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    Amazon introduces contactless payments with Amazon One

    The company says it’s got the security angle well in hand

    With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for events, gyms, office buildings, etc. that allows people to simply hold their hand over a scanner for a couple of seconds and gain admission or pay for items. 

    At present, the technology is available only at two Amazon Go stores, but the world can expect a more robust rollout if the pilot phase proves to be successful.

    Working backwards

    You might think that Amazon One came out of surface contact health safety issues related to COVID-19, but the idea’s genesis is the time drag that it takes consumers to slide a credit card in, approve a purchase, enter in PIN numbers, and the like.

    “As with everything Amazon does, we started with the customer experience and worked backwards. We solved for things that are durable and have stood the test of time but often cause friction or wasted time for customers,” wrote Amazon’s Vice President of Amazon Physical Retail, Dilip Kumar in a blog post. 

    “We wondered whether we could help improve experiences like paying at checkout, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or even badging into work. So, we built Amazon One to offer just that—a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”

    How it works

    Interested consumers have the option to enroll at stores and venues using Amazon One; all it takes is scanning one palm or both. Simple as that. For customers to actually use the service, Kumar says that the technology requires an “intentional gesture” -- one where a person holds their hand over the device with the palm of the hand working as a biometric identifier. 

    Privacy advocates will be watching Amazon like a hawk given the earlier concerns its foray into facial-recognition software raised with shareholders, employees, and the ACLU, but the company is ready to face the fire.

    Kumar says that the palm images will be encrypted on a “highly secure area in the cloud” and not on a scanner at the location. To add a little more security, anyone can delete their personal Amazon One-related data any time at one.amazon.com. Interested consumers can also sign up for the service at that same website.

    With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for ev...
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    Universal Health Services targeted by likely ransomware attack

    Some hospitals were forced to file patient information with pen and paper due to the issue

    Universal Health Services (UHS), one of the nation’s largest health care providers, disclosed Monday that its systems were affected by a highly coordinated ransomware attack. Employees at a major U.S. hospital chain said over the weekend that they couldn’t access their computers. 

    UHS, which operates about 400 health care facilities across the U.S. and U.K., said an “IT security issue” was responsible for the issue.

    “We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore IT operations as quickly as possible,” UHS said in a statement. “In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods. Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively.” 

    The company added that “no patient or employee data appears to have been accessed, copied or misused.” 

    Forced to file information manually

    A source familiar with the matter told NBC News that the attack “looks and smells like ransomware.” Hackers often wait to deploy ransomware over the weekend to take advantage of reduced staff members, NBC News noted.

    The attack forced some UHS hospitals to file patient information manually, using pen and paper. In other instances, ambulances were redirected to other nearby hospitals. 

    This isn’t the first time a hospital chain has been the target of a cyberattack. Earlier this month, Duesseldorf University Hospital in Germany was hit by a ransomware attack that resulted in a patient in critical condition having to be transferred to another hospital. The patient ended up dying while en route to the other facility. 

    Universal Health Services (UHS), one of the nation’s largest health care providers, disclosed Monday that its systems were affected by a highly coordinated...
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    Nissan recalls model year 2019 Titans with LED headlights

    The headlights may have incorrect aiming marks

    Nissan North America is recalling 82 model year 2019 Titans with LED headlights.

    The headlights may have incorrect aiming marks.

    The incorrect marks may cause the headlights to be aimed incorrectly during servicing, resulting in insufficient illumination of the road while driving at night, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and -- as necessary -- replace the headlight assemblies free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin on October 20, 2020.

    Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 867-7669. Nissan's number for this recall is PC751.

    Nissan North America is recalling 82 model year 2019 Titans with LED headlights. The headlights may have incorrect aiming marks. The incorrect marks ...
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      Coronavirus update: 7 million U.S. cases, children less likely to get the virus

      Researchers have found a way to safely recycle N95 masks

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,122,754(7,089,611)

      Total U.S. deaths: 204,825 (204,566)

      Total global cases: 33,173,176 (32,919,487)

      Total global deaths: 998,867 (995,352)

      Cases in the U.S. cross the 7 million mark

      Over the weekend, the U.S. reached a significant milestone, recording coronavirus (COVID-19) cases that pushed the total over the 7 million mark. At the same time, the world came close to 1 million deaths from the virus.

      Cases of the virus began to rise in June and have not let up, especially after college students returned to campus. A Reuters analysis shows that outbreaks are particularly bad in the Midwest, with 25 percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive.

      Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients set records last week in Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

      Children less likely to get the virus

      Does the virus causing COVID-19 discriminate? Apparently it does. Researchers at Britain’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report that the chance of a child getting the virus is 44 percent lower than an adult’s. However, that protection only lasts up to a certain age.

      “There is preliminary evidence that those younger than 10 to 14 years have lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection than adults, with adolescents appearing to have similar susceptibility to adults,” the researchers wrote in their analysis.

      Researchers find a way to recycle N95 masks

      While there are plenty of face coverings available for consumers, professional-grade N95 masks are still in limited supply. Researchers at Stanford and the University of Texas say they have found a way to effectively clean the masks so they can be reused.

      Using a combination of moderate heat and high relative humidity, the team was able to disinfect N95 mask materials without reducing their ability to filter out viruses. They say it may be possible for the cleaning process to be automated.

      “This is really an issue, so if you can find a way to recycle the masks a few dozen times, the shortage goes way down,” said Stanford physicist Steven Chu, a senior author on the new paper.

      Old life-support treatment saves lives

      A study shows an existing life-support option known as ECMO, used in lung-damaging pandemics in the past, is helping severely ill COVID-19 patients survive.

      The study followed the cases of 1,035 patients who were given little chance to survive because ventilators and other treatments were ineffective. But after they were placed on ECMO, their actual death rate was less than 40 percent, researchers said. 

      ECMO is a process that channels blood out of the body and into a circuit of equipment that adds oxygen directly to the blood before pumping it back into regular circulation. Small studies published early in the pandemic had cast doubt on the technique’s usefulness.

      NFL investigating team over safety protocols

      The Las Vegas Raiders are under investigation by the NFL for allegedly breaking the league’s COVID-19 safety rules. The alleged infraction goes back to last Monday night’s victory over the New Orleans Saints.

      According to media reports, an unauthorized employee was able to enter the team’s locker room after the game without the required credentials. League rules limit the number of people who can be in the locker room in order to reduce potential exposure to the virus.

      This isn’t the first time the Raiders have been under NFL scrutiny for a pandemic-related issue. Head Coach Jon Gruden and the team were fined the previous week for failing to wear masks on the sidelines.

      Around the nation

      • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning residents in his state that the coronavirus is “still a force to be reckoned with.” Cuomo has voiced concern over New York City’s recent increase in new cases of the virus.

      • Arizona: Pima County has reported a sharp uptick in coronavirus cases, which health officials say is not that surprising. “I attribute the uptick in Pima County to the situation on the University of Arizona (UA) campus,” said Dr. Joe Gerald, an associate professor with the UA’s Zuckerman College of Public Health. “Our mitigation efforts didn’t work as well as we had hoped.”

      • Michigan: It’s prime apple harvesting time throughout the state, but agriculture officials worry that the coronavirus can pose a serious problem. They say an outbreak among the apple picking labor force would disrupt the industry.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,122,754(7,089,611...
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      United reaches deal with pilots’ union to avoid thousands of worker furloughs

      The airline will drastically reduce flying schedules to preserve jobs

      United Airlines announced on Monday that it’s come up with a plan that will allow it to avoid having to furlough thousands of employees. 

      Under an agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association, United will reduce flying schedules and maintain pay rates as it seeks to weather the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the carrier planned to furlough 2,850 pilots after its federal aid ran out. The furloughs were set to take effect on Thursday. 

      United and other airlines have said the lack of new federal support has made it necessary to enact cost-cutting measures, like furloughs. While United has reached an agreement that it will allow it to avoid some furloughs, the airline is still planning to cut nearly 13,000 jobs beginning in October. 

      The airline’s pilots’ union said the deal will allow United to stay afloat until flying demand returns. However, United executives have said they don’t expect to fully recover until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is widely available.

      The furloughs that United is still planning would affect flight attendants, mechanics, and other union employees. In an effort to make it easier to bounce back once demand returns, pilots -- who have to go through a lengthier training process -- will be kept on during the health crisis. 

      “Our members understood that in order to protect pilot jobs, we needed to approve this agreement,” said Todd Insler, chairman of the union’s United Airlines council.

      United Airlines announced on Monday that it’s come up with a plan that will allow it to avoid having to furlough thousands of employees. Under an agree...
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      Amazon confirms Prime Day event to begin October 13

      The online retailer is offering deals on millions of products and supporting businesses impacted by the pandemic

      As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations in categories like toys, TVs, electronics, fashion, home, and, of course, Amazon devices.

      Amazon says it’s collected more than a million deals to offer shoppers, including brand-specific items from adidas, Coleman, Under Armour, Keurig, Lacoste, and Panasonic.

      Get a head start on the bargains

      Prime Day has become more like Prime 15 Days because of the carrots the retailer started dangling on Tuesday. Below is a list of some deals shoppers can expect to see. (*All deals are accurate at the time of publishing but are subject to change.)

      • Amazon Devices: Shoppers can buy two Echo Dot devices for $39.98 and Fire TV Recast for $129.99 so people can store up to 75 hours of programming. There’s also a deal on smart home security with Amazon’s Blink Mini indoor cameras, which will be discounted to $24.99 per unit.

      • Amazon Music: Amazon is still woefully behind Spotify in the number of paid subscribers, but it’s not giving up yet. For just 99 cents, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited (being a new subscriber is key, apparently) can get four free months of the premium, ad-free streaming tier.

      • Audible: Book lovers who like taking their books on the go in audio form can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus.

      • Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50 percent off a 6-month subscription.

      • Amazon Fashion: The newest niche Amazon is shooting for is high fashion, so it’s no surprise that it’s rolling out some larger deals here. Fashion lovers can save up to 30 percent on select Vineyard Vines clothing for men, up to 15 percent on select fall fashion from Shopbop, and up to 30 percent on select styles from Calvin Klein.

      • Home: Deals include up to 20 percent or more off on furniture brands like Lane Home Furnishings, Walker Edison Furniture Company, and Nathan James. 

      • Tools: If Dad likes playing handyman, Mrs. Claus can get a head start on Christmas by saving up to 20 percent on select DEWALT saws and drills and up to 15 percent on select DEWALT impact driver and drill combo Kits.

      • Toys: Parents who like the “green” approach to life can save up to 30 percent on select toys from Green Toys.

      Alexa, how do I pay for all of this?

      Being the crafty retailer that it is, Amazon knows that a little extra grease won’t hurt; it’s offering a $100 gift card for consumers who sign up and are approved for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.. 

      Prime member Echo Dot users can find daily deals by asking “Alexa, what are my Prime Day deals?” As a bonus, effectively immediately and lasting a limited time, new Prime members who sign up using the Echo Dot can get a $5 Amazon credit simply by saying, “Alexa, sign me up for Prime.”

      Amazon is also taking a QVC-ish angle with Amazon Live. Pitching everything from kitchen appliances to fashion wear, the hosted Amazon Live stream will show off products and take advantage of special deals the instant they go live. To watch, visit Amazon’s site here and via the Amazon Shopping app on Fire TV.

      Prime Day 2020 also has a kind gesture to all the small businesses who pushed forward through COVID-19. In support of those efforts, Amazon is investing an additional $100 million in special Prime Day and holiday promotional programs by offering a $10 credit to use on Prime Day to members who spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store.

      As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations...
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      AT&T adds new unlimited data plan option

      The carrier now allows customers to pick a different unlimited plan for each line

      AT&T has announced that it’s giving customers the option to combine different unlimited plans on each line of their account. 

      On Monday, the carrier said its new “Unlimited Your Way” program will let customers choose either the Starter, Extra, or Elite unlimited plan for each line instead of requiring all lines to have the same plan. 

      "We recognize that individuals have different wireless needs and not all family members want the same rate plan," said David Christopher, executive vice president of AT&T Mobility, in a release. "With the launch of Unlimited Your Way we're making it simple – now customers can pick the best combination of unlimited wireless plans for each family member – all with access to fast, reliable and secure nationwide AT&T 5G included at no extra charge."

      Greater flexibility 

      The company said that allowing customers to mix and match unlimited wireless plans could result in savings by better accommodating the wireless needs of each line user. 

      For example, if a person who works from home went with the Unlimited Extra plan for its hotspot data, another line user could use Unlimited Elite for HBO Max entertainment; another two lines could stay on Unlimited Started if they don’t need those features. That combination would cost $160 per month while keeping everyone on Unlimited Elite would cost $200 per month. 

      The three plans on AT&T’s new program for those with multiple lines are the Unlimited Elite, which has up to 100GB of “premium” data for $45; the $35 Unlimited Extra plan, which has up to 50GB of premium data; and the $30 Unlimited Starter, which has up to 30GB of premium data. 

      AT&T’s new mix and match unlimited plan option for families is available starting today. 

      AT&T; has announced that it’s giving customers the option to combine different unlimited plans on each line of their account. On Monday, the carrier sa...
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      U.S. government places restrictions on China’s largest chipmaker

      Officials say the company’s equipment could be used for military purposes

      The United States has added China’s largest chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), to its blocked entity list. 

      U.S. officials concluded that there is an “unacceptable risk” that equipment supplied by SMIC could be used for military purposes, Reuters reported. 

      In the interest of protecting national security, the Commerce Department has decided to make it necessary for American companies to apply for individual export licenses in order to do business with the Chinese firm. 

      Tightening trade restrictions

      A spokesperson for SMIC said the company hadn't heard anything about the restrictions in the form of an official notice. It maintained that it’s not linked to the Chinese military in any way. 

      “SMIC reiterates that it manufactures semiconductors and provides services solely for civilian and commercial end-users and end-uses,” the chip maker said. “The Company has no relationship with the Chinese military and does not manufacture for any military end-users or end-uses.”

      The U.S. previously blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei in an effort to prevent China from accessing critical chipmaking technology. The nation’s addition of SMIC to the blocked entity list will keep the semiconductor producer from getting key equipment and design tools from the U.S. 

      The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security didn’t comment specifically on the decision regarding SMIC. However, it said more broadly that it was “constantly monitoring and assessing any potential threats to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.” 

      The United States has added China’s largest chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), to its blocked entity list. U.S. o...
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      Specialized Bicycle Components recalls Sirrus bicycles

      The crank arm can disengage and cause the rider to lose control,

      Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 38,200 Sirrus, Sirrus X and Sirrus Sport bicycles with alloy cranks sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The crank arm can disengage and cause the rider to lose control, posing fall and injury hazards.

      The firm has received 56 reports of crank arm disengaging, including seven reports of injuries. One injury involved a torn bicep tendon and the other six were minor injuries, such as road rash.

      This recall involves the 2019-2020 model year Sirrus, Sirrus X and Sirrus Sport bicycles sold in 27 different colors.

      Consumers can determine if their bicycle is part of the recall if “Sirrus” or “Sirrus X” is written on the top tube of the bicycle and the model name (e.g. “3.0”) is written on the seatstay of the bicycle. A list of the recalled models may be found here.

      The bicycles, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Specialized retailers nationwide and online from September 2018, through June 2020, for between $850 and $1,700.

      What to do

      Consumers should stop using the recalled bicycles immediately and contact their nearest authorized Specialized retailer for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact Specialized Bicycle Components at (800) 722-4423 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at ridercare@specialized.com or online at www.specialized.com and click on “Safety Notifications” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 38,200 Sirrus, Sirrus X and Sirrus Sport bicycles with alloy cranks sold in the U...
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      Coronavirus update: Democrats back compromise aid package, Uber enforces mask rule for riders

      Men have a higher death risk from the virus than women

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,990,568 (6,941,248)

      Total U.S. deaths: 203,047 (202,170)

      Total global cases: 32,345,456 (31,944,038)

      Total global deaths: 984,590 (977,881)

      Democrats reportedly offering a compromise aid package

      Democrats in the House may be ready to offer a slimmed-down coronavirus (COVID-19) aid package in hopes of attracting enough Senate Republicans to pass it. Published reports say the package totals $2.4 trillion in spending.

      Sources say it would include extra unemployment benefits, direct stimulus payments to Americans, another round of small-business loan funding, and aid to airlines.

      At $2.4 trillion, it’s still a trillion dollars more than Republicans have been willing to spend. But pressure on both parties is growing after aid contained in the original CARES Act expired at the end of July. 

      Uber will enforce mask rule for riders

      Uber riders who hop in the car without wearing a mask will have to prove they’re wearing one before they take their next ride. The company previously installed a system to make sure drivers were wearing masks. It’s now making sure riders have one.

      “If a driver reports to us that a rider wasn’t wearing a mask, the rider will be required to take a selfie with their face covered before they’re able to take another trip with Uber,” the company said in a blog post. “With the addition of this new feature, one driver’s feedback can help ensure the safety of Uber for the next driver.”

      The mask verification feature will roll out to the U.S. and Canada by the end of September. It will take effect across Latin America and other countries after that.

      Researchers say men have a higher death risk

      Anecdotal evidence suggests that men are more likely to have more severe coronavirus symptoms than women. Now, new research suggests that they are also more likely to die from the virus.

      The researchers at University Hospital Regensburg in Germany say men have a 62 percent higher risk of a COVID-19 associated death when compared to women. The scientists believe it may be due to higher levels of inflammation among male coronavirus patients.

      The study also shows that men have more admissions to an intensive care unit (ICU) when admitted to a hospital than women. In all, male patients spent more time in the hospital than females due to the virus.

      Severe cases linked to immune system weak spots

      Why do some people shake off COVID-19 like it was a bad cold while others fight for their lives in the hospital? We know that underlying health issues can be a factor, and that may provide a clue to the larger picture.

      Chronic illnesses like cancer can weaken the immune system, and it now seems clear that a strong immune system is needed to fight off the coronavirus. Two new analyses suggest that some life-threatening cases can be traced to weak spots in patients’ immune systems.

      One analysis showed that at least 10 percent of patients with a severe form of the disease created “auto-antibodies” that attack the immune system instead of fighting the virus. Seeing these harmful antibodies in so many patients – 101 out of 987 – was “a stunning observation,” said Jean-Laurent Casanova, a medical researcher at The Rockefeller University.

      Report shows increase in demand for travel insurance

      The coronavirus has changed a lot of things about travel, but one thing that hasn’t changed is travel insurance. Travelers are still seeking it, and according to travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, consumers are specifically looking for a policy that covers cancellation or medical coverage in the event that they come down with COVID-19 before or during their trip.

      Cancellation protection remains a top priority, with 81 percent of policies purchased during the pandemic including trip cancellation benefits. Consumers are willing to pay more for it, with pricey “cancel for any reason” policies accounting for 22 percent of all policies, a 552 percent increase over last year.

      Around the nation

      • Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamala Northam have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the governor’s office. At midweek, a member of the governor’s mansion staff was diagnosed after developing symptoms. 

      • Oregon: Clatsop County officials reported that dozens of workers at a seafood processing plant have tested positive for the coronavirus. The 77 affected employees are mostly members of the night shift.

      • Florida: Florida has struggled with spikes in coronavirus cases, but Gov. Ron DeSantis says restaurants will soon be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity; they currently operate at 50 percent capacity. DeSantis said he doesn’t think closing restaurants has been particularly effective in controlling the coronavirus.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,990,568 (6,941,24...
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      Younger adults account for 20 percent of new COVID-19 cases

      Americans in their 20s now account for more cases than people in any other age group

      People in their 20's now account for 1 in 5 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

      The CDC said this age group surpassed all others in terms of groups with the highest percentage of confirmed cases over the summer. The agency said this was especially true in the southern regions, which were heavily impacted by spikes in cases in June. 

      Health officials said the figures suggest “younger adults likely contributed to community transmission of COVID-19.” The emerging trend highlights the need to protect those who are more vulnerable to developing severe complications from COVID-19, the CDC said. 

      "Younger individuals, who may not require hospitalization, spread the virus to older, more vulnerable persons," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. "This change in infection patterns underscores the need to fortify vulnerable populations, especially those in nursing homes and assisted living centers, to insulate them from chains of viral transmission."

      Shifting trends

      As of May, the median age of people infected with COVID-19 was 46, according to the CDC’s data. Infected individuals between 40-49 accounted for 16.4 percent of the country’s cases while the 20-29 age bracket which made up 15.5 percent of COVID-19 positive patients in the U.S.

      By June, the 20-29 year old age group had surpassed the 40-49 year old age group in terms of numbers, making up 20.3 percent of cases. Older patients accounted for 16.0 percent. The next month, 20-somethings accounted for 23.2 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 cases, and the 40-49 bracket accounted for 15.2 percent.

      "This report provides preliminary evidence that younger adults contributed to community transmission of COVID-19 to older adults," the CDC wrote. "Across the southern United States in June 2020, the increase in SARS-CoV-2 infection among younger adults preceded the increase among older adults by 4–15 days (or approximately one to three incubation periods).” 

      Similar observations have been reported by the World Health Organization, the CDC added.

      Vulnerable to infection 

      Experts say the lifestyles and behaviors of younger adults could translate to a heightened vulnerability to COVID-19. Younger adults often work in places that could put them at greater risk of being exposed to the virus, and reports indicate that they generally tend to be more lax about adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

      Although a case of COVID-19 contracted by a younger person may not lead to complications that are as severe as those experienced by an older individual, health officials have stressed that some people in this age group will become seriously ill.

      The CDC continues to recommend that everyone practice "strict adherence to community mitigation strategies"  -- such as wearing masks, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene -- to curb the spread of the virus.

      People in their 20's now account for 1 in 5 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (...
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      Anxiety about job security and finances have increased during the pandemic

      Study findings emphasize just how much of a mental toll the coronavirus has had on consumers

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and anxiety have been at an all-time high for consumers and their families. And while there are plenty of reasons to feel anxious during these uncertain times, a new study is looking at one of the major sources of stress that has emerged since the start of the pandemic. 

      According to researchers from the University of Connecticut, the pandemic has led to an increase in anxiety around job and financial security -- particularly for those who have remained employed since the start of COVID-19. 

      “We definitely are seeing, within our employed participants, higher rates of anxiety than in individuals who indicated they were not employed,” said researcher Natalie J. Shook. “Controlling for demographics, controlling for income level, and also taking into account participant health and concerns about COVID -- and the extent to which people were engaged in social distancing or quarantine -- we are seeing that job security and financial concerns are the significant predictors associated with anxiety and depression.” 

      Monitoring anxiety levels

      The study findings are part of an ongoing survey to understand how consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and feelings have changed since the start of the pandemic. Roughly 1,000 participants are involved in the project, and they are routinely surveyed about a variety of different topics. For this study in particular, the surveys focused on the things that have been the most anxiety-inducing since the start of the pandemic. Researchers also asked participants specific questions about their jobs and finances. 

      The researchers identified links between those who were feeling the greatest stress about finances and job security with those who were experiencing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Based on responses to the surveys, the pandemic has specifically made participants’ question the viability of their positions at work and their financial status. Because there is so much uncertainty, it’s hard for consumers to plan for the future or predict what the next year will bring in terms of employment and finances, which is ultimately what leads to the increase in anxiety and depression. 

      While it can be difficult to cope with stress and anxiety, the researchers think there is an opportunity for employers to step up and ease some of the mental burden consumers are facing during these challenging times. 

      “Based on these findings, for those experiencing depressive symptoms during the pandemic, it may be particularly important for employers to be mindful and try to minimize feelings of uncertainty for the employees, as well as instilling hope or agency in employees,” the researchers explained. “For those experiencing anxiety symptoms, employers could attempt to reduce financial concerns by allowing employees to continue to work (e.g. telework), even with reduced hours and income, to ensure that employees do not lose their entire income.” 

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and anxiety have been at an all-time high for consumers and their families. And while there are plenty of...
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