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HV.1, The New Covid-19 Variant Spreading Throughout The US 

A new Covid-19 variant is dominating the cases in the US, with another version of the coronavirus already spreading overseas. 

Kelly Oakeson, the chief scientist for next generation sequencing and bioinformatics for the Utah Department of Health and Human services, stated that “virus evolution is what we’re seeing in real time,” according to Deseret News

HV.1 is the variant currently the most prevalent in the US. “The variant is just getting better at getting into our cells. It’s better at making us sick. It’s better at doing what viruses do,” Oakeson said. 

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“The variant hasn’t yet reached dominant status in Utah but should soon, since the state tends to lag about two weeks behind the national variant proportions estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” he said. 

When it comes to what citizens in Utah, where the variant is quite prominent, should know about HV.1, Oakeson stated that “it’s more infectious.” 

“It can definitely infect more people. That’s why we’re seeing it increase in prevalence in the population. The symptoms seem to be the same. The severity seems to be the same as EG.5. I wouldn’t call it severe but I wouldn’t call it mild.”

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“Mild seems to instill in people’s minds, ‘Oh, it’s nothing at all. I don’t have to worry about it. it’s not going to cause any serious effects.’ People are still dying from this, I wouldn’t call that mild. People are still getting long COVID from EG.5 or HV.1. I wouldn’t call that mild,” he explained. 

“People are still ending up in the hospital with this. I wouldn’t call that mild. COVID-19 could kill them … (or) they could get it, have a runny nose, and be fine. There’s a huge dynamic range there of symptoms and severity.”

“If it was happening in the summertime, it might have less of an impact on everything. But now that it’s happening in the fall/winter … people are indoors, it’s getting colder outside. There’s more holidays. 

You’re probably going to see an increase in cases for sure. Is that driven by HV.1? Is that driven solely by the seasonality, what time of year it is? No, it’s probably a combination of all of those things. … We’ve seen this now, year after year,” he explained.

Stargazing

Some Of The Best Places To Stargaze Around The World 

Stargazing is one of the most popular and relaxing activities universally performed across the globe. There’s nothing like sitting in a large field of grass and looking up at the star-filled sky and contemplating just how small we all truly are. All around the world there are numerous locations where the universe looks close enough to touch based on how saturated the sky can get with stars. Here’s a list of some of the most widely-known destinations to view the night sky from:

The Atacama Desert, Chile: South America in general is known for its amazing stargazing. This desert located in the northern part of Chile is the driest place on the planet; besides the North and South Poles. It receives a couple millimeters of rain every year, however, the dry conditions mixed with the high altitude, minimal clouds, and near-zero pollution makes it perfect for viewing the night sky. The Tarantula Nebula, the Fornax Cluster of galaxies, the Southern Cross, and even the Large Magellanic Cloud are all visible from the desert. For this reason, locals refer to the desert as the best place in the world for looking at the stars. 

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The Atacama Desert

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah: This national monument is located in Lake Powell, Utah, and was the first ever certified International Dark Sky Park, which is an accolade given to various areas of the world by the International Dark Sky Association, whose main goal is to combat light and air pollution worldwide. This designation advertises itself as having some of the darkest and clearest skies in the US and in the world. The biggest attraction is the “river of light” that appears at night which is created by the Milky Way’s reflection as it rises over the Owachomo Bridge. The bridge forms what looks like a clean-cut window into the night sky that “frames” the millions of stars visible with the naked eye. Locals recommend camping out under the stars for the best experience. 

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, Japan: Japan is a country that’s known for it’s natural beauty. It’s cherry blossom trees and emphasis on nature in architecture make Japan one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s also one of the best places for stargazing, in the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park especially, 84 out of the 88 constellations, that are recognized by the International Astronomical Union, are visible. The park is also an International Dark Sky Park.

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Mauna Kea Observatory

Mauna Kea, Hawaii: The Mauna Kea summit on the Big Island is known as the most famous stargazing spot in Hawaii. The volcanic terrain and 13,800 foot high peak gives onlookers some of the most breathtaking views of the night sky imaginable. The Mauna Kea Observatory is located at the mountains peak, allowing for individuals to really look deeper into the night sky with it’s thirteen powerful telescopes. 

Pic du Midi, France: Pic du Midi is located in the French Pyrénées mountains and is famous for being the spot where NASA scientists take photos of the surface of the moon. If that isn’t any indication for how amazing the stargazing is here then I don’t know what is. Individuals can easily take a cable car from La Mongie to the mountains summit where an observatory is located for ideal viewing. 

La Fortuna, Costa Rica: This Costa Rican jungle may not seem like an ideal place for viewing the sky, especially considering tropical jungles are typically saturated in plant life making the sky nearly invisible, however, depending on the night, locals refer to this jungle as one of the few places where the Milky Way Galaxy becomes visible at night. The jungle is located right above the equator, which means during the dry season (December – April) visitors will have ample opportunity to view the stars.

Kids on Smartphones

Utah Tech Company Creates ‘Kid-Safe’ Smartphone To Help Combat Excessive Screen Time

Gabb Wireless is a company based in Lehi, Utah that wants to give parents an easy way to satisfy their kids desire for a cell phone, while giving them the peace of mind that their children are staying safe from things like cyber-bullying or online child predators. Gabb has released a kid-safe phone before, but in their new second-generation smartphone for children the company tried to implement even more security measures and new features that will limit screen time. 

The Z2 Gabb Phone, according to Gabb’s Vice President of marketing Lance Black, was developed to protect kids and minimize the amount of time they spend on their devices. Black claims that they are the first company to tackle the issue of kids and cell phones head-on by offering a cell phone specifically for them. 

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“We’ve got data to show that kids who have Gabb phones spend 80%, less time on screens. We’re a strong believer that the thief of opportunity is distraction. If we’re less distracted, we can accomplish great things. So (have) less screen time and do more cool stuff.”

The phone itself has Bluetooth capabilities and 14 pre-downloaded standard apps that are designed to motivate kids to step away from the world of the internet, video games and social media. The Z2 Gabb phone retails for about $100 with monthly plans that range from $20-$25, so parents aren’t breaking their banks paying for $900+ smartphones and data plans. 

Like regular smartphones, however, the Gabb phone has fingerprint security and GPS capabilities to help kids track down their phones if they lose it and so parents can also locate where the phone is. The company is also gearing up to release even more kid-friendly products that parents will love too. One of these projects includes a potential smartwatch launch that will implement the same message to kids; that they should be living their life beyond just a screen. 

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“We protect kids on a safe phone, we connect families, we empower parents and we live beyond the screen.”

Black also claims that Gabb partners will local organizations to help spread this message as well. Most recently the company partnered with Defend Innocence, an organization that’s working to end child sexual abuse, as well as the Gabb Ambassadors, an organization of young people who act as role models for what kids can accomplish when they limit their screen time. 

The presence of social media has become a major point of contention for young people especially. With technology and influencer culture being what it is today, there’s so many unhealthy beauty and living standards that circulate throughout the internet. These trends of living standards are indirectly telling kids that they should aspire to be like all the other young people on apps like Instagram and TikTok, instead of motivating them to explore their own individuality beyond what’s considered standard in the eyes of society. 

Gabb Wireless is essentially rebranding the idea of a cell phone to be more like what it was in the early 2000s, before smartphones became the norm for everyone. Give kids the opportunity to have their own phone and feel that independence, but restrict access to platforms that they have no business being on as a child anyway. This way, life is able to keep moving forward, and kids will be able to explore their own outlets for creativity.

Death Valley, California

Where Should You Go On Your Next Road Trip?

In the United States, going on a road trip has been a traditional means of vacationing since the creation of the car. The ability to just get in your car, start driving, and eventually end up in a different state can be such an exhilarating experience, let alone much cheaper when compared to airfare and other means of traveling. So what are some of the best road trip destinations to hit in America?

First, the state of Washington in general is known for its vastly wide array of landscapes, hiking destinations and national parks, all perfect destinations to pass through or stop at on your road trip journey. More specifically, the North Cascades National Park, which is situated right next to the Washington Pass route that will take you between two iconic mountain ranges which will be your view for a majority of the trip. Additionally, the route itself will take you through a multitude of nature preserve sites that you can pull over and enjoy, such as the Liberty Bell Mountain, Early Winters Spires, and Kangaroo Ridge.

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Olympic National Park

Speaking of Washington National Parks, while you’re making your way through the state you should definitely stop at the Olympic National Park, which is arguably the most well-known park in the state, as it’s known for having a diverse range of natural environments to explore, including rainforest hiking trails, mountain territories, and coastal beaches; all of which are located within the park. One of the more popular beach destinations in the park is Rialto Beach, which is known for its massive driftwood “decorations” that are scattered among the shore. 

Moving outside of Washington, California is one of the most popular road trip destinations in America. However, why just make it the final stopping point? California is huge and has a whole slew of different cities, beaches, and nature preserves in general that can occupy an entire week of travel. State Highway 1 is known as “The Lost Coast” in California, and it takes over 650 miles of California coastline without any major access roads, hence its name. You can drive, hike, backpack, bike, and more along the entire trail and because of how huge it is, the possibilities for what you’ll witness while exploring the hidden roads are endless. 

Like the Olympic National Park, Joshua Tree National Park in California near the Barker Dam is one of the more famous road trip spots/getaway destinations for most who visit the golden state. The Dam provides a major source for fresh water in an otherwise extremely dry and arid environment. That fresh water will also draw the attention of many unique species, which can make for some pretty picturesque nature shots. 

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Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is on the cusp of California and Nevada and is known as America’s hottest and driest national park due to the fact that it has the lowest altitude when compared to every other park in the country. The desert environment itself isn’t your stereotypical vision of endless sand and cloudless skies, but instead holds a bunch of deep canyons, multicolored rock formations, multi-textured sand dunes for any sort of desert activity like hiking, riding an ATV or dune buggies, etc. and with a name like Death Valley, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time.

Finally, it’s appropriate to also mention Arizona in this list. Arizona is located in the perfect place for a road trip, as it has Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico on its border, as well as the very famous Grand Canyon National Park in its residence. Beyond that, Arizona also has a myriad of photogenic landscapes, such as the Horseshoe Bend, which is one of the most photographed locations in the United States. The bend itself is located within the Colorado River and is about 100 miles from the Grand Canyon itself. The Saguaro National Park also holds a certain claim to fame in Arizona, as it’s known for holding some of the nation’s largest cacti species within its vast landscape (some can grow to be over 50 feet). 

Regardless of where you want to go on your road trip, make sure you’re remaining present and taking in all the scenery that the open roads of America have to offer. Never be afraid of a spontaneous detour, and pack a camera only for the really special moments so you can spend your time savoring every second of your nomadic journey. 

Seville Spain

Where To Go On Your Next Solo Vacation

Travelling is one of the most enchanting and fulfilling experiences we can do while here on Earth. When the stars align enough to the point that we’ve saved enough money and vacation days to take a much needed trip away from our everyday lives, it seems like a no-brainier. However, what happens when you get to a place in your life when no one you’re close to is as available as you to take said vacation? Solo-travel may not seem like it would be your top priority, however, there’s something truly gratifying about wanting to go out into the world and experience something new by yourself, and then actually doing it. So where should you go on your next independent journey? 

Seville, Spain has practically every element of Hispanic culture all in one city. From a series of historical cathedrals and other houses of worship, cobblestone roads, and bars and eateries lining the borders of countless plaza’s, you can’t go wrong. Seville has been described as one of the most social European cities out there, as residents spill into the streets everyday and spend their time wandering around, making new connections, and taking in the beauty that is traditional Spain. 

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Seville, Spain

If you are looking to stay in America, California is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country. But instead of going to the traditional California getaway spots, like San Diego or LA, try going someplace more scenic and secluded, like Redding. Redding is one of California’s nicest up and coming spots for those who love all things nature and outdoors. There’s a bunch of protected grounds to hike and explore, such as the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Six Rivers National Forest.

Thailand has become one of the most popular international vacation destinations to date. Bangkok, to be more specific, is described as a “one place fits all” type of experience. The city is not only oozing with culture, wildlife, and a multitude of markets, but it also is known for its insane nightlife. Electric neon lights, bass-heavy beats, and individuals in the most colorful club attire you’ve ever seen fill the streets at night, giving a “I never want this to end!!” type feeling to all involved. 

Paris, France is a bit of a no brainier when it comes to “dream vacation” spots and that’s exactly why it’s worth mentioning here. Paris is rich with European culture and museums as far as the eye could see holding some of the world’s finest art. In fact, you can get a Museum Pass in Paris for 74 Euros and that one pass will give you entry into 50 different historic sites. The best part? The pass is good for six days, so you don’t have to worry about cramming all of the sights to see in one day. 

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Staying in Europe, Wales in the United Kingdom has become a much more popular tourist destination within the past decade. Wales is one of the few places in Europe with beautiful white sandy beaches and postcard worthy sunset views. Additionally, Wales is known for its uniquely colorful architecture, immersive meadow fields and medieval castles, as well as plenty of places to grab a pint and a quick bite to eat. 

If you’re a bit of an alcoholic beverage connoisseur, look no further than Belgium for your next tour of some of the world’s greatest breweries. Belgium alone has over 150 breweries, and is known for its active biking culture. There’s a bike shop on nearly every corner and plenty of dedicated bike paths throughout the country, allowing for easy access to some of the most breathtaking European views you’ll ever see. 

Finally, one of the more underrated destinations on anyone’s list would have to be the state of Utah. While Utah may seem like your average middle-America place to be, it’s actually becoming quite the hot spot during the summer months. Utah is home to  Zion National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, and the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on the border of Utah and Arizona. If you can, try to hit any of these spots at night for some of the most incredible stargazing spots you’ll ever see, at least in America. 

Regardless of where you decide to take yourself on your next solo trip, make sure you take the time to plan out what exactly you want to do. All of the locations listed above are known for their hospitality and social scenes, so you likely will never have an issue when it comes to asking for directions, or finding a good place to eat. So go on your own Eat, Pray, Love journey and go be with yourself for a week.