A New York veterinarian talks about re-opening his clinic during the coronavirus

The Veterinary Care Group's Westbury location in Long Island had their first case of the coronavirus a week after two New York house cats had tested positive for Covid-19 on April 22 — the first pets in the U.S. to have the virus.

It was a fearful day, as one of the workers at the veterinary hospital tested positive— although it wasn't from caring for an infected animal. "It's not confirmed that dogs or cats can spread the virus to humans. There's no evidence of that," says Medical Director Mario Costa of the Oyster Bay and Westbury locations.



"But I would warn the absence of evidence is not necessarily the evidence of absence," he added. "That means just because we haven't shown that dogs and cats can spread the infection to humans doesn't mean they can't. The safest thing to do if someone in your household tests positive for the coronavirus is stay clear of the animal if you can or have someone who is not infected take care of it."

Once the worker with coronavirus was isolated, the entire Westbury facility was shut down for a few days. Everyone else was tested and the facility was deep cleaned. "It's definitely been trying times," says Dr. Costa. "The real positive aspect is that we have seen how people really come together and do the right thing in these situations and help each other out. Everyone has been stepping up. We are understaffed because of everything going on and everyone is helping in these trying times."


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Like most vet hospitals, they are mandated to emergency surgery, sick appointments and essential surgeries such as vaccines and neutering. No clients are allowed in the building and everything is operated curbside. They bring their own leashes, careful not to let any materials from the outside infect their workers. They all wear masks and gloves. There has been some backlash to the new policy and procedures. Some want to be with their pet. Others get angry that grooming isn't essential anymore. "We are taking serious precautions," says Dr. Costa. "We're trying to protect ourselves and others. There is a risk of coming in contact with pets and people and getting the virus, but we are doing everything we can to avoid it."

As far as Dr. Costa's seen, coronavirus in animals is nowhere near the pandemic that's been happening with their owners. Several labs have developed a SARS-CoV-2 test for pets, but none have broadly administered it. Although the test is costly and not covered by insurance, it will only be administered if the pet shows respiratory signs and the more common causes for infections are ruled out. Their clinics haven't encountered any positive cases so far.

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When the pandemic first began, Dr. Costa saw respiratory cases in cats far more than he usually does. But, he claims, during the winter months, that's usually the case. "We're still learning a ton about what this virus does to animals, specifically dogs and cats. A lot of it really unknown at this point," he says. "It's possible that cats and dogs are getting infected, but not showing clinical signs. It's most likely there are a lot of positive cases out there, especially if they are getting exposed to the virus if someone in the household is infected, but we are not catching it because we aren't testing a wide percentage of the animal population."

If an animal tests positive, Dr. Costa says that it's mostly sneezing and upper respiratory signs, but it's not analogous to the human infection. "As far as what we've seen, animals haven't required real intense treatment. Whether it's nebulization to reduce the amount of nasal discharge they are having or an antibiotic to prevent second bacterial infection, we let the virus take its course. Just like the common cold for adults. We haven't really seen widespread life threatening consequences."

Dr. Costa says people are less fearful now. He says a lot of it stems from the fact that most pets are only in contact with their household. The chances of contracting the virus from humans are way greater than getting it from your pets. He says: "In fact, pets are more likely to get it from their owner because they are the ones out and about."

He believes right now it's important not to let your animal mingle with others outside the home. The virus can live on fomites, which means things like leashes, collars and clothes can carry it and the virus could be transferred to you or your pet. The safest thing to do, he says, is social distance yourself and your pets. Dr. Costa mentioned a few studies that have shown that pets can duplicate the virus. One in China found that dogs, cats and ferrets could replicate the virus inside of them and potentially spread it to other animals. "But there is definitely no clear-cut evidence," he says. "We're taking the pulse of the scientific community and trying to figure out a scientific consensus and that takes quite a bit of time with replication of multiple studies. There just hasn't been enough evidence yet to make broad conclusions."


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One positive aspect is that since people are home from work and have a lot more time now—there has been a large influx of people adopting and caring for animals. "I've been seeing a lot more pets now that everyone is home. People are noticing more about their pets that they wouldn't otherwise have noticed because they are spending way more time with them. People have time to train properly while they're home. It's great and interesting so many more people are adopting animals."

For the vet community, it's still essential to see the animals and examine them. But it's sometimes difficult to tell what's essential protocol. Dr. Costa believes it's still a grey area that they are figuring out as time goes on. "People are saying the world is never going to be the same in how we do business. But it's not feasible to operate only by video, phone calls or pictures. We have to physically examine a pet," he says. "There is definitely a general concern over the situation we are facing—it's natural during these times. I have personally seen the value of having the clients there with you. But we are all trying are best in this pandemic we're facing right now."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.