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    Coronavirus update: Vaccine could be months away, U.S. cases hit 6 million

    Virus causes Auburn to cancel football practice

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

    Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,002,615 (5,965,339)

    Total U.S. deaths: 183,203 (182,808)

    Total global cases: 25,259,201 (25,051,178)

    Total global deaths: 847,107 (843,641)

    ‘Fully-approved’ vaccine may be months away

    While efforts are moving at “warp speed” to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19), Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says it could be as late as next June before one is fully approved for general use.

    “We're likely to see a stepwise progression of authorization of this vaccine for certain select populations that are at higher risk of either contracting it or having a bad outcome before we see a full approval for the general population," Gottlieb said on CBS Face the Nation. "I think, again, full approval for the general population, where people can go to CVS and get a shot — that's really a 2021 event, maybe the first quarter of 2021, probably more likely the first half."

    At the same time, current FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said his agency would be open to greenlighting a vaccine for use in the U.S. before it completes Phase III clinical trials.

    U.S. case total tops 6 million

    The number of cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. hit 6 million today. The unofficial count is maintained by the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University.

    The U.S. reached the milestone as the recent spike in cases has begun to slow a bit -- a trend attributed to more Americans observing face mask requirements and maintaining social distancing. 

    At the same time, the U.S. has vastly more cases of the virus than any other nation. Brazil is second with 3,862,311, followed by India, Russia, and Peru.

    Auburn cancels football practice due to COVID-19

    While college administrators are grappling with coronavirus outbreaks among the student body, college athletic coaches are doing the same thing by trying to keep athletes healthy and schedules on track. At Auburn, football practice was canceled on multiple days last week as 16 players tested positive.

    "We're learning as we go here," said Head Coach Gus Malzahn. "Every day and every week is a challenge."

    While some football conferences have suspended the 2020 season, the Southeastern Conference has decided to play. Auburn is scheduled to open the season on September 26 against Kentucky.

    New app helps people track symptoms

    A new app, developed in part by the University of Chicago, is helping users communicate about a wide range of coronavirus symptoms. The app is designed for people at high-risk from COVID-19, as well as those who just want to avoid becoming infected.

    MyCovid Passport provides users with a framework to understand their own and each other’s health status in five areas: breathing, temperature, body symptoms, disease contact status, and mental health. Users can track symptoms according to best practices established by COVID-19 experts at the University of Chicago and keep up to date on the latest health information.

    The app is a variation of one developed at the University of Chicago to help parents of premature babies to track their infants’ progress.

    The color purple means you can’t open

    Starting this week, California school districts will be watching closely to see what color their county has been assigned. Any color other than purple means schools can open, with some restrictions.

    State officials say the color or tier the county is assigned is based on just two factors: the number of new positive cases per 100,000 population and the percentage of positive test results over the previous week.

    Officials say the new system is greatly simplified and based on the same system to determine which businesses in the state can reopen.

    Around the nation

    • Illinois: The father of an Illinois State University student is saying what a lot of parents are thinking -- if the school adopts online instruction because of the coronavirus, he wants a tuition discount. The man said his daughter is taking five classes this fall and said they've all been changed to virtual classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • New Jersey:Indoor dining will be allowed at restaurants in the state at the end of this week. In a tweet, Gov. Phil Murphy said restaurants will be allowed to operate at 25 percent of capacity starting Friday.

    • Oregon: State fairs are an end-of-the-summer tradition in many states, but they are threatened this year by the pandemic. Instead of canceling, the Oregon State Fair will be held virtually, with interviews and performances streamed online and on Facebook.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,002,615 (5,965,33...
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    United Airlines announces that it will drop ticket-change fees

    Airlines are trying to bring back customers they lost due to the pandemic

    United Airlines announced on Sunday that it will be doing away with ticket-change fees for good. 

    The monetary penalty for changing a ticket for travel within the U.S. previously cost $200. The fee is now going away permanently as the airline strives to enact more flexible policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial crisis stemming from it.

    “Following previous tough times, airlines made difficult decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service,” said United CEO Scott Kirby in a news release. “United Airlines won’t be following that same playbook as we come out of this crisis. Instead, we’re taking a completely different approach – and looking at new ways to serve our customers better.”

    Rival Southwest Airlines has already opted not to charge consumers ticket-change fees. United's move will likely push Delta Air Lines and American Airlines to scrap their change fees as well. 

    In January, United will also be allowing travelers who want to depart earlier or later on the same day as their scheduled flight to fly standby without paying the $75 same-day change fee. 

    Travelers slowly coming back to airlines

    Air travel has rebounded slightly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s still well below normal levels. Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released data showing that over 831,000 travelers were processed at security checkpoints on one Sunday in August.

    While that was the highest number the agency had recorded since mid-March, the figures were still well-below normal levels. On the same Sunday last year, the TSA estimated that over 2.6 million people went through airport security.  

    If other airlines follow United and Southwest’s lead in doing away with ticket-change costs, the airline industry as a whole stands to lose about $2.8 billion in ticket-change and cancellation fees, according to the Department of Transportation. 

    United Airlines announced on Sunday that it will be doing away with ticket-change fees for good. The monetary penalty for changing a ticket for travel...
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    Health experts ask for independent commission to review potential COVID-19 vaccines

    The FDA promises that any potential vaccine will be safe and effective

    Several leading health experts and physicians are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a rallying cry for an independent commission to review COVID-19 vaccine trial data before a vaccine is permitted on the market.

    Fearing that the mistakes government agencies have made during the pandemic could multiply and put Americans at further risk, the physicians want the safeguard of an independent commission that can work independently of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which still regulates vaccines and can rubber stamp its approval without a separate review.

    Vaccine’s lack of confidence vote

    The other bone of contention the experts bring up is that the public is becoming increasingly distrustful of vaccines. Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said giving emergency approval to a vaccine that has not been thoroughly tested in clinical trials is not a good idea. 

    Surveys by both Gallup and CNN showed that upwards of 40 percent of the population say they won’t take an approved coronavirus vaccine even if it was free. That lack of buy-in could make things worse by impeding efforts to get the virus under control.

    The notion of having an independent panel lies with Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Kathryn Stephenson. She felt that an independent commission could spur trust in a vaccine after several of her peers told her they also didn’t want to get a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.

    "I'm hearing this from my peers, from doctors and nurses. They're not anti-vaxxers. They're pro vaccine. They vaccinated their own children. But they are skeptical about this vaccine," Stephenson told CNN. 

    Bioethicist Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Health, reached the same conclusion. "We're used to this world where if the FDA or the CDC or the NAS says something is safe and effective, that's enough, but I don't think this time that's sufficient to overturn public skepticism. I think we desperately need an independent national commission," he said.

    The FDA’s promise 

    Asked for the FDA’s take on the matter, an agency spokesperson referred CNN to a blog post in Health Affairs by FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and two other physicians at the FDA. These officials detailed what the agency is doing to "offer reassurance that any potential vaccine will be safe and effective."

    "First, the agency established clear recommendations for vaccine performance prior to the initiation of Phase 3 trials to provide assurance that any authorized vaccine will meet appropriate standards for safety and effectiveness. Second, FDA has committed to use an advisory committee composed of independent experts to ensure deliberations about authorization or licensure are transparent for the public," the officials said.

    Several leading health experts and physicians are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a rallying cry for an independent commission to review COVID-19 vaccine...
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      Amazon gets FAA approval for Prime Air

      The company says the approval brings it closer to 30-minute drone deliveries to customers

      Amazon has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. 

      The FAA said it decided to issue a "Part 135 air carrier certificate” to Amazon Prime Air because drone delivery will be beneficial to the public. The agency said it’s confident in Amazon’s drone operating and safety procedures. 

      "Amazon Prime Air's concept uses autonomous [unmanned aircraft systems] to safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers," said a spokesperson for the FAA on Monday. "The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis."

      Drone deliveries

      The FAA approval brings Amazon closer to delivering packages to everyday consumers by drone. 

      “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air,” said David Carbon, Amazon’s vice president in charge of Prime Air, in a statement. He also added that the decision “indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

      The e-commerce giant announced its plans for Prime Air back in 2013. The company said at the time that it was working toward creating drones that can deliver packages weighing up to five pounds to customers’ houses in less than half an hour.

      Amazon says the FAA’s approval will pave the way for its Prime Air 30-minute drone delivery plan to become a reality. It also says the approval will allow it to start testing customer deliveries through the program.

      Amazon has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. The FAA...
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      Apple announces new appeals process for app developers

      Developers can now challenge the company’s rulings about whether apps violate guidelines

      App developers will now have a bigger voice on the Apple App Store platform. The company announced on Monday that it is rolling out an appeals process that will allow developers to dispute whether their apps violate Apple’s guidelines. 

      The new process, which was first announced by the company at an annual conference back in June, may represent a big shift for developers. In an update on its site, Apple indicated that it will be streamlining how it addresses certain issues and taking suggestions about how it can improve its platform.

      “For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues. You’ll instead be able to address guideline violations in your next submission,” the company told developers. 

      “In addition to appealing decisions about whether an app violates guidelines, you can suggest changes to the guidelines. We also encourage you to submit your App Store and Apple development platform suggestions so we can continue to improve experiences for the developer community.”

      Repair shops more plentiful

      This isn’t the only change that Apple has made recently. Earlier this month, the company announced that it would be authorizing more repair shops to work on devices like iPhones and Mac computers. 

      The move followed many years in which Apple and those same repair shops butted heads about the latter’s right to repair the company’s devices. Critics accused the company of providing preferential treatment of brands like Best Buy by demanding outrageous commitments in terms of repair volume.

      App developers will now have a bigger voice on the Apple App Store platform. The company announced on Monday that it is rolling out an appeals process that...
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      Consumers urged to stop using and dispose of Morpher bike helmets

      The helmets do not comply with the federal safety standard

      The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging consumers to stop using about 8,500 Morpher flat-folding bicycle helmets and dispose of them to prevent further usage.

      The helmets do not comply with the federal safety standard for bicycle helmets, posing a risk of head injury.

      Morpher is no longer in business and is unable to conduct a recall. No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This action involves Morpher flat-folding bicycle helmets sold in one size, fitting head circumference from 20.5 to 22.8 inches. The helmets were sold with a storage bag and in the following solid or dotted colors: Gloss or matte black, gray, red, silver, white and yellow.

      The Morpher name and logo appear on both sides of the helmet. The Morpher logo appears on the back of the helmet.

      The helmets, manufactured in Hong Kong, were sold online at Amazon.com, CyclingSafetyGear.com and MorpherHelmet.com from April 2017 through November 2019 for about $150.

      What to do

      Amazon and Morpher are contacting all known purchasers directly. Consumers with questions may contact CPSC’s hotline at (800) 638-2772.

      The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging consumers to stop using about 8,500 Morpher flat-folding bicycle helmets and dispose of them to pre...
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      Shaanxi recalls all Duraturn Travia A/T tires

      The tread or innerliner may separate from the tire

      Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Group Rubber is recalling 33,466 Duraturn Travia A/T tires in the following sizes:

      • LT225/75R16,
      • LT235/75R15,
      • LT235/80R17,
      • LT235/85R16,
      • LT245/75R16,
      • LT245/75R17,
      • LT265/70R17,
      • LT265/75R16,
      • LT285/70R17,
      • LT285/75R16 and
      • LT31X10.50R15.

      The recalled tires have DOT date codes 4015 through 0318.

      Due to manufacturing issues, the tread or innerliner may separate from the tire.

      Tread or innerliner separation could lead to a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Shaanxi will notify owners, and dealers will reimburse the customer for the affected tires.

      The recall is expected to begin September 14, 2020.

      Owners may contact Duraturn Customer Assistance Service Department at (626) 513-8989.

      Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Group Rubber is recalling 33,466 Duraturn Travia A/T tires in the following sizes: LT225/75R16, LT235/75R15, LT235/80R...
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      FDA’s new stance could increase availability of at-home COVID-19 tests, former chief says

      Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the FDA appears to be moving away from requiring that test results be reported to health authorities

      Former FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb says a softening stance among officials currently with the agency could result in the availability of more at-home COVID-19 tests. 

      In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Gottlieb said the FDA previously required that COVID-19 be reported to local health officials. Now, the agency “seems to have backed off that mandate,” Gottlieb said. 

      “What they said on a call last week with stakeholders is, as long as the test is reliable and accurate, the FDA is not going to use the requirement to have to report the test result to a public health authority as a way to keep the product off the market, as an absolute condition.” 

      More home tests 

      Currently, samples collected through at-home COVID-19 tests that are currently on the market -- such as one put out by LabCorp -- must be sent back to the company for processing. The turnaround time is between one to two days. 

      Gottlieb says that if the FDA doesn’t require results from home tests to be reported to local authorities, consumers could take the test and get results faster. This could help curb the spread of the virus. 

      “That ultimately is going to get more testing into the hands of consumers, which in the near term isn’t a bad thing. I think in the long run we want these results to be reported,” Gottlieb said. “But I think in the near term we want as many people to get tested as possible and get a result if they’re positive so they can know they’re positive and take the proper steps.” 

      Moving away from mandate 

      In July, the FDA issued new guidance for at-home COVID-19 tests, saying it wanted test makers to report results to health authorities. However, the agency said it was “open to alternative approaches to reporting that ensure appropriate reporting.” 

      Gottlieb said the FDA’s apparent shift away from requiring results to be reported may not necessarily impact efforts to track the spread of the virus. He suggested the possibility of reporting results for a home test by having the test inform the user that their results are “not interpretable until you flash your phone at it and take a picture.” 

      “Then it gives you the answer whether you’re positive or not and at the same time uploads the picture to a server so the results get reported,” he said. 

      He acknowledged, however, that equipping the tests with tools to ensure appropriate reporting could result in the tests becoming more expensive. 

      “You’re starting to get away from a $5 test and you’re looking at a $15 test,” he said. 

      Former FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb says a softening stance among officials currently with the agency could result in the availability of more at-home COVID...
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      CMP Group recalls dock ladders

      The edges on the side of the steps are sharp, posing a laceration hazard

      CMP Group of Canada is recalling about 750 Standoff and Wide dock ladders.

      The edges on the side of the steps are sharp, posing a laceration hazard.

      One incident is reported, including a laceration injury.

      This recall involves aluminum standoff and wide step dock ladders, and silver in color, sold in three sizes; three steps, four steps and five steps with the following models and UPC numbers:

      • Model DE2053F 3 and UPC 776113205303
      • Model DE2054F 4 and UPC 776113205402
      • Model DE2055F 5 and UPC 77611320550
      • Model DE2043F 3 and UPC 776113204306
      • Model DE2044F 4 and UPC 776113204405
      • Model DE2045F 5 and UPC 776113204504.

      The standoff ladders were sold online at Amazon.com and at Boat Hoist, CWR Electronics, and Global Industrial Distribution from September 2017, through July 2020.

      The wide step ladders were sold online at Amazon.com and at CWR Electronics and Global Industrial Distribution from June 2019, through July 2020.

      All ladders sold for between $150 and $250.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dock ladders and contact CMP Group to return them for a full refund or a free replacement ladder.

      Consumers may contact CMP Group at (800) 295-3625 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at vaughanwarranty@cmpgroup.net, or online at www.cmpgroup.net and click on “product notice” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      CMP Group of Canada is recalling about 750 Standoff and Wide dock ladders. The edges on the side of the steps are sharp, posing a laceration hazard. ...
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      5 essential tools for apartment dwellers

      Toss out the power drill — here's what you need in an apartment toolkit

      There are plenty of household jobs renters can’t call their landlord for, such as assembling furniture, hanging photos and fixing minor nuisances. DIY can be fun and easy, but many toolkits and products for homeowners are overkill for an apartment dweller’s needs. Below are the five tools you need to get things done in your rental property.

      Screwdriver

      A screwdriver is one of the most useful tools in any toolkit. Whether you’re putting together a nightstand or fixing a broken table, a screwdriver is often essential to getting the job done. Models with interchangeable bits, like this one, are incredibly versatile because they work on many drive styles.

      • Comes with 20 bits
      • Unique spinner drive

      Electric screwdriver

      Yes, another screwdriver. Electric screwdrivers are much easier to use than traditional models, making them especially helpful with bigger jobs. While a full-size cordless drill or impact driver offers far more power, a small battery-powered unit like this is all you need for most apartment jobs. However, they’re reliant on their battery’s charge and sometimes awkward in tight spaces, so you need a manual screwdriver as well.

      • Rechargeable battery
      • Built-in LED work light

      Buy on Amazon

      Wrench

      If you want to work on your bicycle or handle a bolt that keeps coming loose on your office chair, you’re probably going to need a wrench. Simply put, wrenches are like screwdrivers for nuts and bolts. They help torque down a bolt and are almost always required when undoing one. You’re not likely to encounter many large bolts in your apartment, so a model like this is all you should need.

      • Box-end, wingnut and spoke wrenches
      • Built-in bottle opener

      Level

      There’s a special kind of misery that comes from hanging a picture on your wall only to step back and realize it’s crooked. Using a level ensures you get it right the first time. A laser level is particularly helpful when hanging multiple items or aligning your artwork with nearby furniture.

      • 3 beams
      • Self-leveling

      Buy on Amazon

      Rubber mallet

      Sometimes, you just need to whack something. While a traditional claw hammer is better for driving nails, a rubber mallet is often more useful around an apartment. Rubber mallets don’t do as much damage to the objects they hit, making them useful for both assembling and disassembling stubborn items.

      • Fiberglass handle core
      • 32-ounce head

      Buy on Amazon

      With the right tools, you can tackle anything apartment living throws at you. However, once you buy a home, you might need to upgrade your toolkit and purchase a home warranty to let professionals do the hard work for you.

      Here are a few perfect tools for your new apartment....
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      CDC walks back guidance on COVID-19 testing for consumers without symptoms

      The agency now says that consumers could get tested if they come into contact with a COVID-19 patient

      "Uh-oh" is the word of the day at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After an outcry from the medical and scientific communities over the its updated its COVID-19 testing guidelines -- stating that people without symptoms of the virus may not need to be tested -- the agency is trying its best to walk back that opinion without getting egg on its face.

      CDC director Robert Redfield issued even newer advice for coronavirus testing on Thursday afternoon, saying that those who come into contact with confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients could be tested after all -- whether they show symptoms of the virus or not.

      Redfield also claims that the guidelines the agency published on Monday had been done in concert with the White House coronavirus task force. 

      “Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives,” Redfield said. “Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test. Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”

      The CDC was busy on Thursday. Not only did Redfield flip the narrative on his agency’s earlier guidance, but the department also issued updates for contact tracing and how the agency investigates a COVID-19 case.

      "Uh-oh" is the word of the day at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After an outcry from the medical and scientific communities over th...
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      Coronavirus update: College towns at risk, jobless claims still over 1 million

      Abbot Laboratories received approval for a fast-results test

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,838,695 (5,788,185)

      Total U.S. deaths: 180,020 (178,758)

      Total global cases: 24,242,062 (23,951,902)

      Total global deaths: 827,165 (820,835)

      A warning for college towns

      Researchers at PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) say large Midwestern cities that are home to colleges will likely enter the fall with big increases in coronavirus (COVID-19) case counts. The researchers’ models also suggest that New England cities, such as Boston, Providence, and Hartford, could see a significant coronavirus resurgence in the coming weeks.

      The problem, they say, is that colleges are bringing students in from around the country and increasing the risk of the virus’ spread. 

      "America is on the move -- back to school, back home from vacation, back to some semblance of normal life -- and it remains to be seen how severely these transitions will impact the continued spread of COVID-19 as we head towards fall," said Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at CHOP

      New jobless claims still top 1 million

      Unemployment caused by the pandemic remains stubbornly high. The Labor Department reported that new claims for unemployment benefits came in just over 1 million last week. It was the 22nd out of 23 weeks that claims have been over 1 million.

      The continued high level of new claims suggests that the economy is not recovering as quickly as hoped from the pandemic-induced economic shutdown. While many workers have been rehired, the economy continues to shed jobs.

      “Continuing claims continue to drop, but still indicate a highly stressed labor market,” Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group in Virginia, told CNBC. “Even a 1 million person drop in the total number unemployed isn’t enough — there is a lot of work to be done because 14 million people are still receiving UI assistance of some kind.”

      Fast-results test gets fast-track authority

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency authorization to a COVID-19 test that can be run in 15 minutes and doesn’t require a lab to get the results.

      The test is called BinaxNOW and is produced by Abbott Laboratories. The company is including an app that syncs up with the test results and gives people who test negative for the virus a “digital health pass” that they can display on their phone. 

      "We intentionally designed the BinaxNOW test and NAVICA app so we could offer a comprehensive testing solution to help Americans feel more confident about their health and lives," said Robert B. Ford, Abbott’s CEO.

      COVID-19 will likely reduce 2020 car sales

      The Freedonia Group, a market research firm, predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic will cut the value of U.S. car and truck sales by 23 percent from 2019 levels, with the number of units sold falling by nearly as much.

      The reasons are not that hard to figure out. The researchers point to consumers’ loss of disposable income, rising unemployment, and jolts to consumer confidence as the main catalysts leading to a reduction in retail vehicle sales.

      On the bright side, low interest rates will make financing a vehicle more attractive to consumers, and the possibility of another round of stimulus from the government may help consumers overcome some of their COVID-19 hesitation.

      It may be hard getting workers back in the office

      A poll of workers by the Manpower Group shows that most believe the pandemic has permanently altered the work landscape, and they’re fine with that. After health concerns for themselves and their family, the poll found that workers are most worried about returning to an old way of working and losing the flexibility they have gained

      "What started as a health crisis has evolved into an economic and social crisis. While thankfully a small proportion of the population will be infected by COVID-19, 100 percent of us will be impacted by it," said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup chairman and CEO. 

      The poll shows that workers overwhelmingly approve of working from home, saying it has vastly improved their work and family balance. Manpower concludes that companies offering the virtual workplace option may have an edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.

      Around the nation

      • Connecticut: State health officials say they have no plans to alter the state’s current testing protocol to comply with changing CDC guidelines. The agency previously recommended against testing people who were exposed to the virus but were not displaying symptoms.

      • Texas: Schools have reopened this week, but with a twist. In most jurisdictions, classes will be conducted online for the first three weeks. After that, education and health officials will determine whether kids can go back to class.

      • South Carolina: South Carolina is the latest state to apply for the extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits under President Trump's executive order earlier this month. Gov. Henry McMaster and state employment leaders announced that the state has submitted its grant application for FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program.  

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,838,695 (5,788,18...
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      Abbott Lab’s rapid COVID-19 test cleared for use on a ‘massive scale’

      The company plans to produce about 50 million tests per month by October

      Abbott Laboratories has received emergency authorization by the FDA for use of a $5 COVID-19 test that could help mitigate testing shortages and delays in the United States. 

      The test, called BinaxNOW, works without lab equipment. Like the standard COVID-19 test, BinaxNOW uses a nasal swab. However, the new test also uses a small reactive card and lateral flow technology to detect an antigen collected from inside the nose. 

      In a clinical study, the test demonstrated a sensitivity of 97.1 percent. The test can be administered by doctors, nurses, school nurses, pharmacists, and a range of other health care workers “with minimal training and a patient prescription,” Abbott said in a press release.  

      Antigen tests

      Abbott plans to manufacture about 50 million tests per month by the end of October in an effort to address a rise in demand as consumers return to school and work. 

      "The massive scale of this test and app will allow tens of millions of people to have access to rapid and reliable testing," said Joseph Petrosino, Ph.D., professor and chairman, Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine. 

      "With lab-based tests, you get excellent sensitivity but might have to wait days or longer to get the results. With a rapid antigen test, you get a result right away, getting infectious people off the streets and into quarantine so they don't spread the virus."

      Charles Chiu, a professor of Laboratory Medicine at University of California, San Francisco, said the availability of rapid testing for COVID-19 will “help support overburdened laboratories, accelerate turnaround times and greatly expand access to people who need it.”

      Abbott plans to start shipping out the rapid antigen tests in two weeks. 

      Mobile app connected to test

      Abbott is also launching a mobile app called Navica that will allow people to keep an electronic record of their COVID-19 status. Those with a positive result will be told to quarantine and consult with their physician, while those with a negative result will be able to resume their normal activities. 

      "While BinaxNOW is the hardware that makes knowing your COVID-19 status possible, the NAVICA app is the digital network that allows people to share that information with those who need to know," said Robert B. Ford, president and chief executive officer, Abbott.

      "We're taking our know-how from our digitally-connected medical devices and applying it to our diagnostics at a time when people expect their health information to be digital and readily accessible."  

      Abbott Laboratories has received emergency authorization by the FDA for use of a $5 COVID-19 test that could help mitigate testing shortages and delays in...
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      Amazon launches supermarket chain built around technology

      The first Amazon Fresh store is opening in the Los Angeles market

      Amazon has taken the wraps off of its concept for the supermarket of the future. Amazon Fresh stores will be like just about any other grocery store except that it will be built around technology.

      The first Amazon Fresh store, named for Amazon’s grocery delivery service, is in the process of opening its doors in Woodland Hills, in the Los Angeles metro.

      Amazon is already firmly planted in the grocery business, owning Whole Foods Market. That chain is designed to appeal to consumers who prefer natural and organic products. Shoppers won’t find Coca-Cola or some other mainstream products in its aisles.

      Help from Alexa

      Amazon Fresh is targeted at the average grocery shopper who values convenience. Amazon says it’s using technology to make the shopping experience easier and faster.

      For example, how many times have you wandered the aisles of a large supermarket trying to find a particular item? At Amazon Fresh, shoppers will find Amazon Echo Show smart displays throughout the store, guiding them to the proper aisle for whatever they might be looking for.

      The shopping carts are also packed with technology. The stores will feature the Amazon Dash Cart that scans items as you put them in the basket, links to online shopping lists, and provides checkout services.

      Shoppers will use their Amazon app to “log in” to their cart. As they pick up items and put them in the cart, onboard scanners record the items using bar codes. For produce, the cart weighs the item and calculates the price.

      "Grocery is a very large consumer sector; by most measures, it's $800 billion in the U.S.," Jeff Helbling, vice president of Amazon Fresh stores, told CNN. "And collectively, we're relatively small in the space."

      Similar to Amazon Go

      But Amazon has plans to get bigger. In addition to its Whole Foods chain, the company has pioneered a number of cashless convenience stores called Amazon Go that are also heavily dependent on technology.

      Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store in Seattle in early 2018. Shoppers are able to move down the aisles, pick up items, and then go on their way without having to pass through a checkout line.

      Cameras and sensors placed on items and around the store will carefully track what consumers take, then charge their credit cards. That requires consumers who want to shop at the futuristic store to have a smartphone and to download the Amazon Go app.

      The new Amazon Fresh stores will employ a similar concept. After the Los Angeles area store opens, Amazon has plans to open six more -- three more in California and three in Illinois.

      Amazon has taken the wraps off of its concept for the supermarket of the future. Amazon Fresh stores will be like just about any other grocery store except...
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      Freddie Mac warns that the rent affordability crisis is getting worse

      Just like homes, there’s a steep decline in inventory for rental units

      A lot of attention has focused lately on the fast-rising cost of homes, but a new report from Freddie Mac suggests that the real affordability crisis is affecting people who rent.

      Freddie Mac’s research shows that fewer than 10 percent of rental units are affordable for households earning 50 percent of median renter income. The report focuses on income as compared to the cost of rent, screening out the growing number of high-income consumers who rent their homes.

      Taking these changes in renter household composition into account, the study concludes that average renter households are not better off financially because they have had to compete for ever-more-scarce rental units. This competition has served to drive up rents as the number of available properties has declined.

      “Rental affordability continues to be a major issue as demand remains high and supply of affordable housing is both insufficient and more likely to decline than it is to grow,” said Steve Guggenmos, vice president of Multifamily Research and Modeling at Freddie Mac. “Our research demonstrates the need to focus on and understand the complexities of rental affordability as we continue to address the affordable housing crisis in this country.”

      Renters often earn less

      The Freddie Mac researchers found that using median income numbers to determine rental affordability can be highly misleading since renters tend to earn less than homeowners. They determined that median renter income is up to four times less than the median family income.

      The study also found that the number of wage earners in each renter household increased by 2.4 percent between 2010-2018. That served to increase household income without boosting the income of individual renters.

      The bottom line, the researchers say, is that affordability levels have not improved but instead remain essentially flat. 

      The role of COVID-19

      A recent report from real estate marketplace Zillow found that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made a bad rent affordability situation even worse. As the economy shut down in March, Zillow looked at rent affordability for households working in retail, arts, entertainment, recreation, hospitality, and food service.

      The study found that these households would spend 40 percent or more of their annual income on rent after two months, far above what personal finance experts advise. 

      Home sales have significantly recovered from early COVID-19 declines, but inventory levels remain historically low. The same low inventory is affecting the rental market, creating what Freddie Mac calls a shortage of affordable housing.

      The situation is even worse for people at or below the poverty level. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that the U.S. has a shortage of seven million rental homes that are affordable and available to extremely low-income renters, whose household incomes are at or below the poverty guideline of 30 percent of their area median income. 

      Only 36 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households, the group found.

      A lot of attention has focused lately on the fast-rising cost of homes, but a new report from Freddie Mac says the real affordability crisis is affecting p...
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      Ford recalls Explorers and Lincoln Aviators

      The side airbag may not deploy properly

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 528 model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators.

      The front seatbacks that may have fasteners with incorrect torque on the side airbag and/or seatback module attachments.

      If the side airbag and seatback module are not fully secured, it could affect the trajectory of the side airbag deployment and may prevent or delay the airbag cushion from positioning correctly, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

      Ford is not aware of any reports of accidents or injuries.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will remove the front seatback panels from one or both front seats and verify the proper torque on the fasteners.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S48.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 528 model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators.The front seatbacks that may have fasteners with incorrect torq...
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      Fred Meyer recalls cheese dips

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Fred Meyer is recalling various cheese dips sold in its delis.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No customer illnesses have been confirmed to date.

      A list of the recalled products, sold in plastic containers between May 15, 2020, and August 6, 2020, may be found here.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.

      Consumers with questions may contact Kroger customer connect at (800) 576-4377 Monday – Friday from 7am to midnight (EST) and Saturday – Sunday from – 7am to 9:30pm (EST).

      Fred Meyer is recalling various cheese dips sold in its delis. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. No customer illnesses have been conf...
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      woom bikes recalls children’s helmets

      The helmets do not meet the federal safety standard

      woom bikes USA of Austin, Texas, is recalling about 1,900 children’s helmets.

      The helmets do not meet the federal safety standard, posing a risk of head injury.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves woom bikes USA children’s helmets sold in blue, green, purple, red and yellow and in size S (for small size).

      woom is printed on both sides of the helmets and the size “S” appears on the back of the helmet. Only the small-sized helmets are included in this recall.

      The helmets, manufactured in China, were sold online at us.woombikes.com and Amazon.com, and through BikeShopGirl in Colorado and The Family Bike Collective in California from December 2018, through July 2019, for about $70.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled helmets and contact woom bikes USA for instructions on how to receive a full refund. woom bikes USA is contacting all purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact woom bikes USA toll-free at (855) 966-6872 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.( C)T Monday through Friday, by email at safehelmet@woombikes.com or online at https://us.woombikes.com/ for more information.

      woom bikes USA of Austin, Texas, is recalling about 1,900 children’s helmets.The helmets do not meet the federal safety standard, posing a risk of head...
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      Coronavirus update: Obese patients at much greater risk, new concerns about antibiotic treatments

      Researchers rank the most effective masks

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,788,185 (5,746,940)

      Total U.S. deaths: 178,758 (177,536)

      Total global cases: 23,951,902 (23,694,646)

      Total global deaths: 820,835 (814,354)

      Obesity a major risk factor

      It’s been known from the start that patients who are older or have underlying health conditions are at greater risk of dying from the coronavirus (COVID-19). Now researchers say patients who are obese also have an elevated mortality risk.

      A comprehensive study using global data put the increased death risk as high as 50 percent and suggested vaccines against the virus may be less effective for obese patients.

      The study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also found that being obese increased the chances of hospitalization by 113 percent. Their risk of requiring intensive care is 74 percent greater than people of normal weight.

      Researchers caution on the use of antibiotics

      British researchers have published a study suggesting that the use of antibiotics to treat people with COVID-19 could result in increased resistance to the drugs' benefits among the wider population.

      The researchers express concern that patients being treated in hospitals are being given a combination of medications to prevent possible secondary bacterial infections.

      Writing in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, the scientists say this could lead to raised levels of antibiotics within the U.K.'s rivers or coastal waters, which may in turn result in an increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

      Study finds cheap, non-woven masks are most effective

      If you’re looking for the most effective mask to protect you from the coronavirus, Japanese researchers say you don’t need to look very far. Their findings show cheap and plentiful non-woven masks do the best job of screening out droplets.

      Non-woven masks are those disposable medical masks that many people in Asia wear during flu season. They were in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic, but supplies are now plentiful.

      Woven masks are generally heavier, which gives the impression that they are more effective. They are typically made from fabrics such as cotton.

      College president takes business owners to task

      Whose fault is it when colleges and universities have to suspend in-person classes because of coronavirus outbreaks? The president of the University of Iowa is pointing a finger at local businesses, especially bar-owners.

      “Over the past two weeks, I have been exceedingly disappointed in some of the downtown Iowa City businesses and your choices to disregard the proclamation from the governor,” Bruce Harreld wrote in an open letter. “These actions have led to an increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in our community, and we, as a community, will now have to respond.”

      Dozens of schools in 20 states, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, have suspended classes because of a spike in cases on campus.

      Don’t overdo the disinfecting, researchers warn

      Since the pandemic hit, you would be hard-pressed to find disinfecting cleaning wipes and other germ-killing cleaning products on store shelves. Consumers have snapped them up whenever they appear.

      But Indiana University researchers say too much disinfecting may actually be harmful in the long run. They examined dust samples taken from vacuum containers and bags from residential homes across Indiana in June 2020 and compared them with previously collected samples in 2018 and 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

      They discovered a significantly higher concentration of quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) -- a major class of chemicals widely used as disinfectants in household cleaning products -- in the samples collected after the COVID-19 outbreak. Researchers say the two chemicals can cause health issues on their own.

      Around the nation

      • Maine: A large indoor wedding reception has been linked to a coronavirus outbreak at the York County Jail. Health officials say a jail employee who attended the reception got the virus and spread it among 60 other employees and inmates.

      • Virginia: Virginia is seeing a slowing trend but is still dealing with an elevated number of cases, reporting more than 1,000 new infections since Monday. At the same time, health officials say the seven-day average of cases has declined in recent days.

      • North Carolina: Another college has given up on in-person instruction. East Carolina University in Raleigh is moving to online classes as a precaution following two days off for students.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,788,185 (5,746,94...
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      IRS to send stimulus checks to 50,000 spouses that never received one

      Taxpayers left out by the mistake should receive their checks by mid-September

      There’s cause for celebration for some 50,000 Americans whose portion of the economic impact payments (EIP) -- aka the stimulus check -- was rerouted to pay their spouse's past-due child support. 

      The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says that the catch-up payments are scheduled to be issued sometime in early-to-mid-September. The checks will be mailed to any eligible spouse who submitted Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation when they submitted their 2019 (and, in some situations, their 2018) federal income tax return. The IRS said that it will automatically issue the portion of the EIP that was applied to the other spouse's debt.

      Didn’t file a Form 8379?

      The IRS says that there were some taxpayers who failed to file a Form 8379, and because of that, they did not receive their portion of the EIP. 

      “These individuals also do not need to take any action and do not need to submit a Form 8379,” the IRS said. The agency noted that it “does not yet have a timeframe but will automatically issue the portion of the EIP that was applied to the other spouse's debt at a later date.”

      Taxpayers who were affected by the mistake can keep tabs on where their check is in the IRS’ pipeline by using the agency’s Get My Payment tool. For more information, the IRS suggests reading the Receiving My Payment section of the Frequently Asked Questions in the Economic Payment Information Center on IRS.gov.

      There’s cause for celebration for some 50,000 Americans whose portion of the economic impact payments (EIP) -- aka the stimulus check -- was rerouted to pa...
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      Bed Bath & Beyond to lay off 2,800 workers as part of restructuring plan

      The action comes after the retailer closed 200 stores last month

      Bed Bath & Beyond is continuing its restructuring efforts by eliminating thousands of positions at corporate headquarters and across its retail businesses. 

      In a press release, the company announced that it was reducing its workforce by 2,800 roles, effective immediately. Company officials say the move will help it save up to $350 million over the next two-to-three years as it tries to reorganize and become more profitable during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      “Saying goodbye to colleagues and friends is incredibly difficult, but this component of our comprehensive restructuring program is critical to rebuild the foundation of our business, construct a modern, balanced and durable business model, and meet the structural shift in customer shopping and service preferences that we have seen accelerate as a result of COVID-19,” said Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Mark Tritton. 

      Trending towards success?

      Tritton goes on to say that reducing the company’s workforce will help simplify its operations and help it emerge as a stronger competitor when the pandemic is finally over. He points to “significant progress” that the company has already made in 2020 as a sign of good things to come. 

      “As we work to re-establish our authority in Home, Baby, Beauty and Wellness, we are encouraged by the strong customer response to new services such as BOPIS and Curbside Pickup, and the continued strength in our digital channels as we improve the curation of our product assortment, enhance the ease and convenience of the shopping experience, and make it easier to feel at home," he said.

      Despite Tritton’s rosy outlook, Bed Bath & Beyond’s recent actions show just how much the retailer has been struggling in the current retail landscape. Last month, the company closed 200 stores after sales plunged by 48 percent. At the time, Tritton told CNBC that company officials saw many stores that were “dragging us down.”

      Bed Bath & Beyond is continuing its restructuring efforts by eliminating thousands of positions at corporate headquarters and across its retail businesses....
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      CDC says people exposed to COVID-19 who show no symptoms may not need to be tested

      Experts are concerned about the shift in policy

      ​The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its COVID-19 testing guidelines to state that people without symptoms of the virus don’t need to be tested if they were in contact with someone known to have the virus. 

      Under its previous guidelines, the agency recommended that “all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection” be tested. The CDC said prompt testing would help quickly identify the virus in the event that the exposed individual was asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. 

      On Monday, the CDC changed its website to reflect a different recommendation for people exposed to the virus. 

      "If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one,” the agency’s website now says. 

      "Not everyone needs to be tested," the new guidelines state. "If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional."

      Experts say policy change ‘will kill’

      Infectious disease experts have expression confusion and concern over the policy change, which wasn’t explained by the CDC. Alison Galvani, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at Yale School of Medicine, said testing people without symptoms is crucial. 

      “Our work on the ‘silent’ spread underscored the importance of testing people who have been exposed to COVID-19 regardless of symptoms,” Galvani tweeted. “This change in policy will kill.”

      Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, told CNN that the new guidelines threaten to derail contact tracing efforts. 

      "I'm concerned that these recommendations suggest someone who has had substantial exposure to a person with Covid-19 now doesn't need to get tested," Wen said. "This is key to contact tracing, especially given that up to 50% of all transmission is due to people who do not have symptoms. One wonders why these guidelines were changed -- is it to justify continued deficit of testing?"

      ​The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its COVID-19 testing guidelines to state that people without symptoms of the virus don’t...
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      McDonald’s to roll out two new menu items to bolster sales

      Spicy McNuggets and a new McFlurry will be available September 16 for a limited time

      In an effort to offset the drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald’s will soon introduce two new menu items. The fast-food chain has announced that it will add Spicy McNuggets and a Chips Ahoy McFlurry to its menu for a limited time starting September 16. 

      “This is the first time we’ve introduced a new flavor of our classic Chicken McNuggets in the U.S. since they came to menus in 1983,” said Vice President of Menu Innovation, Linda VanGosen in a statement. “As our customers have been asking for Spicy McNuggets for some time now, we couldn’t think of a better time to bring them to our menus. We can’t wait for McNuggets fans to get a taste of these new spicy options.”

      McDonald’s said the new Spicy McNuggets will be made with a tempura coating that includes cayenne and chili peppers. The nuggets will be complemented by a new “Mighty Hot Sauce,” which McDonald’s says will boast a “powerful blend of crushed red peppers and spicy chilis.”

      The Chips Ahoy McFlurry, meanwhile, will include crushed cookies and caramel swirls. 

      “This delicious treat features vanilla soft-serve, caramel topping and Chips Ahoy! cookie pieces blended throughout,” the company said in a statement. “The Chips Ahoy! McFlurry will be available in Snack and Regular sizes for a limited time at participating U.S. restaurants nationwide beginning September 16.” 

      COVID-19 safety measures

      To help customers feel safe, McDonald’s is highlighting its new COVID-19 related safety measures. The fast-food giant says it has worked with the Mayo Clinic to ensure proper sanitation protocols are followed in restaurants and at the drive-thru. 

      McDonald’s is also requiring staff and all customers who enter U.S. restaurants to wear a face covering.

      “While nearly 82% of our restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both crew and customers today, it’s important we protect the safety of all employees and customers,” the company said. “We cannot emphasize enough the importance of continuing to follow PPE procedures including proper mask use by crew.” 

      In an effort to offset the drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald’s will soon introduce two new menu items. The fast-food chain has announ...
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      Consumer confidence drops sharply in August

      Economic reality may have begun to set in for consumers this month

      Consumers’ attitudes about the economy took a sharp turn this month on the heels of declining confidence recorded in July.

      The Conference Board reports that its Consumer Confidence Index for August fell to 84.8 from 91.7 in July. Consumers appear to be most concerned about current conditions, with the Present Situation Index falling nearly 11 points to 84.2.

      The Expectations Index -- based on consumers' short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions -- also fell, but not by much; it dropped from 88.9 in July to 85.2 this month.

      "The Present Situation Index decreased sharply, with consumers stating that both business and employment conditions had deteriorated over the past month,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers' optimism about the short-term outlook, and their financial prospects, also declined and continues on a downward path.”

      Something else may be at work. The expiration of some benefits under the CARES Act -- particularly the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits -- likely weighed heavily on consumers’ economic concerns.

      Those benefits, plus the $1,200 direct payment to every adult in the second quarter, could have buoyed consumers’ confidence in the early months that they were going to navigate the financial turmoil caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

      Reality check

      The fact that Congress was unable to reach an agreement on extending some of the benefits before leaving on a month-long vacation may have served as a reality check for struggling small business owners and employees thrown out of work.

      Franco says the data presents a mixed picture. On one hand, consumers are still behaving as though things are under control. The latest survey suggests that could change in the weeks ahead.

      “Consumer spending has rebounded in recent months but increasing concerns amongst consumers about the economic outlook and their financial well-being will likely cause spending to cool in the months ahead," Franco said.

      Consumers are also expressing growing doubts about the job market. The percentage of consumers saying jobs are "plentiful" declined from 22.3 percent to 21.5 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" increased from 20.1 percent to 25.2 percent.

      Consumers’ attitudes about the economy took a sharp turn this month on the heels of declining confidence recorded in July.The Conference Board reports...
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      Kroger Delta Division recalls cheese dips

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Kroger Delta Division is recalling cheese dips sold in the stores' deli departments.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      A list of products, sold in plastic containers from May 15, 2020, to August 6, 2020 in West Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky (Murray, Paducah) and Missouri (Poplar Bluff) may be found here.

      What to do          

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.

      Consumers with questions may contact Kroger at (800) 576-4377.

      Kroger Delta Division is recalling cheese dips sold in the stores' deli departments. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. A list of prod...
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      6 household improvements for Baby Safety Month

      These items can help you keep your little one safe

      September isn't just the start of pumpkin spice season — it's also Baby Safety Month. Childproofing your home is essential if you have or expect a little bundle of joy (or maybe several!). It isn't easy to think of everything when making your home safe for babies and toddlers, so here is a selection of items to help.

      1. Safety straps for furniture

      You might be surprised by the number of accidents that kids can have because of furniture — TVs and dressers tipping are just a few of the most common mishaps. Make sure your furniture is secured with a product like these easy-to-use safety straps.

      • 10 pack
      • Earthquake resistant

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Cord safety wraps

      Window blinds are also dangerous to babies and toddlers — the blind cord is an extreme choking hazard. Use a cord wrap to keep them neatly organized and tucked out of reach of your child.

      • Contains 12 cord cleats and 24 screws
      • Mounts to window frame

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Toilet lock

      Another place that tiny hands love to explore is the toilet, which is not an ideal situation. Secure your toilet lid to prevent mishaps, injuries and drowning risks.

      • 30-day hassle-free guarantee
      • Eco-friendly

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Corner guards

      Sharp corners are everywhere! Protect your children’s heads and bodies by making sure your furniture's edges aren't risks and using corner guards to make your furniture safer.

      • 24-pack
      • 30-day guarantee

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Stove knob covers

      Toddlers love exploring the kitchen! Small children might see their parents switching a burner on or off and want to try it. Keep your stovetop safe by putting a baby-safe cover over the knobs to prevent little hands from turning on hot surfaces.

      • No tools need for installation
      • Temperature resistance up to 248 degrees

      Buy on Amazon

      6. A safe spot to play

      Letting a baby crawl around on the floor while adults are cooking or chatting can be dangerous. There may be small choking hazards on the floor, or they could wander into harm. Instead, let your baby bounce and play on this Jumperoo, which keeps your baby entertained and off the floor.

      • Seat spins 360 degrees
      • Removable, machine-washable seat pad

      Buy on Amazon

      Don't be intimidated by all of the potential hazards around the house for toddlers and babies. Get lower to the ground and analyze your home. Are there small accessories that are easy to grab? Or sharp corners that you wouldn't usually notice? Our list of baby safety products can help you find the products you need to babyproof your home. And if you're looking to take your baby out for some fresh air, check out our baby carrier and sling guide.

      Here are some great baby safety products you may not have crossed your mind....
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      Airlines say furloughs and layoffs are likely if more federal aid isn't received by October

      Thousands of competing airline workers may soon be out of a job

      If Congress can’t come through with an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program soon, tens of thousands of airline employees could see themselves without a job come October 1.

      The first flare went up on Tuesday at the headquarters of American Airlines when the company announced that it will cut 19,000 employees from its payroll when the federal aid that protected those jobs expires

      The 19,000 American employees include 17,500 flight attendants, pilots, and mechanics, plus 1,500 administration and management jobs. All told -- when combined with pink slips American handed out earlier and the 39,000 employees who opted for voluntary leave or early retirement -- American’s total workforce is about 41 percent smaller than the total workforce it had at the onset of the pandemic

      “We have come to you many times throughout the pandemic, often with sobering updates on a world none of us could have imagined,” wrote American Airlines CEO Doug Parker along with the company’s president, Robert Isom, in a note to its staff announcing the cuts. 

      Expect other airlines to follow suit

      American isn’t the only airline trying to keep itself afloat. On Monday, Delta Air Lines also announced that it will have to furlough 2,000 pilots if it can’t get some relief from its labor union.

      In June, United Airlines did its best to get ahead of the situation by coming to terms with the pilots union over early retirements and voluntary furloughs.

      Southwest -- which has enough money in the bank to survive the pandemic for at least two years -- said it doesn’t foresee cutting jobs in 2020 because a fourth of its workers have signed up for either a buyout package or voluntary leave. 

      Holding out for hope

      While the $25 billion in payroll support the CARES Act provided U.S. airlines evaporates on October 1, there’s some hope that there could be an extension of that support.

      A couple of weeks ago, 16 Republican senators wrote a letter urging Congress to consider a “clean extension” of the payroll support for airline employees who were included in the CARES package. There are reports that the rallying cry has also received support from some Democrats as well.

      If Congress can’t come through with an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program soon, tens of thousands of airline employees could see themselves witho...
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      Coronavirus update: Rushing a vaccine could be counterproductive, but AstraZeneca is ready to start producing its vaccine

      Doctors worry patients are putting off cancer screening

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,746,940 (5,709,839)

      Total U.S. deaths: 177,536 (176,901)

      Total global cases: 23,694,646 (23,472,067)

      Total global deaths: 814,354 (809,747)

      Fauci: Don’t rush a vaccine

      Nearly a dozen pharmaceutical companies are working at increased speed to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19), but one health expert is advising caution.

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), says giving emergency approval to a vaccine that has not been thoroughly tested in clinical trials is not a good idea. He said it could disrupt trials on other vaccines that might prove to be more effective.

      “The one thing that you would not want to see with a vaccine is getting an EUA (emergency use authorization) before you have a signal of efficacy,” Fauci told Reuters

      AstraZeneca ramps up vaccine production

      Drugmaker AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, AZD7442, is still in clinical trials, but the company is so confident in it that plans for production of large quantities of the vaccine have already begun. 

      Once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants approval, the pharmaceutical giant says it will have the capacity to produce 3 billion doses for widespread distribution.

      The vaccine is currently in a Phase I clinical trial. Should AZD7442 prove to be tolerated and have a favorable safety profile in the trial, AstraZeneca said it will progress it into larger late-stage Phase II and Phase III trials to evaluate its efficacy as a potential preventative and treatment approach against COVID-19.

      COVID-19 appears to be altering cancer screening

      Doctors are increasingly worried about the ways COVID-19 has had a negative impact on treatment and screening for other diseases, particularly cancer. A team of international researchers has concluded that some important cancer screenings are being delayed.

      Among the negative impacts has been a 30 percent decrease in melanoma checks in Victoria, Australia. The researchers have also identified the suspension of clinical trial activities as another downside risk.

      “In light of physical distancing restrictions due to COVID-19, standard cancer procedures are being altered or delayed, including surveillance imaging; non-emergency surgical procedures; and clinical trials,” said health sociologist Alex Broom.

      EPA approves American Airlines’ new disinfectant

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted emergency authorization for American Airlines’ new disinfectant, used to sanitize its aircraft cabins to kill the coronavirus. 

      EPA Commissioner Andrew Wheeler said the product, called SurfaceWise2, can kill viruses and bacteria for up to seven days after being applied. However, it’s important to note that it does not combat airborne particles of the virus.

      The airline said it plans to eventually use the disinfectant on all its aircraft. Chief operating officer David Seymour says he hopes the extra step will go a long way in making consumers more comfortable with air travel.

      From now on, use a napkin

      In the age of the coronavirus, you’re not supposed to even touch your face, so it goes without saying that no one should be encouraged to lick their fingers. That’s the thinking at KFC, which has retired its famous slogan, “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good!”

      In a press release, the fast-food franchise admitted its slogan doesn’t feel quite right for the times. 

      “We find ourselves in a unique situation—having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment. While we are pausing the use of It’s Finger-Lickin’ Good, rest assured the food craved by so many people around the world isn’t changing one bit,” said Catherine Tan-Gillespie, global chief marketing officer at KFC.

      Around the nation

      • New Jersey: New Jersey remains in shutdown mode as a recent spike in coronavirus cases put off reopening plans. But Gov. Phil Murphy said this week that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. “The data is unquestionably good of late,” Murphy said, suggesting there could be news coming on gyms and indoor dining.

      • Georgia: Despite criticism of the state’s mitigation rules, the numbers appear to be moving in the right direction. State health officials report new cases declined by 11 percent between August 10 and 17. The seven-day average is down 30 percent.

      • Colorado: School has been in session for at least two weeks, but a number of districts have already canceled classes because of outbreaks of COVID-19. “I don’t want anybody to be surprised in our state when classes, and even schools, do need to be shut down,” said Gov. Jared Polis.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,746,940 (5,709,83...
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      California Assembly votes to ban flavored tobacco products

      The measure seeks to reduce rates of use among minors

      On Monday, a flavored tobacco product ban (SB 793) was unanimously approved by the California Assembly. 

      SB 793 will prohibit the retail sale of flavored tobacco products, flavored e-cigarettes, and flavored vaping products in the state. The legislation is part of a larger effort to curb rates of flavored tobacco use among children, to whom the products tend to appeal.

      Supporters of the legislation said it would help reduce rates of smoking and vaping among children and teenagers who use them specifically because they come in flavors like menthol, cotton candy, and gummy bears. 

      Health experts have raised concerns that the high rate of flavored tobacco use among minors threatens to derail progress in curbing overall smoking rates. 

      “These flavors are marketed to kids and people of color to ensure tobacco companies have a clientele on the hook for life,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).

      Exemption for some products 

      During the legislative process, the bill was modified to include an exemption for some premium cigars. The bill defines “premium” as “any cigar that is handmade, is not mass produced by use of mechanization, has a wrapper that is made entirely from whole tobacco leaf, and has a wholesale price of no less than twelve dollars ($12). A premium cigar does not have a filter, tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece and is capped by hand.”

      “It’s the most deadly consumer product ever created,” Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said during Monday’s floor debate. “In a perfect world, there would be no exemptions to this bill, but we all know we don’t live in a perfect world.”

      Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-Ripon) said exempting cigars, hookah products, and cannabis threatens to leave open a loophole that could put kids at risk. 

      “If we actually cared about the kids, we would deal with some of the other industries as well,” he said.

      The measure -- which is supported by the American Lung Association in California, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Society -- now faces one more vote in the Senate before heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. 

      On Monday, a flavored tobacco product ban (SB 793) was unanimously approved by the California Assembly. SB 793 will prohibit the retail sale of flavore...
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      EPA gives American Airlines approval for new long-lasting surface disinfectant

      The new tool doesn’t combat airborne particles, so proper cleaning and hygiene is still necessary

      The age-old axiom of “no good deed goes unpunished'' has come true for American Airlines. The company was able to get an emergency authorization from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a new antimicrobial product designed to protect against COVID-19 on aircraft surfaces. 

      The good news is that the product -- SurfaceWise2 -- has been proven to last up to seven days and is the longest-lasting surface protectant that has earned the EPA’s blessing. The bad news is that while it protects against transmission on surfaces like tray tables, the coronavirus is widely believed to spread predominantly through close contact between people.

      The emergency authorization is currently limited to the state of Texas, with the state permitting American Airlines airport facilities and planes to use the disinfectant at specific locations. 

      Personal hygiene still rules the day

      While the EPA stated that SurfaceWise2 may help “address the current national emergency” and “increase consumer confidence,” it also noted that the disinfectant is not a substitute for proper cleaning practices.

      “This product is not a replacement for routine cleaning and disinfection with products from EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. EPA recommends that facilities continue to follow the cleaning and disinfection recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” the agency wrote.

      The agency went on to remind people that a sanitizer by itself is not the be-all and end-all for COVID-19.

      “Please note that according to the CDC, while ‘it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,’ the virus is thought to spread mainly through close contact between individuals.”

      Officials say that the approved emergency use is only good for a year. As new data emerges, it’s possible that the agency may alter the approval of the product’s emergency use.

      The age-old axiom of “no good deed goes unpunished'' has come true for American Airlines. The company was able to get an emergency authorization from the E...
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      5 items to help make your home office more comfortable

      Check out our list of items that can help ease aches and pains caused by your home office setup

      Working from home has many advantages, including wearing pajama bottoms and staying close to your pets; but a less-than-ideal space can make it difficult to work comfortably. A poorly positioned monitor or chair that doesn’t provide proper support can lead to aches, pains and injuries. To help, we have a list of our favorite work-from-home items to turn your home office into your new favorite place.

      1. Laptop stand

      If you have a low desk or work from your kitchen bar, invest in a laptop stand to reduce the risk of neck strain caused by continuously looking down. These stands also help your posture — something many of us need after months of working from home.

      • Detachable and simple installation
      • Can be disassembled for storage

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Standing desk

      Not moving around enough has a negative effect on your health. Don’t sit around all day when working from home — invest in a standing or adjustable desk that lets you get up and move. This adjustable desk is a classic white and enables you to stand or sit.

      • Adjustable height from 28" - 47.6"
      • 5-year warranty for the frame, motor and mechanisms

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Ergonomic desk chair

      If you’re not interested in a standing desk, it’s worth investing in an office chair that supports your back and arms. An ergonomic desk chair helps prevent lumbar and arm pains that often come with using a poorly constructed chair.

      • 12-month guarantee
      • Simple instructions; no extra tools needed

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Ergonomic footrest

      A well-made chair and properly aligned desk are great starting points, but less common accessories can also help. An ergonomic footrest helps improve your posture, decrease back issues, increase circulation and take the pressure off your legs.

      • Massage surface
      • No assembly needed

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Ergonomic keyboard

      Ergonomic keyboards are designed to keep your hands at a natural angle and help prevent the wrist pain standard keyboards can cause. These keyboards relax your shoulders and let you hold your wrists in a better position.

      • Natural arc layout
      • Cushioned palm rest

      Buy on Amazon

      With a few additions, you can make your home office far more comfortable and prevent normal desk work aches and pains. If you need extra help with your home office — such as telephone and receptionist services — check out our virtual office company guide.

      We have some great items to limit injury from your home office....
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      Older children should wear masks to protect against COVID-19, WHO says

      The organization says caregivers should consider several factors when making the decision for younger children

      The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the U.S., and individual states and agencies are continuing to provide consumers with guidance to keep them safe from the coronavirus. 

      This month, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidance that covers questions consumers might have about mask requirements for children and young adults. The agency says older children should wear a mask to protect themselves and curb the spread of germs to others in most cases. 

      Of course, there are some caveats to the guidance based on age and other health conditions -- and the organization says that consumers should always defer to local guidelines above all else. That being said, the WHO advises the following when it comes to children and mask-wearing:

      Mask-wearing by age and health condition

      The WHO recommends that children aged 12 and over should wear masks under the same conditions that adults do. However, it says children aged 5 or younger should not be required to wear one because of safety concerns and their general lack of ability to use a mask with only minimal assistance

      For children aged 6 to 11, the organization says caregivers should consider the following:

      • Whether there is widespread transmission in the area where the child resides;

      • The ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask;

      • Access to masks, as well as laundering and replacement of masks in certain settings (such as schools and childcare services);

      • Adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off, and safely wear masks;

      • The potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development, in consultation with teachers, parents/caregivers, and/or medical providers; and

      • Specific settings and interactions the child has with other people who are at high risk of developing a serious illness, such as the elderly and those with other underlying health conditions.

      The WHO says children with developmental disabilities, disorders, or other specific health conditions should not be required to wear a mask. However, it says that each child should be judged on a case-by-case basis to see if they can tolerate wearing a mask.

      Types of masks children should wear

      The WHO says that non-medical or fabric masks are suitable for children who are in good health, but caregivers need to ensure that the mask is an appropriate size so that it can cover the nose, mouth, and chin. 

      For children who have underlying health conditions or are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, a medical mask is recommended to help control the spread of germs. Face shields may also be a good alternative for children with speech issues, but the organization notes that these do not provide the same level of protection. 

      Caregivers who elect to have their child use a face shield should be aware of potential hazards and ensure that it covers the entire face, wraps around the sides of the face, and extends below the chin. 

      Where masks should be worn

      The WHO advises that children should wear a medical mask at home if they show any symptoms of COVID-19 or if there is another sick person in the house. Wearing a mask in areas that have a higher risk of transmission, like schools, may also be advisable depending on local guidelines. 

      However, the organization says that children should not wear masks when playing sports or doing other physical activities because it may compromise their ability to breathe normally. Organizers of these activities should take other measures like social distancing and limiting the number of children in a gathering to keep children safe.

      The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the U.S., and individual states and agencies are continuing to provide consumers with guidance to keep them...
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      Coronavirus update: Emergency approval for plasma antibodies, no return to ‘normal’

      Colleges are still hotspots for the coronavirus

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,709,839 (5,668,673)

      Total U.S. deaths: 176,901 (176,372)

      Total global cases: 23,472,067 (23,239,310)

      Total global deaths: 809,747 (805,230)

      FDA clears plasma antibody treatment

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency authorization for hospitals to use plasma antibodies from recovered coronavirus (COVID-19) patients to treat those who are currently ill.

      The FDA said it is acting because it believes the plasma may be an effective weapon and that the potential benefit outweighs known and potential risks. Plasma has already been used to treat severely ill patients with mostly good results.

      “Today’s action will dramatically expand access to this treatment,” President Trump said at a White House press conference. “We’re removing unnecessary barriers and delays.”

      WHO: things aren’t going to return to normal

      If you’re longing to crowd into a basketball arena or host a large party at your favorite restaurant, the World Health Organization (WHO) says you should get over it. It might not be a possibility for years to come.

      WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference that a vaccine, if and when one is developed, will be a “vital tool,” but it won’t end the coronavirus pandemic. He said the world will need to learn how to manage the virus and make “permanent adjustments” to daily life.

      He said leaders of countries can stop new outbreaks by practicing the “basics” of public health and disease control.

      Outbreaks still occurring at colleges

      Colleges and universities continue to grapple with outbreaks of the coronavirus that forced two large institutions, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, to suspend in-person classes after a single week.

      Colleges in at least 19 states have now reported outbreaks on campus, which education officials attribute to off-campus activities. Some schools have suspended students and organizations for allegedly violating health rules.

      The University of Alabama is partnering with local police to monitor bars, restaurants, and off-campus housing to ensure the city's COVID-19 ordinances and university guidelines are followed. 

      Why it’s important to ‘flatten the curve’

      It makes sense that the more people who get the coronavirus, the more people who are in danger of dying. But researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington (UW) say it’s more complicated than you think.

      Their study has found that every six additional intensive care unit (ICU) beds or seven additional non-ICU beds filled by COVID-19 patients leads to one additional COVID-19 death over the following week.

      “A spike in hospitalization naturally leads to more deaths, but these deaths may not only come from those who are hospitalized, but also from those who should have been hospitalized but were not,” said co-author Anirban Basu, a UW professor of health economics.

      Scientists say air conditioning may help spread the virus

      Could your comfortable, air-conditioned room be increasing your risk of getting COVID-19? A team of German and Indian researchers has concluded that it might.

      Their study focuses on the role of humidity in the transmission of all types of viruses, noting that germs and droplets tend to travel farther in dry air than when the air is full of moisture. It might not be a small consideration as millions of office workers prepare to return to the workplace in the weeks ahead.

      The scientists based their conclusions on the review of 10 studies of infectious diseases, including swine flu. They say those studies found that humidity affects a virus’s droplet size and how the droplets float through the air and settle on surfaces.

      Around the nation

      • Florida: Florida’s COVID-19 numbers continued to improve over the weekend. State health officials report fewer than 5,000 new cases both Saturday and Sunday. There were 51 new fatalities, bringing the total up to 10,462.

      • Minnesota: A report from state health officials provides a snapshot of how COVID-19 has affected Minnesota. About 90 percent of those infected since the pandemic began have recovered to the point that they don’t need to be isolated. Seventy-four percent of those who have died lived in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

      • Arizona: The University of Arizona began its fall term today with an experimental hybrid system. About 5,000 students will return to classrooms and laboratories, but the rest will take part in online instruction in a bid to avoid an outbreak of the virus.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,709,839 (5,668,67...
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      Google searches for anxiety soared to record high at start of COVID-19 pandemic

      Researchers said anxiety-related searches surged after the pandemic was declared a national emergency

      The start of the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to an uptick in the number of Google searches for anxiety or panic attacks, according to research published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine

      Between March to early May, there were 375,000 more Google searches for anxiety or panic attacks than would normally be expected.

      The study was carried out by researchers from the Qualcomm Institute at the University of California San Diego. The researchers analyzed Google Trends from the past 16 years and found that the number of searches for anxiety-related information skyrocketed starting in March when the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a national emergency.

      Lead author Alicia Nobles, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, said she and her colleagues set out to collect data on how people’s mental health is being affected by the pandemic. 

      “We turned to internet searches to see what people were searching for in the United States," Nobles said. 

      Rise in anxiety 

      In total, there were 3.4 million total searches for anxiety in the two months after the pandemic was declared a national emergency. 

      Searches for panic and anxiety attacks returned to normal levels halfway through April, suggesting that people may have become more resilient to the initially troubling unknowns presented by the unexpected health crisis. However, since the data is based solely on the volume of internet searches, it’s not clear whether those seeking information on anxiety were actually having panic attacks or experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

      “In practical terms, over the first 58 days of the COVID-19 pandemic there were an estimated 3.4 million total searches related to severe acute anxiety in the United States. In fact, searches for anxiety and panic attacks were the highest they’ve ever been in over 16 years of historical search data,” Benjamin Althouse, a principal scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling, said in a statement.

      Anxiety versus panic attack

      Symptoms of a panic attack can include shortness of breath, rapid pounding heart rate, chest pressure, and sweating. True panic attacks typically come about suddenly and peak within ten minutes. 

      Symptoms of anxiety, on the other hand, include trouble concentrating, experiencing sleeping problems, and feeling restless, on edge, worried, or irritable. For these symptoms to fall under the category of “generalized anxiety disorder,” they must persist for at least six months. 

      Health experts recommend combating anxiety by focusing on what you can control, which include thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

      “Identify negative patterns, like constant scrolling on your phone, looking at the news and hoping for new info,” Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation for the American Psychological Association, told ConsumerHealthDay. “Take breaks from your devices. Take breaks from the news. Don't watch it constantly. Social media is an anxiety bomb, so limit the time on there.” 

      Wright also recommends getting enough sleeping, maintaining a balanced diet, staying active, and maintaining social connections in a socially distant way.

      The start of the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to an uptick in the number of Google searches for anxiety or panic attacks, according to research published Mo...
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      Experts predict higher COVID-19 death tolls if consumers fail to ‘flatten the curve’

      Researchers explored the link between hospital patients and related deaths

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have adjusted their usual routines and adopted new ways of living in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

      Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota has found that if efforts don’t continue to help slow the spread of COVID-19, related deaths are expected to surpass many consumers’ expectations. 

      “A spike in hospitalization naturally leads to more deaths, but these deaths may not only come from those who are hospitalized, but also from those who should have been hospitalized but were not,” said researcher Anirban Basu. 

      Analyzing hospital trends

      To understand how the pandemic could continue to affect consumers moving forward, the researchers analyzed data from hospitals regarding patients in ICU beds and those in non-ICU beds, as well as all related deaths. Their data spanned across nearly two dozen states and included patient information from late March through early June. 

      The researchers explained that protocols designed to protect consumers from COVID-19 are important for several reasons. For starters, their work revealed that the number of coronavirus-related deaths increased as more patients filled up ICU hospital beds. They found that even a one percent increase in ICU patients in one week could lead to nearly three deaths. 

      “Even when, say, 80 percent of non-ICU beds are still available, a further increase in COVID-19 admissions leads to significantly more numbers of deaths than what we would expect from only the hospitalized patients,” said Basu. “This may be because the health care delivery within a hospital is not only driven by hospital beds but also personnel and COVID-specific supplies, which may be stretched thin, and affecting COVID-19 admissions policies of the hospital.” 

      Increasing risks for all consumers

      While many consumers worry about hospitals running out of beds, the researchers explained that the risks for coronavirus-related deaths are equally as high for those who never even end up in the hospital. Because of this, maintaining efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus are of the utmost importance. 

      The researchers hope that these findings clearly illustrate how crucial it is for consumers to adhere to guidelines that have been found to flatten the curve of infections linked to COVID-19, especially as more and more public spaces are beginning to reopen. 

      “Our study quantifies the relationship between COVID-19 deaths and COVID-19 hospitalizations using actual data,” the researchers wrote. “These estimates provide a better understanding of the projections of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA especially when states are gearing up to restart economic activities and provide important practice insights for hospitals in terms of assessment of hospital bed and ICU bed capacity and preparedness.” 

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have adjusted their usual routines and adopted new ways of living in an effort to slow the spread of th...
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      FBI, CISA warn of increase in ‘vishing’ attacks

      Cybercriminals are taking advantage of businesses that have shifted to a work-from-home model

      The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in voice phishing (or “vishing”) campaigns. 

      In a joint cybersecurity advisory, the agencies noted that the pandemic has resulted in a “mass shift to working from home.” This has spurred an uptick in the use of corporate virtual private networks (VPNs) for malicious purposes. In July, cybercriminals launched a vishing campaign with the intent of monetizing the access to improperly accessed employee tools.  

      “The monetizing method varied depending on the company but was highly aggressive with a tight timeline between the initial breach and the disruptive cashout scheme,” authorities said in the advisory.

      “Prior to the pandemic, similar campaigns exclusively targeted telecommunications providers and internet service providers with these attacks, but the focus has recently broadened to more indiscriminate targeting,” the alert continued. 

      Highly effective attack 

      The advisory was published less than 24 hours after security researcher Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity published research about a group of cybercriminals that has been marketing a vishing campaign that relies on custom phishing sites and social engineering techniques to steal VPN credentials from employees. 

      Citing interviews with several sources, Krebs said the bad actors have experienced “a remarkably high success rate.” 

      The attackers operate “primarily through paid requests or ‘bounties,’ where customers seeking access to specific companies or accounts can hire them to target employees working remotely at home,” the report said. 

      Krebs explained that a typical attempt begins with a series of phone calls to employees working remotely at a targeted organization. 

      “The phishers will explain that they’re calling from the employer’s IT department to help troubleshoot issues with the company’s virtual private networking (VPN) technology,” according to Krebs. “The goal is to convince the target either to divulge their credentials over the phone or to input them manually at a website set up by the attackers that mimics the organization’s corporate email or VPN portal.”

      Preventing vishing attempts

      FBI and CISA officials offered several tips on how people can protect themselves against vishing attempts. 

      Companies and organizations are advised to restrict VPN connections to managed devices only, to employ domain monitoring, and to “consider using a formalized authentication process for employee-to-employee communications made over the public telephone network.” 

      Others are advised to be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls or email messages from unknown individuals claiming to be from a legitimate organization. End users should also limit the amount of personal information they post on social networking platforms. 

      “If you receive a vishing call, document the phone number of the caller as well as the domain that the actor tried to send you to and relay this information to law enforcement,” the advisory said. 

      The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an...
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      More homeowners made their July house payments on time

      Despite the pandemic, the number of delinquent payments actually went down last month

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has thrown millions of Americans out of work, making it difficult to pay the rent or mortgage. Forbearance programs enacted by Congress have so far kept many homeowners from facing immediate foreclosure.

      Black Knight, a data analytics company, reports that mortgage delinquencies actually went down in July, falling nearly 9 percent from June. The numbers show there were about 340,000 fewer past-due mortgages than in the month before.

      Even more encouraging, early-stage delinquencies -- those loans with a single missed payment -- are now below pre-pandemic levels, suggesting that the initial inflow of new COVID-19-related delinquencies has subsided.

      The news is not all good, however. Serious delinquencies -- those 90 or more days past due -- increased by 376,000 and are now up more than 1.8 million from their pre-pandemic levels.

      An improvement over the second quarter

      All in all, it’s an improvement from the second quarter of the year, which encompasses the first three months of the pandemic when businesses closed and millions of Americans were laid off from their jobs.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) recently reported that mortgage delinquencies surged in the second quarter by more than 8 percent.

      “The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on some homeowner’s ability to make their mortgage payments could not be more apparent,” said MBA vice president of Industry Analysis Marina Walsh. “The nearly 4 percentage point jump in the delinquency rate was the biggest quarterly rise in the history of the MBA’s survey. The second-quarter results also mark the highest overall delinquency rate in nine years and a survey-high rate for FHA loans.”

      Delinquencies are double 2019’s rate

      The Black Knight report shows that, while the mortgage delinquency rate in July fell 8.22 percent from June, it was nearly 100 percent higher than in July 2019. Foreclosure activity remained low, largely due to mortgage forbearance programs.

      The concern among policymakers is what happens this month. Many forbearance programs expired at the end of July, as did the extra $600 a week in additional unemployment benefits, which likely helped some unemployed Americans keep up with their mortgage payments.

      Congress was unable to reach an agreement on a new aid package and left Washington for a month-long recess without taking action.

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has thrown millions of Americans out of work, making it difficult to pay the rent or mortgage. Forbearance programs ena...
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      Chrysler recalls Ram 1500s and Jeep Grand Cherokees

      The vehicle's engine may stall

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 58,016 model year 2014-2018 Ram 1500s, and model year 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees equipped with 3.0L diesel engines.

      The crankshaft position sensor tone wheel may delaminate causing the engine to lose its ability to synchronize the fuel injector pulses and cam shaft timing.

      This could result in an engine stall, posing the risk of a crash..

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the powertrain control module software to maintain vehicle propulsion by reading the camshaft position signal in the event that the crankshaft position signal is lost free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 2, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler's customer service at (800) 853-2002. Chrysler's number for this recall is W58.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 58,016 model year 2014-2018 Ram 1500s, and model year 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees equipped with 3.0L diesel engines. ...
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      5 things you need for the NFL season

      Are you ready for Week 1? Not unless your playbook includes these must-haves for football season

      After what has seemed like an eternity without it, the NFL is returning! The regular season for America's favorite sport starts on Sept. 10, with the Chiefs hosting the Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. To help get your space ready, here are some things you need before kickoff if you'll be watching the NFL at home this year.

      1. OLED TV

      If you're a fan of a team that's not allowing people in the stands this season or don't want to risk exposure to the COVID-19 virus by attending a game in person, you need a TV that provides a great viewing experience. Watching football on an OLED TV is the closest thing to being at the stadium, so consider upgrading from an LCD model.

      • Pixel contrast booster for enhanced color and contrast
      • Super-slim, one-slate design

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Soundbar

      With fewer or even no fans in the stands this season, there has never been a better opportunity to hear the sounds of the game. To take full advantage, you need something more than just your TV’s speakers. A soundbar is easy to set up, has a low profile and is nearly as good as a more expensive surround sound system.

      • Universal remote
      • Built-in voice assistants

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Official NFL football

      Throwing a football back and forth before or after the game or during halftime is fun and still allows for social distancing. What better football to throw around than an official NFL football you see on the field? "The Duke" has been used by the NFL since 1941. Even if you're watching the game solo, an official ball is always great to have around the house.

      • Closest to what the pros use
      • Handcrafted in the U.S.

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Madden NFL 21

      Whether you have a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC, Madden is the only NFL game to play. Choose the Deluxe or MVP editions for extra features. According to EA Sports, this year's game has new moves for ball carriers and new, user-friendly pass rush mechanics. Lamar Jackson gets the cover spot this year after Patrick Mahomes broke the Madden curse last year. Madden NFL 21 releases on Aug. 28.

      • Standard, Deluxe and MVP Editions
      • Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC

      Buy on Amazon

      5. “NFL 100”

      This book celebrates 100 years of the NFL by honoring key moments and figures in the sport’s history. It includes a foreword from Peyton Manning, text, action and portrait photography, statistics, charts and more. “NFL 100: A Century of Pro Football” will look good on your coffee table and provide fun reading material during commercials.

      • Hardcover
      • 300 color photos

      Buy on Amazon

      With NFL training camp underway, players and teams are preparing for 16 games on the gridiron and the chance to play beyond early January. You, too, can get ready for a new season with these recommendations. And if you're looking at an upgraded television for the big game, we have more information on our TV brands guide.

      Ready for the NFL season? Here’s our playbook of must-have items....
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      Coronavirus update: Kids may be the biggest spreaders, CDC to resume data-collection role

      Officials are expressing hope for a declining death rate

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,584,154 (5,540,022)

      Total U.S. deaths: 174,442 (173,415)

      Total global cases: 22,734,522 (22,473,382)

      Total global deaths: 794,721 (789,103)

      Children may be major drivers of outbreaks

      Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have completed a study that concludes children and young adults -- more likely to be asymptomatic than older people -- may nonetheless be major spreaders of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  

      The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, featured nearly 200 children and young adults with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infections. Of the 49 who tested positive for the virus, only 25 had a fever.

      But as they looked more closely, the researchers found the viral load in the infected children and young people was "significantly higher" than adults with severe COVID-19 cases. It’s those viral loads that increase the risk of transmitting the virus to others, the researchers said.

      CDC back in charge of collecting data

      The government is shifting gears and placing responsibility for collecting coronavirus case data back with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A few weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took away that responsibility and put hospitals in charge.

      Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, disclosed the change this week at a meeting in Arkansas. She said the current reporting system was never designed to be permanent.

      “CDC is working with us right now to build a revolutionary new data system so it can be moved back to the CDC, and they can have that regular accountability with hospitals relevant to treatment and PPE,” Birx told hospital executives and government health officials.

      CDC official expects deaths to start declining next week

      Despite an increase in COVID-19 deaths in July, the monthly death toll has declined each month since April. Whether August breaks that trend is an open question, but a top official at the CDC expects daily deaths to begin falling off next week.

      CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said more stringent mitigation policies put in place over the last two months have begun to lower cases, but he admitted that it takes some time before that success is reflected in the death rate.

      "It is important to understand these interventions are going to have a lag, that lag is going to be three to four weeks," Redfield said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Hopefully this week and next week you're going to start seeing the death rate really start to drop."

      Breathalyzer offered as potential screening tool

      A team of international researchers has developed a breathalyzer test to rapidly detect COVID-19, potentially solving the problem of prolonged delays in getting test results. The testing device is described as intelligent nanotechnology that can rapidly detect COVID-19 from specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath. 

      The effectiveness of the testing device, which is made up of a nanomaterial-based sensor array, was demonstrated in March by a preliminary case-control clinical study in Wuhan, China.

      The technology will reportedly be developed for the market by the company Nanose Medical. The researchers have published their findings in the journal ACS Nano.

      Pandemic hasn’t slowed home sales

      The coronavirus and its widespread impact haven’t been a drag on recent home sales. In fact, it may be serving as rocket fuel. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that sales of existing homes rose a record 24.7 percent in July.

      “With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021,” said NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun.

      The only thing keeping sales from being even higher may be a lack of homes for sale. Total housing inventory at the end of July totaled 1.50 million units, down from both 2.6 percent from June and 21.1 percent from one year ago.

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Cases of the coronavirus are moving sharply higher in the state after they appeared to be under control a few weeks ago. State health officials report that the seven-day average of new cases is three times what it was at the pandemic’s low point.

      • Michigan: Children have returned to school in Michigan, but not without a worrisome uptick in coronavirus cases. State health officials are reporting 14 new outbreaks at schools around the state.

      • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports that the number of hospitalizations in the state has dropped to its lowest level since mid-March. Cuomo says the state has also seen 13 straight days of an infection rate below 1 percent.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,584,154 (5,540,02...
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      Uber, Lyft avoid service shutdown in California

      An appeals court blocked an order requiring the companies to classify their drivers as employees

      Uber and Lyft won’t be halting ride-hailing services in California after all.

      Last week, the ride-hailing giants threatened to suspend service in the state in response to a law (Assembly Bill 5) that would require the companies to immediately reclassify their drivers as employees. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that if a ruling requiring the reclassification went into effect Friday morning, it would be “hard to believe we’ll be able to switch our model to full-time employment quickly.” 

      Fortunately for Uber and Lyft, the California Court of Appeals reconsidered on Thursday, just hours before the shutdown was slated to go into effect. Thanks to the reprieve, the companies will be allowed to continue treating their drivers as independent contractors, at least until October. 

      "Our rideshare operations can continue uninterrupted, for now," Lyft said in a blog post. "Thanks to the tens of thousands of drivers, riders, and public officials who urged California to keep rideshare available for so many people who depend on it."

      "While we won't have to suspend operations tonight, we do need to continue fighting for independence plus benefits for drivers," said Lyft spokeswoman Julie Wood.

      Uber said in a statement that it’s “glad that the Court of Appeals recognized the important questions raised in this case, and that access to these critical services won’t be cut off while we continue to advocate for drivers’ ability to work with the freedom they want.”

      An appeal is currently working its way through the court. Oral arguments in the case are set to take place on October 13.

      Need for protections

      Lyft and Uber have both said there’s a need for an alternative way to classify drivers that combines flexibility and benefits. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently proposed that gig workers be granted some protections without losing their flexibility.  

      “Our current employment system is outdated and unfair,” he wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “It forces every worker to choose between being an employee with more benefits but less flexibility, or an independent contractor with more flexibility but almost no safety net,” he said. “Uber is ready, right now, to pay more to give drivers new benefits and protections.”

      He proposed having gig companies set up benefits funds from which employees pull money from for needs like health insurance or paid time off. The amount of money they could take out of the fund would depend on how many hours they’ve worked. 

      Uber and Lyft won’t be halting ride-hailing services in California after all.Last week, the ride-hailing giants threatened to suspend service in the st...
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      Delta will sell more seats on its flight, but it’s still being cautious about distancing

      The company says safety is a top priority as we approach the holiday season

      Delta Air Lines has carefully been plotting a full return to the skies. Earlier this week, it announced that it was testing every single one of its employees for COVID-19 to ensure that its flights were safe. 

      On Thursday, it announced that it plans to start selling additional seats on its flights. While more passengers will be coming onboard, the company says it is keeping its promise about blocking the middle-seat to lessen the possibility of any spread of coronavirus between passengers.

      The cap on the number of seats sold and blocking out the middle seat will stay in place at least through January 6, 2021.

      Safety remains the priority

      In a news release, the airline positioned itself against its competitors, saying it is “your choice for safer space.” 

      “Medical experts, including our own partners at Emory Healthcare, agree – more distance on board makes a difference,” said Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer. 

      “We believe that taking care of our customers and employees and restoring confidence in the safety of air travel is more important right now than filling up every seat on a plane. We’ll continue taking a thoughtful, layered approach ensuring customers know to expect the highest standard of care as they prepare for their holiday travels.”

      Delta’s proactive and flexible plans

      Delta is making a bid to be the most cautious of the major airlines when it comes to pandemic-related prevention efforts. Its latest announcement continues that cautionary tone, and the company said that it realizes that flexibility is more important than ever. 

      Plotting out its next steps for health-conscious fliers and people or families who might be flying together come holiday time, Delta’s policy on middle seats will work like this:

      • For customers in parties of 1-2: Middle seats will be blocked for safety.

      • For customers in parties of 3 or more: Middle seats will appear as available for booking, to allow families and travel companions to select seats together.

      As far as capacity is concerned, Delta says that passengers can expect Delta to do the following through October 31:

      • Limit the number of customers on board all aircraft – with or without middle seats.

      • Limit the First Class cabin to half capacity to further ensure more space between customers. However, on regional jets in 1x2 configurations, the First Class cabin will be capped at 67 percent.

      • Block one aisle of seats on aircraft without middle seats.

      On routes where its planes begin to fill, Delta says it will continue to look for opportunities to upsize to a larger aircraft type or, if necessary, add more flights.

      The only area that will be offered at full capacity (effective October 1) is the Delta One cabin, which is available on long-haul international flights and in select long-haul domestic markets. Its argument for doing that is that the seats in Delta One are already well-distanced because of the configuration of the cabin and the design of the seats (such as being able to turn into a bed). 

      Delta Air Lines has carefully been plotting a full return to the skies. Earlier this week, it announced that it was testing every single one of its employe...
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      Gas prices have peaked for 2020, AAA says

      Fuel prices may head lower going into the fall months

      Despite a slow increase in gasoline demand in the last couple of weeks, prices at the pump stayed stable for another week across much of the U.S.

      The national average price of regular gas is $2.18 a gallon, just a penny more than last Friday. Prices remain about 42 cents a gallon less than at this time in 2019. The average price of premium gas is $2.79 a gallon, also one cent more than last week. The average price of diesel fuel remains at $2.42 a gallon, the same as a week ago.

      The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that an increase in gasoline demand last week drew gasoline inventories down, but supplies remain plentiful when compared to previous years. Therefore, there should be little impact on prices since the summer driving season is nearly over.

      “Gas prices are stalling, if not decreasing, at the vast majority of pumps,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “We’ve likely seen gasoline prices peak for 2020, barring any major hurricanes.”

      Nationwide, AAA reported that 72 percent of all gas stations were selling gas for less than $2.25. Forty-one percent are selling fuel for under $2 a gallon. Compared to last August, the U.S. has 12 million more barrels of gasoline on hand.

      In the weeks ahead, oil refineries will begin switching over to winter-grade gasoline blends, which cost less than summertime fuel. Because of that, there should be very little to raise gasoline prices heading into the end of the year.

      The states with the most expensive gas

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

      • Hawaii ($3.23)

      • California ($3.12)

      • Washington ($2.81)

      • Oregon ($2.66)

      • Nevada ($2.66)

      • Alaska ($2.53)

      • Utah ($2.44)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.43)

      • Idaho ($2.42)

      • Colorado ($2.39)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($1.83)

      • Louisiana ($1.85)

      • Arkansas ($1.87)

      • Texas ($1.87)

      • Alabama ($1.87)

      • Oklahoma ($1.89)

      • Missouri ($1.89)

      • Tennessee ($1.90)

      • South Carolina ($1.91)

      • Kansas ($1.97)

      Despite a slow increase in gasoline demand in the last couple of weeks, prices at the pump stayed stable for another week across much of the U.S.The na...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2020 GLB250s

      The rear spoiler may detach

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 10,644 model year 2020 GLB250s.

      The rear spoiler above the tailgate may not have been welded correctly and may detach from the vehicle.

      If the spoiler detaches while the vehicle is being driven, it can become a road hazard, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the rear spoiler and replace it -- if necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 13, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 10,644 model year 2020 GLB250s. The rear spoiler above the tailgate may not have been welded correctly and may de...
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      Spokane Produce recalls salsa containing onions

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Spokane Produce of Spokane, Wash., is recalling salsa containing onions.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      A list of the recalled products, packaged in 15-oz. plastic tubs and institutional size one gallon plastic containers, may be found here.

      The recalled products were sold in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington from May 13, 2020, through August 10, 2020.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may call Spokane Produce at (509) 710-8301 from 10am – 4pm (PST).

      Spokane Produce of Spokane, Wash., is recalling salsa containing onions. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been rep...
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      Nearly 235 million accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube exposed in data breach

      Users' names, ages, and account details were left in an unprotected server

      If you’re a YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram user, hold on to your personal data, folks, because a gargantuan leak of social media profiles has shown up at the doorstep of these platforms.

      According to an incident brought to light by researchers at Comparitech, Hong Kong-based Social Data exposed a database of close to 235 million social media profiles by not setting a password restriction or any other authentication required to access it. The exposed data includes these items from personal profiles:

      • Profile and real full name, age, and gender

      • Profile photo

      • Whether the profile belongs to a business or has advertisements

      • Statistics about follower engagement, including: number of followers, engagement rate, follower growth rate, audience gender/age/location, and likes

      • Last post timestamp

      Based on samples Comparitech collected, it says that about 20 percent of the records also contained either a phone number or email address.

      Scraping all it can find

      Social Data’s model is anything but consumer-friendly, but at least it’s honest about what it does. In its Terms of Service, it admits that it “scrapes” the data of influencers who “have a presence on the Internet having in excess of a certain amount of followers (decided by the marketer) on various social media platforms.” In other words, let’s say you have 1,523 followers on Instagram and a marketer is looking for people who have at least 1,000, you would be a prime candidate to be scraped.

      Web scraping is an old-hat way of automating the copying of data from web pages in bulk. The cost of doing it is relatively inexpensive, and that appeals to marketing firms that can’t afford more aboveboard methods. Social Data swears that it only scrapes what is publicly accessible, but the practice violates Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube terms of use. 

      Deep Social was banned from Facebook and Instagram in 2018, but apparently it found a way to worm its way back in. Comparitech says that the wormhole likely came about because automated scraping bots can be difficult to distinguish from normal website visitors. Because of that, social media platforms have a hard time preventing them from accessing user profiles until it’s too late.

      Social Data defends itself

      A Social Data spokesperson told Comparitech security researcher Bob Diachenko in an email that the data was not “hacked” because it was collected in a legal way. 

      “Please, note that the negative connotation that the data has been hacked implies that the information was obtained surreptitiously. This is simply not true, all of the data is available freely to ANYONE with Internet access,” the spokesperson said.

      “I would appreciate it if you could ensure that this is made clear,” the spokesperson continued in their email to Diachenko. “Anyone could phish or contact any person that indicates telephone and email on his social network profile description in the same way even without the existence of the database. […] Social networks themselves expose the data to outsiders – that is their business – open public networks and profiles. Those users who do not wish to provide information, make their accounts private. [sic]”

      If you’re a YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram user, hold on to your personal data, folks, because a gargantuan leak of social media profiles has shown up at th...
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      Coronavirus update: Consumers’ caution affects the economy, jobless claims are growing again

      COVID-19 is making college even more expensive

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,540,022 (5,494,239)

      Total U.S. deaths: 173,415 (172,048)

      Total global cases: 22,473,382 (22,194,929)

      Total global deaths: 789,103 (782,228)

      Consumers’ COVID-19 caution is holding the economy in check

      The minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting show that policymakers are concerned about the economic damage caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Officials fear that it might take years to recover, and consumer behavior in the wake of the pandemic may be part of the reason why that’s the case. 

      A new study by the University of Southern California (USC) Center for the Digital Future shows that most Americans are not comfortable resuming daily life outside the home, and a quarter say they will do nothing in public until a vaccine is found.

      The study, conducted in June, found that other than grocery shopping, most people are uncomfortable being in public right now. Only 41 percent would see a doctor for a non-urgent appointment, and only 39 percent would shop in a retail store. Only 11 percent would be willing to take an airline flight.

      Unemployment claims are growing again

      The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled 1.1 million last week, a disappointment after claims had dipped below the 1 million mark during the previous week.

      The surprising increase came as Federal Reserve policymakers worried about the coronavirus’ impact on the economy, especially since Congress has been unable to reach a compromise on extending relief, which expired at the end of July.

      Economists point out that it has now been four weeks since the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits ran out. Democrats have pushed for maintaining the full amount while Republicans have advocated for about a third of that.

      Colleges are tacking on COVID-19 fees

      If college costs weren’t high enough already, students returning to campus this fall are facing new fees to pay colleges’ costs of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The fees pay for everything from extra cleaning to administering COVID-19 tests.

      CNBC’s round-up of the extra charges found students at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts will pay a “COVID-19 mitigation fee” of $950 a year. Out-of-state students at the University of Michigan will see fees go up across the board, including a $50 “health and safety fee.” Even then, colleges may still be looking for money.

      “A significant number of colleges will not be able to come out of this academic year financially soluble,” said Hafeez Lakhani, founder and president of Lakhani Coaching. “The equation simply doesn’t balance.”

      Growing doubts about school safety

      A survey led by researchers from several universities found that nearly two-thirds of Americans do not believe it is safe for K-12 students to return to school this year. Only 31 percent of participants in the nationwide survey believed returning to school is very safe or somewhat safe.

      The survey also found significant demographic variations in answers. Women, people with lower incomes, non-whites, and Democrats were less likely to consider sending their children back to school this fall.

      “Across the U.S., schools and parents are debating whether to choose face-to-face, online or hybrid learning for K-12 students this fall,” said co-author Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University. “Each option has benefits and risks as both community health and quality education hang in the balance. Given the high uncertainty and regional differences, decisions are likely best made locally on a case-by-case basis.”

      Taco Bell changing restaurant design for COVID-19

      New Taco Bell restaurants will look a little different from current ones. The Yum! Brands franchise expects that lasting changes will be brought about by COVID-19, so new restaurants will feature two drive-thru lanes. Customers will also be encouraged to place orders ahead of time.

      "With demand for our drive-thru at an all-time high, we know adapting to meet our consumers rapidly changing needs has never been more important," said Taco Bell President, Global COO, Mike Grams. "The Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant concept is not only an evolved physical footprint but a completely synchronized digital experience centered around streamlining guest access points. For the first time, our guests will have the ability to choose the pick-up experience that best fits their needs, all while never leaving the comfort of their cars."

      Around the nation

      • Connecticut: After coronavirus outbreaks shut down the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame, officials at the University of Connecticut are playing hardball. They’ve expelled several students from their dorms after videos on social media showed them partying in crowded dorm rooms without masks.

      • Texas: Some faculty members at Sam Houston State University are expressing concern for their safety after school officials ruled that they must provide in-class instructions if that’s what students want. “As faculty, we are paid to teach in person,” a memo from the provost said.

      • Massachusetts: State health officials have mandated that all children attending public education institutions in the state this fall must get vaccinated against the flu. The move is viewed as a way to mitigate respiratory illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,540,022 (5,494,23...
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      Instacart to provide shoppers with free COVID-19 tests

      The grocery delivery platform has stepped up its response to the health crisis in recent months

      Instacart has announced that it will provide its shoppers with new COVID-19 telehealth services, including virtual medical appointments and screenings. The company is rolling out the program nationwide following a pilot program in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania earlier this year.

      Consumers who use Instacart can take an online assessment if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. If the results appear to indicate possible infection, the shopper can set up a telemedicine consultation with a Doctor On Demand clinician who can determine whether or not a COVID-19 screening should take place. 

      If a COVID-19 test comes back positive, Instacart shoppers will be “eligible to receive up to 14 days of extended pay to provide financial support during their recovery,” the company said. The program will last until the end of 2020. 

      "It is critical that everyone has access to high-quality care in this difficult time, not just for their own health and safety, but for the health and safety of their families and broader community," Hill Ferguson, CEO of Doctor On Demand, said in a statement. "Instacart shoppers are providing an essential service for communities nationwide, and we are pleased to expand our partnership to ensure these shoppers on the front lines can quickly and cost-effectively access care, no matter where they are located."

      Responding to the health crisis

      The on-demand delivery platform is also implementing new health and safety policies. Starting next week, shoppers and users will see safety reminders in the app. 

      Shoppers will be reminded to wear face masks in stores and when they come in contact with customers, and customers will be reminded to do the same. 

      "As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across North America, we're taking additional steps to create a safe experience for customers and shoppers,” said Nilam Ganenthiran, president of Instacart. “Beginning today, we're rolling out a new policy asking both shoppers and customers to wear a face mask. We believe the simple act of wearing a face mask can help save lives and keep our loved ones, neighbors, and others in our communities safe."

      The company added that nearly 450,000 health and safety kits have gone out to its shoppers. The free kits include masks, forehead thermometers, and hand sanitizer. 

      In the early stages of the pandemic, Instacart shoppers staged a walkout to protest the company's lack of response to the health crisis. Shoppers said the company’s safety measures were inadequate and demanded the distribution of items like hand sanitizer. 

      Instacart has announced that it will provide its shoppers with new COVID-19 telehealth services, including virtual medical appointments and screenings. The...
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      Employees tell pollsters they prefer the COVID-19 at-home workplace

      Nearly 80 percent say they think they are more productive working from home

      Over the last four months, millions of Americans have been working from home. Anecdotal evidence has indicated that the virtual workplace has worked pretty well so far.

      There’s new data suggesting that, from the employees’ point of view, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. A survey by KPMG, a business advisory firm, found that 79 percent of U.S. workers at organizations with more than 1,000 employees believe the quality of their work has improved over the last four months.

      Seventy percent said the quality of their work has improved while 67 percent indicate their work-life balance has gotten better. Eighty-four percent are also satisfied with their employer's response to the pandemic.

      "American workers have demonstrated remarkable resiliency under the pressures of COVID-19 and against the backdrop of events signifying racial inequality," said Lisa Massman, KPMG's human capital advisory leader. 

      A big unknown

      The virtual workplace was one big unknown when the corporate world was thrust into it in late March, almost overnight. But productivity technology, such as services offered by Zoom and Slack, has enabled co-workers to interact with managers and one another almost as though they were in the same office.

      The survey found that employees like the system so well that 55 percent would like to have the flexibility to continue working remotely at least part of the time. One byproduct also appears to be a boost in morale that is aiding employee retention. 

      More than three-quarters of remote workers expressed the desire to remain with their current organization, in part because management has made them feel valued during the lockdown. As a result, KPMG believes corporations may be in no hurry to bring employees back to the office once the pandemic finally ends.

      "Companies worldwide enabled remote workforces nearly overnight, and what started as an extraordinary pilot is now considered permanent in many organizations' operating models," said Joe Parente, KPMG's Consulting leader. "As a result, there should be a new focus on improving employee connectivity, better understanding of what drives positive worker experiences and overall, reshaping and rethinking how work gets done."

      Room for improvement

      Even though employees are happier, employers are more focused on efficiency and making sure that work gets done at the same rate as before. Massman says that may require some bold thinking.

      "Organizations must design a new model of work for tomorrow, by presenting new approaches for teams to effectively work from home, leveraging technology and innovative ways to increase collaboration, and fostering an environment of inclusion and belonging - to build a more loyal, productive and sustainable workforce," she said.

      Over the last four months, millions of Americans have been working from home. Anecdotal evidence has indicated that the virtual workplace has worked pretty...
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      JetBlue and Goldman Sachs roll out a buy now, pay later credit plan

      The concept could give a boost to the economy after being hit by the pandemic

      Despite all the ups and downs the airline industry has faced recently, JetBlue has decided to offer consumers a little perk. The airline and Goldman Sachs are joining forces to allow travelers to use MarcusPay -- Goldman Sachs’ instant credit, buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) plan -- to pay for retail purchases over time at the point-of-sale.

      The new arrangement expands on an earlier deal to provide MarcusPay as a BNPL option for JetBlue Vacations packages of hotels and airfare. JetBlue customers can apply for a MarcusPay loan from the payment page on jetblue.com or at jetbluevacations.com. It will also be available in the coming weeks on the JetBlue mobile app.

      How it works

      MarcusPay can be used for trips that cost between $750 and $10,000. There are several available loan options for customers, and there’s no upfront deposit required. There are also no fees that come with the loan, and the interest rate will be fixed. Neither JetBlue or Goldman Sachs published a rate specific to this program, but MarcusPay’s current APRs run from from 10.99 percent to 25.99 percent with a payoff option of 12 or 18 months. 

      While the interest rates aren’t exactly prize winners, JetBlue and Goldman Sachs think that removing some of the hassle and added cost of planning a vacation will play well in the uncertain financial environment brought on by the pandemic.

      “MarcusPay gives customers a smart alternative to financing large purchases,” said Elisabeth Kozack, head of Consumer Lending Partnerships at Marcus by Goldman Sachs. “JetBlue is a terrific partner for MarcusPay. They remain focused on delivering against their customers’ needs and providing transparency, which helps them deliver a differentiated customer experience for travelers.”

      BNPL plays well in the coronavirus crisis

      Not that the pandemic needs thanking, but the fact of the matter is that U.S. consumer spending has been in a tailspin since COVID-19 came to town. However, PYMTS Buy Now Pay Later Tracker indicates that BNPL options could be a way to get consumers spending money again. 

      “The concept (of BNPL) is to not only make transactions affordable, but seamless,” explained PYMTS.

      “These arrangements can also allow customers to purchase more or costlier items than they could otherwise, thereby helping merchants. Shoppers can feel more at ease, too, replacing a broken refrigerator or washing machine that conked out right after a consumer lost a job.” 

      Despite all the ups and downs the airline industry has faced recently, JetBlue has decided to offer consumers a little perk. The airline and Goldman Sachs...
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      GM recalls model year 2020 Chevrolet Corvettes

      The trunk release may not work

      General Motors is recalling 5,141 model year 2020 Chevrolet Corvettes.

      The release button located inside the front trunk compartment may not function after the vehicle has been shut off for ten minutes.

      If a person climbs inside the front trunk compartment and closes the lid, he may be trapped inside, posing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will update the software in the vehicle's Body Control Module (BCM) to allow the release switch to always work free of charge.

      Owners also may allow the vehicle to be remedied via an Over-The-Air software update.

      The recall is expected to begin September 21, 2020.

      Owners may contact GM customer service at (866) 522-9559. GM's number for this recall is N202309350.

      General Motors is recalling 5,141 model year 2020 Chevrolet Corvettes. The release button located inside the front trunk compartment may not function af...
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      Freshouse II recalls potatoes, limes, Valencia oranges and lemons

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Freshouse IIof Salisbury, N.C., is recalling Valencia oranges, lemons, limes, organic limes and Red B Potatoes.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      A list of the recalled products shipped directly to retailer distribution centers in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, and to wholesalers in Maryland and North Carolina May be found here.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the firm at (631) 369-7150, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. (ET), or by email at customerservice@freshouse.com.

      Freshouse II of Salisbury, N.C., is recalling Valencia oranges, lemons, limes, organic limes and Red B Potatoes. The products may be contaminated with L...
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      Hasbro recalls Super Soaker XP 20 and XP 30 Water Blasters

      The product contains lead levels that exceed the federal lead content ban

      Hasbro of Pawtucket, R.I., is recalling 52,900 Super Soaker XP 20s and Super Soaker XP 30s.

      The decorative sticker on the water tank of the water blaster toys contain levels of lead in the ink that exceed the federal lead content ban. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves the Super Soaker XP20 (E6286) which is a green and orange hand-held water blaster, and the XP 30 (E6289) which is an orange and blue hand-held water blaster.

      “Nerf Super Soaker” and the model number are printed on the sticker on the side of the water blaster.

      The Super Soakers, manufactured in India, were sold at Target from March 2020, to July 2020, for about $8 (XP 20) and $13 (XP 30).

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled toy away from children and contact Hasbro for instructions on how to return the product and receive a full refund.

      Consumers will be asked to unscrew the tank from the blaster and return the tank to the manufacturer using a postage prepaid label, for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Hasbro at (888) 664-3323 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (ET) on Fridays, or by email at SuperSoakerRecall@Hasbro.com or online at https://shop.hasbro.com/en-us and click on “MORE INFO” near the middle of the page for more information.

      Hasbro of Pawtucket, R.I., is recalling 52,900 Super Soaker XP 20s and Super Soaker XP 30s. The decorative sticker on the water tank of the water blaste...
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      BMW recalls X5 and X7 vehicles

      An extra starter motor bolt could fall into the transmission housing

      BMW of North America is recalling 21 model year 2020 X5 sDrive 40i, X5 xDrive 40i and X7 xDrive 40i vehicles.

      The starter motor may have an extra bolt that could potentially fall into the transmission housing and cause an engine stall, posing the risk of a crash

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the starter motor for the extra bolt, removing it if necessary. Dealers will also inspect the starter for damage, and check if the bolt has fallen into the transmission housing, replacing any damaged parts as necessary. All repairs will be performed free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin September 28, 2020.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 21 model year 2020 X5 sDrive 40i, X5 xDrive 40i and X7 xDrive 40i vehicles. The starter motor may have an extra bolt t...
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      Our favorite items to better your bath time experience

      5 ways to make your soaks extra special

      Remodeling your bathroom is one of the most expensive home renovation projects. If you want to make your bathroom feel luxurious on a budget, check out these products to give your bathroom a fresh, more modern vibe.

      1. New towels

      You might not think your towels make a big difference in your bathing experience, but they do! There's nothing quite like finishing your bath and wrapping up inside a thick, plush towel.

      Don't forget to choose towels in a color that matches the bathroom's overall theme to add a pop of newness. You’ll enjoy drying time more and add extra design elements to the room.

      • 100% soft cotton construction
      • Machine washable

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Absorbent rugs

      Another great way to bring extra pizzaz to your bathroom and add some comfort for your footsies after a bath is by updating your rugs! Like updating your towels, updating (or adding) soft, absorbant rugs in your bathroom increase comfort and are a quick way to update your bathroom aesthetics.

      • Choose from 7 colors
      • Machine wash/dry

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Pretty shower curtains

      You may think that a shower curtain is just a shower curtain, but it makes a huge design impact! If your curtain is tattered, moldy or just too plain, it's time to think about an upgrade. Choose a curtain that matches the look you're going for to make one of the most straightforward and least expensive bathroom improvements.

      • 100% polyester
      • Includes 12 C-shaped hooks

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Bathtub and shower organizers

      Bathtub organization is another game-changer. By introducing some organizational tools inside your bathtub, you can decrease that endless amount of clutter lying around every morning. With a shower caddy, basket or even a new shelf, you bring order to the accessory chaos, especially if you share a bathroom with your family.

      • 4 removable trays
      • No tools needed for installation

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Fancy tub tables

      A stylish tub tray adds a fresh look to your bathtub and is helpful for reading, watching videos or enjoying a glass of wine. They look adorable on your tub when sporting an air plant, and they are a treat for you when you take a bath. It's a win-win!

      • Bamboo wood with waterproof lacquer
      • 100% money-back guarantee

      Buy on Amazon

      Updating your bathroom can seem like a daunting task, but you can freshen up your space in no time with these tips! If you’re gunning for a bigger job — such as a remodel or tub replacement — may want to explore hiring a bathroom remodeling contractor.

      Our favorite bathtub updates...
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      IRS reminds taxpayers that unemployment income is taxable

      Consumers may want to pay some of those taxes now to avoid a bigger bill in 2021

      Those $600 unemployment checks might have been a welcome relief to those whose jobs are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reminding recipients that unemployment compensation is taxable. The agency advises that these consumers might want to have some tax withheld now and avoid a tax-time surprise come April 15, 2021.

      Unemployment compensation is taxable under United States law, even if it comes from the unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

      What to consider other than just unemployment

      The IRS suggests that taxpayers take a look at more than just their unemployment compensation from the state and federal governments. Other types of payments taxpayers should check their withholding on include:

      • Railroad unemployment compensation benefits;

      • Disability benefits paid as a substitute for unemployment compensation;

      • Trade readjustment allowances under the Trade Act of 1974;

      • Unemployment assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974; and

      • Unemployment assistance under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 program.

      The decision is up to the taxpayer

      Withholding is completely voluntary, and some consumers might be banking on a return to work at some point and could use the unemployment benefits in the meantime.

      However, if a taxpayer can afford to use $60 out of a hypothetical $600 unemployment check to cover their tax liability, then the IRS says that’s a smart thing to do. It may pinch a bit now, but it could save having to write a bigger check in the long run or help consumers avoid the necessity of a smaller return.

      Unemployment compensation recipients who return to work before the end of 2020 should use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to make sure they’re having enough tax dollars taken out of their pay and won’t be facing a bill to the IRS in 2021.

      To go in that direction, the steps are pretty simple: 

      • Fill out  Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request (PDF), and 

      • Give it to the agency paying the benefits, rather than sending it to the IRS. 

      • If the payor has its own withholding request form, use it instead.

      For recipients who don’t choose withholding -- or if withholding is not enough -- they can opt to make quarterly estimated tax payments instead. The payment for the first two quarters of 2020 was due on July 15, but it’s possible that the IRS won’t penalize you given the situation with the pandemic. 

      Third and fourth quarter payments are due on Sept. 15, 2020 and Jan. 15, 2021, respectively. For more information, including some helpful worksheets, see Form 1040-ES and Publication 505, available on IRS.gov.

      Those $600 unemployment checks might have been a welcome relief to those whose jobs are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Internal Revenue Service...
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      Coronavirus update: Safety officials ‘alarmed’ at the surge in deaths, African Americans more skeptical of vaccine

      Students had better get used to wearing masks in class

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,494,239 (5,446,223)

      Total U.S. deaths: 172,048 (170,586)

      Total global cases: 22,194,929 (21,927,114)

      Total global deaths: 782,228 (775,000)

      COVID-19 overtaking accidents as third-leading cause of death

      The National Safety Council said it is “highly alarmed” at the coronavirus (COVID-19) death rate, predicting it will soon supplant accidents as the third-leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer.

      According to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now exceeds 170,000, more than the total number of preventable deaths that occurred in 2018.

      “Although preliminary, this grim milestone clearly illustrates the scale of the pandemic,” the Council said in a press release. “In a little more than six months, COVID-19 has claimed more lives than accidental drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes and falls combined during 2018.”

      Poll shows African Americans more skeptical of potential vaccine

      Many Americans have expressed an unwillingness to be among the first to take an approved vaccine against COVID-19. In a new poll, African Americans were particularly skeptical.

      The poll of African Americans by Blackdoctor.org found that 58 percent would say "no" to the vaccine initially. Twenty-two percent said they would take the vaccine, but they admitted they had "concerns." An overwhelming majority would either not take the vaccine or had strong doubts.

      Health experts at Blackdoctor.org say the numbers are worrisome. Black Americans represent a disproportionate number of positive cases and deaths associated with coronavirus, but experts say there is a long history of distrust between African Americans and the medical community. 

      Scientists: kids will need to wear masks in school ‘for years’

      While the debate over whether children should return to the classroom this fall remains heated, one element tends to get overlooked. Children who do return to the classroom will have to wear masks and practice social distancing.

      Children had better get used to it because scientists and other medical experts suggest these measures will have to remain in place “for years.” They say it will take time to develop an effective vaccine and have enough people take it to achieve herd immunity.

      “You’re really going to need all three moving forward,” Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNBC

      Medical experts say 60 percent to 80 percent of the population needs to have antibodies in their blood before the virus finally loses its ability to infect new people.

      Roche and Regeneron cooperating on antibody cocktail

      Two pharmaceutical giants, Roche and Regeneron, say they are teaming up to develop an antibody cocktail to fight the coronavirus. Regeneron will market the drug in the U.S. while Roche will handle international distribution.

      The drug is currently in clinical trials and has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Regeneron says it expects the tests to yield positive results when they conclude in September.

      Earlier this month, Regeneron said the drug, called REGN-COV2, was successful in preventing COVID-19 in monkeys and hamsters. Roche teamed with Regeneron after its own COVID-19 drug failed in a clinical trial.

      Restaurant chains adds ultraviolet lighting to zap the virus

      Like airlines, restaurants often have to go the extra mile to win back customers worried about COVID-19. A Virginia-based chain of diners is going beyond hand sanitizer and has installed ultraviolet (UV) lighting in its restaurants.

      UV light has been shown to neutralize many types of pathogens, including the virus that causes COVID-19, and has been used in many hospitals. 

      “You know gloves and masks are just not enough anymore,” says Ype Von Hengst, executive chef and co-founder of Silver Diner.

      Around the nation

      • New Jersey: The New Jersey Restaurant Association is asking Gov. Phil Murphy to disclose when he plans to allow in-door dining at restaurants in the state. They say the recent heavy rains in the northeast have made outdoor dining impractical and unpredictable.

      • Indiana: The University of Notre Dame has suspended in-class education after a surge in coronavirus cases, on the heels of similar action by the University of North Carolina. Notre Dame officials blame the outbreak on off-campus parties during the first week of school. 

      • California: State health officials reported this week that there were 4,975 people in hospitals being treated for COVID-19. It was the first time total hospitalizations had fallen below 5,000 since early June.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,494,239 (5,446,22...
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      Nursing home COVID-19 cases hit new peak

      Sunbelt states are seeing the most cases

      Coronavirus cases in U.S. nursing homes recently surged to an all-time high, according to a report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

      An analysis of federal data showed that during the week starting July 26, nursing homes had 9,715 COVID-19 cases. The vast majority of these cases occurred in Sunbelt states, where thousands of retirees live.  

      The previous peak occurred in the last week of May, when there were 9,421 new cases, the report noted. 

      Slow testing turnaround times a problem

      Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to catching COVID-19 because of slow testing turnaround times, underlying health conditions, and the virus’ ability to spread quickly in settings where people are crowded together.

      "Unfortunately, we’ve definitely taken a step back," Parkinson told USA Today. He added that the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes comes on the heels of last month’s spread of the virus in hard-hit communities in the South and West.

      "With the recent major spikes of COVID cases in many states across the country, we were very concerned this trend would lead to an increase in cases in nursing homes and, unfortunately, it has," Parkinson said in a news release. “This is especially troubling since many nursing homes and other long term care facilities are still unable to acquire the personal protective equipment and testing they need to fully combat this virus.” 

      A survey conducted by the AHCA in June found that 87 percent of nursing homes reported slow times in receiving test results. A majority of facilities said tests for staff and residents took two days or longer to return results. 

      “What we need – now more than ever – is for our government leaders and lab companies from the private sector to work together to find a solution to prioritize and expedite the processing of tests for nursing home residents and caregivers,” Parkinson said.

      Coronavirus cases in U.S. nursing homes recently surged to an all-time high, according to a report from the American Health Care Association and National C...
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      U.S. and China to increase flights between nations

      Air carriers will be able to double the number of current flights occurring between the countries

      Travel restrictions between China and the U.S. are being eased, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). 

      On Tuesday, the agency announced that four Chinese airlines will be able to increase air traffic to the U.S. to a total of eight weekly round-trip flights. The decision matches allowances given to United Airlines and Delta Air Lines after each of the carriers qualified for additional U.S. flights going to China earlier this month. 

      In its announcement, the DOT implied that it would continue to move in step with Chinese officials so that air carriers from each country have an equal number of flights going between the two nations.

      “The Order...indicates our willingness to further revisit our action should the Chinese aviation authorities adjust their policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for U.S. carriers in which both they and the Chinese carriers could fully exercise their bilateral rights,” the agency stated.

      Delta increases prevention efforts

      International flights have begun to slowly come back over the last couple of months as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, travelers are still required to follow certain safety precautions depending on the airline they choose to use.

      Delta Air Lines -- one of the carriers that has flights going to China -- recently intensified its requirements for both passengers and employees to mitigate COVID-19 infections. Fortunately, the company says its efforts have paid off.

      “The infection rate among our customer-facing employees is below the national average and shows that our Delta CareStandard measures are working,” said Joanne Smith, Delta’s executive vice president and chief people officer. 

      “While we're encouraged by our results, we know we can’t afford to let up now. Health experts agree that a multi-layered approach – one that includes testing, symptom-checking, mask-wearing, environmental cleaning and physical distancing – is the greatest inhibitor to spreading COVID-19 and will play a critical role in keeping our people safe in the weeks and months ahead.”

      Travel restrictions between China and the U.S. are being eased, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). On Tuesday...
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      FDA-approved transparent face masks now in production

      The company says clear masks make it easier to communicate with the hearing impaired

      Consumers can now purchase fully transparent surgical masks, making it easier to communicate with hearing-impaired people while abiding by face-covering requirements.

      ClearMask LLC, a privately held U.S. medical supply company, says its transparent mask, which got U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in early April, is in production and can be purchased online.

      According to the company, it’s the world's first FDA-cleared, fully transparent surgical mask that can be used in hospitals, clinics, schools, retail, hospitality, and other settings. It meets applicable ASTM Level 3 requirements for fluid resistance and flammability.

      The mask was developed before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but it was quickly viewed as a practical alternative when traditional masks and face coverings began to present problems for people who depend on reading lips in order to effectively communicate.

      The company’s timing was spot-on. Johns Hopkins University graduate students and alumni started working on a transparent mask in 2017 because a company co-founder, who is deaf, had an adverse experience during her surgery. She was unable to communicate with the medical team performing the procedure.

      Improved visual communication

      Work on the mask began and was completed earlier this year, just as the pandemic began to spread across the globe. The FDA quickly gave its approval and mass production has now begun.

      "After three years of research, development, and testing, we are thrilled to bring a human-centered mask to everyone who needs it, especially those who can benefit from improved visual communication, such as children, older adults, deaf and hard of hearing people, and those who do not speak the same language,” said company president Allysa Dittmar.

      The masks are designed specifically for medical facility use, but the company also offers a non-medical, consumer face mask that similarly helps to improve visual communication and provide protection at a lower price. 

      ClearMask says the new consumer masks offer benefits to different communities in need, including state emergency management agencies and essential workers. The company is selling the products directly to consumers through this website

      Consumers can now purchase fully transparent surgical masks, making it easier to communicate with hearing-impaired people while abiding by face-covering re...
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      Linglong Americas recalls Venezia Crusade HT tires

      The lower sidewall may separate

      Linglong Americas is recalling 2,830 Venezia Crusade HT tires, size LT265/75R16 Load Range E, with DOT date codes 2715 through 5215.

      The tires may experience lower sidewall separation, which can lead to sudden tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

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

      The recall is expected to begin August 24, 2020.

      Owners may contact Linglong customer service at (330) 239-0404. Linglong's number for this recall is YCLF.

      Linglong Americas is recalling 2,830 Venezia Crusade HT tires, size LT265/75R16 Load Range E, with DOT date codes 2715 through 5215. The tires may exper...
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      Progressive Produce recalls red and yellow onions

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Progressive Produce is recalling a limited quantity of red and yellow onions.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There are no reports of illnesses to date.

      The onions are sold loose in bulk bins. The red onions have a PLU sticker with the brand name Pacific Gold.

      The recalled products were sold on the West Coast, at Trader Joe’s (conventional red onions sold only in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah stores), and Ralph’s (conventional yellow onions sold only in California stores).

      What to do

      Customers who purchased recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the store for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may email Progressive Produce at foodsafety@progressiveproduce.com.

      Progressive Produce is recalling a limited quantity of red and yellow onions. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. There are no reports ...
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      Model year 2019 Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Sprinters recalled

      The fuel pump may leak

      Daimler Vans USA (DVUSA) is recalling 46 model year 2019 Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Sprinters.

      The vehicles from platform 907 (VS30) might have an open port on the fuel delivery module (fuel pump).

      An open port on the fuel pump module may result in fuel leaking onto the roadway, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      DVUSA will notify owners, and dealers will check for the additional nozzle on the fuel pump and install a closure onto the nozzle -- as needed -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin September 18, 2020.

      Owners may contact DVUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372. MBUSA's number for this recall is VS3KRASTUF.

      Daimler Vans USA (DVUSA) is recalling 46 model year 2019 Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Sprinters. The vehicles from platform 907 (VS30) might have an o...
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      Active Brands recalls bicycle helmets

      The helmets do not comply with the federal safety standard

      Active Brands NA of Broomfield, Colo., is recalling about 300 Sweet Protection brand Ripper Jr., Ripper MIPS Jr., and Ripper MIPS bicycle helmets.

      The helmets do not comply with the U.S. CPSC federal safety standard for bicycle helmets, posing a risk of head injury.

      No incidents or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Active Brand AS Sweet Protection-branded Ripper Jr., Ripper MIPS Jr. and Ripper MIPS bicycle helmets.

      The Ripper Jr. and Ripper MIPS Jr. helmets were sold in one size, fitting head circumference from 48 cm to 53 cm (18.9 to 20.9 inches).

      The Ripper MIPS helmet was sold in one size, fitting head circumference from 53 cm to 61 cm (20.9 to 24.0 inches).

      The helmets were sold in matte colors: black, white, blue, gray, green, pink and purple. “Sweet Protection” is printed on the side of the helmets.

      All helmets have the manufacturing date printed inside the helmet with 2019 as the production year and a number between 9 and 12 as the production month. The model name is printed on a label on the rear back side of the helmet. 

      The bicycle helmets are tested and certified according to the European standard for bicycle helmets, EN1078 and were only meant to be sold in the European market.

      The helmets, manufactured in China, were sold at Evo and Rogers Ski and Sport sporting goods stores in California, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, and online at Expert Voice Pro Purchase (www.expertvoice.com) from February 2020, through June 2020, for between $50 and $90.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled helmets and return them to the store where sold or contact Active Brands/Sweet Protection for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Active Brands at (800) 364-4385 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (MT) Monday through Friday, by email at orders.na@activebrands.com or online at www.sweetprotection.com for more information.

      Active Brands NA of Broomfield, Colo., is recalling about 300 Sweet Protection brand Ripper Jr., Ripper MIPS Jr., and Ripper MIPS bicycle helmets. The h...
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      Model year 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 recalled

      The windshield may separate from the vehicle

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2020 GLE 450.

      The windshield may not have been bonded correctly to the vehicle, possibly allowing it to separate from the vehicle and affect the full protective function of the passenger's front airbag in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify the owner, and a dealer will inspect the windshield bonding and repair it -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 28, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2020 GLE 450. The windshield may not have been bonded correctly to the vehicle, possibly allowing ...
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      9 great products to help your aging dog

      Check out these great items for your aging pup

      Our furry pals are our best friends, and, as they age, they might need a little more support than they did as young pups. Here are some of our favorite items to help your pet stay comfortable as they grow older.

      1. Support harness

      This device can help your dog stand up, get out of cars and make other movements that become more difficult as they age. The handy and portable dog sling can be quickly wrapped around your dog to support their progress. It’s soft and cozy on the inside, so that your furry friend will feel safe and secure.

      • Heavy-duty nylon band
      • Portable gift bag included

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Dog stroller

      If you have a small dog that needs more support than a sling harness provides, try using a dog stroller. This stroller lets your pet go on their well-loved walks without the discomfort your dog might feel when walking long distances.

      • Supports dogs up to 15 pounds
      • Foldable

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Stairs for pets

      If your dog is a couch or bed sleeper, be sure to get them some little stairs so they won’t strain their muscles by making a too-big leap! Jumping off something tall — like a bed — may be rough on older pets’ spines and ligaments. These sturdy foam stairs give them a boost.

      • Foldable
      • 2 sizes and 8 colors available

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Ramp for dogs

      If you are worried about your dog jumping out of the car or taking the stairs outside, consider using a pet ramp. This portable ramp is durable and has plenty of traction to support your pet as they get down from SUVs or other high entrances. Like some of the other tips listed, this may help your pet’s aging hips and spines stay healthy.

      • Supports up to 150 pounds
      • 62” x 16” x 4”

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Heated blanket

      Some older pets might get colder than they used to, especially in the winter. They don’t move or produce quite as much heat as they did as little pups, so invest in a self-warming pet bed for your dog that retains some body heat. This blanket keeps your pet snug and warm during the colder months without needing a heated blanket with electrical cords.

      • Multiple sizes and colors available
      • Machine washable

      Buy on Amazon

      6. Orthopedic dog bed

      Maybe your older dog doesn’t need help with warmth but does have a hard time getting out of his pet bed. Older pets often need extra support on their neck, hips and joints when they rest. Try using an orthopedic foam bed for your dog, which helps cushion pressure points, distribute body weight and improve air circulation.

      • Multiple sizes and colors available
      • 90-day limited coverage against material defects

      Buy on Amazon

      7. In-between baths spray

      You might notice that it’s harder to go through the struggle of bathing as your dog ages. Getting them into a tub is harder than when they were young, and getting warm post-bath might be a struggle. If you find yourself giving your pet fewer baths due to their age, pick up this waterless shampoo to use between washings.

      • No water needed
      • pH-balanced, alcohol-free, paraben-free, PEG-80-free

      Buy on Amazon

      8. Stimulating dog toy

      Keep your pet mentally engaged with their toys! Puzzle toys challenge your dog mentally and focus their energy on playful fun. This interactive toy features plush squirrels hiding in their little tree home, ready to be found by your furry friend.

      • Teeth- and gum-friendly
      • Both chew and fetch toy

      Buy on Amazon

      9. Pill pocket chews

      Your pet may have more prescription pills from the vet than they used to. Those pills help keep your dog in the best shape, but it can be hard to get them to take all the medications they need. Pop those tablets into these pill buddies to transform your dog’s pills into treats.

      • No corn, wheat, soy or artificial ingredients
      • Made with real peanut butter and honey

      Buy on Amazon

      Your pet may be getting older, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do most of the same things they did when they were a puppy. With some extra work and a few additional products, you can help your furry best friend live an active and full life. To help cover additional expenses that might spring up as your pet ages, be sure to research pet insurance.

      Explore our fantastic list of items you can purchase for your aging dog....
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      Coronavirus update: Millennials are taking the biggest financial hit, UNC pivots to all online classes

      New York is preparing to reopen gyms

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,446,223 (5,408,268)

      Total U.S. deaths: 170,586 (170,131)

      Total global cases: 21,927,114 (21,720,713)

      Total global deaths: 775,000 (776,127)

      Millennials bearing the heaviest financial burden

      The coronavirus has taken a financial toll on millions of Americans, but new research suggests millennials have been hit the hardest. The multi-generational poll from Healthinsurance.com shows that 60 percent of millennials have been impacted financially, more than any other age group.

      Fifty-two percent of millennials said they have been forced to postpone receiving medical care during the pandemic because of the cost.

      Baby boomers were the least impacted generation, with only 37 percent reporting financial hardships during COVID-19. Across three generations, three in 10 respondents say they or someone they know has lost their health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      University of North Carolina pivots after one week

      The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill opened classes last week with on-campus instruction. This week, after an outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) among the student body, the school pivoted to online instruction.

      As of Monday, UNC reported 135 new cases since the start of school, including 130 among students, with multiple separate clusters. More troubling was the number of tests that yielded positive results --13.6 percent between August 10 and August 16.

      “As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation,” university officials said in a joint statement.

      New York preparing to reopen gyms

      After they remove the cobwebs from the treadmills, gyms in New York will be opening again next week for the first time in five months. The gyms, along with restaurants, were among the first facilities to close during the pandemic.

      Gov. Andrew Cuomo said gyms can resume operations at 33 percent of their capacity, as long as they comply with state health requirements. Visitors and staff will be required to wear masks inside the facilities, and gyms will be subject to new ventilation requirements. 

      Cuomo said the reopening of athletic facilities is being made possible by New York’s tough coronavirus mitigation measures, which have resulted in a significant drop in cases and hospitalizations in the state.

      Quest Diagnostics promises speedier test results

      Quest Diagnostics, one of two major testing laboratories in the U.S., is promising that it has its coronavirus testing timelines under control.

      In a statement, the company said it has cut its turnaround time for coronavirus diagnostic tests from more than seven days to one to two days. It’s a reversal from a couple of weeks ago when the company warned that it might not be able to keep up with COVID-19 tests in the midst of the flu season.

      “We now have ample capacity to accommodate incoming orders,” the company said in a statement.

      Study: Nurses were already burned out before COVID-19

      A new study in BMJ Quality & Safety suggests that many hospitals in New York and Illinois were understaffed right before the first surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients, putting those institutions at a disadvantage as they tried to cope with the unfolding health care crisis.

      The study concluded that New York City, an international gateway to the U.S. with three major international airports and the early epicenter of the COVID-19 surge, was particularly ill-equipped to handle the cases, with nursing staff at hospitals already being overworked.

      “Half of the nurses right before the COVID-19 emergency scored in the high burnout range due to high workloads, and one in five nurses said they planned to leave their jobs within a year,” said lead author Karen Lasater, PhD, RN, and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. 

      Around the nation

      • Arizona: The school year has gotten off to a rocky start in Arizona. One large school district called off plans to reopen this week after teachers staged a “sick out” on Monday, the day classes were set to resume.

      • Texas: Young people aren’t the only ones feeling the urge to party. A Hillsboro assisted living facility threw a wild party for residents, complete with cocktails and temporary tattoos. But unlike the young people frequenting bars, residents had no contact with anyone on the outside. 

      • Florida: Infection numbers are moving in the right direction in the Sunshine State. Health officials say the number of new cases reported on Monday was the lowest since mid-June. The number of patients admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 is also falling.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,446,223 (5,408,26...
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      A strong social network can protect against depression, study finds

      Forming strong connections with friends or family can help consumers manage symptoms

      As cases of depression continue to grow nationwide, researchers are always looking for ways to treat the condition. A new study conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that having a strong social network could help protect against depression. 

      “Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but until now researchers have focused on only a handful of risk and protective factors, often in just one or two domains,” said researcher Karmel Choi, PhD. “Our study provides the most comprehensive picture to date of modifiable factors that could impact depression risk.” 

      Staying socially engaged

      To understand potential risk factors associated with depression, the researchers evaluated data from the U.K. Biobank. This study included responses from over 100,000 participants and assessed depression-related risks like screen time, physical activity, and sleeping habits, among several others. 

      Of all of the risk factors they looked at, the researchers learned that having strong social connections was the most effective in terms of protecting against depression. Participants reported better mental health outcomes when they had cherished relationships in their lives, regardless of whether it was with friends or family. Having that network of people around for support and social engagement was crucial to reducing depression-related symptoms. 

      “Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with friends and family, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion,” said researcher Dr. Jordan Smoller. “These factors are more relevant now than ever at a time of social distancing and separation from friends and family.” 

      While depression affects everyone differently, and there’s no single approach to improving such symptoms, these findings are an important piece of the puzzle when thinking about mental health. The researchers hope that more work can be done in this area to better understand the risks and protective factors associated with depression. 

      “Depression takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society, yet we still know very little about how to prevent it,” said Dr. Smoller. “We’ve shown that it’s now possible to address these questions of broad public health significance through a large-scale, data-based approach that wasn’t available even a few years ago. We hope this work will motivate further efforts to develop actionable strategies for preventing depression.” 

      As cases of depression continue to grow nationwide, researchers are always looking for ways to treat the condition. A new study conducted by researchers fr...
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      Wegmans recalls Valencia Oranges, lemons and products with fresh lemon

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Wegmans Food Markets is recalling Valencia Oranges, lemons, bulk lemons, and various-store produced seafood and restaurant foods items containing fresh lemon.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to Wegmans or its supplier.

      The following items, sold between July 31 and August 7, 2020, in Wegmans stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Brooklyn and Harrison, N.Y., are being recalled:

      • Wegmans 4-lb Bag Valencia Oranges – UPC: 7789052363
      • Wegmans 2-lb Bag Lemons – UPC: 7789015917
      • Wegmans bulk lemons – UPC: 4033

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products may return them to the service desk for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Wegmans at (855) 934-3663 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

      Wegmans Food Markets is recalling Valencia Oranges, lemons, bulk lemons, and various-store produced seafood and restaurant foods items containing fresh lem...
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      6 ways to help maintain your immune system

      A balanced immune system is important to stave off illness

      This article is for informational purposes only. Consult your local medical authority for health advice.

      With current concerns about COVID-19 and flu season around the corner, many people are worried about getting sick. You need a healthy immune system to defend against germs and pathogens that manage to slip past hand sanitizer. We have some practical tips to keep your immune system balanced.

      1. Exercise often

      Regular exercise promotes healthy circulation, which lets your blood cells work more efficiently. According to an article in the Journal of British Sports Medicine, “[p]erceived physical fitness and frequency of aerobic exercise are important correlates of reduced days with URT (upper respiratory tract infection) and severity of symptoms during the winter and fall common cold seasons.”

      2. Get enough sleep

      Sleep is essential to keeping our bodies healthy. Adults should get seven or more hours per night, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Researchers found that “sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes” in a recent study by the University of Tübingen and the University of Lübeck, Germany. Basically, by prioritizing a full sleep cycle, you can help your immune system.

      3. Quit smoking

      As if there aren’t enough reasons to quit smoking, here’s another one: it’s terrible for your immune system. As stated by the CDC, smoking hurts your overall health, including inflammation and decreased immune function. So if you're a smoker, it’s best for your immune system if you quit. Visit your local pharmacy to explore options that can help you kick this habit.

      4. Cut back on stress

      Look for ways to reduce or relieve stress in your life, such as meditation and exercise. American Psychological Association research has found links between the mind and body. This could mean that managing your psychological health — including stress — may be beneficial to your immune system response. Gandhi said it best: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

      5. Manage a proper diet

      Most of us know that eating sugary cereal for breakfast is, well, less than healthy. Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, an assistant professor of medicine at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, states that nutrition plays a crucial role in your overall immune system health. Some of Dr. Surampudi’s suggestions include:

      • Limit red meat consumption
      • Introduce more vegetables in your diet
      • Eat whole grains
      • Eliminate sugary drinks
      • Drink more water

      Drinking 10 full glasses of water each day helps keep you hydrated, stimulates your metabolism and helps your immune system. Try to cut out added sugars in sweets or other carbohydrates and stick with fruit as dessert. It might sound difficult, but you can feel so much better!

      6. Avoid germs

      One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy immune system is to avoid germs altogether. Cases of the flu are often spread from person to person. Or, you might unknowingly touch something that a sick person coughed on. Some practical ways to protect your immune system from viruses and bacteria include:

      • Wash your hands as much as possible
      • Try not to touch your face before you’ve washed your hands
      • Socially distance around groups of people
      • Wear a mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE)
      • Adhere to COVID-19 quarantine protocols per the CDC
      • 5 strong layers of protection
      • 95%+ filtration efficiency

      Shop on Honest PPE Supply

      The flu season can vary because there are different strains throughout the year, but it usually starts to pick up around fall and winter. You can help keep your immune system strong with regular exercise, rest, plenty of water and nutritious food. Your immune system health is a daily journey of doing what's best for your body and mind!

      6 ways to help maintain your immune system...
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      Coronavirus update: Having the virus may provide lasting immunity, conflicting advice about bandanas

      Obesity risks aren’t the same for all patients

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,408,268 (5,379,914)

      Total U.S. deaths: 170,131 (169,745)

      Total global cases: 21,720,713 (21,527,747)

      Total global deaths: 776,127 (772,370)

      Immunologists: lasting immunity even after a mild infection

      If you’ve had the coronavirus (COVID-19), even a mild case, here’s some good news. A series of studies conclude that you might not have to worry about the virus in the future.

      The studies found that antibodies and immune cells that can fight the virus were found in former patients’ blood months after they had recovered. The findings give hope to doctors who have counted on “herd immunity” to eventually defeat the virus.

      “This is exactly what you would hope for,” Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington who authored one of the new studies told the New York Times. “All the pieces are there to have a totally protective immune response.”

      The studies have not yet been peer-reviewed.

      Conflicting data on the effectiveness of bandanas and neck gaiters

      The five months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been marked by a lot of conflicting information as scientists try to learn more about a new virus. Lately, some of the conflicting information has extended to face coverings.

      Researchers at Duke University have published a study contending that bandanas and neck gaiters are among the worst choices you can make when selecting a face covering. They say the two items are actually worse than wearing no face covering at all.

      But medical researchers at West Virginia University have an opposing view, saying a gaiter, assuming it’s properly fitted, will provide a respiratory containment of exhaled droplets comparable to a common over-the-ear cloth mask. They admit that the cloth provides no filtration but say tests show they do limit the spread of exhaled droplets.

      The risk to obese patients isn’t always the same

      Doctors noticed from the start that people who are obese are at increased risk of death from the coronavirus. But now they have discovered that not all obese people are affected in the same way.

      Researchers at Kaiser Permanente found that the risk of death from COVID-19 associated with obesity disproportionately affects men and people under 60 years of age.

      "Although this study examines a variety of factors that may be associated with risk of death from COVID-19, our main objective in this paper was to understand risk related to obesity, and obesity-associated chronic conditions in our health care system," said lead researcher, Sara Tartof, PhD, MPH, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation.

      Pre-existing heart conditions may increase death risk, study finds

      While the coronavirus appears to affect the lungs and respiratory systems of people who get the illness, it also can cause heart problems, especially in patients with a history of cardiovascular illness.

      An Italian study published in PLOS ONE found that patients with pre-existing heart conditions are more likely to develop cardiovascular complications while hospitalized, and they’re more likely to die from COVID-19 infection.

      Cardiovascular complications were observed during the hospital stay of 14 percent of the COVID-19 patients with a history of heart ailments. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that pre-existing cardiovascular risk factors were significant predictors of cardiovascular complications but age and gender were not.

      The great pepperoni shortage

      Pizza restaurants across the nation that have seen their business boom since late March, when Americans were told to shelter in place, are reportedly having trouble finding their customers’ favorite topping. 

      Bloomberg reports that pizza restaurants across the nation are now facing a growing shortage of pepperoni, and the cost of that popular topping has nearly doubled. The report attributes the shortage to two factors -- production problems at some meat plants that have reduced output and growing demand from consumers over the last five months.

      Smaller “mom and pop” shops have been hit hardest. According to Bloomberg, Charlie’s Pizza House in Yankton, South Dakota was paying $2.87 a pound for its supplies of pepperoni in January. Now, the price is $4.12 a pound. One independent New York eatery has seen its pepperoni cost go from $4 a pound to $6.

      Around the nation

      • Michigan: A dispute over wearing a mask turned deadly after a state employee reportedly stabbed a man during the heated argument. The suspect was later fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy. Authorities say the suspect had been reprimanded three times over workplace issues.

      • Maine: Tiny Homes of Maine, a specialty builder, says business is booming during the pandemic. The owners say demand has increased for “tiny homes” for a number of reasons, but the main reason is the financial insecurity many residents are feeling. 

      • New York: A mass exodus from New York City and stringent pandemic-related requirements have some giving up on America’s largest city. One of the latest is best-selling author and hedge fund trader James Altucher, who says the city is “dead forever.” He added that his temporary relocation may become permanent.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,408,268 (5,379,91...
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      FDA grants emergency use authorization to new COVID-19 saliva test

      Yale scientists say the test is ‘simpler, less expensive, and less invasive’ than the standard nasal swab test

      The FDA has granted emergency use approval to a “groundbreaking” COVID-19 saliva test used on NBA players and staff. 

      The test, dubbed “SalivaDirect,” was developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. It doesn’t rely on additional components, meaning it’s less likely to see the same testing shortages that have been seen with the standard coronavirus nasal swab test. 

      The results of a June study on NBA players (chosen because they are tested regularly, are in close contact with one another, and don't wear face coverings) showed that the test was “simpler, less expensive, and less invasive than the traditional method for such testing.” 

      SalivaDirect “is being further validated as a test for asymptomatic individuals through a program that tests players and staff from the National Basketball Association (NBA),” Yale said in a news release. “Results so far have found that SalivaDirect is highly sensitive and yields similar outcomes as NP swabbing.” 

      Now that the FDA has issued emergency use authorization, the testing method has been made “immediately available to other diagnostic laboratories that want to start using the new test,” Yale said. 

      Making testing more accessible 

      Because saliva is quickly and easily collected, the new test can help decrease testing times and costs, the researchers said. 

      “Wide-spread testing is critical for our control efforts. We simplified the test so that it only costs a couple of dollars for reagents, and we expect that labs will only charge about $10 per sample. If cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic, even before a vaccine,” said Nathan Grubaugh, associate research scientist at Yale. 

      Grubaugh said he expects labs to charge about $10 per sample.

      "If cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic, even before a vaccine," Grubaugh said, according to the Yale news release.

      The FDA has granted emergency use approval to a “groundbreaking” COVID-19 saliva test used on NBA players and staff. The test, dubbed “SalivaDirect,” w...
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      Social distancing measures have slowed the spread of COVID-19, study finds

      Researchers say that more states should adopt such policies to bring the number of cases down

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers have grown accustomed to wearing face masks and socially distancing when out in public. 

      Now, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have found that following social distancing guidelines is an effective way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Findings from their new study revealed that just a few weeks of staying physically distant can lower both the number of COVID cases and the number of related deaths. 

      “Many have strongly suspected that physical distancing policies helped interrupt COVID-19 transmission during the early days of the U.S. epidemic,” said researcher Dr. Mark J. Siedner. “This study adds clear evidence to support those suspicions. The results show the timing of government-issued orders correlated strongly with reductions in both cases and deaths. In short, these measures work, and policymakers should use them as an arrow in their quivers to get on top of local epidemics where they are not responding to containment measures.” 

      The benefits of staying physically distant

      To gauge the efficacy of social distancing measures, the researchers analyzed nationwide data from the first five months of COVID-19. This included detailed state-by-state information on closures of everything from schools to local businesses. With this information, the researchers then tracked how the virus spread in each state, as well as the number of deaths occurred in each region. 

      Overall, the study revealed that social distancing measures were effective in containing the spread of COVID-19. It didn’t take very long for such measures to prove their effectiveness: in less than one month, over 620,000 cases had been prevented. As daily case counts dropped, the number of coronavirus-related deaths also dropped while social distancing rules were implemented. 

      The researchers explained that it’s impossible to know which -- if any -- of these closures were the most effective, as many states began closing public facilities around the same time. However, the numbers show that efforts to reduce the number of people in public spaces are effective when it comes to slowing the spread of coronavirus. 

      Moving forward, the researchers hope that lawmakers can understand the significance of these findings and continue to put them into practice, especially as trends around the virus continue to change. 

      “This is a case where past success does not predict future control,” said Dr. Siedner. “Until a vaccine is made available and widely deployed in an equitable fashion, we have few other options. Fortunately, our data shows that these measures work -- if we have the wherewithal to use them.” 

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers have grown accustomed to wearing face masks and socially distancing when out in public. Now, r...
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      Delta Air Lines takes on an employee-wide coronavirus testing program

      Infected employees are being asked to quarantine while receiving full pay

      While other airlines are canceling routes and pulling back on sanitization efforts, Delta Air Lines continues to trudge forward with anti-coronavirus moves to keep both employees and customers healthy and safe onboard. 

      Adding to its enforcement of facial coverings for all passengers, requiring travelers to certify that their health is in tip-top shape, and mandating that if a passenger can’t wear mask that they take a COVID-19 test, the airline is now testing nearly 100 percent of the airline’s workforce for the coronavirus by the end of the August. About half of Delta’s active employees have been tested so far.

      “Our customers want to know that the people caring for them while traveling are healthy,” said Joanne Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer. “Providing COVID-19 testing for all of our people is an important action we can take to keep employees, their families and our customers safe, increasing confidence in travel while doing our part to slow and stop the spread of the virus.”

      If a Delta employee tests positive

      Delta argues that testing its entire 75,000-strong employee roster will reduce exposure to others and ensure that asymptomatic individuals have time to recover at home. To pull this off, Delta has brought in the Mayo Clinic to help develop a strategy based on tailored risk assessments. 

      To help create a healthier workplace long-term and curb the rate of infection, the Mayo Clinic will also review and evaluate Delta’s health and safety practices on everything from infection prevention measures to workforce risk assessments. If one of Delta’s employees tests positive for COVID-19, they will be required to isolate at home for a minimum of 10 days while receiving full pay. 

      For employees who have been exposed to others with COVID-19 but have not tested positive, they are required to remain out of the workplace for 14 days from the date of exposure. They will also receive full pay protection. 

      Delta is also offering employees the option of being tested for COVID-19 antibodies at all of its major U.S. hubs and at more than 2,000 Quest Diagnostic locations nationwide – free of charge.

      Delta’s efforts are paying off

      While the rest of the world has been waiting for a vaccine or the launch of the newly approved quick-to-administer saliva test, Delta has been working hard to make sure anything a customer touches that’s related to the airline is as safe as possible. That effort seems to be paying off.

      “The infection rate among our customer-facing employees is below the national average and shows that our Delta CareStandard measures are working,” Smith said. “While we're encouraged by our results, we know we can’t afford to let up now. Health experts agree that a multi-layered approach – one that includes testing, symptom-checking, mask-wearing, environmental cleaning and physical distancing – are the greatest inhibitors to spreading COVID-19 and will play a critical role in keeping our people safe in the weeks and months ahead.”

      While other airlines are canceling routes and pulling back on sanitization efforts, Delta Air Lines continues to trudge forward with anti-coronavirus moves...
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      Apple broadens its independent repair program to include Mac computers

      More authorized repair shops means more options for consumers

      Apple is expanding a major portion of its repair program. On Monday, the company announced that its existing repair arrangement that allows independent repair shops to work on iPhones is now going to include Mac computers, as well.

      While the company didn’t come right out and say it, COVID-19 had to have a play in the decision. When a consumer goes to Apple’s repair site, they’re confronted with a heads-up that “Apple support options are currently limited. Thank you for your patience and understanding.” 

      Only last month, Apple announced plans to convert retail staff to online assistance in the face of the pandemic.

      No more playing favorites

      In Reuter’s reporting of the shift, Apple’s recasting of how repairs are handled comes after many years of complaints from right-to-repair groups that had criticized the company for playing favorites with companies like Best Buy. 

      The biggest beef from those groups whas that Apple provided genuine parts and training manuals to them and completely cut others out of the picture. Another major complaint -- especially from smaller shops -- was that Apple’s repair authorization program demanded a commitment to a certain volume of repairs that they’d have a hard time honoring.

      Apple’s strict standards didn’t stop others from pretending to be Apple-authorized, though. If a consumer is looking to replace a battery in their MacBook Pro and searches for “repair my Mac near me,” they’d be hit with a number of repair shops that say they can offer that service. 

      However, when ConsumerAffairs checked out some of those shops, many didn’t show up in Apple’s database of Authorized Service Providers and Independent Repair Providers.

      Hopefully, all that will change soon. With the enhancement of its independent repair program, Apple will begin distributing parts and providing free training courses to independent repair shops, giving them all the tools they need to perform out-of-warranty work.

      Apple is expanding a major portion of its repair program. On Monday, the company announced that its existing repair arrangement that allows independent rep...
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      Homes are selling faster than new listings are coming on the market

      The median home price has hit a record high in three of the last four months

      Increases in home prices are accelerating because there still aren’t enough homes on the market, industry sources report.

      Real estate broker Redfin tracked July sales and reports that the median home price rose 8.2 percent to $323,800. It’s the third record high in four months and has been driven in part by record-low mortgage rates. But the lack of inventory is also a major factor.

      "The housing market is intense right now," said Jimmy Martinez, a Redfin agent in Albuquerque. "We've got about half as many homes for sale as there were at this time last year, met by a big surge in people moving here from across the country in addition to lots of local homebuyers, all of which has pushed prices up dramatically from last year."

      By Redfin’s count, home prices are increasing at the fastest rate in more than two years. Prices are rising in all but one of the largest 85 housing markets that Redfin tracks. Honolulu, already one of the nation’s priciest markets, is the only metro where prices didn’t go up.

      Meanwhile, the median sale price surged 16.8 percent in Birmingham, Ala., The price increased 16.5 percent in Bridgeport, Conn., and 14.3 percent in Fort Lauderdale.

      Zillow confirms the price acceleration

      In a separate report, real estate marketplace Zillow confirmed the price acceleration and reported that newly pending sales are up nearly 17 percent, suggesting demand could push prices even higher.

      While new listings increased in July, Zillow’s housing experts say it wasn’t enough to keep up with demand. Inventory levels have fallen below where they were at this time in 2019.

      Zillow reports that demand for homes is at a record pace. Newly pending sales are rising more than 1 percent from week to week. Homes that sold during the first week of August typically went under contract after 13 days, which is 11 days faster than during the same period last year and a new record low in Zillow data that dates back to the start of 2019.

      Zillow found the fastest-selling large markets to be Cincinnati, Columbus, Kansas City, and Raleigh. In those markets, the average seller got a contract offer after the property was on the market for only four days.

      Home prices are rising to the point that housing experts at the University of Arizona recently warned that today’s buyers may not be able to sell their property in the future. Millennials, many of whom are still paying off student loans, may not be able to afford a home if prices continue to rise.

      Increases in home prices are accelerating because there still aren’t enough homes on the market, industry sources report.Real estate broker Redfin trac...
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      Mortgage delinquencies rise to over 8 percent as pandemic wears on

      Homeowners are struggling more than ever to make their mortgage payments

      The coronavirus pandemic has had a severely negative impact on homeowners in recent months. While mortgage rates have been very low in recent weeks, delinquencies have been spiking since the spring.

      Unfortunately, that trend appears to be showing no sign of slowing down. In a recent survey, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported that the delinquency rate for one-to-four-unit residential properties spiked to 8.22 percent. That represents an increase of 386 basis points since the first quarter of the year.

      “The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on some homeowner’s ability to make their mortgage payments could not be more apparent,” said MBA vice president of Industry Analysis Marina Walsh. “The nearly 4 percentage point jump in the delinquency rate was the biggest quarterly rise in the history of the MBA’s survey. The second quarter results also mark the highest overall delinquency rate in nine years, and a survey-high rate for FHA loans.”

      Delinquencies may remain at high levels

      Walsh notes that the states that have experienced the highest rate increases for mortgage delinquencies -- New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Florida, and Hawaii -- are also areas that rely heavily on the hospitality and leisure industries. This makes sense since many workers would have lost their jobs and income as travel came to a standstill and quarantine restrictions were put in place.

      While there has been some recovery in the job market over the summer, Walsh says too many financial and health uncertainties are keeping homeowners on the backfoot. They may also be forced into a corner due to uncertainty about the prospect of more financial relief coming from the government.

      “There is no way to sugarcoat a 32.9 percent drop in GDP during the second quarter,” she said. “Certain homeowners, particularly those with FHA loans, will continue to be impacted by this crisis, and delinquencies are likely to stay at elevated levels for the foreseeable future.”

      While things may seem particularly dire for homeowners, Walsh says it’s important to note that there are factors working in their favor. 

      “Fortunately, there are several mitigating factors that make this current spike in mortgage delinquencies different from the Great Recession. These factors include home-price gains, several years of home equity accumulation, and the loan deferral and modification options that present alternatives to foreclosure for distressed homeowners,” Walsh said. 

      Consumers can find more information about the MBA’s survey findings by visiting its website here.

      The coronavirus pandemic has had a severely negative impact on homeowners in recent months. While mortgage rates have been very low in recent weeks, delinq...
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      Ford Edges and Lincoln MKXs recalled

      The vehicles may leak brake fluid

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 75,000 model year 2015-18 Ford Edges and model year 2016-18 Lincoln MKXs.

      The front brake jounce hoses could rupture causing a progressive brake fluid leak.

      If the brake fluid reservoir is depleted below a certain level, the brake fluid warning indicator light will illuminate. The driver may experience an increase in brake pedal travel, together with a reduction in the rate of deceleration, increasing the risk of a crash.

      Ford is not aware of any reports of accidents or injuries.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners and dealers will replace the front brake jounce hoses with new hoses that have a revised braid material.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S42.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 75,000 model year 2015-18 Ford Edges and model year 2016-18 Lincoln MKXs.The front brake jounce hoses could ruptu...
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      Taylor Farms recalls products containing onions

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Taylor Farms Texas of Dallas, Texas, is recalling products containing onions.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There are no reports of illnesses to date.

      A list of the recalled products, distributed from July 30, 2020 through August 1, 2020, may be found here.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with question may call the company at (855) 455-0098 from 9 am – 5 pm (CST) Monday through Friday.

      Taylor Farms Texas of Dallas, Texas, is recalling products containing onions. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. There are no reports ...
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      Additional pandemic relief aid appears very much in doubt

      Republicans and Democrats admit that they’re hopelessly deadlocked

      When Congress failed to reach a compromise last week on a new coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package, it was hoped that lawmakers would work something out this week. They haven’t.

      The Senate has now joined the House on a month-long vacation after taking no action to help millions of Americans cope with the economic impact of the pandemic. Nearly 51 million Americans are unemployed. Until July 31, many were getting an extra $600 a week from the federal government to supplement state benefits. That’s now gone.

      Besides employees who have been laid off, many small business owners are also feeling the pinch. Last month, Yelp estimated that 55 percent of the businesses that closed will never reopen.

      Until the end of July, there was also a moratorium in place to prevent people from being evicted from their homes while they got back on their feet. That provision has also expired.

      Congress appears to agree that Americans impacted by the coronavirus need additional help. But that’s as far as the agreement goes. By their own admission, Republicans and Democrats are extremely far apart in their effort to craft an economic aid package.

      No resumption date in sight

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she doesn’t know when talks will resume, but she told reporters that Democrats have one requirement -- that Republicans agree to spend at least $2 trillion for the total package. The original Democratic aid bill passed by the House in March called for spending $3.5 trillion.

      Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion package and have criticized the Democrats’ bill, accusing lawmakers on the other side of the aisle of loading it down with non-aid provisions.

      White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC that Democrats are asking for “too much money” and insisting on unrelated provisions, such as making it safer for people to vote during the pandemic, calling it part of “liberal, left wish lists” that won’t fly at the White House.

      “So far, it’s a stalemate,” Kudlow said.

      Disagreements over aid

      The two sides are also very far apart on basic things like food assistance. Pelosi says Democrats are calling for more than $60 billion to provide food assistance but claims a Republican counter-measure called for only $250,000. 

      Pelosi also said the $3 trillion House bill passed in May included $100 billion to help people pay their rent and mortgages, but she says the Senate measure did not include any additional funds. 

      The rhetoric became more heated this week, not a good sign for consumers hoping for an additional lifeline from Washington. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to suggest that Democrats started bargaining with an inflated number so they could appear reasonable by settling for a lower amount.

      Political realities may be having undue influence on the standoff. Pelosi candidly confirms that the House won’t consider spending anything less than $2 trillion. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has called $2 trillion “a non-starter.”

      In an election year, when neither side believes it should compromise, the outlook for the millions of Americans who could use some help, as the virus shows no sign of abating, doesn’t appear all that promising.

      When Congress failed to reach a compromise last week on a new coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package, it was hoped that lawmakers would work something out t...
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      Appeals court says Amazon can be held liable for third-party sellers’ defective products

      The decision could have great consequences for the online retailer going forward

      An appeals court has ruled that Amazon can be held liable for any defective product sold on its Marketplace, at least in California. 

      The backstory behind the decision is rather simple: an Amazon customer purchased a laptop battery from a third-party seller on Amazon. Amazon charged the customer for the purchase and then retrieved and shipped the laptop battery to the customer in Amazon-branded packaging. However, the customer alleges that the battery exploded several months later, causing third-degree burns. 

      The customer sued everyone related to the product, including Amazon and the third-party seller. The suit claimed causes of action for strict products liability, negligent products liability, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and “negligence/negligent undertaking.” 

      The third-party seller was served a summons to appear but never showed up, leaving a wrinkle that Amazon used to move for summary judgment, arguing that the product liability didn’t apply to it because it had nothing to do with distributing, manufacturing, or selling the defective battery. It claimed its website was nothing more than an “online marketplace” and that it was the third-party seller that should be held responsible instead. 

      The trial court agreed, granted Amazon’s motion, and entered judgment accordingly in 2019. But the decision reached Thursday by the appeals court reverses that ruling and brings into question whether Amazon will be held liable for other defective products in the future.

      The shape of things to come

      Unless the appeals court’s ruling is undone by another court, the fact that Amazon -- or any online consumer goods platform -- is responsible in a situation like the one detailed above could carry a grim outlook.

      For years, Amazon has maintained that it only serves as a go-between in a sale between a buyer and a third-party seller that operates on the Amazon Marketplace. Taking that posture has protected the company from other legal actions, but now that could all change. 

      Appeals court says Amazon can be liable for third-party sellers’ defective productsThe decision could have great consequences for online retailers goin...
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      Researchers discover ‘One Click’ security flaw in Amazon’s Alexa

      Attackers could access voice history records and more to extract personal information

      Researchers have discovered vulnerabilities in Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa. 

      In a report published Thursday, researchers from Check Point said they found that attackers could exploit a flaw in Amazon’s Alexa that could enable them to extract personal information. 

      “We conducted this research to highlight how securing these devices is critical to maintaining users’ privacy,” wrote Oded Vanunu, head of products vulnerabilities research at Check Point. “Alexa has concerned us for a while now, given its ubiquity and connection to IoT devices. It’s these mega digital platforms that can hurt us the most. Therefore, their security levels are of crucial importance.”

      Requires just one click of a malicious link

      The team said they found several web application flaws on Alexa-related subdomains, including Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) and Cross-Site Scripting (XSS). 

      The presence of these vulnerabilities could enable attackers to access personal information like home addresses or banking data, remotely install or remove skills on a user’s Alexa account, or extract the victim’s voice history. 

      “Successful exploitation would have required just one click on an Amazon link that has been specially crafted by the attacker,” said Dikla Barda, of Checkpoint Research, who helped discover the vulnerabilities.

      The team noted that Amazon doesn’t record users’ banking login credentials, but that information could be extracted via recorded interactions with the smart assistant. 

      “Since we have access to the chat history, we can access the victim’s interaction with the bank skill and get their data history,” said researchers. “We can also get usernames and phone numbers, depending on the skills installed on the user’s Alexa account.”

      Prime targets to attackers

      Given how many consumers use virtual assistants, Check Point said these devices are “attractive targets to attackers looking to steal private and sensitive information, or to disrupt an individual’s smart home environment.” 

      “Smart speakers and virtual assistants are so commonplace that it’s easy to overlook just how much personal data they hold, and their role in controlling other smart devices in our homes,” Vanunu said. “But hackers see them as entry points into peoples’ lives, giving them the opportunity to access data, eavesdrop on conversations or conduct other malicious actions without the owner being aware.”

      These devices “must be kept secured at all times to keep hackers from infiltrating our smart homes,” the researchers added. 

      Researchers have discovered vulnerabilities in Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa. In a report published Thursday, researchers from Check Point said the...
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      Pollution could contribute to antibiotic resistance, study finds

      Researchers say burning fossil fuels and certain agricultural processes could be to blame

      Antibiotic resistance is a widespread issue, as some superbugs have adapted to withstand the antibacterial powers of hand sanitizer. 

      Now, researchers from the University of Georgia are looking at how environmental factors could play a role in antibiotic resistance. According to their findings, pollution could increase the incidence of antibiotic resistance nationwide. 

      “The overuse of antibiotics in the environment adds additional selection pressure on microorganisms that accelerates their ability to resist multiple classes of antibiotics,” said researcher Jesse C. Thomas IV. “But antibiotics aren’t the only source of selection pressure. Many bacteria possess genes that simultaneously work on multiple compounds that would be toxic to the cell, and this includes metals.” 

      Environmental pressures

      To understand how pollution can affect antibiotic resistance, the researchers analyzed soil samples from four spots in South Carolina. They evaluated the genetic make-up of the soil in order to determine any present bacteria that could be resistant to antibiotics. 

      The researchers also paid particularly close attention to the effect of metals in the samples, as heavy metals aren’t biodegradable. This means that the effects of such contamination can last indefinitely. Ultimately, the team learned that the soil samples that were most contaminated by heavy metals were the most likely to contain antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

      The study also revealed that there was a great deal of overlap between antibiotic-resistant genes and metal-resistant genes within the samples. This is important because heavy metals are often associated with antibiotic resistance, so this likely amplifies the resistance to traditional treatment methods. 

      Specifically, the researchers found that these soil samples resisted the powers of three commonly used antibiotics that are used to treat infections: polymyxin, vancomycin, and bacitracin. 

      Though the researchers plan to do more research on the relationship between metal resistance and antibiotic resistance, these findings are important because they can help identify how actions associated with pollution can contribute to antibiotic resistance. 

      “We need a better understanding of how bacteria are evolving over time,” said Thomas. “This can impact our drinking water and our food and eventually our health.” 

      Antibiotic resistance is a widespread issue, as some superbugs have adapted to withstand the antibacterial powers of hand sanitizer. Now, researchers f...
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      Model year 2020 Lincoln Corsairs recalled

      A rear coil spring may separate from the vehicle and cause a road hazard

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 3,600 model year 2020 Lincoln Corsairs.

      The vehicles may have insufficient clearance between the left and right rear coil springs and the toe link bracket. This may result in a condition in which the spring and bracket touch, potentially wearing away the protective coating on the coil spring.

      Over time, corrosion due to removal of the protective coating may reduce the full life of the spring and may result in fracture of the spring.

      A fractured rear coil spring may separate from the vehicle and cause a potential road hazard for traffic following behind, increasing the likelihood of a crash for other vehicles.

      There are no reports of accidents or injuries.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the vehicles for proper clearance between the toe link bracket and rear coil spring. If needed, the toe link bracket edge will be trimmed, and a new coil spring will be installed.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S41.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 3,600 model year 2020 Lincoln Corsairs. The vehicles may have insufficient clearance between the left and right re...
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      Reasons to consider opening a gold IRA

      Gold may help diversify investments and hedge against inflation

      Gold and other precious metal IRAs are an investment and carry risk. Consumers should be alert to claims that customers can make a lot of money in these or any investment with little risk. As with any investment, you can lose money and past performance is not a guarantee of future performance results. Consumers should also obtain a clear understanding of the fees associated with any investment before agreeing to invest.

      Many people back their retirement savings with gold or other precious metals to diversify their investments in case the economy falters. A gold IRA could be a smart option for several reasons, but we recommend that you thoroughly analyze and discuss any investment decision with a trusted financial advisor. Here are our top reasons you may want to explore a gold IRA account.

      1. Gold often goes the opposite way of the market

      Investors like gold because it typically does well when the U.S. dollar weakens. Even as the economy faltered during lockdown earlier this year, gold went up in value. Gold was selling for $1,519 an ounce at the end of 2019, but it increased to $1,732 an ounce in May 2020. As of mid-August, the price of gold is hovering around $2,000.

      Additionally, the price of gold roughly doubled between 2008 and 2012 during the Great Recession. Although the difference between gold and the money market fluctuates depending on several factors — such as when the Federal Reserve changes interest rates — it may be a good idea to diversify up to 10% of your retirement portfolio with gold.

      2. There are traditional and Roth IRA options

      Just like regular retirement accounts, there are traditional and Roth gold IRAs.

      • Traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible at the time of contribution. When you withdraw funds from this type of IRA, they are taxed.
      • Roth IRAs are taxed when the contribution is made, but not at the time of withdrawal.

      Many investment professionals disagree on which is better, and individuals have different reasons for choosing one over the other.

      3. You can roll over existing funds to a gold IRA

      With a rollover, you can convert a portion of your existing 401(k) or traditional retirement account into a gold IRA. There aren’t any penalties or fines since a custodian handles the process.

      It may be advantageous to roll over those funds into an account backed by gold. However, it can be confusing because there are many IRS rules for transfers and rollovers. Be sure to discuss the process with your financial advisor.

      If you’re interested in learning more about gold IRAs, an excellent next step is to research gold IRA companies.

      Reasons to consider opening a gold IRA...
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      Coronavirus update: U.S. records its deadliest day of the pandemic, a drop in jobless benefit claims

      A top health official is delivering a dire warning

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,204,792 (5,161,612)

      Total U.S. deaths: 166,148 (164,994)

      Total global cases: 20,672,105 (20,412,501)

      Total global deaths: 750,490 (744,211)

      1,500 deaths in a day

      On Wednesday, the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University reported more than 1,500 deaths from the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S., making it the deadliest single day for the virus in more than two months.

      The spike in deaths follows a jump in reported cases that began in mid-June and has only begun to decline. Health policymakers say deaths usually lag cases because many victims who eventually die remain hospitalized for weeks.

      New unemployment claims fall below 1 million

      The Labor Department reports that new claims for unemployment benefits last week totaled 963,000 -- the first time claims have been under 1 million since the economy shut down in late March. 

      In the week ending August 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims fell by 228,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 5,000 from 1,186,000 to 1,191,000. 

      Despite the improvement, unemployment remains historically high and is providing a drag on the economy. The jobless rate in July was 10.2 percent. Making life even more difficult for those on unemployment is the fact that relief under the CARES Act expired at the end of July and Congress has been unable to agree on extending it.

      A stark warning from the CDC

      If it isn’t clear by now, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to drive home the point. Follow coronavirus safety procedures or risk having the worst public health disaster in history this fall.

      In an interview with WebMD, Redfield says Americans have to do four simple things --  wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and be smart about crowds.

      "I'm not asking some of America to do it," he said. "We all gotta do it."

      Not everyone loves New York

      The migration from the cities to the suburbs appears to be picking up steam, especially in New York City. What appeared at first to be a trickle of people moving out of the city now looks like a tidal wave.

      CNBC reports that the number of vacant apartments available for rent in Manhattan has reached its highest level in recent history, exceeding 13,000. In the wake of the coronavirus and civil unrest, residents appear to be fleeing the city.

      As a result, the normally pricey real estate is being offered at relatively bargain rates. Landlords are reportedly offering nearly two months free rent to lure in tenants.

      Might as well park those school buses

      School district leaders have agonized over whether to reopen classrooms this fall. Those who have decided to allow in-person education have presented parents with a decision of their own -- how to get their children to school. 

      A survey by Cars.com suggests that the inconvenience of driving their kids to school is an acceptable alternative for many parents who want to avoid exposing their children to crowded school buses. Fifty-five percent of parents say they plan to drive their children to and from school.

      “Interestingly, we're seeing a significant increase in the number of families planning to carpool with friends or neighbors, which may mean parents feel it's still a safer alternative to the school bus," said Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief for Cars.com. 

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a law making attacks on retail employees enforcing mask rules a felony. "It's clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks – especially to protect front line workers, whether they’re at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they’re responding to 911 calls to save those in distress," Pritzker said. 

      • Texas: State health officials are worried about a significant drop in coronavirus testing in the state. They say that presents a potentially dangerous problem as schools prepare to reopen in the state. 

      • Florida: United Airlines is betting that the coronavirus will be under control by winter and that consumers in northern states will be ready to fly again. It’s added more flights to Florida destinations during the fall and winter months, particularly Orlando and Miami.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,204,792 (5,161,61...
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      Calls made on 4G LTE mobile networks could be susceptible to hackers, experts say

      A study has exposed a security issue in the widely used mobile network

      While one recent study has highlighted the ways hackers can hack into consumers’ cell phones, a new study is looking at yet another way consumers’ privacy could be manipulated through the network they use.

      According to researchers from Ruhr-University Bochum, cell phone calls made on 4G LTE mobile networks could be susceptible to hackers. Though these networks should be immune to such attacks, the researchers learned that an issue in their security systems could leave many consumers vulnerable to these types of threats.  

      “Voice over LTE has been in use for six years,” said researcher David Rupprecht. “We’re unable to verify whether attackers have exploited the security gap in the past.” 

      Not-so-private phone calls

      The majority of consumers utilize LTE networks on their mobile phones to do everything from searching the internet to making texts and calls. One of the benefits of this kind of network is that it is designed to keep consumers’ data private. However, the researchers learned that this isn’t always the case. 

      When consumers make private calls on their phones, the contents of such conversations are kept safe with a unique encryption code. When all calls have their own codes, consumers’ information can stay private. However, this study revealed that it’s rather easy for hackers to get repeated codes and ultimately steal information from consumers. 

      “The attacker has to engage the victim in a conversation,” said Rupprecht. “The longer the attacker talked to the victim, the more content of the previous conversation he or she was able to decrypt.” 

      The process needs to occur rather quickly, and the hacker needs to be in the same mobile network as the person they’re trying to copy information from for it to work. But if the conditions are right, the researchers explained that all a hacker has to do is call their target not long after they’ve ended a separate call to gain access to an encryption code to steal information. 

      The researchers analyzed random calls made on an LTE network across Germany. They found that 80 percent of the calls they examined were affected by this kind of security breach.

      While this is certainly cause for concern, the researchers noted that several mobile networks have already resolved this issue. However, it’s still very important for consumers to be aware of these potential vulnerabilities and to stay vigilant since it’s impossible to determine if the issue has been completely eradicated. 

      While one recent study has highlighted the ways hackers can hack into consumers’ cell phones, a new study is looking at yet another way consumers’ privacy...
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      Consumer prices rose 0.6 percent in July

      Gasoline cost more while food prices went down

      The cost of living rose in July by more than most economists expected, but there’s not a lot of concern that we’re about to experience a burst of inflation.

      While it’s true the government is pumping a lot of money into the economy, unemployment remains high and the economy isn’t growing. In fact, it’s moving in the other direction.

      The Labor Department reports its Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.6 percent in July, fueled mostly by an increase in gasoline prices. However, prices at the pump have leveled off in the last couple of weeks and have actually drifted lower. The government reports that the energy index increased 2.5 percent in July as the Index tracking gasoline prices rose 5.6 percent. 

      Lower food costs

      Food prices for July moved lower, with the food index declining by 0.4 percent. It was driven lower by a 1.1 percent decline in food prepared at home.

      The cost of car insurance moved sharply higher last month as the steep discounts offered by major carriers during the initial pandemic expired. Consumers also paid more last month for rent, communication, used cars and trucks, and health care services.

      Over a 12-month period, inflation is rising at 1.0 percent, not nearly enough to set off alarm bells. The Federal Reserve would actually like prices to rise at a 2.0 percent rate. Economists are generally pleased with the July report. Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, told Reuters that inflation in July appeared to be in a healthy spot.

      “This should end any speculation that the pandemic-related slump in demand will quickly push the economy into a deflationary spiral,” he said. “But this is not a sign that the U.S. is instead about to experience a bout of much high inflation because of supply restrictions.”

      Inflation over the last 12 months

      When the July numbers are placed in the context of the last 12 months, the cost of food has risen 4.1 percent since July 2019. Even though it rose in July, the cost of energy has actually declined 11.2 percent over the last year.

      There are areas of the economy where consumers have faced rising costs and may be likely to do so in the coming months. While the price of prescription drugs dipped slightly last month, the cost of physician services jumped 0.7 percent and hospital services cost 0.2 percent more.

      There was a big jump in the cost of wireless communication services, which rose 3.6 percent. Used vehicle prices rose 2.3 percent, ending three straight months of declines.

      The cost of living rose in July by more than most economists expected, but there’s not a lot of concern that we’re about to experience a burst of inflation...
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      Intertex recalls blowers

      The utility outlets on the side of the blowers are not protected by a circuit breaker

      Intertex of Azusa, Calif., is recalling about 197,000 B-Air, BlueDri, BlueDri Pro and Soleaire Blowers in the U.S., and Canada. The utility outlets on t..

      BMW recalls model year 2020 X3 vehicles

      The rearview camera software is not installed

      BMW of North America is recalling five model year 2020 X3 sDrive40i, X3 xDrive40i and X3M40i vehicles.

      The vehicles were not programmed with rearview camera software during assembly, therefore, when the transmission is shifted to reverse, a rearview image is not displayed.

      An inoperative rearview camera display can increase the risk of a crash when reversing.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will program the affected vehicles with rearview camera software free of charge.

      A notification schedule has not yet been provided.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling five model year 2020 X3 sDrive40i, X3 xDrive40i and X3M40i vehicles.The vehicles were not programmed with rearview ca...
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      Great tips to help back-to-schoolers

      Help your kids get back into the swing of things

      This summer has been a historic one for us all, but our kids still need to learn. The threat of COVID-19 makes it difficult for children to fully devote their attention to school — especially if they take classes remotely. Fortunately, we have a few tips you can use to help them focus, learn and enjoy their new school year.

      No more late nights

      Late nights are a staple of summer vacation, but the transition to a healthy sleep cycle for the school year is vital for your child. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends nine - 12 hours of sleep per day for kids ages six - 12 and eight - 10 hours for teenagers.

      Start getting them into a proper sleep cycle now to limit the amount of slow, cranky mornings. Your kid (and your sanity!) will thank you. This also means working with your child on reasonable bedtimes and sticking to that schedule.

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      Get rid of distractions

      Children these days have more outlets for entertainment than we could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, streaming services, online video games and social media quickly become time-wasters, which is detrimental to your child’s educational development. Set a limit on their access to screen time and stick with that rule. Some ways of doing this are:

      • Lock the Wi-Fi network with a new password
      • Temporarily hide devices in a secure spot
      • Use a monitoring app to track social media usage

      Help them get organized

      Sit with your child and discuss their daily routine from the moment they wake up until bedtime. Be sure to include the appropriate amount of time for homework, playtime, chores and other regular activities.

      This sets expectations and helps your child compartmentalize their days into segments. With a reasonable schedule, your child can get into the proper mindset for learning, and you can live a more predictable life.

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      Get them excited

      Most kids dread a new school year, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Start talking about the classroom subjects they enjoy when you have the chance. Also, remind your child about their favorite part of the previous year.

      We also recommend telling your kids about some of the fun things you remember from when you were in their grade. You can even throw a small back-to-school celebration to help them get excited.

      Have all their supplies ready

      Whether your child is attending class in a classroom or learning from home, they need to have all the necessary school supplies to do their best. Your child’s teacher will most likely have a checklist of things required for class, but some general must-haves include:

      • Ballpoint pens
      • No. 2 pencils
      • Pencil sharpener
      • Notebooks
      • Loose-leaf paper
      • Binders
      • Folders
      • Index cards
      • Scissors
      • Glue
      • Ruler
      • Book socks (to protect textbooks)

      Be sure to check the list of supplies you receive from your kid’s teacher. For instance, a grade-schooler may need a simple calculator, but a high school student could need a scientific graphing calculator.

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      Set achievable goals

      Think about realistic goals you can set for your kids and have a discussion with them. For example, you can set their sights on a certain GPA or perfect attendance. Teaching your children about positive goals can motivate them to reach further in life. Open a dialogue now about what they want to accomplish and understand that success comes with hard work.

      Remember your own self-care

      With the craziness of school preparations, you may feel your stress levels hit a peak. Try to allocate some time to yourself for a bit of rest and relaxation. By finding your own moments of peace, you can keep a calm, positive attitude and project it to others — especially your kids.

      You may be nervous as your children return to school this year. Remember that with care, preparation and attention, you can make this transition more comfortable for the whole family. If your child needs additional help with classes, take a look at our tutoring company guide.

      Great tips for back-to-school...
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      TikTok accused of tracking device data from Google Android users

      An investigation claims the company tracked user data for 18 months before discontinuing the practice

      Video-sharing platform TikTok has faced a great deal of scrutiny from U.S. regulators over its data collection practices and its connection to the Chinese government. While it has defended itself and even offered to share its algorithms with the cybersecurity community, a recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal suggests that it had been tracking Google Android users for months without their knowledge or consent.

      The publication reports that TikTok circumvented Google privacy safeguards to collect MAC addresses from Android users for 18 months before stopping the practice last November, when scrutiny from the U.S. government was ramping up. MAC addresses can act as identifiers that are unique to individual devices and could be used to serve users targeted ads. 

      The new finding contrasts starkly with the company’s reaction to an executive order issued last week that seeks to ban the app from the U.S. over data privacy concerns. 

      “We want the 100 million Americans who love our platform because it is your home for expression, entertainment, and connection to know: TikTok has never, and will never, waver in our commitment to you. We prioritize your safety, security, and the trust of our community -- always,” the company said in a blog post.

      Feds clash with TikTok

      The Trump administration previously cited concerns that TikTok and other Chinese apps like WeChat are able to gather data and share that information with the Chinese government. 

      “TikTok automatically gathers vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search history,” the administration’s executive order stated. “This data threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information -- potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information and blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

      While the Journal’s investigation shows no evidence of this kind of agenda, the findings do place a dark cloud over the company’s stance on user privacy and security. In response to the report, a TikTok spokesperson reaffirmed that the company prioritizes user security.

      “Under the leadership of our Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Roland Cloutier, who has decades of experience in law enforcement and the financial services industry, we are committed to protecting the privacy and safety of the TikTok community. We constantly update our app to keep up with evolving security challenges, and the current version of TikTok does not collect MAC addresses. We have never given any TikTok user data to the Chinese government nor would we do so if asked,” the spokesperson said.

      Regulators respond

      In a statement to the Journal, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called on Google to take action to prevent TikTok and other apps from skirting its security to collect consumers’ data.

      “Google needs to mind its store, and TikTok shouldn’t be on it. If Google is telling users they won’t be tracked without their consent and knowingly allows apps like TikTok to break its rules by collecting persistent identifiers, potentially in violation of our children’s privacy laws, they’ve got some explaining to do,” he said. 

      Video-sharing platform TikTok has faced a great deal of scrutiny from U.S. regulators over its data collection practices and its connection to the Chinese...
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      DOJ moves to shut down fraudulent websites exploiting the pandemic

      The warning signs are many, and consumers would be smart to familiarize themselves with swindles like this

      The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is going after a trio of defendants who have built more than 300 fraudulent websites selling hard-to-find coronavirus-related health and safety items.

      The DOJ’s first move was to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order in an effort to bring the scammers to a screeching halt. The enforcement action -- filed in Tampa, Florida -- is part of the Justice Department’s non-stop efforts focused on finding, investigating, and prosecuting illegal conduct related to the pandemic. Dealing with those who unscrupulously profit off of the pandemic is a prime concern for the DOJ. 

      “The Department of Justice is committed to preventing fraudsters from exploiting this pandemic for personal gain,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to pursue scammers who are stealing money from citizens amidst the ongoing public health crisis.”

      How the con works

      As laid out in court filings, Thu Phan Dinh, Tran Khanh, and Nguyen Duy Toan -- all residents of Vietnam and yet to be located -- are reputed to have taken part in a wire fraud scheme seeking to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      The complaint said that the defendants operated more than 300 websites pushing products that became scarce during the pandemic, such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The haul was pretty good, the DOJ said, claiming thousands of victims in all 50 states who attempted to purchase these items from the scam websites but never received the products they bought.

      The complaint alleges that defendants set up hundreds of email accounts and payment accounts with PayPal to grease the skids of the scheme and keep it hidden from law enforcement. 

      Defendants are also alleged to have listed fake contact listings on the sites which, in turn, caused a rash of complaints from defrauded consumers going to innocent individuals and businesses who had no hand in the scam at all.

      What to look out for

      If the DOJ can bring these fraudsters to justice, that might be a big haul. Unfortunately, in hydra-like fashion, there’s likely to be others who want to bilk the consumer off the back of COVID-19. As a precaution, the agency recommends that Americans take the following precautionary measures to protect themselves from known and emerging scams related to COVID-19:

      • Verify anything and everything related to COVID-19. Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19 or any products relating to COVID-19.

      • Double-check websites and email addresses. If you’re contacted by any website that offers information, products, or services related to COVID-19, the DOJ says to take a careful look at the email address the message is sent from. Scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. As a case-in-point, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”

      • Treat unsolicited emails as a warning flag. If you didn’t go looking for health and safety items, then it’s a pretty good bet that any unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes are illegitimate. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way. The DOJ says consumers should ignore offers from suspicious sources for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Everyone’s rule-of-thumb should be this: if a vaccine becomes available, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.

      • Check reviews. Check online reviews for any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items. 

      There’s other red flags the DOJ says consumers can watch out for, but they’re a bit different from emails or websites selling scarce health and safety products. 

      Those include charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations in connection with COVID-19; any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail; and any “investment opportunities” tied to COVID-19, especially those based on claims that a small company’s products or services can help stop the virus.  

      For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, consumers should visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites. If anything looks fishy and it’s related to the coronavirus, the public is urged to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline by phone at (1-866-720-5721) or via an online reporting form available here

      The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is going after a trio of defendants who have built more than 300 fraudulent websites selling hard-to-find coronavirus-...
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      Coronavirus update: Demand grows for faster tests, two conferences cancel football

      Cases are now spiking in rural areas

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,161,612 (5,100,636)

      Total U.S. deaths: 164,994 (163,533)

      Total global cases:20,412,501 (20,130,206)

      Total global deaths: 744,211 (737,394)

      Rapid response test firms see spike in demand

      From the beginning, the coronavirus (COVID-19) testing process in the United States has been plagued by delays, and it’s actually gotten worse as more tests are administered. That’s why there is growing interest in rapid-response tests.

      The Wall Street Journal reports that health care providers and nursing homes are competing to get rapid-response COVID-19 antigen testing supplies from the two companies that landed emergency approval from the U.S. government to produce them.

      The tests are seen as effective because they provide results much faster, helping doctors and nurses diagnose people before they can infect others. These tests identify virus proteins while molecular tests look for the virus’s genetic material.

      Two conferences say no to football this fall

      The Big Ten and the Pac 12 are the first two major collegiate athletic conferences to postpone their 2020 football seasons. Both leagues determined that the threat to players and coaches is too great to play this fall.

      Big Ten conference presidents and chancellors voted Tuesday to postpone all fall sports seasons, including football. A short time later, Pac 12 presidents took similar action.

      So far, other major football conferences appear to be on the fence. At last report, the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, and Big 12 schools still expect to play their schedules.

      Rural areas see an increase in cases

      After a spike in densely populated areas over the summer, some rural parts of the nation are beginning to see a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. 

      The Iowa Department of Public Health reported more than 200 new cases this week, raising the state’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases to nearly 50,000. In addition, six more deaths had been reported since Monday morning’s total, increasing the overall death toll in the state to 937.

      Health officials in the Midwest are urging residents to continue to follow mitigation guidelines. They attribute the rise in cases to complacency, shutdown fatigue, and a desire to engage in normal summertime activities.

      Fleeing New York

      One byproduct of the coronavirus has been a migration from the cities to the suburbs, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the nation’s largest city. The New York Post reports that moving companies in Manhattan have been swamped in recent weeks as thousands of the city’s residents are heading for greener pastures.

      “People are fleeing the city in droves,” Moon Salahie, owner of Elite Moving & Storing in Yonkers, told the Post. 

      Salahie says his company has been working nonstop since the city began Phase 1 of its reopening in June. He said 90 percent of the moves are to the suburbs and mostly involve families with kids worried about the school year. 

      Survey shows consumers pining for restaurant dining

      The pandemic has sparked a resurgence in home cooking, but there’s now evidence that this novelty is wearing a little thin. The Oracle Food and Beverage study found that 59 percent of U.S. consumers say they plan to dine out as soon as they are able to. 

      Despite that, the survey indicates that consumers will approach their favorite restaurants with a measure of caution. Forty percent said they would feel safer if they didn’t have to touch restaurant menus but could access their choices from their mobile devices.

      "Throughout the globe, we have seen communities rallying around local independents to ensure they make it through to the other side of this crisis," said Simon de Montfort Walker, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Food and Beverage. "But while consumers are anxious to get back out there to eat, they come with new expectations on everything from menus to the technology used to increase safety."

      Around the nation

      • New York: New York City restaurants could face a bleak future. According to Grub Street, nearly 200,000 food service employees are out of work. Roughly 80 percent of the city’s restaurants could not pay their full rent in June.

      • Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine has ruled out providing an additional $100 a week in unemployment benefits to supplement the extra $300 that Washington would provide under President Trump’s executive order. The governor’s office says the state can’t afford the extra expense, a view echoed by a number of other governors.

      • Colorado: Phillips County, like many rural areas of the country, has been hard hit economically by the pandemic-induced shutdown, but local residents have stepped up to help businesses and their employees. When asked to donate all or part of their stimulus payments from the government, 125 residents wrote checks for a total of $90,000.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,161,612 (5,100,63...
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      Experts predict millions of consumers' homes could become unsellable in the next two decades

      For those that do make sales, the prices could be considerably lower than anticipated

      Though the housing market has been picking up over the last few months, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona predicts that things may not be favorable for some homeowners over the long-term. 

      According to researchers, older consumers who are looking to sell their homes in the years ahead could have trouble finding buyers. Their work revealed that costs associated with homeownership could prevent millennials and members of Generation Z from pulling the trigger and becoming homeowners themselves. 

      “There’s this mismatch -- if those over 65 unload their homes, and those under 65 aren’t buying them, what happens to those homes,” said researcher Arthur C. Nelson. “...The vast supply is so large and the demand...is going to be so small, in comparison, that there’s going to be a real problem starting later this decade.” 

      Homeowner trends are changing

      To understand where the housing market is expected to turn in the next two decades, the researchers analyzed data from both the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the U.S. Census Bureau. They looked at the average age of homeowners from 2018 and then used available data to predict what the housing market will look like by 2038. 

      The researchers expect that housing trends are likely to change drastically over the next 20 years, but consumers shouldn’t expect a switch to flip overnight. Based on their findings, the changes will happen slowly and will depend on the geographic region

      In bigger, metropolitan areas, older consumers looking to sell shouldn’t have as much of an issue. However, it could become rather difficult for those in smaller, lesser known areas. The researchers explained that this trend will likely affect millions of consumers nationwide. 

      “The people who own homes now in thousands of declining communities may simply have to walk away from them,” Nelson said. 

      As 2040 draws closer, the researchers predict that the number of homeowners under the age of 65 is likely to be lower than it was in 2018. This is particularly concerning for older consumers, many of whom use the sale of their homes to help finance retirement plans. 

      Helping older consumers

      Nelson and his team have come up with several ideas that could help offset the housing burden that older consumers will face in the coming years. One plan would be to divide bigger homes into several units. This would make selling less necessary, and the full cost of living in a large home wouldn’t fall on one person. 

      The researchers also believe that more government intervention could benefit both older and younger consumers -- and the housing market at large. 

      “We’re going to wake up in 2025 -- give or take a few years -- to realize that millions of seniors can’t get out of their homes and that it’s going to get worse in the 2030s,” Nelson said. “We must start doing things now to reduce the coming shock of too many seniors trying to sell their homes to too few younger buyers.” 

      Though the housing market has been picking up over the last few months, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona predicts that t...
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      Walmart, Instacart partnering to offer same-day delivery

      Initial pilots are happening in markets in California in Oklahoma

      Walmart is teaming up with delivery platform Instacart to offer same-day delivery in four markets. Under the partnership, consumers in parts of California -- Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego -- and Tulsa, Oklahoma can get delivery in as little as an hour. 

      "The new partnership brings thousands of items -- from groceries, alcohol and pantry staples to home decor and improvement, personal care, electronics and more -- at everyday low prices from Walmart stores to customers' doors in as fast as an hour,” the company said in a statement. 

      Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a call with analysts in May that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened consumer interest in ordering items for pickup or delivery.

      “As this crisis created a need for social distancing and required people to stay at home, customers embraced pickup and delivery even more. Pickup and delivery are attracting greater numbers of new customers,” he said. “The number of new customers trying pickup and delivery has increased four times since mid-March.”

      Competing against Amazon

      The partnership will help put both companies in a better position to compete against Amazon and Whole Foods, CNBC and CNN reported. 

      “The new partnership brings thousands of items — from groceries, alcohol and pantry staples to home decor and improvement, personal care, electronics and more — at everyday low prices from Walmart stores to customers’ doors in as fast as an hour,” Walmart said in a statement.

      Instacart already has relationships in place with Target, Costco, and Kroger, among others.

      News of the partnership comes at a time when consumers are expecting greater speed when it comes to delivery times amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Walmart announced earlier this summer that it expects to have Express Delivery in 2,000 stores. 

      “We know our customers’ lives have changed during this pandemic, and so has the way they shop,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer, Walmart, in a statement. “We also know when we come out of this, customers will be busier than ever, and sometimes that will call for needing supplies in a hurry. COVID-19 has prompted us to launch Express Delivery even faster so that we’re here for our customers today and in the future.”

      Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a July testimony before the House Judiciary committee that Walmart and Instacart are major competitors to it and its subsidiary Whole Foods. 

      “Every day, Amazon competes against large, established players like Target, Costco, Kroger, and, of course, Walmart,” Bezos said. “... We also face new competition from the likes of Shopify and Instacart.”

      Walmart is teaming up with delivery platform Instacart to offer same-day delivery in four markets. Under the partnership, consumers in parts of California...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls various vehicles with instrument cluster replacements

      The seat belt warning system may not operate properly

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 56 model year 2019 C300s, C300 Coupes, CLS450s, E450 Coupes & S450s, model year 2017-2019 E300s, model year 2018 E400 Coupes, E400 Stationwagons, and model year 2018-2019 S560s that have previously had the instrument cluster replaced.

      The software in the replaced instrument cluster may cause the seat belt warning system to not operate properly, only displaying a solid warning light if either the driver or passenger seat belt is unfastened, instead of a blinking light with an audible tone.

      Without the audible tone and blinking warning light to remind the front seat occupants that their seat belts are not buckled, they may forget to buckle their seat belt, increasing their risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will update the instrument cluster software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin September 29, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 56 model year 2019 C300s, C300 Coupes, CLS450s, E450 Coupes & S450s, model year 2017-2019 E300s, model year 2018 E40...
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      Russia approves the first vaccine against COVID-19

      But there are plenty of skeptics who say the drug is not ready for general distribution

      The Russian government says it has approved a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19) after it proved to be safe and effective.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement and disclosed that one of his daughters had taken it. Putin said the Russian vaccine is the first anywhere to be registered for general use.

      “Although I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity and, I repeat, has passed all the necessary checks,” Putin said in a Tuesday morning announcement.

      Only a Phase 1 clinical trial

      The world generally welcomed the news, with stocks moving sharply higher on Wall Street in pre-market activity. But Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), advised caution. In an interview with CNBC, he noted that the vaccine has only been subjected to a phase 1 clinical trial with about 100 subjects receiving it and that the trial was completed in a two-month period.

      In fact, Russia will begin a Phase 3 clinical trial for the vaccine Wednesday, despite the fact that it has already approved the drug for general distribution. Also, there is no published data about the long-term effects of the vaccine.

      Officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) also appear somewhat skeptical of Russia’s vaccine claims. The WHO said it has been in close contact with Russian health officials about the process used to approve the vaccine.

      ‘Reckless’

      As with most of the vaccine claims and pre-announcements that have been made during the pandemic, the Russian vaccine announcement is being accepted with a rather large grain of salt.

      “Normally you need a large number of people to be tested before you approve a vaccine,” vaccine researcher Peter Kremsner of the University Hospital in Tuebingen told Reuters.

      “In that respect, I think it’s reckless to [approve it] if lots of people haven’t already been tested.”

      A Phase 3 clinical trial traditionally has as many as 30,000 subjects who receive a drug and have their health status followed over a period of several months. Several vaccine candidates are currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the U.S. and other nations.

      Russia has previously denied that it was in an “arms race” to produce the first COVID-19 vaccine. But it should be noted that the newly approved vaccine has been given the name “Sputnik V,” the name of the 1957 Russian satellite that launched the space race with the U.S.

      The Russian government says it has approved a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19) after it proved to be safe and effective.Russian President Vla...
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      Lawmakers seek to pull e-cigarettes from the market over coronavirus concerns

      A recent study shows that vaping these products increases the risk of COVID-19 infection

      Earlier this year, U.S. lawmakers crafted and passed a new policy that banned certain e-cigarette products that were popular with America’s youth. Now, regulators are asking for more e-cigarette products to be taken off the market -- but for a very different reason. 

      Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn this week to request that e-cigarette products be pulled from circulation due to additional risks they create in connection with the coronavirus. In the letter, Krishnamoorthi cites studies that suggest COVID-19 is even more dangerous for e-cigarette smokers.

      “Today, we have the evidence that the FDA was waiting for, and it can no longer deny the danger e-cigarettes pose during the coronavirus crisis. The science is now in: e-cigarette users are much likelier to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and to experience symptoms,” Krishnamoorthi stated. 

      Increased risk of infection

      The evidence that the letter refers to is from a study conducted at Stanford University that gauged the risk of contracting COVID-19 in young e-cigarette smokers aged 13 to 24. The results suggest that this demographic is up to five times more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who don’t vape e-cigarette products. 

      The statistics are even worse for those who vape e-cigarettes and smoke traditional cigarettes. These dual users were almost seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and nearly five times more likely to experience symptoms of the virus. Krishnamoorthi says that these numbers are putting a considerable burden on the nation’s COVID-19 testing system and leading to increased waiting times for results. 

      “If we reduce the number of vapers in America, we will reduce the unnecessary stress we are putting on our testing system. People should not have to wait weeks for COVID-19 test results -- removing the risk posed by vaping will help,” he said.

      The letter asks the FDA to confirm in writing within the next week whether or not will take e-cigarettes off the market. If the agency chooses to do so, it is also tasked with providing a description of its action plan. 

      Earlier this year, U.S. lawmakers crafted and passed a new policy that banned certain e-cigarette products that were popular with America’s youth. Now, reg...
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      Coronavirus update: Doubt about the Russian vaccine, most students will be online this fall

      Some store shelves are still empty after four months

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,100,636 (5,055,355)

      Total U.S. deaths: 163,533 (163,077)

      Total global cases: 20,130,206 (19,909,062)

      Total global deaths: 737,394 (732,128)

      Is the Russian vaccine for real?

      Russia’s announcement that it has approved the world’s first vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) is being met with a healthy dose of skepticism around the world. The vaccine was approved by Russian health authorities after only two months of testing on 100 subjects, the equivalent of a Phase 1 clinical trial.

      In fact, Russia will begin a Phase 3 clinical trial for the vaccine on Wednesday, despite the fact that it has already approved the drug for general distribution. Also, there is no published data about the long-term effects of the vaccine.

      Officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) also appear somewhat skeptical of Russia’s vaccine claims. The organization said it has been in close contact with Russian health officials about the process used to approve the vaccine.

      Virtual school pretty much the norm this fall

      If your children will be attending school online this fall, you’re among the majority. Real-time tracking by Burbio has found that 52 percent of kids in the U.S. won’t be in the classroom when school starts.

      Burbio is a data service that aggregates school and community calendars nationwide. Its latest report shows that only 44 percent of students will attend school in-person either every day or on certain days of the week. Four percent of students are in school districts that haven’t finalized plans.

      “We have seen a dramatic shift to online-only learning in the past three weeks,” said Burbio co-founder Julie Roche.   “Large districts such as Chicago, and Sun Belt cities such as Houston and Miami along with large suburban districts such as Fairfax County Virginia were all setting plans to return with in-person learning and shifted to fully remote.”  

      In some stores, certain shelves are still empty

      Consumers stocked up on groceries and essentials during the early days of the pandemic, and it was soon almost impossible to find certain items at supermarkets, such as canned food and toilet paper. The supply chain has recovered since then, but some items remain scarce.

      “In-stock conditions at retailers are much better than two months ago but not anywhere where we would like them to be,” Kellogg Co. CEO Steve Cahillane told The Wall Street Journal.

      On average, stores are out of stock on about 10 percent of their inventory, nearly double the normal rate before the pandemic. Part of the problem may be the surge in virus cases this summer in most of the U.S., causing uneasy consumers to restock the panty.

      To play or not to play

      In a normal year, the first college football games would be about two weeks from now. But of course, this isn’t a normal year. At this point, the 2020 college football season is very much in doubt.

      So far, the Big 10 appears to be the major conference that is closest to calling off the 2020 season over concerns about the coronavirus. The Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences have expressed the desire to play.

      University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban said his team is ready to play, adding that players are safer playing football than they would be “running around at home.”

      Survey finds employees adapted well to working at home

      One of the surprises about the economic turmoil during the pandemic is how well businesses have been able to adapt to a virtual work environment. Many companies are reporting little to no drop-off in productivity.

      Now, a new survey shows many employees had the same experience. Boston Consulting Group’s survey on employee sentiment reveals that productivity can be maintained surprisingly well in a virtual or hybrid work setting.

      Despite both the speed of the shift to remote working and its scale, some 75 percent of employees said that they have been able to maintain or improve their perceived productivity on individual tasks during the first few months of the crisis.

      Around the nation

      • Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is continuing coronavirus safety measures for grocery stores, pharmacies, and nursing homes in her state. Grocery stores and pharmacies will continue to offer two hours of shopping time per week only to people most at risk from the virus. Nursing homes will continue to limit access to their facilities.

      • New Jersey: Residents will have to content themselves with restaurant take-out or outdoor dining for the time being. Gov. Phil Murphy says indoor dining remains too risky for now, based on a study conducted in China.

      • Arkansas: President Trump’s order extending extra unemployment benefits requires states to pay 25 percent of the extra money, though many states say they can’t afford it. Gov. Asa Hutchinson hasn’t ruled it out, but he estimates it would cost Arkansas $265 million. It would also require approval by the state legislature.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,100,636 (5,055,35...
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      More than a third of Americans wouldn’t take a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were free and approved

      Nearly the same thing happened in 1954 with the then-new polio vaccine

      Although drugmakers think they’re close to finding a viable COVID-19 vaccine, it might all be for naught. Results from a recent survey show that 35 percent of the U.S. population wouldn’t even take the vaccine, even if it was effective, FDA-approved, and free. 

      The Gallup survey also shows some distinct differences in how Americans line up on the question of a vaccine. On top of the 65:35 percent disparity in willingness to take a sanctioned vaccine, U.S. party preferences also play a strong role in Americans' views on COVID-19.

      Eighty-one percent of Democrats are ready to be vaccinated today if a free and FDA-approved vaccine were available. That compares to only 59 percent of independents and just under half of Republicans (47 percent) who would do the same.

      Major differences by demographics

      Agreement among the demographic groups is positive, and one of those groups -- the 18-29 demographic, with 76 percent saying they would take the vaccine -- caught Gallup’s attention.

      “Young people are still affected, and an increasing proportion of new infections are occurring among younger adults, possibly because this age group is engaging in riskier behaviors that are promoting the spread of the disease,” wrote Gallup’s Shannon Mullen O’Keefe.

      In the other demographic breakouts, the “yes” factor amounted to 70 percent of seniors; 64 percent among those 30-49 years old; and 59 percent among those between 50 and 64.

      While party affiliation might explain the differences seen in willingness to be vaccinated, O’Keefe believes there are disparities by race that challenge the partisan patterns. In the White vs. Non-White category, White Americans are somewhat more likely to take an approved vaccine than non-White Americans -- 67 percent vs. 59 percent, respectively. 

      “This is particularly noteworthy, given media reports on the pandemic noting that Black and Latino Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” O’Keefe wrote.

      In comparing rural vs. urban dwellers, those living in rural areas are the least likely to take the vaccine. Only about half -- 56 percent -- of rural Americans say they would get vaccinated. In contrast, more than 6 in 10 urban dwellers say they would be willing to take a vaccine. 

      That disparity might be concerning to public health officials, O’Keefe said, pointing out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s comment that "long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some rural residents at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or having severe illness."

      Similar results to previous major health crisis

      It’s plain to see that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to stepping up and taking a vaccine to try and curb the further spread of COVID-19. That stance, unfortunately, has some serious implications.

      “As the situation stands today, the nation's influencers -- including health professionals, policymakers and leaders -- who see a vaccine as a way forward may have their work cut out for them in persuading Americans to take advantage of such an option,” O’Keefe said.

      “Policymakers in government, healthcare, industry and education will need to anticipate that a significant proportion of the population will be hesitant to get a vaccine, even at no cost. Some of the most at-risk populations, including non-White and rural Americans, may not only be hesitant but resistant to getting vaccinated. Employers continuing to grapple with new workplace realities must also anticipate that a number of their workers may resist a vaccine.”

      If the poll results don’t sit well with you, Gallup says that not all hope is lost. 

      If you compare the coronavirus-related data to a similar situation in 1954 when Gallup tracked the then-new polio vaccine, just 60 percent said they would take the vaccine compared to 31 percent who said they would not. 

      “So far, willingness to adopt a new vaccine looks similar today,” O’Keefe said. “Leaders in favor of a vaccine may be well-served to study what caused the public to ultimately adopt earlier vaccines as they consider how best to influence Americans to take advantage of such an option now.”

      Although drugmakers think they’re close to finding a viable COVID-19 vaccine, it might all be for naught. Results from a recent survey show that 35 percent...
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      California judge orders Uber, Lyft to classify drivers as employees

      A preliminary injunction seeks to bring the companies into compliance with the state’s new law

      On Monday, a California judge ordered Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as employees rather than independent contractors. Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman said the order will bring the ride-hailing companies in line with California’s new Gig Economy Law, provided it makes it through the appeals process. 

      The judge said Lyft and Uber's contract drivers should be extended the same protections and benefits that the companies’ full-time employees, such as tech workers, receive.

      "Were this reasoning to be accepted, the rapidly expanding majority of industries that rely heavily on technology could with impunity deprive legions of workers of the basic protections afforded to employees by state labor and employment laws," Schulman wrote.

      Reclassifying drivers

      Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is currently fighting a lawsuit filed in May by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra which claims that Uber is illegally withholding crucial benefits from its workers by classifying them as contractors rather than employees. 

      Becerra said the judge's preliminary order was a victory for drivers. 

      "The court has weighed in and agreed: Uber and Lyft need to put a stop to unlawful misclassification of their drivers while our litigation continues," Becerra said in a statement. "Our state and workers shouldn't have to foot the bill when big businesses try to skip out on their responsibilities. We're going to keep working to make sure Uber and Lyft play by the rules."

      Uber CEO fighting the state law

      On Monday, Khosrowshahi wrote an op-ed published in the New York Times that outlines a potential “third way” to classify gig workers. He proposed having gig companies establish a benefits fund that contractors could use for needs like paid time off or health insurance. The amount of money they could take out of the fund would depend on how many hours they’ve worked. 

      Khowrowshahi says this plan would enable contractors to keep their flexibility but receive crucial benefits formerly extended only to employees. 

      “I’m proposing that gig economy companies be required to establish benefits funds which give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off. Independent workers in any state that passes this law could take money out for every hour of work they put in. All gig companies would be required to participate, so that workers can build up benefits even if they switch between apps,” Khosrowshahi wrote. 

      On Monday, a California judge ordered Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as employees rather than independent contractors. Superior Court Judge Ethan...
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      Talkspace accused of mining private client data

      Former employees claim the mobile therapy startup routinely used patient data for marketing purposes

      Talkspace, a mobile app that enables users to message a certified therapist, has been accused of regularly mining data from the transcripts of clients' private therapy sessions.

      Former Talkspace employees interviewed by the New York Times claimed the mobile therapy startup used data that was supposed to be kept private for marketing purposes. 

      The former employees claim Talkspace had data scientists pull commonly used phrases from anonymized patient transcripts. These key phrases were then allegedly shared with the company’s marketing team, which used the information to target new customers. 

      The report also alleges that Talkspace gave employees phones to post fake positive reviews to the App Store and Play Store.

      Talkspace denies allegations

      In a Medium post published over the weekend, Talkspace co-founders Roni and Oren Frank denied that the startup mined data for marketing purposes.

      They said the Times article “misconstrues our work and makes false and uninformed assertions about patient privacy and certain marketing practices.” The founders said the former employee featured in the story “shared information that is from 2016 and is not accurate.” 

      "Talkspace is a HIPAA/HITECH and SOC2 approved platform, audited annually by external vendors and has deployed additional technologies to keep its data safe, exceeding all existing regulatory requirements," they wrote.

      Talkspace, a mobile app that enables users to message a certified therapist, has been accused of regularly mining data from the transcripts of clients' pri...
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      GM recalls various vehicles with airbag issue

      The roof rail airbag may not deploy

      General Motors is recalling 769 model year 2020 Buick Enclaves, Cadillac XT5s & XT6s, Chevrolet Blazers, Silverado 1500s, 2500s & 3500s, Traverses & GMC Acadias and Sierra 1500s, 2500s & 3500s.

      The diffuser component of the Roof-Rail Air Bag (RRAB) inflator may not have been properly crimped to the inflator and could separate from the inflator during airbag deployment.

      If the diffuser separates from the inflator during deployment, RRAB performance may be degraded, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the suspect RRAB modules free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin September 14, 2020.

      Owners may contact GM customer service at (866) 522-9559. GM's number for this recall is N202305380.

      General Motors is recalling 769 model year 2020 Buick Enclaves, Cadillac XT5s & XT6s, Chevrolet Blazers, Silverado 1500s, 2500s & 3500s, Traverses & GMC Ac...
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      5 tips for starting a small business

      Check out these tips if you’re interested in creating a company

      COVID-19 has turned the business world upside down, and many people have been looking at alternative ways to make a living. For some, that may be exploring the small business idea they’ve been contemplating. However, starting a small business is a daunting task, so here are some tips that may help.

      1. Keep it simple

      Leonardo Da Vinci once said that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and he knew quite a bit about inventing! Even if your concept is complex, try to focus on the product itself. All too often, entrepreneurs start with one item, but their business quickly becomes a mess of additional ideas. Don’t turn your thought balloon into an anchor. For instance, if you want to design a quality steering wheel cover, stick to perfecting your first product before making covers for other things. You can always revisit other ideas later on!

      2. Count every penny

      Starting a business is usually very expensive and every penny counts, so you need to focus on your cash — where it’s coming, where it’s going and where to put it. When planning, be mindful of all your expenses, including product costs, overhead, distribution, marketing and employee payroll.

      Among these expenses, you need to pay yourself a manageable and fair salary. Consider your rent, food and other costs of living. Even if you have an accountant or partner that handles the business’s finances, you need to stay vigilant regarding the company’s money.

      3. Get to know your customers and competitors

      Customer research is an essential part of building a small business, so do the legwork. You should analyze your market carefully and monitor trends that work and ones that don’t. Understand what your target customer base is looking for and how you can deliver — preferably better than your competition.

      Excellent research usually starts on the internet, but don’t be afraid to visit other successful stores or examine popular competitor products. You can never know too much about what your customers want and how your competition works.

      4. Have a trusted partner

      Going into business with a partner makes it easier to delegate tasks and brainstorm new ideas. You can share work that may be overwhelming for one person — especially the duties that aren’t your strong suit. For example, if you’re a fantastic inventor but a less-than-perfect public speaker, find a trusted partner who can handle sales.

      Another great thing about working with someone is having a soundboard to discuss plans and thoughts regarding your business. When you work in a vacuum, you may not see problems that another person can point out. You may find your ideas come through stronger in the early stages of development if you partner with someone reliable.

      5. Play by the rules

      Make sure you understand the legalities of your industry, including employment laws, intellectual property laws, contractual obligations and business taxes. This critical tip may seem vague, but it can be absolutely detrimental to your business if not taken seriously.

      You should be aware of all legal matters and know when it’s the right time to consider hiring a corporate lawyer. Even a successful business that overlooks this step could end up paying a substantial cost in the future.

      Starting a small business can be stressful, but it might change your life if you take the right approach. Whether you’re selling baked goods, making jewelry or tackling a larger idea, a small business lets you command your economic destiny. However, all businesses need capital and a business loan may help. To learn about our favorite picks for lenders, check out our helpful guide on business loans.

      5 tips for starting a small business...
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      Coronavirus update: U.S. case count climbs above 5 million, Bill Gates sees ‘testing insanity’

      Trump’s controversial executive orders are being challenged

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,055,355 (5,010,679)

      Total U.S. deaths: 163,077 (162,635)

      Total global cases: 19,909,062 (19,696,961)

      Total global deaths: 732,128 (727,897)

      U.S. cases exceed 5 million

      The U.S. has reached a dubious milestone in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, exceeding 5 million cases over the weekend. The semi-official count is maintained by the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University.

      The U.S. has more cases than any other nation and about a quarter of the world’s total. Brazil is second behind the U.S. with 3 million cases. India is third with 2.2 million. China, where the first outbreak occurred, has just over 88,000 cases.

      ‘Mindblowing testing problems’

      Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation has been at the forefront of fighting global disease, has returned an indictment of the U.S. testing response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). On CNN Sunday, Gates said problems with U.S. testing are “mindblowing.”

      “You’re paying billions of dollars in this very inequitable way to get the most worthless test results of any country in the world,” Gates told the network. “No other country has this testing insanity.”

      Both Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics have warned they are being swamped with tests and it’s likely to get worse in the fall when flu season arrives. Gates said commercial laboratories should not be compensated for tests that don’t return results within three days.

      Trump’s controversial executive orders

      Congress left Washington on Friday after failing to reach a compromise to extend the expired CARES Act benefits. Over the weekend, President Trump signed executive orders extending some benefits, including an extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits.

      Democrats denounced the move, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calling it “absurdly unconstitutional.” She and other Democrats point out that only Congress has the power to spend taxpayer dollars under the U.S. Constitution.

      The president’s executive orders are likely to be challenged in court. Before that happens, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says there may be a deal with Congress, saying the administration is open to an increase in aid.

      CVS teams with Salesforce to create reopening tool

      Salesforce and CVS Health have announced a strategic partnership that will allow customers to monitor different reopening plans for businesses and schools. They say it’s a combination of two existing platforms -- Salesforce’s Work.com and CVS Health's Return Ready.

      "While COVID-19 testing is an important tool to responsibly reopen worksite and campus locations, a comprehensive strategy requires wellness monitoring and contact tracing to help prevent an onsite outbreak and spread of the virus," said Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer at CVS Health. 

      The two companies say the goal is to combine the power of both programs to help consumers “activate a comprehensive plan to return and maintain critical populations onsite."

      Israeli company offers at-home ultrasound

      The COVID-19 pandemic has kept many people with other health conditions from going to medical facilities, leading to a boom in telemedicine. Patients using video conferencing have been able to interact with health care providers from the comfort and safety of their homes.

      Now that convenience is being extended to pregnant women seeking an ultrasound. An Israeli start-up has introduced a handheld tele-ultrasound device that enables pregnant women to perform at-home ultrasound scans and receive feedback from a physician or sonographer, limiting the need for hospital and doctor visits. The company says it has applications during COVID-19 and beyond.

      "At home tele-ultrasound scanning is a major leap forward in digital medicine and prenatal health," said Dr. Elazar Sonnenschein, founder and CEO of PulseNmore. "We have successfully miniaturized the traditional ultrasound system to create a solution that is both affordable and accessible for expectant families.” 

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker is urging the state to adopt a rule allowing local officials to fine businesses where mask rules are not being enforced. The push comes as there have been 7,635 COVID-19 deaths in Illinois since the start of the pandemic and 194,080 confirmed cases.

      • California: Dr. Sonia Angell, Gov. Gavin Newsom's director of the California Department of Public Health, resigned on Sunday. The unexpected resignation comes just a few days after the revelation that a computer system failure has resulted in an undercounting of coronavirus cases in the state.

      • Connecticut:  Gov. Ned Lamont is making his stand on school reopenings perfectly clear. Lamont says he wants kids back in the classroom this fall, telling CBS Face The Nation that he doesn't want another "lost year of learning." 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,055,355 (5,010,67...
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      Uber CEO proposes ‘third way’ for companies to classify gig workers to provide more benefits

      The executive wants to preserve workers’ flexibility as contractors while also offering them more

      In an op-ed published Monday in the New York Times, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi described a possible “third way” to classify gig workers. 

      As lawmakers push to have ride-hailing drivers reclassified as employees, Khosrowshahi has argued that drivers are appropriately classified as independent contractors. In the op-ed, he detailed a proposal that he previously discussed with President Trump before the CARES Act was signed. 

      Khosrowshahi said he thinks Trump and Congress should update labor laws to preserve the flexibility of contract work while extending certain protections to these workers. 

      Combining flexibility and benefits

      The Uber executive is currently fighting a lawsuit from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra which claims that Uber is withholding crucial benefits from its workers by classifying them as contractors rather than employees. The lawsuit alleges that Uber is breaking the state’s new law

      But Khosrowshahi is refuting the claim that workers are unfairly classified as contractors and argues that drivers should be given an option that combines flexibility and benefits.

      “Our current employment system is outdated and unfair,” he wrote. “It forces every worker to choose between being an employee with more benefits but less flexibility, or an independent contractor with more flexibility but almost no safety net. Uber is ready, right now, to pay more to give drivers new benefits and protections. But America needs to change the status quo to protect all workers, not just one type of work.” 

      Benefits fund

      He suggests that all gig companies be required to set up a benefits fund that can be used by workers for needs like paid time off or health insurance. The amount of money they could take out of the fund would depend on how many hours they’ve worked. 

      “I’m proposing that gig economy companies be required to establish benefits funds which give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off. Independent workers in any state that passes this law could take money out for every hour of work they put in. All gig companies would be required to participate, so that workers can build up benefits even if they switch between apps,” Khosrowshahi suggested. 

      He also believes gig companies should offer medical and disability coverage to help workers if they get injured on the job. He says they currently can’t offer these benefits “without risking their independent status under the law.” 

      “During this moment of crisis, I fundamentally believe platforms like Uber can fuel an economic recovery by quickly giving people flexible work to get back on their feet,” Khosrowshahi wrote. “But this opportunity will be lost if we ignore the obvious lessons of the pandemic and fail to ensure independent workers have a stronger safety net.”

      In an op-ed published Monday in the New York Times, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi described a possible “third way” to classify gig workers. As lawmakers p...
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      U.S. airport traffic hits new high during pandemic

      However, the numbers are still well below normal levels

      The nation’s airports saw a surge in foot traffic over the weekend. 

      Data published by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows that over 831,000 travelers were processed at security checkpoints on Sunday. That’s the highest number that the agency has tracked since March 17, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      While the bump in traffic is surely good news for airline companies, it’s important to note that these figures are still well below normal levels. On the same Sunday in 2019, the TSA estimates that over 2.6 million travelers went through security. 

      Traffic numbers continue rising

      Airport traffic numbers certainly aren’t anywhere close to approaching pre-pandemic levels, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for some optimism. After all, these numbers have been steadily climbing for several months. 

      In a report released today, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) says that the number of U.S. airline passengers rose by 93 percent month-over-month in June. That means the number of passengers nearly doubled. 

      “The large airlines carried 16.3 million passengers in June 2020 (preliminary), up from 8.4 million passengers on all U.S. airlines in May 2020 and up from 3 million in April 2020, which was the lowest monthly total in BTS records dating back to 1974,” the agency said. 

      If the TSA security checkpoint numbers are any indication, those numbers will only improve for the month of July. While there were no days in June in which checkpoint visits exceeded 700,000, the agency’s report shows there were 16 of those days in the month that followed. So far in August, 7 out of 9 days for which the agency has data have surpassed the 700,000 mark. 

      The nation’s airports saw a surge in foot traffic over the weekend. Data published by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows that over...
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      Mouthwash could reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, study finds

      Researchers say this isn’t a viable treatment option for those already infected with the virus

      A new study conducted by researchers from Ruhr University found that mouthwash could be an effective way for consumers to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

      The ingredients found in many easily accessible mouthwashes were found to be effective in clearing the throat and mouth of germs, but they weren’t necessarily effective as a protective agent or as a treatment option for those who have already contracted the virus. 

      “Gargling with a mouthwash cannot inhibit the production of viruses in the cells, but could reduce the viral load in the short term where the greatest potential for infection comes from, namely in the oral cavity and throat -- and this could be used in certain situations, such as at the dentist or during the medical care of COVID-19 patients,” said researcher Toni Meister. 

      How can mouthwash be effective?

      The researchers explained that the mouth and throat can contain the most infectious coronavirus germs, so they sought to determine if gargling with mouthwash would be a successful approach to lowering the germ count. 

      To determine the efficacy of mouthwash in reducing the spread of COVID-19, the researchers tested eight different mouthwashes that all contained different ingredients. 

      The researchers started by combining a sample of each mouthwash with coronavirus-infected cells. The mixture was shaken for 30 seconds, which is typically how long consumers would gargle with mouthwash. 

      The next step was for the researchers to perform a cell culture test, which allowed them to assess whether infectious cells cropped up following the gargling process. If the mouthwash worked, no new COVID-19 cells would multiply; however, if it didn’t work, the virus would continue to grow. 

      Ultimately, mouthwash was effective in keeping COVID-19 at bay. In all eight samples, the