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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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      Unemployment filers surpass the 30 million mark

      Getting consumers back to work in safe environments is a major goal for the Department of Labor

      As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold the economy hostage, the number of first-time unemployment insurance filers in the U.S. rose another 3.84 million in the last week, moving the total number of claims across the 30 million mark. 

      However, there’s a small silver lining in that report -- the latest total is a decrease of 603,000 from the previous week's revised level

      All 50 states are delivering unemployment checks

      There’s another sliver of good in the state-by-state unemployment filings, too. For the week ending April 25, only seven U.S. states showed increases in the number of filings. 

      This is a welcome relief for the states. When the pandemic hit, unemployment insurance funding and staffing at the state level was at an all-time low, forcing the states to play catch-up. A new study from the Economic Policy Institute suggests that for every 10 people who were able to file an unemployment claim, there were another three or four who weren’t successful, as well as two more who didn’t apply because they thought it was too difficult.

      For those who were able to get through the filing process, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia says they are now getting what they were promised. 

      “All 50 states are now delivering the $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit provided by the CARES Act,” Scalia in a statement regarding Unemployment Insurance claims. “The Department has disbursed more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to States to help them deliver this relief as quickly as possible as Americans follow the guidance of public health officials to ‘slow the spread.’”

      The impact continues to hit home

      Gallup went a little further down the rabbit hole to try and find just how close to home pandemic-related unemployment has hit. In a recent study, its researchers found that:

      • Nearly one in every three Americans have experienced either a temporary layoff, permanent job loss, reduction in hours, or reduction in pay as an extent of the coronavirus situation; 

      • Eighteen percent have experienced more than one of these disruptions; and

      • The hardest-hit population sector are those in the lower income brackets. Among pre-epidemic annual household incomes of less than $36,000 annually, 14 percent report being temporarily laid off, 4 percent have been permanently let go, and 32 percent have seen a loss of income.

      The long look ahead

      Projections for when America will be back at full speed with workers at desks, travelers on planes, and people hugging and high-five’ing again is anyone’s guess. 

      However, as to the workers-at-desks question, the prospect doesn’t bode well. In a separate survey, Gallup found that a record-high 25 percent of employed U.S. adults think it’s possible that they’ll be laid off in the next year -- just a year after a 45-year low of 8 percent was registered for the same question. 

      Scalia’s viewpoint isn’t quite as blunt, but he says there’s one key element that is likely to make a significant impact.

      “Looking ahead, as workplaces reopen, we must ensure that individuals transition from unemployment back into the workforce,” Scalia said. “Key to this process will be workplace safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been at the forefront of workplace safety since January, delivering important resources and guidance to businesses to help them keep workers safe, and investigating and responding to worker complaints.”

      As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold the economy hostage, the number of first-time unemployment insurance filers in the U.S. rose another 3.84 millio...
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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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      5 great video games you can play with your kids

      Why should your kids have all the fun? Grab a controller, plug in and enjoy some game time

      It may have been a long time since you enjoyed a video game, but fear not! Whether the last game you played cost a quarter or you have your own gaming computer, picking up the controller should be entertaining for any skill level. Here are 5 family-friendly choices that get everyone playing — just choose the appropriate gaming system and start the fun!

      Nickelodeon Kart Racers

      Nickelodeon Kart Racers is an exciting racing-style game starring many of your favorite characters from Nickelodeon cartoons. It has plenty of tracks, and you can play with up to 4 people on split-screen so everyone can get in on the fun. There's a character for everyone — from the Ninja Turtles to Spongebob — so strap in and look out for that checkered flag!

      • Rated: E for everyone
      • Up to 4 players
      • For Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch

      Buy on Amazon

      Hasbro Family Fun Pack

      Want to play some classic board games without the mess? Then look into the Hasbro Family Fun Pack! You can play Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble in their own, beautifully-rendered virtual worlds. It's 4 great board games in one package with no cleanup. You can play with up to 5 players so that everyone can roll the 3-D dice.

      • Rated: E for everyone 10+
      • Up to 5 players
      • For Xbox One and PS4

      Buy on Amazon

      LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2

      If you're fans of LEGOs and had fun watching The Avengers movies, check out this great, family-friendly game. LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 is the sequel to the successful first videogame, and includes over 300 familiar characters, including Iron Man, Spider-man, Rocket Racoon and even the Incredible Hulk!

      • Rated: E for everyone 10+
      • Up to 4 players
      • For Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch

      Buy on Amazon

      Carnival Games

      Just because you're stuck indoors doesn't mean you miss out on some carnival fun! Carnival Games brings the midway into your living room with 20 minigames, including cosmic bowling and shooting hoops, while updating things with games like drone racing. Make some fair-themed snacks, get comfy and enjoy your own local carnival!

      • Rated: E for everyone 10+
      • Up to 4 players
      • For Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch

      Buy on Amazon

      Rocket League Ultimate Edition

      Combining soccer and RC racing, Rocket League has turned into a phenomenon. This fast-paced game will have you and your family cheering with every ball slammed and goal scored. If you get good enough, you may even want to sign up for the biannual Rocket League Championship Series!

      • Rated: E for everyone
      • Up to 4 players
      • For Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch

      Buy on Amazon

      With all these great family-friendly team games, you should be able to have plenty of fun nights filled with exciting competitions. While you're at it, you may want to upgrade your current television, so you don't miss any crazy moments!

      Your kids love their video games, but have you had a chance to pick up the controller? Here are 5 great games you can play with your kids....
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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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      FCC launches proposal to fight one-ring phone scam

      ‘We must stay nimble, vigilant and aggressive,’ the agency reminds consumers

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is back at its fight against phone scams. This time, the commission’s focus is on pricey “one-ring” scams.

      On Wednesday, the FCC issued a “notice of proposed rulemaking” in hopes of getting feedback and suggestions on how telephone service providers can block calls that are, in all likelihood, related to one-ring versions.

      How the one-ring scam works

      The wrinkle in this scam is that U.S. consumers receive a call from a foreign country. After one ring, the scammer hangs up. And, as some people are wont to do, they call the number back thinking that they may have missed something. 

      However, in this ploy, when the consumer calls back, they’re hit with significant phone charges of which the scammer gets a share. In ConsumerAffairs deep dive into the situation, those fees could be as much as $19.95, plus a large per minute charge as high as $9 per minute.

      The tell-tale signs are pretty simple: most often, the FCC says the area codes that show up are from Caribbean countries, such as 649 (the Turks and Caicos) or 809 (Dominican Republic). ConsumerAffairs found similar scams linked to area codes 473 (Grenada); 876 and 658 (Jamaica); and 284 (British Virgin Islands). 

      The FCC says there’s also a slightly different version of the one-ring scam in vogue these days. In that version, the caller leaves a voicemail message with the pretext of getting the consumer to call a certain international number to schedule a delivery or some other reason that might rouse the consumer’s curiosity.

      Like herding cats

      The FCC says that keeping track of robocall scams is particularly difficult because the variations of the scams continue to multiply.

      “One-ring scams are annoying and pernicious, waking up many Americans with confusing calls in the middle of the night and tricking them out of their money if they call back,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a news release.

      “With this effort, this agency shows it’s serious about aggressively combating this scam. I look forward to hearing from the public about their ideas for putting an end to this. And in the meantime, I urge them not to call back if they get calls like this.”

      The FCC continues to get tough

      Robo scams have gotten so far out of the FCC’s control that its Enforcement Bureau brought in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help out. Together, the two agencies have turned up the heat on telephone gateway providers because their systems are often used by scammers to perpetrate their hustle. 

      Earlier this month, the agencies went after gateway providers who were “apparently routing and transmitting Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) scam robocall traffic.” Regulators warned that the Commission would authorize other U.S. voice service providers to block all calls entering the U.S. via these gateway providers if they did not stop such traffic. 

      The combo effort seemed to work its magic. Inside of 24 hours, the gateway providers completely stopped allowing those scam robocalls to go through. 

      “We must stay nimble, vigilant and aggressive,” Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said, asking for the consumer to help by letting the FCC know when they encounter a suspected scam call. “By focusing on how to promote consumer education about one-ring call scams, and how to identify (and stop) these calls as they happen, we can empower U.S. voice service providers to help us protect all Americans consumers from them.”

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is back at its fight against phone scams. This time, the commission’s focus is on pricey “one-ring” scams.O...
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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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      Best Buy plans to reopen some stores to customers by appointment only

      The retailer currently limits customers to curbside pickup of online orders

      Best Buy has announced plans to begin reopening some of its stores to consumers and has adopted a method of doing so that could serve as a model for other big box retailers.

      The company said that it will begin reopening 200 stores by appointment only beginning in early May. Crowded aisles and long checkout lines will be a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.

      In a letter to the public, Best Buy CEO Corrie Barry notes that the electronics and appliance retailer has been designated as an “essential” business and has been allowed to remain open in most jurisdictions, though all of its stores are providing curbside pickup only.

      “In our view, however, the conversation is now starting to move from what it means to be an ‘essential’ retailer, to what it means to be a ‘safe’ retailer,” Barry wrote.   

      How it will work

      When customers are again allowed inside Best Buy stores, Barry says it will be done a few at a time, by appointment. Consumers may make an appointment by calling their local store or going online.

      Before the appointment, a Best Buy associate will call the customer to go over the procedures and to make sure they aren’t feeling sick. Before customers enter the store, they will go through a check-in process with a store associate, who will explain safety steps and provide hand sanitizer.

      As the customer shops, a sales associate will go along while maintaining social distancing. Store associates will wear masks and gloves. After the customer checks out and pays for purchases, all surfaces at the checkout will be cleaned before the next customer checks out. The customer will then be escorted out of the store.

      In-home service also resuming

      At the same time, Barry said Best Buy will resume in-home services with new safety protocols. 

      “Our employees will follow new safety guidelines before, during and after an in-home visit that meet or exceed CDC guidance,” Barry wrote in his letter. “These requirements will apply equally to any third party entering your home on our behalf.”

      Before any in-home service, Best Buy said it will call the customer 24 hours in advance and tell them that the employee is not sick. At the same time, the company will confirm that neither the customer, nor anyone else in the household, is sick.

      Best Buy has posted all of its safety procedures for in-home services here.

      Best Buy has announced plans to begin reopening some of its stores to consumers and has adopted a method of doing so that could serve as a model for other...
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