To find a job near you, Google search “[your state] contact tracer jobs.”

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  • 12:00 pm

Facebook grows its empire with Giphy, king of memes

Facebook grows its empire with Giphy, king of memes
[Photo: DISRUPTIVO/Unsplash]

Facebook is adding to its internet empire. The social media network has acquired GIF platform Giphy, which will be integrated with Facebook’s Instagram unit.

The deal was valued at $400 million, reported Axios. Giphy, which hosts a library of GIFs and serves as a GIF generator, already provided built-in search functions for the Facebook-owned apps Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, and 50% of its traffic came from Facebook apps. In a press release, Facebook said it plans to “further integrate their GIF library into Instagram and our other apps” via GIF and sticker searches in Instagram Stories and Direct.

Giphy will continue to operate its own global content collection independently, and users will still be able to create and upload GIFs on the website. Developers’ and API partners’ access to Giphy’s API will remain unchanged, and Facebook said it seeks to “invest further in [Giphy’s] technology and relationships.”

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When will bars and restaurants reopen? Here are the 12 steps the CDC says businesses should follow

When will bars and restaurants reopen? Here are the 12 steps the CDC says businesses should follow
[Photo: Amel Majanovic/Unsplash]

According to a recent Morning Consult poll, only 22% of Americans would feel comfortable eating out at a restaurant in the next month based on what they know today about the coronavirus pandemic. While that is an increase from the 9% who said the same thing in early April, it still indicates that food-service establishments will face significant challenges as states begin to gradually ease their lockdown restrictions.

Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering a road map of what that gradual easing might look like for customer-starved bars and restaurants.

Actually, it’s more of a flowchart than a road map. In its latest COVID-19 report yesterday, the CDC included its long-awaited guidance for food-service establishments, laying out what steps they should take to ensure they’re safe for reopening. The report includes a 12-step “decision tool” that maps out each step and explains if bars and restaurants can proceed to the next one.

The takeaway? It seems clear that most bars and restaurants won’t be reopening anytime soon, and even when they finally do, they may not resemble the frenetic, fun-filled public spaces we knew and loved before the pandemic. The CDC’s decision tool includes three parts, each asking a different question for proprietors:

  • Should you consider opening?
  • Are recommended health and safety actions in place?
  • Is ongoing monitoring in place?

Within each section is a list of additional steps, including—first and foremost—making sure the establishment is following state and local orders. The guidelines also emphasize employee safety procedures, proper cleaning and disinfecting of the environment, enforcing social-distancing practices, monitoring employees for symptoms, and being ready to communicate with local health authorities if new cases are suspected.

Trust me. This all looks better in a flowchart. You can see the 12-step tool for yourself here.

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A seventh Amazon worker has died from COVID-19, and employees are scared

A seventh Amazon worker has died from COVID-19, and employees are scared
[Photo: www.quotecatalog.com]

Since the pandemic began its spread around the United States, Amazon has become something of a necessity for millions of Americans under lockdown. Shopping on the site allows people to buy everything from food to toilet paper to PPE without risking going out into the world to shop themselves.

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Due to the surge in orders, Amazon is one of the few companies doing gangbusters during the pandemic. Matter of fact, it’s hired hundreds of thousands of workers just to keep up with orders. Sadly, however, those workers are putting their lives on the line every day in Amazon warehouses to ensure our orders are filled.

And as of today, the seventh Amazon worker is known to have died from COVID-19. As The Verge reports, a warehouse worker at an Amazon distribution center known as IND8 died on April 30 after contracting the disease. IND8 is in Indianapolis, and the worker’s death represents the second Amazon employee to have died in the state. Amazon workers in Jeffersonville, Indiana; Staten Island and Bethpage, New York; Waukegan, Illinois; and Hawthorne and Tracy, California, are also confirmed to have died after contracting COVID-19.

Amazon has maintained that it takes aggressive steps to make sure its workers are working under safe conditions, such as cleanings and temperature checks. But as The Verge notes, workers say such cleanings are ineffective and conditions at the warehouses make it hard for workers to social distance.

One IND8 worker even reported, “Before we had the unlimited UPT [unpaid time off] so if people didn’t feel safe, they didn’t have to come to work. When that went away, we went from having one hundred twenty five people back to four to five hundred people per shift. It’s really crowded.”

Amazon has been texting its warehouse workers whenever someone tests positive for COVID-19 at their facility, but workers say the notifications aren’t specific—only mentioning that there have been one or more positive cases; the texts do not reveal specific figures. Announcing the seventh worker’s death to its employees, Amazon said, “We are saddened by the loss of an associate at our site in Indianapolis, IN. His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues in the days ahead.”

As of the time of this writing, at least 800 Amazon warehouse workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

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This unemployment map shows how millions of job losses are impacting each state

This unemployment map shows how millions of job losses are impacting each state
[Photo: Marco Bianchetti/Unsplash; Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

Another Thursday means another unemployment report from the U.S. Labor Department, in a grim weekly ritual that was scarcely noticed in more idyllic times. The latest developments: Nearly 3 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related job losses to almost 36.5 million.

But job losses haven’t hit states equally, notes WalletHub. The personal finance website has compiled data on unemployment claims in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia and produced a wide-ranging report comparing the impact on their workforces. The report (and its associated interactive map, embedded below) shows which states have seen the biggest increases in unemployment year over year, since January 2020, and since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which WalletHub determined to be March 16 in the U.S. (Georgia, for example, has seen a 4,933% surge in claims since that date).

Source: WalletHub

The report also compares the impact on red states as opposed to blue states and pits coronavirus job losses against Great Recession job losses (coronavirus takes the top spot—by a lot).

Check out the full report here.

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Losing health insurance after a job loss: 5 alternatives to employer-based coverage

Losing health insurance after a job loss: 5 alternatives to employer-based coverage
[Photo: Daan Stevens/Unsplash]

The massive scale of job losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of horrifying. And for millions of Americans and their families, the loss of their employer-based health insurance will be equally horrifying—especially because it comes at a time when families need it most.

According to a recent estimate from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 26 million people will become uninsured as a result of the recent COVID-19 job losses. California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio will be the hardest hit in terms of sheer numbers, with those states combined accounting for almost half of the newly unemployed, KFF estimates.

Fortunately, the majority of newly uninsured families will qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act and other alternatives. In a separate analysis, KFF lists five distinct options:

  • Medicaid: Many states have expanded Medicaid benefits under the ACA (full up-to-date list here), and people whose income falls below the threshold could qualify.
  • Marketplace: The general ACA marketplace is available for people who don’t qualify for Medicaid, and families below certain income thresholds may be eligible for subsidies.
  • ESI dependent coverage: People who lose their jobs may be able to get covered through their spouse’s or parent’s employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) as a dependent.
  • COBRA: This temporary option is available to many workers who lose their jobs, although it isn’t cheap.
  • Short-term plans: According to KFF, short-term plans of up to a year “can sometimes be renewed under revised rules from the Trump administration.”

KFF’s full analysis—along with a detailed breakdown of the above options—can be found on its website.

The sudden and dramatic rise in unemployment is causing some long-time vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, to see the landmark health law in a new light. In a recent interview with PBS, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas—who fought for years to repeal the law—said it was “good news” that many people who lose their employer-based healthcare have the ACA as an option. (We’re glad that’s cleared up.)

Tragically, not all newly uninsured people will be eligible for alternative coverage, according to KFF, which estimates that 5.7 million Americans could be left with the additional burden of paying for full coverage. The reality is, many are likely to remain uninsured.

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Coronavirus-torn NYC hasn’t lost its shine for these would-be travelers. Would you still visit?

Coronavirus-torn NYC hasn’t lost its shine for these would-be travelers. Would you still visit?
[Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images]

What better way to escape the confines of the coronavirus pandemic than with the vast expanse of the internet?

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While Americans—barred from leaving their homes—trudge back and forth from TV room to refrigerator, they can still dream of one day traveling farther. Down the block to the local park would be a start, but with the innumerable possibilities of online search engines, imaginations take flight—soaring above and beyond our lowly borders to such foreign lands as Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, and New York.

Booking.com, “The World’s #1 Choice for Booking Accommodations,” has shone in this moment of unlimited free time and raging cabin fever. The website offers a feature that involves clicking a heart icon present on every property’s listing, which adds it to the clicker’s “wish list.” And in an email to Fast Company, the company revealed that in March and April, “millions of travel wish lists” were created that selected properties “across over 100,000 different destinations.”

Of Americans’ wish lists, 51% are for domestic trips, up from 33% this time last year. And the top five U.S. destinations are:

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  3. Miami Beach, Florida
  4. New York, New York
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada

It’s unsurprising that beach destinations top the list as most of us huddle indoors, vitamin D-deficient and forgetting the feeling of sunshine on our back. The most overeager of us are already beginning to crowd beaches, even before it has been deemed safe. And the glitz, glamour, and gambling of Las Vegas are big draws, as always.

But it seems New York, which has been hard hit and has become the coronavirus epicenter in the United States, has not lost its shine for Americans. People would still visit! According to Booking.com, “Endorsements left for these destinations by past American travelers on Booking.com suggests that their shared appeal lies in restaurants, entertainment and shopping”—although there’s a chance that after the pandemic subsides, New York will look a lot different. As restaurants and retailers remain shuttered for months on end, the percentage that will never reopen is likely to increase, transforming the city’s streets and neighborhoods as we know them.

Even so, this news represents hope that New York will pick up and carry on after the pandemic, as it has for hundreds of years. And so will Americans—to places as far away as Cancún, Paris, and Rome, according to their Booking.com international wish lists.

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Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness and safe harbor deadline: Here’s the latest

Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness and safe harbor deadline: Here’s the latest
[Photo: Craig Whitehead/Unsplash; Shane/Unsplash]

Several weeks after the coronavirus pandemic decimated the U.S. economy, countless small businesses impacted by the crisis have yet to receive a shred of government relief. For others that secured federal loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, many are discovering the devil was in the details.

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And those details keep changing.

According to a recent count by The Wall Street Journal, the Small Business Administration has issued more than 40 guidance updates since the program first rolled out. The PPP, as it’s known, allows companies with 500 employees or fewer to apply for forgivable loans of up to $10 million, but the initial rules were riddled with controversial loopholes and confusing contingencies, leaving many to wonder if the funds—$350 billion in the first round approved by Congress followed by an additional $320 billion—were really money well spent.

In one notable example, the Treasury Department issued a change in guidance in April that suggested publicly traded companies that received loans should reexamine whether they really need them. Many did just that, including restaurant chains like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack, which vowed to return the funds.

For borrowers, two important deadlines are approaching: The safe harbor deadline and the eight-week loan forgiveness period. Here’s what to know:

Safe harbor

As noted above, the government could end up making a lot of trouble for recipients who are determined to have taken the loans in bad faith. But guidance from the SBA or the Treasury hasn’t been very clear about what that means, and many businesses have expressed concern that they could potentially be charged with fraud.

“Given potential liability, businesses should review the required certifications in their PPP loan applications, particularly the necessity of PPP loan funds to support their ongoing operations,” said Neil Getnick, an anti-fraud lawyer at the New York City firm Getnick & Getnick, in an email. “Moving forward, federal and state legislation involving funding for COVID-19-related issues needs to prioritize protecting against fraud, waste, and abuse.”

But time is running out. The deadline for returning the loan “no questions asked” is today (Thursday, May 14). After that, as the New York Law Journal points out, “the government will no doubt seek to make examples of undeserving PPP loan recipients.”

  • More information: You can check out the SBA’s latest update on PPP safe harbor here.

Loan forgiveness period

The rules regarding loan forgiveness have also been criticized as confusing and restrictive. PPP loans are only forgivable if a recipient spends most of the money maintaining payroll costs. According to the SBA, 75% must be spent on payroll, while the rest can be spent on other business costs like utilities or rent.

How much of the loan is forgivable? This is where it gets tricky. A borrower’s specific forgiveness amount is based on payroll costs over an eight-week period, and the clock starts ticking as soon as the loan is disbursed. For some of the first recipients, who received funds in early April, that means the eight-week period will expire in the next few weeks. What happens after eight weeks is not entirely clear (both lenders and borrowers have been asking for more guidance), but it’s likely that the loan will not be considered forgivable after that point.

It’s also worth noting that some groups—restaurants and other business with storefronts—have been asking for changes in these forgiveness restrictions. Many argue that it makes no sense for them to maintain payroll when they’re unable to operate due to COVID-19 shutdown orders.

  • What’s the latest? The SBA issued yet another round of frequently asked questions to address confusion over loan forgiveness on Wednesday. Find the questions here.
  • What’s next? According to ABC News, the Treasury Department and SBA are preparing to release new, hopefully simplified guidance on loan forgiveness. That could come as early as today. We’ll update this post if and when we hear more!
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AnitaB.org study finds women in tech are facing a greater burden than ever before

AnitaB.org study finds women in tech are facing a greater burden than ever before
[Photo: Christina Morillo/Pexels]

We already know the number of women in tech is woefully low. Now the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to push those stats further in the wrong direction.

A new survey of 2,620 global respondents conducted by AnitaB.org—the first in a series of studies to track the pandemic’s evolving impact on technical women over time—shows exactly how female technologists are faring and what they’re most concerned about as we collectively move through this crisis.

Among the key findings from the report:

  • 46% of women in tech say they’re worried about losing their job.
  • 22% say layoffs and furloughs are already happening, and an additional 44% say they’re concerned it will happen soon.
  • 43% of all women technologists and 57% of underrepresented minority women technologists believe that if they were laid off it would be hard to find a new job.
  • 32% report their workload increased, and 36% say they’re essential workers who must go on-site to do their jobs.

In addition to the increased workload, those who are able to work from home are reporting that they’re doing an average of 9 hours a week more of domestic labor. Those with kids say they’re adding another 17 hours of domestic work per week. And women in tech who are underrepresented minorities are clocking an additional 25 hours of unpaid labor in the home. One survey respondent put it this way: “I went from one job to multiple full-time jobs.” No wonder the majority (52%) are reporting a decline in mental health.

The report observes that disasters have historically had a “disproportionately negative impact on women, and technical women, especially students and underrepresented ones, are feeling the brunt.” Data from Pew Social Trends indicates that, indeed, the economic recovery from the last recession disproportionately favored men—even in sectors that tend to employ more women, such as education and health services.

“During times of economic downturn, many companies cut back on their efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, jeopardizing the already low representation of women in technology,” the report’s authors write. “Representation and retention of diverse women in technology are critical to ensuring that technology is focused on the needs of all people.”

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Amazon will soon sell its own-branded face shields to stop COVID-19 price gougers

Amazon will soon sell its own-branded face shields to stop COVID-19 price gougers
[Photo: engin akyurt/Unsplash]

If you’ve searched Amazon for a face shield only to feel dejected when you saw the exorbitant cost the third-party seller was charging for it, things are about to get better. Amazon has announced that it is gearing up to make and sell its own Amazon-branded face shields—at one-third the cost that they typically go for on its site.

The face shields are being designed by Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery unit. Ten thousand of them have already been donated to frontline medical workers, with another 20,000 units expected to be delivered this week. After that, however, Amazon will begin selling hundreds of thousands of the face shields on its website later this month.

At first, the face shields will be limited to purchase by frontline workers, with sales extending to any Amazon customer in the future. And while no price has been announced, Brad Porter, a vice president and lead engineer of Amazon Robotics, confirmed they’ll cost much less than current face shields sold on the site:

Because of the design innovations and the capabilities of our supply chain, we are confident we will be able to list them at a significantly lower price—almost a third of the cost—than all other reusable face shields currently available to frontline workers.

As CNBC notes, third-party sellers currently charge anywhere from $15 to $35 dollars for a face shield. Once Amazon’s own face shields hit the market, you can then expect to pay anywhere between $5 and $12 for them, which will undoubtedly drive down the cost of face shields from third-party sellers, too.

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WHO’s chief scientist: COVID-19 pandemic could be uncontrollable for the next 5 years

WHO’s chief scientist: COVID-19 pandemic could be uncontrollable for the next 5 years
World Health Organization Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan. [Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images]

The World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, has warned that there may be no quick end to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite assertions from governments that a vaccine could be available in as little as 12 months. As CNBC reports, speaking at The Financial Times‘ Global Boardroom webinar on Wednesday, Swaminathan said, “I would say in a four- to five-year time frame, we could be looking at controlling this.”

Her comments will come as a disappointment for those who are hoping worrying about the virus could be a thing of the past by as soon as next year. Swaminathan said a number of factors impact the timeline in which we can control the virus, including containment measures, if and how the virus mutates, and, of course, whether we discover a vaccine.

She noted that while a vaccine is the “best way out,” there are a large number of uncertainties that could prolong the time it takes to put a dent into the virus’s spread. Finding a vaccine is just the first step. The logistics of making enough of the vaccine and distributing it to over 7 billion people on the planet is a monumental task.

Swaminathan isn’t the only WHO official who cautioned about thinking that the pandemic could have a short run. At a separate event yesterday, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, Dr. Mike Ryan, warned COVID-19 “may never go away.” Speaking at WHO’s Geneva headquarters, Ryan said:

It is important to put this on the table: This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away . . . I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear.

To date, the virus has infected over 4.3 million people with confirmed deaths surpassing almost 300,000. Despite those numbers, Ryan noted that the “current number of people in our population who’ve been infected is actually relatively low.” In other words, the virus has billions of more people it can infect—and plenty of time to do it.

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Even just one sugary drink per day may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease

Even just one sugary drink per day may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
[Photo: Franck V./Unsplash]

Yet another study has linked drinking sugary drinks daily to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s one more reason to resist the sugar-laced sodas and sports drinks that companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo pack into your local bodega.

The new study, published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at data from 106,000 women over 20 years and found that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages daily “was associated with a nearly 20% greater likelihood of women having a cardiovascular disease compared to women who rarely or never drank sugary beverages,” the American Heart Association wrote.

The researchers relied on survey data from the decades-long California Teachers Study and inpatient hospitalization records in the state. They wrote that their findings “expand the literature on unfavorable effects of [sugar-sweetened beverage] intake.”

That literature includes a 2012 study from the Harvard School of Public Health, which found that men who drink one sugary drink per day have a 20% greater likelihood of coronary heart disease compared to men who don’t. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, continues to urge adults and kids to cut back on sugary drinks and instead turn to—you guessed it—water.

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It’s not your imagination: Grocery bills are rising, and these are the main culprits

It’s not your imagination: Grocery bills are rising, and these are the main culprits
[Photos: sydney Rae/Unsplash; Michael Walter/Unsplash]

As Americans—many of whom are newly unemployed—stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19 and take up cooking in an attempt to cut costs, they might find themselves thwarted by price hikes at their local grocery stores. Turns out you can’t escape the devastating effects of the global pandemic, no matter where you go. Your cookies are now 5.1% more expensive.

We know, you want answers now. Here goes: Among the list of institutions that the coronavirus has upended (including the stock market, the gig economy, and any remaining semblance of a work-life balance) is the food supply chain, which has been thrown out of whack. Farmers and food producers have complex channels in place to distribute their products to restaurants and grocery stores across the country, but after most restaurants shut down and grocery sales began spiking, food suppliers were unable to alter their distribution systems fast enough to meet the sudden shift in demand, leading to a supermarket shortage of highly coveted foodstuffs including eggs, frozen pizza, sourdough yeast, and a selection of Nestle-branded snacks.

Not helping were the hoards of panic-buyers, who loaded their shopping carts with months’ worth of products, further cleaning out shelves that could not be restocked for other customers.

With supply levels low and demand levels high, we must expect prices to increase. And our economic smarts do not fail us, revealed the U.S. Labor Department. Data shows a great majority of grocery store categories have become pricier from March 2020 to April 2020.

Here’s by how much:

  • Fresh biscuits, rolls, and muffins: Up 4.7%
  • Cereals: Up 1.6%
  • Rice and pasta: Up 2.5%
  • Bread: Up 3.7%
  • Cookies: Up 5.1%
  • Crackers: Up 4.0%
  • Uncooked ground beef: Up 4.8%
  • Uncooked beef roasts: Up 5.0%
  • Pork chops: Up 7.4%
  • Pork roasts, steak, and ribs: Up 10.1%
  • Fresh whole chicken: Up 7.1%
  • Frankfurters: Up 5.7%
  • Fresh fish and seafood: Up 4.2%
  • Frozen fish and seafood: Up 5.8%
  • Eggs: Up 16.1%
  • Milk: Up 1.5%
  • Apples: Up 4.9%
  • Oranges and tangerines: Up 5.6%
  • Canned vegetables: Up 3.6%
  • Frozen vegetables: Up 2.7%
  • Soups: Up 2.6%
  • Snacks: Up 3.8%
  • Instant coffee: Up 2.5%

See the full set of data here.

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Horrifying DeepNude app, which undressed women, is replaced by an evil twin

Horrifying DeepNude app, which undressed women, is replaced by an evil twin
[Photo: Saph Photography/Pexels; rawpixel]

No, you shouldn’t click on DeepNude.to, which allows anyone to upload photos of women and see them “nude.” But know that it exists. Anyone can create a convincing nude of any woman for free. Or, um, unlimited nudes for $20/month. No revenge porn problem here!

Since you’re not clicking on it, here are three things to know about this site and why you should avoid it:

  • Historical lineage: DeepNude.to follows its infamous predecessor, DeepNude, which debuted last year to great fanfare and outrage and was removed from the internet last summer by its developers, who faced backlash. DeepNude.to developers have avoided this fate by remaining anonymous.
  • About the company: Its slogans are “The superpower you always wanted” and “The most important technological development of our time.” Not one to miss a business opportunity, the DeepNude.to Twitter feed offers a link to 10-packs of N95 masks, as well as free premium DeepNude.to accounts to patients in a COVID-19 London hospital.
  • Your moral guidelines on this: The app is the embodiment of nonconsent. A woman takes initiative to put on clothes, and an anonymous user removes them. This detail is clouded by the program’s smart-humor feel and double anonymity (users are protected by bitcoin transactions, and of course the developers are unseen), which make the program feel harmless. Ethically speaking, using the site is essentially a sex violation, like stripping and photographing a sleeping woman. Legally speaking, it could be considered harassment.

The Apple and Google app stores have tiptoed into this arena. They don’t offer a DeepNude.to app but do sell apps such as Nüdifier, which pixelates photos so it appears that people are nude but blurred out. (Specifically, Nüdifier “makes the mysterious and previously high-cost process of Nüdification™ available to everyone. Snap a photo, paint off clothes and frame your nudified photo for sharing with everyone! Instant embarrassment!”) Nüdifier’s successful trademark application describes it in more benign terms, as a “computer application software for mobile phones, namely, software for capturing and manipulating photographs.” Right.

DeepNude.to’s homepage says I see nude people. We see heinous people.

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Second stimulus checks update: Here’s the latest as Democrats push for more payments

Second stimulus checks update: Here’s the latest as Democrats push for more payments
[Photo: Andy Feliciotti/Unsplash; NeONBRAND/Unsplash]

Democrats in the House of Representatives put forth a new stimulus package proposal yesterday, and—good news!—it includes a second round of stimulus checks for Americans hurt by the ongoing global pandemic. For example, the 33 million people currently jobless due to COVID-19.

The legislation, called the HEROES Act, would provide $1,200 to Americans making less than $99,000 annually, or $2,400 to married couples making less than $198,000. And additionally, it would provide $1,200 per household dependent, regardless of age, for up to three dependents. The funds would be provided to citizens with Social Security numbers and immigrants with taxpayer identification numbers.

Unfortunately, you can’t count on that second check just yet—the bill faces an uphill battle in a Republican-led Congress as it heads into voting Friday.

Other items in the Democrats’ $3 trillion proposal include expanded coronavirus testing and contact tracing, an extension of $600-weekly unemployment benefits through January, and support to help homeowners and renters make mortgage and rent payments.

An uphill battle it may be, but the bill will likely fare better in Congress than a more ambitious competing proposal from Democratic senators Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, which would offer Americans $2,000 per month during the course of the pandemic.

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2020 graduates, here’s how to get your free Krispy Kreme dozen doughnuts

2020 graduates, here’s how to get your free Krispy Kreme dozen doughnuts
[Photo: The Creative Exchange/Unsplash]

It’s an understatement to say 2020 hasn’t been the best year for most people. But while everyone’s rightfully anxious about the future, those graduating from high school or college this year may feel like they’re facing the most uncertainty out of all of us.

For college seniors, the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic could put more fear into them than the health consequences. And for high school seniors, what kid out there doesn’t dream of having that one last epic summer with your friends before they all go their separate ways? And that’s not even to mention what a bummer it must be to have your graduation ceremonies canceled.

Thankfully, there’s now a way for these dejected graduates to drown their sorrows: by getting a mad sugar high from Krispy Kreme. The popular doughnut maker has announced its 2020 Graduate Dozen promotion—and it’s giving every high school or college senior a box of 12 delicious doughnuts for free.

The 2020 Graduate Dozen includes a mix of KK classics including Chocolate Iced Kreme Filled, Strawberry Iced Kreme Filled, Cake Batter Filled, Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles, Strawberry Iced with Sprinkles, and Yellow Iced Original Glazed Doughnuts. Anyone can buy a box between Monday, May 18, and Sunday, May 24. However, graduating seniors can get their dozen without paying a cent.

All high school or college seniors need to do is show up at a Krispy Kreme store on Tuesday, May 19, wearing their cap and gown with 2020 tassel, and the free 2020 Graduate Dozen is theirs for the taking. Don’t have your cap and gown yet (or already turned it in)? No problem, you can also show up in any class of 2020 apparel, a 2020 senior letterman jacket, or wearing a 2020 class ring. Or, just bring your 2020 student ID showing senior status or your graduation announcement and matching ID.

So, grads . . . let this be an important lesson for you. Though life may throw monumental challenges in your path, there’s always sugar, which helps you cope, at least for a little bit.

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Restaurants should fear an Uber-Grubhub merger

Restaurants should fear an Uber-Grubhub merger
[Photo: Uber]

Restaurant owners barely scraping by on takeout orders during the coronavirus pandemic now have one more thing to worry about: a rumored mega-merger.

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Uber Technologies has made an offer to snap up food delivery giant Grubhub, Bloomberg and others report. Such a deal would consolidate two of the biggest players in the food delivery business, both valued in billions, as each faces scrutiny over the high fees they levy on restaurants and consumers. Talks between the two companies are reportedly ongoing. Neither publicly confirmed the reports.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reached by Fast Company, a Grubhub spokesperson would not confirm or deny the talks, and instead directed us to a vague statement that argues “consolidation could make sense in our industry, and, like any responsible company, we are always looking at value-enhancing opportunities.”

Unfortunately, what makes sense for food delivery companies already fails to add up for many restaurants.

Companies like Uber, which dispatch contracted drivers and cyclists to pick up and deliver food from local and chain restaurants, have faced a wave of new criticism during the pandemic over their substantial markups and the steep revenue cuts they take from restaurants. Consolidating Uber and Grubhub would narrow an already-narrowed field, after GrubHub acquired Seamless and Eat24 and DoorDash bought Caviar. Meanwhile, delivery fees have generally been on the rise, and with less competition there would presumably be less pressure on Uber to compete for dollars from hungry shoppers.

If the deal comes through, it will likely attract scrutiny from progressive Democrats. At the end of April, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York proposed the Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act, a bill that would pause large mergers and acquisitions until “small businesses, workers, and consumers are no longer under severe financial distress.”

Grubhub’s stock price was up by nearly 29% when regular trading closed, while Uber was up slightly.

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