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    Toyota recalls model year 2020 Highlanders and Highlander hybrids

    The front seat trim can interfere with airbag deployment

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 3,121 model year 2020 Highlanders and Highlander hybrids.

    Incorrect seat trim covers on one or both of the front seats can prevent the seat-mounted side airbag from deploying properly.

    Improper deployment of the seat-mounted side airbag increases the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

    What to do

    Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front seats and replace the seat trim covers -- as necessary -- free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin December 13, 2020.

    Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 442-8696. Toyota's number for this recall is 20TB14 / 20TA14.

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 3,121 model year 2020 Highlanders and Highlander hybrids. Incorrect seat trim covers on one or bot...
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      GM recalls Cadillac Escalades, Chevrolet Silverados &Tahoes, and GMC Sierra 1500s & Yukons

      The vacuum pump may decrease power brake assist

      General Motors is recalling 14,620 model year 2018 Cadillac Escalades, Chevrolet Silverado 1500s & Tahoes, and GMC Sierra 1500s & Yukons with either a 5.3L or 6.2L V8 engine.

      The output of the mechanical vacuum pump can decrease over time, decreasing the amount of vacuum/power brake assist.

      A decrease in brake assist can increase the brake pedal effort and distance required to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the Electronic Brake Control Module free of charge.

      The recall is scheduled to begin November 16, 2020.

      Owners may contact GM customer service at (866) 522-9559, Cadillac customer service at (800) 458-8006 or Chevrolet customer service at (800)630-2438. GM's number for this recall is N202300860.

      General Motors is recalling 14,620 model year 2018 Cadillac Escalades, Chevrolet Silverado 1500s & Tahoes, and GMC Sierra 1500s & Yukons with either a 5.3L...
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      Latest DOT metrics show on-time performance for airlines is up, but so are grievances

      One interesting statistic is the number of issues with mishandled wheelchairs and scooters

      The once unfriendly skies of the COVID-19 pandemic are now producing an improvement in on-time performance. However, getting a refund from an airline continues to be a major hassle for travelers, according to the latest metrics from the Department of Transportation (DOT).

      In monitoring 10 airlines -- Allegiant, Delta, Southwest, American, United, Spirit, JetBlue, Alaska, Frontier, and Hawaiian -- the ups and downs shook out like this:

      Arrivals

      Highest on-time arrival rates:

      1.    Southwest Airlines – 94.5 percent and a near 15-point improvement from the previous year

      2.    Alaska Airlines Network – 92.5 percent 

      3.    Hawaiian Airlines Network – 91.7 percent 

      Lowest on-time arrival rates:

      1.    JetBlue Airways – 85.4 percent 

      2.    Allegiant Air – 85.5 percent 

      3.    Frontier Airlines – 87.0 percent 

      Cancellations

      In July 2020, reporting marketing carriers canceled 0.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, a higher rate than 0.4 percent in June 2020 but a lower rate than 2.1 percent  a year before (July 2019). 

      Lowest canceled flight rates

      1.    Spirit Airlines – 0.1 percent 

      2.    American Airlines Network – 0.6 percent 

      3.    Southwest Airlines – 0.7 percent 

      Highest cancellation rates:

      1.    Hawaiian Airlines Network – 4.1 percent 

      2.    Frontier Airlines – 3.2 percent 

      3.    JetBlue Airways – 2.8 percent 

      Complaints 

      In July 2020, the DOT received 11,117 complaints about airline service from consumers -- up an unbelievable 493.2 percent from the total of 1,874 filed in July 2019, but down 30.3 percent from the 15,946 received in June 2020. Of the 11,117 complaints received in July 2020, 10,257 concerned refunds.

      The bad boys of the complaint world turned out to be United (850 total with 93.8 percent of those regarding refunds), Frontier (795 total with 72.4 percent regarding refunds), and American (615 total with 81.9 percent regarding refunds). 

      Bad news aside, every airline should get a little credit for being efficient with handling luggage. Overall, baggage-related complaints were down from 11.8 percent in July 2019 to 0.5 percent in July 2020.

      Mishandling of wheelchairs

      Travelers usually don’t take into consideration things like how efficient an airline is when it comes to things like mishandling assistive devices like wheelchairs. But with the pandemic already producing enough stress as it is, every little thing that goes wrong only adds to a traveler’s stress levels.

      In July 2020, airlines reported mishandling a rate of 1.17 percent mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, a tick better than a year ago, but still something a traveler who needs assistance should be aware of.

      While Southwest scored well in the on-time category and American in the cancelled flights segment, neither fared well in the wheelchair/scooter breakout. American (and its subsidiaries) mishandled 150 wheelchair/scooter requests, and Southwest was a distant second at 31. The airline with the best record in this category was Hawaiian, who bungled zero wheelchair/scooter requests.

      Other metrics

      In the animal department, it looks like all the problems related to animals have completely vanished. Whether it was the DOT’s recent involvement or the airlines just paying more attention, who knows. However, there were zero animal-related complaints in the latest DOT statistics, and for travelers with pets, that’s a welcome change.

      Also down were the complaints about discrimination -- possibly a result of a House committee calling out airlines about the matter. Discrimination complaints fell from 11 in July 2019 to only five in 2020. Of those, one regarded race, three regarded national origin, and one regarded religion. The DOT says that all complaints alleging discrimination are investigated by the Department to determine if there has been a violation(s) of the passenger’s civil rights.

      The once unfriendly skies of the COVID-19 pandemic are now producing an improvement in on-time performance. However, getting a refund from an airline conti...
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      Coronavirus update: German lockdown fears rattle Wall Street, CVS expands testing

      Many workers say they would switch jobs to keep working remotely

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 8,790,206 (8,708,553)

      Total U.S. deaths: 226,864 (225,817]

      Total global cases: 44,093,002 (43,623,111)

      Total global deaths: 1,169,052 (1,161,422)

      Germany prepares for another lockdown

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel is raising the possibility that the country may need to return to a lockdown as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases surge in that country, as well as across Europe. 

      Merkel is asking governors to agree to tighter restrictions on public gathering that would include closing bars and restaurants.

      The news sent Wall Street into a tailspin, especially since it coincides with a continued rise in U.S. cases of the virus. Health officials report more than 71,000 new infections in the last 24 hours.

      CVS expands COVID-19 testing

      CVS Health has announced plans to expand COVID-19 testing services currently offered at select CVS Pharmacy locations. The expansion will include rapid-result testing at nearly 1,000 sites by the end of the year.

      The company said rapid-result COVID-19 diagnostic tests will be available at no cost to patients who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria -- largely everyone covered by insurance or through a government program for the uninsured.

      CVS says it has administered more than five million COVID-19 tests since March and currently manages more than 4,000 drive-thru test sites at CVS Pharmacy locations in 33 states and Washington, D.C. 

      Workers might switch jobs to keep working remotely

      The coronavirus pandemic has turned American life upside down, forcing businesses to close offices and leaving families to figure out how to entertain and educate children at home. A new report shows that nearly two-thirds of workers have made working remotely a priority in their lives.

      Since March, Weber Shandwick, United Minds, and KRC Research have conducted surveys to explore consumer and employee attitudes about the response to COVID-19. The latest survey found a large majority of workers are comfortable working from home and would consider moving to a company that makes remote work permanent.

      "Workers across industries showed incredible resilience in quickly shifting to a remote work environment when the pandemic struck – and what we're seeing now is the future of the workplace and workforce being re-designed in real-time," said Kate Bullinger, president of United Minds. "Leaders who want to retain and attract top talent cannot rely on past workplace models even after the pandemic subsides."

      Survey finds pandemic is increasing financial stress

      John Hancock Retirement has released its latest survey measuring financial stress on workers and its impact on employers. The survey shows that one result of the pandemic has been that more people are reaching out for financial advice.

      The 2020 financial stress survey was expanded to include respondents in both the United States and Canada, and it captures similar sentiment across the two countries. Sue Reibel, global head of retirement, says it’s clear that retirement savers are more stressed than before the pandemic.

      "The silver lining in this year's data is that people are more open to financial advice than in years past,” she said. “In this environment, when faced with managing multiple pressures, stress is high and responsibilities are piling up, and retirement investors are looking for a trusted source of advice when it comes to navigating their finances."

      Tool helps doctors predict which patients will need hospitalization

      Some people who get the coronavirus recover quickly. Others end up in the hospital, and more than 226,000 Americans have died from the virus. A new tool helps doctors predict which patients will need more intense treatment.

      The tool, which was created by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), can be used to rapidly and automatically determine which patients are most likely to develop complications and need to be hospitalized.

      After examining thousands of patients, the researchers narrowed down the risk factors to a top five -- age, diastolic blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, COVID-19 testing status, and respiratory rate.

      Around the nation

      • Arizona: Arizona’s top health official is urging state residents to remain vigilant against the coronavirus as cases have increased in recent weeks. Dr. Cara Christ, public health director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, blamed this round of spiking cases on small household gatherings where people feel safe around each other.

      • Ohio: Ohio now has recorded more than 200,000 cases of the coronavirus, many of them in the recent “second wave.” State health officials report half of Ohio’s cases have been recorded since August.

      • Idaho: Gov. Brad Little has moved the state back into a modified Stage 3 of the reopening plan as healthcare facilities throughout the state face alarming demand. “Hospitals throughout the state are quickly filling up or are already full with COVID-19 patients and other patients, and way too many healthcare workers are out sick with COVID-19,” Little said.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 8,790,206 (8,708,55...
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      Consumer confidence fell slightly in October

      Despite a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, consumers appear fairly optimistic

      Consumer confidence fell slightly in October but still remains fairly high, considering America is in the midst of an uncertain election campaign and a raging pandemic.

      The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index retreated from 101.3 in September to 100.9. Consumers appear to feel pretty good about the way things are at the moment but less certain about the short-term future.

      The Present Situation Index – based on consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions – increased significantly from 98.9 to 104.6 in October. However, the Expectations Index – based on consumers' same view for future months – dropped from 102.9 in September to 98.4 this month.

      The wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is getting higher, requiring some jurisdictions to tighten restrictions again. New cases of the virus have increased by nearly 70,000 per day this week.

      The seven-day average of new cases is also rising, suggesting the wave is building momentum. The seven-day average is up 20 percent in just the last week.

      Little economic momentum

      "Consumers' assessment of current conditions improved while expectations declined, driven primarily by a softening in the short-term outlook for jobs,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “There is little to suggest that consumers foresee the economy gaining momentum in the final months of 2020, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise and unemployment still high."

      The metrics employed by The Conference Board definitely show doubts beginning to cloud consumers’ outlook as 2020 draws to a close. Those expecting business conditions will get worse in the coming weeks increased from 15.8 percent to 17.0 percent. 

      Optimism about the job market was mixed. There was a slight increase in those who expect there to be more jobs available in the months ahead, but the increase was slight. 

      Regarding the short-term income outlook, the percentage of consumers expecting an increase improved from 17.3 percent to 18.4 percent, but the proportion expecting a decrease also rose, from 13.0 percent to 14.2 percent.

      Consumer confidence fell slightly in October but still remains fairly high, considering America is in the midst of an uncertain election campaign and a rag...
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      BMW recalls vehicles with rear-view camera issue

      A small part of the image may be obscured

      BMW of North America is recalling 312 model year 2020-2021 X3 sDrive 30i, X3 xDrive 30i, X3M 40i, X3 xDrive 30e, X4 xDrive 30i, X4M 40i, 530i, 540i, 540i xDrive, M550i xDrive, M5, 550e, 550e xDrive, and 550e iPerformance vehicles.

      A small portion of the rearview camera image may be slightly obscured.

      If the driver relies on only the camera image, the reduced rearview image view can increase the risk of a crash or injury.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and -- if necessary -- program the rearview camera with updated software.

      The recall is expected to begin November 23, 2020.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 312 model year 2020-2021 X3 sDrive 30i, X3 xDrive 30i, X3M 40i, X3 xDrive 30e, X4 xDrive 30i, X4M 40i, 530i, 540i, 540i x...
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      Model year 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300s recalled

      The center console may open in a rear-end crash

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling seven model year 2019 C300s.

      The center console lock-system might not lock properly and -- in the a rear-end crash -- the lid may open, increasing the risk of injury to occupants.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will check the center console storage compartment, and replace it -- if necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 1, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling seven model year 2019 C300s. The center console lock-system might not lock properly and -- in the a rear-end cras...
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      Coronavirus update: The case surge continues, doubts about ‘herd immunity’

      Scientists have encountered a setback on the search for an antibody treatment

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 8,708,553 (8,646,085)

      Total U.S. deaths: 225,817 (225,282)

      Total global cases: 43,623,111 (43,187,134)

      Total global deaths: 1,161,422 (1,155,653)

      Nearly 70,000 new cases in 24 hours

      The wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is getting higher. On Monday, an analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University showed 69,967 new cases of the disease in the U.S. The outbreak continues in most areas of the country.

      The seven-day average of new cases is also rising, suggesting the wave is building momentum. The seven-day average is up 20 percent in just the last week.

      Some epidemiologists are worried because the new surge in cases is starting from a higher baseline of roughly 40,000 cases per day, compared with 20,000 cases per day during the summer increase.

      Scientists question ‘herd immunity’

      A major new study by researchers at Imperial College of London has shown that after patients recover from the coronavirus, the level of antibodies in their blood begins to decline. That means hopes for “herd immunity” to conquer the pandemic may be unfounded.

      The researchers screened 365,000 people in the UK over three rounds of testing between June and September.

      Their analysis of test results found that, rather than people building immunity over time, the number of people with antibodies that can fight COVID-19 declined by nearly 26 percent during the study period.

      Setback for Eli Lilly treatment

      A government-run study of Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment for the coronavirus ended after it was concluded the drug was “unlikely” to help hospitalized patients. But company CEO Dave Ricks told CNBC he still believes it could still help some patients.

      Ricks says the patients in the study had become infected weeks earlier and were suffering from very severe symptoms. Many, he said, were on supplemental oxygen. He said other studies of the drug are continuing.

      “It’s disappointing, of course,” Ricks said. “We would have liked to have shown a benefit in the hospital. It doesn’t appear that that benefit is there, so this chapter of that study will close.”

      The virus is crushing the rental market

      The Wall Street Journal reports the home purchase market may be getting all the attention during the pandemic but it’s the rental market that could be the cause of the next housing crisis.

      The report notes many renters are among those who lost their jobs when the economy shut down in March. Many have been unable to pay their rent, putting a financial strain on landlords who may have mortgages to pay.

      Many renters are legally protected from eviction for non-payment but that protection is set to expire in January. The Journal notes those renters -- many still unemployed -- will then be on the hook for their missed rent payments.

      How big is the risk of germs on food surfaces?

      It’s a question many consumers have probably asked themselves over the last few months: Can you get the coronavirus from handling or eating food that has been contaminated with virus germs?

      Researchers at Virginia Tech are about to find out. They’re studying how long SARS-CoV-2 survives on surfaces, focusing on its survival on food, food contact surfaces, and other points along the food supply chain.

      The two-year study will determine how to ensure that someone won’t contract the virus from handling packaging and how to properly sanitize at all levels of food distribution and production.

      Around the nation

      • Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania started the week with 1,104 patients in the hospital being treated for COVID-19, a 31 percent jump from the week before. Over the past month, the two-week daily average number of patients has more than doubled, from 452 to 931, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health data.

      • California: Scientists at the Brown School of Public Health claim California's testing capacity is far from where it needs to be to prevent major outbreaks ahead of the holidays. "It's really important that we get tested," said Ananda Wolchock, an epidemiologist. "We don't want our family at risk."

      • New Jersey: Newark is heading into a second-wave lockdown as coronavirus cases around the state move sharply higher. Starting today, all Newark businesses, except grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, must close at 8 p.m. Restaurants can continue outdoor dining until 11 p.m.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 8,708,553 (8,646,08...
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