En español | New COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may be shy of their July peak, but many states are bracing for a second wave this fall — especially as some schools, including colleges, open for in-person learning. The coming colder weather also will force us indoors, which could accelerate infection.
So in addition to social distancing, mask wearing and frequent handwashing, technology can help. Contact-tracing apps for your smartphone can let you know if you’ve been close to someone who tested positive for the virus.
Temperature-taking stations may greet you at a building’s entrance. The sensors can give you an immediate hands-free test and even refuse you entry if they detect a fever.
But a few gadgets at home also can help during these challenging times.
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PHOTO BY: Homedics
Kill germs on your phone
Your smartphone could be far dirtier than a toilet seat. After all, market researchers who study our habits say we touch our smartphones in excess of 2,500 times a day. Plus health researchers say contaminants such as coronavirus can live on a phone's surface as long as three or four days.
The HoMedics UV-Clean Phone Sanitizer, $69, is a small pouch that can hold your phone — even a large one like the Galaxy Note20 or iPhone 11 Pro Max. Once you zip it up and press a button, it uses ultraviolet light to kill up to 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses.
HoMedics says its UV-C LED technology has been proven to sanitize in one minute, which is up to 10 times faster than other sanitizers on the market. You can get up to 70 uses between charges. When it runs low, use the included USB cable to plug it into a power source to juice up. HoMedics also has a larger UV-Clean Portable Sanitizer bag, $89, which can fit other items, too, such as car keys, eyeglasses, jewelry and TV remotes.
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PHOTO BY: Molekule
Filter a room's air
Not surprisingly, air purifiers are selling very well. Along with cleaning the air of allergens, dust, mold and smoke, Molekule's Air Mini+, $499 or $42 a month, is a small and quiet air filtration system that can help remove airborne viruses in tiny suspended droplets that linger for hours before they settle on surfaces.
Its integrated handle makes it easy to tote from room to room. It takes in air from all around the device, and its sensor rates air particle levels from “good” to “very bad.”
The air purifier can automatically adjust its fan speed depending on the number of particles, or you can choose from one of five fan speeds. With its optional app, you can track your filtering status.
Molekule says its products meet FDA guidelines for use in health care settings to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19.
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PHOTO BY: Uppercase
Cover your keyboard
Your computer keyboard is another surface that could harbor bacteria and viruses. Available for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, the Uppercase GhostCover Premium Ultra Thin Keyboard Protector, $12.95, is one of the highest rated transparent keyboard protectors on Amazon. More than 5,000 customers across all Mac models have given it an average rating of 4.5 stars out of five.
Engineered to fit precisely over the keyboard of your specific MacBook, such as a 13-inch 2020 MacBook Air or a 16-inch 2019 MacBook Pro, this 0.005-inch keyboard protector also supports models with a touch bar but does not cover it. Backlit keys remain illuminated under the cover.
The manufacturer recommends removing the keyboard cover often to wipe or wash it. When it's dry, set it back down on the keyboard. Uppercase says its protector is made with engineering grade thermoplastic polyurethane.
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PHOTO BY: Moen
Keep your hands off your faucet
You've seen touchless faucets in many public restrooms, but you also can buy one for your home.
The U by Moen Smart Kitchen Faucet, starting at $499, begins the flow of water with a wave of your hand in front of a small sensor. If you have an Alexa or Google-enabled smart speaker nearby, you can use your voice and even ask for a desired temperature and specific volume of water.
That's right. Place a pot underneath the faucet and ask to dispense 2 cups of hot water, and you can get a head start on boiling pasta.
And no need to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice anymore. Instead, say something like “Alexa, ask Moen to wash my hands,” and the water will turn on so you can get your hands wet, turn off while you lather for 20 seconds and turn back on when it's time to rinse.
Its app allows you to create settings such as “coffee maker” with a desired amount of water and temperature. And, yes, the faucet has a manual handle, too.
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PHOTO BY: Netgear
Upgrade your internet router
With so many of your devices now on Wi-Fi, you may have noticed performance can drop significantly when several are on simultaneously — like when you're on Zoom or FaceTime with the grandkids but your significant other is binging a Netflix show on a smart TV.
The latest Wi-Fi standard, called Wi-Fi 6, should help.
Along with delivering much faster speeds, new Wi-Fi 6 routers, such as Netgear's Nighthawk RAX80, $399, can support more devices in use on your home network. It's like adding more lanes to a freeway to reduce congestion.
Conservatively, Wi-Fi 6 is 30 percent to 40 percent faster than what you're using now — likely Wi-Fi 5 and also known as 802.11ac. Some routers can deliver even better performance than that.
Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible, meaning your older wireless gadgets will work with a Wi-Fi 6 router, but to take advantage of the technology you'll want to look for Wi-Fi 6-compatible laptops, smartphones and such. Apple's iPhone 11 and many laptops powered by 10th Generation Intel Core processors already support Wi-Fi 6.
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PHOTO BY: Surecall
Boost your cellphone signal
Maybe your home Wi-Fi is decent, but your cellular connection is not. With many people now working from home or perhaps those who have set out for a more rural area, a cellular signal booster might improve calls, texts and data speeds.
Covering up to 3,500 square feet, the SureCall Flare 3.0, $379, comes in two pieces: a small unit with a booster and antenna that can be placed on a bookshelf, desk or table, and a second antenna mounted outside to boost reception. A 50-foot cable is included.
SureCall Flare 3.0 works with any U.S. smartphone and carrier and also can boost voice and 4G LTE data signals on 5G phones and other cellular devices, such as hotspots.
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PHOTO BY: Logitech
Improve your webcam
While your laptop may have an integrated webcam already, the quality of its video and audio might not be up to snuff. Older computers have low-resolution cameras, which can make you look grainy, especially in dark environments. A weak microphone could mean others can't hear you well.
Instead, the Logitech C925e Webcam, $99, plugs into an available USB port on your computer, clips to the top of your laptop or desktop and delivers 1080-pixel, full high-definition video resolution with a 78-degree field of view. Logitech's RightLight 2 technology automatically improves visual quality in low-light situations.
For capturing your words clearly, this webcam has two omni-directional microphones. Finally, the C925e features a built-in privacy shutter to ensure no one sees you when you think it's not in use.
Marc Saltzman has been a freelance technology journalist for 25 years. His podcast, Tech It Out , aims to break down geek speak into street speak.
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