Here's to the governors who've led the way on fighting the coronavirus pandemic

I live in Washington, the state with the first official outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. While my family lives several hours from Seattle, it was alarming to be near the epicenter—especially early in the pandemic when we knew even less about the coronavirus than we know now.

As tracking websites went up and statistics started pouring in, things looked hairy for Washington. But not for long. We could have and should have shut everything down faster than we did, but Governor Inslee took the necessary steps to keep the virus from flying completely out of control. He's consistently gotten heat from all sides, but in general he listened to the infectious disease experts and followed the lead of public health officials—which is exactly what government needs to do in a pandemic.

As a result, we've spent the past several months watching Washington state drop from the #1 hotspot down to 23rd in the nation (as of today) for total coronavirus cases. In cases per million population, we're faring even better at number 38. We have a few counties where outbreaks are pretty bad, and cases have slowly started to rise as the state has reopened—which was to be expected—but I've felt quite satisfied with how it's been handled at the state level. The combination of strong state leadership and county-by-county reopenings has born statistically impressive results—especially considering the fact that we didn't have the lead time that other states did to prepare for the outbreak.


Of course, not everyone sees it that way. We have the same anti-mask, anti-lockdown, anti-public health advice folks we see elsewhere. We have conspiracy theorists, COVID deniers, "masks are tyranny" protesters, and even a county sheriff who publicly refused to enforce the governor's stay-at-home order. But Inslee has stood firmly on the side of public health regardless of who whines about it. While pandemic responses are always going to be imperfect and filled with uncertainty and inconsistency (that's the nature of dealing with a novel virus), the comparative results speak for themselves.

We've seen other governors stand their ground under intense pressure from both constituents and the federal government as well. For example, Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was criticized by President Trump for her response, yet when her state became one of the epicenters, she took an aggressive and consistent stance, didn't back down, and now Michigan's numbers are significantly lower than states that have taken a lax approach. For instance, Michigan's daily case increase is now a small fraction of what they are in Florida, where Governor DeSantis has moved aggressively toward reopening, focusing far more on economic recovery than limiting the spread of the virus.

Whitmer's leadership hasn't gone unnoticed, either. She's made a name for herself—as has Michigan's Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson—for standing strong in the face of criticism from the president. And she's using the spotlight to call for a stronger federal response and for the government to lead by example.

"I'd like a national mask-up campaign," she told CNN's Alisyn Camerota. "I think that if everyone endorsed this, it's a simple cost effective thing that we could do to really mitigate spread. But the symbols that come from the very top matter and it changes behavior. If we can take the politics out of mask wearing we can save a lot of lives and in doing so save the pain, the economic pain, that we are feeling across this country."

National leadership is vital in a pandemic, and our national leadership on coronavirus has been...well, lacking. A pandemic response was always going to be a challenge in a large country with 50 diverse states, but when state borders are invisible lines that anyone can cross at any time, we need to all be on the same page about how to prevent the spread. While outbreaks require a local response, a state-by-state approach to figuring out when and how to apply or ease mitigation measures makes little sense. (And making states compete with one another for needed medical equipment is just downright bizarre. Seriously.)

No response is going to win praise from every person, but epidemiologists, virologists, and infectious disease experts have prepared their whole careers for this moment. Political leaders must listen to them, follow their lead, and mold responses around their advice—otherwise we end up right where we are, with 25% of the world's COVID-19 cases and deaths, despite only being 5% of the world's population.

Thankfully, some governors are taking their public health responsibility seriously. Here's to the leaders who have stepped up and stood up in the face of resistance, allowing health professionals to guide the way and implementing protective policies accordingly, no matter how much or how loudly some people complain about it.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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