Consumer services

Preparing for another COVID-19 winter

With the rise of the Omicron variant and an increase in influenza cases, health officials are warning of another difficult winter to come.

So if you need to stay home for work, school, or because you’re sick, there are ways to stay connected while respecting social distancing.

Many people have spent the holidays chatting live with friends and family and it is likely that this will continue in the future whether it be on Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom.

Another way for people to spend their time at home is to watch their favorite TV series or movies.

Some services have a feature that allows you to organize “virtual viewing parties” with your friends and family where you can watch a program at the same time and comment in real time.

“With more streaming services than ever before, a dedicated streaming player is often the best way to access them all, even if you have a smart TV. They may offer features and services that your TV lacks, ”said Jim Willcox of Consumer Reports.

According to Consumer Reports, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is good value at $ 75 and performed well in testing.

Another way to stay connected with your friends is by using a game console or computer, where you can play with friends online, but you will need a good headset to talk to them while you are playing.

“Look for headphones that are both comfortable and have excellent sound quality, including the microphone. You’ll also want to decide whether you want it to be wired, which is often cheaper, or wireless, which gives you more freedom but can be more expensive, ”Nicolas De Leon said with Consumer Reports.

For a wired model, the Turtle Beach Recon 50 is an affordable choice at $ 45 and it got perfect marks for design, sound, and comfort in a Consumer Reports user study.

For $ 190, the Steel Series Arctis 7 Wireless scored just as well.

If you watch TV a lot and haven’t switched to a soundbar with a subwoofer, past testing by Consumer Reports has shown it to be a worthwhile investment.

The New Year is also the time when many people decide to get in shape and there are many fitness programs that allow you to connect virtually to help you achieve your goals.

It’s also a time when there are sales on treadmills, ellipticals, and fitness trackers to help you track your progress.

Another great way to stay connected is to use the services of your local library which can allow you to download eBooks, movies, and music for free.

Also, consider virtual cooking classes and book clubs, as well as online tours to aquariums, museums and zoos.

If you’re feeling isolated, studies have shown that even a quick phone call to a family member or friend can make a difference and be enough to lift your spirits.