Local alternatives to Amazon abound for safe, convenient holiday shopping

Organizers of the Holiday Reimagined pop-up market at Edina’s Galleria mall had hoped to promote shopping local without drawing too big of a crowd. They required free, timed tickets to enter and provided contactless ways to shop.

But after Gov. Tim Walz announced new COVID-19 restrictions last month, they decided to cancel the in-person event altogether.

“We thought we had the ideal event planned, with safety being the number one thing in mind. Of course, bringing people together is what we love to do, but it’s the wrong thing to do right now,” said organizer Mollie Windmiller, owner and creative director at marketing company LAB MPLS.

Instead of an in-person market, Holiday Reimagined is now a contactless display, where window shoppers can purchase locally made goods like abstract painted ornaments or hand-embroidered sweatshirts by scanning a QR code with their phone. It’s running through December in the windows of the former Gabberts store.

Plenty of Minnesotans have pledged to shop local this upended holiday season to support community makers and small businesses. But with many holiday markets going virtual, keeping it local might be a bit harder this year.

Alternatives to Amazon still abound for those willing to make a little effort. Shoppers can explore Minnesota artisans’ work online in many places — from individual websites and Etsy pages to the shelves of local shops that are available online.

They also can outsource the search entirely by purchasing curated gift boxes, relying on virtual personal shoppers and curbside pickup at local shops or doing it the old-fashioned way: in-store shopping. (Many, but not all local shops are open, but limit the number of shoppers.)

Minneapolis candlemaker Emma Remer, who refills vintage containers with scented wax to make her Burnboss Candles (burnbosscandles.com), decided to offer virtual shopping appointments on her website in place of in-person markets.

“I’ve missed those experiences and connections this year and hope these online appointments can recreate a bit of that magic,” said Remer, who plans to shop locally online and through social media.

“I’ve seen many local, small businesses getting extremely creative with their approaches to holiday shopping this year,” she said. “It’s vital that we show up and support them now so they can be a part of our community for years to come.”

Virtual markets

Most of the holiday markets and pop-ups in the Twin Cities have gone virtual, with pages that link to vendors or display goods. You can shop them without leaving your couch — from the Black Business is Beautiful holiday market (blackbusinessisbeautiful.org/shop) to the online holiday shop created by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (shop.nemaa.org/holiday-shop/).

Some, like St. Paul’s European Christmas Market (stpaulchristmasmarket.org), also offer streaming music and story times with Santa. The American Swedish Institute’s Julmarknad virtual holiday market (asimn.org/virtual-julmarknad) includes free Zoom panels with some of the featured artists on Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And the Minneapolis Craft Market (shop.mplscraftmarket.com), a digital marketplace with more than 230 makers, also hosts live shopping events on

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New MIT COVID Model Shows How Long People May Really Be Safe Indoors

An interactive model created by researchers at MIT aims to create a more complex understanding of how safe people are from coronavirus while indoors that takes into account factors beyond how far apart people are.



a large green field in front of a building: People stand on the lawn outside Building 10 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Monday, April 20, 2020. College financial aid offices are bracing for a spike in appeals from students finding that the aid packages they were offered for next year are no longer enough after the coronavirus pandemic cost their parents jobs or income. Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images


© Bloomberg via Getty Images

People stand on the lawn outside Building 10 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Monday, April 20, 2020. College financial aid offices are bracing for a spike in appeals from students finding that the aid packages they were offered for next year are no longer enough after the coronavirus pandemic cost their parents jobs or income. Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images


The researchers, Kasim Khan, John W. M. Bush and Martin Z. Bazant, say that evidence suggests staying at least six feet apart in social settings may not be completely effective in protecting against airborne transmission of coronavirus, especially as time goes by.

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Their model calculates “safe exposure times and occupancy levels for indoor spaces” based on a series of other factors, like time, room size, humidity and the behavior of those inside it.

For example, in a restaurant, the model projects that 50 occupants would be safe for two hours, while 100 people would be safe for only 64 minutes. Current general social distancing guidelines suggest 138 people would be safe in the same size of space for an indefinite amount of time, the research notes.

Similarly, the model suggests that two people would be safe for eight days in a church, 25 occupants would be protected for four hours, and 100 people would be safe for only two hours. However, guidelines for merely staying six feet apart indicate 52 people would be safe in that setting for an unlimited period of time.

The model cites a July article in the journal Nature that governments’ advice for the coronavirus hadn’t adapted to new understanding that the virus is airborne.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have since confirmed that the virus can be spread through aerosols, which “can linger in the air for minutes to hours” and travel farther than six feet.

CDC guidance now notes that the virus can “spread through exposure to those virus-containing respiratory droplets comprised of smaller droplets and particles that can remain suspended in the air over long distances (usually greater than 6 feet) and time (typically hours).”

Asher Klein contributed to this report.

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Is shopping in stores safe during the coronavirus pandemic?

Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic? There are ways to reduce risk, but health experts advise avoiding it when possible.



Covid-19: Woman customer choosing clothes at the mall store


© Igor Alecsander / Getty Images
Covid-19: Woman customer choosing clothes at the mall store

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity and that people should limit any in-person shopping, including at supermarkets. Instead, the agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to your car.

Retailers get creative to reinvent holiday shopping amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Off-peak hours

If you need to enter a store, go during off hours when there will likely be fewer people. Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from others.



a group of people standing in front of a building: Small businesses struggle despite Black Frida... 01:52


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Small businesses struggle despite Black Frida… 01:52

Try to spend as little time inside the store as possible, said Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a public health expert at Cornell University. “You just want to go in and out,” he said. “Get your shopping done and move on.”

Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you leave, and then wash your hands with soap and water when you get home.

Precautions don’t eliminate risk

Retailers have been doing all kinds of things to make shoppers feel safe, but they don’t eliminate the risk. Some check shoppers’ temperatures at the entrance, for example, but an infected person may not have a fever and can still spread the virus.

The plastic barriers between customers and cashiers also might not block all droplets from an infected person, Weisfuse said. If the air in a store feels stuffy, he said that’s a sign of poor ventilation, and you should leave.

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James Avery Artisan Jewelry delivers meaning, connection and a message to stay safe

“We understand that many families may not be able to spend the holidays together this year, but that doesn’t have to stop us from celebrating the season together – even if it is virtually,” said James Avery Director of Customer Service and Marketing Communication Lindsey Avery Tognietti. “At James Avery, we are ready to help you select and ship your gifts, so they reach your loved ones on time.”

If you are shopping in-store, the company has implemented a text queue to hold a customer’s place in line without having to physically wait. If there is a line, associates will be available to serve waiting customers and answer questions.

“We love seeing our customers in stores, but this year we know many will want to shop from the safety and comfort of home,” said Avery Tognietti. “Our Customer Service teams are ready no matter where, or how, you prefer to buy your gifts.”

Customers shopping online this year can skip the lines and take advantage of free two-day shipping offer for orders placed by Sunday, December 20. Engraving orders must be placed by Monday, Dec. 7. Charm soldering must be ordered by Thursday, December 17. Items can also be picked up in store utilizing their Buy Online, Pick-up in Store and Contactless Curbside Pickup options.

This year, James Avery’s Christmas designs offer whimsical charms like the Enamel Sweet Santa and Happy Penguin charms, the colorful Cherished Birthstone gemstone collection and artfully detailed earrings and rings for every occasion and style. Previously, the company’s Create Your Own Art Glass Charms were offered only in Discovery Center and Stores, but now customers can personalize their charms in all James Avery stores and online. The line of art glass charms now includes and expanded offering of silver finials with 12 designs and the entire alphabet and 25 colorful beads.

“We know that our customers love a pop of color and personalizing their gifts. The Create Your Own option is just one of the ways we offer personalization. Most of our pieces can also be hand or laser engraved. We offer initials in many styles to help you celebrate the most precious people in your lives,” said Avery Tognietti.

The company implemented all recommended COVID-19 health protocols in stores. Hand sanitizing stations are set up for customers and associates and all jewelry and high-touch areas of the store are regularly cleaned and sanitized. Additionally, the company asks customers to honor social distancing guidelines and to wear face coverings when in the store. James Avery associates undergo daily health screenings and wear facemasks.

To find out if your store offers these services, and for more information about holiday product care and shipping deadlines, please visit JamesAvery.com or call 800-283-1770.

About James Avery Artisan Jewelry®James Avery is a vertically integrated, family-owned company located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. We offer finely crafted jewelry designs for men and women in sterling silver, 14K and 18K gold, gemstones

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Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?

There are ways to reduce risk, but health experts advise avoiding it when possible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity and that people should limit any in-person shopping, including at supermarkets.

Instead, the agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to your car.

If you need to enter a store, go during off hours when there will likely be fewer people. Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from others.


Try to spend as little time inside the store as possible, says Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a public health expert at Cornell University.

“You just want to go in and out,” he says. “Get your shopping done and move on.”

Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you leave, and then wash your hands with soap and water when you get home.

Retailers have been doing all kinds of things to make shoppers feel safe, but they don’t eliminate the risk. Some check shoppers’ temperatures at the entrance, for example, but an infected person may not have a fever and can still spread the virus.

The plastic barriers between customers and cashiers also might not block all droplets from an infected person, Weisfuse says. If the air in a store feels stuffy, he says that’s a sign of poor ventilation, and you should leave.

___

The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: [email protected]

Read previous Viral Questions:

What does emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine mean?

Is it safe to stay in hotels during the pandemic?

Is it safe yet to fly during the pandemic?

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How can I stay safe while shopping? 25 common virus questions answered | National News

Oxford scientists expect COVID-19 vaccine data by Christmas

FILE – In this Thursday, April 23, 2020 file screen grab taken from video issued by Britain’s Oxford University, showing a person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England. A key researcher at the University of Oxford says scientists expect to report results from the late-stage trials of their COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas. Dr. Andrew Pollard, an expert in pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford, said Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 that research was slowed by low infection rates over the summer but the Phase III trials are now accumulating the data needed to report results.




What does COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness mean? It refers to the likelihood that a coronavirus shot will work in people.

Two vaccine makers have said that preliminary results from their late-stage studies suggest their experimental vaccines are strongly protective. Moderna this week said its vaccine appears nearly 95% effective. This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s announcement that its shot appeared similarly effective.

Those numbers raised hopes around the world that vaccines could help put an end to the pandemic sometime next year if they continue to show that they prevent disease and are safe.

Effectiveness numbers will change as the vaccine studies continue since the early calculations were based on fewer than 100 COVID-19 cases in each study. But early results provide strong signals that the vaccine could prevent a majority of disease when large groups of people are vaccinated.

U.S. health officials said a coronavirus vaccine would need to be at least 50% effective before they would consider approving it for use. There was concern that coronavirus vaccines might be only as effective as flu vaccines, which have ranged from 20% to 60% effective in recent years.

The broad, early effectiveness figures don’t tell the whole story. Scientists also need to understand how well the vaccine protects people in different age groups and demographic categories.

For both vaccines, the interim results were based on people who had COVID-19 symptoms that prompted a virus test. That means we don’t know yet whether someone who’s vaccinated might still get infected — even if they show no symptoms — and spread the virus.

Also unknown is whether the shots will give lasting protection, or whether boosters will be required.

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COVID-19: Is it safe to gift homemade baked goods during the holidays?

TORONTO —
Like many holiday traditions, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the etiquette surrounding sharing homemade food and baked goods this year.

A box of homemade cookies, once a thoughtful and low-cost alternative to gift giving, has become a bit of a paradox amid the second wave of the pandemic, leaving many asking whether it’s still safe to accept treats from someone outside of your immediate family or cohort.

Despite evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 isn’t easily spread through food, Ebrahim Noroozi, food scientist and occupational health and safety specialist at McGill University, suggests you may want to skip it.

“Food is not the medium for transporting COVID. It’s very, very rare that you could say COVID transferred to food,” Noroozi told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday.

“When it’s a food processing establishment or restaurant, they’re following government regulations regarding the public health mandates for manufacturing, catering, serving and selling food.”

But when it comes to baking, packaging, and delivering food yourself, Noroozi says you must first consider a few things.

“Let me put it this way, if you want to send something to somebody I think the first thing is to ask them if they would like to have [the gift],” he said. “If they do accept, I think you’re accepting the responsibility to deliver them in sanitary condition.”

Noroozi notes that research has shown no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through the food chain, particularly on meat and chicken in processing plants. But public health officials have warned that coronavirus strains are capable of living at low and freezing temperatures and on food packaging.

In other words, it’s more the packaging and delivering of said holiday treats that you have to be careful about.

“If people really want to accept such a thing then you can put your cookies in a clean, sanitized container left outside of the home to following social distancing guidelines” he said.

“But those who really want to fully avoid every risk shouldn’t accept homemade treats.”

Good handwashing and sanitization should be practiced when handling any food items and their packaging.​  

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Be safe when shopping for the holidays

This year is the 15th anniversary of “Cyber Monday,”  which began in 2005 as a marketing gimmick from Shop.com. Back then it was relatively common to have broadband at work but not at home, so people shopped at the office using the boss’s computer network. Cyber Monday was an extension of sorts from that much older tradition, “Black

Larry Magid (Gary Reyes / Mercury News)

Friday,” when people crowded into stores in search of bargains.

This year, I’m sure some people will seek deals from brick and mortar shops, but, for many, Cyber Monday and Black Friday are merging, because we’re doing most if not all of our shopping online. Between now and the end of the year, we can expect record numbers of people to shop online though, given the levels of unemployment and economic uncertainty, it’s not clear how much we will collectively spend.

Relative risk

In relative terms, online shopping is pretty safe. Sure, there are risks, but there are risks with all forms of shopping.  As I could have said in any year, you can get into a fender bender on the way to the store or be pickpocketed at the mall.  But this year, there is an added risk.  Congregating anywhere, including at stores, increases your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Wearing a mask reduces and social distancing significantly reduces the risk, but not completely.

All things considered, I think it’s safer to shop online this year than it is to go to a store. Still, there are things that can go wrong when you shop online.

One risk when shopping online is to be sure you’re dealing with a legitimate merchant who is not only honest but also exercising a reasonable amount of security. One option is dealing with merchants you know. But even then, there’s no guarantee against a data breach.

Getting an unpleasant surprise

Unlike brick and mortar stores, you can’t see and touch the merchandise you see on an app or on the web. That’s not a big deal if you already know the product, but if it’s something you haven’t purchased before, you might be in for a surprise once you open the package.  Your best bet is to only buy from sites with good return policies. In many cases, sites will allow people to return products until the end of January rather than the typical 30-day policies.  See what their return shipping policies are. Some are free, some require you to prepay the freight or postage and others will deduct the return shipping from your refund.  Some make it free if there’s a defect in the product but otherwise charge. Amazon has a combination of policies, including “free returns” on some merchandise but not on others.  Some gifts come with return labels but sometimes the return has to be initiated by the person who bought it.

Having a good return policy is especially important when buying clothes that may not fit right or look exactly like they do

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Black Friday stores safety rules to keep shoppers safe: curbside pickup, masks

  • Several stores have added additional safety precautions ahead of the Black Friday shopping frenzy to protect both customers and employees.
  • We spoke to three experts to find out which precautions will actually help.
  • The experts agree that enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing are good, but mandates like reducing store hours may be unhelpful or detrimental.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Several big-name retail stores have added additional in-store safety precautions ahead of the

Black Friday
shopping frenzy, and we spoke to three experts to find out which precautions will actually help the most.

Major stores across the country have implemented a variety of safety mandates to keep shoppers and employees safe on the historically frenzied Black Friday shopping day as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the US. For example, some stores — including JCPenney and Lowe’s— are offering contactless curbside pick-up, and others —  such as Home Depot and  T.J. Maxx — are requiring face masks.

The three experts we spoke to all agree that contactless curbside pickup and mandating face mask-wearing — retail protocols that have become normalized since the beginning of the pandemic — are beneficial to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We have data that show that large congregations of people, especially indoors, will lead to an outbreak,” Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told Business Insider in an interview. “These other strategies [besides mask wearing] are really coming off of the knowledge that if we reduce people being in close contact by doing these other extra steps, hopefully, we can reduce transmission if people choose to go into stores.”

Read more: REI gives its employees a paid day off on Black Friday, but hourly workers say that it’s a ‘marketing move’ and that the company has strayed from its co-op roots

Stephen Kissler, an infectious disease researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, thinks the most important action stores can do is limit the number of customers inside — a mandate Walmart recently reinstated — to decrease the chances of a superspreader event. Weatherhead notes that setting a cap on the number of in-store customers will be helpful as long as it doesn’t create crowds of people waiting in close contact outside the store.

Mitigating the possibility of overcrowded stores

Black Friday

Black Friday.

NurPhoto/Getty Images


Stores like Michaels and Nordstrom will also be limiting store hours. However, Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, states this “may not be helpful if other rules are followed.”

Both Kissler and Weatherhead take this a step further by expressing their concern over the strategy, stating that it may instead “backfire,” according to Kissler. 

“If you have more limited store hours, will it then lead to more crowded stores when stores are open?” Weatherhead said. “It doesn’t seem like there would be a benefit to limiting store hours in terms of reducing viral transmission.”

Weatherhead and Kissler suggest that stores should instead take the opposite

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Reduced Black Friday hours could make shopping less safe if it leads to crowding

  • Walmart, Best Buy, and other big retailers are closing on Thanksgiving and cutting Black Friday hours.
  • Some experts said that this could actually make shopping more dangerous if it increases crowding in stores.
  • They agreed that limiting the number of people in stores is the most important factor.
  • Stores like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy are taking measures to control crowds in stores including limiting the number of people in stores and opening early on Black Friday.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The usual Black Friday experience of long lines on Thanksgiving and 3 a.m. store openings is sure to look different this year, as retailers roll out safety measures in-stores and move many sales online.

Most stores that historically begin

Black Friday
deals on Thanksgiving will remain closed on the holiday, opening early Friday morning instead. Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have all reduced Black Friday sales hours in stores compared to previous years, instead moving many deals online and spreading them through November, with increased options for curbside pickup and online orders.

Reducing store hours on Black Friday could actually make the shopping holiday more dangerous if it increases crowding, Stephen Kissler, an infectious disease researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Business Insider.

“It could backfire, and more people might show up at once,” he said.

Read more: Home Depot and Lowe’s are standout winners of the pandemic — but experts are already focused on what a COVID-19 vaccine will mean for home improvement sales in 2021

Even with precautions, the CDC classifies Black Friday shopping as a “higher risk” activity.  Counterintuitively, it “might be better to expand store hours so people can come at different times,” Kissler said, though more hours can also increase the risk to retail workers.

Kissler emphasized that the most important precaution is avoiding “super spreading events,” which happen when one infected person infects many others. Limiting the number of people allowed in a store at one time is key to preventing those events.

Dr. Stanley Perlman a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa, agreed with Kissler that limiting store hours “may not be helpful” if other rules like social distancing and mask-wearing aren’t followed.

“Most important is making sure that the rules are followed and that the stores are well ventilated,” he told Business Insider in an email.

Stores have put some plans in place to try and moderate the potential for infection. Walmart said it will limit store capacity to 20%, and “health ambassadors” will remind shoppers to wear masks and pass out sanitized carts.

A Walmart spokesperson also told Business Insider that on Black Friday, “we are opening our stores earlier, at 5 a.m. local time, and we’ve recently extended our closing time to 11 p.m. local time.”

“By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers

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