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    Gulf storms end gas price stability, at least for now

    As refineries shut down, prices at the pump moved higher just about everywhere

    Last week, AAA predicted gasoline prices had peaked for the summer. Oops. Prices rose in every part of the country in the last week.

    The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the price of regular gas is $2.23 a gallon, up five cents from last Friday. The average price of premium is $2.83 a gallon, four cents higher than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is nearly the same as last week, $2.43 a gallon.

    In fairness, AAA did offer one important caveat in last week’s prediction -- that there wouldn’t be any damaging hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Sure enough, Hurricane Laura roared ashore this week along the Louisiana and Texas borders, curtailing operations at area oil refineries. The latest reports, however, show there was little damage to the facilities, which should soon return to full operations.

    Refinery shutdowns

    Thursday on Twitter, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, reported that gas prices had pushed to their highest level since March for two reasons -- recovering demand and the refinery shutdowns in the Gulf.

    “Expect another five cents a gallon rise or so in the next week or two,” he wrote.

    Rising oil prices are also putting upward pressure on gasoline prices right at the time that prices begin to decline into the fall and winter months. At midweek, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a larger than expected drawdown from U.S. oil stockpiles in the previous week but that didn’t seem to affect fuel production.

    U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.7 million barrels per day during the week ending August 21, which was 225,000 barrels per day more than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 82.0 percent of their operable capacity last week. 

    While most states saw prices at the pump rise no more than four cents a gallon, the statewide average in Indiana jumped nine cents a gallon while the average price gained seven cents in Pennsylvania.

    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 ($3.24)

    • California ($3.23)

    • Washington ($2.83)

    • Oregon ($2.67)

    • Nevada ($2.67)

    • Alaska ($2.54)

    • Pennsylvania ($2.50)

    • Utah ($2.43)

    • Idaho ($2.43)

    • Illinois ($2.39)

    The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

    • Mississippi ($1.87)

    • Louisiana ($1.89)

    • Arkansas ($1.91)

    • Texas ($1.91)

    • Alabama ($1.92)

    • Oklahoma ($1.92)

    • Missouri ($1.93)

    • Tennessee ($1.98)

    • South Carolina ($1.99)

    • Kansas ($2.00)

    Last week, AAA predicted gasoline prices had peaked for the summer. Oops. Prices rose in every part of the country in the last week.The AAA Fuel Gauge...
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    Flu and pneumonia vaccines linked to fewer heart failure deaths

    Researchers say these vaccines come with minimal side effects and offer several health benefits to consumers

    A new study conducted by researchers from the European Society of Cardiology found that getting the flu or pneumonia vaccine can lower the risk of death for those who experience heart failure. The team found that such vaccines are effective at protecting consumers’ health and increasing longevity. 

    “Pneumonia and flu vaccines are vital to preventing these respiratory infections and protecting patients with heart failure,” said researcher Dr. Karthik Gonuguntla. “Although many people have rejected common and safe vaccines before COVID-19, I am optimistic that the pandemic has changed perceptions about the role of immunizations in safeguarding our health.” 

    Benefits of the vaccines

    The researchers analyzed data from the National Inpatient Sample (NIS), which included information from nearly three million patients with heart failure who had been hospitalized between 2010 and 2014. Based on those who had been vaccinated for the flu or pneumonia, the researchers assessed their medical outcomes to determine the effectiveness of the vaccines. 

    While less than two percent of the participants received either the flu or pneumonia vaccine, the researchers learned that those who did get vaccinated lived longer. The study revealed that more than 3.5 percent of patients with heart failure who hadn’t received either vaccine died in-hospital, compared to 1.3 percent of patients who received the flu vaccine and 1.2 percent of patients who received the pneumonia vaccine. 

    These findings highlight how critical these vaccines may be for those with heart issues. However, they also shed a light on how few heart failure patients are actually getting vaccinated. The researchers hope that these findings inspire more consumers with heart failure to protect themselves against these respiratory conditions, as it could be life-saving. 

    “Our study provides further impetus for annual immunizations in patients with heart failure,” said Dr. Gonuguntla. “Despite advice to do so, uptake remains low. Although large administrative databases like the NIS are prone to containing some errors, the data indicate that there is some distance to go before reaching 100 percent coverage.” 

    A new study conducted by researchers from the European Society of Cardiology found that getting the flu or pneumonia vaccine can lower the risk of death fo...
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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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