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How to Effectively and Safely Sanitize a Car

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people live. One readily felt effect was spending more time at home. Vehicles sat idle in driveways and even some automotive insurance providers reduced rates because people were driving much less. Even with stay-at-home measures in place, people still need to leave their homes to stock up on essentials, such as food or medicine. In other cases, people may have been essential workers who drive for a living, including delivery drivers or health care personnel who were incapable of working from home.

Any time a person goes out in public, he or she runs the risk of contracting viruses. Bacteria and germs may reside on various surfaces, including those inside vehicles. People want to protect themselves and now are more aware of the importance of frequently cleaning and sanitizing their cars. Keeping a vehicle safe to drive without affecting its upholstery or electronic components is paramount. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes a distinction between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but can lower their numbers. Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. The following are some ways to deeply clean and sanitize a car.

• Wash hands. First and foremost, it is crucial to wash your hands before and after using the car. This can reduce the likelihood of growing ill because of transferred viruses or bacteria.

• Use rubbing alcohol. Solutions that contain 70 percent alcohol are effective against many viruses and bacteria, including coronaviruses, says the CDC. Furthermore, Jeff Stout, Executive Director of Global Innovation at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, says that, for the most part, nearly every interior surface of a vehicle can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol. Plastic to painted chrome to imitation leather have been tested to ensure they don’t degrade when exposed to pure isopropyl alcohol.

• Avoid bleach or hydrogen peroxide. While bleach and peroxide are very effective cleaners and sanitizers, they are likely to damage a car’s upholstery, according to Consumer Reports.

• Use soap and water: Experts say that vigorous washing with a soap-and-water solution can be effective against many contaminants because it breaks down the protective envelope that surrounds coronaviruses and other germs to disarm them. Friction also can help to break down germ cells during cleaning. “You want to do the best with what you have, so even soap and water can chip away at the risk,” says Stephen Thomas, M.D., Chief of Infectious Diseases and Director of Global Health at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY.

• Address frequently touched surfaces. Pay attention to the steering wheel, door handles, buttons, touchscreen displays, shift lever, and more when sanitizing. Each of these items can harbor germs.

Deep-cleaning a vehicle has become a necessity since COVID-19 emerged. Frequently cleaning and sanitizing can help make vehicles safer to operate.

Everyone Can Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19, Here’s How

As businesses and services reopen nationwide, the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, and experts warn that Americans must continue taking precautions to help stop the spread of the virus.

“In states across the country, the spread of COVID-19 is staggering and concerning. We all have a role to play in stopping the spread and protecting ourselves, our family and our neighbors,” says Susan R. Bailey, M.D., president of the American Medical Association (AMA). “The science is clear. We know what stops the spread of the virus – wearing cloth face masks, physical distancing and regularly washing hands — and it is on all of us to practice these steps. Without a vaccine for this novel virus, the only way to turn the tide and recapture a sense of normal is by working together.”

The AMA offers the following guidance and insights that can help keep you, your friends and your loved ones healthy and safe.

• Wear a cloth face mask: Take the simple steps that science has shown will help stop the spread of the virus: wearing a cloth face mask, maintaining physical distancing and washing your hands. The simplest tried-and-true methods are still the most important.

• Keep up with doctor visits: Before you decide to forgo routine care or screenings, talk to your doctor. Physicians are using telehealth services and have taken painstaking precautions to make their practices safe. Make sure you keep up with your vaccines, and don’t let something that in normal circumstances could be handled with an early visit to your physician land you in the hospital.

• Be mindful that re-opening is not the same as a return to normal: When indoors, wear a mask, even in restaurants and stores that are open. Consider dining outdoors whenever possible. Stay connected with friends and family, but do so in a physically-distant and safe manner, including small outdoors gatherings where masks and hand sanitizer are used.

• Take time to clear your head and rest: With many people working from home or working under more stressful conditions, it is important to take mental health breaks. Get up and move, take a walk outside, step away from the computer, and take days or hours off from work.

As the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, physicians, nurses, hospital and health system leaders, researchers and public health experts want Americans to know that it is within their power to help stop the spread of the virus.

Grilling Secrets for Your Labor Day Weekend

You’ve been grilling all summer long, which means you may be in need of some new ideas this Labor Day Weekend. Experts say, no matter what equipment you’re using, the secret to making a big impact on the flavor of your food is BBQ pellets.

“With the amazing wood smoke flavors that cooking with wood pellets offer, it’s truly a game changer for any backyard barbecue,” says Ben Madden, product manager at Bear Mountain BBQ Woods, crafter of gourmet, hardwood pellets. Bear Mountain BBQ pellets are made from 100% premium all-natural hardwoods, with no flavorings, fillers, or additives, which create amazing wood-smoke flavor.

Pellet grills have soared in popularity over the past few years and show no signs of slowing down, mostly due to the flavor, versatility and convenience they provide over other types of grills. Using a pellet grill along with hardwood pellets creates wood-fired flavor that truly elevates the overall grilling experience.

No pellet grill? No problem. Here are some alternate ways to use pellets on any type of grill or smoker.

• Fill a pellet smoking tube as directed by the manufacturer and light the pellets using a torch. When the flame goes out, the pellets will smolder and smoke. This method is great for smoking food on gas and charcoal grills.

• Fold a large handful of pellets in foil and crimp the edges. Poke a few small holes in the pouch and place it on top of the burner or coals. This works great to reverse-sear food — smoking first, then finishing over higher heat.

Just keep in mind, different pellet blends create different flavors. The team at Bear Mountain has dialed in the right combinations of hardwoods to craft the best flavor for different types of grilled meats and vegetables. A rule of thumb is stronger hardwoods add richness to beef, medium to mild woods pair perfectly with chicken, pork and vegetables, and lighter fruitwoods complement the delicious flavors of seafood. Having a variety of pellet types handy can help you become a more versatile grill master.

So what should you serve this Labor Day Weekend? For a dish that’s both down home and a cut above, try this Reverse Sear Tri-Tip recipe. Tri-tip is a perfect cut of meat to reverse sear and lock in that juicy, smoke flavor with a high-temperature finish. Straight from Bear Mountain’s recipe collection, you can use a pellet grill or a gas or electric grill with the folded foil method.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 1-2 hours, depending on size

Ingredients:

• 2-3 pounds tri-tip trimmed

• 3 tablespoons Coffee Spice BBQ Rub (recipe on bearmountainbbq.com)

• Olive oil

Preparation:

1. Lightly coat the meat with olive oil, then Coffee Spice Rub to completely cover the meat.

2. Set grill to 225 F. When up to temperature, place meat on the center of the grill and close the lid.

3. Slow cook to approximately. 120 F, then increase the temperature to high to sear the outside.

4. Continue to cook until reaching an internal temperature of 130 F (for medium-rare).

5. Remove from the grill, tent with foil and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove foil, slice and serve.

For more recipes, tips and information about Bear Mountain pellets, visit bearmountainbbq.com.

With a few new grill techniques, you can make this Labor Day Weekend all about incredible flavor.

Recommended Tech for Students

Shopping for school supplies once entailed stocking up on pens, pads and notebooks. Students today still buy many of the same items, though they also now stock up on electronics. Technology and education now go hand-in-hand. For students to find success both in and out of the classroom, the right tech can make all the difference.

• High-speed internet: Connectivity is key in a digitally driven world. Students need access to the internet for homework, lectures, email, entertainment, and much more. The faster your internet speed the better. According to the resource HighSpeedInternet.com, streaming videos on a single device or web browsing requires between five and 40 Mbps. Downloading large files or using multiple devices simultaneously requires high speeds. When accessing the internet via smartphones, make sure your plan has unlimited data or provides enough data to ensure interruptions do not occur.

• Laptop or notebook computer: Laptops and notebook devices are similar in that both offer many types of software preloaded that a student will need. The devices seem interchangeable, but there are some differences. Laptops are generally larger than sleek, light notebooks. Notebooks are sized to fit easily into backpacks. Notebooks tend to have minimal features, including less RAM capacity and slower speeds, helping to keep their costs down. Some notebooks may have very small amounts of hard drive storage space, requiring users to purchase external storage devices.

• Headphones: Most schools now require students to have their own dedicated pair of earbuds or over-the-ear headphones so that work conducted on a computer does not disturb others also working on their own devices. Headphones also can make it easier to hear and comprehend videos and other digital lessons while doing homework.

• Chargers/battery packs: Devices must maintain power to help kids learn. Students can benefit from having a backup charger or battery pack to maintain functionality on their devices. • Storage and charging base: Keeping electronics neat and accessible for the family may mean rethinking countertop or other storage spaces. Charging stations hold multiple devices and allow them to charge simultaneously.

• Touchscreen pen: Many notebook and laptop computers have touchscreens that respond to pens/styluses and make drawing or writing on the screen more detailed.

• Printer/scanner: While many schools have adopted paperless formats, there may come a time when printing an assignment or report is necessary. A quality ink-jet printer can fit the bill. A scanner to scan photos or documents also makes it easier to complete assignments.

The above are just some of the many gadgets that can assist students with their studies.

The Benefits of a New Approach to Learning for Students

The validity of the adage “necessity is the mother of invention” was on full display during the COVID-19 outbreak. People quickly had to learn to adapt to a new way of life, including an educational system that was transformed dramatically by social distancing guidelines.

More than 76 million students are enrolled in United States schools, per the latest Census Bureau information. In 2018, 2.12 million students were in Canadian postsecondary institutions alone. In a matter of days, millions of students who once attended classes in-person were forced to transition to virtual learning instruction. The process showed just how flexible learning systems can be, and how virtual instruction may become more than an emergency protocol in the future. Schools utilized systems like Google Classroom, Canvas and virtual meeting apps to connect and learn. While in-class lessons provide the socialization and one-on-one interaction that can be vital for students’ academic success, there are many different reasons why virtual instruction can be a key component of learning models as well. When virtual learning is used in conjunction with traditional teaching, students may have a more well-rounded experience. Here are some potential benefits that may unfold as more data is collected:

• Pace: Virtual learning affords students the chance to work on lessons at a pace that fits their individual needs. Students can go back and re-read or re-work problems until they’re satisfied they have learned their lesson. Lessons can be slowed down or sped up depending on proficiency, creating a customized educational experience.

• No more weather days. Many school districts include snow or extreme weather days into their calendars, adding on extra days at the end of school year to meet the specified number of educational days. Remote learning can take over in these times and keep school districts from having to pad calendars.

• Convenience: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to provide students the best chance to get the amount of sleep they need. Still, most adolescents currently start school before 8:30 a.m. Remote learning enables students to complete their assignments when it works best for them. This may help them get more sleep, too.

• Apps: Learning apps are a new wave of educational tools that have helped buoy virtual instruction. Primary school students or those with individual education plans may benefit the most from reinforced app skills that match their learning pace in fun ways.

Virtual home instruction may become a large part of the educational landscape even after it’s no longer a social distancing necessity.

Keep Devices in Top Shape and Running Well

The need for reliable technology has never been more apparent. When the world hit the proverbial pause button in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, technology was crucial to keeping people connected to the world around them, helping people maintain some semblance of normalcy as it pertained to work and education.

Students and families who have invested in various electronics to help keep their household running should understand that maintenance is required to keep these devices running effectively. These tips can help keep gadgets in tip-top shape:

• Protect devices from extreme temperatures. Electronic devices are designed to operate under an array of conditions, but pushing those conditions can result in damage. Most devices are fine between temperatures of 32 F and 90 F. But don’t leave electronics in the car, in a sunny window or outdoors.

• Clean devices regularly. Refer to the user’s manual for the proper ways to clean the devices you rely on each day. Some may require a specific cleaner or a particular fabric to help ensure the device isn’t scratched or damaged. Spray cleaners on a cloth and then wipe off devices, rather than spraying cleaners directly on electronics. Try a can of compressed air to remove dust from crevices or vents.

• Invest in a surge protector. While surge protector power strips multiply the number of available outlets, they also serve a more important purpose. These devices will cut off power to plugged-in electronics if there is a power surge, helping to prevent damage.

• Don’t overcharge. It’s essential to have gadgets charged and ready to go, but overcharging can reduce battery life. Do not leave devices charging overnight. Battery University ™, a free educational website offering battery information, says that nickel- and lithium-based batteries should be stored with a 40 percent state-of-charge. This level minimizes age-related capacity loss and keeps the battery in good condition.

• Use protective cases. Cases can prevent damage if devices are dropped and also may safeguard against scratched screens. Cases and covers also minimize dust and dirt on devices.

• Keep software up-to-date. Security issues may arise when software is not updated, and programs may not run effectively or be compatible with others. Along the same vein, routinely clean out unused files to free up space, and clear cookies and browser histories to maintain speed and efficiency.

Routine maintenance can keep electronics working properly when they’re needed the most.

Tips for Effective Remote Learning

An increased reliance on virtual home instruction has many students rethinking their organizational strategies and daily school schedules. Learning at home is different from being in a traditional classroom environment, but with some effective strategies, students can persevere without missing a beat.

Stick to a schedule

Many students are successful because they follow a schedule. The Center for Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning says that routines and schedules are important because they influence a child’s emotional and cognitive development. Children feel secure with schedules, which may help them recognize what’s expected of them. When learning at home, students should strive to maintain as consistent a schedule as possible, including bedtimes, wake times, hours devoted to learning, and time to get outside or engage in downtime activities.

Connect live if possible

There are many free tools and resources available that enable teachers to provide live video lessons or to record them so students can watch them later. Similarly, social networking apps and virtual meeting programs enable students to connect digitally. This can be helpful for collaborative learning assignments or just to see a familiar face.

Stick to tools that work

Once students find apps or systems that work, they should stick with them, offers Khan Academy, an educational tutoring resource. There are many factors outside of one’s control during virtual instruction, but maintaining consistency with tools and schedules is one way to feel more confident and secure.

Check student accounts frequently

Just like students, teachers may be learning as they go in regard to remote learning strategies. Students should be sure to check school email accounts or other places where teachers post assignments a few times per day so that they stay on top of all assignments and are aware of due dates.

Reach out to instructors

Allegheny College suggests students contact their teachers if they are unsure of how to participate in remote learning environments. Ask questions about assignments, get clarification on key topics and be sure to tune into any remote chats or virtual “office hours.”

Stay in touch with guidance, if needed

Remote learning is a new experience for many students, and there may be certain struggles or road blocks. It can be easy to grow frustrated with equipment failures or lack of in-person interaction. Schools employ qualified therapists and guidance counselors who are just a click, call or email away if issues need to be talked through. Students should utilize all resources made available to them.

Virtual home instruction can be made even easier with some extra assistance and guidance.

Get the Most Out of Restaurant Leftovers

Local restaurants have taken an especially hard financial hit during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. A recent appeal for economic relief from the National Restaurant Association on behalf of struggling restaurants estimated that the industry could suffer hundreds of billions of dollars in losses due to the outbreak. In recognition of the vital roles restaurants play in fostering strong communities, many local governments have urged residents to order takeout or delivery if they can afford to do so. Millions of consumers have heeded that call, helping restaurants stay afloat in a time marked by economic uncertainty while appreciating a night or two off from preparing meals at home.

It’s easy for home cooks to practice portion control when making meals at home. But restaurants tend to offer hearty portions, leaving consumers with leftovers at a time when more and more refrigerators are full of containers with previous nights’ meals. So what to do with restaurant leftovers? A little creativity might be in order.

Reimagine restaurant leftovers. The Mayo Clinic advises against keeping restaurant leftovers for more than four days, noting that the risk of food poisoning increases after that. If you don’t want to eat the same meal twice in four days, try to turn leftovers into something new. Add fresh vegetables to leftover rice to create a rice bowl that makes a great midday meal. Then use leftover meat and potatoes to create a stew or soup for dinner. Add some sautéed seafood to leftover pasta to give the meal a whole new taste. Reimagining restaurant leftovers into wholly new dishes is a great way to get even more out of meals that might be too big to polish off in one sitting.

“Trade” leftovers. When ordering meals for the whole family, make a game of trading restaurant leftovers for the next day’s lunch. If Dad orders chicken parmigiana he can trade it for Mom’s beef bolognese. Families can have even more fun by offering side dishes for desserts or sweeten offers with homemade treats or promises to do the dishes. This is a fun way to ensure no one has to eat the same meal on consecutive days.

Turn leftovers into appetizers or snacks. If leftovers aren’t abundant enough to provide for two full meals, or if you simply want to make something new out of what you didn’t eat last night, turn leftovers into appetizers or snacks to enjoy while watching a movie. Open a bag of tortilla chips and turn last night’s entrée into a tasty dip, or place leftovers out shortly before your home-cooked meal is ready to be served. Extra flavor at the dinner table is always welcome, and this approach gives everyone a chance to try each dish. Restaurant portions can be large, and in this time of takeout that can make it hard to determine what to do with leftovers.

Thankfully, there are many creative ways to approach restaurant leftovers so no one has to eat the same meal two days in a row.

Home Office Must-Haves

Remote work has been around for many years, though it certainly picked up steam in 2020. In an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, in March 2020 government officials implemented stay-at-home measures that mandated many working professionals to begin working from home. That transition occurred seemingly overnight, forcing men and women to find somewhere in their homes to work. As the dust settled and working professionals grew accustomed to working from home, many recognized the need to have an office in their homes. Various factors can make home offices more conducive to getting work done, and the following are some home office must-haves that can help people be more productive while working from home.

Lighting

Lighting is important in a home office. It’s easy to overlook natural light, especially for workers who previously worked in offices that did not have windows. But natural light can help save on energy costs and boost mood. In fact, natural light is a valued commodity for people used to working in office settings. A 2018 survey of more than 1,600 workers conducted by the human resources advisory firm Future Workplace found that access to natural light and views of the outdoors were the most sought after attribute of a workplace environment. In addition, 47 percent of workers surveyed admitted they felt tired or very tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office. When designing their home offices, homeowners should keep this in mind and choose areas of their homes that get ample natural light during a typical workday. Additional lighting also will be necessary. Recessed lighting can give an office a sleek look, and lights that can dim can allow workers to adjust their lighting based on how much they need at any given point in the workday.

Quiet

Professionals forced to work at home when social distancing measures were implemented may not have had much quiet, especially for those with young children whose schools were closed. But when designing a home office, homeowners have the chance to make their offices more conducive to concentration. Soundproofing walls may not be necessary, but look for areas of the home that don’t get much foot traffic. Kitchens are very popular rooms in many homes, so try to locate your home office away from the kitchen. A spare bedroom upstairs may make for the most ideal home office setting if the home does not have a traditional den. Spare bedrooms come with doors, which can instantly create a sense of quiet when closed. A converted garage also can make for a useful home office, but make sure the room already has cooling and heating and, ideally, windows.

Electrical Outlets

Recently built homes tend to be equipped with enough outlets to accommodate our increasingly connected lifestyles. But older homes may need some electrical updates before they can capably accommodate home offices. When updating your electrical, replace existing outlets and fixtures with energy-efficient LED fixtures, which save money and benefit the environment. Before updating the electrical, decide on how you want the office to be laid out so you can have outlets installed where your computer, devices and other items, like a printer and television, will be. This makes it easy to hide cords and give the office a clean, professional look.

Home office capabilities became a big priority in 2020. Designing such spaces can be fun and easy.

Take-Out Tips When Dining at Home

Although takeout has long been a convenience enjoyed by people around the world, in recent months takeout became a key way for many restaurants to stay afloat when the novel coronavirus COVID-19 forced many to close their facilities to customers. Restaurants have been allowed to remain open, though they have been forced to change their business models. In a matter of weeks, establishments that were not accustomed to offering takeout quickly reimagined their operations to offer curbside pickup or delivery options.

In turn, many communities promoted movements to help keep restaurants afloat, with some encouraging residents to participate in Takeout Thursdays to patronize struggling bars, restaurants and delis. Takeout has always provided a respite from cooking meals at home, but it seems especially welcomed during the COVID-19 outbreak. Now more than ever, individuals and families could use a break from cooking three meals per day. When opting for takeout, consider these tasty tips:

• Support small businesses. Independent restaurants could have a tougher time bouncing back from reduced sales and income than large restaurant chains. When seeking out food- and beverage-related businesses, lean heavily on mom-and-pop restaurants, many of which are pillars in their communities. These are the businesses whose owners may have children in your local schools or those who sponsor local sports leagues.

• Investigate food safety. Inquire about the safety measures restaurants are taking to ensure food safety. Most restaurants and delivery services are enacting even more safety measures than are required by law. Keep in mind, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said, “There is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.” Simple hand washing after touching food packaging and your food or face may be sufficient.

• Learn new protocol. Ask the business what their requirements are for ordering food. Some restaurants will bring the order directly to your car through curbside pickup. Others may enable you to enter the establishment if you are wearing a mask. Delivery only might be the policy at another establishment. Follow all rules, as they have been implemented to keep you and the business employees safe.

• Pay by credit card. When placing an order for takeout or curbside pickup, pay by credit card online or over the phone if that is an option. This limits how much you and restaurant employees have to handle cards or cash.

• Avoid direct handoffs. Ask the counter server or delivery person to put down your order and step away before you grab it. This is an extra step to combat the spread of the virus.

Even as stay-at-home restrictions are being relaxed, takeout figures to remain popular. Certain tips can keep everyone well fed and safe and help bars and restaurants stay afloat.