DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran's military tested new attack drones in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman and near the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Saturday as part of its ongoing annual drill, state TV reported.
Reinforce practicing comprehension skills with this simple practice quiz! Each of the illustrated paragraphs in this worksheet is followed by a multiple-choice question designed to help learners' reinforce their practicing comprehension skills. Designed for second graders, this appealing, playful worksheet is a fun way to practice, review, or even test concepts including sequence of events, identifying the central message, and drawing conclusions.
Changes are coming to the Army Combat Fitness Test, as the service looks to comply with a law mandating it create a gender-neutral assessment by June, a continuation of the struggle over the test that was finally rolled out in October following years of delays.
Sgt. Major Michael Grinston, during an event hosted by the Association of the United States Army on Tuesday, said the service is weighing whether to use a gender-neutral version of the ACFT with a higher standard for combat arms soldiers, or repurpose physical tests currently required for expert badges.
"Here's what it is and draw a line -- or do we do a separate test?" he said.
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The changes are still being formulated, with some of the uncertainty driven by two competing congressional requirements built into last year's annual defense policy bill to "establish gender-neutral fitness standards for combat [jobs] that are higher than those for non-combat [jobs]," while also creating gender-neutral standards for all soldiers.
Grinston also said Tuesday that the service is moving forward with a change to its body fat standards that would create waivers for soldiers who score highly on the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT.
The ACFT was originally intended to be gender-neutral, but the Army reversed course after early test data, first reported by Military.com in 2021, showed that nearly half of all female soldiers were failing the test.
That helped ratchet up debate during the last Congress over whether the new test was right for the service.
Democrats called for a postponement of the test due to "unrealistic standards" for "medical personnel, judge advocates, or cyber warriors," also citing high failure rates for women. Meanwhile Republican lawmakers leveled heated criticism at gender-based testing benchmarks. The debate led to the inclusion in last year's defense policy bill of the provision requiring a new "gender-neutral physical readiness standards" by June.
One option, as described by Grinston, would be combat job specific standards modeled after current tests like the Expert Infantryman Badge, an assessment meant to evaluate a soldier's aptitude for combat. The EIB, Grinston said, now includes two total miles of running in full combat equipment, push-ups, sprints, "sandbags," crawls, buddy rushes, and farmer carries.
Army leaders, particularly Grinston, have been pitching units to prioritize those badge tests, especially the new Expert Soldier Badge -- which is identical to the EIB.
The Army is also looking at putting in place a waiver system for soldiers who perform highly on the fitness test but might not meet the current body fat standards, a change that is expected to be finalized in March.
Last year, Grinston teased the change but said it was still being worked out. At that time, he said the idea was if a soldier scored 540 on the ACFT, leaders would waive the need for a body composition test -- an assessment that is meant to ensure troops are in compliance with the height and weight standards of the Army.
That number would reflect near-perfect scores in the test's six events as the maximum is 600. The target for men, aged 17-21, is running two miles in under 15:30 and deadlifting 280 pounds for three repetitions on top of the other categories.
"What we found is that most people that score that, don't need to be taped anyway," Grinston said Tuesday.
The body fat test has seen scrutiny over the last several years, including concerns raised by soldiers and experts that it is not an wholly accurate assessment of fitness and can promote eating-disordered behavior in the rank and file.
For men and women between 17-20, they cannot exceed a body fat percentage of roughly 20% and 30%, respectively.
The Army has been testing out new ways to measure a soldier's body fat through body scanners or what troops refer to as the "bod pod."
He also said that there were "two more changes" the Army is looking to implement before April, but did not specify.
-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.
Related: Army Boosting Promotion Points for Expert Badges and Cutting Those for Fitness Test Performance
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However, among the frenzy making its way across San Francisco Bay, there will be at least one bare human body bracing the cold without neoprene protection.
The elements, and anyone else that gets close enough to witness, will see that the bare skin is covered in a thousand tiny symbols that make up the names of hundreds of people who have encountered cancer in their lifetime.
Braulio Fonseca was born in Costa Rica in 1982 and moved to the United States with his mother at an early age. Growing up in the rural Burningtown community of Macon County, he was hyper-creative and wildly athletic, playing almost every sport he could find his way into throughout middle school and high school. But there was one place he saw his future going.
“I was raised by a truck driving, typical white American stepdad and we grew up on Vietnam movies and Army movies, and I was in Burningtown, North Carolina,” said Fonseca of his childhood. “So it was like we were little soldiers our whole lives and never aimed in the way of college. That was not even in the discussion, it was Army forever.”
With the military weighing heavily on his childhood existence, Fonseca would write letters to those serving in the armed forces. Once in high school he wrote for the Franklin Press.
“I’ve been a writer my whole life,” he said. “But as a child, I thought [the military] was the greatest accomplishment, it was the best that was there. That was really the most respectable thing I could do.”
And so four days after high school graduation, Fonseca enlisted in the United States Army and soon thereafter found himself stationed in Korea. While there, some of the practice missions Fonseca and his unit were assigned to involved air defense — firing off TOW missiles, a type of anti-tank weapon guided by wires. In wartime, when TOW missiles are fired, personnel cut the wires and keep moving. However, because these were practice missions, there was cleanup to be done. The next part of the job involved using a wheel and that wire to crank the missile cartridges back in.
“We were bringing back this depleted uranium packaging, putting it back in our tanks and then taking it back to our base where we would dispose of it in some other fashion rather than leaving it out,” said Fonseca. “A lot of people came back with stuff.”
Sept. 11, 2001, would change everything about his military experience. After that day, nothing was the same.
“The military changed a lot after 9/11,” said Fonseca. “There were a lot of different things happening between the lifestyle that is Korea versus stateside military bases.”
Prior to 9/11, Fonseca swam competitively and ran for the Eighth Army Track Team, but after the terrorist attacks, those types of activities went out the window.
“When I got home everything was setting up for deployment,” he said. “Before, we were just playing games. When you’re stateside your commanders don’t live on base with you, they go home. But this time, they’re all there, in the barracks, the captain and everybody, we’re all in this together. We’re deployed for a year or more. Everyone’s away from their families and everyone reacts to that differently. So you get to see sides of your leadership that you don’t normally see. That can be a positive or a negative.”
In the first year after returning from Korea, Fonseca developed unfamiliar and concerning health symptoms. Ever the athlete, he had become engrossed in biking upon his return to the states, but after a while, he was unable to even sit on a bike. There were times when, while hanging out with friends, he would pass out, experience severe groin pain or have bouts of nausea. The pain became so intense and regular that Fonseca’s vision could go black and he would stay completely aware, engaged in whatever he was doing.
Eventually, he found the mass.
“The moment I touched it, it felt like I just got arrested,” Fonseca said. “Like that anxiety when you get blue-lighted, or if you’re getting in trouble. I knew instantly that that’s what it was. It wasn’t even a doubt in my mind. I had surgery within 24 hours.”
Doctors diagnosed Fonseca with testicular cancer and within a week he started radiation treatments.
“It’s one of the weirdest things to say but that saved my life,” he said. “It saved my life from who I was. I was an angry 18-year-old boy, with no identity and this stripped down the ego of that kid and created me. I was a totally different person.”
Fonseca would be in and out of the Army before he was 21 years old. Once it was clear that he would survive the cancer and its treatment, he was given the option to stay in or get out.
“At that point, one, I’d seen enough to come to the realization that it wasn’t this thing that I dreamt it was. I was actually so disappointed in the leadership, the people, I mean I just wasn’t expecting what it was,” Fonseca said. “And, two, I’m an artist. I had no business being a soldier. That was not for me.”
Years later, after reconnecting with someone from his unit while on a road trip from Chicago to Florida, Fonseca would find out that he was discharged just five days before several members of his unit were killed in Afghanistan.
“So it saved my life spiritually from creating a new person, but literally I could have been in one of those Bradleys that got hit with a roadside bomb,” he said.
Leaving Fort Hood after treatment and discharge, Fonseca put it all behind him. He not only left the Army, but almost all memory of what had happened.
“I don’t know if it is because of the cancer treatments or whatever,” Fonseca said. “Once I drove off the base it was like it never happened. The Army, the cancer, nothing.”
Fonseca moved to Florida, became a lifeguard, grew his hair out and lived life to the fullest. He remembers feeling truly happy during that time. Meanwhile, the memories of what had passed were stored tightly away somewhere in the back of his mind. He was starting over.
Willow Wright is seven years old. She lives in Franklin with her brother and parents Amber and Jay Wright. She is the daughter the Wrights never thought they would have.
Jay was one of 18 children, 14 of whom were adopted. The Wrights always knew they wanted to adopt in addition to having children of their own. Years of expensive fertility interventions aimed at getting pregnant were to no avail and about eight years ago, the Wrights found out that one of the young children they had been fostering was ready for adoption. Shortly after their first child, a 4-year-old boy, came to be a permanent part of the family, the Wrights found out that they were six weeks pregnant with Willow.
Willow will turn eight years old on May 1 . Her parents describe her as the type of kid that runs a mile a minute. In her father’s words she is “nonstop smiles and fun, doesn’t know a stranger. She’ll meet a kid and two minutes later come and ask if her new friend can come over.”
One day last fall, Willow began exhibiting flu-like symptoms, running a fever and throwing up. Jay had just gotten off of the night shift for Macon County Sheriff’s office where he works and Amber told him that Willow would need to stay home with him that day. She crawled into bed with her father and they both fell asleep.
The next day the fever had not abated and her parents took her to the doctor. Tests for the flu and other common illnesses were negative so the doctor suggested running tests for appendicitis. Instead of appendicitis, scans showed a large mass on Willow’s kidney. She needed immediate transfer to Mission Hospital in Asheville, but the ambulance wouldn’t be ready to take her until four o’clock that afternoon. Jay and Amber weren’t taking any chances. They signed a waiver and drove Willow directly over to Mission on their own.
Further testing revealed that the mass on Willow’s kidney was solid, and she underwent surgery to remove it on Oct. 26, 2022. Doctors told the Wrights that Willow had a Stage 3 Wilms Tumor, which means that the cancer found in the kidney could not be completely removed with surgery. Intense chemotherapy and radiation would follow.
“There are a lot of ups and downs, good days and bad,” said Jay. “Thankfully she has not lost her personality. If she wore a hat and you didn’t know her hair was missing, other than a little bit of weight loss you wouldn’t know any difference.”
Her treatment has been harsh. The first week after surgery Willow received radiation every day, as well as chemotherapy on the first and last days of the week. For the next two and a half months she received chemotherapy every week, with a double dose every third week.
“Those days are really rough on her emotionally and physically,” said Jay. “She feels sick and she vomits. You try to stay strong but sometimes you’ve got to walk away, cry in a corner by yourself or away from her so you don’t show it to her.”
For Jay and Amber, the grief and stress come in waves. Seemingly at random, driving down the road or glancing at a picture on a cellphone, comprehension becomes total and the emotions are too much to handle.
“For the most part, Willow’s been so strong,” said Jay. “She gets tired easily in the afternoon, things that didn’t used to bother her or wouldn’t upset her will sometimes make her just break down. My wife has been very strong. It’s probably going to hit her after all this.”
“After all this” will begin this spring, after Willow receives her last scheduled treatment on May 15.
After some years working as a lifeguard in Florida, relishing in the warm weather, healthy lifestyle and time and space to write, Fonseca received another surprise. The amicable boss he had looked up to for so long fired him.
“I was surrounded by an incredible group of people, and they had an enormous influence on me in a phenomenal way,” said Fonseca. “My boss was like, ‘look, you can’t sit out here forever.’ I did get comfortable, very comfortable. It was like living in Neverland. Every day was Saturday, getting paid to sit on the beach and exercise and read.”
“It was just a beautiful time. But not stimulating. I wasn’t growing as a human. My boss was a phenomenal mentor. He was like ‘you gotta go to school.’
So Fonseca took off for Columbia College in Chicago to study writing. Five years later, in 2012, he received his degree and began traveling back and forth between LA and the Windy City as he built a successful creative career. First in commercials as a production assistant, and eventually on into set design, prop styling, and from there, pivoted into print advertising photoshoots.
Bonnie Brown is a freelance artist and producer. She lives in California and met Fonseca when he was hired as a production associate for a photoshoot she was running in Chicago. She was impressed with him from the start, both personally and professionally, and they would stay close in the years to come.
“Braulio is a team player in every sense of the word, and super professional, strong as an ox,” said Brown. “He is skilled at most aspects of photography production and is an incredible photographer to boot. He is a gentle soul. An old soul.”
Shortly after his first opportunities in print advertising photoshoots began to materialize, symptoms similar to those he had experienced 15 years earlier while in Fort Hood, Texas, began to return.
“I knew it in the same way I knew it the first time. I knew I had it again except this time, totally different mentality,” said Fonseca.
It was cancer, again. But this time, Fonseca’s mental health spiraled and he couldn’t find it in himself to put life and work on hold in the manner that cancer treatment demands.
“I don’t care, I’m not doing chemo. I’m not doing that again,” Fonseca recalls thinking. “The mental health side of it started to come tumbling down. I felt like the only thing I had was what I’d been working for, those opportunities. I thought, ‘I’ll just work till I die, whatever.’ I was in print and just started getting into some big, big deals. I put off chemo to do an NBA photoshoot and was sick as a dog.”
Fonseca knows how it sounds. Denial? Perhaps. Determination? More likely. He had worked hard at doing what he loved to have the opportunities that could make or break his career. Getting the chance to work on an Adidas/ NBA photoshoot was not something he was willing to give up, no matter the consequences.
“It took a long time to start making the real money,” said Fonseca. “This was that job, that paycheck that changed my life.”
Eventually, he did decide to seek treatment for his second bout with cancer. A creative connection made through work, in part, provided the impetus he needed. A colleague worked with him to photograph the whole, grueling process of treatment. He captured Fonseca in his lowest moments, when chemo stole his hair and ravaged his body, all the way through recovery.
“The only way I was going to do chemo, is if I did something with it,” Fonseca says of the decision. “I wanted to make a project. It had to be creative. I wasn’t just going to do it to save me, I wanted to create something while it was happening. So I decided to write a book.”
This time around, the cancer was situated in Fonseca’s lymph nodes, which meant it would require chemotherapy. Receiving chemo three times per day, he was unable to leave the hospital throughout the entire treatment process. While radiation uses high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells at a specific tumor site, chemotherapy targets cancer cells throughout the body, usually by using cytotoxic medications administered intravenously.
“It was very dark,” he said. “Very, very dark experience. Nothing like the first.”
It was a weighty ordeal; one he was unwilling to put others through. No one was allowed to come to the hospital. Even his mother was never permitted by his side. But this didn’t keep his community from doing what they could to help Fonseca survive.
Following treatment he went back to sunny Clearwater, Florida, where friends from his time lifeguarding had room for him to live while recovering. There was space and support for the fragile state in which he found both his mind and body. In addition, his creative community conducted a fundraiser which amassed over $30,000 in two days. It changed Fonseca’s whole attitude toward healing.
“It blew me away,” he says, choking back tears. “I was not really fighting until that happened. And then I just felt this love, you know, like all these people, strangers around them, everywhere. That kind of money and everything, I was like ‘I gotta do better. I can’t sit here and be this way.’”
Thanks to the support of his community, he was able to recover in relative peace. He could maintain an apartment in Chicago and live in Florida with his friends, focusing all his attention on getting healthy. Moving his body, especially swimming, became central to recovery.
“I jumped in the pool with my two girlfriends and there’s something about being physical, I’ll never forget it,” Fonseca said. “The action of watching my arm and taking that breath and every time I breathe I couldn’t help but think about being in that bed. How miserable I was.”
“I’ll do this forever,” he remembers thinking. “I can do this forever. Like this is it? This isn’t even hard anymore. Training, this is all I want to do.”
Movement was it. All he wanted to do; all he could do. He didn’t stop moving, whether walking or swimming all day long. Anything to keep from sitting, or worse, lying down.
“Because once you’re in that bed with a port in you, you’re handcuffed, you’re in prison,” he said. “It was a weird combination of survivor’s guilt, because at the end of the day, my cancer doesn’t compare to what real suffering is. People go through way worse cancer experiences than what I did. I just felt I had to do something for them.”
After his first open water swim, the Hurricane Man 2.4-mile, all bets were off. Fonseca knew he wanted — even needed — an event like that every year.
“That’s when everything really changed,” he said.
The next year he upped the ante, swimming around the Florida Keys, a 12.5-mile open water swim. By the end of it, finishing in third place, Fonseca’s body was arrested with cramps. He had finished, but he was suffering, when an announcement came over the loudspeaker for everyone to cheer on another finisher who was about to complete the race. There, a man without arms, who had just completed the entire swim, was making his way out of the water.
“I felt that big,” Fonseca says with pointer finger and thumb squeezed together. “And that changed my life. I don’t even know what suffering is at all. Way off.”
In that moment his mindset shifted. He never wanted to win anything ever again. He didn’t even want to be in the top three. He wanted to find something so impossibly difficult that he would fail.
“That’s my dedication. That’s my truth,” he said.
He would find that failure the very first time he attempted to swim from Alcatraz Island, across San Francisco Bay to the California mainland with no wetsuit to protect from the freezing cold water.
In the years following his second great battle with cancer, Fonseca began to formulate how he would help others through the fight he knew all too well. He decided he would raise money to go directly to someone in the midst of the struggle. Not some large, money-making entity with obscure tactics and little to show after years of work and billions of dollars, but one real human, fighting a very real fight.
“Braulio is a powerhouse, it seems unfathomable to think he had once been struggling for his life,” said Brown. “Here is a guy who not only has beaten cancer twice but has taken it upon himself to raise awareness and funding so that others can survive cancer.”
Fonseca decided to couple those fundraising efforts with his own desire to seek out the limits of existence, the wild in the world — the need to move his body, the need to be challenged, perhaps even defeated.
The swim from Alcatraz to St. Francis Beach was the perfect trial, and in 2019 he plunged from the shores of the island for the first time, no wetsuit, but with something else adorning his skin.
On his chest, Fonseca bore the names of two close friends. On his back, the names of 100 others. Anyone he knew, anyone his friends knew who had been affected by cancer whether they had passed away, were currently fighting or had survived their battle.
“I call them cancer warriors, not survivors,” said Fonseca. “Everyone was a warrior. Because for me to say that I survived and then my two girlfriends didn’t, to say that they lost their battle just didn’t really sit well with me.”
Fonseca named the newly born nonprofit aimed at helping those in their battle with cancer ‘A Warrior’s Way Cancer Fund.’ It became an emotional process for everyone involved, especially for those people who had lost loved ones to cancer.
“I put it out there to the universe and said, I need these names to help me get across. They’re powerful and they’re alive,” he said. “These are spirits reincarnated and active. They say they’re seeing them alive. It changed the way I thought about it, the way the family members thought about it. I didn’t know what it was going to do to me but every new name, every new story, everything that would happen, any donation, it’s a lot to hold.”
“And then of course that year, I didn’t make it.”
Part way through his first attempt to race across the bay in 2019, hypothermia closed in gradually, and then all at once. Fonseca woke up in the emergency room. He had done what he had set out to do, attempted something so difficult, he had failed. But even that failure didn’t register as success.
“That was no way to pay tribute, I just felt like I failed all these people,” said Fonseca. “But there’s something really beautiful about failing, trying no matter what the outcome is. That’s the epitome of what people do when they fight cancer.”
Because Fonseca had a clear understanding that someone losing a battle with cancer is not failure, he was able to tune in to whatever was coming next, accepting the first swim as just that. The first of more to come.
With the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Fonseca moved home to the mountains of Western North Carolina. He studied Wim Hof, the Dutch cold water and breath work enthusiast, started protracted cold-water immersion, trained in Lake Glenville and at this point in time hasn’t had a warm shower in years.
“It was brutal,” he said, “but it worked.”
With more time to prepare, more names covering his skin each year, Fonseca has crossed the bay in sub-50-degree water two years in a row, each time raising money for someone facing their fight with cancer. Now, he’s aiming to do it again. On March 11, with a list of names that continues to grow, Fonseca will swim in honor of 7-year-old Franklin resident Willow Wright. All donations raised for the swim this year will go to Willow and her family as they face what lies ahead.
And it’s not just the money that is making an impact.
Last spring, Brown underwent an annual mammogram. The test found a small tumor which, after more testing and a long week of waiting, turned out to be invasive ductal carcinoma — a fairly common type of breast cancer.
“That phone call really does change your life — which at that point became all about gaining knowledge, and working through fear, towards survival,” said Brown. “I didn’t know of anyone I could talk to, who had survived cancer, so it was comforting that Braulio was out there, as a beacon of hope during that time.”
This year, when Fonseca takes to the freezing water, Brown’s name will fit in somewhere alongside the hundreds of others scrawled across his skin.
“It will be an incredible honor,” she said. “I’m getting choked up thinking about it.”
After Willow’s diagnosis last fall, her mother Amber made a post on Facebook to help inform friends and family of what the family was facing. Not long after, Jay got a call from Fonseca, someone he hadn’t seen in years but remembered playing sports with when they were growing up in Franklin.
“He asked if he could raise funds for Willow,” said Jay. “We were surprised and extremely thankful. One of the benefits of living in a smaller community is the output of support you get which has shown through this entire process. We were blessed, thankful and honored that he would choose Willow to be who he focused his fundraising for this time.”
Throughout all of this, Jay and Amber have witnessed their daughter’s strength, watched as she has held tight to her vivacious personality, and been in awe of her ability to remain herself.
“She makes a lot of people laugh,” said Jay. “She just wants to enjoy life and have fun and she doesn’t let anything stop her.”
To learn more or donate to A Warriors Way Cancer Fund, visit gofundme.com/f/swimming-for-willow-wright.
We’ve all heard the anecdotes: Your friend’s spouse or child gets Covid-19 — a known exposure to the virus, all the hallmark symptoms, a positive test, no question about it. Then your friend starts to feel crummy, so they do a quick swab, but their test result is negative. What gives?
Experts say that rapid home tests are still a helpful tool for stopping the spread of Covid-19, but they’re not foolproof. Here are a few explanations for why you might get a false negative result — and how to increase your chances of accuracy next time.
The most likely reason a rapid test would produce a false negative is that there isn’t enough virus circulating in your body. The tests require a lot of virus to be present to turn positive, much more than PCR tests do. When people test early — right after an exposure, or with the first tickle in the throat — viral load tends to be low.
“The tests just aren’t very sensitive,” said Dr. Sheldon Campbell, a professor of laboratory medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “It’s an inherent limitation of this kind of test.”
It can be confusing to have recognizable symptoms and a negative test, but experts say the early signs of Covid-19 — like fever and fatigue — are typically caused by your immune system’s initial response to the virus and are not necessarily a reflection of viral load.
Rapid tests are best used as an indicator of when you’re contagious with Covid-19 rather than when you’re infected with it, said Dr. Paul Drain, an associate professor of global health at the University of Washington. And in order to prevent the spread of the virus, contagiousness is what really matters.
Supporting this idea, scientists in Dr. Drain’s lab found that samples taken from people with Covid-19 who had very low levels of the virus (below what a rapid test can detect) were unable to infect cells in a petri dish. This suggests that people with small amounts of the virus also wouldn’t be able to infect another person, Dr. Drain said.
To receive an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, manufacturers must submit data showing that their rapid test is at least 80 percent accurate, which means it will return a false negative one out of five times. Because people often test too early, false negatives are even more common in the real world.
A large meta-analysis of over 150 independent studies of rapid tests reported that, on average, the tests correctly detect a Covid-19 infection 73 percent of the time when a person is symptomatic. For asymptomatic infections, the accuracy drops to 55 percent.
Other research suggests that the accuracy of rapid tests improves a few days into an infection. A large study released as a preprint paper last year showed that rapid tests were only 60 percent accurate on the first day of a person’s infection if they had symptoms. If the person was asymptomatic, the accuracy dropped to just 12 percent. However, doing a second test 48 hours later improved rapid test accuracy to 92 percent for people with symptoms and 51 percent for asymptomatic infections. A third test after another 48 hours improved accuracy to 75 percent for people without symptoms.
Because of this, the FDA now recommends so-called serial testing: If you think you’ve been infected with the coronavirus but test negative, test again in 48 hours, after the virus has had more time to replicate. If you’re still negative, take one more test in another two days. (Unfortunately, for the sake of accuracy, this will mean spending more money on tests.) The FDA made this announcement in November 2022, and manufacturers are required to change rapid test packaging to reflect the new guidelines.
“A negative does not necessarily rule you out of having the disease, and that’s why multiple tests are recommended,” said Nathaniel Hafer, an assistant professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School who worked on the repeat-testing study. “If you’re positive, you can feel pretty confident that you’re positive. If you’re negative, that repeat test is really important for increasing the accuracy.”
Another possible explanation for a false negative result is user error. To make sure you’re testing correctly, read through the instructions first, even if you think you know what you’re doing.
“A lot of us this far into the pandemic have done tests multiple times, and it’s easy to be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know what to do,’” Dr. Hafer said. “Pulling out those instructions and really making sure you go through it step by step is the best thing to do because each test is a little bit different.” For example, tests may differ in terms of how long you need to swab each nostril, how far up your nose you should go, how many drops to use on the test strip and how long you need to wait for a result.
Another tip is to blow your nose beforehand. Tests for Covid-19 detect the virus in the cells that line the inside of your nose, not in your mucus, so you don’t want your snot getting in the way of the sample. Also, make sure you’re going far enough up inside your nose.
“The most important thing you can do to Boost the accuracy of the tests is get a good sample,” Dr. Campbell said. “If you’re swabbing up there where it burns just a little bit, that tells you you’re doing it right.”
For the most part, though, people seem to be pretty good at self-testing. One of the few studies that compared test accuracy between health care professionals and people swabbing themselves found no difference in rapid test results. Another study found that children as young as four were able to swab themselves proficiently, with test results matching a health care worker’s swabs 98 percent of the time.
Accuracy doesn’t appear to be changing with each new variant. Several studies have found that rapid tests performed just as well on the first Omicron variant as they did on earlier strains of the virus. And although there isn’t data yet, the experts say there’s no reason to think that more exact subvariants like BA.5 and XBB.1.5 are any different. That’s because most of the mutations occur in the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter and infect a cell. Rapid tests detect a different kind of protein, called a nucleoprotein, that has undergone many fewer changes.
“Because the tests are designed to detect nucleoprotein, and because nucleoprotein hasn’t been mutating, we can be pretty confident that the tests are going to still be able to perform as well as they have in the past,” Dr. Hafer said.
If you think you have Covid-19 but test negative, Dr. Hafer recommended waiting 48 hours and testing again. However, if you are over the age of 50 or have a pre-existing condition, Dr. Drain advised getting a PCR test as soon as possible so you can begin taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid if you are positive. Paxlovid can reduce the risk of severe illness, but the medication needs to be started within the first five days of an infection. “The earlier one starts Paxlovid, the more beneficial it would be,” Dr. Drain said.
If you feel awful but you’ve tested negative on three rapid tests in five days (or if you have a negative PCR test), you could be infected with another virus, like influenza or R.S.V. Regardless of what’s making you sick, it’s important that you stay home until you feel better so that you don’t infect other people.
The Navy says it will forgive past fitness test failures for its sailors as part of a broader effort to step up recruitment and retention efforts. The move is one of several tweaks to the service's physical fitness rules that leaders hope will help it keep enough sailors in uniform.
In an administrative memo released Thursday, the sea service announced that it has reset the counter on physical fitness assessment (PFA) failures and any previous failures won't count "when considering authority to reenlist, advance, promote, or execute other career continuation transitions such as extensions and duty station transfers."
However, the rule change stresses that "this policy does not supersede the need for an effective command-level culture of fitness" and that "it remains incumbent upon individual Sailors to invest in their personal health and wellness in order to maintain warfighting readiness."
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Rear Adm. James Waters, director of the Navy's Personnel Plans and Policy division, told reporters in a call held ahead of the publishing of the memo that the reprieve is largely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Waters explained that there was "a recognition that we don't want to punish sailors because gyms were closed during the pandemic. We don't want to disadvantage sailors."
He went on to add that the reset "could allow up to 1,500 sailors to remain in the service who might otherwise be separated."
According to the Navy's standing rules, the first PFA failure for a sailor results in them being placed in their command's mandatory fitness program, as well as some restrictions on advancement. A second consecutive failure means a sailor's time in the Navy is effectively over. They cannot advance, and they are ineligible for reenlistment.
This policy change doesn't alter those rules. It simply resets the counter for sailors who have had one or more failures.
"They get a special evaluation that adds back in the recommendation for retention and the recommendation for advancement," Waters explained. He also noted that sailors who missed out on advancement due to a PFA failure can now get that promotion.
Both the admiral and his top enlisted adviser, Fleet Master Chief Delbert Terrell, stressed that this move is not a weakening or relaxation of the Navy's fitness standards.
"Without a doubt, I don't perceive this as a negative," Terrell said, before adding that he thinks the policy is more about "making sure that we are fair across the board."
"Continuing failures would continue to accrue and then, ultimately, could result in separation if there isn't progress," Waters said. "I think it's important to recognize that this is a one-time reset."
The move is one of several that the Navy's leaders have made to help stem the challenges the service is facing in an exceptionally challenging recruiting environment.
Waters said that they've added an alternative cardio option at boot camp instead of running. Out in the fleet, sailors are able to complete that fitness requirement by swimming, biking or rowing, among other options. However, in boot camp sailors are only able to run for their first PFA in the Navy.
"We found that, of those that failed the run at [boot camp], over 88% have subsequently passed using a bike," the admiral explained.
The Navy is also about to implement a pre-boot camp prep course similar to the Army's "Future Soldier Preparatory Course," which helps recruits meet academic or physical fitness requirements before moving on to basic training.
According to internal data reviewed by Military.com in October, 581 of 706 students in the Army's Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) course progressed into basic training, while 292 of 366 soldiers have qualified in the fitness track.
Waters also noted that the sea service recently received congressional authority to increase the maximum enlisted bonus from $50,000 to $75,000. That is in addition to changes to allow older recruits to join and a loosening of academic requirements for some jobs.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran's military tested new attack drones in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman and near the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Saturday as part of its ongoing annual drill, state TV reported.
Meanwhile, anti-government protests underway for over three months continued. Videos on social media showed protests in Tehran's grand bazaar and several cities and towns including in the Kurdish area. Part of Tehran's bazaar closed in the wake of the protests which authorities cracked down on.
State TV said the Ababil-5 attack drone was used during wargames for the first time and successfully hit its target with a bomb after traveling 250 miles. Iran has tested many other military drones over the past decade.
The military drones have been a point of contention between Iran and the United States and its allies, which claim Tehran is supplying Moscow with drones that have been used in attacks in Westbacked Ukraine.
In November, Iran acknowledged it supplied Russia with drones, adding that the supply came before Moscow's war in Ukraine. Iran said it is committed to stopping the conflict.
The Strait of Hormuz is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and is crucial to global energy supplies, with about a fifth of all oil traded at sea passing through it.
Commandos and airborne infantry participated in the wargames, dubbed "Zolfaghar-1401," along with fighter jets, helicopters, military transport aircraft and submarines. Iran's military will fire missiles and air defense systems as well. Iran regularly holds such drills to Boost its defensive power and test weapons.
Since mid-September, Iran has been shaken by anti-government protests that were ignited by the death of a woman who was detained by the country's morality police. The demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for an end to more than four decades of the country's clerical rule.
More than 500 protesters have been killed and over 18,500 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran.
A device developed at the University of Florida for the U.S. military provides protection from mosquitoes for an extended period and requires no heat, electricity or skin contact.
Funded by the Department of Defense Deployed Warfighter Protection program, the controlled-release passive device was designed by Nagarajan Rajagopal, a PhD candidate and Dr. Christopher Batich in UF's Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. It recently was tested successfully in a four-week semi-field study at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gainesville in a collaboration with Dr. Daniel Kline, Dr. Jerry Hogsette and Adam Bowman from the USDA's Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology.
Results showed the controlled release of the repellent transfluthrin was effective in preventing multiple species of mosquitoes from entering the testing site. Transfluthrin is an organic insecticide considered to be safe for humans and animals.
"Our device eliminates the need for applying topical repellents and for insecticides that are sprayed across an open area, which can contaminate surrounding plants or bodies of water and have a negative impact on beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies," Rajagopal said. "This is versatile, portable, easily deployed and doesn't require electricity or heat to activate the solution."
Mosquitoes are more than an annoying distraction for military personnel, as they can spread serious diseases and viruses like malaria, dengue virus, Zika and West Nile virus. The DOD continually looks for ways to protect soldiers in the field from mosquito bites.
The controlled release passive device is made up of a tube-shaped polypropylene plastic that is 2.5 centimeters long and holds two smaller tubes and a cotton containing the repellent.The team attached 70 of the devices to the opening of a large military tent using fishing line and nothing to a similar control tent. Caged mosquitoes were released at various points along the exterior of the tent, and almost all were killed or repelled within 24 hours, Rajagopal said.
He explained that while the field test showed the team's prototype created a protective space from mosquitoes for four weeks, the final product, which will be built through a 3D-printing process, could extend that period up to three months.
"We call our device passive because you don't need to do anything to activate it," he said. "It provides a sustained release of the insecticide over an extended period rather than just a spike at the beginning."
Rajagopal said they are filing for a patent on the device, and the government is interested in further study, so that it can eventually be commercialized for the civilian market. USDA scientists believe there are more opportunities for its use by people who enjoy outdoor activities.
"While initially developed for tent-entrance protection, the personal protection device in various sizes and configurations has potential for other applications, including for hiking and fishing," said Kline, a research entomologist with the USDA.
Kline added that they will evaluate other active ingredients in addition to transfluthrin to expand its potential.
"It doesn't stop with mosquitoes," Rajagopal said. "We want to show that it will work with other insects, especially ticks, which pose a threat by causing Lyme disease."
An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile has been launched from California to test the defense system, the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command said. The Minuteman III missile lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base at 11:01 p.m. Thursday. (Feb. 10)
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Gov. Wes Moore, D-Md., joins Morning Joe to discuss the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, who died three days after a traffic stop. Gov. Moore also discusses President Biden's planned trip to Maryland to tout the administration's Baltimore rail tunnel project funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law.