'We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to.' Andy Slavitt explains how
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The U.S. is an outlier among developed nations in our handling of the coronavirus pandemic. While other countries have gone through rough outbreaks, none have the sustained growth in cases that the U.S. is seeing. Rather than try to control the outbreak so we can somewhat resume normal life, Americans seem to have decided to continue with normal life during a pandemic that's already killed close to 150,000 Americans and given at least a million more long-term health problems. From conspiracy theories to partisan bickering to "the gov't can't tell me what to do" individualism, the U.S. is a hot mess on the pandemic front, and the coronavirus is thriving off of our disunity.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Other countries have proven that it is possible to get a hold of this thing and keep it from running rampant. As former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Senior Adviser to the Bipartisan Policy Center Andy Slavitt explains, we could nip the pandemic in the bud in a matter of weeks if we can just agree to do it.

Slavitt wrote on Twitter:


"COVID Update July 26: We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to. We can be back to a reasonably normal existence: schools, travel, job growth, safer nursing homes & other settings. And we could do it in a matter of weeks. If we want to."

He pointed out that New Zealand managed to completely eliminate the virus with its decisive, unified approach. And for those who would say that's easier to do on an island, he also pointed to Germany, which had an outbreak for a bit, but got it under control.

He also pointed to Italy, France, and Spain, who had it bad around the same time we did, but managed to get their outbreaks under control, as most developed nations—and even many less developed nations—have.

"But don't tell me the U.S. can't take action if we want to," he wrote. "And we can't face the families of 150,000 people who didn't have to die & tell them this had to happen. And I think it's why our national political leaders won't go near these families & the grieving process."

Then he offered the good news: "We are always 4-6 weeks from being able to do what countries around the world have done."

But we have to go all in, or as he says, "throw the kitchen sink at COVID-19 in the U.S." None of this half-ass shut down, let people do whatever they feel like business. Slavitt defines the kitchen sink as:

1. Start with universal mask wearing. We didn't do this in Mar-April and let's chalk it up to faulty instructions. But we know better now.

2. Keep the bars & restaurants & churches & transit closed. All hot spots.

3. Prohibit interstate travel.

4. Prohibit travel into the country (no one will let us into their country so that shouldn't be hard).

5. Have hotels set up to allow people with symptoms to isolate from their families at no cost.

6. Instead of 50% lockdown (which is what we did in March in April), let's say it's a 90% lockdown.


Naturally, that would mean things would be tight and tough for a few weeks. We'd need the government to help bridge the financial gap. But we could do it.

As Slavitt pointed out, "Our grandparents who lived through a decade long depression, a 6 year world war, or whatever hardship they faced in their country would tell us we would make it."

Slavitt explained how we could even form "friend & family bubbles" like the NBA has successfully done.

At first, cases and deaths would continue to rise and people would continue to die, because there's always a lag.

And because of that, the "COVID truthers would have a field day, tweeting every day the same routine" about how the lockdown wasn't working and the government is fascist and the numbers are skewed. "But if someone took Trump's phone, it would help," he added.

Then, after a few weeks, the R value—the rate at which the infection reproduces—of the virus would drop drastically. "If you have 60,000 cases in your community, in 50 days, it would drop to 58. 6000 becomes 6. 600 becomes 1."

This is the exponential math that is a hallmark of epidemiology. The idea isn't to get to zero, but to get cases down low enough to be able to implement the testing, contact tracing, and isolating that keeps spread low even during a reopening—but which can only be done when numbers are low enough. The U.S. in general has not had numbers low enough to do that since the beginning of the pandemic because we were too slow and too all over the place to take the necessary steps toward that goal.

With fewer cases, we wouldn't need to do as much testing, which would allow our testing capacity to build to a level where we could actually test everyone we need to.

We could also catch up on PPE production, and keep the mental health crises that go along with an uncontrolled pandemic limited to a couple of months instead of the ongoing nightmare we're in right now.

As Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped find the cure for smallpox, points out, we are smarter than this virus. "If it was just our science and the goodwill of American people, absent bad governance, we would have defeated it already. I don't mean we would have eradicated it, but we would have been much further along into kicking it into the dustbin of history."

Slavitt pointed out that even in countries that are now seeing an uptick in cases after having gotten numbers very low, the recent daily peaks are in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands that we're seeing in the U.S.

Think about what that would mean for us. For our medical workers. For the scientists trying to get a vaccine safely on the market. We've already started to get used to social distancing norms during the pandemic, but if we could get the virus under control, those measures would be a lot more effective.

Yes, it would mean 6 to 8 weeks of disruption. But in the big scheme of things, that's not that long. And we're already suffering through months of disruption anyway because we took a haphazard, disunified approach, which is harming us economically, emotionally, and epidemiologically.

And since we don't know yet if a vaccine will be the be all end all for this pandemic, we have to figure out how to manage without one for now.

Of course, as Slavitt points out, "The major objection to all this? People who think this infringes on their 'rights.'"

But we all give up some "rights" simply by living in a civilized society. There are rule and laws we all have to follow. We can't just do whatever we want—not when what we want to do puts others in harm's way. And during a pandemic, public health measures are designed to protect people, in the same way that food handling regulations and road safety laws do.

What about herd immunity? We don't know enough about how immunity with this virus works yet. Also, any attempt at reaching herd immunity means a mass number of casualties—not only hundreds of thousands of deaths, but millions upon millions of chronically ill people. Not ideal, especially when we actually can get this thing under control with a serious short-term strategy.

We all saw the Florida and Texas and Arizona outbreaks coming as governors tossed aside public health advice and citizens flaunted their "freedom" to gather in crowds, not wear a mask, and not do what needed to be done.

The thing is, it will all have to be done anyway, eventually. "We will do this. Theres is no other way," Slavitt wrote. "The question is when. The question is who will convince us. The question is the leadership it takes."

Really, it boils down to what it has always boiled down to—listening to the majority of epidemiologists who have prepared their whole careers for this moment and taking decisive, unified action that lines up with the science. The more we keep pretending that the virus isn't real, or isn't that bad, or is some kind of hoax or conspiracy that the entire world is somehow in on, the longer we're going to suffer.

Let's hit the reset button here—shut down for 6 weeks, pay everyone to stay home, and get our numbers down to a manageable level so we can keep them there. Let's be proactive instead of reactive. Let's stop being the world's poster child for what not to do in a pandemic. We may not be able to lead the world in a crisis at this point, but we could at least attempt not to embarrass ourselves any further.

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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."

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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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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