Kicking off our pandemic summer


May 25, 2020

May 25, 2020
The Hustle
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Happy Memorial Day. Today might not feel like a holiday for many of us still sheltering in place, but it’s important to remember the true purpose of our Monday off: to honor fallen service members. We asked readers to share their stories of how they’re marking Memorial Day this year — more on those below. 

If your day usually involves a parade, here’s one you can tune into virtually: Ancestry.com is hosting Kathie Lee Gifford, Tori Kelly, and the Lincoln Way Marching Band for a live-streamed parade at 11am ET. 

Have a great holiday.

A Season of Change

How the corona crisis changed the game for some of your favorite summer staples

We’re gearing up for a long staycation. We’re filling our fridges with a quintessential quarantine food. And the kids are still driving parents bonkers at home.

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the US — even though it might not quite feel like it this year. 

Here’s one way we know today does still count as the kickoff to summer: Our shopping habits show we’ve been preparing for it in a big way — for one thing, RV rentals and sales are spiking.

And look at what else is in our carts…

Here are a few ways life in quarantine scrambled our summertime habits:

🌭 Hot dog sales are hotter than ever. An Insider column called them “the best quarantine food,” and it’s hard to disagree. They’re cheap, they have a long shelf life (helpful when beef is harder to come by), and kids love ‘em. Since early March, sales have been at least 29% higher every week compared to last year.

👙 Everybody wants a swimming pool. Backyard builders are seeing a wave of interest, and you don’t need to sink your budget: Minnidip, the makers of chic adult kiddie pools (yes, they exist), saw record-breaking sales in April, according to the LA Times. People are chilling out on their patios… and in parking lots.

A true backyard oasis needs more decor. Overstock.com says it’s seen an even higher than usual spike in sales of outdoor furniture — especially small sets that can be wedged onto the balcony of a city apartment.

☀️ Sunscreen brands are feeling the burn. Sunscreen sales dipped by 17% in mid-March. So SPF-ficionados pivoted hard: Glossy said Sun Bum had planned to repeat a skin-cancer awareness challenge encouraging its followers to wear a banana costume — but scrapped it because the messaging felt off. Its best-selling products? Hand sanitizer and hair care.

⛺️ Summer camp won’t be the same. Axios reported that camps nationwide are retooling — CDC guidelines say they shouldn’t open unless they can screen everyone for symptoms when they arrive. Camps are delaying openings, installing hand-washing stations, canceling high-touch activities, and going virtual. Ghost stories by Zoom, anyone?

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Sky’s the limit

The big NASA x SpaceX collab is going to be out of this world

Even a pandemic can’t bring NASA down: On Wednesday, the space agency will team up with SpaceX for the first-ever public-private space launch.

Two veteran astronauts will hop aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and lift off to the International Space Station — and if all goes well, it might clear the launchpad for private space companies everywhere.

Virgin Orbit, which is trying to trailblaze a path for low-budget space travel, is in the game too — firing off a small rocket from one of its jumbo jets.

Watching from the wings is Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which has a rocket of its own it’s hoping to test. 

You think Earth’s supply chains are a mess? 

Try living in space.

You might be wondering why, in the middle of a pandemic, we are so eager to send humans into outer space. But as Engadget explained, space travel is so tightly scheduled that even one postponement could mess up the whole system. 

Take the International Space Station: Space agencies time their departures and arrivals to maximize resources. 

Astronauts bouncing around the ISS aren’t able to grow their own food in space quite yet, Matt Damon be damned, and they need refills from new travelers. A launch like this one can’t wait.

Also pressing: There’s no laundry machine floating outside the space station. If you’ve ever gone camping for a little too long without clean clothes, you can imagine how those astronauts are feeling right now. 

The team guiding the Curiosity Rover? They’re WFH now

In some ways, astronauts are lucky: Quarantine has not been so simple for NASA’s team of engineers. Many rely on supercomputers and sophisticated 3D goggles to do their work, which they can’t just lug into the living room. 

The Rover team has had to downgrade some of its equipment — like their fellow earthlings, the group uses red-and-blue 3D glasses for now — but it’s working out okay.

In late March, 2 days after they switched to home computers, the engineers successfully guided the rover into drilling for a rock sample on Mars. 

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Travel local?

Thinking of getting away this summer? Hope you like your home state

Your local tourism board has a message for you: Please don’t leave us. 

Summer is vacation season, but traveling across the country isn’t looking so hot right now. That Honolulu retreat? Make sure to budget 14 days of quarantine into your plans.

Everyone’s tourism economy is hurting, but state governments think they have a solution: Rather than fill up hotels with outsiders, they’re looking within.

States are really feeling themselves

Brace yourself for the marketing blitz. 

Maine whipped up a virtual guidebook to introduce residents to overlooked hotspots close to them. The Green Mountain State has an official “Restart Vermont” campaign that is trying to draw residents out to places like Lake Champlain.

Wyoming’s tourism arm ran an ad begging residents to support local business, and Travel Oregon is pushing people toward local parks and museums. 

If your home state is… let’s face it, a bore… there’s another option: Build a treehouse, buy a trampoline, and get ready for vacation in your backyard.

When it comes to travel, everyone’s getting cliquey 

While US states are fussing with their own looks, some countries are sliding into the DMs of their hippest neighbors to form “travel bubbles.”

Essentially, travel bubbles are relaxed borders — tourists can move in and out without a mandatory self-quarantine. Australia and New Zealand have one, and so do a few others:

  • The Former Soviet Power Trio: Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Croatia
  • The Baltic Bubble: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
  • The Mediterranean Mix: Greece, Cyprus, and Israel 
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Your Stories

How you’ll remember friends and loved ones today

Last week, we asked you to tell us about your plans to honor fallen members of the military this year. Thanks to all of you who wrote in to share.

One thing’s clear in the dozens of stories we heard: Your traditions may change, but your commitment hasn’t wavered.

Brandy is a self-described “Army Brat” whose father is a disabled veteran. He still works for the federal government, and has been director of several national cemeteries.

“It has been my family’s tradition to attend the ceremonies on Sunday wherever my father was at the time,” she wrote. “This year there will be no ceremonies, although the cemeteries are open for family and friends to visit gravestones. We will miss our annual tradition to honor those who have served, and gave their lives for our freedom.”

Diana will honor Cpl. Chris Scherer, a 21-year-old Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2007, by running a race called “I Did the Grid.” This year, the 4-mile run is virtual — complete with printable PDF bibs that honor Chris and others who were killed in action.

Kelcie will remember her fiancé’s late father, who served overseas for 3 years. “Normally, we go to our local vet cemetery and help put flags and flowers on every gravestone,” she wrote, “but this year that celebration is canceled. This year we will be bringing him flowers and drinking a stiff gin and tonic for him, while watching Broncos reruns.”

Lori will spend time with her son Tyson, who’s served in the Army National Guard for 21 years:

“Instead of enjoying the annual opening of local Oregon wineries, this weekend I’ll bring my REI camp chair, a favorite Oregon Pinot Blanc, and my Yeti wine glass to social distance cocktail hour in my son’s cul-de-sac. I’ll be joined by my son, his wife, my daughter, and her fiancé, while we all watch my 1-year-old grandson be his entertaining self from a safe distance.

No one will talk about the many wars my son has seen since 9/11, and how our lives have been forever changed. I’ll feel (silently) incredibly grateful that I, for one, do not have to memorialize the loss of a loved one.”

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