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      Coronavirus update: New York in crisis, Walmart adopts new safety measures

      China has changed the way it counts coronavirus cases

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 175,067 (144,672)

      Total U.S. deaths: 3,415 (2,575)

      Total global cases: 809,608  (745,308)

      Total global deaths: 39,454 (35,307)

      New York crisis deepens

      New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports that cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state surged 14 percent overnight to more than 75,000, with 1,500 deaths. The governor said the virus has put nearly 11,000 New Yorkers in the hospital -- 2,710 of them in the ICU. He said hospital admissions last night grew by nearly 400.

      “I’m tired of being behind this virus,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing with reporters. “We’ve been behind this virus from day one. We underestimated this virus. It’s more powerful, it’s more dangerous than we expected.” 

      Unfortunately, Cuomo says there is little relief in sight for the state -- in particular New York City -- since the virus isn’t expected to peak for another two to three weeks.

      New safety measures at Walmart

      Walmart stores have remained open during coronavirus shutdowns, and now the retailer says it is taking additional safety measures to protect its associates and consumers. The company says it will begin taking the temperature of each employee when they report for work.

      Employees with a fever of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home with pay and not be allowed to return until they have been fever-free for three days. Additionally, masks will be offered to any employee who wishes to wear one.

      The company says it may take up to three weeks for its stores to receive the necessary infrared thermometers and masks to begin the new policy.

      Florida denies cruise ships’ request to dock

      Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused requests from two South American cruise ships to dock in the state because both vessels carry passengers with symptoms of the coronavirus. In fact, some passengers have already died from the illness.

      The ships -- the Sandaam and the Rotterdam -- are still at sea, but they are headed for Florida with 300 U.S. citizens among the passengers. DeSantis says he has held discussions with the U.S. Coast Guard and the White House about a course of action.

      At this point, DeSantis has remained adamant in his refusal to allow the ships to dock, saying the state’s medical resources are already stretched to the breaking point. Holland America President Orlando Ashford has gone public with his appeal for mercy, writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the situation is “testing our common humanity.”

      “To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human value,” he wrote.

      China cases may start rising again

      The coronavirus began in China, but over the last few weeks the number of cases has leveled off. Last week, the number of cases in the U.S., with a smaller population, surged past China.

      But the Chinese government revealed today that it had not been reporting all coronavirus cases. If someone tested positive but displayed no symptoms, they were not included in the official tally.

      The Chinese Health Ministry says it is changing that policy and will now include asymptomatic cases in its count.

      Social distancing inadequate, researcher says

      Americans have been told to avoid groups and stay at least six feet from other people, but a researcher at MIT says that advice is outdated and woefully inadequate.

      Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, associate professor Lydia Bourouiba contends that droplets from a sneeze can travel up to 27 feet, and pathogens can hang in the air for hours.

      When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the pathogens will eventually settle on surfaces and contaminate them.

      Around the nation

      • Mississippi: Gov. Tate Reeves has signed an order overriding local officials’ measures to contain the coronavirus. Reeves declared nearly every type of business in the state as “essential,” allowing them to remain open.

      • Wisconsin: Health officials have revised estimates on when the virus is expected to peak. Estimates now predict a peak nearly two weeks after the expected national peak on April 15. They say that may relieve some of the stress on hospital ICUs.

      • Rhode Island: State police are stopping all cars on the state’s southern border if they have out-of-state license plates. Occupants who plan to stay in Rhode Island are being required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 175,067 (144,672)...
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      Ford to make ventilators for coronavirus patients after postponing car production restart

      The automaker hopes to build 50,000 units by July 4

      Ford is postponing the resumption of vehicle assembly in an effort to protect workers. Instead, it will help GE Healthcare turn out much-needed ventilators to help people suffering from severe coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.

      Ford joins GM in retooling production lines to build machines that help patients with reduced lung capacity breathe. The company says it will use one of its plants in Michigan to produce 50,000 of the vitally needed units within 100 days and up to 30,000 a month after that if needed. 

      The automaker brings its manufacturing capabilities to the table, making the ramp-up process easier. GE Healthcare will provide clinical expertise and will license the current ventilator design from Airon Corp. – a small, privately held company whose design already has approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      The GE/Airon Model A-E ventilator uses a design that operates on air pressure and does not require electricity, addressing the needs of most COVID-19 patients. Ford says production can get underway quickly to help meet growing demand.

      “The Ford and GE Healthcare teams, working creatively and tirelessly, have found a way to produce this vitally needed ventilator quickly and in meaningful numbers,” said Jim Hackett, CEO at Ford. “By producing this ventilator in Michigan, in strong partnership with the UAW, we can help health care workers save lives, and that’s our No. 1 priority.”

      To start, Ford will send a team to work with Airon to boost production in Florida. By the week of April 20, it will start production at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Mich.

      1,500 units by the end of April

      The company says it thinks it can produce 1,500 units by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May, and 50,000 by July 4 – helping the government meet its goal of producing 100,000 ventilators in 100 days.

      Ford is delaying the restart of production at its other North American assembly plants in an effort to protect employees from the coronavirus. The company had planned to restart operations on April 6.

      When the Rawsonville Components Plant begins production of ventilators, Ford says the workforce will be protected by additional health and safety measures.

      Ford is postponing the resumption of vehicle assembly in an effort to protect workers. Instead, it will help GE Healthcare turn out much-needed ventilators...
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      Coronavirus job losses hit renters particularly hard

      Zillow analysis shows what two months of being out of work does to housing expenses

      Food service and retail workers were among the first to lose their jobs as the coronavirus (COVID-19) forced many U.S. stores and restaurants to close. If and when those jobs come back, these workers will pay a much higher percentage of their income on housing.

      In an analysis, Zillow looked at how just a two-month loss of income could affect the finances of people who rent their homes. The company concluded that these consumers would be paying 40 percent of their annual income on rent over a 12-month period under these circumstances.

      A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 30 percent of annual income on housing. Zillow reports that the average for people in food service and retail is closer to 35 percent. 

      Even if laid-off workers were able to return to work after two months, Zillow estimates that most would face economic hardship as they scramble to make up for missed paychecks. The company’s findings suggest that single earners working in food service or retail have been spending a median of 33.6 percent of their income on rent. Missing a month of work would raise that to 35 percent of their annual income. 

      But if they are out of work for two months, they could spend 40 percent of their income on housing if they had no way to make up the missing paychecks. Previously, Zillow researchers found that only half of renters said they could pay an unexpected $1,000 expense.

      Aid package will help

      Fortunately, these workers can expect some help from the recently enacted aid package that will send $1,200 to individuals, $2,400 to couples, and provide families with an additional $500 per child.

      “A one-time payment similar to this legislation would ease some of the financial strain on renters who are out of work for two months, lowering the share of annual income needed to cover the year's rent from 40 percent to 35.8 percent,” Zillow said in its analysis.

      Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said those payments will start to flow to Americans in about three weeks, distributed through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

      Increase in unemployment benefits

      The relief act, signed by President Trump at the end of last week, also provides for an increase and extension in unemployment benefits. Those benefits would be paid for 39 weeks, an increase from the current 26 weeks.

      "We're still in the early stages of understanding exactly what effects the coronavirus will have on the housing market in the long term, but many workers and families are living through an immediate strain as their jobs are cut back and paychecks dry up," said Zillow Senior Policy Advisor Alexander Casey. 

      Casey says renters have already stretched their budgets as the cost of housing has continued to rise. He says losing income will not only make it harder to pay the rent each month but also leave little money to pay for essentials.

      Food service and retail workers were among the first to lose their jobs as the coronavirus (COVID-19) forced many U.S. stores and restaurants to close. If...
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      Coronavirus impact may lead to unemployment rate over 30 percent, economists say

      The projected jobless figure is worse than the peak of the Great Depression

      The number of unemployment claims has skyrocketed in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold of the U.S., and Federal Reserve officials say the worst is yet to come. 

      A recent analysis by the Fed’s St. Louis district predicts that the unemployment rate could soon hit 32.1 percent, a figure slightly higher than St. Louis Fed President James Bullard’s recent estimate of 30 percent, CNBC reports. 

      “These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years,” St. Louis Fed economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro wrote in a research paper published last week.

      The projected figure could ultimately prove to be an overestimate because it doesn’t account for the impact of the coronavirus stimulus package recently signed into law, nor does it account for those who may exit the workforce altogether. 

      But comparatively, the projected number is higher than it was at the peak of the Great Depression (25 percent unemployment).

      Rebound may follow

      A record number of unemployment claims were filed for the week ending March 21. The Labor Department reported Thursday that nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits the week prior. Economists expect another 2.65 million to be tacked on to that figure this week, according to CNN. 

      Bullard said that while the numbers look bleak, the nation is likely to bounce back from the effects of the virus on the labor force.

      The jobless number “will be unparalleled, but don’t get discouraged,” he said during a CNBC interview last week. “This is a special quarter, and once the virus goes away and if we play our cards right and keep everything intact, then everyone will go back to work and everything will be fine.”

      The number of unemployment claims has skyrocketed in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold of the U.S., and Federal Reserve officials say...
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      Zoom’s privacy practices questioned by New York Attorney General

      Consumers need to know exactly what data they’re letting platforms see and use

      As the spread of COVID-19 forced the world to start hunkering down from home and using technology like videoconferencing to hold virtual meetings, religious services, and family get-togethers, remote conferencing service Zoom has taken off like a rocket. In Italy alone, during the peak week of its crisis, the Zoom app was downloaded more than a half-million times.

      Getting lots of love is welcome at any technology company, but Zoom’s rise has created a lift-the-covers look-see from New York Attorney General Letitia James, who wants to make sure the company’s data privacy and security practices are up to snuff.

      According to the New York Times, the Attorney General’s office sent Zoom a letter pointedly asking what, if any, new security measures the company has put in place to handle increased traffic on its network and to detect hackers.

      Who’s zooming who?

      While the Attorney General says her office regards Zoom as “an essential and valuable communications platform,” her letter details several concerns. James suggests that the company has slacked on its efforts to address security flaws such as vulnerabilities “that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams” -- a novelty some refer to as “Zoombombing.” 

      Unfortunately, this novelty is anything but fun. It has allowed mavericks to take advantage of a Zoom screen-sharing feature to hijack meetings and butt in on educational teleconferences and Sunday School group meetings. Some hackers have even gone so far as posting white supremacist messages while a webinar on anti-Semitism was going on. 

      Someone bringing up the subject of security flaws is nothing new to Zoom. In July, 2019, security research company Checkpoint Research notified Zoom that it had detected a flaw in the company’s system that “allowed a threat actor to potentially identify and join active meetings” by using randomly generated meeting IDs. When Checkpoint tested out the hackers’ method, it was able to successfully mimic that break-in technique roughly 4 percent of the time. 

      In response, Zoom made changes that would keep those bad actors from joining meetings at their will by building in a trigger that would cause hackers’ devices to be blocked for a period of time if they repeatedly attempted to scan for meeting IDs. 

      Zoom updates its privacy policy

      ConsumerAffairs thought it might be interesting to take a comparative look at Zoom’s privacy policy as of March 29 -- about the time the company should have received the AG’s letter -- to see how it framed its privacy policy a week or so before (March 18, 2020). What we found indicates that Zoom has taken a much harder look at how it articulates what its users should expect when it comes to privacy and what uses the company allows for itself.

      To its credit, Zoom made its policy easier to understand and more straightforward. For example, it did away with the whitewashing of how it went about data collection and scrapped gauzy phrases like: “We use this information to offer and improve our services, trouble shoot, and to improve our marketing efforts.” 

      One big change that ConsumerAffairs found to be more consumer-friendly was dispensing with the laundry list of bullet points and paragraphs detailing its privacy policy and going with a table where the company laid out a far more understandable portrayal of what data it collects, examples, and how it uses that information. You can find the company’s revamped privacy policy on its website here.

      As the spread of COVID-19 forced the world to start hunkering down from home and using technology like videoconferencing to hold virtual meetings, religiou...
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      Golden Mushroom brand Enoki Mushroom recalled

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Goldenway International Trade Co. Ltd. is recalling Golden Mushroom brand Enoki Mushroom.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following product, sold in the Canadian province of Ontario and, perhaps Quebec and nationally, is being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodes
      Golden MushroomEnoki Mushroom200 g8 809201 000039All units sold up to and including March 24, 2020

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it.

      Consumers may contact the company at (905) 206-8977 or by email at IEWEIDONG@HOTMAIL.COM

      Goldenway International Trade Co. Ltd. is recalling Golden Mushroom brand Enoki Mushroom.The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2019-2020 Audi A6s

      Moisture may enter the starter generator

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,471 model year 2019-2020 Audi A6s with mild-hybrid technology and 2.0TFSI engines.

      Moisture may enter the starter generator and cause an electrical short circuit.

      A short circuit in the starter generator increases the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the starter generator free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin by May 15, 2020.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 27H2.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,471 model year 2019-2020 Audi A6s with mild-hybrid technology and 2.0TFSI engines. Moisture may enter the sta...
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      8 home improvement projects you now have time for

      Why not take care of these 'do-list' items while at home?

      Maybe you just moved to town, or perhaps you’re between jobs. Or maybe there's a global pandemic, and you're stuck in quarantine. Regardless, should you find yourself at home for a couple of weeks with some spare time on your hands, here are a couple of the best home improvement projects that anyone can do.

      #8: Replace that kitchen faucet

      The sink faucet in the kitchen doesn't get the credit it's due. The difference a new kitchen faucet makes to your daily routine is incredible. These days there are a ton of styles, finishes, and other options. The real kicker is that swapping out a faucet is pretty simple. We bet you can do it in an hour.

      Buy on Amazon

      #7: Hang new window blinds or shades

      Unless you live in a recently built or renovated home, chances are your window coverings are outdated and beginning to show their age. Blinds, shades, and curtains offer several advantages, including privacy, heating or cooling efficiency, and aesthetic appeal. A variety of styles exist, with the most popular including cellular shades, wooden blinds, and roller shades. In most cases, installation is simple, with only a screwdriver needed.

      Buy on Amazon

      #6: Install a video doorbell

      Your traditional doorbell has made some leaps forward from its original form. Ring, Nest, and Arlo seamlessly send alerts straight to your phone or smart home device, notifying you of activity at the front door. With two-way audio, you can talk in real time to whoever is at the front door. Additionally, these doorbells alert you to motion activity during unexpected times, such as when you are away on vacation or during the night.

      Buy on Amazon

      #5: Stay cool with a ceiling fan

      Ceiling fans make a significant difference in the comfort level of every room. During the summer, fans move air around the room to make the perceived temperature of the room cooler. During winter, fans circulate warm air from above, with cooler air near the floor. In both seasons, fans help reduce the load on your heating or cooling system and save utility costs. With a variety of sizes, styles, and designs, fans work in nearly every room in the house.

      Buy on Amazon

      #4: Stay safe with wireless smoke/CO2 detectors

      While all of us agree that smoke detectors are a critical part of home safety, they are easy to overlook or ignore when they are no longer functional. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends you install a smoke detector inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every floor of the home. This is an excellent time to double-check the location of the smoke detectors in your home and test their functionality to make sure you and your family are safe.

      Buy on Amazon

      #3: Increase efficiency with a smart thermostat

      A smart thermostat increases the comfort level of your home and decreases utility costs. These units are simple to install, and the whole project will likely take less than an hour. There is a range of functionality, from simple scheduled thermostat changes to units that automatically set home or away conditions. Some units also have additional wireless sensors that help cool or heat that one room in the house that always struggles to be comfortable.

      Buy on Amazon

      #2: Upgrade your space with LED smart lighting

      Smart lighting has come a long way in the last couple of years. Plug-and-play installation makes it as simple as screwing in a lightbulb and downloading an app. Want to dim the lights without getting off the couch? No problem. Turn the lights on automatically at sunset and off at bedtime? Sure. Change the lighting colors per your mood? You can do that. Philips Hue, LIFX, Wink, and Cree all offer lightbulbs ranging in colors, brightness, and design. These lights work with your Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, or other smart home hubs.

      Buy on Amazon

      #1: Upgrade your standard shower head

      A project with so much reward and requiring so little time, this one is possibly our favorite. Showerheads screw off and back on, so the work is minimal. Rain showers are popular, as they have a large spray area and make for a relaxing experience. Like high pressure? Many options offer message settings to increase the water pressure and provide a therapeutic session during your shower. Seriously, a new shower head is a simple install and can make your morning routine truly special.

      So whether you pick one, pick two, or pick all eight, these are some simple ways anyone can improve their home. You'll be thankful you took advantage of the extra time!

      Buy on Amazon

      Ready to tackle home improvement projects? Make the most of your time at home with these 8 easy projects to upgrade your space in 2020....
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      Mayors say their cities lack the equipment to cope with the coronavirus

      The health of residents is being ‘seriously compromised,’ they warn

      As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread across the country, hospitals and first responders have complained of a lack of proper medical and safety equipment.

      In a new survey, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) asked city officials around the nation to assess the situation, and they are nearly universal in saying it’s getting worse. Mayors from 213 cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico say the shortage of test kits, masks, and other personal protective equipment has reached crisis proportions.

      The mayors organization says the safety of city residents, health care workers, first responders, and other city workers is being “seriously compromised.”

      On the frontlines

      As the survey was taken, 303 member mayors signed a letter to Congress seeking federal resources to deal with the daily increase in the number of cases.

      "Our first responders and health care workers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak, and mayors are doing all we can to provide them with the resources to stay safe and to keep our residents healthy," said USCM President Bryan K. Barnett. "While cities are doing everything they can, we need support from our state and federal leaders. This survey confirms what mayors already know to be true: we need adequate resources to end this pandemic."

      The survey quizzed the mayors of cities large and small, with populations ranging from under 2,000 to 3.8 million. Six of the cities have populations over one million, while 45 have populations below 50,000. Needs and concerns are largely the same.

      Over the weekend, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams used social media to warn that individual cities now face a rising threat from the pandemic. In particular, he said Indianapolis could become a “hot spot” for the disease. Adams is a former Indiana health commissioner.

      Miami has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases. As of Sunday, Miami and Dade County had reported more than 1,100, accounting for about a fourth of all the cases in Florida.

      Specific findings

      The USCM survey found that 91.5 percent of the included cities lack an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders and medical personnel. More than 88 percent don’t have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) other than face masks to protect these workers.

      Nearly all mayors -- 92.1 percent -- said they don’t have enough test kits, and 85 percent said hospitals in their city don’t have enough ventilators.

      "The ability of a city to protect its residents from COVID-19 depends on first responders and health care personnel, our first line of defense, staying healthy as they save lives," said Tom Cochran, USCM’s CEO and Executive Director. 

      He said the survey clearly shows the nation’s cities need a lot more help.

      As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread across the country, hospitals and first responders have complained of a lack of proper medical and safety equipmen...
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      Lawmakers call on Amazon to do more to protect workers during the coronavirus crisis

      More than a dozen lawmakers believe the company is falling short when it comes worker safety

      Lawmakers want to know exactly what Amazon is doing to ensure the safety of its warehouse workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ilhan Omar asked to know more about the company’s health and safety measures at its sites.

      "No employee, especially those who work for one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, should be forced to work in unsafe conditions," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was co-signed by a dozen other House representatives. 

      In recent years, Sanders and Omar have both raised concerns that Amazon isn’t paying or treating its workers fairly. Now, the lawmakers want to know if the e-commerce giant is doing enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus and keep its workers safe. 

      As of Sunday, workers in at least 17 of Amazon’s U.S. warehouses have tested positive for the virus, according to Reuters. Amazon said it has been cleaning the affected facilities and assured the public that infected employees have been quarantined. 

      Pushing for more information

      In the letter sent Friday, the lawmakers took aim at Amazon’s “proven record” of insufficient health and safety measures. 

      “Even prior to the dire global health crisis, these facilities have a proven record of high health and safety standard violations, and Amazon has failed to provide any substantive response or solutions to those violations,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given that the company has announced plans to hire 100,000 new warehouse workers and institute mandatory overtime, we are growing more concerned that Amazon does not possess an adequate internal pandemic preparedness and response plan.”

      Sanders and Omar requested specific information on what the company is doing to ensure that employees adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, what Amazon’s emergency response plan is, and whether workers’ safety is a priority during this unprecedented time. 

      “We ask that you intensify your efforts to protect the health and safety of your warehouse workers. No employee, especially those who work for one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, should be forced to work in unsafe conditions,” the lawmakers wrote.

      Amazon responds

      Amazon officials have responded to accusations of unfair treatment of warehouse workers by calling them “simply unfounded.” 

      “Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis,” the company said. “Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it is not easy as supplies are limited, but we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable.” 

      Amazon added that it’s gone to “extreme measures” to ensure the safety of its employees. Those measures include “tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances,” the company said. 

      Lawmakers want to know exactly what Amazon is doing to ensure the safety of its warehouse workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to Amazon CEO J...
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      Kawasaki USA Recalls MULE PRO off-highway utility vehicles

      The steering shaft can develop excessive wear and affect steering control

      Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A., of Foothill Ranch, Calif., is recalling about 80,000 Kawasaki MULE PRO off-highway utility vehicles.

      The steering shaft can develop excessive wear and affect steering control resulting in a crash hazard, posing a risk of injury or death.

      The company has received 453 reports of incidents of steering problems. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves recall involves model year 2015 through 2020 MULE PRO-FX, MULE PRO-FXR, MULE PRO-FXT and model year 2016 – 2020 MULE PRO-DX and MULE PRO-DXT utility vehicles.

      The four wheel, off-highway utility vehicles were sold in black, green, white, red, bronze, silver, camo, and blue. They have side by side seating for three to six people and automotive style controls.

      MULE PRO is printed on the right and left front fender. The model name is printed on the right and left fender. The vehicles are available as either gas or diesel models.

      The diesel models have DIESEL printed on the right and left rear of the cargo bed. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is located on the steel frame between the right front lower A-arm mounts. 

      MODEL YEAR 

      Model Name 

      Model Code

      VIN RANGE

      2015 

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AFF/L

      JKBAFSA1XFB500031 through JKBAFSA18FB500335

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS 

      KAF820BFF/L

      JKBAFSB13FB500001 through  JKBAFSB11FB504158

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE 

      KAF820CFF/L

      JKBAFSC15FB500001 through

      JKBAFSC17FB504387 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO 

      KAF820DFF/L

      JKBAFSD17FB500001 through

      JKBAFSD17FB502198 

      2016 

      MULE PRO-FXT 

      KAF820AGF/L

      JKBAFSA1XGB500001 through 

      JKBAFSA19GB500250 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS 

      KAF820BGF/L

      JKBAFSB10GB504816 through 

      JKBAFSB13GB507371 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE 

      KAF820CGF/L

      JKBAFSC18GB504951 through 

      JKBAFSC16GB507010 

      2016 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO 

      KAF820DGF/L

      JKBAFSD19GB502611 through 

      JKBAFSD16GB503585 

      MULE PRO-FX 

      KAF820EGF/L

      JKBAFSE17GB500001 through 

      JKBAFSE16GB500541 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FGF/L 

      JKBAFSF19GB500001 through 

      JKBAFSF14GB502450 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GGF/L 

      JKBAFSG10GB500001 through

      JKBAFSG13GB501918 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS CAMO

      KAF820HGF/L 

      JKBAFSH12GB500001 through

      JKBAFSH17GB500950 

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JGF/L 

      JKBAFSJ1XGB500001 through

      JKBAFSJ1XGB501830 

      MULE PRO-DXT

      KAF1000AGF 

      JKAAFCA17GB500001 through

      JKAAFCA18GB500122 

      MULE PRO-DXT EPS

      KAF1000BGF 

      JKAAFCB10GB500002 through 

      JKAAFCB10GB500873 

      MULE PRO-DXT EPS LE

      KAF1000CGF 

      JKAAFCC10GB500001 through

      JKAAFCC11GB500492 

      MULE PRO-DX

      KAF1000DGF 

      JKAAFCD12GB500001 through 

      JKAAFCD19GB500125 

      MULE PRO-DX EPS

      KAF1000EGF 

      JKAAFCE14GB500001 through

      JKAAFCE14GB500709 

      MULE PRO-DX EPS LE

      KAF1000FGF 

      JKAAFCF18GB500002 through 

      JKAAFCF1XGB500342 

      2017 

      MULE PRO-FXT 

      KAF820AHF/L

      JKBAFSA18HB500001 through 

      JKBAFSA12HB500821 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BHF/L 

      JKBAFSB1XHB500001 through

      JKBAFSB10HB510083 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CHF/L 

      JKBAFSC11HB500001 through 

      JKBAFSC10HB509367 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DHF/L 

      JKBAFSD13HB500001 through

      JKBAFSD19HB504909 

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820EHF/L 

      JKBAFSE15HB500001 through

      JKBAFSE12HB501140 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FHF/L 

      JKBAFSF17HB500001 through 

      JKBAFSF18HB504056 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE 

      KAF820GHF/L

      JKBAFSG15HB502201 through 

      JKBAFSG1XHB502890 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS CAMO

      KAF820HHF/L 

      JKBAFSH16HB501301 through

      JKBAFSH11HB501450 

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JHF/L 

      JKBAFSJ18HB500001 through

      JKBAFSJ16HB504483 

      MULE PRO-FX RANCH EDITION

      KAF820LHF/L 

      JKBAFSL11HB500001 through

      JKBAFSL11HB500550 

      MULE PRO-DXT

      KAF1000AHF 

      JKAAFCA13HB500501 through

      JKAAFCA15HB500659 

      MULE PRO-DXT EPS

      KAF1000BHF 

      JKAAFCB17HB500001 through

      JKAAFCB13HB502277 

      MULE PRO-DXT EPS LE

      KAF1000CHF 

      JKAAFCC19HB500001 through

      JKAAFCC18HB501219 

      MULE PRO-DX

      KAF1000DHF 

      JKAAFCD15HB500401 through 

      JKAAFCD14HB500485 

      MULE PRO-DX EPS

      KAF1000EHF

      JKAAFCE12HB500001 through 

      JKAAFCE1XHB501283 

      MULE PRO-DX EPS LE

      KAF1000FHF 

      JKAAFCF14HB500001 through 

      JKAAFCF11HB500859 

      2018 

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AJF/L 

      JKBAFSA15JB501001 through 

      JKBAFSA13JB501370 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BJF/L 

      JKBAFSB15JB510201 through

      JKBAFSB12JB513038 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CJF/L 

      JKBAFSC10JB509651 through 

      JKBAFSC10JB512209 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DJF/L 

      JKBAFSD16JB505151 through 

      JKBAFSD19JB506231 

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820EJF/L 

      JKBAFSE17JB501401 through

      JKBAFSE16JB501695 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FJF/L 

      JKBAFSF19JB504301 through

      JKBAFSF16JB505745 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GJF/L 

      JKBAFSG19JB503101 through

      JKBAFSG11JB503870 

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JJF/L 

      JKBAFSJ18JB504801 through

      JKBAFSJ18JB508072 

      MULE PRO-FXR

      KAF820KJF/L 

      JKBAFSK14JB500002 through

      JKBAFSK13JB503649 

      MULE PRO-DXT

      KAF1000AJF

      JKAAFCA10JB500901 through

      JKAAFCA15JB501185 

      MULE PRO-DXT EPS

      KAF1000BJF

      JKAAFCB17JB502501 through

      JKAAFCB11JB503644 

      MULE PRO-DX EPS

      KAF1000EJF 

      JKAAFCE19JB501507 through 

      JKAAFCE15JB502444 

      2019 

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AKF/L 

      JKBAFSA11KB501501 through

      JKBAFSA11KB501935 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BKF/L 

      JKBAFSB17KB513201 through 

      JKBAFSB17KB516146 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CKF/L 

      JKBAFSC11KB512401 through

      JKBAFSC1XKB514907 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DKF/L 

      JKBAFSD16KB506401 through

      JKBAFSD11KB507519 

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820EKF/L 

      JKBAFSE1XKB501801 through

      JKBAFSE15KB502161 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FKF/L 

      JKBAFSF13KB505901 through

      JKBAFSF13KB507521 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GKF/L 

      JKBAFSG18KB504001 through 

      JKBAFSG1XKB504758 

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JKF/L 

      JKBAFSJ12KB508201 through

      JKBAFSJ13KB512077 

      MULE PRO-FXR

      KAF820KKF/L 

      JKBAFSK13KB503801 through 

      JKBAFSK1XKB505089 

      MULE PRO-DXT

      KAF1000AKF 

      JKAAFCA11KB501301 through 

      JKAAFCA14KB501695 

      MULE PRO-DXT EPS 

      KAF1000BKF

      JKAAFCB10KB503801 through 

      JKAAFCB12KB505162 

      MULE PRO-DX EPS

      KAF1000EKF 

      JKAAFCE14KB502601 through 

      JKAAFCE1XKB503039 

      2020 

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820ALF/L 

      JKBAFSA1XLB502101 through

      JKBAFSA19LB502378 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BLF/L 

      JKBAFSB1XLB516501 through 

      JKBAFSB19LB518305 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CLF/L 

      JKBAFSC1XLB515301 through 

      JKBAFSC1XLB516657 

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DLF/L 

      JKBAFSD1XLB507701 through 

      JKBAFSD1XLB508184 

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820ELF/L 

      JKBAFSE18LB502401 through 

      JKBAFSE19LB502598 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FLF/L 

      JKBAFSF18LB507919 through

      JKBAFSF1XLB509199 

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GLF/L 

      JKBAFSG18LB505201 through 

      JKBAFSG12LB505744 

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JLF/L 

      JKBAFSJ1XLB512501 through 

      JKBAFSJ17LB514237 

      MULE PRO-FXR

      KAF820KLF/L 

      JKBAFSK13LB507901 through

      JKBAFSK18LB508784 

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820MLF/L 

      JKBAFSM12LB500001 through

      JKBAFSM16LB501023 

      MULE PRO-DXT

      KAF1000ALF 

      JKAAFCA13LB502001 through

      JKAAFCA18LB502091 

      MULE PRO-DXT EPS

      KAF1000BLF 

      JKAAFCB17LB505501 through

      JKAAFCB18LB505992 

      MULE PRO-DX EPS

      KAF1000ELF

      JKAAFCE13LB503501 through

      JKAAFCE18LB503686 

      The utility vehicles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Kawasaki dealers nationwide from July 2014, through January 2020, for between $12,000 and $17,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled utility vehicles and contact a Kawasaki dealer to schedule a free repair. Kawasaki is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Kawasaki toll-free at (866) 802-9381 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.Kawasaki.com and click on “Recalls” a the bottom of the page for more information.

      Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A., of Foothill Ranch, Calif., is recalling about 80,000 Kawasaki MULE PRO off-highway utility vehicles.The steering shaft ca...
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      Fromagerie Blackburn brand Le Napoléon – Firm Cheese recalled

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Fromagerie Blackburn is recalling its own brand of Le Napoléon – Firm Cheese.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses are reported.

      The following product, sold in the Canadian province of Quebec, is being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodes
      Fromagerie BlackburnLe Napoléon – Firm Cheese130 g6 28504 56410 3Best Before 10JL20
      19087
      Fromagerie BlackburnLe Napoléon – Firm CheeseVariable weightStarts with 0 200015All units sold up to and including March 26, 2020

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at

      (418) 547-4153 or by email at info@fromagerieblackburn.com.

      Fromagerie Blackburn is recalling its own brand of Le Napoléon – Firm Cheese.The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illness...
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      5 ways to spread smiles without spreading germs

      Being quarantined doesn't have to be gloomy

      1. Christmas lights

      Christmas lights aren't just for holiday cheer anymore! People across the country are putting their lights back up to bring a little delight to their neighborhoods while responsibly practicing social distancing. Putting lights up is also a great way to get out, get some fresh air and know that you're putting a smile on someone's face! Check out these easy-to-use Christmas light gutter clips to make the process trouble-free.

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Foster a dog

      With sheltering in place, social distancing and worldwide quarantines becoming the norm, many of us are glad to have our furry friends in the house with us. There are thousands of animals that need to be loved until they find a forever home! Take advantage of this extra time to contact your local shelter and see how you can help.

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Set a goal to talk to one new person a day

      Many of us are missing things that we don't even realize. Essential interactions like socializing with a cashier or a co-worker at the watercooler is a vital part of your well-being. Why not use this time to set the goal of reaching out to one new person day? Call your aunt, send an email to your old roommate or shoot a well-wishing text to your neighbor. Setting and reaching goals is good for you mentally, and being intentional with how we connect is more important now than ever. Creating a schedule on a whiteboard calendar makes this much easier and helps you stay organized.

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Rainbow scavenger hunt

      Not the type that you see in the sky, but the type that you see in windows! Yes, you read that right. All over the country, people are creating pictures of rainbows and putting them in their windows to let their neighbors know that they are right there with them. These rainbows are a great way to keep yourself or your kids busy inside while creating a fun rainbow scavenger hunt when driving through neighborhoods.

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Support Local Businesses

      We are all feeling the economic impacts of this epidemic, especially the local business owners in our communities. If you can afford to, buy takeout or delivery from your favorite local restaurant. People also purchase gift cards to use later, and some places are even posting other ways to support employees unable to work.

      It is still essential to practice social distancing when ordering food. Be sure to wash your hands and sanitize your counters, throw out all packaging and wait for the delivery person to leave before you open the door. Having a Ring doorbell makes this step much easier!

      Buy on Amazon

      With all the doom and gloom in the world right now, it is essential to remember that joy, happiness, and hope are contagious too!...
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      How to stay social while you are social distancing

      Because social distancing is not the same thing as emotional distancing

      We get it, social distancing is hard. Luckily, in today’s world social distancing doesn’t have to mean having no contact with your loved ones. We put together five ideas to keep you connected — mostly digitally — in these challenging times.

      1. Virtual happy hours

      Many of us are missing our favorite hangout spots and people right now. However, thanks to awesome services like Zoom and Skype, you can see all of the same smiling faces right from home by using your smartphone or a computer with a webcam.

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Netflix Party

      Netflix Party is a new Chrome plugin that lets you sync up with your friends to watch the same show. The plugin has an on-screen chat so you can talk to your friends without missing a word of dialogue. With all of the streaming we’re doing these days, make sure that you have the best internet service provider for you.

      3. Virtual gaming

      Game nights are a favorite for families that are isolated together. But what if you want to play games with your friends? We have a solution to that! JackboxGames.com has a huge selection of games that are typically meant to be played with everyone in the same room. However, with so many people playing, the company came out with a handy how-to guide to social distance gaming.

      Check out our guide to find computer brands to make sure you can stay connected.

      4. Go to the movies (without leaving your car)

      If you’re lucky enough to have a drive-in theater in your city, now is the perfect time to revive the old tradition. Simply park your car next to a friend’s and watch a movie side-by-side. Don’t forget to stock up on snacks!

      5. Get outside

      Getting outside is a great way to clear your head and remind yourself that there is still a world outside your front door. Get out and take a walk around the neighborhood — sunshine, exercise and fresh air are all proven to help us feel better. You can pick up a new leash and bring your pet along as well.

      Buy on Amazon

      We get it, social distancing is hard. Luckily, in today’s world social distancing doesn’t have to mean having no contact with your loved ones....
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      U.S. passes China and now has the most coronavirus cases worldwide

      But China still has more deaths from the disease

      A spike in reported cases in the last 24 hours has vaulted the United States past China as the country with the most people contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      China still has more deaths from the pandemic with nearly 3,300. The U.S. has reported 1,300.

      China, where the virus originated, has seen its case numbers level off in the last two weeks at around 82,000. By Friday morning, U.S. cases had reached 86,000, and doctors warn that those numbers will rise before the illnesses peak.

      But an analysis of the data shows the rapid increase in cases is far from evenly distributed. New York City and surrounding areas remain the hardest-hit region of the country, with serious cases now threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

      New Orleans has an unusually large number of cases of the virus. Health officials have attributed that to two factors -- huge crowds gathering for Mardi Gras late last month as the virus was spreading undetected and an uneven start to testing.

      ‘This is coming for you’

      Major population centers in California are also seeing significant increases in reported cases. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an online statement to his constituents Thursday and also had a warning for people in the rest of the state.

      "No matter where you are, this is coming to you," Garcetti said. "Everybody is the new 'whatever the worst city is' right now. Take all the measures you can now to make sure people are home."

      Twenty-one of the nation’s 1,300 deaths from the virus have occurred in Los Angeles.

      While states like New York, California, Washington, and Florida have seen the largest number of cases, many other states have avoided serious spikes in the outbreak so far. But health officials in those states have stressed that residents must observe strict social distancing precautions to keep those numbers low.

      A spike in reported cases in the last 24 hours has vaulted the United States past China as the country with the most people contracting the coronavirus (CO...
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      Apple releases COVID-19 app and website to keep consumers informed

      The site and app include a screening tool and other resources to help consumers protect their health

      Apple has just released a new COVID-19 app and website based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

      In an announcement, the company said its new site and app each contain a screening tool and set of resources to “help people stay informed and take the proper steps to protect their health during the spread of COVID-19.” 

      If a user’s symptoms appear to warrant medical attention, the site will encourage the individual to contact their health care provider or emergency services and/or self-isolate at home to avoid infecting others. Alternatively, the software may say that the user doesn’t need to be tested. 

      Apple made a point of noting that its screening tool does not replace instructions from healthcare providers or guidance from state and local health authorities.

      Helping people stay informed 

      Among other resources, Apple has included tips on social distancing, hand washing and disinfecting surfaces, FAQs about the virus, and how to properly monitor symptoms if they arise. 

      Apple said it created the website and app in partnership with the CDC, the Coronavirus Task Force, and FEMA to “make it easy for people across the country US to get trusted information and guidance at a time when the US healthcare system is feeling the heavy burden of COVID-19.” 

      To assuage user’s data privacy concerns, Apple said it’s “not collecting your answers from the screening tool.” 

      “To help improve the site, Apple collects some information about how you use it,” the company said. “The information collected will not personally identify you.”

      The app is only available in the U.S. for the time being, but the website is available worldwide. 

      Apple has just released a new COVID-19 app and website based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In an an...
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      Regulators encourage lenders to give loans to responsible consumers and small businesses during COVID-19 outbreak

      Borrowers in more difficult situations should also be given some latitude

      In the middle of all the yin and yang surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, good financial news continues to roll in for consumers. 

      On Thursday, five federal financial regulatory agencies came together to motivate banks, credit unions, and savings associations to give small-dollar loans to credit-worthy consumers and small businesses in response to COVID-19.

      “Responsible small-dollar loans can play an important role in meeting customers' credit needs because of temporary cash-flow imbalances, unexpected expenses, or income disruptions during periods of economic stress or disaster recoveries,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said in a joint statement.

      What types of loans will be available?

      The group left open the range of loan possibilities to lending institutions, but it suggested open-end lines of credit, closed-end installment loans, or appropriately structured single payment loans. That freedom of choice, however, was couched with a firm word of warning for the lenders.

      “Loans should be offered in a manner that provides fair treatment of consumers, complies with applicable laws and regulations, and is consistent with safe and sound practices,” the regulators said.

      Hope for borrowers in more difficult positions

      The financial havoc that the COVID-19 pandemic has created differs from person-to-person and business-to-business. The fact is that some were prepared with enough cushion to wait the situation out and some weren’t.

      Borrowers who took on a hit they had no backup plan for might have a difficult time repaying a loan in a structured way. But the regulators want them to know that they’re not being left out in the rain. The group encouraged banks, savings associations, and credit unions to entertain workout strategies that can help borrowers repay the principal of the loan while tempering the need to re-borrow.

      In the middle of all the yin and yang surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, good financial news continues to roll in for consumers. On Thursday, five fede...
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      Ford, Fiat Chrysler plan to reopen North American plants in April

      The factories were shut down in the interest of protecting worker safety

      A week after closing their North American assembly facilities due to coronavirus concerns, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have each announced that they plan to resume production in April. 

      The automakers previously announced that they would be halting operations at major assembly plants in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. On Thursday, Ford said it plans to restart production at five “key” plants as early as April 6. 

      In a statement, United Auto Workers (UAW) union president Rory Gamble said that UAW “continues to review with great caution and concern decisions being made about restarting workplaces, especially at advanced dates.” 

      The group said Ford originally planned to reopen plants on March 30, but it will now push the opening to April “due to numerous stay-at-home orders from government officials.” When plants resume operations, Ford said it will have “additional safety measures to protect returning workers” from contracting COVID-19. After manufacturing sites shut down last week, Ford said it would begin thoroughly cleaning its facilities. 

      Fiat Chrysler said it’s North American facilities “are intended to remain closed until April 14.” The date at which they reopen will be “dependent upon the various state stay in place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production.”

      Worker protections

      The news comes the same week President Trump announced that he’d like to see the nation "opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” despite persistent concern among health officials about the sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. 

      The UAW confirmed this week that three Fiat Chrysler plant workers have now died from COVID-19.

      “The UAW maintains that strict CDC guidelines need to be adhered to at all worksites, and that prior to reopening, sufficient data and protections are in place to ensure the safety of our members, their families and the public,” Gamble said. “The only guideline in a boardroom should be management asking themselves, ‘Would I send my family — my own son or daughter — into that plant and be 100% certain they are safe?'” 

      A week after closing their North American assembly facilities due to coronavirus concerns, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have each announced that they plan to res...
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      Here’s how much you can expect from the coronavirus aid bill

      The amount will depend on your income level

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to gather enough House members to form a quorum so the chamber can vote today on the $2 trillion coronavirus (COVID-19) aid package and send it to the White House.

      The Senate passed the measure early Thursday on a unanimous 96-0 vote. It contains provisions to help both businesses and individuals.

      Of particular interest to consumers may be the section making direct cash payments to Americans. Individuals may receive up to $1,200. Couples would receive $2,400 and $500 for each dependent child.

      However, income restrictions apply. The amount of the direct payment begins to fall for adjusted gross incomes over $75,000. To determine how much you would receive under the measure, the Washington Post has published a payment calculator.

      The payments will be made through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to gather enough House members to form a quorum so the chamber can vote today on the $2 trillion coronavirus (COVID-19...
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      Average gas price falls below $2 a gallon in 29 states

      Gas prices continue their coronavirus plunge

      With Americans told to stay inside and work from home, there have been fewer cars at the gas pump. As a result, prices are in an accelerating freefall.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.05 a gallon, 12 cents less than a week ago and 62 cents cheaper than a year ago. The average price of premium gas is $2.70 a gallon, down 11 cents from last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.63 a gallon, sixt cents less than last week.

      “Typically gas prices start to trend more expensive at the beginning of spring, especially as motorists get out to enjoy the warmer weather and travel for spring break. That is not the case this year,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. 

      “With Americans urged to stay at home and practice social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, we are seeing less traffic on the roadways which will ultimately drive down demand, increase gasoline supply and push pump prices less expensive for the foreseeable future.”

      Prices drop in competitive states

      At the beginning of the week AAA reported that 29 states had average gas prices under $2 a gallon. Some of the biggest price declines have come in states that sometimes have high prices at the pump. Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin this week have some of the nation’s lowest prices.

      Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says these states often lead gas price declines.

      “What’s behind it is that these states see a high level of competition versus others and fall the fastest, but also on the flip, they usually rise amongst the fastest as well,” he told ConsumerAffairs. 

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.41)

      • California ($3.12)

      • Washington ($2.83

      • Oregon ($2.75) 

      • Alaska ($2.63)

      • Nevada ($2.69)

      • Arizona ($2.52)

      • Idaho ($2.40)

      • Utah ($2.39)

      • New York ($2.36) 

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Oklahoma ($1.65)

      • Wisconsin ($1.70)

      • Ohio ($1.71)

      • Kentucky ($1.76)

      • Indiana ($1.77)

      • Michigan ($1.77)

      • Mississippi ($1.78)

      • Texas ($1.80)

      • Missouri ($1.81)

      • South Carolina ($1.81)

      With Americans told to stay inside and work from home, there have been fewer cars at the gas pump. As a result, prices are in an accelerating freefall....
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      McDonald’s temporarily removes all-day breakfast from menus

      The change is one of several the company has made to limit the spread of the coronavirus

      In an effort to streamline operations in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, McDonald’s is temporarily doing away with its all-day breakfast menu. 

      The restaurant chain said its breakfast menu will be disappearing from menus over the next few weeks, but it will be brought back “as soon as possible.” 

      “To simplify operations in our kitchens and for our crew, and ensure the best possible experience for our customers, we are working with our franchisees and local restaurants to focus on serving our most popular choices and will begin temporarily removing some items from the menu over the next few weeks,” Bill Garrett, the senior vice president of McDonald’s U.S. operations, said in a statement.

      Garrett added that McDonald’s will “regularly evaluate” the situation to determine when to bring back all-day breakfast. In the meantime, the fast food provider is still offering take-out, Mobile Order & Pay, Drive Thru, and “McDelivery” at most of its restaurants. Some locations may have limited hours while the outbreak is ongoing.

      Like other brick-and-mortar establishments, McDonald’s has had to implement a few changes to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Last week, the company announced that it would be closing all seating and play areas at its U.S. locations. 

      "To align with increasing regulations throughout the country…McDonald’s USA company-owned restaurants will close seating areas, including the use of self-service beverage bars and kiosks," the company said in a statement on March 16.

      In an effort to streamline operations in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, McDonald’s is temporarily doing away with its all-day breakfast menu. The...
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      Kawasaki USA recalls off-highway utility vehicles

      Debris can ignite on the vehicle’s exhaust manifold

      Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A., of Foothill Ranch, Calif., is recalling about 72,000 Kawasaki MULE PRO off-highway utility vehicles

      Debris can ignite on the vehicle’s exhaust manifold.

      Additionally, frozen water can block the breather hose allowing oil to leak, posing a fire hazard.

      The firm has received 165 reports of oil leakage and 84 reports of vehicles catching fire, resulting in three injuries, including one report of a burn to the user’s foot, one report of a burn to the user’s arm, hand and buttocks and one incident of smoke inhalation.

      Kawasaki is aware of more than $131,000 in property damage claims -- excluding the cost of damage to vehicles.

      This recall involves model year 2015 through 2020 MULE PRO-FX, MULE PRO-FXR and MULE PRO-FXT off-highway utility vehicles.

      The recalled vehicles were sold in black, blue, bronze, camo, green, red, silver and white, and have four wheels, side-by-side seating for three to six people and automotive style controls.

      Mule Pro is printed on the right and left front fender. Kawasaki is printed on the cargo box. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is located on the steel frame between the right front lower A-arm mounts.

      The following vehicles are included in the recall: 

      Model Year

      Model Name

      Model Code

      VIN Range

      2015

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AFF/L

      JKBAFSA1XFB500031 through
      JKBAFSA18FB500335

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BFF/L

      JKBAFSB13FB500001 through
      JKBAFSB11FB504158

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CFF/L

      JKBAFSC17FB500002 through
      JKBAFSC17FB504387

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DFF/L

      JKBAFSD17FB500001 through
      JKBAFSD17FB502198

      2016

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AGF/L

      JKBAFSA1XGB500001 through
      JKBAFSA19GB500250

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BGF/L

      JKBAFSB10GB504816 through
      JKBAFSB13GB507371

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CGF/L

      JKBAFSC18GB504951 through
      JKBAFSC16GB507010

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DGF/L

      JKBAFSD19GB502611 through
      JKBAFSD16GB503585

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820EGF/L

      JKBAFSE17GB500001 through
      JKBAFSE16GB500541

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FGF/L

      JKBAFSF19GB500001 through
      JKBAFSF14GB502450

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GGF/L

      JKBAFSG10GB500001 through
      JKBAFSG13GB501918

      MULE PRO-FX EPS CAMO

      KAF820HGF/L

      JKBAFSH12GB500001 through
      JKBAFSH17GB500950

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JGF/L

      JKBAFSJ1XGB500001 through
      JKBAFSJ1XGB501830

      2017

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AHF/L

      JKBAFSA18HB500001 through
      JKBAFSA12HB500821

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BHF/L

      JKBAFSB1XHB500001 through
      JKBAFSB10HB510083

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CHF/L

      JKBAFSC11HB500001 through
      JKBAFSC10HB509367

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DHF/L

      JKBAFSD13HB500001 through
      JKBAFSD19HB504909

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820EHF/L

      JKBAFSE15HB500001 through
      JKBAFSE12HB501140

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FHF/L

      JKBAFSF17HB500001 through
      JKBAFSF18HB504056

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GHF/L

      JKBAFSG15HB502201 through
      JKBAFSG1XHB502890

      MULE PRO-FX EPS CAMO

      KAF820HHF/L

      JKBAFSH16HB501301 through
      JKBAFSH11HB501450

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JHF/L

      JKBAFSJ18HB500001 through
      JKBAFSJ16HB504483

      MULE PRO-FX RANCH EDITION

      KAF820LHF/L

      JKBAFSL11HB500001 rough
      JKBAFSL11HB500550

      2018

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AJF/L

      JKBAFSA15JB501001 through
      JKBAFSA13JB501370

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BJF/L

      JKBAFSB15JB510201 through
      JKBAFSB12JB513038

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CJF/L

      JKBAFSC10JB509651 through
      JKBAFSC10JB512209

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DJF/L

      JKBAFSD16JB505151 through
      JKBAFSD19JB506231

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820EJF/L

      JKBAFSE17JB501401 through
      JKBAFSE16JB501695

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FJF/L

      JKBAFSF19JB504301 through
      JKBAFSF16JB505745

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GJF/L

      JKBAFSG19JB503101 through
      JKBAFSG11JB503870

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JJF/L

      JKBAFSJ18JB504801 through
      JKBAFSJ18JB508072

      MULE PRO-FXR

      KAF820KJF/L

      JKBAFSK12JB500001 through
      JKBAFSK13JB503649

      2019

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820AKF/L

      JKBAFSA11KB501501 through
      JKBAFSA11KB501935

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BKF/L

      JKBAFSB17KB513201 through
      JKBAFSB17KB516146

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CKF/L

      JKBAFSC11KB512401 through
      JKBAFSC1XKB514907

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DKF/L

      JKBAFSD16KB506401 through
      JKBAFSD11KB507519

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820EKF/L

      JKBAFSE1XKB501801 through
      JKBAFSE15KB502161

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FKF/L

      JKBAFSF13KB505901 through
      JKBAFSF13KB507521

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GKF/L

      JKBAFSG18KB504001 through
      JKBAFSG1XKB504758

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JKF/L

      JKBAFSJ12KB508201 through
      JKBAFSJ13KB512077

      MULE PRO-FXR

      KAF820KKF/L

      JKBAFSK13KB503801 through
      JKBAFSK1XKB505089

      2020

      MULE PRO-FXT

      KAF820ALF/L

      JKBAFSA1XLB502101 through
      JKBAFSA19LB502378

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS

      KAF820BLF/L

      JKBAFSB1XLB516501 through
      JKBAFSB19LB518305

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS LE

      KAF820CLF/L

      JKBAFSC1XLB515301 through
      JKBAFSC1XLB516657

      MULE PRO-FXT EPS CAMO

      KAF820DLF/L

      JKBAFSD1XLB507701 through
      JKBAFSD1XLB508184

      MULE PRO-FX

      KAF820ELF/L

      JKBAFSE18LB502401 through
      JKBAFSE19LB502598

      MULE PRO-FX EPS

      KAF820FLF/L

      JKBAFSF18LB507919 through
      JKBAFSF1XLB509199

      MULE PRO-FX EPS LE

      KAF820GLF/L

      JKBAFSG18LB505201 through
      JKBAFSG12LB505744

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820JLF/L

      JKBAFSJ1XLB512501 through
      JKBAFSJ17LB514237

      MULE PRO-FXR

      KAF820KLF/L

      JKBAFSK13LB507901 through
      JKBAFSK18LB508784

      MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

      KAF820MLF/L

      JKBAFSM12LB500001 through
      JKBAFSM16LB501023

      The vehicles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Kawasaki dealers nationwide from July 2014, through December 2019, for between $12,000 and $18,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled utility vehicles and contact a Kawasaki dealer to schedule a free repair. Kawasaki is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Kawasaki toll-free at (866) 802-9381 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.Kawasaki.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A., of Foothill Ranch, Calif., is recalling about 72,000 Kawasaki MULE PRO off-highway utility vehiclesDebris can ignite on t...
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      Woom bikes USA recalls bicycles

      The bicycle’s front fork can loosen and detach

      Woom bikes USA of Austin, Texas, is recalling about 5,500 Woom model 4, 5, 6 bicycles.

      The bicycle’s front fork can loosen and detach, posing fall and injury risks to the rider.

      The firm has received two reports of the fork becoming loose or detaching in the U.S. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Woom bicycle models 4 (20-inch), 5 (24-inch) and 6 (26-inch), sold in red, blue, green, purple and yellow.

      The model number is on the top tube of each bike, and “Woom” is printed across the bottom tube of the bicycle frame.

      The bicycles, manufactured in Cambodia, were sold online at us.woombikes.com from August 2018, through March 2019, for about $450 (woom 4), $480 (woom 5) and $500 (woom 6).

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact the firm for a free repair kit for the front fork. The firm is contacting all known purchasers and providing a free repair kit including installation instructions.

      Consumers may contact Woom bike USA toll-free at (855) 966-6872 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at usa@woombikes.com or online at us.woombikes.com and click on “Service” at the top of the page and “Recall Notice” for more information.

      Woom bikes USA of Austin, Texas, is recalling about 5,500 Woom model 4, 5, 6 bicycles.The bicycle’s front fork can loosen and detach, posing fall and i...
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      FDA warns that some coronavirus scams could be deadly

      The agency is concerned some victims might forgo proper medical care

      Scams directed against consumers usually are aimed at robbing them financially, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that some coronavirus (COVID -19) scams could result in victims’ death.

      The agency has expressed concern at the large number of scams purporting to offer diagnosis, treatment, and even a cure for the virus. The FDA points out that only clinically administered tests can detect the virus and, as yet, there are no approved treatments or cures.

      “Some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus,” the FDA said in a press release. “These fraudulent products that claim to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19 haven't been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness and might be dangerous to you and your family.”

      Warning letters

      In early March, the FDA joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in sending warning letters to seven companies that the agencies said were marketing unapproved products, deceptively claiming they could treat the coronavirus.

      The FDA has now ramped up its level of concern as scammers have become bolder in their claims and target more people. The agency is particularly concerned that products marketed with deceptive and misleading claims might stop or delay people who buy them from getting appropriate medical attention if they get the virus. That, the FDA says, could result in serious illness and even death.

      “It's likely that the products do not do what they claim, and the ingredients in them could cause adverse effects and could interact with, and potentially interfere with, essential medications,” the FDA said.

      Red flags

      Here are some red flags that could indicate that an ad or promotion for a coronavirus product is false or misleading:

      • It claims a food item or dietary supplement can protect against COVID-19

      • It offers a test you can take at home to check for the presence of the virus

      • It offers a drug to protect against or cure the virus

      • It offers any type of vaccine

      Remember, only medical professionals can treat the virus; so far, there is no silver bullet that can kill it. Fortunately, the majority of cases of the coronavirus are relatively mild, with symptoms similar to a cold or the flu.

      However, mild cases have been known to get worse, so seeking medical attention early improves the odds of a speedy recovery. 

      Scams directed against consumers usually are aimed at robbing them financially, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that some corona...
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      Senate approves $2 trillion coronavirus aid package

      Here’s what it does for consumers and businesses

      In a unanimous vote, the Senate finally reached a compromise and approved a nearly $2 trillion emergency spending bill to help consumers and businesses cope with the economic damage from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

      The measure now heads to the House, where a vote -- and approval -- is expected by Friday. Here are some of the main provisions of the bill:

      Direct payments to individuals

      The bill calls for spending $301 billion in direct payments to the American people. It breaks down largely the way it did in earlier drafts of the legislation, with households receiving up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

      However, the bill dictates that consumers who earn more money will receive less. The payments begin to be reduced at $75,000 of annual adjusted gross income, and they aren’t available at all for top wage earners.

      The money will come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the form of an extra tax refund since the IRS already has everyone’s income data and can get the money flowing quickly.

      Expands unemployment benefits

      Congress will spend $250 billion to increase the amount of unemployment checks, extend the time period they can be received, and cover more workers.

      Instead of 26 weeks, people put out of a job by the pandemic will receive benefits for up to 39 weeks if needed. The measure increases the payment by $600 a week for the first four months.

      In addition to covering payroll employees who lose their jobs, the measure takes the gig economy into consideration. Independent contractors and freelancers are also eligible for benefits. 

      Small business loans

      Small businesses will get a $349 billion lifeline in the form of small business loans. To sweeten the deal even more, loans used to pay rent, utilities, and payroll won’t have to be repaid if the business meets certain conditions.

      Airlines

      Specific industries, such as the nation’s airlines, have been devastated by the coronavirus, with more pain likely to come in the future. Congress will spend part of a $500 billion tranche to provide loans and loan guarantees to airlines and other industries deemed critical to national security.

      Airlines and cargo carriers will receive $29 billion to help them make up for the loss of business. In addition, they’ll get up to $39 billion to cover employees’ wages.

      States

      State and municipal governments are struggling with a dramatic loss in tax revenue while still providing services. The measure sends $150 billion to states, with larger states in terms of population getting the most.

      In the case of states with large cities, those cities will get a slice of the state’s funding directly, without having to apply to the state.

      Hospitals

      Congress has set aside $340 billion in supplemental spending. Of that amount, $117 billion will go to the nation’s hospitals, including Veterans Administration facilities. Both have been on the front lines as health care professionals have tried to care for the growing number of COVID-19 cases.

      The massive bill also contains provisions to help farmers, support mass transit, and bolster pharmaceutical researchers seeking treatments and vaccines.

      In a unanimous vote, the Senate finally reached a compromise and approved a nearly $2 trillion emergency spending bill to help consumers and businesses cop...
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      Coronavirus update: $2 trillion going to consumers and businesses, U.S. deaths now exceed 1,000

      Hospitals in virus hotspots are struggling to keep up

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 69,684 (55,568)

      Total U.S. deaths: 1,049 (809)

      Total global cases: 495,086 (441,187)

      Total global deaths: 22,295

      Senate approves massive aid to consumers and businesses

      Unanimous votes in the U.S. Senate are rare these days, but all present lawmakers said “aye” when a $2 trillion spending measure to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) came up for a vote.

      Likely of most interest to consumers, the measure sends every American a check and extends and increases unemployment benefits. House approval is expected tomorrow. Get the details here.

      U.S. Deaths now over 1,000

      It’s a tragic milestone, but coronavirus deaths in the United States have moved past the 1,000 mark to 1,049. Fatalities have increased rapidly over the last few days, but the U.S. still trails Italy, Spain, and China when it comes to that metric.

      The U.S. numbers aren’t likely to improve anytime soon. A number of health officials have predicted U.S. coronavirus deaths won’t peak until three weeks from now at the earliest.

      Hospital tipping point

      In major cities and coronavirus hotspots, hospitals are struggling to treat all their patients. The Wall Street Journal reports that some New York City hospitals have been forced to move patients to facilities in other areas and create makeshift morgues using refrigerated trucks.

      Some New York hospitals have so many critically ill patients that they have begun diverting ambulances to other locations. Efforts are underway to build a temporary hospital in a large conference center in Manhattan. While new cases are still increasing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says there’s been a slight decrease in the number of hospital admissions.

      California catching up to New York

      New York is not the only state to see a surge in reported coronavirus cases. In California, the number of cases is doubling every three to four days, according to CNN.

      Statewide, the number of confirmed cases surged past 3,000 early today. Comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted that she has been hospitalized in Los Angeles with serious coronavirus symptoms. 

      FDA says coronavirus scams could be a matter of life and death

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning all consumers not to fall for claims that a particular product can protect against or even cure the coronavirus. It says none of these things exist and anyone who says they do is running a scam.

      The agency is especially worried that people will buy these products -- which include dietary supplements and purported tests -- and not seek medical attention if they get the virus, leading to serious illness and even death.

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: The City of Chicago has closed Lakefront Trail and other parks and beaches until further notice. The action came as Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed irritation at residents who refused to honor her shelter-in-place request and crowded into recreational areas over the last few days. 

      • Texas: State health officials are expressing hope that an early spring in the state will help slow the spread of the coronavirus. They cite a new study by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which found that 90 percent of the virus transmissions through Sunday occurred in areas with a temperature from 37 to 63 degrees.

      • Tennessee: Attorney General Herbert Slatery III has filed an emergency petition asking the Tennessee Public Utility Commission to prohibit the utilities it regulates from disconnecting service for nonpayment during the State of Emergency invoked by Governor Bill Lee. Slatery noted that several utilities had already announced moratoriums on cutting off service.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University: (Previous numbers in parentheses)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 69684 (55,568)To...
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      Amazon’s policy on ‘essential items’ -- business killer or public necessity?

      Third party sellers are scrambling to find ways to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one Amazon mentor says their panic is overblown

      Amazon’s decision to make “essential items” -- household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies -- its priority during the COVID-19 pandemic is facing some pushback from both sellers and customers.

      There’s no question that the people most vulnerable to the virus should get first dibs on products like toilet paper and sanitizing wipes, but America’s dependence on Amazon -- coupled with Amazon’s unpreparedness to deal with the retail impact of the outbreak -- may be the straw that breaks the online retailer’s back.

      When the company was strapped with the top-down decision to stop accepting all other items at its warehouses (until April 5) and only deliver what it considers essential, it probably looked good on paper. However, in reality, Amazon was painfully understaffed and probably didn’t consider all the non-essential items people forced to work at home might need -- including things like a computer docking station that would make life easier for displaced workers. It may have also underestimated how frustrating it is for consumers used to two-day delivery to have to wait for delivery.

      Little did Jeff Bezos know how right he was when he sent a memo to the world stating that “there is no instruction manual for how to feel at a time like this, and I know this causes stress for everyone.”

      Devastating to sellers?

      “They aren’t allowing anything now to be sent in that isn’t Medical or Household until April 5th. This is going to kill us,” vented one user in Amazon’s seller forum, when Amazon announced its decision.

      In that one fell swoop, Amazon sellers were sent scampering to other selling platforms where they could sell their “non-essential” items to consumers, sooner rather than later. 

      “People are not going to want to order items when they won’t ship for a month,” Bernie Thompson, an electronics retailer who makes -- or did make -- his living off of Amazon told Wired. 

      However, one Amazon seller mentor holds the opposite opinion. "Yes, shipments may be delayed by a day or two, but this is not devastating Amazon or its sellers, “ Kale Abramson, the co-founder of Nine University, which teaches people how to open a third-party Amazon business, told ConsumerAffairs. 

      “And now, China is open for business. Once Amazon works out the kinks, hires more people, it will be like nothing ever happened by mid-April,” he said.

      Getting out from behind the 8-ball

      As best they can, the merchants who make their living off of Amazon and non-essential items are helping each other cope with the situation within the seller’s forum to find ways around the issue.

      The fix that seems to be getting the best reception is changing from “fulfillment by Amazon” (FBA) to “fulfillment by merchant” (FBM). Changing over is a hassle for a mom-and-pop business that counts on Amazon to take care of warehousing and fulfillment, but as one forum member said, “(FBM) may not be as convenient (as FBA) but you will survive.”

      Amazon rolls back some restrictions

      How does Amazon find a way out of this predicament ? Actually, it’s already starting to by rolling back some of the original restrictions it placed on sellers.

      “Given the material impact that COVID-19 has had on many of our sellers, we have taken steps to proactively mitigate the impact of this event on the health of your Amazon seller account by relaxing our policies for shipping-related Performance metrics,” Amazon posted on its seller forum.

      “Specifically, we will take into account any COVID-related disruption as it relates to late shipping or needing to cancel orders due to factors outside your control. While we always aim to deliver on our customer promise, our goal is to help you manage your business through this difficult period.”

      As one seller responded, “Welcome news, indeed, in these troubling and uncertain times.” 

      Amazon’s decision to make “essential items” -- household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies -- its priority during the COVID-19 pandem...
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      State attorneys general call for tougher policies to prevent online price gouging

      Lawmakers say online retailers need to do more to protect consumers during the coronavirus crisis

      Attorneys general from 33 states are calling on Amazon and other major online retailers to implement measures to deter price gouging in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

      The unexpected health crisis has led to a surge in demand for products, including hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and face masks. The shortage of such products has spurred an increase in sellers listing the items online at much higher prices than normal. 

      In a letter to companies, the group of state attorneys general said retailers “have an ethical obligation and patriotic duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time.” 

      “We are in the middle of a national public health crisis and the last thing folks should be worrying about is someone charging insanely high prices for necessary goods like cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, or medicines,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. 

      “While Virginia law offers protections for folks against price gouging, online marketplaces like Amazon, Facebook or Craigslist must be regulated by their parent companies to make sure people aren’t taking advantage of this crisis,” Herring continued. “We must all play our part in making sure that everyone has the things that they need during this unprecedented time and that includes putting a stop to price gouging.”

      Price gouging protections needed

      The joint letter was published the same week that Amazon announced that it recently booted nearly 4,000 sellers off of its site for violating its fair pricing policies by “seeking to profit off the COVID-19 crisis.” 

      The state attorneys general acknowledged some of the actions taken by platforms to crack down on the tactic. However, they said consumers were already impacted by the initial presence of the overpriced items and implored online sellers -- including eBay, Facebook, and Amazon, among others -- to implement tougher policies to prevent price gouging. Consumers should also have a way to report potential violations, the group said. 

      Following the release of the letter, Facebook stated that it is “focused on preventing exploitation of this crisis for financial gain.” 

      “Since COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency, Facebook has removed ads and commerce listings for the sale of masks, hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and COVID-19 test kits,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC. “While enforcement is not perfect, we have put several automated detection mechanisms in place to block or remove this material from our platform.”

      Attorneys general from 33 states are calling on Amazon and other major online retailers to implement measures to deter price gouging in the midst of the co...
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      U.S. Senate doles out $58 billion to keep airline industry flying in wake of the COVID-19 disruption

      Senators are warning the airlines that the money better be spent as intended

      The struggling airline industry got a much needed sigh of relief on Wednesday. The U.S Senate offered the airlines an unparalleled aid package totaling $58 billion to assist in covering lost income and wages that crippled them as an extent of the coronavirus pandemic.

      While some consumers may think that the airline industry is flush with cash thanks to the billions it takes in every year from baggage fees and the like, the industry was looking at global loss of nearly $250 billion in revenues stemming from the outbreak. That’s about 12 billion checked bags the airlines would have to charge for to try and make up for that loss. 

      Congress tracking how money is spent

      On the Senate floor, legislators made it clear that the relief fund better not be toyed with.

      “There are so many more things we need to do, and while I support the elements of supporting the aviation industry in this package, I wish we would have gotten more requirements on the airline industries for the grant section of this bill,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

      “I personally believe that in the future in a healthier airline industry, they should pay money back to the Federal Government. We certainly should be protecting the workforce during this time period, and that is what is most important—to make sure that an airline doesn’t take money from the Federal Government or go into bankruptcy and shortchange the workers and the workforce, as has been done in previous packages for them.”

      When Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the floor, he stood shoulder to shoulder with Cantwell, telling the two million airline employees that their "collective bargaining rights will be protected, and airlines will not be allowed to spend any grant money on stock buybacks or CEO bonus pay for the life of the grant plus 1 year.”

      There’s still work to be done

      U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow noted that no legislative package was going to entirely eliminate all of the negative impact from the coronavirus. However, he says that the deal "gives the travel economy a fighting chance to weather the eye of the storm and prepare to quickly lead the recovery.

      Dow warned that the industry will still face headwinds in the future.

      “Our industry stayed together and presented hard facts to make the case for massive and urgent relief, and our political leaders heard us. However, the true scale of this crisis, and the economic damage created by this public health disaster, will extend beyond the scope of this historic bill. It’s sad, but it’s true, more help will be needed soon.”

      The struggling airline industry got a much needed sigh of relief on Wednesday. The U.S Senate offered the airlines an unparalleled aid package totaling $58...
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      Jobless claims surge during coronavirus crisis

      The health crisis has led to a staggering amount of economic damage

      A record number of unemployment claims have been filed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. 

      The Labor Department, which has been tracking these claims since 1967, said the latest figures represent a new historical record. The number of new claims filed last week was significantly higher than the 665,000 recorded during the peak of the Great Recession in 2009. It was also higher than the previous record of 695,000 in October of 1982. 

      “This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” the Department said. 

      Rebound expected

      Economic conditions began deteriorating after health officials started urging consumers to stay home and practice social distancing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

      “We’ve known this number was coming for a week and a half,” Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of the LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based employment agency, told CNBC. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. When you see a city like Las Vegas get shut down, I don’t know what other options there were than seeing a number like this.”

      Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he expects the economy to bounce back after the spread of the virus is under control.  

      “At a certain point, we will get the spread of the virus under control,” he said Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show. “At that time, confidence will return, businesses will open again, people will come back to work. So you may well see a significant rise in unemployment, a significant decline in economic activity. But there can also be a good rebound on the other side of that.”

      While no one is sure when the health crisis will come to an end, the Senate recently approved a massive $2 trillion economic stimulus package to help affected businesses and individuals. A House vote on the measure is expected by Friday.

      A record number of unemployment claims have been filed in the wake of the onset of the coronavirus crisis. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that...
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      Ford recalls Ford Fusions, Mercury Milans and Lincoln MKZs vehicles in Canada

      The vehicles may have a braking issue

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 54,292 model year 2006-10 Ford Fusions, model year 2006-10 Mercury Milans and model year 2006-10 Lincoln MKZs in Canada.

      A normally closed valve inside the hydraulic control unit may stick open, which could result in extended brake pedal travel, potentially increasing the risk of a crash.

      One accident related to this condition has been reported.

      What to do

      Ford will contact owners, and dealers will inspect the hydraulic control unit for signs of stuck or slow-responding valves and replace the unit if necessary.

      The system will be pressure-flushed with DOT 4 brake fluid and the DOT 3 reservoir cap will be replaced with a new DOT 4 cap.

      All work will be done free of charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S14.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 54,292 model year 2006-10 Ford Fusions, model year 2006-10 Mercury Milans and model year 2006-10 Lincoln MKZs in Canada. ...
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      IcelandicPlus recalls whole Capelin Fish Pet Treats

      The product exceeds FDA fish size restrictions

      IcelandicPlus of Ft. Washington, Pa., is recalling its Capelin Pet Treats.

      Some of the fish have exceeded the FDA compliance guideline for fish larger than five inches. The agency has determined that salt-cured, dried, or fermented un-eviscerated fish larger than five inches have been linked to outbreaks of botulism poisoning in humans.

      There are no reports of illnesses of dogs, cats or people in connection with Capelin.

      The recalled product is packaged in a 2.5 ounce tube or a 1.5 or 2.5 ounce bag marked “Icelandic+ Capelin WHOLE FISH, PURE FISH TREATS FOR DOGS,” or “PURE FISH TREATS FOR CATS,” UPC CODES, 8 5485400775 9; 8 5485400711 7; and 8 5485400757 5. (lot numbers 02/2020 to 02/2022), and sold to consumers nationwide through independent pet specialty stores.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (857) 246-9559. Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm (EST).

      IcelandicPlus of Ft. Washington, Pa., is recalling its Capelin Pet Treats. Some of the fish have exceeded the FDA compliance guideline for fish larger t...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2020 Infiniti Q60s

      The rear seat belt assemblies may not lock as intended

      Nissan North America is recalling 450 model year 2020 Infiniti Q60s with rear seat belt assemblies with a dual-mode locking mechanism.

      The seat belt webbing sensor locking mechanism may not lock as intended.

      In a crash involving multiple impacts, the seat belt may not restrain the occupant properly, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the rear seat belt assembly production dates, and replace the assemblies -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 8, 2020.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 867-7669.

      Nissan North America is recalling 450 model year 2020 Infiniti Q60s with rear seat belt assemblies with a dual-mode locking mechanism. The seat belt web...
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      Coronavirus update: Aetna waiving some co-pays; Congress to the rescue

      But states still struggle to secure enough tests

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 55,568 (46,805)

      Total U.S. deaths: 809 (593)

      Total global cases: 441,187 (398,407)

      Total global deaths:  19,784 (17,454)

      CVS-Aetna to waive co-pays for coronavirus hospitalizations

      CVS Health says it will waive cost-sharing and co-pays for Aetna’s commercial policyholders who are admitted to a hospital for treatment related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The company said the move is part of its effort to reduce or eliminate consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses during the pandemic.

      Previously, CVS Health cut cost-sharing for diagnostic testing and telemedicine sessions. The company also says it has taken steps to expand patient access to medications.

      “The additional steps we’re announcing today are consistent with our commitment to delivering timely and seamless access to care as we navigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Karen Lynch, president, Aetna Business Unit and executive vice president at CVS Health. “We are doing everything we can to make sure our members have simple and affordable access to the treatment they need as we face the pandemic together.”

      In states like New York and Washington with the strongest prevalence of COVID-19 cases, hospitals no longer need advance approval from Aetna for members requiring hospitalization for the virus. 

      Aid could be on the way

      Congress is poised to provide up to $2 trillion in aid to Americans and to businesses that have been slammed by the coronavirus. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agreed on its provisions early this morning and could pass it later today. 

      The House is not expected to give final approval until later in the week, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will support the measure agreed to by both parties in the Senate.

      Testing backlog

      From the beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S., testing has been an issue. The Wall Street Journal reports that it still is.

      The Journal reports that local officials around the country are having to improvise to track the number of infected people in their jurisdictions. They’ve had to look outside the United States for test supplies and to get lab results.

      New York’s Mount Sinai Health system is reportedly conducting 1,000 tests a day, but doctors there say it isn’t enough. Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force, reports that 220,000 tests have been conducted nationwide in the past eight days.

      Hertz providing free transportation for NYC health care workers

      Hertz is providing free rental cars to health care workers in New York City who are coping with the worst of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. New York continues to lead the nation in both the number of cases and deaths.

      Beginning today, health care workers in the city can pick up a rental and drive it through the end of April at no charge. 

      "With New York City having the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, healthcare workers are dealing with extremely challenging circumstances," said Kathryn Marinello, Hertz’s CEO. "It's vital that healthcare workers have safe and reliable transportation during this time, and we are eager to help.”

      Marinello says Hertz has the capacity to make the offer because of the dramatic drop in travel.  To immediately have an impact, Hertz is working with Mount Sinai Health System to make vehicles available to its employees. It’s also supplying Mount Sinai with free cargo van rentals to transport ventilators and other medical supplies to support the crisis.

      Peak prediction

      CNN is reporting that an epidemiologist working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has predicted a peak of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus in three weeks. Ira Longini, professor at the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida,, works with the CDC on COVID-19 modeling.

      Spain now the deadliest country

      In recent weeks China has seen the number of new coronavirus cases decline, along with deaths from the disease. According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, Spain passed China as the nation with the most coronavirus deaths today.

      FDA supporting possible treatment

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advancing what could turn out to be a treatment for COVID-19. The agency reports that it is facilitating access to convalescent plasma, the antibody-rich blood products from blood donated by people who have had the virus and recovered from it.

      The FDA says plasma treatment might shorten the length, or lessen the severity, of the illness. The agency said it will be using multiple pathways to support these efforts. 

      Waffle House temporarily closes restaurants in hard-hit areas 

      Waffle House, a restaurant chain known for being open no matter the circumstances, says it has closed 418 of its locations. Nearly 1,600 of its restaurants remain open.

      The restaurant announced the closings on its Facebook page, along with a map showing the locations that are open and those that have been temporarily closed. The map shows the closed restaurants are in areas that have reported large numbers of confirmed cases.

      Around the nation

      • Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt has issued an order closing all non-essential businesses and directed all older and medically vulnerable people to remain in their homes until at least April 30. The state has also temporarily removed restrictions on alcohol deliveries.

      • Georgia: Attorney General Chris Carr is stepping up the fight to rid the marketplace of price gougers and scammers by partnering with members of the Georgia and national business communities – including Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Amazon has already suspended thousands of price-gougers from its platform.

      • South Carolina: Composite Resources and its subsidiary, Cat Resources, produce carbon fiber components used in the aerospace and defense industries. In 24 hours, it shifted production to cotton-poly masks for health care workers. “In a matter of 24 hours, we've sold in excess 2,000 masks," a company executive said.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University: (Previous numbers in parentheses)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 55,568 (46,805)T...
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      Consumers shouldn’t delay disputing credit card charges during coronavirus outbreak

      One expert says that making a ‘chargeback’ may be more difficult under current conditions

      The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has massively disrupted daily life for consumers, but here’s an aspect you might not have considered: disputing a charge on your credit card might be harder to do over the next few months.

      MyChargeBack, a financial services company assisting consumers in resolving credit card transaction disputes, suggests that consumers shouldn’t wait to apply for a credit card chargeback. The company says there are growing concerns about how the coronavirus may impact the process.

      "MyChargeBack recommends that if consumers are planning to raise disputes with their banks for goods or services not provided they should do so as soon as possible to avoid delays and disappointment," said Michael Cohen the company's vice president of operations. "There are several reasons why the system may soon become overloaded."

      Missed deadlines

      Think about all the vacations, cruises, and trips that have been canceled in March alone. It’s not unreasonable to believe that there will be more than the normal number of denied requests for refunds. 

      Consumers who made the purchase will call their card issuer, who will then have to contact the bank hosting the merchant’s account. Any logjam in cases will likely result in delayed action.

      "Should that happen, cardholders may inadvertently miss the deadlines set by the card companies for applying for their chargebacks." Cohen warned.

      The credit card industry could be adversely affected by the outbreak, and Cohen says he’s already seen signs of that happening. He said Mastercard had to close its office in Sao Paulo, Brazil and an annex at its global headquarters in Purchase, New York after employees in those locations tested positive for the coronavirus. Should even one employee at an issuing or acquiring bank be identified as a coronavirus carrier, they might have to do the same.

      Finally, there are likely to be millions of businesses that go under before this is all over. If one of them is the merchant with whom you have a dispute, it’s almost certain you won’t be able to resolve the issue.

      Closed accounts

      Even those who manage to stay in business may have to temporarily close their accounts because of the interruption in their cash flow. In that case, Cohen says there may be nothing the banks can do.

      "Consumers may experience more difficulty retrieving funds from a depleted bank account or a merchant who has gone out of business and disappeared," Cohen notes.

      To start the chargeback process, call the customer service number on the back of your card or on your monthly statement.

      The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has massively disrupted daily life for consumers, but here’s an aspect you might not have considered: disputing...
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      Amazon boots thousands of price-gouging sellers from its marketplace

      The company has a team dedicated to investigating products that have been ‘unfairly priced’ due to coronavirus-related demand

      The coronavirus crisis has led to an influx of Amazon sellers attempting to profit off of the unexpected health emergency. 

      Amazon announced on Monday that it recently kicked more than 3,900 sellers off of its online marketplace for violating its fair pricing policies by “seeking to profit off the COVID-19 crisis.” 

      "Amazon strictly prohibits sellers from exploiting an emergency by charging excessively high prices on products and shipping," the e-commerce giant said Monday in a blog post. "We have deployed a dedicated team that's working continuously to identify and investigate unfairly priced products that are now in high demand, such as protective masks and hand sanitizer.” 

      Protecting consumer interests

      The e-commerce giant added that it’s working with law enforcement officials and "proactively sharing information with state attorneys general and federal regulators about sellers we suspect have engaged in egregious price gouging of products related to the COVID-19 crisis.” 

      The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in demand for products, including toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other household items. As a result, limits on the number of items customers can purchase have been put in place at many retail establishments. Others have taken to selling in-demand products at a significantly higher price online. 

      Amazon, for example, has seen an uptick in the number of sellers listing items such as face masks and hand sanitizer for an average of 50 percent more than their usual price in the weeks since the coronavirus was classified as a pandemic. 

      “We are constantly monitoring our stores for unfair prices and listings that make false claims in regards to COVID-19,” the company said. “We have dynamic, automated systems in place that locate and remove unfairly priced items.” 

      “In addition, we have deployed a dedicated team that’s working continuously to identify and investigate unfairly priced products that are now in high demand, such as protective masks and hand sanitizer,” the company wrote. “If we find a price that violates our policy, we remove the offer and take swift action against bad actors engaged in demonstrated misconduct, including suspending or terminating their selling accounts and referring them to law enforcement agencies for prosecution under relevant laws.” 

      The coronavirus crisis has led to an influx of Amazon sellers attempting to profit off of the unexpected health emergency. Amazon announced on Monday t...
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      Ford recalls Fiestas, Fusions and Lincoln MKZs

      A door may unlatch while the vehicle is being driven

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 269,000 model year 2014-15 Fiestas, model year 2014-16 Fusions and model year 2014-16 Lincoln MKZs in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

      The latch pawl spring-tab design is susceptible to cracking and failure in areas with high ambient temperatures. A door latch with a fractured pawl spring tab typically results in a “door will not close” condition.

      If the customer is able to latch the door after repeated attempts, the door may unlatch while the vehicle is being driven, increasing the risk of injury.

      There are no reports of accident or injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will remove and replace the side door latches free of charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332, Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S15.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 269,000 model year 2014-15 Fiestas, model year 2014-16 Fusions and model year 2014-16 Lincoln MKZs in the U.S., Mexic...
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      Volkswagen recalls Audi Q8s and Q7s

      The vehicle may lose steering control

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 229 model year 2019 Audi Q8s and model year 2017-2019 Audi Q7s.

      The bolt connecting the steering shaft to the steering gear may loosen, possibly resulting in a loss of steering control.

      A sudden loss of loss of steering control may increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and Audi dealers will inspect and tighten the steering shaft bolt -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 15, 2020.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at (800) 253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 36A1.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 229 model year 2019 Audi Q8s and model year 2017-2019 Audi Q7s.The bolt connecting the steering shaft to the s...
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      Lawmakers reportedly close to wrapping up negotiations on coronavirus relief bill

      A vote on the economic stimulus package is expected on Tuesday

      After several days of negotiations, lawmakers appear to be close to ending discussions on a stimulus bill to address the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday night, U.S. treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said there are just a few small issues left to be resolved before the legislation can move forward. 

      “I think we’ve made a lot of progress. There’s still a couple of open issues, but I think we’re very hopeful that this can be closed out [on Tuesday],” he said. 

      The stimulus bill is expected to contain roughly $2 trillion in aid, which would be doled out to workers and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation would also send direct payments to many individual Americans.

      "We expect to have an agreement tomorrow morning," Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. "There's still a few little differences. Neither of us think they're in any way going to get in the way of a final agreement."

      Economic relief 

      Democrats are pushing for two key issues to be included in the bill: worker protections and money for hospitals. Schumer said the two issues are “very strongly in the bill,” but he didn’t provide specifics. He also said the bill contains "unemployment insurance on steroids.” 

      For those who lose their job during the crisis, Schumer said the bill would require the federal government to pay their full salary for several months. 

      "The federal government will pay your salary, your full salary for now four months,” he said. “We had asked for four months and four months looks like what we’re going to get when we come to this agreement."

      “We are very, very pleased with what seems to be moving forward in the bill,” he added. 

      After several days of negotiations, lawmakers appear to be close to ending discussions on a stimulus bill to address the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to...
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      Partisan standoff stalls aid package for consumers and businesses

      Democrats and Republicans disagree on whether more aid should be provided to businesses or individuals

      Who needs relief more, American workers or the companies that employ those workers? That appears to be the question that has caused an impasse in Congress as Republicans and Democrats try to reach an agreement on a huge bailout bill.

      The Senate for a second day could not muster the votes to advance a GOP-backed proposal to provide $2 trillion in aid to both businesses and individuals to cope with the economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Democrats withheld their support, saying they wanted to see more money flowing to individuals.

      In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats, who hold the majority, would introduce a bill that funnels more federal money to individuals, with a price tag of about $2.5 trillion. Among its provisions, it would:

      • Provide government payments to individuals of $1,500 and up to $7,500 for a family of five.

      • Abolish co-pays on any future coronavirus vaccines and treatments, including for the uninsured. 

      • Increase family and medical leave payments.

      • Provide $500 billion in grants and interest-free loans to small businesses. 

      • Beef up unemployment insurance, giving $600 per week to people affected by coronavirus and eligible for unemployment benefits. 

      • Provide $150 billion in funding for hospitals, community health centers and government health programs.

      • Allocate up to $60 billion in funding for colleges and provide some student debt relief. 

      • Allocate more money to food assistance programs

      • Provide $4 billion in state election grants and liberalize voter registration requirements.

      Wish list?

      Some think the legislation is more of a Democrat wish list, though Republicans have already agreed to some of the provisions. Pelosi’s bill touches on many of the same points contained in the Senate bill, authored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but it is structured differently. 

      Pelosi has said that if the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate can agree on a bill, she will submit it to the House.

      The Senate bill, which is still the object of negotiations by Democrats and Republicans, would allow people to withdraw up to $100,000 from their tax-deferred retirement accounts without penalty to deal with the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

      Savers under age 59½ would be able to tap their 401(k) and 403(b) money without the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. The same provision would apply to individual retirement accounts (IRA).

      The proposed legislation -- currently held up by a partisan standoff - would also send out rebate checks of $1,200 per individual and $500 per child, as well as suspend payroll taxes for employers.

      Who needs relief more, American workers or the companies that employ those workers? That appears to be the question that has caused an impasse in Congress...
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      United Airlines reinstates some international flights to help people get back home

      No other major U.S. airline is following suit yet, but others might if they see United’s move becoming profitable

      It was only a week ago when many U.S. major airlines were cancelling flights right and left. Now, word is coming out of United Airlines headquarters that it’s returning to the skies so people stranded by the coronavirus can get back to their homes around the globe.

      Mind you, this is not a full relaunch -- United’s international schedule will still be reduced by about 90 percent for the foreseeable future -- but the airline will be flying six daily operations to and from Asia, Australia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe. 

      “This remains a fluid situation, but United continues to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world, especially in these challenging times,” the airline said in a press release.

      The reinstated flights

      United has reinstated the following flights:

      Flights through 3/27 outbound

      • Newark/New York – Amsterdam (Flights 70/71)

      • Newark/New York – Munich (Flights 30/31)

      • Newark/New York – Brussels (Flights 999/998)

      • Washington-Dulles – London (Flights 918/919)

      • San Francisco – Frankfurt (Flights 58/59)

      • Newark/New York – Sao Paulo (Flights 149/148)

      Flights through 3/29 outbound

      • San Francisco – Seoul (Flights 893/892)

      Those additional flights are on top of six routes that are still in service. Those flights -- scheduled through May -- include:

      • Newark/New York – Frankfurt (Flights 960/961)

      • Newark/New York – London (Flights 16/17)

      • Newark/New York – Tel Aviv (Flights 90/91)

      • Houston – Sao Paulo (Flights 62/63)

      • San Francisco – Tokyo-Narita (Flights 837/838)

      • San Francisco – Sydney (Flights 863/870)

      More expensive fares

      Homeward bound travelers jockeying for flights are looking at some extremes in airfare prices on these flights. When ConsumerAffairs checked on rates at United.com, we found the Newark to Amsterdam one-way economy fares ranging from $395 to $1,017 and the Washington D.C. Dulles to London flights ranging from $429 to $1,728, one-way. United left the door open to more of its flights being reinstated. 

      “In destinations where government actions have barred us from flying, we are actively looking for ways to bring customers who have been impacted by travel restrictions back to the United States,” the airline commented. “This includes working with the U.S. State Department and the local governments to gain permission to operate service.”

      Will others like American Airlines and Delta follow suit? It’s possible, especially if those two carriers see United filling those flights with revenue-producing passengers. As of press time, neither airline had matched United’s move. AirlineRatings reports that Qantas is also in talks with the Australian government about flights to repatriate people.

      It was only a week ago when many U.S. major airlines were cancelling flights right and left. Now, word is coming out of United Airlines headquarters that i...
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      More than 50 malicious children’s and utility apps found on Google Play

      Google has removed the apps, but Android users need to double-check their phones to see if they’ve downloaded any of the culprits

      While the world is trying to find a way to stave off the coronavirus, there’s a new digital lowlife set on upending the lives of Android users.

      Security researchers have identified a new, interconnected malware “family” that was operating in 56 applications on the Google Play store. The apps in question were downloaded close to 1 million times worldwide.

      “Although Google has taken steps to secure its Play store and stop malicious activity, hackers are still finding ways to infiltrate the app store and access users’ devices,” cyber threat intelligence firm Checkpoint said

      “Millions of mobile phone users have unintentionally downloaded malicious apps that have the ability to compromise their data, credentials, emails, text messages, and geographical location.”

      The attack mode

      Checkpoint believes the goal of this digital dastard -- aka “Tekya” -- is mobile ad fraud. Once in a user’s system, it mimics an app user’s actions and secretly clicks on ads and banners within an app.

      Ad fraud can be committed in many ways -- from faking the number of installs of a certain app to generating views or impressions that never took place -- all in hopes of hoodwinking an advertiser into buying ads on apps that the people behind Tekya are somehow connected to.

      What are the apps and what should you do?

      Of the 56 affected apps, Checkpoint says 24 of them are children’s games -- e.g. “Cooking Delicious” and “Race in Space.” Another 32 are utility apps for things like weather and translation. A complete list is available on Checkpoint’s website.

      Consumers who want to protect themselves from this malicious scheme should search for any of the suspicious apps are on their phone and take the following recommended steps:

      1. Uninstall the infected application from the device

      2. Install a security solution to prevent future infections

      3. Update your device Operation System and Applications to the latest version

      Google has yanked the suspicious apps from its app store to protect its user base. However, if the past is any indication, the odds are good that more digital cockroaches will find another way to use Google Play as an inroad to do their dirty work. 

      Going forward, Ravie Lakshmanan at TheHackerNews offered what ConsumerAffairs thinks is sound advice for Android users. 

      “To safeguard yourself from such threats, it's recommended that you stick to the Play Store for downloading apps and avoid sideloading from other sources,” Lakshmanan wrote. “More importantly, scrutinize the reviews, developer details, and the list of requested permissions before installing any app.”

      While the world is trying to find a way to stave off the coronavirus, there’s a new digital lowlife set on upending the lives of Android users.Security...
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      Several distilleries are now making hand sanitizer

      The coronavirus crisis has led to a surge in demand for the product

      A number of distilleries have announced that they will be making and distributing hand sanitizer in the midst of a nationwide shortage of the product. 

      On Monday, a representative for Tito’s Vodka confirmed that the company will be making at least 24 tons of hand sanitizer during a time when many retailers are struggling to keep the product on shelves. 

      "Details are still being ironed out, but this hand sanitizer will be given out for free to the community and to those who are most in need," a company spokesperson said. 

      The decision to produce hand sanitizer comes less than a week after the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau announced that companies with permits to distill spirits can begin producing ethanol-based hand sanitizer. Officials said the decision was made “to address the demand for such products during this emergency.” 

      High demand for hand sanitizer

      Anheuser-Busch will also be supporting the effort to bolster U.S. supplies of hand sanitizer while consumer demand for the product remains high. 

      "We have a long history of supporting our communities and employees --  this time is no different," the company wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “That’s why we are using our supply and logistics network to begin producing and distributing bottles of hand sanitizer to accommodate the growing needs across the United States.” 

      Other distilleries now making hand sanitizer include Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, and Rabbit Hole Distillery. 

      Health officials say the best way to fight the virus is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When that option isn’t available, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can be used to kill germs. 

      A number of distilleries have announced that they will be making and distributing hand sanitizer in the midst of a nationwide shortage of the product....
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      Thule Recalls Thule Sleek Car Seat Adapters

      The plastic brackets on the car seat adapter can break

      Thule Group of Sweden is recalling about 1,500 Thule Sleek Car Seat Adapters sold in the U.S., and Canada.

      The plastic brackets on the car seat adapter can break, posing a fall hazard to infants.

      The firm has received three reports of the plastic brackets on the car seat adapters cracking or breaking while in use. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves the Thule Sleek Car Seat Adapter used to place a Chicco car seat on the Thule Sleek Stroller.

      The adapter is metal with two black plastic brackets and clips onto the stroller. Only the car seat adapter is included in this recall.

      Product number 11000301 is printed on a sticker located on the adapter’s plastic bracket. The UPC code is 091021188099.

      The adapters, manufactured in China, were sold at REI, Buy Buy Baby, and other stores nationwide and online at Thule.com, and Amazon.com from December 2018, through February 2020, for about $60.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled Sleek Car Seat Adapter and contact Thule Group to arrange for the return of the product for a full refund or to receive a free replacement product of a Thule Sleek Bassinet which works on the Thule Sleek Stroller.

      Consumers may contact Thule Group toll-free at (855) 652-2688 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at carseatadapter@thule.com, or online at www.thule.com/carseatadapter for more information.

      Thule Group of Sweden is recalling about 1,500 Thule Sleek Car Seat Adapters sold in the U.S., and Canada.The plastic brackets on the car seat adapter...
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      Two coronavirus scams target seniors and church members

      Consumers need to be careful when it comes to giving out personal information

      The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is warning Medicare recipients that they can expect to be targets of assorted scams related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). If they haven’t been yet, they probably soon will be.

      In an alert issued on its website, the agency said scammers have already started using the virus as a means to steal Medicare numbers. These schemes are being launched through email and telemarketing.

      “In some cases, they might tell you they'll send you a coronavirus test, masks, or other items in exchange for your Medicare number or personal information,” the agency said in a statement. “Be wary of unsolicited requests for your Medicare number or other personal information.”

      In fact, if anyone calls you or sends an email requesting your Medicare or Social Security number, you can be sure it’s a scam. You should only give your Medicare number to participating Medicare pharmacists, primary and specialty care doctors, or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.

      Points to remember

      Medicare further stresses to consumers that:

      • Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare Number or other personal information unless you’ve given them permission in advance.

      • Medicare will never call you to sell you anything.

      • You may get calls from people promising you things if you give them a Medicare Number. Don’t do it. 

      • Medicare will never visit you at your home.

      • Medicare can’t enroll you over the phone unless you called first.

      Spoofing emails

      Scammers are not limiting their impersonation to government agencies; they are even posing as clergy in an effort to steal money. Over the weekend, Rev. David Miller, senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, in suburban Washington, DC, warned his congregation that scammers are impersonating him in an effort to raise money.

      “Emails recently went out with my name on them asking for money or gift cards,” Miller wrote in an email to church members. “They are NOT from me. They are spoofs and should be deleted.”

      Miller said this kind of fraud is becoming more frequent, and ministers' emails are a particular target. He said he would never reach out to individual congregants asking them to give money or gift cards directly to him.

      “In most cases, the scammers will use a different email address than that minister's legitimate email address, so check that first,” he advised.

      It’s good practice -- especially in the post-COVID-19 world -- to be highly skeptical of all unsolicited communications. Instead of responding directly, either ignore them or contact the agency or individual directly to ask if the message is legitimate.

      The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is warning Medicare recipients that they can expect to be targets of assorted scams related to th...
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      U.S. airlines say furloughs are coming without government aid

      In a bid to mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus, airlines are asking for support

      Without the swift implementation of support from the government, U.S. airlines may have to furlough workers. 

      A coalition of U.S. airlines warned over the weekend that, without the approval of a $58 billion aid package, thousands of airline employees could lose their paychecks.  

      “Time is running out,” wrote the CEOs of Southwest, Delta, Alaska, American, United, JetBlue, Hawaiian, UPS Airlines and FedEx, and their lobbying group, Airlines for America. “Unless worker payroll protection grants are passed immediately, many of us will be forced to take draconian measures such as furloughs.”

      Barring the approval of “sufficient government support” in the form of loans, outgoing United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said the airline will “begin to take the necessary steps to reduce our payroll in line with the 60% schedule reduction we announced for April.” 

      “May’s schedule is likely to be cut even further,” he added. 

      Flights cancelled 

      The novel coronavirus has infected more than 200,000 consumers across the globe, leading to a sharp decline in the number of air travelers. Earlier this month, airline executives said the financial repercussions stemming from coronavirus restrictions and concerns have been worse than those following 9/11. 

      As demand for flights continues to tumble, “even more cost-cutting measures will be required soon to keep our company afloat,” United officials said in a memo on Friday. 

      Airlines are asking for government aid by the end of March to help offset the impact of coronavirus.

      “We are working night and day on support and ideas to keep as much pay as we possibly can flowing to you — even if [it] gets worse from here and demand temporarily plummets to zero,” Munoz and President Scott Kirby said in a joint statement.

      Without the swift implementation of support from the government, U.S. airlines may have to furlough workers. A coalition of U.S. airlines warned over t...
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      Federal Reserve pledges to support markets with bottomless asset purchases

      If you think the Fed is just printing money as it sees fit, you’re essentially correct

      In an effort to prop up the U.S. economy, promote employment, and stabilize prices during the COVID-19 upheaval, the Federal Reserve is pulling the trigger on its “full range of tools.”

      The Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) is at the forefront of the changes, taking action towards supporting the flow of credit to households and purchasing Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities.

      How far is the Fed prepared to take it? “In the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions,” the agency said in a press release.

      “The Committee will include purchases of agency commercial mortgage-backed securities in its agency mortgage-backed security purchases. In addition, the Open Market Desk will continue to offer large-scale overnight and term repurchase agreement operations. The Committee will continue to closely monitor market conditions, and will assess the appropriate pace of its securities purchases at future meetings.”

      Added security for creditworthy consumers

      The Federal Reserve Board also announced on Monday that it’s made a “technical change” to support the domestic economy and permit banks to continue making loans to financially trustworthy households and businesses.

      Simply put, that “technical change” allows the Fed to provide additional cushions for emergency capital and long-term debt to help recapitalize a bank if it finds itself close to the brink. The agency notes that this rule is strictly precautionary. 

      “Over the past decade, U.S. banks of all sizes have built up substantial levels of capital and liquidity in excess of their minimum requirements,” the Fed remarked, showing confidence that banks have the wherewithal to withstand some pressure. However, if the economy starts to tank, the Fed is prepared to phase that rule in gradually.

      Is the Fed just printing money?

      If you’re thinking that the Fed is just running the money-printing presses ad nauseam, you’re basically correct. In actuality, the FOMC sets the target for the fed funds rate every month. To make sure that target is hit as close to dead center as possible, the Fed uses something called “open market operations.” That process allows the Fed to buy or sell securities from its member banks. 

      “It creates credit out of thin air to buy these securities. This has the same effect as printing money,” said Kimberly Amadeo of TheBalance. “That adds to the reserves the banks can lend and results in the lowering of the fed funds rate. Knowledge of the current fed funds rate is important because this rate is a benchmark in financial markets.” 

      The takeaway

      The takeaway for the consumer is that the Fed is going to do whatever is absolutely necessary to keep the U.S. economy from failing.

      One such action was an emergency rate cut of 0.5 percent just a couple of weeks ago when the pandemic was picking up steam. Last week, the Fed’s Board of Governors also told banks that the agency is giving them additional flexibility and wants the banks to use that latitude to help consumers and businesses.

      In an effort to prop up the U.S. economy, promote employment, and stabilize prices during the COVID-19 upheaval, the Federal Reserve is pulling the trigger...
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      Yokohama recalls various tires with manufacturing defect

      The tire tread or bead may detach

      Yokohama Tire Corporation is recalling 4,209 of the following tires:

      • RY023 tires, size 255/70R22.5 16H (DOT date code 0320 and 0520 through 0620);
      • RY023 tires, size 295/75R22.5 16H (DOT date codes 0320 through 0520);
      • RY023 tires, size 285/75R24.5 14G (DOT date codes 0320 and 0520);
      • RY617 tires, size 11R22.5 16H (DOT date code 0320);
      • RY617 tires, size 11R24.5 16H (DOT date codes 0220 and 0420 through 0620);
      • TY517 MC2 tires, size 295/75R22.5 14G (DOT date codes 0220 through 0620);
      • TY517 MC2 tires, size 285/75R24.5 14G (DOT date codes 0420 through 0620);
      • TY517 MC2 tires, size 11R22.5 16H (DOT date codes 0320 through 0620);
      • TY527 tires, size 11R24.5 16H (DOT date code 0520);
      • 712L tires, size 295/75R22.5 16H (DOT date codes 0420 through 0620);
      • 712L tires, size 11R22.5 16H (DOT date codes 0620 and 0320 through 0420);
      • 709ZL tires, size 285/75R24.5 14G (DOT date code 0420);
      • 709ZL tires, size 11R24.5 14G (DOT date code 0220);
      • LY053 tires, size 11R24.5 16H (DOT date codes 0320 through 0620);
      • 109L tires, size 11R22.5 14G (DOT date codes 0220 and 0420 through 0620);
      • 109L tires, size 285/75R24.5 14G (DOT date codes 0620 and 0320 through 0420);
      • 109L tires, size 295/75R22.5 14G (DOT date code 0420);
      • 108R tires, size 11R24.5 16H (DOT date codes 0320 and 0620); and
      • 715R tires, size 295/75R22.5 16H (DOT date codes 0320 through 0420).

      Due to improper manufacturing, the tire tread or bead may detach, possibly resulting in loss of vehicle control.

      A sudden loss of vehicle control increases the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Yokohama will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 31, 2020.

      Owners may contact Yokohama customer service at (800) 423-4544.

      Yokohama Tire Corporation is recalling 4,209 of the following tires: RY023 tires, size 255/70R22.5 16H (DOT date code 0320 and 0520 through 0620);...
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      Coronavirus update: Cash for small businesses, large states hunker down

      Global deaths now exceed 10,000

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 14.631

      Total U.S. deaths: 210

      Total global cases: 254,996

      Total global deaths: 10,444

      Proposed cash for small businesses that keep their payrolls intact

      Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has introduced a coronavirus aid bill -- two others have already been signed into law -- that provides direct aid to small businesses that do not lay off employees. Businesses with no more than 500 employees would be eligible for loans under Section 7(a) of the Small Business Act.

      The money could be used to pay rent, other loans, and payroll for a four-month period from March 1 through June 30. The payroll portion of the loan would be forgiven if the small business had not laid off any employees during the four-month period.

      The measure also appropriates direct payments to taxpayers. Individuals would receive $1,200 and couples would get $2,400.

      California locks down, Pennsylvania closes businesses

      The governors of California and Pennsylvania have urged residents to stay in their homes for the next few weeks and not leave unless absolutely necessary. California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked residents to remain at home for the next eight weeks, predicting half the residents of the state would eventually get the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has taken similar action. He ordered all "non-life-sustaining" businesses to shut down, an order he said would be enforced by the state police.

      New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo today ordered non-essential businesses to keep their workforce at home. It was among other stringent measures imposed on state residents as the number of cases in the state more than doubled overnight. “This is not life as usual. Accept it. Realize it and deal with it,” the governor advised his constituents

      More hopeful news from China

      China has gone two straight days without reporting a new confirmed case of COVID-19, and deaths from the virus have also leveled off. In fact, Italy now has more deaths.

      Now, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that the Chinese economy appears to be getting back to normal after two months of catastrophic losses, giving hope to U.S. policymakers that the economic damage might be contained. 

      IMF officials say most larger Chinese firms have reopened, and many employees have returned to work. But officials warn that a revival of infections would derail the recovery. But adding to the hopeful signs, China today ordered $700 million in U.S. corn, the first such order under the Phase One trade agreement.

      Tax filing deadline reversal

      A day after saying taxpayers would still have to file their tax returns by April 15 -- but would have until July 15 to pay -- the Treasury Department has walked it back. The administration now says taxpayers have a July 15 deadline to both file and pay their taxes.

      Restocking shelves

      Unemployment will likely skyrocket, but at Kraft Heinz, three shifts are working around the clock. Consumers’ panic buying last week has stripped store shelves of most staples. In an interview with CNBC today, CEO Miguel Patricio said company employees are proud to be doing their part to meet the crisis. 

      Meanwhile, Walmart is awarding its employee bonuses for their work over the last two weeks. JP Morgan Chase is giving bonuses to its branch tellers.

      Around the nation

      • Massachusetts: Sen. Ed Markey is askingtravel insurance companies to provide coverage to consumers who purchased travel insurance plans but whose claims related to the coronavirus are being denied. Markey says the request is reasonable in light of the State Department’s travel advisory telling Americans not to leave the country.

      • Washington state: Washington remains the epicenter of the outbreak with 74 deaths. As of today, there are 1,377 confirmed cases in the state, second behind New York.

      • Connecticut: Attorney General William Tong has asked Amazon for information regarding efforts to detect and combat price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter follows a complaint from a Connecticut consumer who said they were assessed for $400 in shipping charges for face masks.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University:Total U.S. confirmed cases: 14.631Total U.S. deaths: 210Total global cases...
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      State Department tells Americans to stay in the U.S.

      A Level 4 travel advisory bluntly says ‘don’t travel’

      The U.S. State Department has advised all Americans to avoid traveling to other countries because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). On Thursday, it issued a Level 4 advisory with the headline “don’t travel.”

      Where possible, the government says Americans who are overseas should arrange for their immediate return home.

      “U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel,” the government said in its advisory. “Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice.”

      The State Department also warns that airlines have already canceled many international flights and cruise lines are mostly shut down at this point. It warns that Americans who keep to their international travel plans are likely to encounter disruptions and could be “forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.”

      A week ago, the government allowed U.S. personnel and family members at diplomatic or consular posts to leave if they are at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19. Because of their departure, the government warns that U.S. embassies and consulates may be less able to provide services to American citizens.

      Advice

      If after these warnings, you decide to travel anyway -- or are already outside the U.S. -- the State Department offers this advice:

      • Consider returning to your country of residence immediately using whatever commercial means are available.

      • Have a travel plan that does not rely on the U.S. Government for assistance.

      • Review and follow the CDC’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus.

      • Check with your airline, cruise lines, or travel operators regarding any updated information about your travel plans and/or restrictions.

      • Visit travel.state.gov to view individual Travel Advisories for the most urgent threats to safety and security.

      • Visit our Embassy webpages on COVID-19 for information on conditions in each country or jurisdiction.

      • Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the latest travel restrictions to the United States.

      • Visit Keeping workplaces, homes, schools, or commercial establishments safe.

      The U.S. State Department has advised all Americans to avoid traveling to other countries because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). On Thursday, it issued a L...
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      Kohl’s announces closure of all U.S. stores in wake of coronavirus

      The company says stores will remain closed until at least April 1

      Another business has decided to shut its doors in the U.S. until the coronavirus outbreak is better contained. 

      Kohl’s announced on Thursday that it would be temporarily closing all of its stores nationwide until next month. The company said that customers will still be able to shop at its online site or through the Kohl’s app and have the items delivered to their homes in the meantime.

      “To demonstrate our support of the efforts underway to contain the spread of the coronavirus, we are closing all Kohl’s stores through at least April 1. We will support store associates with two calendar weeks of pay,” Kohl’s said in a company press release.

      Coronavirus effects on business

      Kohl’s announcement comes in the wake of more bad news from other companies and organizations in the U.S. 

      Earlier this week, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) announced that it would be shutting down its trading floors in New York and San Francisco due to health concerns related to COVID-19. However, the organization noted that the markets will not be shutting down; they will just continue on electronically. 

      Ridesharing platforms Uber and Lyft also reported a financial hit to their businesses in the wake of the outbreak. Stocks of both companies were in freefall earlier this week when compared to February; Uber shares dropped from $39.98 last month to $16.24 on Wednesday, and Lyft shares fell from $39.69 to $16.24 during the same time period.

      Another business has decided to shut its doors in the U.S. until the coronavirus outbreak is better contained. Kohl’s announced on Thursday that it would...
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      Mountain Rose Herbs recalls Organic Kudzu Root Herbal Supplement

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Mountain Rose Herbs (MRH) of Eugene, Ore., is recalling all sizes of its Organic Kudzu Root Herbal Supplement.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product comes in a clear plastic or poly-woven bag, net weight ranges from 4 oz. to 50 lbs., marked with lot #24247-X and #24247. The lot number is located on the principal display panel on the lower left of the label

      It was shipped to customers who ordered from the company website, purchased at the company’s retail shop in Eugene, Ore., or placed mail orders by phone or fax between the dates of June 17, 2019 and March 2, 2020. It is possible MRH customers also resold the Kudzu Root to their own clientele.

      The recalled product was shipped directly to customers in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of British of Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Mountain Rose Herbs at (800) 879-3337 X.109, Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4:30 pm (PT), or by email at claims@mountainroseherbs.com.

      Mountain Rose Herbs (MRH) of Eugene, Ore., is recalling all sizes of its Organic Kudzu Root Herbal Supplement.The product may be contaminated with Salm...
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      Toyota recalls model year 2020 Highlanders

      A feature that stops and restarts the engine may malfunction

      Toyota is recalling approximately 39,000 model year 2020 Highlanders.

      The recalled vehicles are equipped with a feature that stops and restarts the engine. Under certain driving patterns and vehicle conditions, this feature may not operate correctly resulting in a vehicle stall.

      If a vehicle stall occurs, an audible chime will sound and multiple warning indicators will illuminate. If a vehicle stall occurs while being driven at higher speeds, this could increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will reflash the engine control unit (ECU) at no cost.

      The recall is expected to begin by mid-May 2020.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 331-4331.

      Toyota is recalling approximately 39,000 model year 2020 Highlanders.The recalled vehicles are equipped with a feature that stops and restarts the engi...
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      Coronavirus update: Cases appear to be peaking in China

      Trump orders more cuts to red tape as the number of U.S. cases rises past 10,000

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,755

      Total U.S. deaths: 154

      Total global cases: 229,390

      Total global deaths: 9,325

      Virus appears to be peaking in China

      The world was greeted with some encouraging news Thursday morning as China reported that there were no new confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the previous 24 hours. That suggests the mitigation measures the country adopted as the virus was spreading are beginning to yield results.

      Meanwhile, Europe appears to have become the region of the world where cases are increasing the fastest, particularly in Italy. Deaths from COVID-19 in Italy have been rising this week at a rate of about 20 percent. The Italian death toll today reached 2,978, nearly as many as in China.

      Cutting more red tape

      President Trump announced today that he’s directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to temporarily override regulations to allow faster development of therapies to treat patients who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

      “Nothing will stand in our way as we pursue any avenue to find what best works against this horrible virus,” Trump said at the daily White House briefing.

      Specifically, the FDA has been ordered to consider approval for drugs created for other conditions, such as arthritis, that might be effective in treating the effects of the virus. Trump mentioned the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir, which is made by Gilead Sciences.

      Auto plants close

      Major automakers are shutting down their U.S. assembly lines for the time being. General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler worked out agreements with the United Auto Workers union to suspend production at North American plants through the end of March.

      The agreement will idle about 400,000 workers, but UAW president Roy Gamble says it’s the prudent thing to do.

      "UAW members, their families, and our communities will benefit from today's announcement with the certainty that we are doing all that we can to protect our health and safety during this pandemic," Gamble said. 

      Meanwhile, GM CEO Mary Barra and Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered to retool their facilities to quickly begin producing ventilators. These machines, which aid patients’ breathing, could be in short supply at the peak of the outbreak.

      Price of panic

      You’ve seen the footage of panicked shoppers cleaning off supermarket shelves, loading up on toilet paper and bottled water. Wonder how much they’re spending? A study by STAANCE, released today, puts the average spending on emergency provisions at $161. 

      While nearly half of the consumers in the survey said they are fearful of the virus, only 17 percent think they’ll get it.

      Around the nation

      • Oregon: With neighboring Washington as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Oregon consumers are taking social distancing seriously. But, they still get thirsty. The Oregon Brewers Guild has compiled a list of establishments in the state that will deliver beer.

      • Missouri: Attorney General Eric Schmitt is cautioning residents of his state about an uptick in scammers masquerading as charities that offer to help combat the effects of the coronavirus. His advice? Don’t judge a charity by its name. False charities may use names that closely resemble legitimate charities

      • Texas: Compounding pharmacies in the state have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to produce non-commercial hand sanitizers – and, on Wednesday, a pharmacist in Southeast Texas was among the first in the state to deliver free supplies to police, firefighters, and other emergency responders.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University:Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,755Total U.S. deaths: 154Total global cases...
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      Younger adults are being hospitalized more than any other group for coronavirus

      New CDC data suggests that seniors aren’t the only demographic that needs to take caution

      While much of the media coverage surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) says that senior citizens are at the greatest risk, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that people aged 20-54 account for 38 percent of the virus-related hospitalizations.

      Yes, it’s true that the older population accounts for the bulk of virus-related deaths, but other than that, the impact is fairly even across the board.

      The updated data

      As of March 16’s latest count of reported COVID-19 cases, here’s how things break out:

      Number of cases

      Total number of cases: 4,226

      Age 85 or older: 6 percent 

      Age 65–84: 25 percent 

      Age 55-64: 18 percent 

      Age 45-54: 18 percent

      Age 20-44: 29 percent 

      Age 0-19: 5 percent

      Hospitalizations

      Total number of hospitalizations: 508

      Age 85 or older: 9 percent 

      Age 65–84: 26 percent 

      Age 55-64: 17 percent 

      Age 45-54: 18 percent

      Age 20-44: 20 percent 

      Age 0-19: Less than 1 percent

      ICU admissions

      Total number of ICU admissions: 121

      Age 85 or older: 7 percent 

      Age 65–84: 46 percent 

      Age 45-64: 36 percent 

      Age 20-44: 12 percent 

      Age 0-19: 0 percent

      Heads up, young Americans

      The CDC’s updated numbers caught pretty much everyone by surprise given the narrative that’s been at the forefront of the pandemic.

      “I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told the New York Times. “It’s not just going to be the elderly. There will be people aged 20 and up. They do have to be careful, even if they think that they’re young and healthy.”

      Another physician -- Dr. Christopher Carlsten, head of respiratory medicine at the University of British Columbia -- took the opportunity to wag his finger at those who feel invincible.

      “Younger people may feel more confident about their ability to withstand a virus like this,” Carlsten told the Times. He connected the dots a bit further by adding, “if that many younger people are being hospitalized, that means that there are a lot of young people in the community that are walking around with the infection.”

      Officials ask young people to change attitudes

      The White House’s task force on the epidemic hopes that young people hear the message loud and clear -- and try to reverse their laissez-faire attitude on the virus.

      “You have the potential [to spread the virus] to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about, and cause them to have a disastrous outcome,” Dr. Deborah Birx said, challenging that demographic at a White House briefing on Wednesday.

      While much of the media coverage surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) says that senior citizens are at the greatest risk, new data from the Centers for D...
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      New York Stock Exchange to close trading floor due to coronavirus

      Electronic trading will still be conducted going forward

      The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is continuing to send shockwaves throughout the financial markets. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) announced on Wednesday that it will be closing its trading floor starting on March 23 due to virus concerns. 

      The move follows news that two people who were close to the trading floors had tested positive for COVID-19. NYSE stated that the decision to move to all-electronic trading was made to ensure the health of the communities where it operates in New York and San Francisco. 

      “The decision to temporarily close the trading floors represents a precautionary step to protect the health and well-being of employees and the floor community in response to COVID-19,” the organization wrote in a press release.

      Markets will remain open

      While canceling trading floor activity is a big step for the stock exchange, NYSE president Stacey Cunningham reiterated that the decision to move to all-electronic trading is the right decision for companies and investors.

      “NYSE’s trading floors provide unique value to issuers and investors, but our markets are fully capable of operating in an all-electronic fashion to serve all participants, and we will proceed in that manner until we can re-open our trading floors to our members,” she said. 

      “While we are taking the precautionary step of closing the trading floors, we continue to firmly believe the markets should remain open and accessible to investors. All NYSE markets will continue to operate under normal trading hours despite the closure of the trading floors.”

      The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is continuing to send shockwaves throughout the financial markets. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) announced on Wedn...
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      Tornel Deportiva tires recalled

      The adhesive between the belt and tread base may fail

      Compañia Hulera Tornel, S.A.de C.V. (Tornel) is recalling 728 Tornel Deportiva tires, size P235/60R14, with DOT date codes 2216 and 4116 through 5016.

      Due to a manufacturing issue, the adhesive between the belt and tread base may fail, possibly causing tread block separation.

      A tread block separation could lead to loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Tornel will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 29, 2020.

      Owners may contact Compañia Hulera Tornel customer service at (281) 919-1944.

      Compañia Hulera Tornel, S.A.de C.V. (Tornel) is recalling 728 Tornel Deportiva tires, size P235/60R14, with DOT date codes 2216 and 4116 through 5016. D...
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      Volvo recalls various model year 2019-2020 vehicles with braking issue

      The Automatic Emergency Braking may not engage

      Volvo Cars USA is recalling 121,605 model year 2019-2020 S60, V60, V60 Cross Country, S90L, V90, V90 Cross Country, XC40, XC60, and XC90 vehicles.

      Due to a software/hardware incompatability, the Automatic Emergency Brake (AEB) system may not detect obstacles and engage as intended.

      If the AEB system does not engage as intended, the risk of a crash can increase.

      What to do

      Volvo will notify owners, and dealers will update the Active Safety Domain Master (ASDM) software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 1, 2020.

      Owners may contact Volvo customer service at (800) 458-1552. Volvo's number for this recall is R29998.

      Volvo Cars USA is recalling 121,605 model year 2019-2020 S60, V60, V60 Cross Country, S90L, V90, V90 Cross Country, XC40, XC60, and XC90 vehicles.Due t...
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      Treasury Department extends deadline for consumers who need to pay back taxes by 90 days

      Consumers need to research how their state is handling the change

      Individuals and businesses who owe additional income tax for 2019 got a reprieve on Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin moved the deadline to pay from April 15 to Tuesday, July 14, 2020. However, the date on filing tax returns did not change. Those are still due on April 15. Filers should also keep in mind that this change is for Federal taxes only.

      "We encourage those Americans who can file their taxes, to continue to file their taxes on April 15 because for many Americans you will get tax refunds. We don't want you to lose out on those tax refunds," Mnuchin said.

      Deferments and extensions

      As part of the coronavirus recovery package the U.S. has put into place, individual and small business filers have the added option of deferring owed taxes up to $1 million. The good news is that they won’t have to take on the sweat of added interest or penalties. Corporations are given even more headroom, with deferments of up to $10 million. 

      U.S. citizens who can’t get their paperwork together by April 15 still have the ol’ faithful filing extension to fall back on. Nothing’s changed as far as that goes -- it’s still six months and not a day longer. 

      And state taxes?

      Keep in mind that what the Federal government modifies regarding tax returns is separate from what the state where you live may offer. 

      ConsumerAffairs found that the tax-related changes states are doing on their own are in a constant state of flux. Alabama, for example, has moved its filing deadline from April 15 to April 30, while others have simply reduced support services consumers would otherwise have access to. 

      The American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants is keeping a running record of state-to-state changes. You can find that information here.

      Individuals and businesses who owe additional income tax for 2019 got a reprieve on Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin moved the deadline to pay fr...
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      Red Cross warns of severe blood shortage

      Canceled blood drives have reduced new blood supplies

      The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and resulting social distancing measures have resulted in a significant unintended health consequence. The Red Cross says blood supplies are falling to critical levels.

      That’s because scheduled blood drives all across the country are being canceled, along with other public events, as a means of controlling the spread of germs. But the Red Cross says those blood drives are safe and are needed to replenish blood supplies.

      As of Tuesday, the Red Cross said more than 2,700 blood drives had been put on hold. The result of that is about 86,000 fewer blood donations from these events, which typically produce 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects.

      "I am looking at the refrigerator that contains only one day's supply of blood for the hospital," said Dr. Robertson Davenport, director of Transfusion Medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. "The hospital is full. There are patients who need blood and cannot wait."

      More cancellations

      Unfortunately, the Red Cross expects the number of canceled blood drives to continue to increase. The evolving blood shortage could affect patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients being treated for cancer.

      "As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another including those most vulnerable among us in hospitals," said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. "One of the most important things people can do right now during this public health emergency is to give blood. If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible."

      Safety standards

      In lieu of an organized blood drive, McGovern is urging healthy adults to go to Red Cross collection centers and donate a pint of blood. She stresses that blood collection centers always maintain the highest safety standards by following these steps:

      • Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy;

      • Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process;

      • Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors;l and

      • Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

      McGovern says Red Cross employees already follow thorough safety protocols to help prevent the spread of any type of infection, including:

      • Wearing gloves and changing gloves with each donor;

      • Routinely wiping down donor-touched areas;

      • Using sterile collection sets for every donation; and

      • Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

      McGovern also stresses that people should not fear the donation process, saying there is no evidence the virus can be transmitted by a blood transfusion.

      The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and resulting social distancing measures have resulted in a significant unintended health consequence. The Red C...
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      Fed gives banks added flexibility to help consumers and businesses during coronavirus outbreak

      Banks are being urged to make ‘prudent’ loans to keep households afloat

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis has quickly morphed into a financial crisis. Major sporting events have been canceled, bars and restaurants have closed and laid off staff, and the stock market has plunged.

      Will it be America’s banks to the rescue? In a statement, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors says it is providing banks with additional flexibility, and it wants them to use it to help consumers and businesses.

      The Trump administration is taking executive actions to soften the hit and is supporting congressional action to support consumers facing economic hardship. The Fed, which over the weekend cut its federal funds rate to 0 percent, says the nation’s banks are in an excellent position to lend a hand.

      “Since the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, U.S. banking organizations have built up substantial levels of capital and liquidity in excess of regulatory minimums and buffers,” the Fed statement said. 

      Reform legislation proving useful

      Financial reform legislation passed in the wake of the financial crisis required banks to hold more cash in reserves. It now appears that requirement will pay off.

      The Fed says the nation’s largest banks hold $1.3 trillion in common equity and $2.9 trillion in high-quality liquid assets (HQLA). It also says banks should aggressively support businesses and households that are suffering the economic consequences of the outbreak.

      During the financial crisis a decade ago, many banks were not adequately capitalized. In fact, many required government bailouts to stay in business, a move that was highly controversial at the time. Now, the Fed says it’s time for banks to repay the favor.

      Pumping cash into the system

      The Fed, along with the FDIC and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, says it will support banks that choose to make “safe and sound” loans. Late Tuesday, it announced that it will greatly increase the amount of money it’s pumping into the “repo” market to support banks.

      The amount of each repurchase operation will total $500 billion and will continue through Friday. 

      In addition to supporting commercial and consumer customers with loans, a new survey from J.D. Power and Associates says banks need to do a better job of providing information and emotional support.

      The survey conducted over the weekend found 83 percent of consumers are “very” or “somewhat” worried that the coronavirus will hurt them financially. Only a third of the survey respondents said they have received any kind of reassuring communication from their bank.

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis has quickly morphed into a financial crisis. Major sporting events have been canceled, bars and restaurants have c...
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      Uber and Lyft take a value hit on news of cancelling carpools

      Help is on the way for the travel industry, but who knows how much and what companies will be helped out

      Uber and Lyft are suffering a double whammy thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The news of the companies pausing their carpooling service coupled with fewer people needing to get from Point A to Point B has put both companies in a world of hurt.

      While airlines are getting the bulk of the pandemic-related headlines in the transportation segment, ride-sharing’s gut punch is right behind. Only a month ago, Lyft stock was selling at $39.69 a share. As of press time on Wednesday, it was at $17.19. Uber took a similar hit, tumbling from $39.68 back on February 18 to $16.24 on Wednesday.

      Market analysts at CNBC point out that no one in the travel segment is immune since the government is asking people to lay low and avoid non-essential travel. American Airlines has gone from $28.51 a share a month ago to $12.39; United Airlines was roaring a month ago at $79.14 a share and, now, it’s at a third of that value at $24.

      Is help on the way?

      At a news conference on Tuesday, both Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Trump said airlines were due to get loan guarantees in the White House’s most recent proposal. Trump added that he was in communication with the major airlines regarding aid and that the “airline industry will be in good shape.”

      However, to date, there’s no word on financial aid for other travel-related companies -- like ride-sharing and cruise lines. However, Mnuchin did say that hotels were part of the loan guarantees written into the Trump administration’s relief package.

      Uber and Lyft are suffering a double whammy thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The news of the companies pausing their carpooling service coupled with few...
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2019 Arteons

      The brake booster pressure rod may be installed incorrectly

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 732 model year 2019 Arteons.

      The electronic brake booster pressure input rod may be installed incorrectly, possibly causing an increased actuating force or a disconnected input rod.

      An increased actuating force or a disconnected input rod may affect braking, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and correct the mounting of the pressure rod only or replace the electronic brake booster and mounting of the pressure rod -- depending of the inspection results -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 5th, 2020.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 47P8.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 732 model year 2019 Arteons. The electronic brake booster pressure input rod may be installed incorrectly, poss...
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      Ecoideas recalls chocolate cake mix and pancakes mixes

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Ecoideas Innovation is recalling its own brand of Chocolate Cake Mix, Brown Rice Pancakes Mix and Buckwheat Pancakes Mix.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There are no reported illnesses

      The following products, sold throughout Canada, are being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodes
      EcoideasChocolate Cake Mix454 g8 75405 00243 6

      Lot # 43619305
      BB: 10/31/2021

      and

      Lot #: 43620050
      BB: 02/28/2022

      EcoideasBrown Rice Pancakes Mix454 g8 75405 00242 9Lot #: 42920034
      BB: 01/31/2022
      EcoideasBuckwheat Pancakes Mix454 g8 75405 00241 2

      Lot #: 41219304
      BB: 10/31/2021

      and

      Lot #: 41220030
      BB: 01/30/2022

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (888)735-7258 or by email at info@ecoideas.ca

      Ecoideas Innovation is recalling its own brand of Chocolate Cake Mix, Brown Rice Pancakes Mix and Buckwheat Pancakes Mix. The products may be contaminat...
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      Airlines contemplate a complete shutdown of domestic service due to coronavirus

      A ban is not out of the realm of possibility

      After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. airlines were grounded for several days and then saw a huge drop in business. The coronavirus (COVID-19) is creating a similar situation.

      Airlines have scrambled to cancel flights as consumers have increasingly shunned air travel over fears of getting the virus. Now, airlines are actually contemplating the idea of canceling all U.S. flights.

      In the last week, the U.S. government has taken steps to discourage, and even prevent, large congregations of people in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

      Such a ban on domestic air travel -- at least temporarily -- is not out of the realm of possibility. Airline executives interviewed by CNBC said they don’t believe a ban on air travel will happen anytime soon, but it’s something they’re taking into consideration.

      President Trump has said that Americans should avoid unnecessary travel. On Monday, the government increased its 30-day ban on most European travelers to the UK and Ireland. U.S. airlines have already reduced flights and are expected to park even more jets.

      Bookings in freefall

      Airlines have seen bookings plunge in the last two weeks. Last week, the CEO of JetBlue said the drop in business was worse than in the wake of 9/11. Other airlines executives agreed.

      “We are working night and day on support and ideas to keep as much pay as we possibly can flowing to you — even if [it] gets worse from here and demand temporarily plummets to zero,” United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby said in a joint statement.

      To understand the damage that has been done so far, United says its March revenue may be as much as $1.5 billion lower than a year earlier. The company said it will slash capacity by 50 percent in April and May, cuts it expects to extend to the summer travel season. 

      Meanwhile, United is trying to reduce its expenses. It’s reportedly in talks with union officials to find ways to reduce its payroll.

      The airlines say they have to take some steps to deal with the plunge in business. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said capacity might have to be cut another 40 percent in the coming months. He’s hoping for help from the government.

      “We are in discussions with the White House and Congress regarding the support they can provide to help us through this period. I’m optimistic we will receive their support,” Bastian said. “That said, the form and value is unpredictable, and we can’t put our company’s future at risk waiting on aid from our government.”

      Pilots seek government help

      In a letter to President Trump and congressional leaders, Joseph DePete, president of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), asked for a coordinated response to bolster the airline industry and pledged the union’s assistance.

      “ALPA members recognize that stabilizing the U.S. airline industry and restoring its indispensable role as a driver for America’s economy and supply chain is critical—as is protecting the hard-working Americans who make it possible,” he wrote. 

      But DePete also said any economic relief package must contain strong labor protections for the airline employees affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

      After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. airlines were grounded for several days and then saw a huge drop in business. The coronavirus (COVID-...
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      Trump administration pitches $850 billion stimulus package to stave off coronavirus-driven economic downturn

      Lawmakers are working diligently to ensure that consumers have access to essential goods and services

      The White House is calling on Congress to give its OK to an economic stimulus package totaling nearly $850 billion in hopes of stemming the economic nosedive produced by the coronavirus pandemic.

      Officials familiar with the particulars of the package told the Washington Post that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will make the Trump administration’s pitch to Senate Republicans later Tuesday.  

      The Post’s contacts said the package would be focused mainly on pumping cash into the economy, possibly via a payroll tax cut. Some $50 billion is earmarked exclusively for the hard-hit airline industry. Also on the table, according to officials, is financial assistance for small businesses and their employees.

      Got your calculator handy?

      If you’re following the bouncing decimal point the Administration is exercising to try and keep life as usual, the proposed $850 billion comes on top of the previously announced $8.3 billion plan to combat the virus and the proposed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was designed to give U.S. citizens food assistance, unemployment benefits, and free healthcare on anything related to the coronavirus.

      On Monday, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) introduced additional legislation in the House aimed at providing more than $3 billion in emergency funding to help education programs ranging from early childhood through college so they can be insulated from interruptions like access to meals and technology caused by the pandemic. 

      The White House is calling on Congress to give its OK to an economic stimulus package totaling nearly $850 billion in hopes of stemming the economic nosedi...
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      FDA cuts more red tape to speed coronavirus testing

      Test kit marketers can sell their products before getting FDA approval

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is revising more regulations to speed the development of test kits to detect the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      The new rules will allow private companies to immediately begin marketing test kits to the public before getting permission from the FDA, as previously required. FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said the agency will review the companies’ applications and supporting test data after the fact -- something he admits carries some element of risk. But he says these are extraordinary times.

      “We are taking steps to support diagnostic development considering the urgent need,” Hahn said in a statement. “We urge state authorities and commercial developers to take all necessary steps to ensure the availability of accurate tests. Inaccurate diagnoses during a pandemic can impair prevention efforts and delay appropriate treatment for sick patients.”

      Hahn compares the latest regulatory step to one the agency took earlier when it allowed the New York State Health Department to take responsibility for testing within its borders. The new rules extend that same authority to the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.

      More state control

      States will now be able to authorize the use of specific tests without the laboratories having to engage with Washington. The goal is to get as many test kits into the hands of the public as quickly as possible.

      The FDA has recognized the urgent need for more testing. Last week, it granted emergency approval to a kit developed by Roche Holdings AG, which has already been distributed to laboratories and is now in use.

      “We believe the unprecedented policy set forth in today’s updated guidance, which addresses laboratories and commercial manufacturers, will help address these urgent public health concerns by helping to expand the number and variety of diagnostic tests, as well as available testing capabilities in health care settings, and reference and commercial laboratories,” Hahn said.

      Hahn said the FDA has engaged with more than 100 test developers since the end of January and provided templates and advice about the process. He said more than 80 developers have reached out to the agency for assistance with the development and validation of their products.

      Health agencies around the country have complained about a shortage of test kits, particularly in states with a large number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is revising more regulations to speed the development of test kits to detect the coronavirus (COVID-19).The new...
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      FAA mounts investigation of Boeing 737 after 12-inch crack appears on the fuselage’s skin

      The problem has happened before on older 737 aircraft

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has opened an investigation after an in-flight episode involving one of Southwest’s Boeing 737 jets.

      As a result of a Las Vegas-Boise flight losing cabin pressure, the FAA’s inspection of the aircraft uncovered a 12-inch crack on the fuselage’s crown skin.

      The area where the crack was located is subject to mandatory inspections every 1,500 flight cycles. A flight cycle is the operation of an engine from the time an aircraft leaves the ground until it touches the ground at the end of a flight. A report in the Wall Street Journal claims the FAA was investigating the likelihood of structural problems affecting other Boeing 737 jets. 

      “The aircraft was taken out of service and is currently in maintenance receiving repairs,” Southwest said in a statement responding to the situation.

      A repeat performance?

      Boeing has been through an eerily similar situation before -- not only with its 737 but also with 757 model aircraft.

      In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that a factory error led to a crack in the fuselage skin of a Boeing 757, causing a sudden mid-flight decompression with 160 people aboard. 

      In 2011, a similar situation on a Southwest flight involving a 737 led the NTSB to discover fatigue cracks “emanating from at least 42 of the 58 rivet holes connected by the fracture,” according to FlightSafety.org. That particular jet had close to 40,000 flight cycles at the time. After that incident, a Southwest Airlines investigation found that three other 737s also showed “crack indications.” 

      As a result of those incidents, FlightSafety said Boeing called on the airlines to do a further inspection of fasteners in the crown skin area. The FAA followed that move by mandating an inspection.

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has opened an investigation after an in-flight episode involving one of Southwest’s Boeing 737 jets.As a resu...
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      Jeep Wranglers and Gladiators with manual transmissions recalled

      The clutch pressure plate may overheat

      Chrysler is recalling 33,237 model year 2018-2020 Jeep Wranglers and model year 2020 Gladiators with manual transmissions.

      The clutch pressure plate may overheat and fracture.

      The overheated clutch components may increase the risk of a fire. Additionally, damage to other nearby components can result in debris falling onto the road or a loss of drive, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The recall is expected to begin April 22, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W12.

      Chrysler is recalling 33,237 model year 2018-2020 Jeep Wranglers and model year 2020 Gladiators with manual transmissions.The clutch pressure plate may...
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      Sentury Tire Thailand recalls tires with sidewall weakness

      The sidewall may separate from the tire

      Sentury Tire Thailand is recalling 6,188 of the following tires:

      • Delinte DX11 tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 3617 through 2219;
      • Lionhart Lionclaw HT tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4617 through 2518;
      • Lexani LXHT206 tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4617 through 5018;
      • Patriot Patriot HT tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 2518 through 2618;
      • Landsail CLX11, tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 2917 through 1618;
      • Wild Spirit Wild Spirit HST tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4617 through 2618; and
      • Pantera Supertrac HT tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4717 through 2418.

      Due to a manufacturing issue, the sidewall may separate from the tire.

      Sidewall separation can lead to tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Sentury Tire will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin by April 27, 2020.

      Owners may contact Sentury Tire at (866) 305-2750. Sentury Tire's number for this recall is 2750.

      Sentury Tire Thailand is recalling 6,188 of the following tires: Delinte DX11 tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 3617 through 2219; Lionha...
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      Yamaha Guitar Group recalls digital wireless equipment for electric guitars

      The lithium-ion battery can overheat

      Yamaha Guitar Group of Calabasas, Calif, is recalling about 86,700 Line 6 Relay G10 Digital Wireless Guitar Systems and USB charging cables sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The lithium-ion battery can overheat and the battery cover can separate with force, posing fire and injury hazards.

      The firm is aware of four incidents worldwide of the battery cover separating forcefully from the transmitter, including one report of minor property damage. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Line 6 Relay G10, G10S (G10SR), and G10T Digital Wireless Guitar System (G10 Family of Products) that allows an electric guitar to be connected wirelessly to an amplifier.

      The system consists of a transmitter, a receiver, and a charger. The receivers have both a 1/4” and XLR output to connect to an amplifier or other audio equipment. The products are black in color.

      The Relay G10T transmitter is stamped “Relay G10” and has a four-digit date code followed by a six-digit individual serial number.

      G10

      G10S (G10SR)

      G10T

      Serial ####

      Serial ###

      Serial ###

      6601000001

      6736000001

      6640000001

      The Relay G10T transmitter, manufactured in China, was sold at Guitar Center, Sweetwater Sound, Musicians Friend, Sam Ash, and other small retailers nationwide and online at Amazon.com from March 2016, through December 2019, for about $180 for the G10, $250 for the G10S, $100 for the G10T and about $15 for the USB charging cable.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled products and contact Yamaha to receive a free repair for the G10 Family of Products, and a full refund for the G10T USB charging cable.

      Consumers may contact Yamaha toll-free at (877) 865-4636 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PT), Monday through Friday, or online at www.line6.com and click on “Relay 610 Corrective Action” at the bottom of the page or www.line6.com/g10recall for information on how to download a firmware update for the G10 Family of Products and to get a refund for the charging cable.

      Yamaha Guitar Group of Calabasas, Calif, is recalling about 86,700 Line 6 Relay G10 Digital Wireless Guitar Systems and USB charging cables sold in the U.S...
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      American Airlines and Delta put more international flights on-hold due to COVID-19

      The airlines’ commitment to traveler safety and no-charge rebooking continues

      American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have put into place an additional suspension of long-haul international flights from the U.S. due to decreased demand and government-imposed travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

      American Airlines

      American’s cut-back runs through May 6. The essence of its reduction in flights is as follows:

      • Operate one flight daily from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to London-Heathrow (LHR)

      • Operate one flight daily from Miami (MIA) to London-Heathrow (LHR)

      • Operate three flights per week from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Tokyo (NRT)

      • Continue currently scheduled short-haul international flying -- including flights to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, and certain markets in the northern part of South America.

      “American will continue to take care of customers as this situation develops,” the airline said in a statement. The airline’s offer to waive change fees for customers who purchased tickets prior to March 15 for travel to Europe, including the United Kingdom or Ireland, through May 31 remains in place.

      American says that travelers who have booked flights that are part of the cancellations will be contacted directly by phone or email. For a full list of the affected routes, visit the company’s website here.

      Delta Air Lines

      Delta’s cutbacks are pretty much a mirrored reflection of American’s reduction on U.S. to Europe and the United Kingdom routes. Its reduction in flights is as follows, effective Monday:

      • One flight daily Atlanta (ATL) to Amsterdam (LHR)

      • One flight daily Atlanta (ATL) to London-Heathrow (AMS)

      • One flight daily Atlanta (ATL) to Paris-Charles De Gaulle (CDG)

      • One flight daily Detroit (DET) to Amsterdam (AMS)

      • One flight daily New York-JFK (JFK) to London-Heathrow (LHR)

      • Delta will also temporarily suspend service between New York-JFK (JFK) and Mumbai (BOM) starting Tuesday, March 17

      • Service between Atlanta (ATL) and New York-JFK (JFK) to African destinations South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria will continue

      • As far as Delta’s partnerships with Air France, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic, the airline said Air France and KLM plan to continue their own operations to approved Centers for Disease Control (CDC) U.S. airports and are closely coordinating with Delta and Virgin Atlantic as adjustments are made. 

        • The CDC-approved airports are: Atlanta (ATL), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Detroit (DTW), Newark (EWR), Honolulu (HNL), New York-JFK (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington-Dulles (IAD). 

      In an email to Delta awards program members, the airline’s president, Ed Bastian, said that the company is doing everything it can to “make it easier to adjust travel plans. We know customers trying to contact us are experiencing extremely long wait times, and we are continuing to do everything possible to address your needs as we work through a solution.” 

      As far as changing or rebooking a Delta flight, the airline is allowing any ticket expiring in March or April to be extended to enable rebooking and travel until Dec. 31, 2020. 

      For a complete list of Delta’s affected routes, readers can view the company’s updated list here.

      American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have put into place an additional suspension of long-haul international flights from the U.S. due to decreased demand...
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      Google is deploying multiple resources against the coronavirus

      But the website described by President Trump on Friday may take a while

      Google is among the American corporations that the White House has deployed as allies in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      Though Trump’s assertion that Google is building a website to guide consumers to proper resources was disputed by some within the company, Alphabet (Google’s parent) CEO Sundar Pichai says a website is part of the company’s arsenal.

      “We’re partnering with the U.S. government in developing a website dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention, and local resources nationwide,” Pichai wrote on Google’s blog..”This includes best practices on prevention, links to authoritative information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and helpful tips and tools from Google for individuals, teachers, and businesses.”

      Pichai says the initial website is expected to roll out later today and will be enhanced and updated with more resources on an ongoing basis. It’s unclear whether one of those resources will direct consumers to the nearest testing location, as Trump suggested on Friday.

      Pilot project

      However, Alphabet’s Verily, a technology company focused on health, is partnering with California officials to develop a website to help establish testing sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s also working on an online tool to increase risk screening and testing for people at high risk of COVID-19. 

      California residents will be able to take an online COVID-19 screener survey through Verily’s Project Baseline, and eligible participants will be directed to mobile testing sites based on capacity. While Verily is in the early stages of this pilot program, Pichai says the plan is to expand to other locations over time.

      But Pichai says that’s only one thing Google will offer consumers who are concerned about getting or spreading the coronavirus. It’s currently promoting its “Do The Five” campaign, which gives consumers five simple steps suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce their chances of getting sick.

      “In the first 24 hours, these tips have already been seen by millions in the U.S.,” Pichai said. “We’ve added more useful information to our COVID-19 SOS Alerts, including links to national health authority sites and a map of affected areas from the WHO.”

      Going after misinformation

      The Google boss also said the search giant is taking steps to weed out misinformation. Pichai says the company is already taking down false information on YouTube, Google Maps, and in advertisements.

      In particular, YouTube is targeting videos that promote medically unproven methods to prevent coronavirus and messages that offer products in place of medical treatment. 

      Google Maps’ automated and manual review systems are removing false and potentially harmful content such as fake reviews and misleading information about healthcare locations. 

      Google says its “sensitive events policy” blocks ads that try to capitalize on natural disasters and other tragic events. The company has been using that policy to remove “hundreds of thousands” of ads since January that have tried to capitalize on the outbreak. Since last week, it has blocked all ads for medical masks and respirators.

      Google is among the American corporations that the White House has deployed as allies in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).Though Trump’s as...
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      Apple slapped with €1.1 billion fine, France’s largest antitrust penalty ever

      The company says it plans to fight the sanction

      Apple is quickly learning not to mess with France. On Monday, French antitrust officials ordered the tech company to pay a fine of €1.1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) for what France considers anti-competitive practices.

      The new fine comes only weeks after France fined Apple €25 million for its iPhone slowdown fiasco.

      Creating cartels

      The French Competition Authority -- Autorité de la concurrence -- claimed that Apple’s offense was the creation of cartels within its distribution network and the abuse of economic dependence on its “Premium” independent resellers. Those wholesalers are Tech Data and Ingram Micro, which were also fined €76.1 million ($79.68 million) and €62.9 million ($69.99 million), respectively, for their role in the cartel practices.

      “During this case, the Authority deciphered the very specific practices that had been implemented by Apple for the distribution of its products in France (excluding iPhones), such as the iPad,” Isabelle de Silva, President of the French Competition Authority, wrote.

      “First, Apple and its two wholesalers agreed not to compete and prevent distributors from competing with each other, thereby sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products. Secondly, so-called Premium distributors could not safely carry out promotions or lower prices, which led to an alignment of retail prices between Apple's integrated distributors and independent Premium distributors.”

      The war of words begins

      The message the Authority sent certainly had to get Big Tech’s attention. The fine Apple was slapped with is the highest penalty ever imposed on a company doing business in France. 

      “Apple had committed an abuse of economic dependence on its premium retailers, a practice which the Authority considers to be particularly serious,” de Silva said.

      “The French Competition Authority’s decision is disheartening,” an Apple spokesperson told CNBC. “It relates to practices from over a decade ago and discards 30 years of legal precedent that all companies in France rely on with an order that will cause chaos for companies across all industries. We strongly disagree with them and plan to appeal.”

      Apple is quickly learning not to mess with France. On Monday, French antitrust officials ordered the tech company to pay a fine of €1.1 billion euros ($1.2...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2020 Versas

      The fuel tank wall is insufficiently thick

      Nissan North America is recalling 46 model year 2020 Versas.

      Due to a manufacturing issue, the fuel tank wall thickness may be insufficient, potentially causing a small hole in the tank seam area.

      If a small hole is present, a fuel leak may occur if the operator fills the tank over half full, increasing the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel tank free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 23, 2020.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 867-7669.

      Nissan North America is recalling 46 model year 2020 Versas. Due to a manufacturing issue, the fuel tank wall thickness may be insufficient, potentially...
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      Sports world faces mass cancellations due to coronavirus outbreak

      Tournaments, seasons, and events have been suspended to prevent the disease from spreading

      The world of professional sports is competitive, but it seems that many of the top leagues were running in unison on Thursday in announcing the suspension and cancellation of events across the U.S.

      After being told that they would not be able to attend an event like the NCAA tournament a day or two earlier, fans were shocked again to find out that many of the top leagues across multiple sports were pressing the pause button until the coronavirus outbreak is under control. Below is a list of how each organization and league is responding to the spread of COVID-19.

      National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

      On Thursday, the NCAA announced that it would be canceling the annual men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that take place during “March Madness.” 

      National Basketball Association (NBA)

      The NBA felt the first true shock of COVID-19 on Wednesday when a game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was canceled just before tip-off because Utah center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus. 

      On Thursday, the league announced later that night that it would be suspending the rest of the regular season until further notice.

      Major League Baseball (MLB) 

      The MLB has announced on Thursday that it will be suspending all spring training games and delaying the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. That will push Opening Day to March 26 if the schedule remains as it is now. 

      In a statement, the league said it would “remain flexible” depending on how events transpire and will look to resume “normal operations as soon as possible.”

      National Hockey League (NHL)

      Like the MLB, the NHL announced on Thursday that it would be suspending games immediately in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The regular season for the sport was beginning to wrap up before the announcement, with only three and half weeks remaining before playoff hockey. 

      National Football League (NFL)

      With the playoffs ending in February and the preseason still months away, the NFL has not yet announced that it will be canceling or delaying the start of the upcoming season. 

      Major League Soccer (MLS) 

      The MLS has elected to suspend its season for 30 days in light of the outbreak, and the United States Soccer Federation has canceled men’s and women’s friendly matches. 

      Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) 

      The ATP has suspended play for six weeks over coronavirus concerns, and the Women’s Tennis Association has canceled the Volvo Car Open that was scheduled to begin on April 4.

      PGA Tour (Golf)

      Late Thursday, the PGA Tour announced that it would be canceling the Players Championship. It also plans to cancel the next three events on the tour schedule, including the Vaspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Championship, and the Valero Texas Open.

      National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)

      NASCAR has elected not to cancel its next two scheduled races, but the organization will not be allowing fans to attend the events. 

      The world of professional sports is competitive, but it seems that many of the top leagues were running in unison on Thursday in announcing the suspension...
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      Being grateful for what you have may not help with anxiety or depression symptoms

      Researchers suggest consumers seek out other methods to benefit their mental health

      Many consumers struggle with anxiety and depression, and now researchers from Ohio State University found one practice that may not be helpful for those coping with mental health issues: gratitude. 

      While incorporating a gratitude practice is certainly beneficial for other reasons, the researchers found that when it comes to anxiety and depression, gratitude may not help in improving related symptoms. 

      “For years now, we have heard in the media and elsewhere about how finding ways to increase gratitude can help make us happier and healthier in so many ways,” said researcher David Cregg. “But when it comes to one supposed benefit of these interventions -- helping with symptoms of anxiety and depression -- they really seem to have limited value.” 

      Limitations of a gratitude practice

      To better understand what effect a gratitude practice can have on anxiety or depression, the researchers analyzed nearly 30 different studies that included over 3,600 participants. 

      In the studies the researchers evaluated, participants completed a daily activity related to gratitude. Most of these activities had participants reflect on what in their lives they’re grateful for. After assessing the participants’ mental health, the researchers learned that the gratitude practices weren’t effective in helping them cope with anxiety or depression. 

      “Based on our results, telling people who are feeling depressed and anxious to be more grateful likely won’t result in the kind of reductions in depression and anxiety we would want to see,” said researcher Jennifer Cheavens. “It might be that these sort of interventions, on their own, aren’t powerful enough or that people have difficulty enacting them fully when they are feeling depressed or anxious.” 

      Better treatments

      The researchers recommend more rigorous treatments that could better benefit those struggling with anxiety and depression. Similarly, recent studies have found that remaining hopeful is a key component to coping with anxiety and depression. 

      However, the team doesn’t want to downplay the positives associated with practicing gratitude. Though it wasn’t so effective in improving anxiety and depression, there is an upside to being more grateful. 

      “It is good to be more grateful -- it has intrinsic virtue and there’s evidence that people who have gratitude as a general trait have a lower incidence of mental health problems and better relationships,” said Cregg. 

      Many consumers struggle with anxiety and depression, and now researchers from Ohio State University found one practice that may not be helpful for those co...
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      Crashing oil prices send gas prices sharply lower

      Experts say prices could go down even more in the days ahead

      When Saudi Arabia slashed the price of oil a week ago, it sent a shock wave through the economy but gave motorists a gift -- sharply lower gasoline prices.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.30 a gallon, down 10 cents in the last week. The price is now 21 cents less than a year ago. The average price of premium gas is $2.93 a gallon, eight cents less than last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.77, six cents less than seven days ago.

      The one-week price drops in some states have been nothing short of dramatic. The statewide average price is down 14 cents a gallon in both Illinois and Indiana, making the latter one of the 10 cheapest states for gas prices.

      The average price is lower by 11 cents a gallon in Oklahoma, 10 cents in South Carolina, and nine cents in Missouri. The statewide average price in Texas has fallen below $2 a gallon for the first time in years.

      AAA notes that the steep price drop has occurred while U.S. stockpiles of gasoline have declined in the last week and demand has increased.

      “Shrinking gas stocks amid rising demand would typically put upward pressure on gasoline prices; however, cheap crude prices have helped to push gas prices lower than expected,” AAA said in its latest market update.”If crude prices remain low, American motorists will likely see continued relief at the pump during the run-up to spring as the world grapples with how to contain the global public health threat and financial risks associated with COVID-19.”

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.53)

      • California ($3.39)

      • Washington ($3.05)

      • Oregon ($2.95) 

      • Alaska ($2.91)

      • Nevada ($2.85)

      • Arizona ($2.70)

      • Idaho ($2.55)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.53)

      • New York ($2.53) 

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Texas ($1.99)

      • Oklahoma ($2.02)

      • Mississippi ($2.03)

      • South Carolina ($2.03)

      • Missouri ($2.04)

      • Louisiana ($2.05)

      • Alabama ($2.06)

      • Arkansas ($2.08)

      • Indiana ($2.08)

      • Kansas ($2.09)

      When Saudi Arabia slashed the price of oil a week ago, it sent a shock wave through the economy but gave motorists a gift -- sharply lower gasoline prices....
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      Sobeys and Foodland brand Asian Vegetable Mix recalled

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Sobeys is recalling Sobeys and Foodland brand Asian Vegetable Mix that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There are no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

      The following products, sold in Canada's Ontario province, are being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodes
      SobeysAsian Vegetable MixVariableStarts with 208066Up to and including
      BB: 2020MR15
      FoodlandAsian Vegetable MixVariableStarts with 208066Up to and including
      BB: 2020MR15

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions contact the company toll free at (888) 821-5557 Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (EST) or by email at customer.care.ontario@sobeys.com.

      Sobeys is recalling Sobeys and Foodland brand Asian Vegetable Mix that may be contaminated with Salmonella. There are no reported illnesses associated w...
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      House Democrats propose ambitious Families First Coronavirus Response Act

      Everyone and everything is included in the package -- from food assistance to unemployment benefits

      In the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, House Democrats have set in motion the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, legislation designed to reinforce the federal government’s response to the outbreak and address the more serious effects of the coronavirus on Americans’ financial security and personal safety.

      The legislation piggybacks on the $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus spending package President Trump signed into law on March 6. That package includes waivers for Medicare telehealth restrictions, loans for small businesses impacted by the epidemic, and funds to help healthcare providers meet the unprecedented challenges of the virus.

      “While the $8.3 billion coronavirus supplemental we enacted into law was a crucial step that stabilized our public health system, more support for working families is clearly needed,” said Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY). “House Democrats’ new legislation puts working families first by providing new resources and more protections as our country faces this public health emergency.”

      The details

      The proposed legislation provides a long but important list of enhancements for the public, including:

      • Free coronavirus testing

        • This part of the proposal requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center, and emergency room visits in order to receive testing -- at no cost to the consumer. 

      • Unemployment and emergency paid leave benefits where eligible workers will receive:

        • A benefit for a month (up to three months) in which they must take 14 or more days of leave from their work due to the qualifying COVID-19-related reasons.

        • Days when an individual receives pay from their employer (regular wages, sick pay, or other paid time off) or unemployment compensation do not count as leave days for purposes of this benefit.

      • The expansion of food assistance for vulnerable children and families, including:

        • $500 million to provide access to nutritious foods for low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.

        • $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) which will  assist local food banks to meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Of that $400 million, $300 million is for the purchase of nutritious foods and $100 million is to support the storage and distribution of the foods. 

      “The provisions in this bill for feeding programs like CR-SNAP will help make sure kids, the elderly, and the working poor have the opportunity to get the food they need in the event of a sustained disruption to their normal routines,” said Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN).

      Making sure everyone is included

      The legislators behind the bill feel that if COVID-19 continues to spread like it’s expected to, it will present increasingly critical challenges for students, workers, and families alike. 

      “We must deliver a bold and targeted response to support communities through this public health crisis,” said Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA). 

      “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides our constituents the health coverage, food assistance, and financial support they need to cope with the widespread consequences of this pandemic. This legislation reflects our responsibility to stand with the American people as we confront this national emergency.”

      In the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, House Democrats have set in motion the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, legislation designed to reinforce...
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      Most people won’t have to pay their federal taxes by April 15th

      Because of the coronavirus, the deadline is being extended

      Taxpayers won’t have to pay taxes they owe by the April 15th deadline, thanks to an emergency declaration from the White House.

      President Trump announced the reprieve, saying the delay in payment would keep more money in Americans’ pockets at a time when they’re coping with the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19). It wasn’t immediately clear whether taxpayers would still have to file their tax returns by the deadline.

      The announcement came Wednesday night in an Oval Office address in which the president said he would use his emergency authority to give individuals and some businesses more time to pay the taxes they owe if they have suffered “adverse effects” from the coronavirus.

      However, when he addressed a House committee earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the reprieve would apply to nearly everyone, except for large corporations and the “super-rich.”

      Mnuchin also said the delay would keep about $200 billion in consumers’ pockets and company coffers to deal with the economic hardships the virus may cause. He told lawmakers the administration could act without having to get Congress’ approval, though there is evidence that the approval might have been granted anyway.

      Democrats on board

      Two Democratic senators -- Patty Murray from Washington and Bob Menendez from New Jersey -- urged the White House to take the action, saying Americans shouldn’t have to worry about filing their taxes during a health crisis.

      “Given the growing nationwide concerns regarding the potential spread and the resulting economic and public health impact of such an outbreak, we urge you to act quickly and remove one source of stress that individuals face during the crisis,” the lawmakers wrote.

      At the same time, taxpayers who are owed a tax refund should go ahead and file a return to get their money. Presumably, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will process returns normally.

      The president is also taking emergency action to provide financial aid to people who have not been able to work because they have either become ill or are under quarantine. Trump said he would work with Congress to appropriate additional money for that use.

      Taxpayers won’t have to pay taxes they owe by the April 15th deadline, thanks to an emergency declaration from the White House.President Trump announce...
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      NCAA bans fans from ‘March Madness’ arenas

      The NBA has also suspended the rest of the 2020 season after a player tested positive for COVID-19

      For the first time ever, “March Madness,” the NCAA basketball tournament, will be played in nearly empty arenas to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The NCAA has ruled that, as a precaution, only limited family members of players and coaches will be permitted to watch the action from the bleachers.

      Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association (NBA) shocked the sports world Wednesday night when it suspended the remainder of the 2020 season. The league took the action after a player on the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for COVID-19.

      The actions by the collegiate and professional basketball leagues are a precaution taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) as other events gathering large numbers of people are being canceled or postponed.

      NCAA President Mark Emmert said he consulted with a number of public health officials and the league’s COVID-19 advisory panel about a proper course of action.

      “I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” Emmert said in a statement. “While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.”

      Various conference tournaments, which started Wednesday, were also affected by the spectator ban. The Ivy League took the additional step of canceling its tournament, and the Big Ten, SEC, and American leagues have followed suit.

      Best interest of public safety

      Emmert said he thinks the decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, the players on the floor.

      “We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families,” he said. “Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

      The statement did not say whether fans who have purchased tickets to tournament games well in advance will receive refunds. Presumably, they will, although the current NCAA policy makes that far from clear.

      Ticket refunds

      “If the event is canceled, we ask you to send us a request for reimbursement, accompanied by your name and the order number,” Ticketmaster says on its website. “We will cancel the order in your name and the amount you have paid will be paid to the credit card with which you have made the purchase by the deadline.”

      Stubhub, a marketplace for second-hand ticket sales, says its FanProtect Guarantee protects every purchase.

      “The ticket you’ve purchased on our site will get you into the event or your money back,” the company said. Late Wednesday, a Stubhub spokesman confirmed to ConsumerAffairs that the FanProtect Guarantee covers the new NCAA tournament policy.

      The businesses in the tournaments’ host cities will not likely be as lucky. Thousands of free-spending fans normally descend on these cities, spending money in bars, restaurants, hotels, and with Uber drivers and airlines.

      Yahoo Finance calls March Madness “the NCAA’s bread and butter,” generating $1 billion in revenue, though a sizable portion of that is for TV rights, which become all the more important for fans who can’t see the games in person.

      For the men’s tournament teams will be selected on Sunday. Tournament games, starting next week, will be televised by CBS, TBS, TNT, and True TV.

      For the first time ever, “March Madness,” the NCAA basketball tournament, will be played in nearly empty arenas to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (C...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicle

      The high-voltage battery may fail

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2019 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicle.

      A welded joint within the high-voltage battery main cell conductors may detach and interrupt electrical contact, resulting in sudden battery failure. The detached weld may also cause an electrical arc which can ignite inside the battery cells.

      If the high-voltage battery fails, the vehicle may stall, increasing the risk of a crash. In addition, an electrical arc inside the battery increases the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify the owner, and a dealer will replace the high-voltage battery free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2019 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicle. A welded joint within the high-voltage battery main cell...
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      Dole Fresh Vegetables recalls H-E-B-brand Tuscan Herb Salad Kit

      The product may contain peanut, wheat, soy and tree nuts, allergens not declared on the label

      Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling H-E-B-brand Tuscan Herb Salad Kits.

      The product may contain peanut, wheat, soy and tree nuts, allergens not declared on the label.

      No illnesses or allergic reactions are reported, to date.

      The following product, sold at H-E-B stores across Texas, is being recalled:

      Product Name and UPCCode on PackagingBest-By Date
      H-E-B-branded Tuscan Herb Chopped Salad
      0-41220-40989-1
      B055014 and B055015MAR 11 2020

      The product code and best-by date are located on the top right corner of the front of the salad bag.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, and call the Dole consumer center toll-free at (800) 356-3111, 24 hours a day for a refund.

      Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling H-E-B-brand Tuscan Herb Salad Kits. The product may contain peanut, wheat, soy and tree nuts, allergens not declared ...
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      Ford issues another recall for model year 2019 Ford Rangers

      The HVAC blower motor could overheat, melt or smoke

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 5,800 model year 2019 Ford Rangers.

      The recalled vehicles had the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) blower motor replaced in an earlier recall.

      The replacement part used for that service may have been built with an improper clearance between an electrical terminal and the conductive base-plate slot that could result in a resistive electrical short.

      This condition can increase the risk of the HVAC blower motor overheating, melting, smoking or causing a fire.

      Ford says it has not received any reports of accident, injury or fire.

      What to do

      Ford will contact owners, and dealers will inspect the HVAC blower-motor date code. Blower motors built within the suspect time frame will be replaced free of charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S12.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 5,800 model year 2019 Ford Rangers. The recalled vehicles had the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)...
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      SEC directs DC staff to work from home due to coronavirus

      The agency is the latest employer to take steps to mitigate the spread of the outbreak

      The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is one of the first government agencies to request that all of its Washington, DC personnel work from home as a means to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

      A soldier at nearby Ft. Myer, Va. tested positive for the virus, but the directive was the result of an SEC employee being diagnosed with the illness on Monday.

      "Late this afternoon, the SEC was informed that a Washington, DC Headquarters employee was treated for respiratory symptoms today (Monday)," an agency spokesperson said in a statement. "The employee was informed by a physician that the employee may have the coronavirus and was referred for testing."

      Because of that, the SEC then directed all employees to work from home this week. Telecommuting has quickly become a means for companies and organizations to deal with the virus.

      Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other major corporations have encouraged employees to opt for telecommuting. All have headquarters in Washington state, where the most U.S. virus cases have been confirmed.

      Expanding the policy

      Google took the added step this week of expanding the work-at-home suggestion to all offices in North America. Other major employers, such as Microsoft, Lyft, and Box, have taken additional steps to reduce the number of people in the office.

      Lyft and Uber have said they plan to compensate their independent contractor drivers if they get the virus or can’t work because they are quarantined. 

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged employers to have strategies ready to protect their employees. Tech companies, especially, have had an easier time shifting to off-site work.

      Starbucks canceled its stockholders’ meeting last week and instead scheduled an online meeting so that shareholders could participate from remote locations.

      The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is one of the first government agencies to request that all of its Washington, DC personnel work from home as...
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      CDC warns consumers about listeria outbreak connected to enoki mushrooms

      The agency advises consumers to return the tainted products or throw them away

      While the world around us is swirling with coronavirus-related news, there’s also reports that a new listeria contamination connected to enoki mushrooms has caused four deaths and the hospitalization of 36 others across 17 states.

      The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the recalled mushrooms are distributed by Sun Hong Foods and have “the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death.” The agency advises consumers to take extra precautions, even if the mushrooms do not look or smell spoiled.

      Advice for consumers

      The CDC provided guidelines that consumers, food service operators, and retailers should all take. That advice is listed below.

      • Do not eat, serve, or sell any recalled enoki mushrooms distributed by Sun Hong Foods.

        • Check your refrigerator for recalled enoki mushrooms and return them to the purchase location or throw them away.

        • Do not eat any food made with recalled enoki mushrooms, even if some was consumed and no one became sick.

        • If the packaging says “Product of Korea,” it’s best to avoid the product until investigators determine if additional products are linked to illness.

      • Wash and sanitize any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with the recalled enoki mushrooms. Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

      • Call your healthcare provider if you have consumed recalled enoki mushrooms and are experiencing symptoms of a Listeria infection.

      Any consumer who’s purchased any Sun Hong Foods Inc. mushrooms and has questions can contact the company at 1-323-597-1112. Monday - Friday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM and Saturday 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM PST.

      While the world around us is swirling with coronavirus-related news, there’s also reports that a new listeria contamination connected to enoki mushrooms ha...
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      Pepsico is purchasing energy drink maker Rockstar

      The acquisition strengthens Pepsico’s position in the fast-growing energy drink category

      As consumers’ thirst for carbonated beverages continues its decline, Pepsico, the maker of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, is moving to fortify its beverage portfolio with a major energy drink brand.

      The food and beverage giant has announced the acquisition of Rockstar Energy Beverages for $3.85 billion. 

      "As we work to be more consumer-centric and capitalize on rising demand in the functional beverage space, this highly strategic acquisition will enable us to leverage PepsiCo's capabilities to both accelerate Rockstar's performance and unlock our ability to expand in the category with existing brands such as Mountain Dew," said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta. 

      Pepsico already has a relationship with Rockstar because it distributes it to retailers along with the company’s other beverages. The acquisition improves Pepsico’s energy beverage position in relation to Coca-Cola, which owns a major stake in Monster Beverages.

      "Over time, we expect to capture our fair share of this fast-growing, highly profitable category and create meaningful new partnerships in the energy space," Laguarta said.

      Active lifestyle consumers

      Rockstar has been around since its founding in 2001, marketing its product as a beverage for consumers who lead an active lifestyle, such as athletes. The company says its products come in over 30 flavors and are sold at convenience and grocery stores worldwide.

      With the addition of Rockstar, PepsiCo's energy drink portfolio will include Mountain Dew's Kickstart, GameFuel, and AMP. Russ Weiner, Rockstar's founder, says the acquisition is the continuation of what he says has been a strong partnership since 2009.

      "PepsiCo shares our competitive spirit and will invest in growing our brand even further,” he said. “I'm proud of what we built and how we've changed the game in the energy space." 

      Energy beverages are formulated to increase mental alertness and physical performances for consumers by stepping up caffeine content, along with other additives like vitamins and herbal supplements. Energy drinks are especially popular among young consumers, making them attractive to legacy beverage manufacturers looking for long-term growth.

      Health concerns

      The products have been the subject of concern by health officials as they’ve grown in popularity. A 2019 study by researchers at the American Heart Association cautioned consumers to use the products in moderation.

      The study found that drinking 32 ounces of an energy drink can affect the heart’s normal functioning and also dramatically shift consumers’ blood pressure.

      “Energy drinks are readily accessible and commonly consumed by a large number of teens and young adults, including college students,” researcher Kate O’Dell said when the study was released. “Understanding how these drinks affect the heart is extremely important.”

      As consumers’ thirst for carbonated beverages continues its decline, Pepsico, the maker of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, is moving to fortify its beverage portfo...
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      Hyundai recalls model year 2020 Sonatas

      The tire pressure label and owner's manual have incorrect tire size information

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 5,044 model year 2020 Sonatas produced between October 22, 2019, and February 13, 2020.

      The tire pressure label inside the driver's door and the owner's manual contain incorrect tire size information.

      Incorrect tire information may mislead the vehicle owner to install the wrong tire size, potentially affecting vehicle handling, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will install new label stickers over the tire pressure label and in the owner's manual free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2020.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (855) 371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 190.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 5,044 model year 2020 Sonatas produced between October 22, 2019, and February 13, 2020. The tire pressure label insid...
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      Giant Tiger Stores recalls Celebrate brand frozen profiteroles and eclairs

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Giant Tiger Stores Limited is recalling Celebrate brand frozen profiteroles and eclairs.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      The Public Health Agency of Canada reports an investigation indicates an outbreak of Salmonella infections associated with the recalled products appears to be over.

      The following products are being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodes
      Celebrate

      Mini Chocolate Eclairs

      365 g

      8 858762 720047

      All codes

      CelebrateClassical Profiteroles / Classic Profiteroles325 g8 858762 720009All codes

      The recalled products were sold at the following Giant Tiger stores in Canada:

      • 417 Wellington St., St. Thomas, Ontario
      • 350 Scott St., St. Catharines, Ontario
      • 29 Chambers St., Smith Falls, Ontario
      • 2480 Walkley Rd., Ottawa, Ontario
      • 6061 Hazeldean Rd. Stittsville, Ontario
      • 4501 Tecumseh Rd. East, Windsor, Ontario
      • 330 avenue St-Laurent, Louiseville, Quebec
      • 1254 boulevard Louis-XIV, Quebec City, Quebec
      • 46 Robie St., Truro, Nova Scotia

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact Giant Tiger customer service at (833) 848-4437 or online at https://www.gianttiger.com/category/customerservice/contact-us.do?locale=en_ca.

      Giant Tiger Stores Limited is recalling Celebrate brand frozen profiteroles and eclairs. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. The Public...
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      Sun Hong Foods recalls Enoki Mushrooms

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Sun Hong Foods of Montebello, Calif., is recalling all cases of Enoki Mushrooms.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      Some illnesses have been reported and are under investigation.

      The recalled product, which is white, with long stems and small caps, is sold in clear plastic bags with green panels with a net weight of 7.05 oz/200g. The UPC is 7 426852 625810

      It was sold at J&L Supermarkets, Jusgo Supermarkets, ZTao Markets, New Sang Supermarkets and Galleria Markets in California, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Illinois and Florida.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (323) 597-1112, Monday – Friday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM, and Saturday 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM (PST).

      Sun Hong Foods of Montebello, Calif., is recalling all cases of Enoki Mushrooms.The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.Some il...
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      Apple loosens its recommendations for cleaning iPhones in wake of coronavirus

      Disinfectant wipes are now okay in light of the recent outbreak

      It turns out that, yes, you can clean your smartphone with a disinfectant. Just be careful doing it.

      In this coronavirus (COVID-19) age, we’ve all gotten more sensitive to the need to clean surfaces where germs can collect. Your smartphone is exhibit A. During the day, you touch all kinds of surfaces where germs may lurk, then pick up your mobile device. Keeping your phone germ-free could go a long way towards keeping you healthy.

      For the longest time, Apple discouraged customers from using disinfectant wipes to clean their iPhones. Lately, that advice has changed, according to The Wall Street Journal.

      Apple has updated its advice for keeping devices clean. In particular, it has addressed the question of whether it is advisable to use a disinfectant product. In the past, it has discouraged the practice.

      “Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don't use bleach,” the company now says on its website.” Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don't submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents. Don't use on fabric or leather surfaces.”

      According to The Journal, Apple previously said that “cleaning products and abrasive materials will further diminish the coating and might scratch your iPhone.” Google says its smartphones are made to withstand clearing with “ordinary household soap or cleaning wipes.”

      Most surfaces you touch need to be cleaned

      Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says tainted surfaces are the biggest source of spreading germs, including those that cause the coronavirus. He adds that consumers who clean surfaces regularly and frequently wash their hands have a better chance of avoiding illness.

      Long before the coronavirus became a threat, public health officials warned consumers about the multitude of germs gathering on the surface of their mobile devices. A 2017 study of high school students’ smartphones found 100 percent of the devices were packed with nasty germs.

      Researchers at the University of Arizona found that mobile devices generally carry 10 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.

      It turns out that, yes, you can clean your smartphone with a disinfectant. Just be careful doing it.In this coronavirus (COVID-19) age, we’ve all gotte...
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      Pro-tobacco videos continue to rack up views on YouTube

      Experts are worried about the videos reaching a younger audience

      As Youtube continues to fight against the spread of misinformation, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania explored how tobacco-related videos continue to make their rounds around the popular video streaming service. 

      The researchers explained that viewers continue to see videos promoting the positives of tobacco use or vaping. Considering the number of young people who regularly use YouTube, and the misleading statements evident throughout the videos, this has become a serious issue. 

      “The easy access of such [video] material suggests that YouTube is a fertile environment for the promotion of tobacco products despite its banning of tobacco advertising,” the researchers explained

      Pushing boundaries

      The researchers evaluated several different search criteria on YouTube to understand what kind of effect these videos are having on viewers. 

      Their work revealed that viewers can easily access videos on any number of topics related to tobacco, including how to properly use tobacco, “fun ways” to utilize tobacco, or even how to vape. These videos receive millions of views, and some even suggest that any negative health effects related to tobacco use can be mitigated, though there is no scientific backing to support any of these claims. 

      This is particularly concerning considering how prevalent the dangers associated with vaping have become and how many young people have taken up the habit. 

      “This suggested to us that the misleading tobacco videos we identified on YouTube are part of the information environment that eludes the restrictions that apply to regular tobacco advertising and product promotion,” said researcher Patrick E. Jamieson. 

      Not only are these videos misleading, but they also go against YouTube guidelines that prohibit tobacco advertisements. Moreover, they serve as a source of income for those posting them and for YouTube. 

      “As our study of YouTube illustrates, producers of misleading tobacco content can primarily represent private individuals rather than tobacco manufacturers,” said researcher Dan Romer. “Indeed, the producers of the tobacco videos we identified...do not appear to be employees of the tobacco industry, it is nevertheless possible that a content creator could receive endorsement payments from a tobacco company.” 

      Telling the true story

      According to the researchers, the best way to combat these videos is with the truth. It’s crucial that consumers are getting the right information. 

      On platforms like YouTube where these videos are most prevalent, setting up ads or videos with content that debunks these misleading messages is key to setting the record straight. 

      As Youtube continues to fight against the spread of misinformation, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania explored how t...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls G550 and G63 AMG 4MATICs

      Stability control and anti-lock brakes could be deactivated

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 6,517 model year 2019-2020 G550 4MATICs and G63 AMG 4MATICs.

      An electrical resistor within the differential locking module may malfunction, interrupting communication between the control unit and the differential locking actuator, possibly resulting in the deactivation of the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS).

      Deactivation of the vehicle stability control system or anti-lock brakes while the vehicle is being driven may increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the differential locking modules and replace them as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 14, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 6,517 model year 2019-2020 G550 4MATICs and G63 AMG 4MATICs. An electrical resistor within the differential locking modul...
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      Uber and Lyft to offer paid sick leave for drivers coping with coronavirus

      Drivers who become ill will reportedly have up to 14 days of leave time

      Both Uber and Lyft, who classify their drivers as independent contractors, are nonetheless offering them something normally available only to employees -- a type of sick leave.

      With fears of the coronavirus -- codenamed COVID-19 -- building throughout the world, the two ridesharing companies say they will compensate their drivers if they become affected by the disease.

      Uber said drivers for both Uber and Uber Eats who become sick or are quarantined over fears that they have contracted the virus will be eligible for up to 14 days of paid leave. For its part, Lyft says it will “provide funds to drivers infected or quarantined by a public health authority.”

      The policies are reportedly in effect for drivers in the U.S. and around the world.

      The move represents a departure from both companies’ position that they are not a taxi service with employees but an app that enables independent contractors to earn money by giving rides to consumers. California is one state that has pushed back against this interpretation, claiming that the drivers are employees who are eligible for benefits.

      While both Uber and Lyft are providing somewhat similar support, it may differ in important ways. Drivers are urged to contact the company they drive for to get details.

      More cases in the U.S.

      Reuters reports that both DoorDash and Instacart are discussing ways in which they can provide COVID-19 compensation for their drivers. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports the number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world went over 105,000 Sunday with infections spreading to some new parts of the U.S.

      Washington, DC, along with Missouri, Vermont, and Connecticut reported their first cases over the weekend. The latest data from Johns Hopkins University puts the confirmed cases in the U.S. at nearly 500 with 21 deaths.

      The majority of the deaths in the U.S. have occurred in Washington state where the virus has killed several elderly consumers who resided in an assisted living facility.

      Both Uber and Lyft, who classify their drivers as independent contractors, are nonetheless offering them something normally available only to employees --...
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      Boeing 737 MAX faces another setback due to non-compliant wiring bundles

      FAA officials say the jet won’t see the skies again until all potential safety problems are addressed

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) added another chapter to Boeing’s sleeplessness in Seattle on Monday, telling the aviation company that the wiring bundles in its 737 MAX jets are “not compliant.”

      However, according to CNBC, people familiar with the decision say Boeing claims that the bundles don’t pose a potential safety threat.

      “The FAA continues to engage with Boeing as the company works to address a recently discovered wiring issue with the 737 Max,” a spokesman for the agency told CNBC. “The manufacturer must demonstrate compliance with all certification standards.”

      How big of a concern is this?

      The jury is out on whether the wiring bundles are actually an issue. Boeing contends that after 200 million hours of flight, if something was wrong with the wiring bundles, it would’ve reared its ugly head by now. Nonetheless, the FAA is concerned that there’s a possibility that the wiring bundles could short-circuit. If that happens, pilots could lose control of the plane.

      For everyone’s benefit -- most importantly, the safety of the traveler -- the FAA is holding steady on when Boeing’s beleaguered jet will fly again. 

      “The aircraft will be cleared for return to passenger service only after the FAA is satisfied that all safety-related issues are addressed…Regardless of the final determination on this matter our estimate for a mid-year return to service of the MAX is unchanged,” the FAA spokesman said.

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) added another chapter to Boeing’s sleeplessness in Seattle on Monday, telling the aviation company that the wirin...
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      Oil prices plunge 20 percent over the weekend

      Low gasoline prices are likely to go even lower

      An oil price war and escalating fears of the coronavirus are creating a perfect economic storm that will likely have two short-term results that are beneficial to consumers -- falling gasoline prices and record low mortgage rates.

      Saudi Arabia launched an oil price war over the weekend, slashing prices by 20 percent overnight. The move is aimed at driving out weaker competitors and came after OPEC was unable to reach a production agreement with Russia.

      As a result, U.S. oil refiners will pay significantly less for crude oil at a time when they normally curtail operations for maintenance and boost the price of gasoline. Instead of rising gasoline prices this spring, consumers may find them going even lower.

      “Just the third collapse in crude oil prices during my career. 2008, 2015 and now 2020,” GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan wrote in a Sunday tweet. “Truly a remarkably past few days- never did I anticipate my somewhat wild prediction 2 weeks ago of $25-$35/bbl WTI coming true.”

      Gas stations may react to the lower oil prices this week. Today, the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey puts the national average price of regular gas at $2.38 a gallon, five cents less than a week ago and nine cents less than a year ago.

      Blame the coronavirus

      The coronavirus is the catalyst in all of this. Fears of the economic damage being caused by the disease caused a sharp drop in oil demand, prompting the Saudis to act. It’s also sending investors fleeing from the world’s stock market and into U.S. Treasury bonds.

      The more investors buy bonds, the lower the yield goes. The 10-year bond started trading Monday offering a record low yield of 0.44 percent, with some market analysts predicting it could go to zero.

      That, in turn, is sending mortgage rates lower. Just last week, Freddie Mac reported that the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage had fallen to 3.29 percent, a record low. With bond yields still falling, home buyers and those refinancing existing mortgages could see even lower rates.

      Long-term impact?

      While consumers may enjoy lower fuel prices and mortgage rates in the short-term, the longer-term impact is less certain. The twin nose dives of the oil and bond yields have already taken a heavy toll on the value of stock portfolios. Most market-watchers agree that the stock market has farther to fall.

      Meanwhile, more attention is being focused on the cause of all this turmoil -- the coronavirus, codenamed COVID-19. Public health officials in the U.S. and abroad continue to ramp up efforts to contain the outbreak, with now over 100,000 confirmed cases in the U.S.

      An oil price war and escalating fears of the coronavirus are creating a perfect economic storm that will likely have two short-term results that are benefi...
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      Hyundai recalls model year 2013-2014 Sonatas

      The low pressure fuel hose may crack and leak

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 206,896 model year 2013-2014 Sonatas.

      The low pressure fuel hose that connects the low pressure fuel pump to the direct injection fuel pump may crack over time due to heat generated within the engine compartment.

      If the fuel line cracks, a fuel leak can occur, increasing the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2020.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (855) 371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 189.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 206,896 model year 2013-2014 Sonatas.The low pressure fuel hose that connects the low pressure fuel pump to the dire...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls vehicles with electrical glitch

      The vehicles' interior switches may not illuminate

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,101 model year 2020 CLA250s, CLA250 4MATICs & CLA35 AMG 4MATICs; model year 2020-2021 GLE350s, GLE350 4MATICs, GLE450 4MATICs, GLS450 4MATICs & GLS580 4MATICs; and model year 2021 GLE53 AMG Coupes, GLE63S AMG 4MATICs, GLS63 AMG 4MATICs & Maybach GLS600 4MATICs.

      The instrument cluster software may deactivate the illumination of certain interior switches (switch bar, overhead control unit, steering wheel) if the hazard lights are turned on and the ignition switch is in the 'off' position.

      If the interior switches are not illuminated, they may be more difficult to find and operate, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will update the instrument cluster software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 14, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,101 model year 2020 CLA250s, CLA250 4MATICs & CLA35 AMG 4MATICs; model year 2020-2021 GLE350s, GLE350 4MATICs, GLE...
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      BMW is recalling X6 sDrive40i, X6 xDrive40i and X6 xDrive50i vehicles

      The rear spoiler may detach

      BMW of North America is recalling 550 model year 2020 X6 sDrive40i, X6 xDrive40i, and X6 xDrive50i vehicles.

      The rear spoiler may detach.

      If the spoiler detaches while the vehicle is being driven, it can become a road hazard, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the rear spoiler, as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 13, 2020. Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 550 model year 2020 X6 sDrive40i, X6 xDrive40i, and X6 xDrive50i vehicles. The rear spoiler may detach. If the spoi...
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      Trump approves $8.3 billion to tackle coronavirus

      Numbers continue to rise, not only on the number of people affected but also in the number of attempts made to profit off the outbreak

      Congress’ proposed $8.3 billion spending plan to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) is now official. President Trump approved the plan on Friday, and the checks are in the mail to federal, state, and local agencies, plus a supplemental $500 million in waivers for Medicare telehealth restrictions.

      The measure includes $2.2 billion earmarked for health agencies and some $3 billion for vaccine research in hopes of combatting the virus. 

      Hands across the aisle

      When the chips are down like they are in this situation, the Republicans and Democrats take off their gloves and hold hands instead of trying to undo the other.

      Both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the funding measure in overwhelming bipartisan fashion earlier this week. The only stone in the bill’s path was Congress’ feeling that Trump’s original proposal was inadequate. The President then caved and gave Congress free reign to decide on exactly how much needed to be spent to be effective.

      Numbers continue to rise

      More than 80 countries have confirmed coronavirus cases, with the total death toll in the U.S. reaching 14 on Friday. There have been more than 225 cases confirmed across the country, according to NBC News.

      The impact of the outbreak on consumers is vast. Amazon and Facebook have stepped up efforts to prevent price-gouging and alarmist advertising; airlines have done everything from offering waivers to taking extra precautions to make sure aircraft are sanitized; and tech firms are doing their best to warn people about virus-related email scams set on fleecing consumers.

      Congress’ proposed $8.3 billion spending plan to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) is now official. President Trump approved the plan on Friday, and the checks...
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      Cruise ship carrying passengers with possible coronavirus infections remains at sea

      California’s governor has denied docking rights until passengers can be tested for COVID-19

      Another cruise ship is suspected of being a hotbed of the coronavirus, codenamed COVID-19, and remains at sea after being refused entry to California’s ports.

      Princess Cruises says another of its ships -- the Grand Princess -- is suspected of transporting some passengers who may have the virus. California health officials say they plan to test another 45 passengers before the ship is allowed to disembark in San Francisco.

      The ship was on its way to Hawaii when it was ordered to turn around and return to California. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, said the order came after some of the passengers and crew developed symptoms related to the virus.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says three consumers who were previous passengers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and one of those passengers died. The ship is carrying 3,500 passengers and crew. San Francisco health officials say about 35 people have tested positive for the virus.

      Diamond Princess ordeal

      Last month, passengers aboard the cruise liner Diamond Princess spent two weeks in quarantine aboard the ship in a Japanese port after an outbreak of the virus. American passengers were eventually evacuated after many of them tested positive for the virus. At the time, the outbreak aboard the ship was the largest outside of China.

      “That ship (Grand Princess) is now being delayed to provide ample opportunity for the CDC in partnership with Coast Guard and state health officials to conduct tests,” Newsom said at a briefing.

      Test kits were delivered to the ship on Thursday and will be analyzed at a lab in Richmond, California. Results are expected later today.

      Instructions to cruise lines

      Fears about the coronavirus have taken a heavy toll on the travel industry, especially cruise lines. Some cruise lines have changed their schedules, especially for cruises to Asian ports. This week the Cruise Lines International Association issued these guidelines to member companies:

      • Deny boarding to all persons who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in South Korea, Iran, China, including Hong Kong and Macau, and any municipality in Italy subject to lockdown (quarantine) measures by the Italian Government, as designated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, within 14 days prior to embarkation.

      • Conduct illness screening for all persons who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in any destinations listed on the U.S. CDC “Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel” page within 14 days before embarkation. Illness screening includes symptom history checks for fever, cough and difficulty breathing in the 14 days before embarkation and taking of temperature.

      • Deny boarding to all persons who, within 14 days prior to embarkation, have had contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having COVID-19, or who are currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to COVID-19.

      • Conduct pre-boarding screening necessary to effectuate these prevention measures. Enhanced screening and initial medical support are to be provided, as needed, to any persons exhibiting symptoms of suspected COVID-19.

      Another cruise ship is suspected of being a hotbed of the coronavirus, codenamed COVID-19, and remains at sea after being refused entry to California’s por...
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      Mortgage rates hit a record low this week

      A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged just 3.29 percent

      If you can qualify for a loan and find a house you’d like to live in, then there may have never been a better time to buy a home. Mortgage rates have sunk to an all-time low, according to Freddie Mac.

      “The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a record 3.29 percent this week, the lowest level in its nearly 50-year history,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

      These low rates have caused a surge in mortgage applications -- particularly applications to refinance existing mortgages at a lower rate.

      “Given these strong indicators in rates and sales, as well as recent increases in new construction, it’s clear the housing market continues to be a positive force for the broader economy,” Khater said.

      Freddie Mac reports that the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.79 percent. A year ago, it was 3.83 percent.

      The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.18 percent, down from last week when it averaged 3.20 percent. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.87 percent.

      The record might not last

      It’s entirely possible those record low rates could go even lower.

      Mortgage rates are falling because they are directly tied to the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, which has cratered in the last week. Early Friday, the yield fell to 0.77 percent -- a record low -- because investors who fear the economic impact of the coronavirus are selling stocks and buying bonds. 

      Rising demand for bonds means the U.S. Treasury Department doesn’t have to pay as much interest, so yields fall when demand rises.

      Mortgage rates this low might lead to a surge in home sales under normal circumstances, but the U.S. housing market continues to suffer from extremely low inventory. There aren’t enough homes on the market.

      But a big drop in interest rates might make some homes more affordable. For potential buyers on the edge of entry-level homes or slightly more expensive homes, the lower monthly payments that a lower interest rate provides could make a difference and provide more options.

      Employment

      Meanwhile, concerns about the economic fallout from the coronavirus could also give potential buyers pause. The Labor Department today reported that U.S. employment surged by 273,000 jobs in February, well ahead of consensus estimates.

      But the February report reflects almost no effects from coronavirus fears and therefore provides little insight for the future. In fact, one of the biggest increases in employment last month came at bars and restaurants -- businesses expected to suffer as wary consumers shun public spaces.

      In interviews with USA Today, a number of hiring managers have said they have already postponed hiring plans until they can determine the economic impact of the coronavirus.

      If you can qualify for a loan and find a house you’d like to live in, then there may have never been a better time to buy a home. Mortgage rates have sunk...
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