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Santa practicing social distancing in West Springfield as Christmas traditions get COVID-19 update

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Santa Claus is coming to town, but like everyone else in 2020, he’s going to have to stay socially distanced.

Workers in the Park and Recreation Department are making sure that two of West Springfield’s cherished holiday traditions will continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Operation Santa, the annual food and toy drive, is proceeding with as little personal contact as possible, and visits to Santa’s House will take place online this year.

Operation Santa typically involves more than 100 volunteers sorting thousands of donations into gift packages, and 50 volunteer drivers delivering the gifts to needy families in town. Santa’s House is a two-week event with personal contact every night. Each has been a fixture of the holiday season in West Springfield since 1980, and that meant “a scramble” this year to reinvent them, said Park and Recreation Director Victoria Connor.

“What can we do? We don’t

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  • December 5, 2020
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How To Encourage Customer Loyalty During COVID-19

Many customers have changed their shopping habits due to the pandemic. Their go-to athletic retailer may be experiencing a stockout or they might avoid their favorite brick-and-mortar beauty store because of safety concerns. The increase in eCommerce options means they can easily shop somewhere else to find what they need.

In fact, McKinsey found that 78% of U.S. consumers have switched stores, brands, or the way they shop due to the pandemic. This switching behavior, as McKinsey explains it, has been a shock to brand loyalty. Businesses that focus on building loyalty during the coming months, however, will be able to both keep current customers from switching and turn one-time shoppers into regular customers. 

Loyalty begins when customers feel connected to your business, to the point that buying your products becomes part of their routine. Loyal customers help your business by repeatedly visiting your store, and they spend more,

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  • December 5, 2020
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GNC latest to roll out new COVID-19 stay-at-home testing kit

GNC and 1Health have teamed together to make the newest form of COVID testing available to the public. It’s a saliva test kit approved by the FDA, and various companies have been rolling it out in recent weeks.The hallmark feature of the testing kit is that it can be administered wherever the user chooses, and it requires placing saliva in a tube, rather than pushing a swab into the nasal cavity.GNC Chief Brand Officer Ryan Ostrom says the concept meets a great demand, “as we’ve seen the rules change slightly with the FDA, a lot more businesses are requiring tests before you travel, after you travel, to show that you don’t have COVID.”This is another way for you to do it safely at home, without having to wait in longer lines in a lot of the stores around the United States.”GNC is only offering the test kit online, but says … Read More

  • December 5, 2020
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While Balboa Park’s Museums Endure COVID-19 Closures, They Look To The Future

In a two-part series, KPBS reporter John Carroll examines how some of the park’s cherished institutions are holding up during the pandemic.

The International Lawn at Balboa Park's International Cottages is shown on De...

Photo by John Carroll

Above: The International Lawn at Balboa Park’s International Cottages is shown on Dec. 1, 2020.

Balboa Park is many things. Among them, the jewel of San Diego is home to most of the city’s museums. But in a transcendental sense it is also a place of peace.

It is the primary mission of the International Cottages to take the concept of peace and make it reality. The House of Pacific Relations is the umbrella group that oversees the Cottages, pacific of course meaning peace. Eugenie King is its vice president.

“They are a jewel of the park. They are something to explore, to develop, to discover,” she said.

At some point in 2021, probably in the spring, visitors will discover new cottages, the first

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  • December 4, 2020
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What Teachers Have Learned About Online Classes During COVID-19 : NPR

Teachers are working hard to improve the online experience, but many students are still left behind.
Teachers are working hard to improve the online experience, but many students are still left behind.

Deborah Rosenthal starts her virtual kindergarten class on Zoom every morning with a song — today, it’s the Spanish version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Her students clap along. There’s a greeting from the class mascot (a dragon), yoga, meditation and then some practice with letter sounds: “Oso, oso, O, O, O.”

Rosenthal teaches Spanish immersion in a public school in San Francisco’s Mission District. Most of the families are low-income, and many are now affected by job losses related to COVID-19. She has taught kindergarten for 15 years, and she loves how “hands-on,” “tactile” and “cozy” it is to work with 5-year-olds.

But this year, she’s spending 10 or 12 hours a day on, basically, her own home production of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood en Español. “It’s a very two-dimensional experience,” she says.

Few people would tell you that online kindergarten was a good idea, or frankly

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  • December 4, 2020
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Pop up drive-in postponed until March or April | Covid-19

A pop up drive-in featuring five nights of movies under the stars at Payson Event Center surrounding Thanksgiving Day weekend never popped up.

Eight movies were scheduled to run from Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 29. That was one movie on both Nov. 25 and 29 and two on the other three nights.

But East Valley-based Showboss AV & Event Management pulled the plug on the event on Nov. 23.

Pop up drive-ins have become a big thing with the COVID-19 pandemic hurting traditional walk-in theaters as the new blockbuster films dried up and many patrons opted against returning to the theater. Drive-ins give people a chance to watch a movie from the comfort of their own vehicle without having to wear a mask.

But slow ticket sales, perhaps the result of a chilly forecast with temperatures dropping into the 30s every night, played at least a partial role

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  • December 4, 2020
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L.A. County Could See New COVID-19 Lockdown “Early Next Week”; Record New Cases & Hospitalizations In Region

Mere minutes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new regional stay-at-home order for the state to counter rising coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County health officials said Thursday that the looming shutdown could hit the battered region within days.

“The anticipation is that threshold might be reached sometime early next week,” Dr. Christina Ghaly declared today of the order that kicks in once ICU capacity falls below 15% in specific regions of the Golden State. “It would be the Southern California region that would reach that threshold, not L.A. County alone,” added the area’s Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis in a clarification after Health Services Director Ghaly spoke.

Still, the wider scope doesn’t take any of the intensity out of the dire situation.

Right now, ICU beds are at 76% occupancy of the “roughly” 2,500 available in the county, Ghaly said at Thursday’s comparatively low-key briefing.

That ICU data should

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  • December 4, 2020
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What is college life like for Rutgers players during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mike Tverdov knows better than anyone what life is like on the Rutgers campus following a big win.

Rutgers’ redshirt junior defensive end witnessed the parties that would light up New Brunswick following Scarlet Knights triumphs in the late 2000s when his brother, Pete, was a standout defensive player. And he has experienced campus life as a student the past three years.

But with most dorms closed and the majority of students taking classes remotely from home this fall, Tverdov and his Rutgers football teammates have seen their college experience get muted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s certainly crazy times, especially with COVID going on,’’ Tverdov told NJ Advance Media this week. “It’s not stopping some people from living their lives. In the meantime cases are what they are in each state and around the country. We can’t do anything but continue doing what we’re doing, and

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  • December 3, 2020
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At least 285 kids and school staff caught COVID-19 at school, new state stats show

Find all of the most important pandemic education news on Educating N.J., a special resource guide created for parents, students and educators.

The number of students, teachers and school staff who have contracted or transmitted the coronavirus at school rose to 285 this week after four new school outbreaks were reported, state health officials said Wednesday.

The new school outbreaks — defined as cases in which two or more people caught the virus in class or during other academic activities — were in Cape May, Bergen and Salem counties.

That brings the totals to 70 school outbreaks involving 285 people since the schools began reopening for the new school year in late August, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Though the numbers keep rising every week, Gov. Phil Murphy said the school outbreak statistics remain below what state officials were expecting when schools reopened for in-person classes.

“I think

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  • December 3, 2020
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With COVID-19, will snowbirds still answer the call of warmer weather?

Now is the time when snowbirds flock to the Southwest – and Arizona is a major hot spot for those looking for a warm winter getaway from the harsh weather up north and in the Midwest. Arizona’s sizzling desert turns into a mildly warm winter utopia with beautiful landscapes that make being outdoors especially enjoyable. Some enjoy the buzzing Phoenix metropolitan area, while others cozy up in RV desert camp spots like Quartzsite and Yuma.

These winter visits are valuable to Arizona’s economy and play a key role in the state’s revenue each year. But with a pandemic that has already damaged much of Arizona’s tourism industry, and COVID-19 cases on the rise, the state’s tourism is likely to take a hard hit as we head into what would be the busiest season of the year.

Christine Vogt is the director of Arizona State University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism in

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  • December 2, 2020