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    Zuckerberg warns of potential impact of reopening public spaces too soon

    The Facebook executive says lifting restrictions too soon will ‘almost guarantee’ worse economic outcomes

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has warned that lifting stay-at-home restrictions too early could have public health effects that would likely prolong the economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak. 

    On the company’s first quarter earnings call, Zuckerberg said reopening public spaces too soon “almost guarantees” future spikes in illnesses and a worsening of the virus’ economic impact.

    “While there are massive societal costs from the current shelter-in-place restrictions, I worry that reopening certain places too quickly before inaction rates have been reduced to very minimal levels will almost guarantee future outbreaks and worsen longer-term health and economic outcomes,” Zuckerberg said on the call, according to CNBC.

    “The impact on our business has been significant, and I remain very concerned that this health emergency and therefore the economic fallout will last longer than people are currently anticipating.”

    Easing restrictions 

    White House officials recently stated that they are now focusing on working with governors to figure out the safest path toward reopening businesses and public spaces that were temporarily closed due to COVID-19. 

    President Trump said Wednesday that social distancing guidelines will be “fading out” and that he is "very much in favor” of what governors who are easing lockdowns are doing. 

    States including Georgia, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have decided to allow consumers back into places of business and other public settings that have chosen to reopen. 

    Earlier this month, the Trump administration and the CDC unveiled a three-phase plan that provides guidelines for when states might reopen. However, states must decide on their own when to begin reopening. 

    There are currently more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Like Zuckerberg, public health officials have also expressed concern that easing social distancing guidelines too soon could lead to a surge in new cases. 

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has warned that lifting stay-at-home restrictions too early could have public health effects that would likely prolong the eco...
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    Coronavirus update: California closing beaches, health officials test an antibody treatment

    States are getting swamped by unemployment claims

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

    Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,043,595 (1,015,289)

    Total U.S. deaths: 61,187 (58,529)

    Total global cases: 3,224,079 (3,143,555)

    Total global deaths: 228,908 (218,727)

    California reportedly closing its beaches

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom is said to be preparing an executive order that will close the state’s beaches to the public starting tomorrow. CNN reports that it has obtained a memo showing the governor’s office is reacting to the large crowds that hit the beach last weekend in defiance of social distancing guidelines.

    "We wanted to give all of our members a heads up about this in order to provide time for you to plan for any situations you might expect as a result, knowing each community has its own dynamics," the memo to law enforcement says.

    Antibody therapy getting a clinical trial in New York

    While a clinical trial of the Gilead Science drug remdesivir has shown promising results and may lead to emergency approval by the government, there is no let-up in the search for other effective treatments for the coronavirus.

    Montefiore Health System, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and NYU Langone have launched a new clinical trial to study the effectiveness of antibodies from recovered patients in treating those who are still sick.

    Researchers say antibodies can fight infection and perhaps prevent reinfection in people. More importantly, they say it might help people who have the virus get well. The therapy, known as convalescent plasma therapy, has been deployed in viral outbreaks over the past century, and it has shown promise in reducing the severity of illness and improving survival rates.

    Unemployment claims top 30 million

    Since the economic shutdown in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) began in late March, more than 30 million Americans have filed claims for unemployment benefits. Another 3.8 million people filed first-time claims over the last week -- still a huge number but significantly less than a couple of weeks ago.

    The avalanche of claims in recent weeks has swamped state unemployment offices. Some states have reported system crashes because of the number of people thrown out of work by the coronavirus.

    Johns Hopkins launches testing initiative

    Johns Hopkins University, which maintains the COVID-19 case map that has become the official tracker of international cases, is now offering a new resource. The COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative is described as a  one-stop resource hub that fills the void of publicly available information about COVID-19 testing data and offers critical insights, resources, and expert analysis about COVID-19 testing around the nation.

    "Through the COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative, Johns Hopkins will provide the comprehensive view of the testing landscape needed to guide effective policy decisions and shape our collective path to recovery," said Ron Daniels, the university’s president. "We are deeply grateful to our partners in academia and government who have helped launch this effort in record time.

    Dairy farmers are dumping milk they can’t sell

    There have been some meat shortages as pork and chicken processing plants have been forced to close because of outbreaks of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, dairy producers are drowning in milk they can’t sell.

    Officials at Dykeman and Sons dairy farm in Fultonville, N.Y. told The Wall Street Journal that workers there dumped more than two-dozen truckloads of milk after a major cheese plant  supplying restaurants scaled down operations.

    Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), says the $125,000 cap on federal disaster assistance for dairy farmers needs to be raised. NMPF estimates a 58 percent decline in net 2020 profit for milk producers.

    BP donates jet fuel to move critical supplies

    BP has announced that it is donating three million gallons of jet fuel to FedEx Express charter flights and Alaska Airlines to support those carriers in their efforts to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to COVID-19 hot spots in the U.S.

    "Frontline medical providers depend on PPE to treat patients suffering from COVID-19 and to save lives,” said Susan Dio, chairman and president of BP America. "COVID-19 is a human crisis. People are suffering, and BP wants to help. We're pulling together our global resources to ensure first responders, health care workers and patients know that they're not alone."

    BP is also providing a 50 cents a gallon discount on fuel purchased by first responders, doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

    Around the nation

    • Pennsylvania: The Wistar Institute has announced that it is testing a coronavirus vaccine on human volunteers at Penn Medicine, the second coronavirus vaccine to enter a phase one clinical study in the U.S. The phase one trial aims to test the safety and initial immunogenicity of the vaccine.

    • Kansas: Gov. Laura Kelly plans to address her state this evening to announce her plan for lifting the stay-at-home order that has been in place since the end of March. The plan is expected to place limits on mass gatherings and provide detailed guidance to Kansas counties.

    • Texas: The state is preparing to reopen businesses, but Haliburton, the Houston-based oil services giant, is closing two more facilities. It says low oil prices have reduced demand for its services.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,043,595 (1,015,28...
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    Trump says existing social distancing guidelines will be ‘fading out’

    White House officials are focused on helping governors safely reopen states

    President Trump suggested Wednesday that social distancing guidelines will be “fading out” as some states begin lifting stay-at-home orders and reopening businesses. 

    "I am very much in favor of what they're doing," Trump said of governors who are easing lockdowns. "They're getting it going."

    During the meeting at the oval office, Trump administration officials said the focus is now on working with governors and figuring out the safest path toward fully reopening businesses. 

    "Every state in America has embraced those guidelines at a minimum, or even done more, and now our focus is working with states as governors, like Gov. John Bel Edwards, unveil plans to open up their states again," Vice President Mike Pence said as he and other task force members met with President Donald Trump and Edwards, a Democrat, in the Oval Office. 

    "The new guidance that we've issued is guidance for how they can do that safely and responsibly," Pence added.

    Dr. Deborah Birx, a top physician advising the White House on the pandemic response, said at the meeting that the administration has been "very encouraged to see how the federal guidelines have helped inform, or at least provide a framework for governors and moving forward."

    Phasing out existing guidelines

    Federal guidelines on social distancing were introduced mid-March and were set to last 15 days. Trump later extended those guidelines for another 30 days. The existing guidelines are set to expire on Thursday, the last day of April, and Trump suggested at the meeting that he won’t be extending them further. 

    White House officials said current social distancing recommendations are being incorporated by governors into their plans for reopening.

    "They'll be fading out, because now the governors are doing it," Trump said.

    States such as Georgia, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas are allowing consumers back into places of businesses that have chosen to reopen. Health officials have cautioned that easing social distancing guidelines too early could lead to a spike in new cases. 

    Earlier this month, the administration released a three-phase plan that provides guidelines for when states might reopen. However, individual states must decide on their own when they should begin reopening. 

    So far, there have been more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

    President Trump suggested Wednesday that social distancing guidelines will be “fading out” as some states begin lifting stay-at-home orders and reopening b...
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      FDA may fast-track experimental coronavirus drug

      A clinical trial shows remdesivir helps some patients recover faster

      President Trump says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should approve Gilead Science’s experimental drug remdesivir as soon as it can so that it can be used to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.

      The FDA is reportedly planning to do just that. The New York Times reports that the agency is preparing to issue emergency authorization for the drug, and that step could come as early as Wednesday. The FDA told CNN that it is in talks with Gilead Science about steps that could be taken to make remdesivir available to coronavirus patients. 

      The catalyst is a clinical trial conducted by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAD), which found that the drug speeded up the recovery time for patients taking the drug compared to those taking a placebo.

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAD’s director, told attendees at a White House meeting on Wednesday that he’s optimistic the drug can be an effective weapon against the virus.

      "The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery," Fauci said during a meeting with President Trump. "This is highly significant."

      Reduced recovery time

      Results from the preliminary trial show that the antiviral drug reduced recovery time for coronavirus patients from 15 to 11 days. The influenza drug Tamiflu has a similar effect on the flu. 

      The study found that remdesivir reduced the period of time it took a hospital patient with the coronavirus to recover, compared with a placebo. The study defined "recovery" as being well enough to leave the hospital or return to normal activity.

      "Although a 31 percent improvement doesn't seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept," Fauci said. "What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus."

      The primary effect of remdesivir is that it prevents the coronavirus from replicating. Fauci  compared remdesivir to early drugs against HIV. They were somewhat effective but were improved over time as scientists learned how they worked in the human body.

      Results from the trial were not expected to be released until late May, but Fauci said when the preliminary findings are this positive “you have an ethical obligation to immediately let the people in the placebo group know so that they can have access."

      President Trump says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should approve Gilead Science’s experimental drug remdesivir as soon as it can so that it can b...
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      FTC sends warning letters to companies making false claims about their ability to treat or cure coronavirus

      The companies allegedly made ‘deceptive or scientifically unsupported’ health and earnings claims

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent warning letters to nearly a dozen companies demanding that they stop making claims about their products’ ability to treat or prevent coronavirus, or touting their ability to help consumers earn back income lost as a result of the health crisis. 

      The ten multi-level marketing companies that received warning letters for making health claims, earnings claims, or both types of claims were: 

      • doTERRA International

      • Pruvit Ventures

      • Total Life Changes

      • Tranont

      • Modere

      • Arbonne International

      • IDLife

      • It Works Marketing

      • Rodan & Fields

      • Zurvita, Inc.

      “MLMs and other companies that distribute their products through networks of distributors are responsible for the product and earnings claims those distributors are making,” Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement

      “During this health and economic crisis, we are on the lookout for false income claims for work-at-home opportunities, in addition to spurious health claims that products can treat or prevent COVID-19.”

      Bogus claims

      In a social media post, one company said:  “Got the coronavirus heebeegeebees? Boost your immunity with this amazing deal!!!!”

      Another company claimed in a video posted to social media that their company could help a person who recently lost their job make money quickly. 

      “I can tell you that there’s thousands of people that are out of work right now. They’re all looking for a way to go earn money. This is a great stimulus package, because you get to teach somebody how to go earn $1,730 literally in their first 10 days in the business,” the company said. 

      Unlawful to make such claims

      The FTC noted in its release that no product currently on the market is backed by scientific evidence to substantiate claims that it can treat or prevent COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

      In its letter to doTerra, the FTC emphasized that it’s illegal to advertise a product as being able to prevent, treat, or cure a disease in the absence of “competent and reliable” scientific evidence. 

      The agency also said earnings claims can’t be misleading or untruthful. 

      ″...Claims about the potential to achieve a wealthy lifestyle, career-level income, or significant income are false or misleading if business opportunity participants generally do not achieve such results,” the agency said in its warning letter. 

      The coronavirus pandemic has given rise to a number of scams. Scammers have posed as government officials, pretended to have the ability to issue travel and vacation refunds or cancellations, and promoted an Amazon work-from-home scam. 

      Earlier this month, the FTC said that scams related to the coronavirus outbreak have cost consumers nearly $12 million dollars since the beginning of the year. 

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent warning letters to nearly a dozen companies demanding that they stop making claims about their products’ abilit...
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      Burnout is closely linked to depression, researchers say

      Identifying this connection could make it easier for consumers to get help

      Burnout affects consumers in every area of the workforce, and the ripple effects can reach beyond just those feeling overworked. 

      Now, according to researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, symptoms of burnout could be closely linked to symptoms of depression. 

      “There is a longstanding thought that burnout is associated with workplace factors and that depressive symptoms are associated with workplace factors but also heavily influenced by personal factors,” said researcher Dr. Lisa Rosenstein. “We found that the factors that drive burnout are much more closely related to the factors that drive depressive symptoms than previously realized.” 

      Understanding the connection

      To better understand the connection between feelings of depression and feelings of burnout, the researchers surveyed over 1,500 medical interns across the country. The participants answered questions about their overall mental health to give the researchers a baseline understanding of their depressive symptoms, while other questions touched on feelings of emotional exhaustion. 

      The researchers explained that it’s been hard for experts to pin down a proper set of criteria for burnout, which is why many consumers who experience it have had trouble reporting it to their employers. However, this study revealed that several similarities exist between symptoms of depression and those of burnout. 

      The researchers explain that because of this link, resources for depression can be used for those struggling with burnout, and vice versa. Overall, looking at depression and burnout side by side can be beneficial in trying to manage both conditions. 

      “Previous to this work, depression and burnout were conceptualized as separate entities with different factors contributing to these outcomes,” said Dr. Constance Guille. “This work suggests there is substantial overlap between both workplace and personal factors that contribute to an increase in both depressive symptoms and burnout.” 

      While personal factors did come into play, including the participants’ own history of depressive symptoms, the researchers hope that these findings can be beneficial for those struggling with these incredibly common feelings. Having a more concrete understanding can help create more thorough treatment plans and relieve consumers of the overwhelming stress of both daily life and work. 

      Burnout affects consumers in every area of the workforce, and the ripple effects can reach beyond just those feeling overworked. Now, according to rese...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2020 AMG GTs

      The emergency call system may relay inaccurate information

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 149 model year 2020 AMG GTs.

      The emergency call system (eCall) communication module may be missing the wiring harness ground line, which may cause the system to relay an inaccurate vehicle location, and restrict the ability to communicate verbally with the call center.

      An inaccurate vehicle location or the inability to communicate with the call center may delay emergency responders, increasing the risk of injury in the event of an emergency.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will repair the wiring harness of the communication module free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 20, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 149 model year 2020 AMG GTs. The emergency call system (eCall) communication module may be missing the wiring har...
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      Trump signs executive order requiring meat processing plants to remain open

      The order classifies meat processing facilities as ‘critical infrastructure’ during the pandemic

      President Trump has ordered U.S. meat producers to keep their facilities open during the coronavirus pandemic. 

      Just a few days ago, Tyson Foods said in a full-page ad that ran in several newspapers that the food supply chain was “breaking” and it would be temporarily shutting down most of its U.S. plants after thousands of meatpacking workers tested positive for COVID-19.

      Trump said in an executive order signed Tuesday that “such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency.” The order will affect Tyson and many other plants that process beef, chicken, eggs, and pork.

      Unions concerned for worker safety

      The order, which invoked the Defense Production Act, prompted several unions to issue statements expressing concern for both workers and the nation’s food supply. 

      The United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) said in a statement that worker illnesses could potentially impact the safety of the food supply. The group noted that 5,000 meatpacking workers have either tested positive for COVID-19 or been forced to self-quarantine. 

      “Simply put, we cannot have a secure food supply without the safety of these workers,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. 

      Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said safety measures should have been implemented sooner. 

      “We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products,” he said.

      Trump administration officials said the order is intended to prevent the possibility of a “majority” of U.S. meat processing plants temporarily shuttering facilities, which would significantly reduce the availability of meat in grocery stores. 

      Under the government’s order, meat processing plant workers will be given guidance and additional protective gear. 

      President Trump has ordered U.S. meat producers to keep their facilities open during the coronavirus pandemic. Just a few days ago, Tyson Foods said in...
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      Coronavirus update: Positive news about a potential treatment, testing capacity is growing

      Some frontline workers reportedly plan to strike on Friday

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,015,289 (994,625)

      Total U.S. deaths: 58,529 (56,749)

      Total global cases: 3,143,555 (3,074,948)

      Total global deaths: 218,727 (213,273)

      New hope for coronavirus treatment

      Gilead Science reports that a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) study of the experimental drug remdesivir met its primary endpoint, meaning it showed encouraging results in its trial on patients suffering from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      Gilead also released the results of its own study, which showed improvement in patients taking remdesivir to treat the virus. While it is welcome news, the drug maker cautions that other tests currently underway may provide a clearer understanding of the drug’s effectiveness.

      A double blind placebo trial of remdesivir is currently being conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Those results are expected before the end of May.

      Testing capacity is growing, but...

      As the coronavirus spread across the U.S. in the early days of March, a frequent complaint was the lack of testing. That’s still an issue, but it probably shouldn’t be.

      Centene and Quest Diagnostics have announced a collaboration to increase access to real-time COVID-19 testing in critical areas of need across the country. Centene will handle the distribution of 25,000 Quest COVID-19 test kits each week to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in ten states or districts across the country.

      The Wall Street Journal reports that testing capacity has expanded so much that many labs have unused capacity to perform more tests. Officials say there are barriers to using full capacity, including “fragmented supply chains and relatively strict test guidelines.”

      Some essential workers are reportedly planning a strike

      Warehouse workers at Amazon, delivery drivers for FedEx, and retail associates at Walmart and Target have perhaps felt the coronavirus pressure as much as anyone, other than medical professionals and first responders.

      Some of these essential workers have apparently had enough. The Intercept reports that frontline workers at retail and delivery firms plan a strike on Friday, either calling in sick or walking out during their lunch breaks.

      “We are acting in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart and other companies for International Workers Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic,” Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee and strike organizer, told The Intercept.

      Can students bargain with their colleges for lower tuition?

      It’s true that many families with college students are hurting because of the coronavirus, but it’s also true that colleges are feeling some pain. They’re worried about a huge drop in enrollment in the fall.

      Shannon Vasconcelos is director of college finance at Bright Horizons College Coach. She works with incoming freshmen and their families to secure the most financial aid, and she says students now have more leverage.

      “I would recommend just about everybody go back to the colleges they may be interested in and ask for more money,” she told CNBC.

      Economic impact on families

      Personal finance software maker Quickensurveyed consumers and found that the COVID-19 pandemic has already had a significant negative impact on Americans' personal finances. Most of the impact is linked to the huge spike in unemployment.

      Sixty-two percent of people cited a negative impact on their finances by the events and market volatility related to COVID-19. Of those who said their finances were significantly impacted negatively, more than 80 percent had been confident about their financial preparedness prior to the pandemic.

      "The financial repercussions of the coronavirus crisis can't be overstated," said Eric Dunn, CEO of Quicken.

      He notes that just 4 percent of survey respondents said there would be no financial impact for them or their families.

      Around the nation

      • Minnesota: State Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen warns consumers they may see some higher prices for meat products as the coronavirus outbreak continues. He notes that even with growing meat shortages, producers are euthanizing livestock because of decreased demand from closed meat processing plants.

      • Arkansas: The Arkansas Foodbank scheduled a four-hour food distribution event that was cut short because of overwhelming demand. Arkansas Foodbank CEO Rhonda Sanders said all the food was gone after an hour and a half.

      • California: Even though a number of states are reopening their economies, Gov. Gavin Newsom says California is “weeks away” from taking that step. Newsom has announced phased steps for reopening that are contingent on the apparent stabilization of both confirmed cases and deaths from the coronavirus.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,015,289 (994,625)...
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      Apple agrees to settle suit claiming it ‘broke’ FaceTime on older devices

      The company will pay $18 million to settle the class-action lawsuit

      Apple has agreed to pay $18 million to settle a 2017 lawsuit accusing it of deliberately breaking FaceTime in iOS 6 in order to get users to upgrade to iOS 7.

      The suit claimed the company disabled FaceTime on the iPhone 4 and 4S in an effort to trim costs. Due to a 2012 patent dispute, Apple was previously relying on third-party servers for its peer-to-peer method of direct connection, which cost it millions of dollars. 

      Apple eventually created new peer-to-peer technology and released it in iOS 7. Plaintiffs in the case claimed Apple’s motive in “breaking” FaceTime was to cut costs, since it would no longer need to support users who did not upgrade to iOS 7. 

      ‘We broke iOS 6’

      Apple claimed in the suit that a bug caused a compatibility issue. According to AppleInsider, an Apple engineering manager said in an email chain: 

      "Hey, guys. I'm looking at the Akamai contract for next year. I understand we did something in April around iOS 6 to reduce relay utilization.” 

      Another engineer said, "It was a big user of relay bandwidth. We broke iOS 6, and the only way to get FaceTime working again is to upgrade to iOS 7."

      Apple has agreed to pay $18 million to settle the case, however a majority of the money will go towards attorney fees and expenses, according to Law360. Class action members will only get $3 per affected device.

      Apple has agreed to pay $18 million to settle a 2017 lawsuit accusing it of deliberately breaking FaceTime in iOS 6 in order to get users to upgrade to iOS...
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      Regulators raise concerns about safety issues in Boeing's 737 MAX assembly line

      A federal investigation centers around ‘quality-control lapses’

      The Boeing 737 MAX jet is currently in production in the wake of being grounded over safety issues, and now federal prosecutors are raising alarm about potential safety shortcomings on the assembly line. 

      The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Aviation Administration are both investigating safety problems on the assembly lines of the planes. 

      Inspections found that rags and other debris was left in the fuel tanks or other interior spaces of roughly half of undelivered 737 MAX jets. Debris may be present as a result of “quality-control lapses,” according to the Journal.

      The investigations being carried out are in addition to a grand jury probe of the MAX’s flight control systems, which were found to have been a key factor in two crashes that killed 346 people. 

      Boeing didn’t comment on the investigations, but the company said it launched an internal investigation and took corrective actions after finding debris in undelivered 737 MAX planes.

      “Safely returning the 737 MAX to service is our top priority,” Boeing said in a statement.

      Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX jet is expected to remain grounded until at least August, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Earlier this month, the company said it needed to make two new software updates to the plane’s flight control computer.

      The Boeing 737 MAX jet is currently in production in the wake of being grounded over safety issues, and now federal prosecutors are raising alarm about pot...
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      Homestead Creamery recalls unsalted butter

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Homestead Creamery of Wirtz, Va., is recalling unsalted butter.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product, which butter comes in a ½ pound plastic package with an expiration date of 04/30, was sold to the firm's distribution partners through its home delivery service and retail store.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (540) 721-2045.

      Homestead Creamery of Wirtz, Va., is recalling unsalted butter. The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been r...
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      Ford issues recall for incorrect replacement headlamps for Lincoln MKZs

      The units do not comply with federal safety standards

      Ford Motor Company recalling 130 replacement handlamps on 37 model year 2013-16 Lincoln MKZs.

      Some dealers began ordering and installing headlamp assemblies designed for the Korea and China markets due to a backorder in North America.

      While similar in design to North America units, the headlamp assemblies did not comply with U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

      There are no reports of accident or injury related to this condition.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect headlamps in affected vehicles and replace them as needed free of charge.

      Dealers will also contact customers who purchased over-the-counter parts and provide replacements.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20C10.

      Ford Motor Company recalling 130 replacement handlamps on 37 model year 2013-16 Lincoln MKZs. Some dealers began ordering and installing headlamp assemb...
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      6 ways to make Mother's Day special from home

      Here are 6 safe and unique ways to celebrate mothers on their special day

      Mother's Day is a time to celebrate all the hard work that every mother does when raising her children. Under normal circumstances, it's a time to pop in for a visit, bring flowers and maybe take her out for a meal. However, this year will have to be a little different. Fortunately, with a bit of time, thought and some of our ideas, your mother can enjoy the day she truly deserves from the safety of her own home.

      1. Video chat with your mom

      Although you may not be able to see your mom face-to-face, you can still have a great virtual conversation using any number of live video chat apps. Assign a time, invite other family members to join the stream and enjoy! Remember: You will need to thoroughly explain each video app option to your mom, so she doesn't miss a minute of her special Mother's Day video chat.

      2. Virtual bouquet and card

      Sending your mother a card and flowers is a tradition for most people, but you can make a simple upgrade with a virtual bouquet and card! Most major florists online can send virtual flowers and a card to your loved one. With this option, you don't need to worry about postal delivery complications — your mom will receive her card and flowers via email on the day itself!

      3. Give your mom an outdoor concert

      There are several instances of people holding an outdoor concert for those struggling with self-isolation — it's a solid idea to uplift someone's spirit while following social distancing rules. Set up a chair on her front lawn, decorate the area with happy signs and play her favorite song. We can't exactly get together, but we can still dance!

      4. Reschedule Mother’s Day

      Several nations celebrate Mother's Day on different dates — for instance, Argentina has their Mother's Day on the third Sunday in October. Since the coronavirus has put many things on hold, this may be an excellent time to postpone Mother's Day to a future date to celebrate in person. You and your family can even pick things up on your own date, making this a new family tradition!

      5. Set up a virtual photo book

      Several websites host virtual photo books, and what better way to cheer up your mom than show your favorite pictures of her? Take some time, decide a theme and start uploading those thoughtful pics. You can walk down memory lane over video chat and laugh at all the great times.

      6. Make the perfect IOU

      Has your mom wanted to take a trip somewhere? Or has it been too long since she’s been pampered at the spa? Think hard about a great gift, get it set up for a better time, then create a colorful, personalized IOU that she receives via email. The best part about this gift is it gives your mother something fun to look forward to when things return to normal.

      Although these current events are unprecedented, we still have the time to celebrate our moms. Mother's Day is an important holiday for all of us to recognize our mothers’ hard work and for moms to see how much we care for them.

      Mother’s Day is still possible to celebrate, even with the current restrictions. We put together a list of great things you can do to mark the occasion....
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      JetBlue to require travelers to wear face coverings

      Passengers will be required to cover their mouths and noses upon boarding their flight

      Starting May 4, passengers on JetBlue airlines will be required to wear a face covering. The airline said in a statement that its priority is protecting the health of all individuals in the cabin during travel.

      "Wearing a face covering isn't about protecting yourself, it's about protecting those around you," said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue. 

      "This is the new flying etiquette,” she added. “Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others.”

      The airline added that customers should wear a face covering in the airport as well. The CDC has recommended that all individuals cover their mouth and nose with a cloth face covering in public settings, even if they do not feel sick. 

      Safety enhancements 

      JetBlue has become the first major airline to enact the new requirement on face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, the airline only asked crew members and flight attendants to wear masks. 

      “This new policy will require customers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning,” the airline said in an announcement. “Customers will be reminded of this requirement before their flight via email and at the airport by both terminal signage and announcements.” 

      Small children who can't keep a mask on won’t be required to wear one, JetBlue said.

      In the interest of slowing the spread of the virus, JetBlue has also reduced the number of seats available on flights so that passengers and crew are able to put more distance between themselves and others. 

      Starting May 4, passengers on JetBlue airlines will be required to wear a face covering. The airline said in a statement that its priority is protecting th...
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      Retailers plan to add additional coronavirus testing sites

      State officials say an increase in testing is crucial as lockdowns begin lifting

      Retailers are emphasizing efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing as some states begin easing social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions. 

      Officials from companies including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Kroger joined President Trump to speak at an event at the White House on Monday, CNBC reported. The event was held to discuss the next phase of coronavirus testing. 

      Company officials said at the meeting that they plan to add new testing sites and increase consumer access to the tests. The company also plans to grow its coronavirus testing locations to nearly 1,000 by the end of May. Walgreens said it plans to open five additional drive through testing locations in four more states this week. 

      Walmart, which currently has 20 testing sites, said it will have 45 sites by the end of next week and 100 sites by the end of May. Kroger, which currently has 30 sites, said it plans to have drive through testing available at 50 locations in more than 12 states by the end of May. 

      Contingent on supply availability 

      The shortage of testing supplies has become a source of frustration among state officials. Some have said their ability to track the spread of COVID-19 in the hope of preventing a rebound is being hampered by the current lack of swabs, reagents, and lab capacity. 

      CVS said in a statement that its plans are “subject to availability of supplies and lab capacity,” and both Walmart and Walgreens issued similar statements. 

      Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have exceeded 972,900 in the U.S. and at least 55,118 people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. A survey conducted recently by WebMD found that 10 percent of Americans believe they have had the virus during the last 30 days. However, only 7 percent had been tested. 

      "The survey demonstrates the need to ramp up diagnostic testing, along with antibody testing, to fully understand the scope of the disease," said Dr. John Whyte, WebMD's chief medical officer. 

      Retailers are emphasizing efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing as some states begin easing social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions. Officials...
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      Heartburn remedy being tested as a coronavirus cure

      The over-the-counter medication is flying off the shelves, but researchers say it’s too early to know if the drug is guaranteed to be effective

      The active ingredient in many medications used for acid reflux, peptic ulcers, and heartburn has emerged as a possible coronavirus medication. 

      Famotidine -- a combination antacid and antihistamine most commonly marketed as Pepcid and Pepcid AC -- is part of a clinical trial at Northwell Health in the New York City area, Northwell’s Dr. Kevin Tracey told Business Insider

      The randomized, double-blind trial is in its third week. To date, 187 participants have enrolled with a goal of expanding that base to 1174 individuals who are considered in critical status due to the virus.

      Anecdotal evidence

      There’s some anecdotal evidence to back up the hopes of Northwell’s researchers. According to Science Magazine, a conversation with Tracey led David Tuveson, director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center, to recommend famotidine to his 44-year-old sister -- an engineer with New York City hospitals who had tested positive for COVID-19 and developed a fever and dark blue lips from hypoxia. 

      She took her first megadose -- nine times the regular dosage -- of oral famotidine on March 28. By the next day, her fever broke and her oxygen saturation returned to the normal range. In addition, five sick co-workers, including three with confirmed COVID-19, also showed dramatic improvements after taking an over-the-counter version of the drug. 

      Science Magazine said that while COVID-19 patients often recover with simple symptom-relieving medications, Tuveson credits the heartburn drug. 

      “I would say that was a penicillin effect,” he said.

      The rush vs. wait-and-see

      And, as is the case with most every other “miracle cure,” Pepcid is flying off the shelves -- even though Tracey made it a point that the drug is still in the testing phase. “We still don’t know if it will work or not,” he said.

      When ConsumerAffairs checked the availability of Pepcid online at Amazon, Walgreens, and WalMart, we were greeted by “currently unavailable” messages. However, a quick check of local Kroger stores still showed the item as being available.

      The active ingredient in many medications used for acid reflux, peptic ulcers, and heartburn has emerged as a possible coronavirus medication. Famotidi...
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      Senator asks for criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon

      The lawmaker claims Amazon accesses third-party vendor data to launch competing products

      Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the request in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

      Hawley’s action follows a report in The Wall Street Journal which claimed that Amazon had used sales data from its third party sellers to develop competing Amazon-branded products. 

      The Journal said it interviewed more than 20 former employees of Amazon’s private-label business and reviewed documents showing the online retailer used proprietary data it got from its third-party vendors to develop competing products. Previously, the company told Congress that it does not do that.

      Amazon’s response

      In a statement, Amazon said that it looks at sales data to provide consumers with “the best possible experience” but insisted Amazon employees are barred from accessing non-public data to decide which private label products to develop and sell.

      But the newspaper article cited an example of Amazon employees obtaining data about a popular car-trunk organizer offered on its site by a third-party vendor and analyzing the information to decide whether to launch a competing product.

      In his letter to Barr, Hawley cited The Journal’s interviews with former Amazon employees and internal company documents obtained by the newspaper as strong evidence of antitrust violations.

      “Amazon abuses its position as an online platform and collects detailed data about merchandise so Amazon can create copycat products under an Amazon brand,” Hawley wrote.

      Amazon said it is conducting its own internal investigation of the issue, reiterating that company policy prohibits employees from accessing sales data from third-party vendors on the site in order to develop competing products.

      Big Tech critic

      Hawley, who was Missouri’s attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 2018, has been a frequent critic of Amazon, as well as other large technology firms. A week ago, he fired off letters to Alphabet (Google) CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook, raising concerns about their contact tracing projects during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

      "If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” Hawley told the executives. “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy.”

      Hawley said he is concerned that the tech firms will sell the data it collects during contact tracing to advertising firms to target products to consumers.

      Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the requ...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2020 GLE 350s and GLE 450s

      The rear seat wiring harness may be routed incorrectly

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 120 model year 2020 GLE 350s and GLE 450s with an electrically adjustable second-row seat.

      The wiring harness under the seat may become pinched during seat adjustment, possibly causing damage to the wires.

      Damaged wires may cause the rear side airbags to not deploy as intended.

      Additionally, the driver may not be warned if the second row right seat is not locked into place correctly after using the "Easy Entry" function.

      Either of these can increase the risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and reroute the wiring harness as necessary, and repair any wire damage free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 20, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 120 model year 2020 GLE 350s and GLE 450s with an electrically adjustable second-row seat. The wiring harness und...
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      Coronavirus update: New Jersey’s heavy toll, more states getting back to normal

      Apple may delay production of the next iPhones

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 972,969 (939,249)

      Total U.S. deaths: 55,118 (53,934)

      Total global cases: 3,002,303 (2,915,368)

      Total global deaths: 208,131 (203,432)

      New Jersey the new epicenter?

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic nearly overwhelmed the state of New York, but a new poll from Monmouth University suggests that New Jersey has suffered a similar fate. More than 70 percent of the state’s residents said the pandemic has had a “major impact” on their lives.

      To back that up, 61 percent of adults said they know someone who got the disease, compared to only 26 percent throughout the U.S. New Jersey has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, second only to neighboring New York.

      “These results should come as no surprise as they confirm what we have been seeing from other sources,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “ New Jersey has been harder hit than most of the country. And people of color, who make up a sizable proportion of the state’s diverse population, have been even harder hit overall.” .

      More states are relaxing restrictions on businesses

      Some states are taking steps to remove tight restrictions on businesses as the number of cases of the coronavirus appear to be leveling off in the U.S. and around the world. New York, the hardest hit state, has seen the number of deaths and hospitalizations fall in recent days, though there’s no talk of reopening the state.

      States such as Georgia, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas are allowing consumers back into places of business, though not all business owners have reopened. Health officials have cautioned that reopening too early could lead to a spike in new cases, so these states may serve as a laboratory of sorts.

      The Trump administration has issued guidelines that call for three phases of returning to normal, but it has left it up to individual states to determine when they should begin.

      The pandemic may force Apple to delay the next iPhones

      Apple may be eyeing a delayed start to production of the next generation of iPhones. The Wall Street Journal cites people familiar with the situation who say the start of production is being pushed back by about a month.

      Those sources attribute the delay to two factors -- disruptions in the supply chain in Asia and an expected reduced demand for the product. Even with the delay, Apple is expected to release four new iPhones before the end of the year, some with 5G connectivity.

      Focus on a vaccine

      Microsoft founder Bill Gates says the non-profit foundation he operates with his wife Melinda has shifted all of its medical efforts to searching for a vaccine against COVID-19. In an interview with the Financial Times, Gates said stopping the virus is not only a health issue but an economic one.

      “You’re going to have economies with greatly reduced activity levels for years,” Gates said. The pandemic could cost the global economy “tens of trillions of dollars.” 

      Gates said the foundation has been working on ways to eradicate polio, malaria, and HIV, but it has redeployed those efforts to search for a coronavirus vaccine.

      The post-coronavirus workplace

      As many states relax restrictions and allow people to go back to work, not everyone is likely to return to the daily commute, according to data gathered by Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, an employment firm. 

      A majority of human resources (HR) executives interviewed by the firm said they plan to keep their COVID-19 plans in place for a while, with employees who can work from home doing so. In fact, Challenger predicts employees will be working from home well into next year.

      "It is crucial that companies bring back their workers who have been laid off or furloughed, but it also must happen in a way that will protect them and the public, said Andrew Challenger, a senior vice president at the firm. “Employers are prepared to keep their teams working from home well into reopening, but for those who cannot, reasonable measures must be taken to protect these workers."

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Prizker says it’s too early to know whether schools can reopen in the fall. He said teachers need to be prepared for both a return to the classroom and e-learning. Illinois schools have been closed since mid-March.

      • Nebraska: Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced plans to relax public health restrictions and allow a resumption of worship services, with some social distancing restrictions still in place. The Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha said Masses and other forms of public liturgy will be allowed again beginning May 4. 

      • Connecticut: Hospitalizations for COVID-19 dropped for a fourth straight day on Sunday. Gov. Ned Lamont said it’s evidence that the state is able to “flatten the curve” of new infections.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 972,969 (939,249)...
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      COVID-19 recovery should confer ‘some level’ of immunity, former FDA chief says

      Health officials are still investigating the impact of having recovered from the virus

      Former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he believes that most people who got and then recovered from COVID-19 will be left with “some level” of immunity to the virus. 

      On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday, Gottlieb said there are still questions about how immune consumers are to COVID-19 if they have already been sickened by the virus. Specifically, he says the duration and strength of the immunity are open questions.

      “Now how long that immunity lasts, how strong it is, we don’t know. It might not last that long in certain people. It might not be that strong, so you can get reinfected but perhaps not get as sick,” he said.

      WHO advises against ‘immunity passports’

      Gottlieb statements were in response to a warning published Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization said governments should refrain from issuing “immunity passports” to people who have antibodies for COVID-19. 

      Until more scientific information is available, WHO officials said we shouldn’t assume these individuals are protected against reinfection and therefore healthy enough to travel or go back to work. 

      “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the organization wrote in a scientific brief.

      Over the weekend, the WHO clarified in a series of tweets that it expects COVID-19 antibodies to provide “some level of protection” against the virus, but health officials still aren’t sure how far that protection goes. 

      “We expect that most people who are infected with #COVID19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection,” the WHO tweeted on Saturday. “What we don't yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last.” 

      “We are working with scientists around the world to better understand the body's response to #COVID19 infection. So far, no studies have answered these important questions.”

      Some level of immunity

      Gottlieb agreed that having fought and recovered from COVID-19 likely won’t guarantee 100 percent immunity to it, but he argued that the WHO’s statement was “characteristically cautious and muddled.” 

      “If this behaves like every other virus, and every other coronavirus, you’re going to develop antibodies and they’ll confer some level of immunity,” said Gottlieb.

      “It’s fair to say, if you have antibodies, you test yourself and you have antibodies, it’s no guarantee you can’t get it again. That’s a reasonable statement. But you’re going to have some level of immunity.” 

      Former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he believes that most people who got and then recovered from COVID-19 will be left with “some level” of immunity t...
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      One in 10 Americans think they’ve had COVID-19, survey finds

      But very few of them have been tested

      Last week, studies in California and New York strongly suggested that the official count of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. is much lower than the actual number. This week, there is anecdotal evidence that supports those findings

      A survey by WebMD found that 10 percent of Americans believe they have had the virus during the last 30 days, but only 7 percent were tested to confirm their suspicions.

      The survey’s implication is that if everyone who thought they had the virus could have been tested, the official number of confirmed cases in the U.S. -- the highest of any nation -- would be even higher.

      The findings in New York City add to the survey’s validity. The poll showed that 26 percent of people in the New York Metro area believe they’ve had the coronavirus in the last 30 days. An actual study of New York residents’ antibodies estimates that 21 percent of people in the New York metro area have had the virus.

      Thirty-nine percent of those who weren’t tested said they were denied a test because they did not meet testing criteria. Another 28 percent said their symptoms were so mild that they didn’t think they needed one. Others said they chose not to be tested because they did not want to leave home.

      Most common symptoms

      Those who reported symptoms most commonly cited cough, loss of sense of smell or taste, body aches, diarrhea, headache, sore throat, and fatigue.  A significant percentage reported shortness of breath and fever.

      The poll closely resembles the results of not just the New York study, but findings by researchers at USC and the Los Angeles County Health Department. That study showed that the number of residents infected with the virus in that county is 28 to 55 times higher than the 8,000 cases that were confirmed when the study was done in early April. The study results have not yet been peer-reviewed.

      On the bright side

      Health officials say the USC findings are significant for two reasons. For one, it shows that the virus is highly contagious and is practically everywhere, even in locales thought to have few cases. It reinforces a need for social distancing and enhanced hygiene to slow the spread.

      At the same time, if there are many more cases than have been confirmed, then the virus is probably much less lethal than previously assumed. While it has resulted in many hospitalizations and deaths, the percentage of those who die from the virus is an order of magnitude lower than health officials previously believed.

      "The survey demonstrates the need to ramp up diagnostic testing, along with antibody testing, to fully understand the scope of the disease," said Dr. John Whyte, WebMD's chief medical officer. 

      Whyte said the evolving data can help guide policy decisions as regulators decide how and when to relax social distancing guidelines.

      Last week, studies in California and New York strongly suggested that the official count of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. is much lower than the...
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      Amazon ramps up authentication procedure for third-party sellers with video calls

      With 58 percent of its sales coming from third-parties, the company can’t risk having fraudsters rip off customers

      On paper, anyone can be a Tom, Dick, or Harry, but on-screen, the chances are slimmer that someone can pull off an impersonation. At least that’s what Amazon is hoping for in a new test designed to authenticate third-party sellers and minimize its chances of getting bitten by a fraudster.

      When the company started its campaign to validate candidates, its preference was meet potential applicants in person, but when COVID-19 looked like it wasn’t going anywhere for a while, the company turned to video calls.  

      Third-party business is Amazon’s wellspring. A whopping 58 percent of its gross sales come from third-party sellers. In late 2019, the company made dramatic changes to its policies to try to curry these sellers’ favor by making things fairer. 

      “As we practice social distancing, we are testing a process that allows us to validate prospective sellers’ identification via video conferencing,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement, “This pilot allows us to connect one-on-one with prospective sellers while making it even more difficult for fraudsters to hide.”

      Hoping this change will do the trick

      Amazon’s caught the ire of a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2019 for its substandard scrutiny of third-party sellers.

      “In practice, Amazon has increasingly evolved like a flea market. It exercises limited oversight over items listed by millions of third-party sellers, many of them anonymous, many in China, some offering scant information,” the Journal wrote.

      The result of Amazon’s lax attitude toward that seller group was a scourge of mislabeled or banned products, counterfeit goods, and even some items that had been declared “unsafe” by federal agencies.

      Amazon’s new video authentication procedure is in beta in the U.S., U.K., China, and Japan. The natural, modern-day inclination would be to think that the process uses facial recognition. However, Amazon has decided to take a more personable route in trying to make the process as non-Big Brother-like as possible.

      According to GeekWire’s confirmation of the process, Amazon will use its Chime video-conferencing technology -- similar to Zoom or Skype -- to make the calls to applicants. Once online, an Amazon representative double-checks the prospective seller’s ID to make sure it matches the person they’re talking to on-screen, as well as the documents the seller has provided in the application. Amazon says that, so far, more than 1,000 prospective sellers have gone through the screening process.

      On paper, anyone can be a Tom, Dick, or Harry, but on-screen, the chances are slimmer that someone can pull off an impersonation. At least that’s what Amaz...
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      Ecoideas brand chocolate cake mix and pancakes mixes recalled

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

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

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      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 place of purchase.

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

      Ecoideas Innovation is recalling Ecoideas brand Chocolate Cake Mix, Brown Rice Pancakes Mix and Buckwheat Pancakes Mix. The products may be contaminated...
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      6 organizational wonders to tidy your garage

      The products we selected take advantage of vertical space and won’t break the bank

      Garage a mess? The right organizational products can help you clean it up. Check out our hand-selected tidying tools for cluttered garages...

      Coronavirus update: New warning about hydroxychloroquine, United flight attendants masking up

      There’s a potential shortcut to a vaccine -- but it’s controversial

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 871,285 (843,981)

      Total U.S. deaths: 50,066 (46,859)

      Total global cases: 2,744,511 (2,659,557)

      Total global deaths: 192,982 (185,494)

      FDA issues warning about hydroxychloroquine side effects

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers and their health care providers about known side effects of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine when used “off-label” to treat the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      The agency says the side effects include serious and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems that have been reported when the drugs are part of a COVID-19 treatment. However, the FDA says the risks may be mitigated when closely supervised in a clinical setting.

      “We understand that health care professionals are looking for every possible treatment option for their patients and we want to ensure we’re providing them with the appropriate information needed for them to make the best medical decisions,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. “While clinical trials are ongoing to determine the safety and effectiveness of these drugs for COVID-19, there are known side effects of these medications that should be considered.”

      Hahn said doctors considering hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus patients should “closely screen and monitor” those patients.

      Mandatory masks

      United Airlines says it will require flight attendants on all flights to wear face masks, the first U.S. carrier to take that step. The directive went into effect today.

      “In coordination with the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA)—starting on April 24—we will require that all flight attendants wear a face covering or mask to help protect themselves and customers on board our aircraft,” United said in a statement.

      The union, meanwhile, says the airline should also require all passengers to wear masks while on board the aircraft. 

      Potential shortcut to a vaccine

      Developing a vaccine to protect against diseases normally takes years, but there’s an idea gaining acceptance that could speed things up. But it’s controversial.

      To test the vaccine, researchers would recruit several hundred healthy, young volunteers and infect them with the coronavirus. Half would be inoculated with the vaccine, the other half would not.

      Advocates of that approach say the volunteers would be fully informed of the risks. They say it could shave months off the trial, helping determine in a more timely manner whether the vaccine works.

      Trump’s comments on bleach raise concern

      President Trump is getting some serious pushback from his musings at his daily press briefing that ultraviolet light or injecting disinfectants into the body might help kill the coronavirus. Health experts quickly pointed out that bleach is a toxic substance and does not belong inside the human body.

      “Inhaling chlorine bleach would be absolutely the worst thing for the lungs,” John Balmes, a pulmonologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, told TIME. “The airway and lungs are not made to be exposed to even an aerosol of disinfectant.”

      Trump’s comments came in response to a presentation by the Department of Homeland Security that found bleach killed the virus in saliva. Disinfectant manufacturers were among the first to express alarm.

      "As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstances should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route,)” the company that makes Lysol said in a statement.

      New doubts about a potential drug treatment

      While there are high hopes for the potential coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir, a clinical trial in China cast doubt on its effectiveness, with researchers calling it a “flop.”

      Researchers say it made no difference in mortality, with actually slightly more of the patients taking the drug dying than the patients taking a placebo. But Gilead Science, the company making the drug, cautions against a rush to judgment.

      The company notes that the trial was not completed because it could not enroll enough participants. A spokesperson for the drugmaker said the results from the Chinese trial cannot “enable statistically meaningful conclusions.”

      Around the nation

      • Wyoming: The state health department reports that it has received a new shipment of testing supplies and no longer has a shortage. It says that the new supplies will enable hospitals to expand testing beyond priority groups.

      • Washington: The state supreme court has blocked a move that would have released inmates from state correctional institutions to mitigate coronavirus risks. The justices heard oral arguments in separate locations, using Zoom.

      • Ohio: Attorney General Dave Yost says price gouging is widespread in Ohio. His office has received more than 900 complaints since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. His office recently settled with an individual allegedly selling N95 masks at 18 times their list price.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 871,285 (843,981)...
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      Coronavirus drug ‘flops’ in Chinese trial

      But the drugmaker points to problems with how the drug was tested

      While there are high hopes for the potential coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir, a clinical trial in China cast doubt on its effectiveness, with researchers calling it a “flop.”

      Researchers say it made no difference in mortality, with actually slightly more of the patients taking the drug dying than the patients taking a placebo. But Gilead Science, the company making the drug, cautions against a rush to judgment.

      The company notes the trial was not completed because it could not enroll enough participants. A spokesperson for the drugmaker said the results from the Chinese trial cannot “enable statistically meaningful conclusions.”

      The company also took issue with how the drug was administered, saying it’s designed to be taken early in the disease, not after the virus has taken over a patient’s lungs. It plans to release the results of its own clinical trial next week.

      Again, that trial may be called into question because there is no placebo -- all the patients in the study are taking remdesivir. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is also conducting a clinical trial using the double-blind placebo method, the gold standard when it comes to testing a drug’s effectiveness. Those results are expected in late May.

      Last week, medical publisher STAT Newspublished comments from a researcher in the Gilead trial at the University of Chicago. The comments, made in a video conference with other researchers, reported positive results from all but two of the patients taking remdesivir.

      Other drugs

      Remdesivir is not the only drug in development as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Ely Lily CEO David Ricks told The Wall Street Journal that his company has been experimenting with a drug made from antibodies of patients who recovered from the virus. The company plans to start testing the drug this summer.

      Ricks said the treatment could “dramatically reduce viral load in people either about to get sick, or who are sick or even hospitalized.” He suggested that, if the drug proved effective, it could be available by the fall, when the virus is expected to make another appearance.

      Also this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the go-ahead for a clinical trial at Columbia University that will determine the effectiveness of blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors in alleviating symptoms. The study is funded by Amazon.

      The concept has been around for years and has proved effective in helping people recover from or avoid other diseases.

      While there are high hopes for the potential coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir, a clinical trial in China cast doubt on its effectiveness, w...
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      COVID-19 medical expenses could cost consumers up to $700 billion, study finds

      Experts say consumers need to take precautions to stay healthy

      Though consumers have plenty to worry about amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers are now exploring the financial aspect of the medical care that could be necessary during these uncertain times. 

      Experts from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy predict that if the majority of the country were to become infected, medical costs could be expected to near $700 billion, and medical equipment will become even harder to access. Their work emphasizes the importance of taking necessary precautions and staying home as much as possible. 

      “Some have suggested herd immunity strategies for this pandemic,” said researcher Sarah Bartsch. “These strategies consist of allowing people to get infected until herd immunity thresholds are reached and the virus can no longer spread. However, our study shows that such strategies could come at a tremendous cost.” 

      Slowing the spread and the rising costs

      The researchers developed a simulation that allowed them to analyze the effects of having different parts of the country and different populations affected by the coronavirus. In addition to playing out various scenarios, the simulation followed each patient from the time of diagnosis to their trips to the doctor or emergency room, and it tallied up all associated costs and medical expenses. 

      The researchers evaluated the repercussions of various proportions of the country becoming infected, ranging from 20 percent to 80 percent. 

      If 20 percent of the country tested positive, the researchers predicted that would lead to over 11 million hospitalizations and overall medical costs surpassing $163 billion. If 80 percent of the population became infected, they predict hospitalizations would rise to nearly 44 million, and total medical costs would near $700 billion. 

      The researchers hope that these figures emphasize the severity of the situation, as well as the importance of following stay-at-home orders. 

      “This also shows what may occur if social distancing measures were relaxed and the country were to be ‘re-opened’ too early,” said researcher Bruce Y. Lee. “If the virus is still circulating and the infection rates surge as a result, we have to consider the resulting health care costs. Such costs will affect the economy as well because someone will have to pay for them. Any economic argument for reopening the country needs to factor in health care costs.” 

      The researchers explained that these costs have repercussions that could last far longer than many consumers realize, and these findings highlight the importance of consumers doing their part to reduce the spread of infection. 

      “Factoring in the costs incurred after the infection is over also adds to the costs,” said Lee. “It is important to remember that for a proportion of the people who get infected, health care costs don’t end when the active infection ends. This pandemic will have its lasting effects and taking care of those who will suffer continuing problems is one of them.” 

      Though consumers have plenty to worry about amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers are now exploring the financial aspect of the medical care that could...
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      Gas prices fall again, but less aggressively than last week

      Oil prices have stabilized after going negative earlier this month

      Gas prices went down this week, but the rate of decline has slowed, even though the price of oil has fallen off a cliff.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $1.78 a gallon, four cents less than last Friday. At this time a year ago the average price was $2.84 a gallon. The average price of premium gas is $2.43 a gallon, five cents less than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.48 a gallon, down three cents from last week.

      On Monday, the futures price of oil for May delivery fell past zero to negative $38. Because of a nationwide economic shutdown, demand for gasoline plunged and producers were running out of places to store their oil.

      Oil prices recovered later in the week but are still at levels not seen in more than a decade. Demand for gasoline this week remains low but has stabilized, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

      While the national average is just below $1.80 a gallon, many stations around the country are selling fuel for below $1 a gallon.

      “One in four U.S. gas stations is selling gas for $1.49 or less,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “Even with regional refinery rates dropping, we will continue to see gas prices decrease though potentially at a slower rate than the past few weeks.”

      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 ($3.22)

      • California ($2.78)

      • Washington ($2.49)

      • Oregon ($2.44) 

      • Nevada ($2.35)

      • New York ($2.20)

      • Arizona ($2.17)

      • Utah ($2.08)

      • Alaska ($2.07)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.06)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Wisconsin ($1.19)

      • Oklahoma ($1.38)

      • Ohio ($1.39)

      • Michigan ($1.43)

      • Kentucky ($1.45)

      • Arkansas ($1.45)

      • Indiana ($1.46)

      • Iowa ($1.49)

      • Missouri ($1.49)

      • Mississippi ($1.52)

      • Kansas ($1.52)

      Gas prices went down this week, but the rate of decline has slowed, even though the price of oil has fallen off a cliff.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows...
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      Everything you need to take your kids backyard camping

      Here's our list of solid buys for both camping traditionalists and "glampers"

      A backyard camping trip is a great way to get out of the house for a night and pretend like you're on a trip. For families, the thrill of sleeping in a different location might be an excellent way to break up the monotony and repetition we're all facing. Plus, most younger kids relish the chance to stay up late and tell fun campfire stories for a night.

      There are two basic approaches:

      • Roughing it: Roughing it is when you and your loved ones treat camping like a traditional experience. You set up a (safe) campfire, grill some food and look at the stars.
      • Glamping: Glamping is a relatively new phrase that embodies a more modern camping experience. With glamping, you and your family camp with modern amenities like electricity, wifi, tablets and other gadgets.

      Once you and your loved ones decide on the best way to camp, you'll need a few basic items to pull off a great adventure on your property. Make sure to check out our Authorized Partner Academy Sports, one of the best options for getting all your camping gear in one go!

      A camping tent

      Unless you're up for a night of stargazing and taking your chances with the wildlife, you're probably going to want to sleep in some sort of enclosed tent. Find a tent that is reasonably simple to assemble, fits everyone comfortably and priced in your budget.

      • 4-person tent
      • 1-minute setup

      Buy on Amazon

      • 8-person tent
      • 15-minute setup

      Buy on Amazon

      A comfy air mattress

      Although your lawn may be soft, it's probably a little too hard for a good night's sleep. An easily inflated mattress that can fit inside your tent is a popular camping accessory. Like tents, you can go big or go basic; a top-of-the-line air mattress runs over $100, but is built to last and has an electric blowing motor.

      • I-Beam air coils
      • Supports up to 661 pounds

      Buy on Amazon

      • One-year warranty
      • Waterproof flocked top

      Buy on Amazon

      Fun sleeping bags

      Blankets may work just as well, but for the authentic camping experience, kids will love the idea of using their own sleeping bags. Be mindful that sleeping bags differ by temperature rating — you don't want to be sweating in a sleeping bag intended for winter!

      • Weather-resistant design
      • Comes with compression sack

      Buy on Amazon

      Camping chairs for kicking back

      If you don’t already have some sort of outdoor seating, foldable chairs are generally very inexpensive, durable and useful for many purposes outside of camping. Be sure to get one with a built-in cupholder for easy drink access!

      • Extra-wide seat
      • Breathable nylon mesh

      Buy on Amazon

      • Child-sized
      • Too cute to not buy

      Buy on Amazon

      A toasty fire pit

      It wouldn't be camping if there weren't a fire, would it? A contained fire pit run by a responsible adult is a fun addition to any night on the lawn. Whether you're sitting around chatting or roasting marshmallows, there is the perfect fire pit for your backyard adventure.

      • Good for charcoal or wood logs
      • Compact design

      Buy on Amazon

      Handy marshmallow roasters

      No food is quite as fun to roast over a fire like a marshmallow. There's nothing like poking a marshmallow on a stick, letting it catch fire for a split second, then blowing it out and chomping down on a graham cracker with chocolate. Marshmallow roasters are a great addition to any campout, especially those with color-coded, expandable sticks.

      • Long design to avoid burns
      • Stainless steel prongs

      Buy on Amazon

      Bright camping lights

      Once the sun goes down, you'll want light around camp. Camping lights are useful when you're trying to read a story, get inside for a bathroom break or make shadow puppets. A lantern-style camping light is another fun tool to have at your disposal.

      • 90-hour battery life
      • Waterproof

      Buy on Amazon

      Headlamps for night entertainment

      Why fumble around with a light in the dark when you could simply attach it to your face? A headlamp is a clever way to boost the backyard camping experience and make kids feel like they're really out in the woods.

      • 45-hour life on low power
      • Weather-resistant

      Buy on Amazon

      An ice-cold cooler

      A cooler keeps your snacks and beverages chilled on the spot, allowing you to avoid the irritating routine of making trips back and forth into the house. A quality cooler is something every family needs, and you can use it for future outdoor events!

      • Ultratherm insulated body
      • Made in the USA

      Buy on Amazon

      A useful extension cord

      If you are glamping, you'll need access to electricity. These outdoor extension cords are inexpensive and have many different purposes. Run it from the nearest outlet into your tent to power devices, turn on lights or inflate your air mattress.

      • 25 feet long
      • Protective vinyl covering

      Buy on Amazon

      A movie-time projector

      Finally, the item that kids and older glampers will love — a projector for watching movies outdoors. You can find projectors around $100 and compatible with everything from laptops to smartphones to Fire Sticks for streaming video.

      • High-resolution
      • 100-inch projector screen

      Buy on Amazon

      If you want to ensure your home and family remain safe while you’re out on your camping adventure, try our Home Alarm & Security Systems matching tool. Answer a few questions about your home, and we’ll pair you with a leading Authorized Partner who meets your needs!

      Camping with the kids makes for a great change of pace. We selected some must-haves and a handful of more counterintuitive camping products....
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      New York antibody testing suggests 13.9 percent of residents have contracted coronavirus

      Gov. Andrew Cuomo released the preliminary results from the state’s first study of antibodies

      A new study out of New York estimates that 13.9 percent of residents in the state have had COVID-19. The antibody testing study was based on random testing of 3,000 people at grocery stores and shopping locations across 19 counties in 40 localities in New York. 

      The preliminary results of the study were released Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who explained that nearly 14 percent of study participants were found to have developed the antibodies to fight the virus at some point and recovered.

      “What we found so far is that the state-wide number is 13.9 percent tested positive for having the antibodies,” he said. “They were infected three weeks ago, four weeks ago, five weeks ago, six weeks ago, but they had the virus, they developed the antibodies and they are now recovered.”

      Largest concentration in New York City

      New York City residents accounted for the largest number of people with positive antibody test results, at 21.2 percent. Long Island had the second-highest concentration of antibody-positive and recovered individuals at 16.7 percent. In Westchester, 11.7 percent of the tests came back positive. In the rest of the state, just 3.6 percent of people tested positive. 

      Cuomo said the study represents a “significant data set,” but he acknowledged that the results could be off because “these are people who were out and about shopping.” It also doesn’t account for those who died in their home. 

      “They were not people who were in their home, they were not people isolated, they were not people who were quarantined who you could argue probably had a lower rate of infection because they wouldn’t come out of the house,” he said. 

      An infection rate of 13.9 percent would mean that 2.7 million people would be infected statewide. Additionally, it would mean that the death rate from coronavirus may be lower than some estimates, Cuomo said.

      To date, roughly 2.6 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with COVID-19. However, the actual numbers are believed to be higher due to unreported cases and testing shortages. 

      "Enough tests are not available anywhere," Cuomo said at a press conference, adding that more tests are needed in prisons, nursing homes, and throughout the state. 

      A new study out of New York estimates that 13.9 percent of residents in the state have had COVID-19. The antibody testing study was based on random testing...
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      Coronavirus update: Study says death rate significantly lower, business loans already snapped up

      Gilead officials have high expectations for a drug treatment

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 843,981 (826,248)

      Total U.S. deaths: 46,859 (45,153 )

      Total global cases: 2,659,557 (2,594,724)

      Total global deaths: 185,494 (179,778)

      USC study: COVID-19 death rate significantly lower

      While the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) cited above may seem large, two California studies suggest cases of the virus are an order of magnitude higher, meaning the death rate from the virus is actually a fraction of the official estimate of between 1 percent and 2 percent.

      A study by USC and the Los Angeles County Health Department confirmed the findings of a smaller Stanford study showing 80,000 residents of Santa Clara County have or have had COVID-19, not the 1,962 cases counted by Johns Hopkins. That means the 94 deaths attributed to the virus make for a fatality rate of .001 percent, not the 4.7 percent “official” death rate.

      Similar results were found in Los Angeles County, where the estimated number of infected people is between 221,000 and 442,000, not the 16,449 that are officially confirmed.

      “We haven’t known the true extent of COVID-19 infections in our community because we have only tested people with symptoms, and the availability of tests has been limited,” said lead investigator Neeraj Sood, a USC professor of public policy at USC Price School for Public Policy and senior fellow at USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. “The estimates also suggest that we might have to recalibrate disease prediction models and rethink public health strategies.”

      Second round of small business loans already gone

      Congress hasn’t even given final approval to the second round of funding for emergency loans for small businesses, but bank groups say the money has already been allotted to borrowers. The Consumer Bankers Association says the majority of the $310 billion in the pending legislation is already spoken for.

      The initial $349 billion contained in the CARES Act was gone within two days, with some publicly traded restaurant chains getting large loans before small businesses could get their applications in. 

      Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration issued new guidance today to make it harder for  big publicly traded companies to access the next round of funding in the popular loan program.

      Gilead is betting on its own coronavirus treatment

      Clinical trials of Gilead Science’s experimental drug remdesivir are still underway, but the pharmaceutical giant is reportedly in full production of the drug. The move has raised eyebrows since large companies don’t normally take that kind of risk.

      It’s led some industry analysts to conclude that Gilead is very confident that remdesivir will be an effective treatment for the most severe effects of the coronavirus. Anecdotal evidence has raised hopes. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial may be concluded before the end of May.

      Publix helping two ways

      Supermarket chain Publix saw two problems and will try to help out with one solution. Farmers are discarding milk and produce because the market has nearly collapsed with the closing of schools around the country. At the same time, people are lining up at food banks.

      The company plans to purchase fresh produce and milk to assist farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and donate these products directly to Feeding America member food banks in its market area. 

      The initiative will support Florida produce farmers, southeastern dairy farmers, and the growing number of families looking to Feeding America for fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk during the coronavirus pandemic.

      26 million jobs lost

      The Labor Department reports that there were 4.4 million initial claims for unemployment benefits in the last week, meaning more than 26 million people have been thrown out of work since the economy went into shutdown mode. That more than wipes out the total number of jobs created since the Great Recession.

      Even though it’s a staggering number, unemployment claims have declined from their record highs during the first two weeks of the shutdown. The latest number is a decline of 810,000 from the previous week.

      Around the nation

      • Louisiana: Governor John Bell Edwards says all state residents must wear a mask for the indefinite future. The government said there won’t be exceptions for young children and people with breathing problems. 

      • Vermont: Georgia has gotten all the attention, but it’s not the only state lifting restrictions on some aspects of daily life. Vermont is also opening up some businesses in the state while maintaining social distancing regulations.

      • Nevada: The state gaming commission has issued guidance for reopening casinos. Establishments must submit a detailed plan that includes the re-opening date and time and, if the re-opening process is phased in at larger operations, specific dates and times for each area.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 843,981 (826,248)...
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      First COVID-19 death occurred earlier than previously thought

      The realization is important because the trajectory of an outbreak relies heavily on its start date

      Health officials said Tuesday that the first U.S. death caused by the novel coronavirus took place weeks earlier than previously thought. 

      The earliest coronavirus-related death was initially believed to have taken place on February 29 in Kirkland, Washington. However, in March, health officials unearthed two February 26 deaths tied to the virus. 

      The latest discovery suggests that the virus was around and spreading for longer than initially realized. The realization also means that the stay-in-place orders should remain in place, according to Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer. 

      Timeline of outbreak pushed back

      Cody told the Washington Post that her county’s shelter-in-place directive was “definitely the right call” given that each severe COVID-19 case hints at a larger number of infections. 

      “Every time when I see someone in the ICU or someone who dies, what that says to me is that represents many more infections,” she said.

      Stay-at-home orders are “a very blunt tool,” she said. However, “it’s an effective way of slowing the spread and if you already have significant levels of circulation of the virus, that’s really your best and only tool.”

      Protestors and state officials have been pushing back on stay-at-home orders, with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announcing plans to allow businesses to reopen this Friday with “minimum operations.” President Trump has fueled efforts by people protesting stay-at-home orders, tweeting "LIBERATE MICHIGAN! ... LIBERATE MINNESOTA! ... LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!" 

      Jeff Smith, a physician and the county executive in Santa Clara, told the Post that he “sincerely and deeply” hopes that the message gets across to Americans that we “cannot relax shelter-in-place at this point because we don’t have enough testing to know with any type of certainty which areas of the community and which people have the virus.” 

      Health officials said Tuesday that the first U.S. death caused by the novel coronavirus took place weeks earlier than previously thought. The earliest...
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      New technology isn't the answer for fighting climate change

      Experts say more work needs to be done on the local level to see considerable change

      Climate change has created a great deal of stress among consumers, as there is no shortage of health concerns related to rising temperatures and escalating air pollution levels. 

      Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Lancaster University has found that consumers shouldn’t wait around for new technologies to help reduce the effects of climate change. Instead, the team says consumers and policymakers need to work together to make shifts in our daily lives in order to see real change. 

      “For forty years, climate action has been delayed by technological promises,” said researchers Duncan McLaren and Nils Markusson. “Contemporary promises are equally dangerous. Our work exposes how such promises have raised expectations of more effective policy options becoming available in the future, and thereby enabled a continued politics of prevarication and inadequate action.” 

      Creating cultural change

      For their study, McLaren and Markusson evaluated technological promises dating back to the early 1990s. They explained that experts have been working to reduce the harmful effects of climate change in a five-step approach: 

      • Stabilization 

      • Percentage emissions reductions 

      • Atmospheric concentrations

      • Cumulative budgets

      • Outcome temperatures 

      In each phase, experts have tried utilizing various technological advances that were believed to be the answer to fighting climate change. The researchers note that some strategies that have been used over the years include nuclear power, bioenergy, emissions technologies, and improved energy efficiency, among several others. 

      However, despite these efforts, not much progress has been made. According to McLaren and Markusson, the greatest change will come from cultural shifts as opposed to technological advances. 

      “Each novel promise not only competes with existing ideas, but also downplays any sense of urgency, enabling the repeated deferral of political deadlines for climate action and undermining societal commitment to meaningful responses,” the researchers explained. 

      Moving forward, the researchers want to put the onus on leaders to make real change happen on the climate change front. If there is a shift in societal behaviors and attitudes, then consumers can expect to put up a solid fight against climate change. 

      “Putting our hopes in yet more new technologies is unwise,” McLaren and Markusson said. “Instead, cultural, social, and political transformation is essential to enable widespread deployment of both behavioural and technological responses to climate change.” 

      Climate change has created a great deal of stress among consumers, as there is no shortage of health concerns related to rising temperatures and escalating...
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      Model year 2020 Ford Expeditions recalled

      The front passenger seat belt buckle's Belt Tension Sensor may malfunction

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 1,355 model year 2020 Expeditions.

      The front passenger seat belt buckle's Belt Tension Sensor may malfunction and may result in the seat occupant being misclassified.

      The restraint system may not provide the intended level of protection in a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger seat belt buckle free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 11, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S17.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 1,355 model year 2020 Expeditions. The front passenger seat belt buckle's Belt Tension Sensor may malfunction and may re...
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      Fromagerie Blackburn expands recall of Le Mont-Jacob semi-soft cheese

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Fromagerie Blackburn is expanding its earlier recall of Le Mont-Jacob semi-soft cheese.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There are no reports of illness to date.

      The following cheese wheels of Le Mont-Jacob semi-soft cheese, sold cut up and re-packaged in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and possibly throughout Canada, are being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodesLot
      Fromagerie BlackburnLe Mont-Jacob semi-soft cheese130 g6 28504 56408 0Best Before
      05JN20
      16JN20
      25JN20
      20007
      20020
      20028
      Fromagerie BlackburnLe Mont-Jacob semi-soft cheeseVariable weight – cheese wheels6 28504 56403 5All products with a BBD up to and including 15JN2020007,
      20008,
      20014,
      20015,
      20016,
      20020,
      20021,
      20022,
      20028,
      20036,
      20042,
      20043,
      20044,
      20050
      Fromagerie BlackburnLe Mont-Jacob semi-soft cheeseVariable weightBegins with 0 200007All units sold up to and including April 5, 2020None

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the place of purchase .

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (418) 547-4153 or by email at info@fromagerieblackburn.com.

      Fromagerie Blackburn is expanding its earlier recall of Le Mont-Jacob semi-soft cheese. The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. ...
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      Trump gives more details on immigration suspension

      The order will apply only to people seeking permanent residence in the U.S.

      President Trump has given more details about the order he plans to sign this week that will temporarily ban immigration into the United States. 

      Late Monday night, the President tweeted about his intent to pause the issuance of green cards and work visas to help fight “the attack from the Invisible Enemy” and protect jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. 

      On Wednesday, the president said the order will be in effect for 60 days and will apply only to people seeking green cards. The order will not affect workers entering the country on a temporary basis.

      Trump tweeted that he would be signing the executive order prohibiting immigration into the U.S. later today. 

      “In the meantime, even without this order, our Southern Border, aided substantially by the 170 miles of new Border Wall & 27,000 Mexican soldiers, is very tight - including for human trafficking!” he said.

      Mitigating economic impact of the virus

      Trump said the action would help preserve jobs as the nation battles coronavirus and its economic impact. 

      "By pausing immigration, we'll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens," Trump said. "It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American workers."

      He added that there will be exemptions under the order. Details about exemptions will be discussed “tonight or tomorrow,” he said. 

      Critics of the order have said Trump is using it to further his “anti-immigration agenda,” as well as divert attention away from his response to the virus. To date, nearly 45,000 people in the U.S. have died from the virus. 

      "This action is not only an attempt to divert attention away from Trump’s failure to stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, but an authoritarian-like move to take advantage of a crisis and advance his anti-immigrant agenda,” tweeted Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “We must come together to reject his division." 

      President Trump has given more details about the order he plans to sign this week that will temporarily ban immigration into the United States. Late Mo...
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      Health officials say second coronavirus outbreak could emerge this winter

      A dual outbreak could crop up with flu season

      Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say another round of illnesses caused by the novel coronavirus could surface during the winter with this year’s flu season. 

      In an interview with the Washington Post, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the next batch of illnesses could be even more dire for the nation. 

      "There's a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through," Redfield said. "And when I've said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don't understand what I mean."

      Redfield explained in the interview published Tuesday that there’s likely to be a flu epidemic and a coronavirus epidemic happening at the same time, “predicting a dual assault on the health care system.” 

      Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator, said the administration would continue to monitor the situation and bolster testing capacity. 

      "We were very clear in the guidelines that we believe we can monitor, again, monitor communities at the community level by using the influenza-like illness," she said, adding that they are working to build testing capacity and it's important to "have testing in place."

      Reopening states?

      Governors in several states are currently looking to reopen their states. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp on Monday signed an executive order allowing businesses to reopen this coming Friday with “minimum operations.”

      President Donald Trump has supported those protesting stay-at-home orders, encouraging them in tweets to “LIBERATE” their states. 

      Redfield has urged state officials to dedicate the next few months to continuing to stress the importance of social distancing and increasing testing. Closer to flu season, Redfield says officials should amplify campaigns emphasizing the importance of flu shots. 

      Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say another round of illnesses caused by the novel coronavirus could surface during the...
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      GM recalls Rugged Liner hard, tri-fold tonneau covers

      The tonneau cover may detach from the pickup bed

      General Motors is recalling 14,919 Rugged Liner hard, tri-fold tonneau covers sold as accessories for model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 series trucks.

      The attachment system may not properly secure the cover to the pickup bed.

      If the cover separates from the truck bed, it could be a road hazard, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tonneau rails and install improved attachments free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 1, 2020.

      Owners may contact GM customer service at (586) 596-1733. GM's number for this recall is N192285070.

      General Motors is recalling 14,919 Rugged Liner hard, tri-fold tonneau covers sold as accessories for model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sier...
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      U.S. Treasury releases $2.9 billion in airline support and puts final touches on payroll agreements

      The payouts have safeguards built in to keep the airlines on the up and up

      On Monday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury put the final touches on its Payroll Support Program deal with Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines. The agreement releases $2.9 billion in initial payments to support airline flight attendants, pilots, and other workers, but it also helps shield the aviation industry from collapsing.

      Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and SkyWest Airlines weren’t part of Monday’s agreement, but all those companies have said that they plan to participate in the program. All told, the airlines represent close to 95 percent of the U.S. airline capacity. 

      More if necessary

      The Treasury said it’s open to supplementary payments to the airlines on a rolling basis, but only as long as the funds are used for the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits. 

      United Airlines wasted no time, saying it was seeking $4.5 billion in loans from the program. Last week, American said it was asking for a $4.75 billion loan under that program, while both Alaska and Horizon said they, too, were getting things together to ask for $1.1 billion in loans.

      “The Payroll Support Program is critical to supporting American workers and preserving our airline industry, which is a vital part of the U.S. economy,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. “We continue to work quickly to deliver this needed relief.” 

      The Treasury gets something out of this deal, too

      Consumers shouldn’t worry about the U.S. government handing the airlines all this money free-and-clear. Under the CARES Act, the Treasury’s making sure that the airlines get the help they need, but the carriers are still on the hook for repaying 30 percent of it back and granting the Treasury warrants equivalent to 10 percent of the total amount borrowed. 

      Smaller companies do have an extra benefit added into the deal. Airlines taking out loans for $100 million or less are not required to repay anything or issue any warrants to the government.

      On Monday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury put the final touches on its Payroll Support Program deal with Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air L...
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      Coronavirus update: New at-home test kit approved by FDA, virus hits home sales

      The WHO has addressed rumors that the virus originated in a Chinese lab

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 788,920 (761,991)

      Total U.S. deaths: 42,458 (40,702 )

      Total global cases: 2,501,156 (2,432,092)

      Total global deaths: 171,810 (166,256)

      FDA approves first at-home test kit

      The lack of testing supplies has been a major sore point among policymakers as the coronavirus has spread, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just made it a lot easier to get tested.

      The agency has granted approval to Labcorp to produce the first at-home COVID-19 test kit. LabCorp says it will give first access to health care workers and first responders.

      Unlike an at-home pregnancy test, users will not get immediate results; they’ll still have to send the sample to a lab for testing. But the FDA says the self-sampling sidesteps the need for a clinician to perform the test, reducing their exposure to symptomatic patients. It also frees up more personal protective equipment, which is in short supply. The test will sell for $119.

      Coronavirus hits the housing market hard in March

      Even though the coronavirus (COVID-19) was mostly under control in the early part of the month, sales of existing homes fell sharply in March, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

      Sales were down 8.5 percent compared to February, with most of the sales contracts signed in January and February, long before the coronavirus put a halt to most economic activity. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says that suggests the next few months could be even bleaker, with double-digit sales declines.

      “More temporary interruptions to home sales should be expected in the next couple of months, though home prices will still likely rise,” Yun said.

      Shooting down rumors

      A persistent rumor making the rounds on social media and cable TV is the suspicion that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab. The World Health Organization (WHO) addressed that today, saying the evidence shows the virus “likely” originated from animals -- specifically bats.

      Reuters quotes WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib as saying: “All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not a manipulated or constructed virus in a lab or somewhere else.”  

      NBC News reported in recent days that former and current intelligence officers were exploring the possibility the coronavirus was accidentally released from a Chinese lab that was studying diseases in bats. The lab in question has denied it, labeling the accusation as “a conspiracy theory.”

      Pandemic forces 10,000 layoffs at Hertz

      The nation’s skyrocketing unemployment rate just went a little higher. Due to the drastic drop in travel, Hertz has announced it is laying off 10,000 employees.

      “Like the rest of the global travel sector, COVID-19′s impact on Hertz arrived swiftly, and the reversal in customer demand has been significant,” Hertz CEO Kathryn Marinello told CNBC last month.

      The jobs amount to less than a third of Hertz’s international workforce, but they may not be gone for good. The company said it hopes to recall many of its laid-off employees in the post-COVID-19 economy.

      McDonald’s is providing ‘thank you meals’ for first responders

      McDonald’s has joined the legion of companies and individuals offering support for health care workers and first responders. The fast-food chain, which is operating delivery and drive-thru options at its restaurants, will provide free Thank You Meals between Wednesday, April 22 and Tuesday, May 5 to health care workers, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics.

      “Emergency physicians and other health care workers on the frontlines are spending hours a day on their feet, often missing meals in their efforts to care for their patients,” said Dr. William Jaquis, President of The American College of Emergency Physicians. “McDonald’s Thank You Meal is a much-appreciated gesture for those risking their lives each day to take a break with a hot meal amidst the turbulence.”

      The free meals will consist of select items from McDonald’s breakfast and lunch and dinner menus.

      Around the nation

      • Louisiana: A Baton Rouge pastor who defied state orders and held large church services is asking people to donate their COVID-19 $1,200 government stimulus payments to the church. Pastor Tony Spell told CNN he wants to give the money to missionaries and evangelists, who he says don’t receive the stimulus money. 

      • Wisconsin: Milwaukee’s health commission says seven state residents have been identified as getting the coronavirus from activities related to voting in the state’s April 7 Democratic Primary. State officials went forward with the voting despite pleas from health officials to postpone it.

      • Montana: Montana is one of the least-affected states by the coronavirus and has among the fewest confirmed cases. On Monday, it reported no new cases.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 788,920 (761,991)...
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      Industry group says truck drivers are ‘first responders’ and need more federal aid during coronavirus crisis

      Programs to aid small business have missed truckers ‘completely’

      Truck drivers are critical during the coronavirus pandemic, but the health risks they face on the job haven’t received enough attention or federal aid, according to the CEO of an industry group.

      “Realistically, truckers are first responders. Our whole economy runs on trucks,” Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told CNBC on Monday. 

      He added that all of the items consumers need to survive and live comfortably during the health crisis only gets to stores via truck. Yet, at this point, the government hasn’t stepped in and given truckers aid money. 

      Spencer said government programs to help small businesses during the crisis have so far missed truckers completely, despite the fact that a majority of truckers operate in small fleets containing 20 or fewer trucks. 

      Greater efforts needed

      The lack of government assistance for truckers has left many in a tough situation financially since the rate they receive to transport goods has “pretty much been cut in half,” Spencer said. 

      “They’re facing a real economic crisis to be able to continue to operate, not to mention the fact that they actually are on the front line in the battle against coronavirus,” he said. “They really are critical. They go everywhere. They go into the hot zones.” 

      The Independent Drivers Association said in a letter to President Trump earlier this month that there’s a need for COVID-19 testing for truckers, as well as the need for a plan to quarantine drivers who may get infected while on the job. Spencer and his organization have suggested providing drivers with personal protective equipment to help them stay healthy.

      “We don’t think it’s realistic that the only option they have is to quarantine in a truck. We think far more could be done there,” Spencer told CNBC. 

      Truck drivers are critical during the coronavirus pandemic, but the health risks they face on the job haven’t received enough attention or federal aid, acc...
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      Parents contribute to more pollution than non-parents, study finds

      Researchers suggest that having children makes consumers less eco-conscious

      Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and organizers will be trying to host a massive online event to make consumers more aware about the dangers of climate change. But a recent study shows that there may be one section of the population that is less likely to absorb this information and use it in their everyday lives.

      Researchers from the University of Wyoming have found that parents are less likely to be as eco-friendly as non-parents. The team says the finding was surprising because of how important climate change can be to future generations.

      "While having children makes people focus more on the future and, presumably, care more about the environment, our study suggests that parenthood does not cause people to become 'greener,'" said researchers Jason Shogren and Linda Thunstrom. 

      "Becoming a parent can transform a person -- he or she thinks more about the future and worries about future risks imposed on their children and progeny. But, while having children might be transformational, our results suggest that parents' concerns about climate change do not cause them to be 'greener' than non-parent adults."

      Convenience and time constraints

      The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing the spending habits of parents and non-parents in Sweden. They found that families with children utilized services and consumed goods that emitted higher levels of CO2. The research team explained that this might be the case because more importance is being placed on convenience because of the time constraints that parents face each day.

      “The difference in CO2 emissions between parents and non-parents is substantial, and that's primarily because of increased transportation and food consumption changes," the researchers explained. "Parents may need to be in more places in one day...They also need to feed more people. Eating more pre-prepared, red meat carbon-intensive meals may add convenience and save time."

      Shogren and Thunstrom note that these findings are particularly significant because they were conducted in Sweden, which is widely accepted to be more eco-conscious than other nations around the world. This means that the CO2 statistics for other Western countries could be even more pronounced.

      The full study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

      Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and organizers will be trying to host a massive online event to make consumers more aware about the dangers of climate...
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      Model year 2019-2020 Ram 2500 and 3500 pick-up trucks recalled

      The bed step may fail unexpectedly

      Chrysler is recalling 37,580 model year 2019-2020 Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 pick-up trucks with an accessory bed step.

      In certain side loading conditions, the bed step may unexpectedly fail while in use.

      A bed step that unexpectedly fails while in use increases the risk of injury to the user.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the bed step support brace free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 29, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's numbers for this recall are W24 and W44.

      Chrysler is recalling 37,580 model year 2019-2020 Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 pick-up trucks with an accessory bed step. In certain side loading conditions, t...
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      Hyundai recalls model year 2020 Nexos and Sonatas

      The Remote Smart Parking Assist software may fail to prevent vehicle movement

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 11,870 model year 2020 Nexos and Sonatas.

      The Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA) software may fail to prevent vehicle movement upon detection of an RSPA system malfunction.

      Unintended vehicle movement increases the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the RSPA software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 4, 2020.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (855) 371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 191.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 11,870 model year 2020 Nexos and Sonatas. The Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA) software may fail to prevent vehicle...
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      Customers not practicing social distancing are putting grocery store workers at risk

      Experts say it may be time to bar customers from coming inside

      To reduce worker deaths caused by “careless customers,” some grocery store owners and union leaders believe it may be time to ban grocery store customers from coming inside. 

      Switching to curbside pickup and home delivery service would help protect grocery store workers from COVID-19, said John Logan, professor and director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University.

      "Anything that reduces the need for interaction with the public and allows for greater physical distancing will ultimately better protect grocery workers," Logan told CNN Business. "Shuttering stores and repurposing them for pickup and delivery only would be a positive step."

      Dozens of grocery store workers have died from the coronavirus in the past few months, and experts say that’s because many customers aren’t putting enough space between themselves and workers. Eight-five percent of workers who are part of the United Food and Commercial Workers' union reported that customers are not practicing social distancing in stores. 

      Lack of federal restrictions 

      The government has yet to enact mandatory restrictions on customers going inside grocery stores. However, the Labor Department recently recommended that retailers start "using a drive-through window or offering curbside pick-up" to protect workers. The California Department of Industrial Relations has also said companies should "encourage customer use of online order and pickup."

      Kroger and other large chains have opted to remain open to the public but have implemented several safety measures, such as restricting the number of customers allowed inside stores and having workers check their temperature every shift.

      The need for groceries during the health crisis combined with the fact that ordering systems for pickup and delivery can’t handle the massive surge in demand leaves grocery stores “no choice” but to stay open, according to Seth Harris, former deputy secretary of labor during the Obama administration.

      "We have no choice. They have to stay open. [America's grocery] delivery system has not matured to the point where we can switch to an entirely remote system," he said. 

      Consumers are currently urged to avoid unnecessary public outings. If a trip to the grocery store is necessary, the FDA recommends maintaining a distance of six feet between yourself and others, wearing a face covering or mask, and wiping down handles of carts and baskets.

      To reduce worker deaths caused by “careless customers,” some grocery store owners and union leaders believe it may be time to ban grocery store customers f...
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      Most U.S. consumers have concerns over easing coronavirus restrictions

      A poll shows that many think relaxing rules will lead to a rise in cases

      More than half of Americans (60 percent) are concerned that easing restrictions on social distancing and public outings will lead to a rise in coronavirus cases, according to a poll recently conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. 

      The survey of 900 registered voters found partisan differences in opinion on current federal restrictions as it applies to the economy and public health.

      A majority of Democrats (77 percent) and Independents (57 percent) said they were more worried about the coronavirus, while 48 percent of Republicans said they were more concerned about the virus’ impact on the economy.

      Thirty-three percent of those polled said they were “very worried” that a family member would become infected with COVID-19. In a separate poll conducted this month, two-thirds of Americans said they believed the “worst” of the outbreak was yet to come.

      Protests on social distancing guidelines

      The latest poll results come amid growing opposition to social distancing guidelines. Protesters in a number of states recently gathered to express their opposition to current school and business closures. 

      President Trump supported coronavirus protestors over the weekend, tweeting "LIBERATE MICHIGAN! ... LIBERATE MINNESOTA! ... LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!"

      In the poll, 52 percent of Americans said they distrusted what Trump has to say about the pandemic. More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) said they trusted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide accurate information about the outbreak, and 66 percent said they trusted their state’s governor to provide accurate information. 

      Governors across the country have described Trump's support of coronavirus protestors as “dangerous.” 

      "I don't know any other way to characterize it, when we have an order from governors, both Republicans and Democrats, that basically are designed to protect people's health, literally their lives, to have a president of the United States basically encourage insubordination, to encourage illegal activity," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said on ABC's "This Week."

      “To have an American president to encourage people to violate the law, I can't remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing,” Inslee added.

      More than half of Americans (60 percent) are concerned that easing restrictions on social distancing and public outings will lead to a rise in coronavirus...
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      Model year 2019 – 2020 Ranger XP 1000 off-road vehicles recalled

      The fuel line may be misrouted

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 7,000 model year 2019 – 2020 Ranger XP 1000 & CREW XP 1000 off-road vehicles.

      The fuel line can be misrouted above the bracket that protects the fuel line from a clutch belt failure, posing a fire hazard.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves Model Year 2019 – 2020 Ranger XP 1000 & CREW XP 1000 Off-Road Vehicles with the following model names:

      YEAR

      MODEL NAME

      2019

      Ranger XP 1000 EPS

      Ranger CREW XP 1000 EPS

      2020

      Ranger XP 1000

      Ranger CREW XP 1000

      The vehicles were sold in black, green, white, blue, orange, sand, maroon and camo, and have two or four seats.

      Vehicle identification numbers (VIN) included in this recall can be found on a label affixed to the vehicle frame in the left front wheel well.

      “Polaris” is stamped on the front grille and “Ranger” is on the sides of the utility bed. The following models and non-sequential VIN ranges are included in the recall:

      MY19 RANGER XP 1000 EPS

      4XARRW990K8922555 - 4XARRW99XK8922563

      MY19 RANGER CREW XP 1000 EPS

      4XARSM991K8921973 - 4XARSM99XK8921972

      MY20 RANGER XP 1000

      4XARRB990L8922436 - 4XARRW99XL8933242

      MY20 RANGER CREW XP 1000

      4XARSB990L8923252 - 4XARSW99XL8932306

      The vehicles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from August 2019, through December 2019, for between $15,890 and $29,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a Polaris dealer to schedule a free inspection and repair. Polaris is notifying dealers and contacting affected registered owners directly.

      Consumers may contact Polaris at (800) 765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.( C)T Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off-Road Safety Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      In addition, check your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the “Product Safety Recalls” page to see if your vehicle is included in any recalls.

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 7,000 model year 2019 – 2020 Ranger XP 1000 & CREW XP 1000 off-road vehicles. The fuel line can ...
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      8 skills to learn (while in quarantine)

      Learn new things to keep mentally sharp, experience some growth and stay interested in the world

      One way to spend your time indoors is by learning new skills. We have some suggestions that will make you feel more well-rounded and in control...

      Gas prices fall to late 1990s levels

      A gallon of gas is a dollar cheaper than at this time a year ago

      Adjusted for inflation, gasoline prices haven’t been this low since 1998, when Titanic smashed box office records and Seinfeld was must-see TV.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the average price of regular gas is $1.82 a gallon, six cents less than a week ago. It’s a full dollar a gallon less than what consumers paid at this time a year ago. The average price of premium gas is $2.47 a gallon, also six cents less than last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.51, four cents less than a week ago.

      At the beginning of the week, AAA reported a sharp drop in gasoline demand, with shelter-in-place rules in many parts of the nation keeping cars off the road. But by mid-week, that trend appeared to be shifting.

      “Demand yesterday rose 2.00% from last Wednesday,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy wrote in a Thursday tweet. “This week Mon-Wed avg daily demand is up 0.97% from last week same time frame. We haven't seen much more of a drop, but not improving much, either.”

      That, along with the rather moderate decline in week-over-week average gas prices, suggests that prices at the pump could be nearing a bottom. The decline may also be slowed by an agreement last week among oil producers to cut production to boost prices.

      “While the production cut is historic, it’s likely to not have an immediate impact on pump prices given the ongoing impact the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on crude oil prices and gasoline demand,” said AAA Spokesperson Jeanette Casselano.

      Wisconsin continues to have the cheapest gasoline in the nation, and Hawaii has the most expensive.

      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 ($3.25)

      • California ($2.83)

      • Washington ($2.55)

      • Oregon ($2.51) 

      • Nevada ($2.42)

      • Arizona ($2.25)

      • New York ($2.24)

      • Alaska ($2.15)

      • Utah ($2.14)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.10)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Wisconsin ($1.26)

      • Oklahoma ($1.39)

      • Ohio ($1.44)

      • Kentucky ($1.49)

      • Michigan ($1.49)

      • Arkansas ($1.50)

      • Indiana ($1.51)

      • Iowa ($1.52)

      • Mississippi ($1.55)

      • Texas ($1.57)

      Adjusted for inflation, gasoline prices haven’t been this low since 1998, when Titanic smashed box office records and Seinfeld was must-see TV.The AAA...
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      Ram 1500, 1500 Classic and Jeep Compass vehicles recalled

      The windshield wipers may not operate properly

      Chrysler is recalling 425,588 model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500, 1500 Classic and Jeep Compass vehicles.

      The windshield wiper arm or arms may loosen, possibly causing the wipers to not operate properly and reduce the driver's visibility in certain weather conditions.

      Reduced visibility increases the risk of a crash.


      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owner, and dealers will tighten the wiper nuts free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 29, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W25.

      Chrysler is recalling 425,588 model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500, 1500 Classic and Jeep Compass vehicles. The windshield wiper arm or arms may loosen, possib...
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      Lawmakers propose plan to give Americans $2,000 per month

      The funds would be infused until unemployment falls to pre-pandemic levels

      Under a proposed plan from a pair of Democratic lawmakers, Americans over the age of 16 who make less than $130,000 per year would be eligible to receive cash payments from the government for at least six months and until unemployment sinks back down to pre-COVID-19 levels. 

      The Emergency Money for the People Act -- which was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Ro Khanna and Rep. Tim Ryan -- would deposit at least $2,000 a month into Americans’ pockets via direct deposit, check, or mobile apps such as Venmo. Families would receive an additional $500 per child. 

      "As millions of Americans file for unemployment week over week, we have to work quickly to patch the dam — and that means putting cash in the hands of hard-working families," Ryan said in a press release.

      One-time check ‘isn’t going to cut it’

      The proposed plan comes ahead of the anticipated dispersal of stimulus checks from the IRS as part of the coronavirus relief package. Khanna and other critics argue that those checks won’t “cut it” for Americans who are struggling financially in the midst of the health crisis.

      "A one-time, $1,200 check isn't going to cut it," Khanna said. "Americans need sustained cash infusions for the duration of this crisis in order to come out on the other side alive, healthy, and ready to get back to work. Members on both sides of the aisle are finally coming together around the idea of sending money out to people. Rep. Ryan and I are urging leadership to include this bill in the fourth COVID relief package to truly support the American working class.”

      Jobless claims have surged in response to consumers being urged to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In total, nearly 22 million people (or one-in-eight of the workforce) have filed for unemployment in the past four weeks. 

      Under a proposed plan from a pair of Democratic lawmakers, Americans over the age of 16 who make less than $130,000 per year would be eligible to receive c...
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      East Coast states extend school and business shutdowns until May 15

      Stay-at-home and social distancing orders remain in place

      The hopes of reopening businesses closed as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic evaporated Thursday afternoon as New York and several other East Coast states decided to extend the shutdown of schools and nonessential businesses to May 15 -- two weeks longer than originally planned.

      New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the update on the “NYS on PAUSE” initiative at his daily press conference at the state capitol.

      “Non-essential workers must continue to stay home. Social distancing rules remain in place. … We have to continue doing what we’re doing. I’d like to see that infection rate get down even more,” he wrote on Twitter.

      A wait-and-see approach

      Cuomo did not specify exactly what other states will join New York in this extension, but they’re believed to be Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Those states are all part of the “Covid Corridor” and members of a working group of governors Cuomo is leading. 

      New Jersey and Delaware have already made announcements about extending shutdowns until May 15. Lawmakers from the latter said the move was part of an effort to help school leaders and educators plan for what came next. New Jersey is taking the open-ended approach and has decided to keep its order in place “until further notice.”

      “I need a coordinated action plan with the other states. So, one month, we’ll continue the close-down policies. What happens after then? I don’t know. We will see what the data shows,” Cuomo said. “I don’t want to project beyond that period.”

      The hopes of reopening businesses closed as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic evaporated Thursday afternoon as New York and several other East...
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      Princess Cruise Lines faces lawsuits over coronavirus deaths

      But legal experts say current law makes these cases hard to win

      The widow of a man who died of the coronavirus (COVID-19) after being a passenger aboard the Grand Princess has filed a lawsuit against Princess Cruise Lines, charging negligence on the part of the company.

      Michael Dorety, a retired firefighter from Crowley, Texas, boarded the Grand Princess cruise ship in San Francisco in early March with his wife Susan. He died after getting the virus.

      Susan Dorety’s suit claims that some passengers who had COVID-19 symptoms had just left the ship while more than 60 others were allowed to remain on-board after they had been exposed to the virus.

      The complaint says the cruise line alerted the previous passengers four days later that they had been exposed to the virus but did not warn the passengers who had just boarded. The Grand Princess attempted to return to California but was denied permission for several days, delaying its eventual arrival in San Francisco.

      "It is shocking to me that a cruise line that had just discharged coronavirus-infected passengers took onboard a new group of passengers to then mingle with others who had been exposed,” said Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents Dorety.

      Other action

      It’s just the latest lawsuit to be filed against cruise lines over coronavirus-related issues, but legal experts say the law makes cases like this difficult to win. 

      USA Today recently reported that a law passed nearly 100 years ago limits losses related to physical injuries and makes no provision for emotional or psychological injury in this kind of case. Under the law, survivors are barred from suing, even if a family member dies on a ship at sea.

      That hasn’t deterred lawyers representing passengers and their families. The USA Today account tells of one attorney who has signed up 34 clients for a suit against Princess Cruises. The cruise line, without commenting on the case, told USA Today that its response throughout the pandemic has been focused on the health and safety of passengers and crew and it remains “sensitive to the difficulties the COVID-19 outbreak has caused.”

      Shutdown mode

      The cruise line industry is in shutdown mode after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week extended its No Sail Order for all cruise ships.

      Over the past few weeks, at least 10 cruise ships were reported to have either crew or passengers that tested positive or showed symptoms of respiratory or influenza-like illnesses. 

      As of last Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard counted more than 100 cruise ships still at sea with close to 80,000 passengers on board, either in or near U.S. ports and waters.

      The widow of a man who died of the coronavirus (COVID-19) after being a passenger aboard the Grand Princess has filed a lawsuit against Princess Cruise Lin...
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      Facebook steps up efforts to stop COVID-19 misinformation

      The social media giant is adding more channels to help bust myths about the virus

      The last thing the consumer world needs in the middle of a pandemic is a giant scourge of  unsound and incorrect information about COVID-19. And, as Facebook continues its campaign to be on the up-and-up, the social media giant is going the extra mile by telling users when they’ve unknowingly interacted with posts about fabricated cures and shams.

      Facebook users who make that presumably innocent misstep will see a message pop up in their news feed that directs them to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Myth busters section. Once they land on that page, they’ll be clued in to all the ridiculous and incorrect claims being made -- like the idea that 5G mobile networks cause coronavirus and that eating garlic helps prevent infection.

      Like rolling a boulder uphill

      Facebook says it’s directed more than 2 billion folks to WHO resources and other health experts since COVID-19 went viral, but getting everyone to pay attention to the messaging is like rolling a boulder uphill. To date, only about 350 million have clicked through to learn more. 

      “Connecting people to credible information is only half the challenge,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of Integrity wrote in a blog post. “Stopping the spread of misinformation and harmful content about COVID-19 on our apps is also critically important. That’s why we work with over 60 fact-checking organizations that review and rate content in more than 50 languages around the world.”

      To try and cover all its bets and make it easier for people to find factual information about the coronavirus, Facebook recently fleshed out its COVID-19 Information Center by adding a new section called Get the Facts. In that section are fact-checked articles from Facebook’s partners that debunk myths on top of what the WHO is doing. The articles are selected by Facebook’s News curators and updated at least once a week. Plans are also in the works to add that section to the U.S. version of Facebook News.

      Not a Facebook user?

      Facebook isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so the WHO has expanded its coverage by creating an interactive chatbot for the billion-plus Rakuten Viber users. The goal is to get accurate information about COVID-19 to people in multiple languages.

      Once someone subscribes to the WHO Viber chatbot, they will receive notifications with the latest news and information directly from WHO and can also test their knowledge of the virus via an interactive quiz that helps bust myths much like the WHO tries to do on its website. 

      The last thing the consumer world needs in the middle of a pandemic is a giant scourge of  unsound and incorrect information about COVID-19. And, as Facebo...
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      Chrysler recalls Jeeps, Rams, Chryslers and Dodges with rearview camera issue

      The rearview image can remain on display after shifting

      Chrysler is recalling 318,537 model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators & Cherokees, model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500, 2500, & 3500 Pickups, Chrysler Pacificas, Dodge Durangos, Jeep Grand Cherokees, Wranglers & Renegades, and model year 2019 Dodge Challengers with 8.4" or 12" radio displays.

      A software error can cause the rearview camera image to remain displayed after the vehicle has been shifted out of reverse.

      The lingering rearview image can distract the driver, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the radio display software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 22, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W30-W37.

      Chrysler is recalling 318,537 model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators & Cherokees, model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500, 2500, & 3500 Pickups, Chrysler Pacificas, Dodge D...
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      Jowett Farms recalls pork trimmings

      The products did not undergo U.S. import re-inspection

      Jowett Farms of Blumenort, Canada, is recalling approximately 42,587 pounds of raw pork trimmings.

      The products were not presented for import re-inspection into the U.S.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following items, imported on April 2, 2020, and further processed into sausage products, are being recalled:

      • 20-oz. plastic wrapped tray packages containing sausage links of “Jewel-Osco Sheboygan Brand Bratwurst – Made in Illinois” with a sell-by date of 4/17/20.
      • 20-oz. plastic wrapped tray packages containing sausage links of “Jewel-Osco Mild Italian Sausage” with a sell-by date of 4/17/20.
      • 20-oz. plastic wrapped tray packages containing sausage links of “Jewel-Osco Hot Italian Sausage” with a sell-by date of 4/17/20.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 7779” inside the USDA mark of inspection were shipped to retail locations in Illinois and Wisconsin.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard them.

      Consumers with questions may contact Jowett Farms Corporation, at (204) 326-3252.

      Jowett Farms of Blumenort, Canada, is recalling approximately 42,587 pounds of raw pork trimmings. The products were not presented for import re-inspect...
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      GM recalls model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Bolt EVs

      The rear doors may open while the vehicle is being driven

      General Motors is recalling 897 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Bolt EVs.

      The door-handle cable inside the rear doors may be too long, allowing contact with the window when it is opened, possibly damaging the cable.

      A damaged cable may cause the rear door to open unintentionally when the rear window is opened.

      Additionally, it may cause the rear inside door handle to not work.

      If the rear door opens while the vehicle is being driven, or the door handle fails to open the rear door, there is an increased risk of injury to the rear passengers.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the rear inside door-handle cables free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 11, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020. GM's number for this recall is A202298320.

      General Motors is recalling 897 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Bolt EVs. The door-handle cable inside the rear doors may be too long, allowing contact w...
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      5 cool games to enhance your backyard

      With summer on its way, these 5 games can bring fun to every backyard

      Ready to spice up your backyard? Our 5 hand-selected lawn games are a great way to pass your summer days. Order some now so you’ll be ready...

      5 nifty products for a pristine pantry

      Nothing feels better than kicking your kitchen into shape

      Is your pantry becoming a mess? Get it into shape with some handy pantry organizers. They’ll make it easy to keep your pantry tidy for months to come...

      Coronavirus update: A big spike in deaths, stimulus check scams are surging

      COVID-19 is taking a toll on health care workers

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 610,774 (584,073)

      Total U.S. deaths: 26,119 (23,709)

      Total global cases: 2,006.513 (1,945,055)

      Total global deaths: 128,886 (123,348)

      Deaths spike

      After several days of leveling off, the U.S. recorded its largest single-day death toll in the last 24 hours from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Johns Hopkins University count, featured above, shows deaths increased by over 2,400.

      Despite that, U.S. health officials still believe conditions are improving. Appearing on NBC’s Today Show this morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) said he believes the U.S. is turning the corner. "There's no doubt what we've seen over the last several days is a flattening out," he said.

      Scams tied to COVID-19 stimulus checks are surging 

      Billions of dollars in government stimulus checks hit consumers’ bank accounts today, and that’s certainly getting the attention of scammers. Hiya, a company offering a call-screening app, warns that scams tied to these direct payments have spiked in recent days, rising 844 percent between March 16 and March 23.

      Hiya found the most popular scam asks for a user’s bank info, claiming it is needed for direct deposit of the stimulus check. The government does not ask for this information.

      The second most popular scam requests additional personal information, like a Social Security number or account details to deposit the check that day. The government already has everyone’s Social Security number.

      Other scams on the rise include fake companies or government agencies offering loan forgiveness or loan advances if the individual forfeits their stimulus check, and fake government agencies claiming an individual's Social Security number is no longer active or valid. 

      Health care workers testing positive

      Medical personnel treating COVID-19 patients wear special protective gear to protect them from the virus, but that didn’t happen much in the early days. The Washington Post reports that the first known spread of the disease to health care workers occurred in mid-February in Solano County, Calif. when three hospital workers caught the coronavirus from a patient.

      An analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week shows that about 9,000 health care workers have tested positive for the virus since April 9. Most were not sick enough to require a hospital stay, but 27 of them died.

      Restaurant rebound

      While restaurants have been hammered by social distancing requirements, an industry group suggests the worst could be over. Foodmarket cites data from the NPD group showing a 41 percent decline in restaurant translation in the first week of April, on the heels of a 42 percent drop in the preceding week.

      “The 41 percent decline in restaurant transactions is similar to last week and may indicate a bottom,” David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor told Foodmarket. “We also need to be aware that further erosion could occur if consumers’ economic situations worsen.” 

      Foodmarket concludes that the apparent bottoming is probably due to the industry’s pivot to off-premise dining, emphasizing carryout and delivery options.

      Ford ramps up protective equipment production

      Ford has expanded its manufacturing of protective gear for health care personnel and first responders. Teaming with Wayne State University, the Wayne State University Physician Group, and ACCESS, the company is launching a new initiative aimed at improving access to COVID-19 testing for symptomatic first responders, health care workers, and corrections officers in Michigan.

      Ford is providing vehicles, drivers, and equipment to help create the first mobile testing service in the state, which has been hard hit by the virus.

      Around the nation

      • Florida: The state has become one of the nation’s hotspots for the coronavirus. The state health department today announced 20 deaths overnight as the number of confirmed cases rose past 22,000. 

      • Illinois: The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission has taken action to support workers who are deemed “essential.” Its emergency measure presumes that any essential worker who contracts COVID-19 got it while on the job, making them eligible for workman’s comp.

      • Ohio: With NFL franchises in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio’s economy has a lot riding on professional football resuming in the fall. But Gov. Mike DeWine is not ready to predict a timely kickoff. “I don’t know where we’re going to be, and I don’t think anybody really knows,” DeWine told 850 ESPN Cleveland.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 610,774 (584,073)...
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      Ford expands efforts to produce medical equipment to address coronavirus outbreak

      The company is working to support the medical community

      After announcing plans to work with GE Health to produce ventilators and other equipment for hospital ICU wards, Ford says it is now expanding efforts to support the medical community during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s part of a national push by the automotive industry to switch to making vital health-related products that are now in short supply.

      The automaker, which has shut down vehicle production during the coronavirus (COVID-19), began production of an air-purifying respirator product this week. The company is also producing face masks and shields while scaling production of reusable gowns for health care workers. 

      It even has one foot in the diagnostic world, providing manufacturing support for scientific instrument provider Thermo Fisher Scientific to ramp up production of COVID-19 collection kits to test for the virus.

      “We knew that to play our part helping combat coronavirus, we had to go like hell and join forces with experts like 3M to expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management.

      Baumbick said the company has achieved a steady rise in the output of all types of personal protection equipment (PPE) to protect health workers and first responders from the virus.

      100,000 respirators projected

      The respirators are being produced at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Mich., by paid members of the United Auto Workers union (UAW). At scale, the plant is expected to produce at least 100,000 units.

      Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission plant is producing face masks, which continue to be in short supply. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all U.S. residents wear a mask in public to curb the spread of the virus, cutting into supplies needed for health care workers.

      In addition to manufacturers like Ford, fashion designers like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Chanel are gearing production to designing and producing face masks. Some are also producing gowns and gloves, which are also in short supply.

      3M is partnering with Cummins to increase the output of particulate filters to go into 3M’s powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR). Cummins is transitioning its workers at its Neillsville, Wisc., plant from making diesel engine filters to manufacturing them for PAPRs.

      There is likely to be an increasing need for N95 masks until the pandemic subsides. In March, Dr. Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, told a Senate committee that in the event of a severe outbreak -- which the U.S. is now facing -- the country would need around 3.5 billion respirator masks. At the time, the U.S. had approximately 42 million.

      After announcing plans to work with GE Health to produce ventilators and other equipment for hospital ICU wards, Ford says it is now expanding efforts to s...
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      Kroger seeks to designate employees as ‘emergency personnel’ during coronavirus crisis

      The company’s appeal comes amid growing concern about the nation’s food supply chain

      In a joint appeal, Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America's largest food and retail union, are asking federal and state governments to immediately designate associates at grocery stores as "extended first responders" or "emergency personnel." 

      Both the grocery chain and the union say the workers are on the front lines of sustaining the country’s food supply in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

      Being designated emergency personnel would put grocery workers on the same footing as health care workers, police, and firefighters, and it would give them the same priority access to masks, gloves, and other protective gear.

      ‘Significant daily risk’

      Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW International President Marc Perrone released a joint statement saying that grocery workers report to work each day and play a critical role in keeping consumers supplied with food and essentials.

      "Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action,” the statement said. “Specifically, we are requesting our nation's leaders to assign a temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status for all grocery workers. Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves.”

      The appeal comes amid growing concerns about the nation’s food supply chain -- from producing products on farms to processing those products and moving them to retail stores. Farmers have also said they need more protection, as have the nation’s independent truck drivers.

      Earlier this month, the Owner-Operator Independent Truck Drivers Association appealed to the White House for help for its members. In a letter to the president, CEO Todd Spencer said his members are exposed to COVID-19 every day because of their jobs.

      “They don’t have access to personal protection equipment or any practical means to know when they may be falling ill or any practical solution if they need treatment or self-isolation,” Spencer wrote. “Access to testing must be available where they are, particularly on busy truck routes. And testing must show results in hours, not days.”

      Without help, Spencer warned that many drivers might park their trucks when word spreads that more of them are testing positive. That, he warns, could threaten the nation’s vital food supply chain.

      Huge pork plant remains closed

      Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan expressed a similar concern after the governor of South Dakota ordered the company’s largest pork processing plant to remain closed. The governor issued the order after 200 employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

      “We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,” Sullivan said in a statement. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running.”

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no evidence that the coronavirus is transmitted through food, and most scientists agree. Donald Schaffner, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University, told The Hill that the biggest risk concerning food is that it won’t make its way to supermarket shelves. 

      In a joint appeal, Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America's largest food and retail union, are asking federa...
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      Apple unveils more affordable iPhone SE

      The new device features upgrades to the screen and processor

      Without a formal unveiling event, Apple announced on Wednesday that it’s launching a new, more affordable iPhone. 

      The second-generation iPhone SE looks practically identical to the 2017 iPhone 8, but it’s set to cost $399 compared to its predecessor’s $449 starting price. The new device also features a suite of new features, including a more powerful processor and screen enhancements.

      In an announcement, Apple called the new device its “most affordable” yet and outlined several features consumers can expect to find. 

      “The new iPhone SE is powered by the Apple-designed A13 Bionic, the fastest chip in a smartphone, to handle the most demanding tasks,” the company said. “iPhone SE also features the best single-camera system ever in an iPhone, which unlocks the benefits of computational photography including Portrait mode, and is designed to withstand the elements with dust and water resistance.” 

      Camera upgrades

      Apple’s A13 processor helps the new iPhone SE take “amazing photos with Smart HDR, stunning portraits with Portrait mode including all six Portrait Lighting effects,” Apple said. “And with QuickTake, users can easily transition to video recording without switching out of Photos mode.” 

      Features carried over from the iPhone 8 include wireless charging, a physical home button with Touch ID instead of facial recognition, and IP67 water and dust resistance. 

      The $399 base model comes with 64 GB of storage; the mid-level model comes with 128 GB of storage and costs $449, and the top tier model comes with 256 GB of storage and costs $549. Consumers who purchase the new device are also eligible for a free year of Apple TV+.

      “The first iPhone SE was a hit with many customers who loved its unique combination of small size, high-end performance and affordable price; the new second-generation iPhone SE builds on that great idea and improves on it in every way,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s vice president for worldwide marketing, said in a release.

      Online pre-orders for the new device will begin on Friday, and consumers can receive them as early as April 24. The new phone is available in black, white, and red color schemes.

      Without a formal unveiling event, Apple announced on Wednesday that it’s launching a new, more affordable iPhone. The second-generation iPhone SE looks...
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      Delta Air Lines announces new round of changes on waivers, fares, and social distancing

      The airline is also offering free travel to medical volunteers who are needed in hard-hit areas

      There’s not a 12-Step program for airlines, but the largest carriers in the U.S. are starting to admit that they’re powerless when it comes to the devastation inflicted by COVID-19 and that doing business has become unmanageable. 

      On Tuesday, several domestic airlines announced that they reached agreements with the Treasury Department for billions in government grant money to help offset the misfortune they’ve endured from the pandemic.

      Then, on Wednesday, Delta Air Lines stepped up with yet another round of changes to both its system and passengers that will be extended through June 2020.

      Policy changes

      Waived changed fees: Delta is waiving change fees through May 31, 2022 to customers with canceled flights through June 2020.

      There are two stipulations, however. Eligible customers include those who have:

      • Upcoming travel already booked in April, May or June 2020, as of April 14, 2020 

      • Existing eCredits or canceled travel from flights in March, April, May or June 2020

      Capped fares: Delta has capped fares for travel throughout the U.S. and Canada through May 31 in all classes.

      Social distancing during travel: Mirroring what the world is doing on the ground, Delta is making sure that when travelers are up in the air, they’ll encounter:

      • Fewer passengers per flight

      • Blocked middle seats

      Modifying the boarding process where passengers will board by row from the rear of the plane forward

      Free flights to medical volunteers traveling to hard-hit U.S. areas

      As a compassionate gesture, Delta is also giving eligible medical volunteers free round-trip flights to Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, and New York through the end of June.

      The details, eligibility requirements, and reservations are being left up to those states and are good through the end of April 2020.

      There’s not a 12-Step program for airlines, but the largest carriers in the U.S. are starting to admit that they’re powerless when it comes to the devastat...
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      5 DIY backyard projects for family fun

      Get out of the house and hone your DIY skills while prepping for warmer weather

      With summer quickly approaching and self-isolation making us all a little stir-crazy, here are some great projects to take up some of your newly found spare time and have your backyard ready for family fun!

      1. Fire pit

      Who doesn't like to cook s'mores over summer? The first step to any great s'more is a fire pit. Fire pits are as simple or elaborate as you want and what your budget will allow. Some store-bought fire pits can cost as little as $70 - $80; however, you can build one that is more durable for around $60.

      2. Cinder block bench

      Need to add seating for your patio, garden or around your new firepit? Building a bench out of cinder blocks and posts gives you seating options on a budget. Plus, you get to choose the colors of your seating to be as vibrant or monochromatic as you wish. This colorful bench has built-in planters to add even more color to your backyard. For added color plant petunias or geraniums. For added bug relief plant citronella or lavender.

      Video (c) YouTube

      3. Pergola

      If your patio is not covered or you would like to add to your existing patio, a pergola is a great way to do so. Pergolas can be freestanding or attached to existing buildings and are a great way to add more space for entertaining. Want more coverage on your structure? Plant wisteria and allow it to grow up and over the top. Want more ambiance? Hang solar-powered lights and sheer curtains. With the right planning and patience, you can even build your own pergola.

      Video (c) YouTube

      4. Patio table with built-in coolers

      No BBQ is complete without a place to put things. Picnic tables are great for food, drinks, games and date nights. You can build your own and be as elaborate as you want. You can even make a picnic table with a built-in cooler compartment, cup holders and condiment caddies! Add this under the pergola you constructed, and you have a completely transformed space.

      Video (c) YouTube

      5. Cornhole boards

      Having summertime backyard fun is excellent with your family, but what do you do to entertain everyone? Cornhole is a great way to delight people of all ages! Building a simple, lightweight travel set of cornhole boards are great for storage. Or you can build a custom LED set that will allow you to play into those warm, summer nights.

      Video (c) YouTube
      With the extra time on our hands and warm weather approaching, here are 5 DIY projects you can try to bring new life into your backyard....
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      3 lesser-known (and 1 classic) family board games for anyone 6 and up

      Tired of playing the same old games? Check out our list of lesser-known games — and one surefire favorite — to try at your next game night!

      Being stuck in the house at all hours can wear a family's patience thin. But when cooped up inside, having a family game night is a great option that can lift everyone's spirits. All you need are some great games, some of your family's favorite snacks and you'll have hours of fun!

      OutFoxed!

      Outfoxed! is a little known game that is top on our list. Basically, it is a collaborative whodunnit! There is no team. There is no individual play. You all must work together to solve the mystery of the stolen pot pie before the suspect gets away.

      • Ages 5 and up
      • 2 to 4 players

      Buy on Amazon

      Beat The Parents

      Want to ensure your kids learn something while playing a game, then Beat The Parents is for you. There are specific question cards for kids and a separate one for the adults, so everyone has a good time. Best of all, the questions are trivia based, so they test everyone's knowledge!

      • Ages 6 and up
      • 2 or more players

      Buy on Amazon

      HedBanz

      HedBanz is a game to play when you just need a laugh. Each player must wear a headband on their head to play. You have 60 seconds to ask the other players yes and no questions about the card on your head. Your goal is to guess your card before the time runs it. Kids and parents love watching each other play this game, so it's fun for everyone!

      • Ages 5 and up
      • 2 or more players

      Buy on Amazon

      Jenga

      Have a steady hand? This classic game is for you. All you need to do is pull a block out, put it on the top, and make sure the tower doesn't crash on your turn. You can test your skill by only using your left hand, or create a rule that if you touch a block, you have to take it. The challenges are numerous and up to you.

      • Ages 6 and up
      • 1 or more players

      Buy on Amazon

      All family members, young or old, can enjoy any of these board games. Play by the rules or create your own variation to the game for new challenges. The only limit is your imagination!

      Are you looking for some entertaining activities for everyone? Check out our list of some lesser-known games you can introduce to your family!...
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      Coronavirus update: States get ready for ‘normal,’ an app to simplify filing for unemployment

      Mortgages are cheaper but harder to get

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 584,073 (558,526)

      Total U.S. deaths: 23,709 (22,146)

      Total global cases: 1,945055 (1,872,073)

      Total global deaths: 123,348 (116,052)

      Light at the end of the tunnel 

      While it’s true that the U.S. has more coronavirus (COVID-19) cases than any other nation, the rate of infection is slowing. That’s leading many states to start considering when to get back to normal.

      Governors in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Rhode Island -- many of which share borders -- have announced a coordinated plan to open things back up. They plan to create an organization of public health, economic, and government officials to develop a plan to be followed in all seven states.

      On the West Coast, California, Washington, and Oregon have formed a “Western States Pact,” agreeing that they would reopen their economies at the same time, but only when it appears safe to do so.

      An app to help you file for unemployment

      Millions of people have lost their jobs in the last month because of the coronavirus, and state unemployment offices have been swamped. But an app -- DoNotPay, which is described as a “robot lawyer” -- has incorporated a feature to help the newly unemployed cut the red tape.

      One California user told CNBC that the app reminded him to file an unemployment claim. He used the app’s chatbot feature to complete and submit his claim. 

      DoNotPay charges a $3 per month subscription fee and uses chatbots to offer services like disputing parking tickets, getting reimbursed by companies, and skipping the line for customer service.

      Hard-to-get mortgages

      Mortgage rates are near all-time lows, but getting a loan suddenly isn’t that easy, and industry insiders are blaming the coronavirus pandemic. A survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) shows that credit availability to purchase or refinance a home fell last month to the lowest point in five years.

      The reason? There simply isn’t as much money available to make loans. In particular, investors have backed away from financing what are known as jumbo mortgages -- loans of more than $510,400.

      MBA also says lenders are more choosey in this environment, making fewer loans to consumers with lower credit scores. JPMorgan Chase has tightened its underwriting guidelines by requiring a minimum FICO score of 700 and a 20 percent down payment.

      New kind of happy hour

      SLING TV is a subscription TV service that charges a monthly fee to access its programming, but families staying home to practice social distancing will be rewarded with free TV starting today. The promotion -- Happy Hour Across America -- allows people to register and watch the service at no charge from 5 p.m. until midnight.

      "Since we can't serve you a beverage or basket of hot wings, we're introducing a new kind of happy hour – TV 'on the house' every night," said Warren Schlichting, group president, SLING TV. 

      As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, SLING says viewing climbed by triple digits in the last 30 days, increasing 164 percent. 

      Free clinics adopting telemedicine

      The coronavirus has pushed telemedicine to the forefront, with many private practices adopting it to interact with patients. In North Carolina, the state’s free and charitable clinics have also deployed the technology to continue treating the uninsured while keeping staff and patients safe -- ultimately keeping thousands of patients out of hospital emergency departments.

      It’s no small matter, since an estimated 1.3 million people in the state lack health insurance. To preserve their access to care, 60 of North Carolina's 67 free and charitable medical clinics are still open, largely because they’re using telemedicine to interact with patients.

      "We feel a responsibility to keep our patients out of the state's hospital emergency rooms during this pandemic, and it was through sheer determination – and bravery – that our member clinics have managed to keep their doors open," said April Cook, board chair of the North Carolina Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NCAFCC).

      Around the nation

      • Virginia: A rehabilitation center in suburban Richmond has become the nation’s largest hotspot for coronavirus cases. At least 127 of the 167 residents of Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico County have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least 42 have died. 

      • Nebraska: The University of Nebraska’s annual spring football game has been canceled, but the school will stream a virtual game for fans. The video game will include current and former players and be streamed on the school’s social media pages.

      • Maryland: An inmate at the Jessup Correctional Institution has become the first person in the state’s prison system to die of the coronavirus. The prison has 33 cases among inmates and staff. 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 584,073 (558,526)...
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      FDA clears another face mask decontamination process

      The clearance will enable decontamination of roughly 4 million respirators per day

      In the midst of a severe shortage of N95 respirators, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a decontamination process that could re-sterilize millions of used masks per day. 

      The agency said the EUA was issued to the Advanced Sterilization Products (ASP) for the STERRAD Sterilization Cycles, which uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide gas plasma sterilization. The process could put as many as four million single-use N95 respirators back into use by health care workers each day. 

      “Our nation’s health care workers are among the many heroes of this pandemic and we need to do everything we can to increase the availability of the critical medical devices they need, like N95 respirators,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. said in a statement. 

      “FDA staff continue to work around the clock, across government and with the private sector to find solutions. This authorization will help provide access to millions of respirators so our health care workers on the front lines can be better protected and provide the best care to patients with COVID-19.”

      Decontaminating masks

      The agency had previously issued authorization of the use of Battelle’s vaporized hydrogen peroxide process, which involves gassing the filters for two and a half hours to destroy bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants, including the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

      The process cleared for use most recently also utilizes hydrogen peroxide vapor.

      “Hydrogen peroxide vapor is generated by injecting aqueous hydrogen peroxide solution into the vaporizer subassembly where the solution is then concentrated and vaporized at relatively low temperatures through a process that utilizes a combination of heating and sub-ambient pressures,” the FDA said.

      The latest clearance is expected to pave the way for the authorization of even more processes that will lead to masks being rendered effective again following use by those in the health care workforce. 

      In the midst of a severe shortage of N95 respirators, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a dec...
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      Apple calms senators’ suspicions over COVID-19 screening site and app

      The tech giant says it will only use what’s necessary and delete all personal information once the pandemic has ended

      Apple should be breathing a little easier today. It appears that the company has allayed the fears of the Senate Finance Committee -- the group that sets national health policy -- regarding the committee’s concerns over the tech giant’s COVID-19-related website and app.

      In Apple’s original announcement, it underlined that it will collect "some information" to help improve the site, but it stumbled by not identifying exactly what that information would include.

      That faux pas caught the Committee’s eye, and when it started poring over Apple’s announcement, more questions came to light. To get those answers, it spared no time in going straight to the top of Apple’s org chart. 

      “While we acknowledge Apple’s statements regarding user privacy and that the questionnaire tools ‘do not require a sign-in or association with a user’s Apple ID, and users’ individual responses will not be sent to Apple or any government organization,’ we are nonetheless concerned for the safety and security of Americans’ private health data,” Sens. Menendez, Blumenthal, Harris and Booker wrote to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook.

      Concerns and answers

      Triggering the Senators’ concerns were several things, including:

      1. Is Apple’s screening site and app governed under the terms of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?

      2. What personal data is Apple going to retain?

      3. Will Apple promise that it will not share or sell any of the data gathered?

      4. What cybersecurity safeguards does Apple have to secure the personal data?

      5. Will the website be accessible to those with disabilities?

      Regarding HIPPA 

      As a quick background, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) supervises the stream of healthcare information and guarantees how personally identifiable information is maintained and shared.

      In Apple senior government affairs director Timothy Powderly’s response to the Senate, he stated that the company’s tools are not covered by the health privacy law HIPAA -- specifically the governance of HIPAA regarding when a company can disclose data to a third party. Powderly went on to say that there aren’t any third parties involved in collecting the information, since “data (is) entered into the website and app directly by users.”

      Retention of personal data

      Reminding the Committee that it does not currently collect any information entered into the website and app by individuals, Apple responded that its COVID-19 resources are no exception.

      “Guided by this principle, Apple currently collects only the information necessary to support the operation of the COVID-19 website and app, such as users’ usage of the tool and app; this information does not include information entered by individuals,” wrote Powderly.

      “Apple only retains this information for so long as is necessary to support the operation of the COVID-19 website and app. Information no longer needed is deleted or rendered permanently unrecoverable in accordance with industry standards.”

      Will Apple commit to refraining from sharing or selling the data collected on the website and app to third parties?

      There was no pussyfooting from Apple here. 

      “Yes, no data collected from either the website or app will ever be sold to third parties,” Powderly said.

      How Apple will protect the user data

      Apple’s answer was a little technical, but its bottom line response was that the company has developed layers of “technical and administrative safeguards” to protect data as it’s being transported. It has also restricted access to that data to authorized personnel only.

      Accessibility of the website to those with disabilities

      Again, the answer was another straightforward “yes” from Powderly. 

      “Apple’s COVID-19 app and website support features such as Apple’s VoiceOver technology, a screen reader which describes exactly what’s happening on the screen of an Apple device so that individuals can navigate just by listening, as well as Switch Control and Voice Control, which support individuals with physical motor limitations to use devices without touch,” he wrote.

      Apple should be breathing a little easier today. It appears that the company has allayed the fears of the Senate Finance Committee -- the group that sets n...
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      Industry report shows a surge in homeowners seeking mortgage forbearance

      The number rose 37 percent in just a week

      Besides sending cash payments to Americans, the CARES Act allows homeowners suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) to put off making mortgage payments for up to a year. A new industry report shows many people are doing just that.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports that the percentage of mortgage loans that were placed in forbearance -- meaning they don’t have to be paid right away -- rose from 2.73 percent during the last week of March to 3.74 during the first week of April.

      That might not sound like a big move, but it is. It’s a 37 percent increase in just seven days, and it shows just how many people have been thrown out of work by the mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus. 

      "The nationwide shutdown of the economy to slow the spread of COVID-19 continues to create hardships for millions of households, and more are contacting their servicers for relief in accordance with the forbearance provisions under the CARES Act," said Mike Fratantoni, MBA's senior vice president and chief economist.

      Call center volume rose

      Fratanoni says there was also a surge in call center volume to go along with the rising number of loans in forbearance, with homeowners asking to place their loans on hold.

      "The share of loans in forbearance grew the first week of April, and forbearance requests and call center volume further increased. With mitigation efforts seemingly in place for at least several more weeks, job losses will continue and the number of borrowers asking for forbearance will likely continue to rise at a rapid pace."

      Under the law, homeowners are able to seek forbearance on their federally-backed mortgage, allowing them to skip principal and interest payments for 180 days. At the end of that time, they are able to seek relief for another 180 days.

      The skipped principal and interest payments are added to the end of the loan, so they will eventually be paid back.

      Liquidity issue for lenders

      An analysis by Black Knight, a data analytics firm, suggests this sharp rise in mortgage forbearances could present liquidity issues for some lenders. It shows that the forbearance requests are inundating servicers' operations and will require payment of billions of dollars per month in principal and interest advances to government-backed securities holders.

      If just 5 percent of homeowners seek forbearance, servicers would need to pay more than $2.1 billion in principal and interest per month to security holders. So far, there’s no indication of how many people will try to stop paying their mortgages, but the MBA’s numbers show it could be staggering, calling into question its long-term sustainability.

      Black Knight CEO Ben Graboske notes there was no mandate for mortgage forbearance during the 2008 financial crisis, and previous programs have been offered on a smaller scale in local disaster areas. He says the current situation represents uncharted waters.

      "Trying to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on mortgage performance is as much an art right now as a science," said Graboske. "The fact is that there is no true point of comparison in the nation's recent history for analysts to model against.

      Besides sending cash payments to Americans, the CARES Act allows homeowners suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) to put off mak...
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      Chrysler recalls Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos

      The vehicle may suffer a loss of power while being driven

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 151 model year 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos.

      The front differential may have been assembled with pinion gears that are insufficiently hardened, which can lead to the gear teeth wearing down.

      If both pinion gears have their teeth sufficiently worn off, torque power can not be transferred from the front wheels to the driveline, resulting in loss of power while while the vehicle is being driven, and loss of the PARK function when stationary.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front differential free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 15, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W22.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 151 model year 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos. The front differential may have been assembled with pini...
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      5 easy 3-ingredient cocktails to make at home

      Are you new to making cocktails at home? Don’t worry; some of the best cocktails are often the simplest

      Have a desire for a cocktail? Bars might be closed, but these cocktails are a cinch to make. We’ve picked 5 classics with just 3 ingredients each...

      6 easy tips for maintaining your idle car

      If your car’s been sitting unused for weeks, take a few minutes to learn how to maintain its health

      Has your car been sitting idle for several weeks? We have 6 easy tips for keeping your vehicle in shape while it’s getting less usage...

      State Farm and Nationwide join other auto insurers in giving coronavirus relief to customers

      Local communities will also take part in $5 million contributions to help their efforts

      Auto insurance customers have a couple more insurance company jingles to sing out loud. State Farm and Nationwide have joined Allstate, Geico, and American Family in announcing dividends that will go directly back to its customers. 

      State Farm’s Good Neighbor Relief Program

      The total program:  $2 billion

      The amount of credit per customer: On average, State Farm Mutual auto customers can expect to receive a credit of about 25 percent of premium on their coverage. The percentage will vary state-to-state.

      Dates the credit applies toward: The credit applies to coverage from March 20 through May 31 

      When the credit will go out: State Farm says that every single auto insurance customer will receive credits applied against bills, beginning as early as June.

      Could this continue if COVID continues: The company didn’t say if it would extend the program should COVID-19’s rampage continue, but it did say that it would “continue to monitor our loss experience and respond appropriately.”

      Nationwide’s premium refund

      Nationwide also announced that it is offering a one-time premium refund on top of existing discounts that customers may have already earned.

      Here are the program’s particulars:

      Who will receive the refund? Anyone who has a personal auto policy active as of March 31, 2020. PowerSports and motorcycle policies are excluded.

      The amount per policy: A one-time payment of $50 -- equivalent to about 15 percent in Nationwide’s estimation.

      Dates the credit applies toward: Nationwide said the refund is for two months worth of premiums, but it did not specify exact dates. 

      What customers have to do: “You don't need to do anything,” Nationwide wrote in an email to its customers. 

      How it will show up:  It will be returned to customers in the last form of payment they have made, whether electronic or paper. The refund will arrive in the next 30 days and is subject to individual state regulatory approval.

      When will customers see theirs? “Refunds will automatically be credited to your most recent method of payment (for example, automatic withdrawal, credit card, personal check) within the next 30 days, subject to regulatory approval,” Nationwide said. 

      Could this continue if COVID-19 continues: The company didn’t say if it would extend the program should COVID-19’s rampage continue.

      As a side note, Nationwide is also offering extended payment terms for customers who might be experiencing hardship due to the pandemic. 

      Giving back to the communities

      State Farm and Nationwide are both taking a chunk of what they’ve saved in out-of-pocket costs during COVID-19’s impact on traffic.

      State Farm is taking its good neighbor mantra past the customer level by providing $5 million in donations across the country. Nationwide is matching that with a $5 million contribution from its  Nationwide Foundation. The company said those funds will be directed toward local and national charities to support pandemic response efforts.

      Questions?

      As it typically goes with things like this, consumers are going to have questions that State Farm or Nationwide didn’t cover in their announcements. 

      If that’s the case, State Farm and Nationwide both have FAQ pages that might answer any additional questions. State Farm’s can be accessed here, and Nationwide’s can be found here.

      Auto insurance customers have a couple more insurance company jingles to sing out loud. State Farm and Nationwide have joined Allstate, Geico, and American...
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      CDC issues a no-sail order for all cruise ships as COVID-19 lingers on

      When the pandemic is over, cruise lovers may be in for some major changes

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended its No Sail Order for all cruise ships.

      Despite all the efforts of the medical communities on land, cruise ship travel has proved problematic and has dramatically increased the risk and impact of the COVID-19 outbreak within the United States when passengers disembark and return to their homes.

      Over the past few weeks, at least 10 cruise ships were reported to have either crew or passengers that tested positive or showed symptoms of respiratory or influenza-like illnesses. Currently, the U.S. Coast Guard says there are more than 100 cruise ships still at sea with close to 80,000 passengers on board, either in or near U.S. ports and waters.

      COVID: An ever-changing landscape

      The path of the pandemic is proving to be a long and winding road. Estimates change almost daily, curves flatten in different places at different times, and the travel industry has been forced into a constant state of flux.

      “We are working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield. 

      On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its guidelines for cruise ships to help U.S. cruise ship travelers (passengers and crew) get back to America as soon and safely as possible while the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on. Additions to those guidelines include putting considerable weight on the shoulders of those cruise lines, making it their responsibility to get passengers and crew home on private or charter transportation.

      Will cruising ever be the same again?

      The next time someone goes cruising, they might be in for some major changes.

      When Genting Cruise Lines’ -- owner of upscale Crystal Cruises, et al -- returns to service after the COVID-19 shutdown, it’s removing self-service buffets and limiting tour coaches for shore excursions to 50 percent capacity. In addition, passengers aged 70 and up must provide a doctor’s certificate before they’re allowed to travel. 

      Those alterations only scratch the surface of Genting’s more than 50 proposed changes. Company president Kent Zhu said that those and other changes will become the “new safety norm” for all brands and likely become industry-wide standards.

      Will other cruise liners make changes, too? ConsumerAffairs reached out to the major cruise lines and asked if they’ll be following Genting’s lead.

      As of press time, Carnival Cruise Line (Carnival, Princess, Costa, Holland America, Cunard, Seabourn et al) was the only one to respond, saying that it is “still formulating our plans which will build on the enhanced protocols we put in place previously.”

      Cruise ships are not the cause of this virus

      Despite their heavy involvement in the current crisis, cruise industry officials want to make it clear that cruise ships are neither the source or the cause of COVID-19.

      “The tragic reality is that even the best efforts of all—cruise ships, hotels, concert venues, movie theaters, universities, conferences, and even cities—could not keep this virus from affecting settings where people come together to socialize and enjoy shared experiences,” Laziza Lambert, an official with the Cruise Lines International Association, told ConsumerAffairs. 

      “There is no doubt that we, along with the rest of the world, will emerge from this crisis stronger for the challenges we have faced, and the lessons learned.”

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended its No Sail Order for all cruise ships.Despite all the efforts of the medical communi...
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      Coronavirus update: U.S. now second in deaths, developers creating new tests

      Federal money has begun flowing to hospitals and health workers

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 473,093 (432,579)

      Total U.S. deaths: 17,836 (14,830)

      Total global cases: 1,631,310  (1,506,936)

      Total global deaths: 98,401 (90,057)

      The U.S. is now second in deaths

      The United States has moved into second place in coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths, passing Spain and trailing only Italy. The U.S. has recorded nearly 17,000 deaths from the virus while Italy has more than 18,000.

      However, Italy’s death rate has begun to level off while U.S. deaths are not expected to peak for another two weeks. That means the U.S. could overtake Italy as the most deadly country for the coronavirus sometime next week. 

      The U.S. already leads the world by a wide margin in the number of confirmed cases. Those numbers are driven by New York state, which now has more cases of the virus than any country (other than the U.S. as a whole.)

      New tests are rolling out

      After a halting and widely criticized start to coronavirus testing in the U.S., hospitals and corporations have innovated to produce a number of new tests that can generate results within minutes.

      Among the latest is a test that scans subjects’ blood antibodies for signs that would indicate whether subjects have already had the virus. A number of patients have actually tested positive for the disease but have not had any symptoms. 

      “This could be an extraordinarily important piece of how we’re going to get over this epidemic,”  Eran Bendavid, an infectious-disease physician at Stanford University, told The Wall Street Journal.

      Health officials say this test and others like it can help paint a picture of where the virus has spread and assist with measures to control it.

      Money for hospitals and health workers

      The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today began delivering $30 billion in financial aid to health workers who are supporting the national response to the coronavirus and to health facilities treating patients. The money is the first installment of $100 billion allocated for that purpose under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.

      HHS officials say the $100 billion will be used to support healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to coronavirus. It will also be used to ensure that uninsured Americans can get the testing and treatment they need without receiving a surprise bill from a provider. The initial $30 billion in immediate relief funds is being delivered to providers today.

      Slow response to loan requests

      If you’re a small business owner still waiting to hear about your application for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, you aren’t alone. The loan program, dubbed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) because it forgives loans if borrowers don’t lay off employees, has drawn a huge number of applications from participating banks that have struggled to meet the demand.

      The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reports that around 72 percent of businesses applying for a PPP loan were able to submit an application. But NFIB says some banks are pre-screening applicants before having them fill out the full application, so it is unclear how many have successfully applied or have just completed the first step in a longer process. Twenty-eight percent of small business owners were not successful in applying for a PPP loan.   

      Feds will continue to fund drive-through testing

      The Trump administration has reportedly walked back a plan to phase out federal support for drive-thru testing stations after local officials complained. The Wall Street Journal cites various local officials who say the support will continue into late May. It had been scheduled to end today.

      The drive-thru test stations, set up mostly in retailers’ parking lots, provide a way to implement fast and convenient testing. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency supported the effort by supplying medical personnel, personal-protective equipment, and test kits.

      Some private companies, including Walgreens and CVS, are continuing to add testing stations in some of their stores’ parking lots.

      Around the nation

      • Louisiana: A member of the state legislature has died of the coronavirus. Rep. Reggie Bagala, whose district includes suburban New Orleans, had been on a ventilator for more than a week. He was 54 years old.

      • Pennsylvania: A nursing home near Pittsburgh is an epicenter of the pandemic in the state as all 750 residents and staffers may be infected with COVID-19. NBC News reports the facility was slapped with a “below average grade” by state inspectors last year.

      • West Virginia: As one of the last states to report a case of the coronavirus, West Virginia now has seven “hot spots” for the disease. Marion County now has more than 30 coronavirus cases. It joins Kanawha, Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Monongalia, and Harrison counties with the jurisdictions with the most cases.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 473,093 (432,579)...
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      Lawmakers warn that direct stimulus payments can be seized by debt collectors

      Two senators say the Treasury Department can prevent that from happening

      Americans have started receiving direct stimulus payments from the federal government to cope with the coronavirus (COVID-19), but can those payments be seized by debt collectors if those recipients are in debt?

      Two members of Congress -- one Democrat and one Republican -- say they can unless the Trump administration does something to stop it.

      The payments are being made as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was signed into law earlier this month. To help with the economic dislocation caused by the virus, every adult is receiving $1,200 from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Families are getting an additional $500 per child.

      But Sen. Sharrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) say the law doesn’t protect those payments from debt collectors if the recipients are subject to a collection effort. The lawmakers say those payments are designed as a lifeline to households to help weather the crisis and nothing more.

      Letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin

      In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the two lawmakers urged the Treasury Department to use its power to protect those payments from being seized.

      “Congress included this critical relief in order to help American families struggling to pay for food, medicine, and other basic necessities during the novel coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis,” the senators wrote in their letter.

      The lawmakers, who are members of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, said Congress never intended that any portion of the direct payments to Americans be diverted to settle debts. 

      “To ensure that American families receive the full amount of this intended relief, the CARES Act does not allow for the payment amount to be reduced, or ‘offset,’ for past tax debts or other debts owed to federal or state governments,” they wrote. “The only offset that Congress allowed is for past-due child support payments.

      Not stated in the law

      If Congress isn’t allowing the government to tap a recipient’s payment to settle a tax bill, the lawmakers said, then it obviously never intended private debt collectors to grab a piece of it. However, that isn’t directly stated in the CARES Act.

      Brown and Hawley said the Treasury Department has the authority to establish what the law fails to state -- that CARES Act direct payments can’t be seized to satisfy private debts.

      Under current Treasury rules, the two senators point out that two months of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and other federal payments are protected from being garnished by private debt collectors.

      They say the Treasury Department can also apply this rule to protect the CARES Act direct payments from private debt collectors.  

      Americans have started receiving direct stimulus payments from the federal government to cope with the coronavirus (COVID-19), but can those payments be se...
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      Walmart has hired more than 100,000 new workers in recent weeks

      The retailer has seen an interesting change in demand for products

      With the coronavirus continuing to drive up demand for items such as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, Walmart has hired more than 100,000 new workers in the past three weeks. 

      In mid-March, Walmart announced that it was looking to fill 150,000 positions.

      “We’ll easily hit the 150,000,” Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, told CNBC’s Courtney Reagan. “We’ll do an assessment to see if we need to do more.”

      Providing fall-back job opportunities

      While most of the jobs are temporary, about 10-15 percent are permanent, Bartlett said. Most employees are working for Walmart in order to make ends meet “until their traditional jobs come back online,” he said.

      “People are keeping their eye on the horizon to see when industry and when the economy will crank back up. But in the meantime, they’re providing a critical service, and we welcome them with open arms,” Bartlett said. 

      Walmart said Thursday that demand has remained strong since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Bartlett said paper goods “are still under pressure,” adding that the retailer is selling enough toilet paper over a five-day period to allow every U.S. citizen to have their own roll. 

      The company said that while toilet paper continues to fly off shelves, other products have also risen in popularity.

      “All the do-it-yourself types of items like hair coloring and beard trimmers are selling quite well,” he said. “Sewing machines are flying off the shelf as well because a lot of people are selling and making their own masks at their house.” 

      With the coronavirus continuing to drive up demand for items such as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, Walmart has hired more than 100,000 new workers i...
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      Gas prices fall another eight cents a gallon in the last week

      Demand is at its lowest level in recent memory

      Demand for gasoline continues to drop, and so do prices at the pump.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $1.88 a gallon, another seven cents lower than a week ago. A year ago, the average gas price was $2.76 a gallon. The average price of premium gas is $2.53 a gallon, compared to $2.61 a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.54 a gallon, four cents less than a week ago.

      Gas prices have fallen as oil prices appear to have found a floor on hopes that Saudi Arabia and Russia can reach a deal to reduce the amount of oil they pump into world markets.

      “This week, market analysts are watching crude oil prices, which started to increase at the end of last week,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “However, given the low demand readings, increases in crude aren’t likely to have an impact on gas prices in the near-term.”

      Making these falling prices even more remarkable is the statistic for refinery output. Currently, the nation’s oil refineries are only running at 82 percent of capacity, the lowest level in three years. But even at that level, they’re producing more gasoline than homebound consumers can buy.

      Once again, Wisconsin has the lowest gasoline prices in the nation, with the statewide average dropping 13 cents a gallon in the last seven days. Other Midwestern states -- including Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Kentucky -- also have some of the cheapest gasoline prices in the country.

      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 ($3.31)

      • California ($2.91)

      • Washington ($2.64)

      • Oregon ($2.59) 

      • Nevada ($2.51)

      • Alaska ($2.34)

      • Arizona ($2.32)

      • Utah ($2.23)

      • New York ($2.28)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.13)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Wisconsin ($1.38)

      • Oklahoma ($1.44)

      • Ohio ($1.50)

      • Kentucky ($1.55)

      • Michigan ($1.57)

      • Indiana ($1.58)

      • Mississippi ($1.61)

      • Texas ($1.62)

      • Missouri ($1.62)

      • Iowa ($1.62)

      Demand for gasoline continues to drop, and so do prices at the pump.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $1.88...
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      Camso recalls Yeti SnowMX conversion kits

      The brakes on the snow bike can fail after the conversion kit has been installed

      Camso of Canada is recalling about 380 Yeti SnowMX conversion kits.

      The brakes on the snow bike can fail after the conversion kit has been installed, posing a crash hazard to the user.

      The firm has received 12 incidents of the brakes failing. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Yeti Snow MX kits used to convert dirt bike motorcycles into snow bikes for use in snow.

      The kit allows the replacement of the front wheel of a motorbike with a ski and rear suspension and wheels with a track system, and the addition of appropriate brakes with other components.

      The Yeti Snow MX kits have a serial number starting with YE3XXXX or 964XXXX located under the unit. The Yeti logo is printed on the side of the product.

      The model names and numbers of the kits are as follows:

      Model Year 2018:

      • Yeti SnowMx 120 Sport SS 
      • Yeti SnowMx 129 Freeride SS 
      • Yeti SnowMx 120 Sport 
      • Yeti SnowMx 129 Freeride 
      • Yeti SnowMx 137 Mountain lite 

      Model Year 2019:

      • Yeti SnowMx 120SS 
      • Yeti SnowMx 129SS 
      • Yeti SnowMx 129FR 
      • Yeti SnowMx 137MT 

      Model Year 2020:

      • Yeti SnowMx 120SS 

      The conversion kits, manufactured in Canada, were sold at authorized Yeti SnowMX dealers from October 2017, through February 2020, for about $8,600.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using snow bikes with the recalled conversion kits and contact an authorized Yeti SnowMX dealer to make an appointment for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact Camso toll-free at (877) 866-2275 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at yetisnowmx.ca and click on “News” at the top of the page then “Press Room” for more information.

      Camso of Canada is recalling about 380 Yeti SnowMX conversion kits. The brakes on the snow bike can fail after the conversion kit has been installed, po...
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      Toyota recalls model year 2020 Corolla Hatchbacks

      The backup lamps may become inoperative over time

      Toyota is recalling about 1,000 model year 2020 Corolla Hatchbacks.

      A connector in the rear hatch of the vehicle may have been damaged during production, resulting in the backup lamps possibly becoming inoperative over time.

      If backup lamps do not illuminate when the vehicle is operated in reverse, there can be an increased risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the rear hatch wire harness with a new one free of charge

      The recall is expected to begin in early June 2020.

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

      Toyota is recalling about 1,000 model year 2020 Corolla Hatchbacks. A connector in the rear hatch of the vehicle may have been damaged during production...
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      Coronavirus update: Another coronavirus task force, stepped up testing

      A new app tells first responders if they should get a test

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 432,579 (401,166)

      Total U.S. deaths: 14,830 (12,936)

      Total global cases: 1,506,936  (1,450,343)

      Total global deaths: 90,057 (83,568)

      A second coronavirus task force

      President Trump is reportedly planning a second coronavirus (COVID-19) task force, this one focused on getting the economy rolling again. NBC News, citing an administration official, reports that the group would include White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow.

      The mission would be to develop plans to spur economic activity once shelter-in-place edicts are lifted. The report comes on the day the government reported another 6.6 million new claims for unemployment benefits and the Federal Reserve said it would inject another $2.3 trillion into the economy.

      CVS and Walgreens step up testing

      Two pharmacy retailers -- CVS and Walgreens -- have announced they are increasing the number of locations where consumers can drive up and be tested for the coronavirus. 

      The stores are staging the testing stations in their parking lots. This week, CVS added two new locations, one in Atlanta and the other in Providence, R.I.

      Walgreens said it is opening 15 new testing locations in seven states, with the first of the group rolling out this week. The CEOs of both companies announced the testing effort when they attended a White House summit last month.

      New testing app for first responders

      Stanford Medicine and Apple have collaborated to produce an app that will direct first responders to the nearest drive-through coronavirus test location if they begin to feel the onset of symptoms.

      To use the app, someone answers generated questions about how they’re feeling. If the symptoms match the virus, the program will recommend they be tested.

      A lack of testing is often cited as one of the reasons the U.S. has more cases than any other nation. Officials have urged more testing to protect medical personnel, first responders, and others with an increased risk of infection.

      Gates sees kids back in class in the fall

      Bill Gates, whose foundation has been a leader in studying and preparing for pandemics, says this school year is over. He told CNBC this morning that no district should even think about returning children to the classroom over the next three months.

      However, Gates said he believes kids will be able to return to school in the fall. As for business getting back to normal, Gates said that could begin to happen around the end of May. That said, going to big sporting events before a vaccine has been developed could pose problems.

      Bezos’ surprise visit

      Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed up unannounced at one of the company’s fulfillment centers and a Whole Foods store amid rising complaints about the retailer’s coronavirus policies. In particular, employees have said the company isn’t providing workers with adequate protection on the job.

      As an essential business, Amazon has not only been open for business but has seen a crush of orders from homebound consumers. It’s actively trying to hire 100,000 new employees.

      Amazon has come under fire from some employees, especially after there was a case of the virus at one of the fulfillment centers. Bezos visited an Amazon warehouse in the Dallas area Wednesday to thank employees for their work. 

      Amazon said it is enforcing social distancing guidelines, as well as checking employee temperatures at the start of shifts and increasing cleaning. It says it has enough masks and hand sanitizer for employees at all its facilities.

      Around the nation

      • California: State health officials are reporting progress in “flattening the curve” of coronavirus deaths. They say the virus is not spreading as quickly as early models predicted, but they are calling for an extension of social distancing measures.

      • Kentucky: The high school baseball season has been canceled. But Wednesday night -- when games are normally played -- empty stadiums across the state were lit up as a reminder that things will eventually get back to normal.

      • Iowa: A Cedar Rapids nursing home has reported 84 cases of the coronavirus among staff and residents. State officials say the facility’s past safety violations were apparently not a factor in the outbreak.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 432,579 (401,166)...
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      Google bans use of Zoom on employee computers

      Following a boom in popularity, Zoom is facing backlash over its security shortcomings

      Google is banning the use of video conferencing application Zoom by its employees due to security concerns. 

      The number of Zoom users ballooned recently after more Americans began working remotely to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But after use of the platform surged, it became evident that Zoom’s security measures weren’t enough to support its new popularity. 

      On Wednesday, Buzzfeed reported that Google sent its employees an email last week telling them that if they had the Zoom app installed on their work computers, they would soon find that the software no longer functioned.  

      “We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network,” a Google spokesperson told Buzzfeed. “Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees.” 

      The spokesperson added that employees who have been using Zoom to stay connected with family and friends can “continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile.”

      Security vulnerabilities 

      As Zoom’s traffic dramatically increased, so did incidents of harassment on the platform. “Zoombombing” -- where a hacker disrupts a meeting with racist remarks, aggressive language, pornographic content, or even death threats -- has rattled Zoom users and prompted the FBI to issue a statement saying the offense is “punishable by fines and imprisonment.” 

      Other Zoom vulnerabilities have included undisclosed data sharing with Facebook, exposed Zoom recordings and LinkedIn profiles, and a “malware-like” installer on the Mac version of the app.

      In light of the apparent privacy issues, New York City’s Department of Education recently announced that educators who use Zoom as a platform to teach remotely would need to gradually transition to other virtual classrooms in light of the security vulnerabilities on Zoom. 

      The DOE said it received “various reports documenting issues that impact the security and privacy of the Zoom platform.” 

      “Based on the DOE’s review of these documented concerns, the DOE will no longer permit the use of Zoom at this time,” the Department said last week. “Schools should move away from using Zoom as soon as possible.” 

      Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan said in a recent blog post that supporting the influx of users has been a “tremendous undertaking,” but his company is doing everything it can to strengthen security measures. Zoom said it would temporarily pause new features on the app for 90 days while it focuses on improving security and privacy. 

      Google is banning the use of video conferencing application Zoom by its employees due to security concerns. The number of Zoom users ballooned recently...
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      Federal Reserve temporarily removes Wells Fargo’s asset cap

      The Fed says it’s still holding the bank accountable for its past misdeeds

      In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Reserve will temporarily let Wells Fargo exceed the asset capacity it imposed on the bank in February 2018. 

      The central bank put the cap on the bank after it came to light that Wells Fargo had opened millions of accounts in customers’ names without their knowledge or permission. The bank is still working to improve its reputation in the wake of the scandal. 

      The Fed announced Wednesday that it will let Wells Fargo exceed the $1.95 trillion cap in order to allow it to participate in the emergency small business stimulus loan program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program.

      “Due to the extraordinary disruptions from the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday announced that it will temporarily and narrowly modify the growth restriction on Wells Fargo so that it can provide additional support to small businesses,” the Fed said in a statement.

      Still being held accountable for past actions

      The Fed’s decision comes a few days after Wells Fargo announced that it wouldn’t be able to fully participate in the program. On Sunday, Wells Fargo said its participation would be limited to $10 billion due to the regulatory restrictions. 

      "While we are actively working to create balance sheet capacity to lend, we are limited in our ongoing ability to use our strong capital and liquidity position to extend additional credit," said Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf.

      In a separate statement, Scharf said the Fed’s temporary lifting of the restriction “does not, and should not, in any way relieve us of our obligations” under the 2018 consent order.

      “While the asset cap does not specifically restrict Wells Fargo’s participation in this program, this action by the Federal Reserve will enable Wells Fargo to provide additional relief for our customers and communities,” Scharf said.

      The Fed issued a similar statement, saying that it “continues to hold the company accountable for successfully addressing the widespread breakdowns that resulted in harm to consumers identified as part of that action and for completing the requirements of the agreement.”

      Wells Fargo reopened its PPP website for applications on Wednesday.

      In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Reserve will temporarily let Wells Fargo exceed the asset capacity it imposed on the bank in February...
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      Nissan recalls NV Cargo & Passenger Vans, Titans, Armadas and Infiniti QX56s

      The driver front airbag inflator may rupture

      Nissan North America is recalling 216,678 model year 2012-2017 NV Cargo & NV Passenger Vans, model year 2013-2015 Titans, & Armadas, and model year 2011-2012 Infiniti QX56s.

      Due to a manufacturing issue, the airbag inflator may not function properly or may rupture during deployment.

      An inflator rupture may result in met al fragments striking the driver or other occupants,, resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front driver airbag inflators free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 25, 2020.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 867-7669 or Infiniti customer service at (800) 662-6200.

      Nissan North America is recalling 216,678 model year 2012-2017 NV Cargo & NV Passenger Vans, model year 2013-2015 Titans, & Armadas, and model year 2011-20...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls GLE350s, GLE450s and GLS450s

      The rear crossmember may detach

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 224 model year 2020 GLE350s, GLE450s and GLS450s.

      The seams on the rear crossmember may have been insufficiently welded, which may allow cracks to form when towing, possibly causing the rear crossmember to detach from the vehicle.

      If the rear crossmember detaches from the vehicle, it can become a road hazard and increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the rear crossmember free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 19, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 224 model year 2020 GLE350s, GLE450s and GLS450s.The seams on the rear crossmember may have been insufficiently...
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      Add some zest to your Zoom conferencing

      7 products to bring quality (and some fun) to your video conference calls

      Living the Zoom life? Do it in style with these 7 picks designed to help increase the quality, performance and enjoyment of your video calls...

      5 video chatting options to use while social distancing

      Stay social while social distancing with these five video chat apps. From Facetime to Viber, you have options, compare them all and stay connected.

      Stay social while social distancing with these five video chat apps. From Facetime to Viber, you have options, compare them all and stay connected...

      7 things you can broadcast on Facebook Live to entertain your friends (and the world)

      Make the most of your time at home and use Facebook Live to amuse people near and far

      With families and friends separated due to quarantine efforts for the coronavirus, millions of Americans are turning to video chat applications to stay in touch with each other. Why limit your audience to just a few close friends and family? Start a live broadcast on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms that anyone in the world could watch! Here are some great ideas to get you started.

      1. Hot Wheels races

      What family with kids doesn’t have dozens of Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars lying around? Set up a simple track in your driveway or living room, designate your friends and family as “drivers” of the various cars then pit them against each other. You can make it an exciting March Madness-style bracket until only the fastest car is left standing!

      Shop Hot Wheels tracks on Amazon

      2. Whiffle ball home run derby

      Grab a bag of Whiffle balls, head to the backyard and let 'em fly! Whiffle balls don't travel very far, so hitting one over your backyard fence isn't much of an issue. Plus, errant Whiffle balls are relatively painless if it accidentally hits someone, and it won't break a window. Designate someone as a pitcher, rotate batters and see who comes out on top. These Whiffle balls run around a dollar each and are pretty sturdy.

      Shop Whiffle balls on Amazon

      3. Karaoke night

      If you don't have stage fright singing in public, take your talent a step further and sing to the world! Most any song in karaoke form is available on YouTube and includes the lyrics so you can sing along. Display it on your TV, grab a real (or pretend) microphone and show everyone your singing skills! Who knows, if your video is public, you might just get discovered.

      4. Do a personal “AMA”

      A popular feature on Reddit and other sites is when celebrities host an "AMA" event, which stands for "ask me anything." Have your friends and family comment on your post and ask you questions about yourself! You might be thinking, "I'm not interesting enough." Well, maybe you have a fascinating job, met someone important or can dispense valuable advice. You'd be surprised what people will ask given the opportunity, and the directions your responses go.

      5. Eating contest

      Think you could down a two-liter bottle of soda? What about 50 chicken nuggets? Or maybe you and a family member could see who could fit the most Starburst in their mouths? Without explicitly wasting food, an eating contest is a hilarious way to attract an audience and entertain friends and family.

      Shop bulk Starburst on Amazon

      6. Any board game or bar game

      Many people miss their live sporting events, and whatever game you're playing on camera is likely to be one of the only games anywhere to watch. Playing live games works even better if you have your own funny commentary or spin on it. Broadcast your game of chess, darts, foosball or Farkel Party to the world!

      Shop Farkel Party on Amazon

      7. Whatever task or chore you happen to be doing

      It might seem mundane to you, but this would be an excellent opportunity for someone to learn how you repair a flat tire, bake cupcakes, groom your dog or clean your gutters. Give a little self play-by-play while you complete your chore. People are more apt to tune into random broadcasts in this current state, and you might even teach someone a great way to do it!

      If you choose to record with a smartphone, and don't have an extra person to be your videographer, invest in a tripod to hold it for you!

      Shop smartphone tripods on Amazon

      Keep yourself and your friends entertained with these seven Facebook Live broadcast ideas. Host a Q&A or play a board game, virtually!...
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      General Motors to make ventilators to treat coronavirus patients

      The automaker has been awarded money from the government

      Under a new contract with the U.S. government, General Motors will make and deliver 30,000 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August. Roughly 6,000 ventilators will go out by June 1.

      The contract with the Department of Health and Human Services is worth $489.4 million, and it was made possible through the Defense Production Act. 

      In a statement on Wednesday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the deal is part of the Trump administration’s “all-of-America” strategy for fighting the pandemic and helping those who are sick.

      “Invoking the Defense Production Act to secure ventilator production from GM and other companies is a part of President Trump’s all-of-America approach to combating the coronavirus,” Azar said. “By rating contracts under the DPA, HHS is helping manufacturers like GM get the supplies they need to produce ventilators as quickly as possible, while also ensuring that these ventilators are routed through the Strategic National Stockpile to where they’re needed most.” 

      Company spokesman Jim Cain said GM intends to “fulfill the government contract and (has) the capacity to supply more if needed.” To make the ventilators, GM will work with ventilator company Ventec Life Systems.

      “GM and Ventec Life Systems are working with speed and urgency to arm front-line medical professionals with the critical care ventilators they need to treat seriously ill patients,” the automaker said in a statement. 

      Other automakers producing ventilators 

      Ford announced last week that it will be making 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days at a facility in Michigan. 

      “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,” Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO said in a statement. “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.”

      Toyota has said it’s “finalizing agreements to begin working with at least two companies that produce ventilators and respirators to help increase their capacity.”

      "We are eager to contribute our expertise and know-how in order to help quickly bring to market the medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the COVID crisis," said Ted Ogawa, incoming CEO, Toyota North America. "Our message to the medical equipment community is we are here to help, please utilize our expertise."

      Under a new contract with the U.S. government, General Motors will make and deliver 30,000 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of Au...
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      Coronavirus update: No let up on social distancing, more money for small businesses

      Groups are providing tips for avoiding coronavirus scams

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 401,166 (378,289)

      Total U.S. deaths: 1,2936 (11,830)

      Total global cases: 1,450,343  (1,381,014)

      Total global deaths: 83,568 (78,269)

      Doubling down on social distancing

      New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says New Yorkers need to “double down” on social distancing to prevent cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) from occurring at a faster rate.

      The mayor did have some good news at today’s briefing. He said coronavirus hospitalizations are leveling off. But keeping up the social distance protocol, he said, is necessary to keep that trend on track.

      “We know we’re not out of the woods -- it’s too early,” de Blasio said. He stuck to previous forecasts that predicted half the city’s population could get the virus.

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), has a similar message. He told Fox News that new cases nationwide appear to be reaching a peak, but he also said it’s not time to let up on mitigation measures that have proved effective.

      More money for small business

      The Small Business Administration (SBA) loan/grant program was so popular out of the gate this week that many participating banks were overwhelmed. In Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are proposing giving small businesses access to more money.

      The original loan amount, under the CARES Act, is $350 billion, but the two Democrats say more is needed. Congressional Democrats are proposing an “interim” relief bill with another $500 billion to make loans to small businesses and provide direct aid to hospitals, state governments, and food assistance programs.

      Tips for avoiding the increasing number of scams

      The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is partnering with the Cybercrime Support Network to educate online users about scams surrounding COVID-19. The organizations are seeking to inform consumers about what they need to watch out for when surfing the web, working online, or e-learning from home. 

      "It all starts with educating yourself about the scams that are happening surrounding the virus, and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is," said NICB Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer. "As the lockdown continues, the fraudsters will utilize the phone and the internet to try to alleviate your fear and anxiety by promising anything that will cause you to trust them with your sensitive information."  

      Hackers are also being drawn to people working from home because security on home WiFi systems usually isn’t as robust as on corporate networks at now-deserted offices.

      Restaurants becoming grocery stores

      Restaurants are reinventing themselves to face the coronavirus. No longer seating customers inside, chains like Subway and Panera have begun meeting consumers’ other needs by stocking and selling popular grocery items like bread, milk, and fresh fruit.

      Subway is selling the ingredients that normally go into its sandwiches so consumers can make their own sandwiches at home.

      Refunds from insurance companies

      Millions of Americans are leaving their cars parked as they abide by stay-at-home orders. As a result, highways have fewer cars on them and a lot fewer accidents. In one 24-hour period, both AllState and Geico announced that they are cutting premiums for their customers.

      Both insurance companies are cutting rates by 15 percent -- AllState for two months and Geico for six months. Geico says the savings will average about $150 per auto policy and $30 off motorcycle policies.

      Other insurance companies are expected to follow the example.

      Jack Dorsey donates $1 billion 

      The individual and corporate response to the pandemic continues to show stark differences from the response to the 2008 financial crisis, when consumers received little to no help. Jack Dorsey, CEO of both Twitter and Square, has announced that he will donate $1 billion of his Square stock to charities working to help people dealing with the coronavirus.

      “I’m moving $1B of my Square equity (~28% of my wealth) to #startsmall LLC to fund global COVID-19 relief,” Dorsey wrote in a tweet. “After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and UBI.” 

      Dorsey said the funds will be taken from his stake in Square stock. The initial grant will send $100,000 to America’s Food Fund.

      Around the nation

      • Tennessee: State Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey reports that the state has received its first shipment of new coronavirus test machines that can render results in as few as five minutes. The first machines went into the government's public health laboratory in East Nashville. Walgreens is expected to also deploy these machines at testing locations in the state.

      • Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown has extended her ban on eating at restaurants and bars in the state until further notice. The ban went into effect last month and was originally expected to last for at least four weeks. Under the new order, the ban will last “until lifted by the governor.” 

      • Virginia: A widely followed coronavirus model predicts that cases will peak in Virginia much earlier than previously forecast. The model now shows April 22 will be Virginia’s deadliest day. Previously, the virus was projected to peak in late May or early June.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 401,166 (378,289)...
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      Dick’s Sporting Goods will furlough employees starting April 12 due to COVID-19

      The company is hoping to reopen at full speed once the pandemic subsides

      Dick's Sporting Goods announced on Wednesday that it will be furloughing a "significant number" of employees spread across its retail stores, distribution centers, and corporate headquarters beginning April 12. The decision was made due to the impact of COVID-19.

      In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), it is also temporarily reducing the salaries of its executives, senior leadership, and its Board of Directors was suspending the payment of its cash retainer. 

      One positive note for those furloughed “teammates” is that, throughout the furlough, Dick’s will continue to provide benefits to those employees who are enrolled in benefit programs.

      “For now, until our stores are fully reopened, small teams within our stores, distribution centers, and corporate offices will continue to work, following social distancing practices,” the company said in a statement. 

      “It is our goal that when this crisis subsides, we will welcome back our teammates, open our doors and get back to the business we love of serving athletes and our communities.

      Dick's Sporting Goods announced on Wednesday that it will be furloughing a "significant number" of employees spread across its retail stores, distribution...
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      Truck drivers seek federal help to protect them from COVID-19

      A trade group warns that the food supply chain is vulnerable without it

      We’ve seen the footage of supermarket shelves picked clean of toilet paper, bleach, and cleaning supplies over the last month as panicky consumers stocked up.

      The job of restocking those shelves has fallen to an army of grocery workers who report in each day, despite their fears of being exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Backing them up is an army of truck drivers transporting food and other essential items.

      Both armies are beginning to show signs of strain in the battle against the coronavirus, with America’s food supply chain in the balance.

      The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the trade group representing independent truck drivers, has gone public with an appeal for help. In a letter to the White House, Todd Spencer, the group’s CEO, said his members are exposed to COVID-19 every day because of their jobs.

      “They don’t have access to PPE or any practical means to know when they may be falling ill or any practical solution if they need treatment or self-isolation,” Spencer wrote. “Access to testing must be available where they are, particularly on busy truck routes. And testing must show results in hours, not days.”

      The group also wants a way to respond to truck drivers when they test positive for the virus. Spencer suggested infected drivers could be treated and quarantined at motels along their routes.

      “Right now professional drivers are busting their butts to care for the nation,” Spencer wrote. “Their hard work and personal sacrifice should not include their health or even their lives if at all possible or preventable.”

      Threat to the supply chain

      Without help, Spencer warned that many drivers might park their trucks when word spreads that more of them are testing positive. That, he warns, could threaten the nation’s vital food supply chain.

      On the same day the letter was sent, the Federal Highway Administration issued a notice to states that they have wide leeway in enforcing federal prohibitions against commercial activity at highway rest areas. It suggested that allowing food trucks to set up in rest areas could be a helpful step in assisting commercial truck drivers.

      “If a state determines that permitting food trucks to operate and sell food in any designated federally funded Interstate Highway rest areas is necessary to support interstate commercial truck drivers, FHWA will refrain from taking any remedial action under the Federal-aid highway program against that state,” the notice declared.

      We’ve seen the footage of supermarket shelves picked clean of toilet paper, bleach, and cleaning supplies over the last month as panicky consumers stocked...
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      Social distancing measures could lower coronavirus death toll

      Health officials say a higher-than-expected number of Americans are following social guidelines

      Some White House officials are predicting that the number of lives claimed by the coronavirus could be lower than initially predicted due to the high number of Americans practicing social distancing.

      A week ago, administration officials said the number of people who would die from the coronavirus in the U.S. was between 100,000 and 240,000. However, a source close to the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force says it’s possible that the death toll will be “way under” that figure. 

      The initial estimate was rooted primarily in the assumption that only 50 percent of Americans would heed the social distancing guidelines set forth by the government. Now, it’s become evident that a much larger percentage of Americans are staying home. 

      Social distancing adherence high 

      U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in interviews this week that a majority of Americans -- 90 percent -- are staying home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. 

      "Those models that were done, they assumed that only about 50 percent of the American public would pay attention to the recommendations,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with Tucson radio station KVOI on Monday.

      “In fact, it would seem, a large majority of the American public are taking the social distancing recommendations to heart -- and I think that's the direct consequence of why you're seeing the numbers are going to be much, much, much, much lower than would've been predicted by the models.”

      Not the time to stop

      Towards the end of March, Dr. Deborah Birx -- leader of the coronavirus task force -- said that the death toll could go “down to 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, which is still way too much,” if consumers practiced social distancing, hand washing, and other measures. 

      However, public health experts warn that “nobody has a crystal ball with the ability to pinpoint the precise number of people who will die in a pandemic.”

      “This is no time to relax social distancing measures,” officials added.

      Some White House officials are predicting that the number of lives claimed by the coronavirus could be lower than initially predicted due to the high numbe...
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      Amazon says it may fire employees not following social distancing guidelines

      The company is aiming to keep workers safe

      Amazon has announced that it may fire employees who “intentionally violate” its social distancing guidelines. 

      Workers have complained that the requirements of their job make it difficult to comply with the policy, but the company now says workers who violate the policy of maintaining a distance of six feet apart will receive two warnings before being fired. 

      "We've had some instances of employees intentionally violating our clear guidelines on social distancing at our sites, which endangers both the individual and their colleagues," said Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty in a statement to CNN. "On the second documented offense, termination may occur." 

      Social distancing in effect

      Amazon’s facilities have already been heavily impacted by the coronavirus, and the company says it’s doing everything it can to protect the safety of both workers and the public. Last week, U.S. lawmakers raised concerns that Amazon’s warehouse conditions aren’t in line with current safety and social distancing guidelines. 

      Workers have reported that the “circumstances of their work make it impossible to comply with public health protocols - reporting crowded spaces, a required rate of work that does not allow for proper sanitizing of work spaces, and empty containers meant to hold sanitizing wipes,” a group of New York legislators, unions, and Amazon employees said in a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos.

      The same week the letter was filed, Amazon said it terminated a worker from one of its New York facilities after receiving “multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines.” 

      In an interview with CNN, Amazon said it has enacted a number of measures to keep workers safe, including moving chairs and tables and staggering shifts and workstations. The company also said it has improved its cleaning procedure. 

      Working in close proximity? 

      Despite Amazon’s assurance that it is enacting precautions to ensure employees are as safe as possible, workers still have concerns. Mario Crippen, an employee at an Amazon site in Michigan, said that a bulk of what Amazon workers do can’t be done while social distancing. 

      "In the packing department, there are no walls, so people are really shoulder-to-shoulder," he told CNN. "And then, in the dock ... sometimes there are two people inside the truck, and they can't get away from each other. The computers they need to run the dock are right next to each other. The way stuff works, you've got to be close to get things done and get packages out."

      Amazon officials have called accusations of unsafe working conditions during the pandemic “unfounded.” 

      “Nothing is more important than the safety of our teams,” a company spokesperson told CNBC. “Since the early days of this situation, we have worked closely with health authorities to proactively respond, ensuring we continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates and teams.”

      Amazon has announced that it may fire employees who “intentionally violate” its social distancing guidelines. Workers have complained that the requirem...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2018-2019 S560s and Maybach S560s

      The engine oil plugs may leak

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 9,791 model year 2018-2019 S560s and Maybach S560s with 4.0L 8-cylinder gasoline-engines.

      Two engine oil plugs may not withstand high engine loads during driving, possibly resulting in an engine oil leak.

      An engine oil leak can spill on to the road and cause slippery road conditions.

      Additionally, if the engine runs out of oil it can cause an engine stall during driving.

      Either of these can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the engine oil plugs free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 19, 2020. Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 9,791 model year 2018-2019 S560s and Maybach S560s with 4.0L 8-cylinder gasoline-engines. Two engine oil plugs ma...
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      8 great work-from-home desk accessories

      From wrist support to the perfect candle, we're sharing our fave picks

      Working from home? Make your space work for you with these desk accessories. From wrist support to the perfect candle, we're sharing our fave picks...

      7 educational children’s toys for learning at home

      Turn playtime into learning time with these 7 standout toys

      Playtime is a valuable opportunity for learning, and the toys you choose can be a fundamental part of that learning process. To help you choose the right toys, we’ve collected a variety of playthings that are not only educational but fun!

      Wooden puzzle boards

      Ages: 2+

      The simpler, the better for this toy. A classic wooden puzzle set covering the alphabet, numbers and shapes. Puzzles help children with recognition, memory and fine motor skills. With pieces made from solid wood and non-toxic materials, this toy will always be a traditional household favorite.

      Buy on Amazon

      LeapFrog LeapStart 3D

      Ages: 3+

      This toy is a crowd pleaser. The LeapFrog is an all-in-one learning tool that syncs with the LeapStart library of 25 physical books to provide an interactive and guided activity on each page. As you sync each book, the device grows with your child and includes instruction for all sorts of skills, from arithmetic to spelling and reading.

      Buy on Amazon

      Building tiles and shapes

      Ages: 3+

      This toy is excellent for developing childhood STEM skills as patterns and shapes are the foundation of geometry and mathematics. Your kids will love playing with a broad set of shapes and colors that are great for designs and creative fun. The magnetic edges allow the shapes to stick together and form 3D structures for even more entertainment.

      Buy on Amazon

      Magnetic alphabet

      Ages: 3+

      Preparing dinner and working in the kitchen is a stressful time for the parents of younger children. Make cooking time fun for everyone with this magnetic alphabet set you and your little one can play on the refrigerator. Perfect for practicing the alphabet, spelling or leaving funny messages on the door.

      Buy on Amazon

      Coding Critter Ranger & Zip

      Ages: 4+

      Designed to be a fun, immersive and screen-free (yes, you read that right) adventure in learning the foundations of coding, this interactive STEM coding toy has our attention. The storybook walks children through solving challenges in a silly environment. And when you’re child is done learning for the day, put Ranger in Play Mode for unguided free play.

      Buy on Amazon

      STEM engineering set

      Ages: 6+

      Similar to the erector sets and tinker toys of our youth, this DIY construction set has over 100 pieces that encourage imagination, creativity and problem-solving. A guide book will walk you through how to use the included tools to build any of the 5 models. This set is excellent for learning mechanics and practicing using hand tools with fine motor skills.

      Buy on Amazon

      Kids microscope set

      Ages: 5+

      While the microscope itself has been around long before it was a toy, that doesn’t make it any less exciting. The fun part about a microscope is that it takes every day objects around us and makes them new again — the blade of grass or fallen leaf from outside presents a different world. Compare the hair on your head and the dog’s fur. Are they similar or different? Everything is new under a microscope!

      Buy on Amazon

      Make playtime constructive and conducive for learning with any of these toys. Learning can be fun for all ages, and the foundations built with these toys for language, reading, counting and STEM skills are irreplaceable. And if you want to discover your own STEM skill, your secret is safe with us!

      Turn playtime into learning time with these 7 standout toys. Shop our picks, from wooden puzzle boards to STEM engineering sets and make learning fun....
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      Only a tiny fraction of COVID-19 cases have actually been reported, researchers say

      The team says there was likely over 10 million cases in the U.S. by the end of March

      The number of people around the world who have contracted the coronavirus continues to climb, with over 1.3 million confirmed cases being reported globally. However, a team of researchers say that number is only a small fraction of the number of people who have actually been infected.

      Researchers from the University of Göttingen in Germany have analyzed statistics related to the outbreak and theorize that only 6 percent of the true number of cases is being reported, on average, in each country.

      If true, this idea presents some frightening statistics; it would mean that global cases of the infection are actually in the tens of millions. Researcher Sebastian Vollmer says that taking all cases into account is important for informing regulators about what they should be doing to combat the virus.

      "These results mean that governments and policy-makers need to exercise extreme caution when interpreting case numbers for planning purposes. Such extreme differences in the amount and quality of testing carried out in different countries mean that official case records are largely uninformative and do not provide helpful information," he said. 

      U.S. far behind in detecting the coronavirus

      While the average reporting rate for all countries is 6 percent, Vollmer and fellow researcher Dr. Christian Bommer say that different countries vary when it comes to the accuracy of their detection methods. 

      They said that South Korea had likely discovered around half of all COVID-19 infections by the end of March. In contrast, countries like the United Kingdom and the United States were projected to only report about 1.6 percent and 1.2 percent of cases, respectively. The researchers chalk this up to the delayed response to the pandemic in these countries. 

      In total, the researchers theorize that there have been over ten million coronavirus infections in the United States alone, which underlies the need for better detection methods to help protect consumers.

      "Major improvements in the ability of countries to detect new infections and contain the virus are urgently needed," Bommer said.

      The full study has been published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

      The number of people around the world who have contracted the coronavirus continues to climb, with over XX million confirmed cases being reported globally....
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      Some laid-off workers will get $600 more in their unemployment checks starting this week

      Unemployment benefits vary from state-to-state, but it might take a little digging to find out exactly what’s available

      Better get out your deposit slips, America. Not only do you have a COVID-19 stimulus check coming your way, but some of you will also see some fatter unemployment checks.

      CNN reports that, depending on what state unemployment filers make their claim in, they’ll be seeing an extra $600 a week (for up to four months) on top of their regular state benefits. Congress is to be thanked for that, as part of the $2.2 trillion relief package and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program the federal government put together to help curb the financial crush stemming from the pandemic.

      The waiting is the hardest part

      This initiative is just making the news because state officials were waiting for the federal Department of Labor (DOL) to lay out its guidance on the additional $600. After all, the federal government is the one backing the money. 

      New Yorkers out of a job due to the pandemic will see their first fattened check this week. In Missouri, it could happen as early as the week of April 12. And for the Hoosiers in Indiana, they’ll have to wait in line a bit longer, to the week of April 20th.

      However, CNN reports that there’s a whole slew of state officials that don't have the faintest idea of when they can get the new pandemic unemployment assistance program into play. The issue on the state level is that each state has its own way of handling unemployment, and an alteration like this forces a myriad of other changes within those systems -- informing workers how to respond to questions from filers, software, application interfaces, etc. 

      Those states caught up in the conundrum include Ohio, Oregon, and Texas, which are reportedly still working on the process to send out the extra federal money. Then, there are