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Risk management: How Coloradans are deciding to live their lives at this stage of the pandemic

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Risk management: How Coloradans are deciding to live their lives at this stage of the pandemic

If Michael Lamb wasn’t a father to young children, the 36-year-old Aurora resident would probably be more adventurous at this stage of the pandemic.

“I think I’d be far more cavalier about what I was doing,” Lamb said. “But I’ve got a 3-year-old and 6-year-old and my focus is on them since they can’t be vaccinated. It’s their protection first, especially in light of the new variants.”

Lamb works in the insurance business, so risk management always weighs heavily on him. But more than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, as so many public health decisions — masking indoors, eating in restaurants, attending large social gatherings — are now being left up to an individual’s comfort level, that weight feels even more burdensome.

Last year, Gov. Jared Polis and public health officials mandated a number of decisions for us, restricting where we could go and requiring mask-wearing in public. With the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines, state leaders began loosening restrictions and people were able to choose, in many cases, what their new normal looked like. But as the delta variant of the virus flared this summer, some Coloradans chose to return to living life a bit more cautiously.

“It’s definitely stressful,” said Lamb, a British citizen born and raised in Hong Kong who moved to Aurora in 2018. “But I’m inherently risk-averse, anyway. I experienced SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). I experienced bird flu. I have seen how it works. It’s easier for me to say, ‘Kids, I know you wanted to go to (indoor playground) Lava Island, but we’re going to ride our bikes around outside instead.’ ”

Deciding what feels safe at this point in the pandemic can seem like a choose-your-own adventure novel with serious repercussions. Colorado’s statewide mask order now only requires people who are not fully vaccinated to mask up in a limited number of settings — homeless shelters, prisons, jails, correctional programs and health care facilities — and mandates that everyone must wear a mask inside residential care facilities like nursing homes.

A handful of counties, including Boulder County, and a number of metro-area school districts have mask mandates in place for all.

For most Coloradans, however, the choice of whether to wear a mask when picking up a gallon of milk, whether to kick back with friends inside a favorite bar, or whether to attend that thrice-postponed wedding is now left up to the individual.

Public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends fully vaccinated folks mask up in public indoor settings in counties where there is high transmission of the respiratory virus — which, as of Wednesday, was all of Colorado except San Juan County. But the federal agency says those who are vaccinated can “participate in many of the activities that they did before the pandemic.”

Living in different worlds

Coloradans’ varying comfort levels with the virus have some feeling as though they’re living in different realities from those around them.

Laura Hackney, a Parker resident, is fully vaccinated and has resumed life as usual, she said.

The 64-year-old and her fully vaccinated husband are comfortable traveling, shopping for groceries, attending local festivals and popping into the mall to browse without wearing masks. She feels overjoyed watching sports and seeing stadiums full of fans back to enjoying themselves.

Hackney got the vaccine after her children asked her to, but doesn’t care for the feeling of fabric over her face, she said.

She has avoided spaces that might require her to mask up such as plane rides, opting for road trips instead. The Parker resident recently returned from a trip to Michigan, where she ran a race alongside a vibrant running community.

“Our life is pretty normal,” Hackney said. “We do pretty much whatever. I think it’s strange you see all these people wearing masks when they don’t need to, but I think that’s how it should be if they feel they want to wear one, as long as they’re not asking me to. I think it’s weird people who are perfectly healthy are wearing masks, but I try not to be judgmental. This whole thing really hasn’t affected us that much.”

For fully vaccinated Brighton resident Lydia Villalobos, the pandemic has delivered heartbreak after heartbreak.

The 68-year-old woman had been taking care of her brother who has Down syndrome for 25 years, but his condition worsened during the pandemic to the point that she had to find a nursing home to care for him, she said.

“That experience of trying to find a nursing home during the pandemic — it was horrific,” Villalobos said, choking back tears. “They had some of the highest number of cases, and I had to put a loved one in one, and because of COVID, you couldn’t even tour them. You couldn’t talk to anyone there face-to-face. I felt blind. It was so scary.”

Villalobos was devastated to learn of several friends’ death from COVID-19, she said.

Then, in May, Villalobos’ husband was diagnosed with cancer.

With a couple of the most important people in Villalobos’ life in vulnerable situations, she said she and her family can’t be too careful. They wear masks inside the few places they go, like the grocery store. They haven’t eaten inside a restaurant since the pandemic began. They’re visiting with their children outside.

In order to see her brother weekly in the nursing home, Villalobos said it’s her duty to stay as safe as possible during the week.

“I thought my summer would be a little different once we got vaccinated, but then when my husband got sick — we just have to be careful,” Villalobos said. “I get it. People want this to be over, but it’s not. It’s been a whole new way to live. I come from a large family, and our reunions have been put on hold, and I miss everyone, but we have to keep everyone safe. It’s frustrating when it feels like people are just thinking of themselves and not thinking of others. I try not to be negative, but that’s what it feels like sometimes.”

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Lydia Villalobos, 68, center, accompanies her husband Modesto, 74, right, along with their daughter Vanessa, 45, left, to a therapy appointment for Modesto at the Anschutz Cancer Pavillion in Aurora, Colorado on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Modesto has been diagnosed with skin cancer on right hand.

“Another layer of hardship”

Amanda Rebel, a Colorado-based therapist with a niche for pandemic-related counseling, said the vast unknowns and discomfort brought about by COVID-19 and the choices presented by the virus can be managed through seeking mental health care.

“I often tell people that they can’t control what other people do, but they do have choices around what works for them,” Rebel said.

Rebel helps coach clients on figuring out their comfort level in these pandemic times, creating boundaries and helping enforce those boundaries with loved ones when tensions might prickle.

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Tinx and the Age of the Authentic Influencer

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Tinx and the Age of the Authentic Influencer

This story was initially published in The Creators — a newsletter about the people powering the creator economy. Get it sent to your inbox every Saturday here.

I recently spoke with 31-year-old TikToker Christina Najjar (@tinx, 1.5M TikTok) who dishes out everything from dating advice (women apparently date like venture capitalists while men date like stockbrokers) to “rich mom” starter packs to random thoughts on Rihanna and her favorite foods. Tinx, who has built a brand around her lifestyle and tidbits of wisdom, talks money and power with us and explains how influencers don’t just “sit around playing on our phones all day.”

This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

No More Bad Marketing

Historically influencers have been willing to promote just about anything. Kim Kardashian notoriously appeared in a 2011 Super Bowl ad for Skechers Shape-Ups, chunky exercise sneakers that were supposed to help you lose weight, as well as tone your butt and abs. Skechers ended up having to pay $40 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle a suit for deceiving customers. More recently, in November, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sued influencer Dana Chanel for allegedly deceiving consumers by posting about her own companies that ripped them off.   

Tinx says that’s changing. 

“Audiences are extremely smart now,” she says. “So they’re not going to accept just random partnerships that don’t make sense. They can spot the BS, so to speak, from a mile away.”

Tinx, for example, loves Chipotle. She started talking about how much she enjoyed the Mexican food chain on social media organically and the brand took notice, landing her a partnership where she even had a “Tinx Bowl” featured on the Chipotle app for 45 days.  

“All of the content felt so fresh and original and it was just in my mind a perfect case study for how influencer marketing should go,” she says.   

Tinx chooses not to participate in affiliate marketing, where brands pay influencers to promote their products and get paid a percentage of the sales they bring in. Instead, she says she works with brands “in a more long term, strategic way.” 

“When I first started out, I was coming at this career from an interesting vantage point because I’d worked at multiple jobs including in corporate America in my 20s and I told my manager I think that the age of the influencer who will just promote anything for a quick buck is over,” she says. 

How Tinx Got on TikTok

Tinx always wanted to make content, but she didn’t get her start on social media. Her parents, both from the Midwest, raised her and her brother in London where she attended an all-girls school, was exposed to theatre, and gained a “global perspective.” After studying English at Stanford University, Tinx worked in Gap’s retail management program and went to graduate school at Parsons for fashion journalism. She spent her 20s writing lifestyle stories as a freelancer until she started making TikToks during the pandemic. 

“It was all to do with the power of storytelling and the power of connecting with an audience through creativity,” she says of her transition from journalist to an influencer. “I started making digital content during the pandemic like so many of us in May of 2020 and, immediately, I knew it was gonna be my life’s passion.”

Now, Tinx prides herself on her mostly-female fanbase, to whom she dispenses “big sister” advice. Early on, Tinx says she got caught up with views and likes, but she’s learned that audiences care about authenticity, especially during the pandemic.  

“The things that the audience values in content creators and influencers have changed,” she says. “It used to be, ‘Oh, do they have washboard abs and are they perfect, on a trip to Bora Bora with their perfect boyfriend?’ Now it’s like: Are they authentic, are they real, what value can they add?” 

Taking Influencers Seriously

The most successful influencers are flooded with comments from haters who tell them to “get a real job.” When TikTok mogul Addison Rae’s account got “permanently banned” in October, she Tweeted a screenshot of the notice from the app with the caption “Well time to get a job.” Her account was reinstated hours later. The 21-year-old made an estimated $8.5 million on TikTok in 2021, released a single that has over 28 million streams on Spotify, and co-starred in the Netflix movie “He’s All That,” a play on the 1999 film “She’s All That.” It’s safe to say Addison Rae has more jobs than most of us.  

One of Tinx’s good friends is Emily Mariko, a 29-year-old influencer who recently went viral for posting videos of her making salmon bowls, which might seem frivolous, but people apparently want to see them. 

“It’s not just that she’s filming herself cooking,” Tinx says. “It’s the editing, it’s the filming, it’s the whole concept. When people think that content creators, it’s just so easy for them to make the content, that means they’re doing their job right because it looks effortless but it’s a ton of work.”  

While skeptics might not understand the power of influencers, Tinx knows they are here to stay: “Creators are the mouthpiece from brand to audience, they understand what’s interesting about a brand or product to an audience, sometimes better than the brand can know themselves.”

Do you have questions about the creator economy? Have you quit your job to focus on being a creator? Have you quit your job for a different reason?  Please email me at creators@observermedia.com.

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Massive, wind-driven blaze levels buildings on Salisbury Beach

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Massive, wind-driven blaze levels buildings on Salisbury Beach

SALISBURY — Massive flames engulfed a motel and at least two other buildings early Monday on Salisbury Beach, destroying the structures along the popular summer beachfront.

The fire at Michael’s Oceanfront Motel in Salisbury was called in just before 2 a.m., news outlets reported. The fire spread to at least two other buildings described as residential.

Firefighters eventually struck 9 alarms on the massive blaze, calling in cres from Hampton, New Hampshire, and Ipswich, Mass,, among others, to pitch in.

Videos and photos from the scene showed large flames burning multiple structures in the beach town on the tightly packed beachfront.

It was unclear whether anyone was hurt. Salisbury Police said on Twitter that the city’s Emergency Management and the American Red Cross had set up a community room at the police department for people displaced by the fire.

The Red Cross of Massachusetts said it was already assisting at least 2 people displaced by the fire.

John McGuirk told WCVB-TV he woke up to an officer banging on his door telling him to get out.

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Bill Belichick: Patriots improved in 2021, but ‘have a long way to go’

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Bill Belichick: Patriots improved in 2021, but ‘have a long way to go’

It’s a staple phrase for Bill Belichick during the regular season, but it’s never rang more true than it did Monday morning, roughly 36 hours after the Patriots’ latest season ended.

“We certainly made improvement from where we were last year, but we have a long way to go,” Belichick told WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show.

The Pats finished 10-8 after Saturday’s 47-17 Wild Card loss at Buffalo. That record marked a three-win jump from the previous season, improvement powered by the largest free-agent spending spree in NFL history and better quarterback play. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones completed 67.6% of his passes for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions a year after Cam Newton tossed eight touchdowns to a dozen picks.

The Patriots’ regular-season point differential also swung from minus-27 in 2020 to plus-159 this season, the largest improvement in the league. They finished as the NFL’s fourth-best team by Football Outsiders’ opponent-and-situation-adjusted efficiency metric, DVOA. Though, the Pats did go 1-5 against their top division rivals, Buffalo and Miami.

Since Saturday’s blowout, Belichick said his focus has been on preparing for Monday, when players will clean out their lockers and sit for exit interviews.

“A day like (Sunday) is a day where I needed a full day, and even more, before the players come in this afternoon to prepare for the things that directly affect these players and this team,” he said.

Belichick added he doesn’t know if or when certain members of his coaching or scouting staff will depart for other organizations. Inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo will reportedly interview for head-coaching vacancies in Houston and Denver. Eliot Wolf, a senior consultant in the team’s personnel department, has also been requested to interview for the Bears’ general manager position.

As for Belichick, he reiterated his commitment to coaching in 2022.

“I enjoy the job. It’s challenging, but I enjoy all aspects of it,” he said. “Robert and Jonathan (Kraft) have been very supportive and they’ve given me great opportunity to try and do the things we need to do to have a good team.”

Belichick also dismissed any notion he’s taking his job “year to year.”

“Nobody ever said it was year to year or something else. I never said that.”

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