Students face remote learning in return to school

Students face remote learning in return to school

By: Beatrice Silva

3 min read August 2020 — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so does the number of universities keeping their physical doors shut this school year. The University of Notre Dame Princeton University, and Rutgers-Camden Business School are just some of the institutes that announced their decision to go fully online. 

Just as businesses needed to pivot during the pandemic and subsequent recession, educational institutions also had to find a way to adapt. “It is an unprecedented event that took us all by surprise,” Dean Monica Adya of Rutgers-Camden Business School told Invest: South Jersey. “We established a COVID-19 task force that includes all of my cabinet members, to look at how to proceed. One of the first things we did was to look at our emergency management plan that tackles infectious diseases, among other things. We focused on operational and communication measures. The former is relative to academic and business continuity. As Gov. (Phil) Murphy enacted the executive order stating that no one was to come to campus, we moved to an online format for all classes. Fortunately, several of our programs were already entirely online. Many of our students were already taking a combination of online and in-class programs, making them familiar with the online platform. We are sparing no resources or action plans to make sure our students get through this semester. We are also launching discussions about recovery, how we are going to help people who are out of work to get back into the workforce, and what specific programs and certificates they will require for that to happen in the shortest of terms.” 

Most students experienced a taste of distant learning back in April when schools were forced to close after lockdowns were issued across the United States. However, that doesn’t make it any easier for undergraduates, postgraduates, and faculty members to pick up where they left off. “We had some challenges on the student side because many students, although we think of them as a digital generation, had difficulty making the switch to online learning.  We’ve worked through much of this but it took some time,” Mike Mittelman, president of Salus University, told Invest: Philadelphia.

Innovation and technology play a huge role in how higher education continues to operate. Virtual learning experiences have replaced physical classrooms and face to face lectures. The new format has left some students feeling overwhelmed and quite frankly ripped off. At Rutgers University, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition started in July calling for an elimination of fees and a 20 percent tuition cut, according to The New York Times

Student housing is another topic of debate in the education community. While some institutional leaders don’t believe it’s safe, others argue that students don’t have anywhere else to go.  Schools, like The University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, are allowing a limited number of students back on their grounds but under strict conditions. Most schools that are letting students live in dorm rooms or attend in-person classes are actively enforcing social distancing, face masks and have provided COVID-19 tests. At Drexel University, international students or students who are experiencing financial hardships will be the only ones allowed to live on campus. 

Along with the many challenges the pandemic caused, it also created new opportunities. COVID-19 pushed educational institutions out of their comfort zones. To stay in business, universities adapted to new technologies and even formed a few alliances along the way. “This whole industry has shifted very, very quickly, so that shows that there’s flexibility, it shows that there’s resilience,” John Fry, president of Drexel University, told the Philadelphia Business Journal. “Those adaptations are incredibly valuable assets and institutions should hold on to that and not say, ‘Once this is over, we can go back to the way it was.’ Going back to the way it was, I think, is not a good idea.” 

How the hospitality industry is staying afloat during the flash recession

How the hospitality industry is staying afloat during the flash recession

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read FORT LAUDERDALE — The hospitality sector is a vital factor in South Florida’s economy. Around 1.3 million Floridians have jobs related to the tourism industry, which contributes $85.9 billion of the state’s GDP, according to A Banner Year for Florida Tourism Performance. On April 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay at home order that forced nonessential businesses like restaurants, hotels and shopping centers to close their doors. Within days of the shut down, an estimated 1.2 million people lost their jobs and more than 1.5 million unemployment claims were filed, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

 Although Broward County is a few weeks into phase one of reopening, uncertainty still looms. However, it has become apparent that the hospitality industry is doing everything in its power to stay afloat during the flash recession. The hospitality industry has endured a difficult four months and although it is making strides, no one knows how long it’s going to take for it to make a full recovery. 

Many industry leaders speculate that normal life won’t resume until a vaccine for the virus is discovered and easily accessible to the masses. The pharmaceutical industry indicates that a cure for COVID-19 could take years. In the meantime, businesses are having to come up with innovative ways to stay profitable. Unlike other sectors of the economy like technology and banking, the hospitality industry relies heavily on face-to-face interaction and physical guest services. “The hospitality industry will have to learn to function in a way not seen before. As the relationship between each brand and consumer starts by building trust, regaining customer confidence will be the first step in overcoming the crisis. Strict sanitary and hygiene measures will need to be applied, with new practices put in place to monitor and control the environment in which the business takes place,” Hassan Djeebet, food and beverage manager for Les Roches Marbella told hospitalitynet. 

Being transparent with guests will become even more important during the transition into a post-pandemic world. Managers will have to make their workers feel just as safe as their customers to ensure an overall positive guest experience. Although Broward County is just a few weeks into its phase one reopening plan, restaurant owners have noticed more and more people venturing out to indulge in their favorite food and drinks. “Eating outside is less risky than eating inside, if everybody is six feet apart and the wait staff are all wearing masks. That keeps the risk as low as it can be,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told CNN Travel. 

Some argue one brightside to the pandemic is the emergence of new innovations in the hospitality industry. Many restaurants have adopted new technologies to ensure the customer experience is as hands free as possible. For example, instead of having a physical menu, restaurants are offering digital menus that can be accessed by scanning a QR code. Other innovations include artificial intelligence systems like FAQ bots to answer customer questions, virtual tours, and smart amenities like voice-controlled rooms and facial recognition. It’s safe to say that the pandemic has pushed businesses out of their comfort zones. However, as a result, easier and more efficient ways of doing things have surfaced. Some industry leaders even go so far as to say that the pandemic has propelled them at least five years into the future. 



Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020Independence Day traditionally marks the peak of summer travel, events and large gatherings. This year, however, Fourth of July festivities have been significantly reduced or moved to the digital landscape for families to enjoy from the comfort and safety of their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the cancellations is The Charlotte Knights’ annual fireworks show over Independence Day weekend. However, not all celebrations have been dampened by the virus. From interactive conversations to races and, of course, fireworks, the Queen City will feature a few in-person events mixed with a large offering of virtual spectacles that will surely foster the patriotic spirit in these uncertain times. Here is our pick of the different in-person and virtual events happening over the Indepence Day weekend. 

Fourth of July Celebration at U.S. National Whitewater Center 

Described as a “summer classic,” the U.S National Whitewater Center will feature a two-day Fourth of July Celebration with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the festivities and keep socially distant. The festival will feature live music, various yoga practices, Battle Royale SUP Sprint, and two days of fireworks overlooking the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the center wrote on its website. The celebration is free to attend, open to the public, and does not require tickets.

To learn more, visit:

Gastonia Grizzlies Baseball Game and Fireworks Show

Those wishing to enjoy nine innings of baseball, hot dogs and fireworks can head over to the City of Gastonia on Friday, July 3, for a night of Independence Day celebrations. Dubbed as the “the best fireworks in town at the greatest show in town,” the event is a great place to stretch your legs over the Fourth of July weekend. 

To learn more, visit:

Park National Bank American 4 Miler

Those wishing to maintain their fitness routine before tackling the celebratory burgers, hotdogs and chips customary of Fourth of July celebrations can enjoy an in-person or virtual 4-mile race. The Park National Bank American 4 Miler is an on-site or virtual run on Friday, July 3 that sets the tone for the rest of the Independence Day weekend. The on-site race will conclude with live music, but there will be no in-person awards ceremony, according to organizers. The cost ranges from $24-$27 and there will be no race-day registration.

To learn more,  visit:

Independence Day at the Charlotte Museum of History 

For history buffs and parents looking for daily learning activities, The Charlotte Museum of History will host virtual Independence Day festivities starting June 29 through July 4. The museum’s website offers new resources ready to teach and entertain its audience each day throughout the Independence weekend. Activities are free of charge but registration is needed. 

To learn more,  visit:

Virtual Family Dinner

Use this holiday break to bring the family together virtually. Much like work video calls, schedule a family video call at dinner time to unite family members scattered by social distance and travel restrictions. Though it may be hard to pass the potato salad across a video conference call, it is easy to enjoy a virtual family dinner filled with laughs and smiles. Food always brings people together, use this Independence Day to recreate the Fourth of July weekend you had in mind at the start of 2020.

How South Jersey is celebrating the 4th of July during the pandemic

How South Jersey is celebrating the 4th of July during the pandemic

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read – Celebrating Independence Day is a big deal for most Americans. The Fourth of July officially became a national holiday in 1870. Then in 1941, a provision was expanded, making it a paid day off for all federal employees. People across the nation celebrate by setting off fireworks, watching parades, and having casual BBQs with their friends and family. This year however, festivities are going to look a lot different due to the constantly evolving COVID-19 virus. 

South Jersey skies will sparkle slightly less than they have in previous years, as most towns have canceled their usual spectacles. However, that doesn’t mean the holiday is completely up in smoke. There are still quite a few CDC-regulated activities you can enjoy that will keep you safe while satisfying your patriotic urges. Invest: South Jersey explores five of the top things to do this Fourth of July weekend during a pandemic. 

Middle Township Fireworks 

Mayor Tim Donohue let freedom ring when he decided to reverse his decision to cancel this year’s fireworks display. The town’s annual celebration will be held at dusk on Saturday, July 4 and gates will open one hour before start time. People are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing. The fireworks will also be streamed on the Middle Township Facebook page for anyone who wants to enjoy the festivities from the comfort of their home. 

For more information visit:

Burlington County Virtual Contests 

Bordentown Township, Medford and Riverton have all canceled their fireworks celebrations. However, county officials are still encouraging their residents to hold family picnics on their lawns or driveways at 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July. They hope these festivities will help unite their community while still practicing safe social distancing. Officials also announced that they will be holding virtual house decorating, patriotic costumes and pet pageant contests. Contestants are asked to submit photographs of their entries. The winners will be announced on, Facebook, and Instagram. 

For more information visit:

Ocean Gate 4th of July Parade

On June 20, Ocean Gate borough took to Facebook to announce that it will still be hosting its annual July Parade. Registration for the parade opens at 8 a.m. on July 4, at Adrian Hall. Try to come early because only a limited number of people will be allowed into the building at one time. The July Parade begins at 10 a.m. on Ocean Gate Avenue. To encourage social distancing, the parade route will be extended this year.

For more information visit:

North Wildwoods Family Parade, Kite-Flying Competition and more 

A few towns in Cape May County have canceled their celebrations but not Wildwoods. Independence Day Family Parade will begin at 9 a.m. at 9th and Atlantic Avenue in North Wildwoods. A barbeque will then be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a minimum donation of $8. Fourth of July fireworks will be held on the beach at Rio Grande Avenue. Since the fireworks can be viewed from almost anywhere on the Wildwoods Boardwalk, visitors have been encouraged to enjoy the show from a distance. Anyone who is participating in the celebrations is required to follow CDC regulations. 

For more information visit:

Virtual Fourth of July Festivities

Celebrating a holiday from the comfort of your home has its perks, especially during these unprecedented times. For starters, you won’t have to worry about parking or overpriced drinks if you are hosting a small gathering at your house. Also, a majority of cities across the country are streaming their festivities live so anyone can join the fun no matter where you are. For example, viewers will be able to watch Houston’s “Shell Freedom Over Texas” at 8 p.m. Eastern on The show will include performances by the Houston Symphony and country singer Pat Green. To make your at-home experience even more thrilling, try setting off a few fireworks from your backyard or get creative and decorate your front porch. We’re sure the neighborhood will enjoy your efforts as well.  

Taking the lead: Atrium Health mobilizes to combat COVID-19

Taking the lead: Atrium Health mobilizes to combat COVID-19

By: Felipe Rivas

Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive Scott Rissmiller details Atrium Health’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak

Charlotte, often described as the crown jewel for economic activity in North Carolina, has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Located in Mecklenburg County, the city known for its bustling business district and active nightlife, has embraced the various shelter-in-place measures ordered by state and local governments. Atrium Health, the county’s largest employer, is a not-for-profit that operates hospitals, free-standing emergency departments and urgent care centers. The health system has taken the lead in handling the impact of the coronavirus by anticipating the impact of the pandemic and making the needed adjustments to treat the residents of Mecklenburg County and beyond. Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive Scott Rissmiller details Atrium Health’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, including its innovative use of “virtual hospitals.”

What accommodations is Atrium Health making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

While these are unprecedented times, we have had pandemics before and we prepare for them continuously. When we first saw that COVID-19 would become an issue in the United States, we immediately began mobilizing our teams to get us ready with extra supplies, develop alternate staffing plans and make accommodations for needed space. 

One of the more innovative ways we’re doing that is the Atrium Health COVID-19 Virtual Hospital. Patients whose condition allows for it can be given some mobile monitoring equipment, which allows them to remain in the comfort of their own home. We can still keep tabs on all of their vitals and have frequent touch points with them, just as we would if they were in the hospital itself. This goes a long way toward preventing additional spread, conserving personal protective equipment and freeing up additional bed space. 

We stopped doing non-essential surgeries a few weeks ago, which has also enabled us to reallocate staffing and free up additional space. All in all, we’ve identified ways to expand our patient capacity by roughly 50 percent, as we anticipate a surge of patients in April and May, which is why the stay at home directives are so important for people to observe. 

How can the community best assist the local healthcare providers in this time of need?

At Atrium Health, we have received such an outpouring of support during this pandemic. People are lining up to help make masks; they’re developing new innovations to solve problems, like using 3D printers to create face shields or repurposing a brewery to make hand sanitizer. It’s truly inspiring. We need more blood donations. Food donations are appreciated. There are many ideas about how people can be part of the community-wide effort to combat COVID-19 on our website.

Probably the biggest thing that every man, woman and child can do for us is to stay home; follow the stay at home directives. What we don’t want to see is the hospital systems in our area becoming overwhelmed with patients. The “flatten the curve” principles are absolutely what’s needed to keep the numbers of patients more manageable. This also gives us more time to see if there are medicines or vaccines that are found to be effective, and it’s possible that summertime weather may also be able to help slow down the spread. We don’t know that yet, but we believe it’s in everyone’s best interests to limit the spread now to give us the best chance to get things back under control and return to whatever normal may look like going forward. 

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

First and foremost – do it. Please. The shelter in place has to apply to everyone for it to work. You may not get sick, or maybe get a mild case, but the person you infect may not be so lucky. That’s true even if you’ve touched something and then open the door at the grocery store. The grandmother who comes in right after you may pick up the virus from what you last touched. This virus spreads very easily, so avoid going out in public unless it’s absolutely necessary and, as simplistic as it sounds, wash your hands often. It works. 

Finally, if you are in medical distress, call 9-1-1. But if you are feeling ill, try a virtual visit before going to the hospital. It avoids you spreading what you have and helps prevent you from catching something else. If you have any type of respiratory illness and need to be seen in person at a clinic, urgent care or the emergency room, please call ahead so the healthcare workers can be ready to best assist you and limit your exposure to others. 



Let’s get virtual: Six must-read tips for engaging online

Let’s get virtual: Six must-read tips for engaging online

By: Abby Melone

It’s a brave new world for everyone. Quarantine, lockdown, self-isolation and sheltering in place characterize the new normal imposed by COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. In a virtuous cycle, people depend on strong businesses, which depend on a strong economy, which depends on strong businesses that depend on people.


The fact is that people, businesses and the economy shouldn’t just stop, even in such unprecedented times, and perhaps more so because of this crisis. Fortunately, this is also the era of high technology, and there is no time like the present to show just what that technology is capable of, especially in business dealings.


As the pandemic stretches on, more businesses are turning to virtual meetings to get things done. Skype, Zoom … these are the most vital tools for business today. But as everyone has intimately discovered, when an in-person meeting becomes virtual, much can be lost, and the road to disaster can be perilously short when you’re online. We all want to be as effective as if we were physically there, but how do we stay engaging and charming and avoid as many distractions, hiccups and potential disasters as possible?


Like any good professional, you need to know the tricks of the trade. Here are some tips to help:


Positioning of the camera. A wacky camera angle can be extremely distracting. Who wants to see directly into the inside of your nose? Pull down your computer screen slightly to make sure the camera is dead on rather than pointing upward, which most likely is your more natural way to position the screen.


Background noise. There is no better way to turn off the person you are meeting with than some distracting noise. Be conscious of your surroundings, especially now that you are most likely working from home: clanking jewelry, dog barking, roommate or significant other also working from home. 


Distracting background. Make sure you do not give the person you are meeting with the opportunity to focus on a picture of the sports team you love but they hate. Position yourself against an empty wall or something non-distracting.


Don’t look at yourself in the video. Very few of us can resist glancing, or even staring, at our own camera window. Don’t! The person you are meeting can see you are distracted by you and not them. Also, you miss loads of cues from the other person when you are staring into your own eyes. Is the person you are meeting with interested? Engaged? Bored? Distracted? You won’t know unless you are looking at them.


Try to maintain a dialog. It’s easy to steal the “conversation” and talk and talk and talk. Be sure to make time in your presentation to see where the other person is, do they have questions, are they following along?


Know your demo tools: both the functionality of the platform as well as the material you will be showing. The person on your computer screen is watching your every move, so the more comfortable you are with your tools, the more flawless (and therefore impressive) you come across in your meetings. Close out all windows you would not want someone to see before your meeting starts (email, social media, YouTube). Remember: when technology goes wrong, it can take you from being competent and impressive to the alternative in seconds.

Maintaining unity and creating value through virtual meetings

Maintaining unity and creating value through virtual meetings

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020The novel coronavirus forced a global halt to major international, regional and local events. From the NBA season to networking conferences, all gatherings of any size stopped abruptly in an effort to flatten the curve and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from spreading further. However, as the population at large becomes accustomed to social distancing, stay at home orders and self quarantining, many events went from a hard stop to full speed ahead virtually. As the business community adjusts to the challenges of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, many institutions are building value and maintaining relationships by maximizing the use of webinars, online classes, video conferences and even virtual happy hours. 


In Philadelphia, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, an organization dedicated to accelerating global business growth for companies in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South New Jersey, has turned to virtual meetings to stay connected with its members. “We understand how important it is to remain connected with our members and client companies during this challenging time,” Spokeswoman Graziella DiNuzzo told Invest: Philadelphia. “Like many other organizations, we are using Zoom meetings.” The center has maintained rapport with its members as it made the transition to work remotely. “We are handling this transition quite smoothly. We are a staff of seven professionals and have always maintained close contact with our clients via phone and email and working remotely doesn’t slow us down,” DiNuzzo said. 

Bringing members together in this time of uncertainty is among the center’s main goals. “Our member-company meeting is our “Member Conversations,” which we started last year as a way to bring our members together, informally, in our conference room to meet each other, talk and share stories,” DiNuzzo said. “This will be the first time, obviously, that we will hold our Member Conversations virtually and we are looking forward to it. The bottom line is that we have to continue to communicate and support each other during this time. We are all eager to get back to business as usual and we don’t know what that will look like. We are hopeful that it will be a rebirth of ideas and opportunities.”

The video conference platform, Zoom, has quickly become ubiquitous across the virtual events space. Across economic sectors, different institutions are taking advantage of Zoom and similar platforms. To host a successful virtual event, event planners must decide between hosting a virtual meeting or a webinar. “If you expect attendees to mostly just listen,” the best option is a webinar, Zoom advises as part of its digital event best practices. “When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host,” planners should choose a virtual meeting, the platform advises. 

Once the type of digital event has been narrowed down, hosts should hardwire the internet connection to prevent any Wi-Fi-related hiccups or virtual lag. In terms of audio, hosts should test speakers and audio prior to the meeting and minimize any background noise, according to Zoom. Additionally, hosts should dress to impress and make sure to start the virtual event on time. It is important to set the tone of the event and encourage Q&A’s during the virtual meeting or webinar. As a best practice, Zoom recommends the use of the Chat function to keep track of questions and comments. For larger webinars, Zoom offers a PayPal integration to charge the registration fees seamlessly. 

For the time being, social distancing will be part of the mainstream business landscape until at least May. However, many institutions are adjusting and pivoting more and more to the virtual hosting model to build value, share information and regain a sense of community in a time where residents are being asked to self-isolate as much as possible.  

To learn more visit: