Coronavirus: BU Thursday Roundup
BU, Boston, state, national, and global updates
If you have a question or comment related to BU and its response to the COVID-19 crisis, on the subject of the move-out, remote learning, retrieving personal belongings, or anything else, please visit Boston University’s special COVID-19 website. Questions are being answered there by specific departments in a timely fashion. Thank you.
—Doug Most, executive editor, BU Today
Quote of the day:
A very, very important step.
Stat of the day:
Free access to eTextbooks from Barnes & Noble and VitalSource
You’re home in California or wherever, but your textbooks are still in Boston, thanks to COVID-19. A new solution may be available. BU students qualify for free access to eTextbooks under a program from Barnes & Noble and VitalSource. Find info and a link on the Barnes & Noble at Boston University website.
BU students enrolled in a course prior to March 16 can access its textbooks via the new VitalSource Helps program. To get started, visit bookshelf.vitalsource.com. Before you can begin searching for, and reading, ebooks, you will need to log in or create a Bookshelf account with your bu.edu email address.
VitalSource and the publishers are offering free access to ebooks through May 25, 2020, to ensure affected students are able to use required learning materials through final exams. Once the free access period ends, students will maintain access to their Bookshelf account. However, ebooks provided during the VitalSource Helps program will no longer appear. Users may add up to seven titles to their account for free. VitalSource, publishers, and resellers have worked together to make tens of thousands of ebooks available. View a list of publishers and resellers who are supporting this effort here.
Commonly assigned materials from publishers, often referred to as “courseware” (such as Pearson’s MyLab, Cengage MindTap, WileyPlus, etc.) are not included in this program.
How to talk with your children about COVID-19
A lot of parents are spending more time than usual with their kids these days, and one of the big challenges is explaining to them the situation we are all in. BU Employee Wellness sent out an email with some tips for discussing the pandemic with your children:
- Keep yourself calm: Children pick up on the emotions of those around them. As difficult as it may be, try to find ways to manage your own emotions so that you can project a sense of calm to your child.
- Keep it simple and stick to age-appropriate facts: There is no need to tell children that they won’t get COVID-19, because we can’t guarantee that. Instead, stick to the facts from sources like the CDC, which suggest that most children won’t get very sick and that most people experience flu-like symptoms.
- Keep the conversation ongoing and correct misinformation: Your children are likely to pick up misinformation from friends or social media about COVID-19. Keep the conversation ongoing so you can correct any falsehoods and continue to reassure them.
- Say no to xenophobia: Speaking of misinformation, make sure your children understand that viruses can affect anyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, and that no one is at fault, despite where the virus may have originated.
- Empower your children with tools to stay healthy: Just like adults, children can feel more distressed if they feel helpless. Arm your children with information about how to protect themselves, such as proper handwashing, eating nutritious food, and getting enough sleep.
How to talk with your remote coworkers about Zoom
Many of us had never heard of—much less used—Zoom before COVID-19 struck. Now the videoconferencing platform is our primary avenue for school, work, and even socializing while we are sheltering in place. We recommend that you have a look at this Zoom virtual roundtable of four BU students talking about the turns their lives have taken this month (ironically, it’s reproduced on YouTube by our crack video team). We felt uncomfortably close to a number of the comments in this funny Boston Globe story about Zoom etiquette (and the lack thereof). And for those of you yet to dip a toe into the Zoom waters—feeling a little techno-anxiety about that invite to a Zoom Happy Hour?—we offer this story about a student-written Zoom primer.
Sketching out the right way to avoid coronavirus
Eleanor Murray, a School of Public Health assistant professor of epidemiology, was featured in a Chronicle of Higher Education article on what it’s like to be an epidemiologist in the middle of a pandemic. But she’s getting more eyeballs with her cartoon infographic on social distancing and hygiene to stave off COVID-19, which has been translated into 11 languages at last count.
Boston and Beyond News
Baker extends school shutdown, protects tenants
Late Wednesday, Governor Charlie Baker announced that all Massachusetts schools and nonemergency child care centers will remain closed until at least May 4, a week after April school vacation week. The original order closed schools through April 7.
Baker also announced several actions to protect low-income rental tenants and homeowners who run into financial difficulty during the current situation. All nonemergency evictions from state-aided low-income housing are suspended, and the State Department of Housing and Commmunity Development will also suspend terminations of state or federal rental vouchers. A new rental-assistance fund has been established with $5 million from MassHousing.
The Division of Banks has issued guidance to Massachusetts lenders and financial institutions that foreclosures should be postponed for 60 days and that lenders should refrain from reporting late payments to credit agencies for at least 60 days. The Massachusetts Legislature is currently working on legislation on this matter.
Baker also will issue orders requiring grocery stores and pharmacies to block off one-hour per day for customers ages 60 and older and mark floors at checkout counters to encourage social distancing.
Amid concerns about patrons and employees handling reusable shopping bags and the virus that might come with them, Baker has also lifted plastic bag bans statewide and ordered that stores may not charge additional fees for paper and plastic bags. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh had decreed similar changes regarding bags earlier in the day for the city.
Boston Resiliency Fund passes goal
Less than 10 days after the Boston Resiliency Fund was launched in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced on Wednesday that it has surpassed its goal of raising $20 million. The fund was established March 16 to provide essential services to first responders, critical care providers, and Boston families whose health and well-being are most immediately impacted by COVID-19. The fund will continue accepting donations from individuals, organizations, and philanthropic partners who wish to contribute and offer their support, and 100 percent of donations will be awarded to local organizations.
To meet the emergency needs, the fund will immediately distribute $5.4 million in grant support to eight local organizations that provide critical support to residents, including access to food and support for healthcare systems that serve Boston residents.
“I am incredibly proud to see the generosity of the people and organizations of Boston who have come together during this time of crisis to support one another,” Walsh said.
Boston moves to help restaurants and other small businesses
Mayor Walsh also announced new resources created through the city’s Office of Economic Development (OED) for small businesses in Boston impacted by COVID-19 and available online on boston.gov/small-business or under the Local Resources “Economic Development Response” on boston.gov/coronavirus.
“Boston is a city that looks out for one another, and during this challenging time, we are doing everything we can to support the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities,” Walsh said.
The new resources include:
- Highlighting open businesses in Boston: The OED has created a tool for essential businesses to publicly share that they are open, gift-card information, and which delivery/takeout services they use (if any). This guide is available for residents to explore what local businesses are open in their neighborhoods. The OED encourages all essential businesses that are allowed to remain open to register online if they are still open. The guide is available online here.
- Boston restaurant support: The OED has created another tool for restaurants to publicly share that they’re open, gift-card information, and which (if any) delivery/takeout services they use. This guide is available for residents to explore what local businesses are open in their neighborhoods. The OED encourages restaurants to register online if they are still open. The guide is available online here.
Boston has lifted licensing regulations to allow takeout/delivery at all restaurants. OED has also created a guidebook for offering takeout and delivery that can also be used for groceries, pharmacies, and others. The OED has created a form for employers and employees to complete if they agree to expand their services to delivery.
US & Global News
Senate approves $2 trillion aid deal, House vote next
The Senate late Wednesday night approved a $2 trillion aid package that would provide support for Americans caught in the double onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic convulsions it has caused. The massive bill includes $1,200 direct aid checks for many low- and middle-income Americans and strengthens unemployment benefits, while also providing a $500 billion bailout fund for corporations. After days of contentious negotiations in the Senate, the House is expected to act quickly to move the bill along to President Trump’s desk for his signature.
World’s biggest coronavirus lockdown in India
There are fewer than 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to keep it that way, ordering a stringent lockdown for all 1.3 billion of the nation’s residents. But the nation’s troubled public health system, political tensions, and endemic poverty may mean the stay-at-home order will prove much more difficult for that nation than for the United States.
Latest count of coronavirus cases
United States, 62,086; Massachusetts, 1,838.
Glad to make a tiny contribution to boxes of Personal protective equipment, “PPE” from BU Photonics Center to Boston Medical Center. Stay at home. Let the healthcare workers save us all. @BU_Tweets pic.twitter.com/Aiag0Lhscg— M. Selim Unlu (@MSelimUnlu) March 25, 2020
Find FAQs about BU’s response to the pandemic here. The University’s hotline for faculty, staff, students, and visiting scholars to call for referral of their virus-related medical concerns is 617-358-4990.