Thursday, December 31, 2015

Healthy Holiday Cleaning

The holidays can mean having a lot of people over to the house which means a lot of cleaning. But instead of reaching for the bleach or drain cleaner, take the time to read the labels and follow the directions. Many of the cleaning products available in stores today are hazardous. You can tell by reading the signal word and precautionary statements. The signal words are: Warning, Caution, or Danger on the label.

Sure, we see these words on labels all the time, but what do those labels actually mean?

According to the the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) household hazardous products must be labeled accordingly. It was decided that there should be three levels of labeling.

Warning or Caution:
These labels indicate that a product may be “moderately toxic, corrosive, reactive, or flammable”.
This is the second ‘level’ of toxicity and means that a product is highly toxic, flammable, or corrosive. It can cause injury to you through ingestion or skin exposure.
This is the highest level of toxicity that can be listed and means that the product can cause injury or even death if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

Choosing safer products

The best way to reduce hazardous exposures to you and your family is to use green cleaning methods or by choosing the least hazardous product available when shopping. There are many cleaning products available with hazards low enough to not require one of the signal words. There are also several recipes to create your own green cleaners that are easy and mainly use common household products such as baking soda and vinegar. If you must use a hazardous product, make sure you read the label, use the safety precautions described, and follow the directions. Simply using the product as directed with the best possible safety precautions can reduce exposures.
So the next time your drain is clogged or there’s a stain on your bathroom wall reach for a safer alternative. And you won’t have to worry about toxic exposures for you, your household, your guests and pets.

You can find more tips on how to reduce your family’s exposure to toxins through our Healthy Home Companion.


Monday, December 21, 2015

5 Tips for Safer Holiday Food

One of the most common things to do during the holiday season is prepare food. Here are some tips for safer holiday food.

1. Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Raw meat and eggs can contain bacteria that can make us sick. Washing your hands with soap and warm water will help reduce the risk of bacteria spreading. Frequent hand-washing also helps reduce the spread of other germs and tiny bits of toxic chemicals that get on our hands as we go about our daily routines.

2. Use a meat thermometer.
Ham, turkeys, and other types of meat are popular this time of year and it’s easy to underestimate how long they should be cooked. Use a meat thermometer to cook meat to its safe minimum cooking temperature. Kitchen thermometers make a great holiday gift!

3. Refrigerate promptly.
Bacteria can grow quickly on cooling food, especially meat. Try to put everything in the fridge as soon as you’re done using it so that bacteria don’t have a chance to grow.

4. Separate, don’t contaminate!
When preparing food, designate one cutting board for meat (including poultry, seafood and eggs) and one for everything else. This will prevent any of the bacteria on meat from getting into other food. Here are some other tips for preventing cross-contamination.

5. Use glass or ceramic containers to store food.
Plastic containers contain phthalates and BPA chemicals linked to long term illness. Even containers that are BPA Free can still contain other chemicals with health concerns. Using glass or ceramic containers to store food reduces exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.

For more information on foodborne illness visit the CDC’s website.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How to have a ‘Green,’ Healthy and Safe Holiday

If you’re like a lot of people around the holidays, you like to decorate! And this can mean strings and strings of colored lights wrapped around a tree or your house. While these lights are beautiful and help bring about holiday cheer, they also can be costly and, sometimes, hazardous. LED string lights are becoming more common and not only reduce your energy bills around the holidays, but also don’t burn or break as easily as conventional string lights. Nothing like saving ‘green’ while being green! Many holiday lights contain lead, which is toxic to the brain and especially toxic for children whose brains are still developing. Keep small children from touching holiday lights when possible and have everyone wash hands thoroughly after touching holiday lights.

Burning candles releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your indoor air. These VOCs are tiny chemical particles can irritate lungs and cause symptoms in people with asthma or allergies. Candles also present fire and burn hazards especially if there will be small children and pets present in your home. Instead of using real candles, consider using LED candles which give the same warm glow, without all of the fine particulate matter. They also last much longer than conventional candles and can save you money! If you burn candles for a warm holiday scent, try simmering cinnamon sticks in water on the stove instead.

And finally, a holiday tree can be a center point to the holidays. It can be a tradition from some to go cut one down and bring it inside without realizing what they’re hauling in with it. Trees, being plants, carry pollen with them which can cause seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as ‘hay fever’. If anyone in your home has allergies and asthma it may benefit your whole family to go with an artificial tree this year!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Free Healthy Homes Program Training

Be the Key to a Healthier Future!

The next free Healthy Homes Program training is coming up! This training is a great opportunity to learn the key aspects of maintaining a healthy living space.

Learn how to address and prevent health and safety issues in your home through lessons taught by experts, fun field trips, and hands-on activities.

Learn about:
  • Mold and moisture
  • Lead and other toxic exposures
  • Indoor air quality
  • Landlord/Tenant rights and responsibilities
  • Conducting Healthy Homes Visits
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Household safety
  • And more!

The training begins on January 21 and is every Thursday from 6-9 p.m. through March 24, 2016.  The 10 sessions will be held at Thurston County Public Health Department 412 Lilly Rd. NE Olympia. It is across from Providence St. Peter Hospital and is served by bus route #60.

Submit your application today by email or mail.  

For more information visit the program website or contact the program at or 360-867-2674 (TDD 360-867-2603).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Microbeads: Small Size, Huge Impact

There is an emerging public health threat in the form of tiny plastic particles that are often too small to see with the naked eye. These tiny troublemakers are known as microbeads, and they’re mainly used as abrasives in face scrubs and body washes, but are also found in makeup, lip gloss, nail polish, and even toothpaste. Being made of plastic, they don’t biodegrade easily, and their small size (almost always 1 millimeter or less) makes it nearly impossible for water treatment plants to filter them out before discharging treated water into lakes, rivers, and in our case, Puget Sound. Individually, microbeads may not seem threatening, but consider that a recent report by the New York Attorney General’s office estimates that 19 tons of microbeads end up in the state’s waters every year, and that’s just one state!

Making matters worse, microbeads are also highly absorbent, meaning that they easily soak up toxic chemicals such as those found in flame retardants, pesticides, and motor oil that have also found their way into our waterways. One study shows that microbeads can be up to one million times as toxic as the water around them! Soaking up toxics might sound great, until you realize that these toxic sponges wind up in the food chain. Algae, at the bottom of the chain, are quick to absorb the smallest microbeads, and algae often become food for fish. Fish will also eat the larger microbeads on their own, mistaking them for food. This is where the problems begin. Fish that eat too many microbeads can die of starvation, as these tiny particles accumulate in their digestive systems, clogging them and preventing absorption of nutrients. If a microbead-eating fish manages to avoid that fate and instead ends up on someone’s dinner table, the soaked-up toxics become a serious human health issue. As much as we love seafood in the Pacific Northwest, human health here in our area could be particularly at risk.

This growing threat has prompted microbead restrictions and bans in six states, with many more state legislatures in the process of doing the same. The Netherlands is leading the charge in Europe to ban microbeads, and Canada announced a nationwide ban on the manufacture, importation, and sale of microbeads in August 2015. Here in Washington, an attempt to ban microbeads has stalled because of concern over a loophole that would allow manufacturers to sell products with supposedly “biodegradable” microbeads. However, the only biodegradable microbeads currently available will not break down in cold waters, including Puget Sound, meaning that they will be almost as dangerous to people and marine life as the microbeads being used today.

The public reaction against microbeads has been strong. Two of the largest personal care products corporations, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, claim to have already phased-out microbeads in their products. Two others, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have committed to stopping the use of microbeads over the next few years.

What can you do?

Alternatives to microbeads for exfoliating work as well or better. Look for products (or make your own) that use:

  • Walnut shells
  • Rice
  • Apricot pits
  • Bamboo
  • Coffee beans
  • Jojoba beans

You can always use an exfoliating facial sponge with your favorite cleanser or moisturizer instead of a product that contains an exfoliant.

With precious ecosystems and human health at risk, consumers can use their purchasing power to buy products that leave out harmful ingredients. Through consumer demand and public policy the personal care product industry is changing. By purchasing safer and healthier products, consumers show the industry what they want. Being a smart shopper can make a huge difference.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cluster of E. coli cases in Washington and Oregon

An outbreak of E. coli cases in Washington and Oregon has led to the voluntary closure of Chipotle restaurants. While the source of the contamination is still under investigation, the outbreak may be linked to the popular restaurant chain.

Consult your healthcare provider if you ate at a Chipotle restaurant between October 15 and 31 and have symptoms that may include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting. In some cases, E. coli can be severe and life-threatening. Young children and the elderly are at higher risk to become severely ill from E. coli infection.

General food safety guidance:
Using safe food handling techniques can reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Be sure to have a clean space for handling food, wash hands thoroughly before and during food handling, and wash produce well. Keep raw meats separate from other foods. Always cook food to the safe minimum cooking temperatures and refrigerate or chill foods right away.  Check out these food safety videos that show how to clean, separate, cook, and chill properly.

12 Steps for Reducing Allergens at Home

Microscopic dust particles
People with allergies know that there are things that trigger allergic reactions all around us. They are practically unavoidable. However, there are simple actions you can take at home to reduce allergy triggers. Common allergens in the home include dust, pet dander, mold, pollen, rodent droppings, chemicals, fragrances, and shedding and droppings from insects.

Keeping your home clean and well ventilated, and taking steps to control moisture are key to maintaining a healthy home and reducing allergens. Following the steps below can help create a healthier living space for everyone, especially people with asthma and allergies,
                                                                                                young children, the elderly, and people
                                                                                                with compromised immune systems.
  1.  Keep home heated between 60-68° F. This helps reduce humidity throughout the home.
  2. Vacuum at least once a week. If possible, include furniture and curtains.
  3. Dust hard surfaces with a water-dampened cloth weekly to control dust. Microfiber cloths work great!
  4. Remove shoes at the door to help reduce the amount of allergens tracked inside.
  5. Dust mites are mostly harmless, but people with allergies can be sensitive to them. Get dust mite covers for pillows, mattresses, and box springs. These special covers keep dust mites from getting inside the bed. In addition to the covers, wash bedding in hot water (130° F) once a week to kill dust mites in the sheets and blankets.
  6. Use kitchen and bathroom fans to control moisture and ventilate. Bathroom fans should run while bathing and for 30-45 minutes after bathing. Use a kitchen fan, or open a window whenever someone is cooking, even if they are simply boiling water.
  7. Check for leaks around sinks and pipes regularly. Always fix leaks and dry out the area within 24 to 48 hours.
  8. Open windows daily, even in winter. For a quick exchange of air, go through the home opening each window and then go back through and close them.
  9. Avoid using air fresheners and scented products. The chemicals in scented products are allergy triggers and actually pollute indoor air. This includes candles, incense, plug-ins, sprays, wax melts, perfumes, and colognes.
  10. Make sure the home is sealed to prevent pests from getting inside.
  11. Use green cleaning methods. Some people with allergies are sensitive to chemicals
    conventional household cleaning products. Green cleaning is effective, non-toxic, and inexpensive.
  12. If you have a wood stove or wood burning fireplace be sure you are using them properly. Follow these tips for safe and efficient use.
Each room or area in the home can be prone to different allergens. This Room-by-Room Guide from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America can help you identify allergy triggers throughout your home.

Would you like help dealing with allergens, toxics, mold and moisture? Our Healthy Homes Program provides free, confidential home visits to Thurston County residents to help them create a healthier living space. For more information or to schedule a Healthy Homes Visit contact: (360) 867-2674 or

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Toxic algae advisories in effect at 5 Thurston County lakes

These advisories are no longer in effect.

Toxic blue-green algae advisories are in effect at Deep Lake, Black Lake, Long Lake, Scott Lake, and Pattison Lake.

When there is a toxic algae bloom, people are advised to:
  • Avoid contact with the lake.
  • Keep pets out of the water.  
  • If fishing, catch and release is the safest practice.

Learn about blue-green algae from this previous blog post, Blue-green Algae Blooms.

A list of advisories is kept up-to-date on the Swimming in Thurston County web page.

If you have questions, contact Jane Mountjoy-Venning: (360) 867-2643, or Art Starry: 867-2587

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More Ways To Protect Drinking Water

Most people in Thurston County get their drinking water from the groundwater supply, either from a private well, or one of the many public wells throughout the county. Typical private residential wells are only about 50 feet deep, and most of our county’s public wells are 200 feet or less from the surface. Contamination can happen quickly and put people’s health in danger. To protect public health, areas surrounding the county’s many public wells that are vulnerable to contamination have been designated as wellhead protection areas. 

Whether or not you live in a designated wellhead protection area, your actions affect our drinking water supply. We all share the responsibility to help keep our community’s water supply safe and healthy to drink. Easy ways that you can do your part to help keep our water safe for your family and everyone else include:

  • Pick up dog waste – One pile of dog waste contains nearly eight billion fecal coliform bacteria! When people don’t pick up after their dogs, rain water can wash those bacteria down storm drains directly into streams, lakes, and Puget Sound. This rain water run-off is called stormwater. People who swim in or drink water that has been polluted with fecal coliform bacteria can suffer from cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches, with infants and young children at the greatest risk. In wellhead protection areas, rain run-off can wash dog waste bacteria into our drinking water. Stormwater usually either filters into groundwater or it flows into a nearby body of water rather than to a wastewater treatment facility. TIP: Bag, tie up, and dispose of your pet waste in the garbage, and never flush it down the toilet.

  • Avoid the use of toxic weed and bug killers and fertilizers on your lawn – Chemical pesticides and fertilizers, including popular “weed and feed” products, are toxic and can seep down through the soil beneath your lawn and into groundwater, which in much of Thurston County is the drinking water supply. Regular exposure to these toxics, such as through drinking contaminated water, can cause all sorts of medical problems, including cancer.

  • Take hazardous substances to HazoHouse for safe disposal – HazoHouse is a drive-through hazardous waste disposal facility located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center in Lacey and is open daily from 8:00am until the gates close at 4:45pm. If you have a product in your home labeled “Poison,” “Danger,” “Warning,” or “Caution,” it is considered hazardous and should never be flushed, poured down the drain, or thrown in the garbage. If you need to dispose of such products, please bring them to HazoHouse. TIP: For a list of the types of substances and products that are and aren’t accepted at the facility, visit the HazoHouse website by clicking here. If you have any further questions, you can contact HazoHouse by calling (360) 867-2912 or sending an e-mail to

  • Bring unused medication to a safe disposal center – For those with on-site septic systems, flushing unused medications can end up contaminating your drinking water supply – and possibly your neighbor’s too. Septic systems cannot remove medications from your wastewater, which means that they will be pushed out into your drainfield and seep into the groundwater. In particular, flushing unused or expired antibiotics can cause two serious problems for septic system owners. First, they will damage your septic system by destroying the helpful bacteria that break down wastes in the septic tank. Second, the antibiotics that make their way into our drinking water are thought to be contributing to the increasing levels of antibiotic-resistant germs. You can find more information on safe disposal at the County’s website. TIP: Safely dispose of unused or unwanted medications for free at the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, the Tenino, Yelm, Lacey, or Tumwater Police Departments, or Rainier City Hall.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tacoma Smelter Plume – how to reduce exposure to the legacy pollutants

The Tacoma Smelter Plume (TSP) was caused by a copper smelter run by the company Asarco  in Tacoma. For about 100 years the industrial site created air pollution containing lead and arsenic over 1,000 square miles of the Puget Sound Basin. Lead and arsenic are known as “legacy pollutants” because they remain in the environment long after they were introduced. The TSP area includes areas in Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston counties where there are higher than normal levels of arsenic and lead in the soil as the pollution settled.

Because many Thurston County residents live in an area affected by the Tacoma Smelter Plume, it’s important to stay alert about arsenic and lead in our soil. In order to reduce exposure, take action to minimize dust and dirt in your home.

  •  Keep your home clean and control dust as best you can. Wipe dust with a damp cloth (microfiber cloths work great!) and vacuum weekly.
  • Wash hands thoroughly when coming inside, before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom.
  • Wash children’s hands, toys, pacifiers, etc. often. Children spend more time closer to the ground and put more items in their mouths so they have higher
    exposure rates. Children are also more vulnerable to exposures to toxics because they are still growing. 
  • Eat a diet rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin C to decrease absorption of lead. If your body has the nutrients it needs, it is less likely to absorb toxics substances.
  •  Remove shoes at the door. Designate a pair of house shoes or slippers if wearing shoes inside is important to you.
  • Wash produce well to remove dirt, dust and bacteria.
  •  Bathe and brush pets often to reduce the amount of dirt they bring into the home.
  • You can get your soil tested by a state-certified laboratory.

About arsenic
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is normally present in water, soil, dust, air, and food but in small amounts. Exposure can happen through eating or drinking tainted food and water, ingesting mud, soil, or dirt, and breathing in dust or fumes.
For the most part, unless you have had prolonged or intense exposure, arsenic
shouldn’t affect your day to day life too much. However, it is a good idea to play it safe.

About lead
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is found in the soil. While it does have value in creating items such as batteries and x-ray shields, it is toxic to humans. Exposure can happen through lead based paints (in homes built before 1978), contaminated soil, and some imported goods.

Lead exposure is especially harmful to children, pregnant women, and seniors. It is toxic to the brain. Lead poisoning in growing children is proven to harm the growth and development of their brain. When lead is absorbed into the body, it stays in the body and builds up. That is why there is no known safe level of lead exposure. Because of this, making sure that you limit lead exposure for you and your family is as much as possible is very important!

For more information visit the Washington State Department of Ecology’s web page on the Health Effects of Lead and Arsenic.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mushroom Hunting Safety

Mushroom hunting (also known as foraging) can be a fun and rewarding outdoor activity for people of all ages. Once regarded as a strange and eccentric hobby, it has slowly grown in popularity over the years and attracts people for different reasons. Most wild mushrooms are considered nontoxic, but some cause serious adverse health effects, including death. Always follow proper precautions when mushroom hunting to protect your health.

The most important rule for all mushroom hunters whether they’re beginners or experts is: Never eat a mushroom until you are absolutely certain that it is edible.

Staying “better safe than sorry” is absolutely necessary when mushroom hunting. Being “almost certain” is not enough, and can lead to an emergency room visit – or worse. There is also no single test that can accurately determine whether or not a mushroom is poisonous. Ignore advice that you may have heard about poisonous mushrooms tarnishing silver spoons or turning blue when bruised – certain poisonous mushrooms might do this but there is no scientific evidence that it’s always the case. A mushroom’s scent is not a reliable indicator of safety, nor is taste. Witnessing a wild animal eating a mushroom is not a guarantee that it will be safe for you to ingest. If you have ANY doubts about the safety of a wild mushroom, do not eat it.

There is an incredibly diverse variety of wild mushrooms, and some deadly mushrooms can look remarkably similar to edible ones. The best way to safely start mushroom hunting is to hunt with and learn from experts who are knowledgeable about wild mushrooms specific to your area. Fortunately, there are numerous resources in our region, including the South Sound Mushroom Club, which is located right here in Thurston County. In this region there is also the Puget Sound Mycological Society and the Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society. There are many field guides with photographs and detailed written descriptions of wild mushrooms that are important tools in mushroom hunting. Careful study of all aspects of a mushroom (size, color, cap shape, gill spacing, texture, smell, where it grows, etc) can help you determine whether or not it is safe to eat.

Another important aspect of mushroom hunting is to stay safe while out foraging. Always wear visibly bright clothing (a neon orange vest and hat is best) and carry an emergency whistle. Be aware what other activities may be going on in the wooded area, especially any kind of animal hunting. Use the buddy system and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. Make sure to have layers of clothing for sudden changes in weather, sturdy footwear, and to be on the safe side, pack more water and food (especially protein) than you think you need.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when mushroom hunting in order to make it a safe, fun, and rewarding experience:

·        When collecting wild mushrooms, be sure to keep different types separate during collection and storage. Edible mushrooms can easily be contaminated by poisonous ones.
·        Use cloth or paper bags, a basket, or a box to collect mushrooms in. Plastic bags trap heat and moisture that can cause mushrooms to deteriorate quickly.
·        Immediately store freshly-collected mushrooms in a refrigerator in a paper or cloth bag. Be sure not to rinse or wash collected mushrooms until you are ready to cook them. Storing mushrooms while wet will cause them to deteriorate quickly.
·        Don’t collect mushrooms from roadsides, golf courses, public parks, private lawns, or near railroad tracks. Mushrooms that would otherwise be considered safe and edible could be compromised by exposure to exhaust fumes, pet waste, or chemical pesticides that might be present in these kinds of areas. Undeveloped lands are the best place to collect mushrooms, but look up rules and regulations that govern mushroom collecting and foraging on public lands and always request permission before attempting to forage on private land.
·        Be considerate to other mushroom hunters. If you find mushrooms you want to collect, be sure not to take them all so that future foragers can enjoy them too.

Like many outdoor activities, mushroom hunting does have some risks. However, if you’re interested and want to try it out, go for it! By following basic precautions and taking the time to learn from experienced mushroom hunters and field guides, you can keep yourself safe and have a great time too! Happy hunting!

Monday, September 28, 2015

World Rabies Day

Rabies is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of public health issues. In the United States the threat of the disease has been greatly reduced over the years due to successful public health efforts. However, it is by no means eradicated. Each year about 40,000 Americans receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) shots because of possible rabies exposure, and one or two people will die from the disease. Altogether, the disease costs $300 million annually in this country. The good news is that it is entirely preventable and progress is being made each year. World Rabies Day was created in 2007 to draw attention both to the danger of rabies and the progress that has been made in bringing it under control in the United States and around the globe.

In 2013 there was a 4.8% decrease in rabies cases from the previous year and canine rabies has been almost entirely eradicated in the United States. Domestic animals now make up only eight percent of all cases nationwide. Cats are actually the greatest domestic animal threat, making up 53% of all domestic animal cases. Responsible pet owners can continue to help make that number drop by taking a few simple steps to keep their pets safe and healthy.

  • Bring your dog or cat to a veterinarian each year to be sure they are up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. Dogs and cats that have potentially been exposed to rabies and are not up-to-date on their vaccination will need to be quarantined for six months or put down, so please vaccinate your pet!
  • If your pet is not spayed or neutered, consider doing so. Spaying and neutering helps to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats, which are at high risk of contracting and spreading rabies.

Besides protecting your pets, take steps to protect yourself and your family too. If you have children, teach them to never handle wild or unfamiliar animals, even if the animal looks friendly. Keep food or water inside for your pets since the food and water kept outside could attract wild animals in your area. Always keep your garbage can securely covered as well. The best way to protect yourself might also be the most obvious – stay away from unfamiliar animals, including dogs and cats that you do not know, and do not attempt to feed, pet, or pick them up.

The vast majority of rabies cases involve wildlife, with raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes being the primary culprits. In Washington, bats have been the only wild animal to carry rabies since the 1920s. Bats are very beneficial to us because they eat many insects. But bats can be a hazard when they mistakenly end up in our homes. If you have a bat in your house, do your best to safely capture or contain it and call your local public health department; we may want to test the bat to make sure you or your family were not exposed to rabies.

Outside of Washington, bats and skunks are responsible for most rabies cases. Many different types of animals can be infected, however, and if you encounter any animal acting strangely or displaying any of the following signs of possible rabies infection, please contact animal control as soon as possible.

  • General sickly appearance
  • Significant saliva or drooling
  • Problems swallowing
  • Difficulty moving or paralysis
  • Biting at everything
  • Appearing more tame than you would expect

When traveling, especially internationally, take any animal bite very seriously and seek medical attention. Talk with your health care provider about travel-related vaccinations before you leave and see if rabies vaccine would be advised.

Together, public health professionals, veterinarians, and YOU can continue to take steps to reduce the threat of rabies and keep ourselves, our pets, and our families healthy and safe!