Unemployed Americans can now get a free subscription to the Headspace meditation app

With unemployment levels rocketing in the United States as the coronavirus pandemic continues, many people are experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety due to job loss or being furloughed. At times it may seem impossible to feel calm, but mindfulness meditation company Headspace wants to help by offering all unemployed Americans a free one year’s subscription to Headspace Plus , its premium mindfulness meditation learning platform.

If you’re an unemployed American, you can use Headspace Plus for the next year for free and learn how to practice mindfulness and meditation, both of which will help you find ways to feel more calm and less stressed or anxious. Headspace Plus also offers exercises created to help you sleep well – or a little better than you have been, anyway. All you need to do is download the Headspace app, compatible with the best smartphones and tablets , and sign up. Or you can access Headspace via your computer.

  • Get your one year’s free subscription to Headspace Plus

This good news from Headspace comes at a time when up to 43 million Americans could lose health insurance due to coronavirus-related job loss . Leading health organizations have also warned of a mental health pandemic off the back of the coronavirus fallout, with a greater uptake already seen in teletherapy for conditions such as anxiety and stress.

That’s why a year’s free subscription to Headspace Plus could help ease the burden for some. The program centers around 40 themed meditations. There are mini mindfulness meditations for those who are new to the practice and want an easy step in, as well as techniques to help you learn how to calm a racing mind.

#Headspace was founded to improve the health and happiness of the world — for whoever needs help, but especially those who need help most. So, from today we’re offering every unemployed person in America free access to Headspace Plus, for a year. pic.twitter.com/HXh8JKrImp May 14, 2020

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Mindfulness and meditation can help you:

  • Reduce stress
  • Control anxiety
  • Increase your self-awareness
  • Boost your problem solving skills
  • Lengthen your attention span
  • Feel more grounded and peaceful
  • Increase feelings of compassion and gratitude

Sleep has a huge impact on our mental health, and can be negatively impacted by a range of issues, from sleeping in a room that’s too noisy or too hot, through to being kept awake by a racing mind, or not having the best mattress or the best pillow for your sleep style. Via Headspace Plus, you’ll also be able to access a series of guided meditations created to help you sleep better. These are based around calming your mind before sleep, so that you’re in a more relaxed state before you lay your head down.

There will also be a new series of meditations, available via the Headspace app, aimed at how to live through unemployment. These guided mindfulness meditation sessions cover topics such as how to adapt to sudden change, and how to find purpose again.

How the wellness community responded to the coronavirus pandemic

For all the bad news we’ve seen since the coronavirus pandemic first hit, we’ve also seen the wonderful way in which many companies and individuals have stepped up to help their global community. The fitness industry, in particular, has responded to the coronavirus crisis by offering people free at-home fitness classes , with many brands, such as Peloton and Fitbit, one of the bes t fitness tracker brands in the world, offering extended free trials on their digital fitness platforms.

In the UK, the NHS made the Thrive app available to everyone to help people deal with anxiety, stress and low mood, while Chris Hemsworth and the team behind his wellness Centr app have created a series of meditations for kids experiencing stress and anxiety as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Even big pharmaceutical companies have extended care, with insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk offering a free 90-day insulin supply to diabetes patients who have lost health insurance due to a coronavirus-related job change or loss.

Treasury announces four million coronavirus stimulus payments will be sent by prepaid debit cards

The Treasury has revealed it will begin issuing coronavirus stimulus payments by sending a prepaid debit card in the mail. So far, more than 140 million stimulus payments worth $239 billion have been delivered to Americans by direct deposit to accounts, Direct Express card accounts, and by paper check. However, beginning this week, the Treasury will start the process of sending nearly four million Economic Impact Payments cards, in place of sending a check. 

Check your eligibility

Find out whether you qualify for the coronavirus stimulus payment and how to make a claim. 

The payments – which are part of the $2.2 trillion aid package announced in March – are worth up to $1,200 per individual and up to $2,400 per couple. While parents should also receive an additional $500 for each qualifying child aged 16 or younger, some recipients have received less than they were expecting. Last week, the IRS moved to explain the discrepancies, and outlined the reasons why the coronavirus payment might be less than expected , and how to check whether a payment is correct. 

The prepaid debit cards are mainly being sent to those who do not have bank account information on file with the IRS and so would have otherwise received a check in the mail. People whose tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center might also receive a card. 

Given the financial upheaval the pandemic has thrust upon millions of households, it is likely that many will have earmarked the stimulus payment for essential spending. The use of the best credit cards has soared amid the outbreak, with a quarter of Americans falling further into the red since the crisis began. The prepaid debit cards can be activated immediately, and should mean that recipients will be able to start putting their payment to use faster than if they receive a check. 

“Treasury and the IRS have been working with unprecedented speed to issue Economic Impact Payments to American families,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly. Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”

How to get started with your prepaid debit card

Each mailing will include instructions on how to activate and use the card, while a website is already up and running explaining how to get started. The website also includes further details on how the card can be used and how to check your balance. To get started:

  • Read the Cardholder Agreement and Fee Schedule
  • Activate your account, set your 4-digit PIN and check your balance by calling 1.800.240.8100 (TTY: 1.800.241.9100)
  • Sign the back of your Economic Impact Payment Card
  • Keep your card number in a safe place.

How to use your prepaid debit card

The prepaid debit card can be used online, to get cash from in-network ATMs, or at any retail location where Visa is accepted. It will also be possible to transfer funds to a personal bank account without incurring any fees, while the card balance can be checked online, by mobile app, or by phone. 

The cards will come with the consumer protections available to traditional bank account owners, including protections against fraud, loss, and other errors. The IRS recently warned that the stimulus payments and the extension of the tax-filing deadline to July 15 had created a greater risk of tax-related identity theft .

Find out why a regular prepaid debit card could be an excellent budgeting option if you want to keep on top of your spending or better manage debt.  

VanTop’s new $200 robot vacuum is inspired by… insects

VanTop Technology & Innovation is launching three new robot vacuums this June and they’re all inspired by insects including bees and dragonflies. Starting at under $200, the new Cybovac robot vacuums are the brainchild of Kyvol, a brand from VanTop, and will be available from June 25. 

Insects and vacuums seem like a pretty weird combination, but the new Cybovac E-series robot vacuums combine the visual navigation of bees and dragonflies along with drone technology, without adding a huge price tag either. 

The three models, E20, E30 and the E31, are all controllable via an app for remote control and have the functionality to perform automatic cleaning schedules. As with many robot vacuums, the new models have different cleaning modes – Auto, Edge and Spot but the E31 model has a built-in water tank so that it can mop your floors after vacuuming them. 

Aiming to earn its way into the leading robot vacuums on the market, Kyvol’s new models all have a battery life of 150 minutes, making them last longer than any other models in our round up of the best robot vacuums . 

Cheap robot vacuums: Cybovac E-series

When the robot vacuums reach a 12% battery level, they automatically return to their charging station. Other key features in the new models from Kyvol include the dust bins, which are 600ml to reduce emptying frequency, and infrared sensors to stop them from crashing into other objects or falling down stairs. Starting at $199 for the Cybovac E20, the E30 costs $249 and the E31 will cost $279 and they will be available from kyvol.com from June 25. 

Thinking about getting a robot vacuum? Traditionally, upright vacuums used to be cheaper, but robot vacuums are quickly advancing and becoming much more affordable. 

Samsung smart windows could bring ‘natural’ light to the darkest of rooms

Samsung is continuing to invest in the kind of technology we’d expect to see in Star Trek as it unveils five new startup companies that have been spun off from its C-Lab program, including one that is looking to develop artificial windows.

SunnyFive, the most intriguing of the new startup companies, is seeking to develop a “window-shaped lighting device that produces artificial sunlight”. The idea is that the artificial window can simulate the full range of lighting conditions throughout the day, mimicking the sun’s movement across the sky. Samsung also claims that the SunnyFive device will help users to synthesize vitamin D (a process in the human body that requires sunlight). This means that you’ll be able to generate vitamin D without exposing yourself to the actual sun, whether by choice or necessity.

People with fairer skin are sensitive to sunlight and can easily burn and age their skin through overexposure to the sun’s rays, especially during summer. The SunnyFive could allow our fellow fair skins to get access to the sunlight they need without endangering themselves during summer and heatwaves.

Likewise there are people who live in conditions where access to sunlight isn’t easy, or even possible. This ranges from those who live in basement apartments and or sleep in rooms with no windows, all the way through to those living in the arctic circle or serving aboard submarines and ships.

Traditionally, people have been able to treat this lack of natural sunlight by using one of the best light therapy lamps , also known as light therapy boxes. These are also drafted in during the autumn and winter to help ease the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and its less debilitating cousin the ‘winter blues’. In a nutshell, light therapy lamps simulate strong sunlight (the kind you’d expect at midday on a very sunny day), and have an average light output of around 10,000 lux (lux is the light intensity measurement). Doctors recommend them to be used for around 30-45 minutes a day. 

Light therapy can help boost a person’s mood, which is why they’re used to treat S.A.D., and to help regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycle, leading to more consistent and better quality sleep. These lamps are often placed on desks and bedside tables and used in the morning, as the effects of light therapy can be quite physically energizing. If the SunnyFive artificial window offers a similar health benefit, this could become a great wellness tool for many throughout the darker, colder months, as well as for those who cannot get a lot of natural light at home regardless of the season – especially those who work from home in these conditions.

While it’s normally associated with building everyday products like the best smartphones and TVs , Samsung is also something of a hotbed for innovation. Samsung started it’s C-Lab program in December 2012, with the goal of helping its employees start up spin-off companies if they have groundbreaking ideas that don’t fit within Samsung’s current remit. The program provides the startups with investment and business advice to help them succeed, while also offering a five year safety net that lets employees take their old jobs back if the venture isn’t successful or they want to return for other reasons.

To date, 163 employees have worked together to establish 45 new startup companies. These new companies have raised 45 million dollars between them, tripling their value since they were originally created. The other four startups that were announced today aren’t quite as sci-fi and out there, but they’re interesting nonetheless. 

Blockbuster is a video editing app that lets people easily apply CG effects to their videos. Let’s hope things go better for it than Blockbusters, who famously got steamrolled by Netflix and the streaming service revolution. There’s also Hyler, a smart highlighter that also scans and digitizes the words that you highlight, not dissimilar to a smart pen. 

RootSensor is a UV sensor that detects how much UV exposure a person is receiving, which could have applications in the best smartwatches and fitness trackers . Finally there’s Haxby, a smart study note service that records incorrect answers from student workbooks and recommends appropriate study materials based on what they need to learn and their ability levels.

We wish all of these bold new startups the best of luck and we look forward to seeing these products if and when they make it to market.

4 million Americans in forbearance as refinance mortgage restrictions eased

More than four million Americans are currently not paying their mortgages as the coronavirus continues to impact the everyday finances of households across the U.S. According to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) data , the share of mortgage loans in forbearance increased to 8.16% as of May 10, 2020, meaning 4.1 million homeowners are at least one month behind on their payments. 

The latest figure represented a slight uptick on the 7.91% recorded the week before, but is almost 33 times higher than the 0.25% of mortgage loans that were in forbearance at the beginning of March, just prior to the coronavirus devastating the economy. 

Mortgages backed by Ginnie Mae continued to have the largest overall share of loans in forbearance by investor type, rising from 10.96% to 11.26% week-on-week, while the share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance increased from 6.08% to 6.25%. Forbearance numbers rose to 8.99% among depository servicers, while independent mortgage bank servicers recorded an increase to 7.85%.

Is the number entering forbearance stabilizing?

More encouraging was a continued decline in the volume of forbearance requests, which dropped for the fifth consecutive week, relative to the prior week, from 0.51% to 0.32% of loans. Call centers were also slightly quieter, with weekly servicer volumes dropping back from 8.6% to 7.8%.

“The pace of forbearance requests continued to slow in the second week of May, but the share of loans in forbearance increased,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “There has been a pronounced flattening in loans put into forbearance – despite April’s uniformly negative economic data, remarkably high unemployment, and it now being past May payment due dates. However, FHA and VA borrowers are more likely to be employed in the sectors hardest hit in this crisis, which is why more than 11% of Ginnie Mae loans are currently in forbearance.”

According to Fratantoni, record-low mortgages rates are sustaining the refinance wave, helping homeowners lower their mortgage payments and save money during these challenging times. Furthermore, he suggested that a consecutive increase in purchase applications in the last four weeks was a sign that housing demand is strengthening, as more states ease restrictions on activity and people get back to work.

“We will continue to closely monitor the forbearance request and call volume data for any sign of an uptick, but current trends suggest that if the economy continues to gradually reopen, the situation could be stabilizing,” he added. 

Forbearance rules over new mortgage loans eased

Separately, there was positive news from federal regulators, who have moved to relax some of the restrictions that were imposed on those in forbearance, or just out of forbearance, but who were looking to refinance their mortgage or buy a new home. 

In a Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) statement , Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued temporary guidance stipulating that borrowers will be able to approach the best refinance mortgage companies or get a new mortgage for house purchase if they are in a forbearance agreement, but are also current on their mortgage – in other words, they have continued to make their mortgage payments or reinstated their mortgage.

At the same time, it was announced that borrowers will now be eligible to refinance or try to secure a new loan from the best mortgage lenders to buy a new home just three months after their forbearance ends and they have made three consecutive payments under their repayment plan, or payment deferral option or loan modification. 

Help for overcautious homeowners

The move is effectively aimed at helping homeowners who were perhaps too cautious and overly eager in choosing to enter forbearance when the rules were relaxed to effectively allow those with federally-backed mortgage to skip payments with almost no questions asked. Usually borrowers have to wait a year after their payments are up to date after exiting forbearance before they can get a new refinance mortgage or buy a new home. 

“Homeowners who are in Covid-19 forbearance but continue to make their mortgage payment will not be penalized,” said FHFA Director Mark Calabria. “Today’s action allows homeowners to access record low mortgage rates and keeps the mortgage market functioning as efficiently as possible.”

Despite the slowdown in numbers seeking forbearance, millions will still have questions over what to do if you can’t pay your mortgage . Sharing such concerns with your loan provider is key, and the best mortgage lenders and refinance mortgage companies will be ready and willing to take your call. 

New map shows all US travel restrictions for Memorial Day

If you were planning on a Memorial Day road trip, you might want to check out this new coronavirus travel restriction map first. The AAA has paired up with analytics firm Esri (the same firm that created a map which reveals which stage of the outbreak your county or state is in) to guide you through new complicated travel restrictions as lockdown measures begin to lift nationwide. 

With various states and counties introducing different policies and restrictions, it can be hard to keep track of what is and isn’t allowed, but AAA , which provides some of the best roadside assistance plans has stepped in to clarify. 

The new map shows travel related restrictions across the US and Canada. Using data from Johns Hopkins University, it also includes COVID-19 case count information by both county and state. 

Information displayed includes roadway travel checkpoints, where you may be stopped by officials to check your origin, destination and other key information. National land closures, such as national parks and monuments, have also been noted, and travel restrictions include citywide and nationwide guidance. 

The travel map also includes data on which regions have mask requirements, but it’s a good idea to have one on hand even if it isn’t mandatory. Check out our ultimate guide to face masks for more information on how to make your own. 

Record low predicted for memorial day travel

The map can be viewed here , and according to Fast Company , is optimized for cell phone screens (just be sure not to check it while driving!). However, even if you can travel, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The AAA accepts that travel is a personal decision, but advises that travelers ‘should heed all official advisories, including the latest guidance from CDC and the State Department.’

The AAA has halted its annual Memorial Day travel projection, with Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, saying:

“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000. With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

KitchenAid has launched a cordless mixer so you never have to worry about cables again

KitchenAid is renowned for its beautiful cookware, including some of the best stand mixers around but now the brand as revealed its new range of cordless appliances. 

The new cordless range is all handheld and includes a blender, mixer, and a chopper food processor. Fitted with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the appliances have been designed to eliminate the nuisance of short cable lengths – especially if you aren’t blessed with plenty of electrical sockets in your kitchen either. 

The cordless food chopper is a handy compact food processor and is capable of chopping up to 40 onions on a full charge. The food chopper is available in matte black or red and has a capacity of five cups. Even better, the accessories for slicing and chopping are dishwasher safe so there’s no need to scrub them. Because this food chopper is cordless, it takes up to two hours to fully charge, but can be used without a full charge. 

The second appliance in KitchenAid’s cordless range is the handheld mixer, which is available in seven colors and has seven speeds. It also has a Soft Start feature which brings the mixing blades up to speed slowly to avoid your mixture from flying everywhere. KitchenAid says its new handheld mixer can make up to 200 cookies on full charge but it does take two hours to charge up fully. 

The final new appliance in the KitchenAid cordless range is a handheld blender. Aiming to rival the best blenders that have cords, KitchenAid’s new model is only available in matte black and claims to blend up to 25 bowls of soup after a full charge.

The new cordless appliances are not the only new things KitchenAid has released recently either. The brand has also revealed its stylish new gas ranges that are available in nine new colors. The vibrant ranges come in three different sizes too: 30 inches, 36 inches and 48 inches.

Crucible is the new hero shooter from Amazon Games, and it’s free to play

Unless you’ve been living at the bottom of the ocean or on one of the moons of Saturn, you’ll likely have heard of Amazon. In fact, even if you do live on Titan, I’m pretty sure you can still get 24 hour Prime delivery out there. What you might not know about Amazon is that its looking to get into the video games market in a big way, and the first title from Amazon owned developer Relentless Studios, called Crucible , is launching today.

Crucible is a free-to-play, online, third-person hero shooter that looks like an amalgamation of every other popular video game from the last five years. There’s a bit of Fortnite here, a sprinkle of Overwatch there, and a whole heaping spoonful of League of Legends in the mix too. This “we spent a billion dollars on focus testing and this is what people like” approach to video game development has resulted in one of the most generic looking video games that we’ve seen in quite some time, but according to our friends over at Gamesradar it plays a lot better than it looks.

Amazon already has an almost absolute dominance over the online shopping world, along with a strong competitor in the best TV streaming services wars with Amazon Prime Video . It also completely obliterated the competition when it comes to the best audiobook services with its Audible service. Could gaming be the next big move for Amazon? Will they enter the video games console race alongside Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Google? Did you even remember that the Google Stadia existed until we just reminded you? So many questions.

Crucible is available to download now for PC via the Steam store for free. If your current rig isn’t powerful enough to play crucible, then check out our best home computers guide, which includes the monstrous Alienware Aurora R9 gaming PC – perfect for crushing your enemies on. 

Wave goodbye to EarPods – Apple reportedly dropping the bundled headphones for iPhone 12

It looks like the iPhone 12 won’t be coming with a set of Earpod headphones when it launches later this year, if a recent rumor from Apple expert and industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is to be believed. The rumor was first reported by 9to5Mac and suggests that Apple may be dropping the iconic EarPods from the iPhone box to help push sales of its wireless AirPods.

Earpods have been a staple feature that have been included with iPhones since the iPhone 5 first launched with them bundled in back in 2012. Now it looks like the iconic earbuds will be dropped in favor of pushing the completely wireless AirPods. However it’s unlikely that we’ll see AirPods coming free with the iPhone 12 given the price disparity between the EarPods, which currently retail for $30 separately, and the AirPods which start at $159 . At best, we might see a bundle deal that costs less than the iPhone 12 and AirPods would separately.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ming-Chi Kuo does also suggest that Apple will be offering deep discounts on AirPods this holiday season to help iPhone users ease into the transition. It’s a real shame to see EarPods dropping out of the box, but it’s not entirely unexpected. Apple made waves back with the iPhone 7 when it removed the standard headphone jack in favor of a USB-C connection, meaning you needed to buy an adapter or use Apple’s EarPods if you wanted headphones for your iPhone.

At the same time, other companies have already dropped headphones from their phones to save on costs, such as Google who no longer includes headphones with its Google Pixel line, including the Google Pixel 4XL . Google claims this is because most people don’t use them, favoring their own selection of the best headphones like the Bowers & Wilkins PX .

We don’t have any official word on when the iPhone 12 will be launching, but the signs point to October this year. In a private conference call to investors , Apple’s largest manufacturing partner Foxconn told investors that it was on track for a fall release, though that schedule may since have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime though, you can still grab the current models, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro which are both among the best smartphones on the market.

Homemade face masks vs surgical masks: new coronavirus study reveals how effective they are

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to wear cloth face coverings in public, many are wondering about the effectiveness of handmade face masks. Do they actually work? If so, how? And how do they compare to a surgical mask? The latest study attempting to answer such questions comes from scientists at the University of Edinburgh, who tested seven types of face covering to determine how effectively each helps limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The face coverings tested were a surgical mask, a handmade mask, respirator, FFP1 and FFP2 masks, and face shields (both lightweight and heavy duty). The research showed that all of the face coverings, with the exception of the respirator, reduced the forward distance (front flow) travelled by an exhaled breath by over 90%. However, some of the masks, including the handmade mask and the surgical mask, ‘enabled strong jets of air to escape from the back and sides’. Heavy breathing and coughing, in particular, were shown to generate backward jets.

Explaining what this means for the general public, Dr Felicity Mehendale, Surgeon, Centre for Global Health, the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “It was reassuring to see the hand-made mask worked just as well as the surgical mask to stop the wearer’s breath flowing directly forwards. This suggests that some hand-made masks can help to prevent the wearer from infecting the public. But the strong backward jets mean you need to think twice before turning your head if you cough while wearing a mask; and be careful if you stand behind or beside someone wearing a mask.”

The team hopes its research will shape new guidance on the wearing of face masks to help tackle the virus, which can be spread in the droplets of water in a person’s breath. 

The researchers used a special imaging technique, called Background Oriented Schileren imaging, to measure the distance and direction travelled by air when a person exhales or coughs while wearing a face covering. Measurements were taken from people wearing different coverings while standing or lying down, and from a manikin connected to a cough-simulating machine.

While the FFP2 mask (equivalent to an N95 mask) was the most effective in reducing all exhaled air dispersal, scientists found that only masks that form a tight seal with the face prevent the escape of virus-laden fluid particles. The team also noted that there are many different types of homemade face masks, of varying levels of quality, and that some will therefore be more effective than others. 

Last month, a research team at Northeastern University , led by Loretta Fernandez, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, found that the most effective homemade face masks include a filter layer, so basically a layer within the cloth mask itself. That filter could be layered toilet paper, a coffee filter, or any material that’s safe to breathe. 

“Even for masks that might not filter out everything, a tight fit against the face significantly lowers the chances of viral droplets making it to the airway,” Fernandez said. “That’s why any sort of filtering people can use in their masks could be highly protective. The idea is to create an efficient series of layers with bends within the fabric that make it harder for the virus to have a straight shot at a person’s nose.”

Attitudes towards wearing face masks

Last month, an Ispos poll suggested that 3 in 5 Americans were wearing a face mask or some type of face covering when leaving their homes. More, recently, however, there has been a growing backlash amongst some people over the wearing of face coverings. Despite US health experts continuing to encourage face mask use in public, protesters across the states have been photographed defying social distancing guidelines while not wearing face coverings.

Elsewhere, researchers from Middlesex University London and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley conducted a study that showed, in situations where masks were both mandatory and non-mandatory, American men are more likely to not use a face mask when venturing outside. The study found that men are less likely to believe they’ll be seriously impacted by COVID-19. Some also questioned the effectiveness of face masks, which is a common coronavirus question regularly leveled at health experts.

Current guidance on homemade face masks

The important thing to note, and something that is mentioned in each study we have seen so far on the effectiveness of cloth face masks, is that people should not see these coverings as a substitute for social distancing and frequent hand washing. Instead, think of them as an add-on protective measure.

According to the CDC, a handmade face mask should include multiple layers of fabric – at least two layers of fabric, plus a filter – which echoes the results of the research conducted at Northeastern University. The denser the weave of material, the better, as explained by Dr Scott Segal, Chairman of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, in an interview with the New York Times .

In our homemade face masks 101 feature, we walk you through how to make your own face mask, and list the best materials to use and why. Remember: don’t buy medical grade or surgical masks – leave those for health care workers. If you don’t have any suitable face mask material at home, and you’re worried that shopping in a public place could expose you to the virus, consider buying materials online at sites such as Amazon , Best Buy , Target and others. If you’d prefer to buy ready-made cloth face masks, Purple mattresses has recently launched the Purple Face Mask , which is made using materials from its bed pillow range, and sells for $20 for a twin-pack in either kids or adult sizes.

Best practice for wearing cloth face masks: 

  • Clean your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before touching the mask
  • Touch the mask by its elasticated straps or fabric ties when putting it on
  • Ensure the face mask fits snugly around the mouth and nose
  • If your mask has metal wire running through the top, press it gently so that it fits more snuggly against the bridge of your nose
  • When removing it, handle it by the straps or ties – never touch the front
  • Wash the face mask after use, removing the filter before doing so
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after removing your mask
  • Never wear a face mask that’s damp from mucus, spit or moisture from breathing

The CDC has also updated its list of coronavirus symptoms to include a new loss of taste or smell, a sore throat, muscle pain, fatigue, chills, shortness of breath, a new or persistent cough, and a fever – see our guide to the best digital thermometers for fever monitoring in adults and kids. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some mild GI symptoms can also be caused by post-nasal drip arising from hayfever, which has led to confusion over coronavirus symptoms vs seasonal allergies .

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, one concern many Americans have is how much they’ll need to pay for treatment of COVID-19. Early cost predictions by the Peterson Centre on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation suggest that people with coverage from their employer could expect to pay at least $1,300 in out-of-pocket costs for medical care, if hospitalized with a severe case of COVID-19. 

A recent think tank study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Urban Institute, which looked at how the COVID-19 recession could affect health coverage, estimates that up to 43 million Americans could lose insurance . If you are currently without coverage, take a look at our guide to the best health insurance companies that might be able to help.