When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

What You Can Start to Do

If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

What You Should Keep Doing

For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested within 3 days of their flight (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

What We Know and What We’re Still Learning

  • We know that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death.
    • We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others.
  • We know that other prevention steps help stop the spread of COVID-19, and that these steps are still important, even as vaccines are being distributed.
    • We’re still learning how well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease.
    • Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated.
  • We’re still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.
  • As we know more, CDC will continue to update our recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Until we know more about those questions, everyone—even people who’ve had their vaccines—should continue taking steps to protect themselves and others when recommended.

Originally posted on CDC.gov

COVID-19 Fraud Protection | California Benefits Firm

COVID-19 Fraud Protection | California Benefits Firm

The COVID-19 crisis has not only stolen the health and well-being of people all over the world, but now, it seems, it has opened the door to criminals who want to steal your money and your identity. Historically, when there are times of crisis, the crime rate increases. We see this with natural disasters when stores are looted or when the economy is tanking and theft increases.  Now, we are seeing this scenario play out in real time as thieves use the pandemic and fear to their benefit.

SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR

According to Forbes, Americans have lost more than $106 million to fraud related to COVID-19. These losses originate from all types of scams ranging from seeking donations for non-existent charities to price gauging for personal protective equipment. Dishonest individuals call victims and impersonate health organizations with a cure for COVID or products that can prevent infection if you just give them a credit card number. False bank accounts have been opened for the sole purpose of depositing unemployment benefit checks for non-existent persons.  With crime so rampant, how can you tell what’s true and what’s false pertaining to this crisis? Here’s some big scams that you can look out for:

  • Phishing/SMishing—Emails or text messages that appear to be from your bank or from an online retailer ask you to click a link or call a number so that you can verify personal information.
  • Work-from-home scams—Posing as a company or even one of your co-workers, criminals email about fake opportunities to work from home and ask you to apply for a job by giving out personal information.
  • Medical fraud—Fake websites are launched with virus testing kits or medical supplies for sale and collect credit card information.
  • COVID contact tracing—In an attempt to steal personal information such as social security numbers, fraudsters claim to be contact tracers and have identified you as a possible close contact of a COVID patient. Now they ask you for your info to verify and log your exposure to the virus.
  • Vaccine scheme—Calling individuals to sign them up to receive the COVID vaccine, the imposter asks for your personal information.

WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FRAUD

  • The number one way to protect yourself from possible fraud related to the COVID-19 crisis is to never give out your personal information in response to an unsolicited email or phone call. If you haven’t called the company/bank/organization directly, and someone contacts you asking for your birthdate, maiden name, social security number, etc, don’t give it out. You have the right to decline their request so that you can feel secure in releasing your information. Simply tell the solicitor that you want to call them back and then look on your bill/website/known contact information and call that number to affirm that the person who contacted you is indeed who they say they are.
  • If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, contact one of the three big credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. When you contact one of these agencies, you can request a freeze be put on your credit so that scammers cannot open any new accounts in your name.
  • “Report financial identity theft fraud attempts to the FBI. The toll-free number is easy to remember: 1-800-CALL-FBI. Or you can go online to FBI.gov” reports Terry Savage, Next Avenue podcast co-host. Forbes has a great transcript of a recent episode online with lots of fantastic tips for protecting yourself against fraud and you can access it HERE.

In the midst of this pandemic crisis, the most important thing to focus on is the health and welfare of yourself and those you care most about. You shouldn’t have to waste time and effort chasing down scammers who have preyed on you when you are the most vulnerable. By following these easy (and always applicable) tips for protecting your identity and your finances, you can keep your focus on what really matters.

 

Exploring Disability Insurance

Exploring Disability Insurance

Disability insurance is a type of insurance coverage that replaces a portion of your monthly income in the event you are unable to perform your work functions due to illness or injury. This insurance gives both yourself, and those who are dependent on you and your paycheck, a sense of financial security while you are out of work. Let’s explore disability insurance.

Who Qualifies for Disability Insurance and Why?

According to the Social Security Administration, about 1 in 4 adults, who are currently in their 20’s, will have some sort of disabling event in their life that will cause them to be out of work for at least 3 months before they hit retirement age. And, while most people think that disability insurance is most used by those with an injury due to an accident, the majority of claims (90%) come from medical illnesses. In fact, the most common claims are related to cancer, back pain, cardiovascular disease, injury, pregnancy, and digestive disorders.

Types of Disability Insurance

There are two types of disability insurance than an individual can enroll in and one that is administrated by the government through the Social Security Administration. First, there is short-term disability insurance. This type pays paycheck benefits for, as the name suggests, a short-term disability due to injury or illness.  The time frame for these benefits is between 3-6 months and can cover between 40-60% of the participant’s income. Purchasing this type of insurance tends to be expensive and benefits usually begin about 14 days after the qualifying incident.

Long-term disability insurance pays between 60-80% of the participant’s income and typically lasts until they recover from the injury or illness or until a pre-determined number of years, for instance, until they are 65.  Benefits for long-term disability insurance usually begin after a 90-day waiting time.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To be eligible for these benefits, the person must be approved through a strict list of qualifications from the SSA, which can be found here. It is difficult to qualify for SSDI benefits and the average monthly benefit in 2019 was $1,234.

How to Enroll in Disability Insurance

When looking to buy disability insurance, first, look to see if your employer offers employer-sponsored coverage at work. Many times, employers pay for all or a portion of the premiums. Some employers offer disability insurance for employees to buy at a discounted rate as a voluntary benefit as part of their benefits package.  If you are part of a professional organization like a labor union or one for a specific profession, they may offer the ability to purchase disability insurance at a group rate. Also, you may purchase insurance through an insurance broker or directly from an insurance company.

COVID-19 and Disability Insurance

In some instances, disability insurance may cover the participant who is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some benefits will cover if you are medically quarantined because of a positive COVID test or exposure to the coronavirus and you cannot complete your work function. This does not include state mandated “work from home orders.” Also, some COVID-19 survivors have lingering symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and pain and these symptoms prevent them from being able to work. In these cases, short-term disability insurance may kick in. Check with your HR team or insurance broker to verify your coverage and eligibility.

Disability insurance provides the financial security needed by yourself and those who depend on you. In these uncertain times, having a backup plan in place will give you the confidence that an unforeseen illness or injury will not deplete your bank accounts while you get back on your feet. Check into disability insurance plans at your workplace, professional organization, or through a local broker. You and your family will be glad you did.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare system in the US has changed. More and more, people are seeking out telemedicine services versus the traditional brick and mortar physician’s office. This trend also includes telemental health services as well. So what are the advantages of these services and how are they growing to meet the need?

Pandemic Launch

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely thrust the use of telemedicine forward but many health care providers have been using this type of service for years. What the pandemic did do is encourage patients’ use of the telehealth services already in place. Telehealth is defined as “the practice of communicating electronically with a physician, typically via telephone or video chat.” While our hospitals and doctors’ offices have been overcrowded with very sick COVID-19 patients, use of telemedicine has allowed the burden felt in these locations to be lessened.  Patients call in for routine exams and are many times seen and treated faster than if they came in to the physical office location.

Advantages to Telehealth Services

According to a survey by FAIR Health, there has been a 8,336% increase nationally in the use of telehealth from April 2019 to April 2020. Advantages of this increase and use include:

  • Enabling patients to follow shelter-in-place restrictions by staying home and away from hospitals, except for emergencies
  • Minimizing risk to health care workers and patients by limiting exposure to the coronavirus and other diseases
  • Facilitating services for chronic patient monitoring, follow-up visits, therapy appointments and post-operative care
  • Employees see the offering of telemedicine benefits as a huge priority in examining employment options

Advantages to Telemental Health Services

Like Telehealth services, use of Telemental Health services have also increased this year. A recent mental health survey says that 7 in 10 employees cite the COVID-19 pandemic as being the most stressful time in their careers. Caring for children who are out of school, caring for loved ones, financial issues, and stress from job changes are some of the issues that employees are facing. Business owners see the benefit of telemental health as their employees’ access these services in higher numbers. High levels of stress have been known to result in lower productivity, lower morale, and higher absenteeism. Advantages for telemental health include:

  • The provision of telemental health services to patients living in rural and under-served areas has significantly reduced psychiatric hospitalization rates.
  • Low-income, homebound seniors experienced longer lasting effects of telemental health than those who received in-person mental health services.
  • Mental health providers rarely have to perform any physical services on their patients, so telemental health is more plausible than other types of telehealth services.
  • There is little or no difference in patient satisfaction with telemental health when compared with face-to-face mental health consultations.
  • Although mental health professionals are in short supply, mobile devices are not.

There are some significant advantages to the use of telemedicine services. Zywave explains, “Virtual healthcare is emerging as a viable solution to help lessen the burden on healthcare facilities and staff while still providing individuals with the care they need.” Tele-services also reach more of the under-served population both for health care and mental health care. As consumers gain confidence in virtual living, the call for telemedicine will also grow.

Employee Engagement in a Post-COVID Workplace

Employee Engagement in a Post-COVID Workplace


“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Simon Sinek
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many things. First, it has taught us that empathy and kindness goes a long way. We’ve learned that as individuals, communities, and as a nation, that we can do hard things when we work together. Finally, this pandemic has taught us that the relationship between employer and employee is a valuable one. How much the employee feels valued by their employer is called “engagement.” And this feeling of value is one that more and more companies are investing in in a post-COVID environment.
Employee engagement is when an employee feels “high levels of involvement (passion and absorption) in the work and the organization (pride and identity) as well as affective energy (enthusiasm and alertness) and a sense of self-presence.” Let’s dive in and look at some fast facts on this subject and how to increase engagement in this new workspace we have found our world occupying.
BY THE NUMBERS

  • 34% of employees and 35% of employers stated they felt engaged in their work in a 2019 Gallup poll.
  • 38% of employees now say they are “highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace” via a May 2020 Gallup poll.
  • This is the highest reported engagement since Gallup began measuring this topic in 2000.

BOTTOM LINE

  • Unengaged employees lower productivity, innovation, and the bottom line.
  • Engaged employees have lower absenteeism and lower turnover.
  • When an employee believes that they are being heard and seen as a valued investment, they feel empowered to do their best work.
  • Teams that report being engaged in the workplace have 21% higher profitability than those who report being unengaged.

HOMESCHOOL

  • One way to create engagement in the workplace is to promote learning opportunities at home for employees. This can be done in virtual workshops for remote workers.
  • If a company’s investment is in learning and development, this shows the employee that their employer sees their future as important.
  • Positive results of investing in workforce education include increased employee engagement, more innovation, and increased understanding of the company’s goals.
  • Remote employees who participate in a company’s virtual training report that beyond the educational benefit they receive, they also feel as though they are being equipped with new skills for handling stressful situations once they are able to return to work.

RESOURCES
There are numerous blogs and articles and creative educational interaction sites to keep employees engaged and learning while remote. Below are some fun and creative sites to help you create your own engagement campaign for your organization.

 

4 Steps You Can Take to Feel More in Control Now

4 Steps You Can Take to Feel More in Control Now

COVID-19 has upended life as we know it for millions of people around the world. Many of us—including the young and healthy—are seriously contemplating our mortality for the first time.
As the parent of a toddler, with a baby on the way, I’m definitely in this camp. It’s deeply unsettling to ponder how this virus has cut short so many lives in the span of just a few months.
I can’t escape the reality that I’m not invincible and never really have been. Whether it’s an accident, a terminal illness or an infectious disease, untimely deaths happen and none of us are assured a long, healthy life.
That thought paralyzed me before I decided to take a proactive approach to things. The good news is that there are concrete actions you can take today to protect the ones you love and get some peace of mind during these challenging times. Here are four definitely worth doing.

1. Prepare your will. Not even half of Americans have a will, which is a legal document that spells out your wishes for where your assets go and who cares for any minor children in the event you pass away. If you die without a will, your individual state’s laws will decide where your money and belongings go and who takes care of your kids. As if that isn’t bad enough, dying without a will generally delays the process of resolving your estate and can subject it to additional taxes.
Spare your loved ones from this experience with a will. Many people use a lawyer to draw up a will, especially if they have large or complicated estates. These days, many lawyers can help you via email, phone and teleconference, so don’t let social distancing stop you from getting a will.
Another option is to create a will online. This is a fast and inexpensive option for anyone on a budget or with uncomplicated needs. A few popular resources include LegalZoomQuicken WillMaker & Trust and Do Your Own Will. (The final option is free!)

2. Create an advanced directive. An advanced directive is another legal document you’ll want to lock down. It explains what kind of medical care you’d want in the event you can’t speak for yourself.
The most common types of advanced directives are the living will and the durable power of attorney. A living will spells out your health care wishes in the event you’re terminally ill and unable to express your wishes or permanently unconscious. Meanwhile, a durable power of attorney is a document in which you name a trusted person to make health care decisions for you in the event you’re unable to do so.
An attorney can help you create an advanced directive or you can create one for free online using a form from your state. (Check your state’s website for its individual form.) If you go the latter route, make sure to check your state’s laws about advanced directives. Some require you to sign them in the presence of a witness, while others require them to be notarized. (And yes, you can now get documents notarized online through services like notarize.com.)

3. Look into life insurance. If anyone depends on your earnings or unpaid labor (I’m looking at you, stay-at-home parents and caregivers), it’s absolutely essential to have at least some life insurance in place. From funeral costs to the mortgage to everyday living expenses, life insurance steps in to smooth things over financially if you aren’t in the picture.
I know the last thing many of us want right now is an added expense. But this is one well worth having—and it’s probably a lot less than you think. A healthy 30-year-old can get a $250,000 20-year level term policy for just $13 a month.
Any amount of life insurance is better than none at all, so contact an agent today to get a policy that works for your life and budget. (Like lawyers and notaries, many of them can work with you over phone, email and teleconferencing tools!)

4. Consider disability insurance. Illnesses and injuries curtail many people’s careers and lifetime earnings unexpectedly every year. With respect to the current crisis, those hospitalized for COVID-19 often have long roads to recovery as well as lifelong complications. Whether the health challenge leads to short-term or permanent consequences, it’s hard to stay on top of bills when your paycheck stops.
This is where disability insurance can be a lifesaver. This “insurance for your paycheck” protects your income until you’re able to return to work. Like life insurance, there are policies for every situation and budget. Learn about the three main ways to get disability coverage.

I’m the first to admit that contemplating these realities isn’t a fun way to pass the time. But something far worse is knowing that the people I love the most would be in a bind if the unthinkable happened. Plus, tackling these to-do’s gave me a much-needed sense of control during these unpredictable times—I hope it does the same for you, too.
By Amanda Austin
Originally posted on lifehappens.org