Vitamin D eyed as possible new tool in fight against coronavirus

Boston researchers are studying another potential weapon in the coronavirus fight.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital will look at whether vitamin D can lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers are also studying whether vitamin D supplements reduce the chance of becoming infected if you have been exposed to someone in your household who tested positive for COVID-19.

Vitamin D is already known as an immune system booster.

The study ( https://www.vividtrial.org/) will focus on patients age 30 or older who have been recently diagnosed with the virus within the previous five days.

Participants will be asked to take the vitamin D or placebo study capsules every day for 28 days, provide at-home blood samples by fingerprick and complete questionnaires.

Studies have suggested that vitamin D may reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections.

Researchers said, “the potential role of vitamin D to protect against infection by the novel coronavirus that leads to COVID-19 is promising but unknown.”

I’ve been working at home during the pandemic — do I qualify for home office tax deductions?

Say you’ve had to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Join the club. Like many others who are lucky enough to be able to do their jobs from home, you might now be wondering if you can claim a federal income tax deduction for home office expenses. As things currently stand, the answer is no unless you’re self-employed.

But the answer could change if Congress grants additional COVID-19-related tax relief. Here’s what you need to know about home office write-offs as things stand right now.

No home office deductions for employees
Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), an employee could potentially claim itemized deductions for unreimbursed employee business expenses —including home office expenses —if you used a home office for the convenience of your employer. In that case, you could lump the home office expenses together with other miscellaneous expenses — such as fees for investment advice, tax advice, tax preparation, and union dues.

If your total miscellaneous expenses exceeded 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), you could write off the excess — as long as you itemized deductions.

Unfortunately, that was then and this is now.

Continue reading “I’ve been working at home during the pandemic — do I qualify for home office tax deductions?”

33 million Californians face COVID-19 stay-at-home order that will restrict movements and business

A new stay-at-home order will be imposed on Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley Sunday night, as the coronavirus crisis spirals out of control with a speed that has exceeded health officials’ most dire projections.

Some 33 million Californians will be subject to the new order, representing 84% of the state’s population. The state mandated the restrictions in the Southland and Central Valley as capacity at hospitals’ intensive care units hit dangerously low levels. Five Bay Area counties will also begin lockdown restrictions in the coming days despite not yet reaching the threshold at which such action is mandated by the state.

The rules are less sweeping than California’s pioneering stay-at-home order in the spring, which is credited with slowing the first COVID-19 wave. But the new order will change daily life for many, especially in suburban Southern California counties like Orange and Ventura, which so far have enjoyed more open economies than hard-hit Los Angeles County.

Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley will implement the order Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Restaurants must halt in-person dining and can offer food only for delivery and takeout. Gatherings of people from different households will be prohibited, except for outdoor church services and political demonstrations. Affected communities will be required to close hair and nail salons, playgrounds, zoos, museums, card rooms, aquariums and wineries. Nonessential travel and use of hotels for leisure will be banned, as will overnight, short-term stays at campgrounds. All retail can remain open, but at 20% capacity.

Continue reading “33 million Californians face COVID-19 stay-at-home order that will restrict movements and business”

Disney’s theme park division loses $2.4 billion

The coronavirus cost Disney’s theme park division $2.4 billion as Disneyland remains closed, cruise ships are docked and Disney World is open at a limited capacity, the company disclosed Thursday in its quarterly earnings report.

But looking ahead, executives expect the next few months to be busy in Orlando since about 77% of the park reservations are booked for the next quarter, including an almost completely full Thanksgiving holiday.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the reopening is going well enough for Disney World to raise occupancy from 25% to 35%, adding he believes it is still possible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing among visitors with the higher number of people allowed inside.

For the company, it’s a hopeful sign as Disney theme parks try to rebound from the global pandemic.

“We’re very pleased by how we have become adapt at operating under these constraints,” Chapek said during Thursday’s earnings call. He said Disney has a proven track record of running theme parks with new strict safety rules several months into the pandemic reopening.

Continue reading “Disney’s theme park division loses $2.4 billion”

Legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden tests positive for COVID-19

Former Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden has tested positive for the coronavirus.

ABC 27 spoke to Bowden on Monday, who confirmed the news.

Despite the positive diagnosis, Bowden, 90, said he’s doing pretty good and is waiting to see what’s going to happen.

While he did not say if any of his other household members have also tested positive, Bowden told ABC 27 they are all going to get tested again Monday.

Bowden said he does not know when he contracted it and did not mention when exactly he tested positive.

During his 34 years as Florida State’s head coach he had only one losing season in 1976. From 1987 to 2000, the Seminoles finished every season with at least 10 wins and in the top 5 of the Associated Press College Football Poll, and won the national championship in 1993 and 1999.

Judge refuses to hold John MacArthur, Grace Community Church in contempt without trial

A California judge has sided with California Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in yet another hearing over the church’s decision to hold indoor public worship services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pastor John MacArthur

On Thursday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff ruled that MacArthur and his Sun Valley-based church are entitled to a full trial on the merits of their challenge against state and local orders prohibiting indoor church gatherings before they can be held in contempt for violating the orders.

For nearly three months, the county has sought to shut down the church and hold MacArthur in contempt for repeatedly violating the order. However, attorneys at the Thomas More Society have argued that the governor’s orders violate several provisions of the state constitution.

This week, Beckloff ruled that the courts must first decide on the constitutionality of the shutdown orders before the county can pursue contempt charges.

Due to the state’s shut-down orders, the contempt trial is not expected to take place until early 2021.

The court scheduled a hearing to be held on Nov. 13 regarding the scope of the church’s challenge. A preliminary injunction was issued earlier this month by Beckloff prohibiting the church from conducting, participating in or attending any indoor worship services until the case is resolved.

Lawyers for MacArthur and Grace Community applauded the judge’s decision Thursday.

Continue reading “Judge refuses to hold John MacArthur, Grace Community Church in contempt without trial”

Layoffs in Central Florida keep piling up

In the spring, as the new coronavirus began to spread throughout Central Florida, companies began shedding employees and Congress rushed in to provide some short-term relief.

Not knowing how severe the outbreak would become and how long its grip on the tourism-dependent region would last, executives hoped things would go back to normal soon.

But the layoffs haven’t stopped, and the calls to Congress for more help for the jobless and for the hotels, theme parks and other businesses that employed them have gone unanswered. It’s further evidence of the stark message Florida’s chief economist, Amy Baker, delivered to lawmakers Thursday that Florida tourism will take potentially three years to recover from this crisis.

In August alone, thousands more people were laid off or placed on furlough in Central Florida, mostly from hotels, according to a review of the state’s database.

The Hilton Orlando on Destination Parkway extended furloughs for 605 employees. The Orlando World Center Marriott laid off 601, saying it doesn’t expect occupancy to pick up until 2021. Eight Universal hotels, many of which have closed, furloughed or laid off 2,130 people.

Continue reading “Layoffs in Central Florida keep piling up”

Judge bans indoor services at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church

A California court has issued a preliminary injunction against Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, banning them from conducting, participating in or attending any indoor worship services until the case is resolved.

John MacArthur

In what lawyers for the Sun Valley-based megachurch described as a “setback,” a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Sept. 10 granted the county’s request for an injunction prohibiting Grace Community from holding indoor services in violation of county health orders.

Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff ruled that the church must not conduct any outdoor worship services unless it fully complies with the county’s mandates relating to physical distancing and face coverings, according to the nonprofit law firm Thomas More Society.

In an 18-page ruling, Beckloff wrote that the county demonstrated “a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims” and found that the “balance of harms tips in its favor.”

“[T]he Court finds the balance of harms tips in favor of the County,” the judge contends. “The potential consequences of community spread of COVID-19 and concomitant risk of death to members of the community — associated and unassociated with the Church — outweighs the harm that flows from the restriction on indoor worship caused by the County Health Order.”

MacArthur called the ruling “inexplicable.”

Continue reading “Judge bans indoor services at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church”

What’s More Risky, Going to a Bar or Opening the Mail?

By now you probably have a good idea of which activities pose a greater risk catching COVID-19, so this might have been easy.

Supermarket and retail.

The Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force and Committee on Infectious Diseases have created a chart that ranks activities on their risk level for COVID-19. The levels are based on input from the physician members of the task force and the committee, who worked from the assumption that – no matter the activity – participants were taking as many safety precautions as they can.

And remember that no matter what we do, it’s best if we stay home if possible, wear a mask and maintain at least 6 feet of distance when we have to go out, and above all practice safe hand hygiene.

Remember the board game Risk, where the goal was basically to take over the world?

Well, let’s play Risk COVID-19, in which you try to guess which activities put people more at risk for contracting the coronavirus that causes the disease.

  1. Spending an hour at a playground or grocery shopping?
  2. Going to a beach or going camping?
  3. Working a week in an office building or staying two nights in a hotel?
  4. Going to a hair salon/barbershop or visiting a library/museum?
  5. Going to a bar or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room?

Download the chart in pdf form here: