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Coronavirus update: What do the new CDC mask guidelines mean? You still need a mask for travel

The chip shortage is costing carmakers billions

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 32,860,353 (32,819,878)

Total U.S. deaths: 584,570 (583,779)

Total global cases: 161,310,781 (160,566,700)

Total global deaths: 3,347,409 (3,334,194)

The CDC’s new mask guidelines: What they mean

There was widespread celebration Thursday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines that said fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear a mask except in a few settings. But does that mean you can take off your mask immediately?

The guidelines are just that -- guidelines. Requirements to wear a mask in public are set by the states -- and until states act, they remain in effect.

In the meantime, people should continue wearing masks in public spaces until policies have officially been changed. Otherwise, there could be awkward encounters at stores, restaurants, and other public venues.

Mask guidelines remain in effect for travel

Even if your state changes its policy on masks, don’t discard your face covering just yet. The CDC guidance has some exceptions to its finding that fully vaccinated people don’t need a mask indoors.

If you are planning a trip on a commercial aircraft, the guidance continues to call for everyone aboard to wear a mask. The requirement to wear masks during travel -- on buses, trains, planes, and public transportation -- still stands. The CDC said guidance for travel will be updated as science emerges.

Masks will also be required in health care venues. The CDC said people with autoimmune deficiencies may also want to continue wearing a mask.

Pandemic-induced chip shortage costing automakers $110 billion

The shortage of computer chips that led to a shortage of new cars and trucks is expected to cost the world’s automakers $110 billion this year in lost sales. 

The New York-based consulting firm AlixPartners has upwardly revised its estimate of the loss from around $60 billion, an increase of more than 81%. Losses are mounting as fully assembled vehicles sit on lots waiting for the installation of vital semiconductors before they can be sold.

Ironically, demand for new cars has never been greater, as nearly every American family has received stimulus money from the government. Cox Automotive’s survey of buyers found that 40% are willing to pay above MSRP for the new vehicle of their choice.

Experts see post-pandemic move to ‘cashless’ commerce

If you’ve been to a Major League Baseball park this season, you will have noticed that the concession stands don’t accept cash. You must place your orders online and pay electronically.

Researchers at Arizona State University say we’ll likely see more of that even after the pandemic recedes in the rearview mirror. And while going cashless will not be a major inconvenience for people who already use their debit or credit cards almost everywhere, it does raise some issues regarding privacy and equity.

“It’s more hygienic because there’s less contact and you’re not sharing bills and change,” said Geoffrey Smith, clinical associate professor of finance at ASU. “Things have been heading toward cashless, but this is a good time for businesses to roll it out, when consumers are more accepting of it under the guise of safety.”

Real Time with Bill Maher canceled after host tests positive

Comedian Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, has tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the cancellation of the next show. 

According to HBO, Maher has been fully vaccinated and has no symptoms of the virus. His infection was revealed by PCR testing ahead of the show’s recording. 

“Real Time production has taken every precaution following COVID CDC guidelines. No other staff or crew members have tested positive at this time. The show will be rescheduled at a later date,” an HBO spokeswoman told Deadline, an entertainment industry publication.

Around the nation

  • Texas: The state legislature has approved a bill to throw a lifeline to music venues throughout the state that were shut down for more than a year by the pandemic. Qualifying venues could get up to $100,000 each in tax rebates on alcohol sales. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law.

  • Massachusetts: State officials say the CDC’s new guidance on masks has not changed the state’s official policy. The statewide mask mandate remains in effect. State health officials say they are still looking at the new guidance before deciding if the indoor mask requirements will be lifted in Massachusetts.

  • Louisiana: As businesses struggle to find employees, Republicans in the state legislature have proposed offering residents currently on unemployment $1,000 to go back to work. But there’s a catch -- workers would have to give up their right to claim jobless benefits for six months.

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