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Coronavirus update: a warning about ‘vehement’ debt collectors, less need for ventilators

Some consumers' utility bills are going down

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Photo (c) courtneyk - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,332,609 (1,309,698)

Total U.S. deaths: 79,699 (78,799)

Total global cases: 4,137,591 (4,051,431)

Total global deaths: 283,526  (279,734)

Former CFPB director warns consumers about overly aggressive debt collectors

In stark contrast to the 2008/2009 financial crisis, Congress has passed sweeping aid packages to help consumers weather the economic storm. One thing that might not be different, however, is the behavior of debt collectors.

In an interview with CNBC, Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under President Obama, predicted debt collectors would become “vehement” in their pursuit of people who owe money. Cordray says he’s concerned that the estimated 30 million unemployed are going to have trouble paying their bills and will get no mercy from debt collectors, based on what happened 12 years ago.

“They’ll potentially go over the legal lines they’re not supposed to cross in terms of pursuing debt collection,” said Cordray. 

Brush up on your legal rights here

Less need for ventilators

A growing number of doctors treating COVID-19 patients are delaying placing them on ventilators, and many say they aren’t using ventilators at all, despite their patients’ low blood oxygen levels. For some reason, they say many patients in that state have no trouble breathing on their own.

Scientists have no explanation for this so far. The Wall Street Journal reports that doctors at Stony Brook Hospital in New York have used ventilators less on these patients, turning instead to the CPAP or BiPAP machines or high-flow nasal cannulas.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was feared that the number of people with the virus would overwhelm hospital intensive care units (ICU) because there might not be enough ventilators. As doctors begin to wait longer to see if a patient actually needs a ventilator, the pressure on ICUs is expected to subside.

Some consumers see lower electric bills

Since the pandemic began, consumers have paid a lot less for gasoline. They should also be paying less for electricity, though not all are.

Offices, stores, and restaurants across the U.S. have closed their doors. These businesses had been big consumers of electricity but no longer are. As a result, utility companies are paying less for electricity.

Some are actually passing the savings on to customers through lower rates. In Fort Meade, Fla., the local power company has reduced the residential and commercial rate for its electricity customers, reducing the average residential bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity from $116 to $110 per month. 

FDA approves new antigen test

Testing got off to a slow start, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is making up for lost time. Over the weekend, the agency granted emergency use authorization (EAU) to a new antigen test that reportedly provides faster and more accurate results when patients are tested for the coronavirus.

The test is produced by Quidel Corporation and checks for virus proteins on samples collected from a patient’s nasal cavity. It reportedly has an 85 percent accuracy rating and yields results in about five minutes on machines found in most doctors’ offices.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the test is important because it tells doctors which patients have already been infected and may now be immune to the disease.

Automotive delivery service

It’s well documented that some restaurants have seen a surge of delivery orders from consumers who are abiding by shelter-in-place guidelines. Amazon also reports record orders.

Delivery also extends to automotive services, including filling your gas tank. Yoshi is an app that lets you dispatch a truck that will come to your home and top off your car’s tank with fuel. The service tech can also check tires and change the oil. 

A report and receipt are then sent to the customer’s smartphone, explaining what services were provided and alerting the owner to any potential issues with the vehicle, such as excessive tire wear. The app is for Android or iOS. Users can set up a profile that includes vehicle details, payment information, membership plan, and preferred fuel grade.

Around the nation

  • Oklahoma: With coronavirus restrictions starting to be lifted, congregations were allowed to gather Sunday in small numbers. To play it safe, Putnam City Baptist Church established what it called a “lawn chair church,” holding services outside and asking worshipers to bring and sit in lawn chairs -- six feet apart, of course. 

  • Nebraska: State education officials believe public schools will be able to open as scheduled in the fall. Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt says reopening will depend on local health conditions and that some districts should be prepared to continue online classes.

  • Washington: Some residents who reported violators of the state’s state-at-home orders say they are being threatened. They say the threats were generated by Facebook posts that gave their personal information.

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