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    Black Friday online spending sets new U.S. record

    A report shows that smartphones were a popular purchase

    With many consumers still apprehensive about shopping in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spending for online shopping during Black Friday hit a new record. 

    An estimated $9 billion was spent online the day after Thanksgiving, according to a report from Adobe Analytics. That figure represents a 22 percent increase from the previous online spending record of $7.4 billion, set in 2019. 

    Adobe researchers said Friday’s online sales total takes the title of second-largest spending day in U.S. history, behind Cyber Monday last year. Consumers spent $6.3 million per minute (or $27.50 per person) online on Black Friday 2020.

    Digital devices were hot items

    There was a 25 percent increase in spending on smartphones compared to last year, according to the report. Forty percent of all online sales, or $3.6 billion, was spent on these devices. 

    “New consoles, phones, smart devices and TVs that are traditional Black Friday purchases are sharing online shopping cart space this year with unorthodox Black Friday purchases such as groceries, clothes and alcohol, that would previously have been purchased in-store,” said Taylor Schreiner, a director at Adobe Digital Insights.

    Sales of personal care products surged 556 percent, and online spending on pet products rose 254 percent. Popular items included Hot Wheels, Lego sets, Apple AirPods, Apple Watches, Amazon Echo devices, and Samsung TVs.

    More consumers also utilized retailers’ in-store and curbside pickup options. The report found that the use of these options increased 52 percent from last year.

    This year’s Cyber Monday shopping event is expected to become the biggest day in online sales in U.S. history. Adobe expects online sales to total between $10.8 billion to $12.7 billion.

    With many consumers still apprehensive about shopping in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spending for online shopping during Black Friday hit a new re...
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    Coronavirus update: Promising vaccine data confirmed, distribution centers set up nationwide

    There was finally a break from new record daily cases

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

    Total U.S. confirmed cases: 13,399,855 (13,247,386)

    Total U.S. deaths: 266,986 (266,074)

    Total global cases: 62,924,259 (62,362,397)

    Total global deaths: 1,462,989 (1,454,745)

    Moderna seeks a green light from the FDA

    Moderna is requesting emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after new data confirmed that it is more than 94 percent effective in preventing infections. The trial also provided evidence that the vaccine is safe.

    Moderna is the second drugmaker to seek EUA from the FDA. Pfizer, which also reported a successful trial for its vaccine, applied for the same approval earlier this month.

    Moderna’s announcement means the vaccine could be available to some Americans -- frontline workers, first responders, and nursing home staff and residents -- before the end of December.

    You may not have to travel far to get vaccinated

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that it is working with major retail pharmacy chains -- including Walmart, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens -- to become vaccination distribution centers. 

    These firms have begun training staff and securing large refrigeration units to facilitate distribution to the public. Pharmacies increasingly have become basic health service providers, administering the annual flu vaccine. Some, like CVS Health, have established small clinics within their stores.

    “We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”

    Cases trend lower

    New cases of the coronavirus are suddenly trending lower. After a record 205,000 new cases reported on Friday, the number dropped to 138,000 on Sunday. But health officials say this is no time to relax.

    “What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “I don’t want to frighten people, except to say it is not too late to do something about this.”

    Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), previously expressed concerns about the large number of Americans who gathered for Thanksgiving. He urged Americans to use extreme cautious heading into the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

    Health systems urge Americans to mask up

    A growing number of health systems in the U.S. have a very simple holiday message for Americans: “Wear a mask, for Pete’s sake!”

    With a vaccine in sight but with hospitals strained from the surge in new COVID-19 cases, the #MaskUp Twitter campaign is asking Americans to wear a mask and limit contact with people outside their household. If you don’t do it for yourself, the campaign asks you to consider overworked health care professionals.

    “You’ve called us heroes,” the Cleveland Clinic said in a press release. “But heroes don’t deserve this.”

    Word of the year

    Dictionary.com has selected “pandemic” as the 2020 Word of the Year. The site says the word sums up an unprecedented year in which the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted every sector of society.

    "The pandemic has changed everything, including our language," said John Kelly, senior research editor at Dictionary.com. "From the technical lingo of asymptomatic to coinages like ‘doomscrolling,’ the pandemic suddenly generated a new shared vocabulary for a new lived experience

    He said the event drove not only record searches for new or unfamiliar terms but a record in the number of related additions made to Dictionary.com. 

    Around the nation

    • Missouri: There’s mixed virus news in the Show Me state. The death rate in the state is actually falling because more of the people becoming infected are recovering. But state health officials say hospitalizations are still worrisome, with ICU occupancy at 21 percent.

    • Louisiana: The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a pastor who faces criminal charges for his defiance of state coronavirus orders. "I am thankful that the United States Supreme Court denied this effort to overturn these mitigation efforts," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

    • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott has declined to impose a statewide mask mandate, but a growing number of Texas localities are seeing the need for one. Amarillo is one of the latest Texas cities to require citizens to wear a mask in public. “I am responding to what healthcare workers are asking and telling us that we need,” said Mayor Ginger Nelson.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 13,399,855 (13,247,...
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      Moderna applies for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine

      Grocery stores and pharmacies are already gearing up for nationwide distribution

      As anticipated, pharmaceutical manufacturer Moderna announced Monday that it will apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its coronavirus vaccine with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

      If all goes according to plan and approval is given, the first injections may be administered as early as Monday, December 21.

      The proof speaks for itself

      Moderna claims that its vaccine had a success rate of 94.1 percent in a Phase 3 study that assessed 196 actual cases of COVID-19. The results of that study closely mirror the analysis of data published earlier in the month that found the vaccine to be 94.5 percent effective.

      The performance of the vaccine was also impressive in individual categories. Against severe COVID-19, the vaccine registered a 100 percent success rate. Efficacy was consistent across age, race, ethnicity, and gender demographics, too. The 196 cases included 33 older adults (aged 65+) and 42 participants who identify as a member of a “diverse community.” This included members that were Hispanic or LatinX, Black or African American, Asian American, and multiracial.

      “We believe that our vaccine will provide a new and powerful tool that may change the course of this pandemic and help prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and death,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna. 

      Getting the distribution component ready

      Whether it’s Moderna’s vaccine or any of the vaccines created by its peers, getting ready to distribute a treatment is one of the next big steps. Major pharmacies across the country say they’re already preparing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine and, once it’s available, people should be able to get it at their neighborhood supermarket or drugstore.

      The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is already on the case, working with Albertsons, CVS, Kroger, Walgreens, Walmart, and others to become vaccination distribution centers. Various sources report that several pharmacy and grocery chains have begun training staff and securing large refrigeration units to become vaccination centers.

      As anticipated, pharmaceutical manufacturer Moderna announced Monday that it will apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its coronavirus vaccine w...
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      Major pharmacies preparing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine

      Once a vaccine is approved, here’s where you can get it

      When a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is approved, you’ll probably be able to get it at your neighborhood supermarket or drugstore.

      The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has begun working with Kroger, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and other national chains to become vaccination distribution centers. These firms have begun training staff and securing large refrigeration units to become vaccination centers.

      Moderna said Monday that it would ask U.S. and European regulators to approve its vaccine, which was shown to be 94 percent effective in clinical trials. Pfizer has already taken that step for its vaccine.

      Pharmacies increasingly have become basic health service providers, administering the annual flu vaccine. Some, like CVS Health, have established small clinics within their stores.

      Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief health officer at CVS Health, believes the pharmacy will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to as many as 20 million people in the U.S.

      “With approximately 70 percent of the U.S. population living within three miles of a CVS Pharmacy, we’ll be easy to reach when a vaccine is authorized by the FDA and becomes available in retail settings,” Brennan said. “Our pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and pharmacy technicians have been an invaluable community resource since the pandemic began and are ready to play a critical role in the vaccination effort.”

      Albertsons and its subsidiaries

      Albertsons supermarkets will also be a vaccine distribution point. The company operates more than 1,700 pharmacy locations nationwide, including those in Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, and Carrs stores.

      “Throughout this pandemic, our pharmacy teams have been on the front lines, offering care and health solutions for our communities,” said Omer Gajial, senior vice president of Albertsons Companies Pharmacy and Health. “When a vaccine is ready, our pharmacists will play a critical role in administering this important public health service.”

      No matter where you get the vaccine, there should be no cost to the consumer. The U.S. government will pay the cost for uninsured people.

      There will be some paperwork to complete before receiving the shot. Albertsons says consumers will find contactless consent forms for the vaccine in the company’s pharmacy apps. By completing the necessary paperwork electronically ahead of time, patients can reduce the amount of time spent in the pharmacy. 

      Here’s the list

      Here’s the list of participating retailers, provided by HHS. More locations may be added when one or more vaccines are approved.

      • Albertsons Companies, Inc. (incl., Osco, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Albertsons Market, Safeway, Tom Thumb, Star Market, Shaws, Haggen, Acme, Randalls, Carrs, Market Street, United, Vons, Pavilions, Amigos, Lucky’s, Pak n Save, Sav-On)

      • Costco Wholesale Corp.

      • CPESN USA, LLC

      • CVS Pharmacy, Inc. (incl. Long’s)

      • Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation’s PSAO, Elevate Provider

      • Health Mart Systems, Inc.

      • H-E-B, LP

      • Hy-Vee, Inc.

      • LeaderNET and Medicine Shoppe, Cardinal Health’s PSAOs

      • Managed Health Care Associates (MHA)

      • Meijer Inc.

      • Publix Super Markets, Inc.

      • Retail Business Services, LLC (incl., Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Bros Co, Stop & Shop)

      • Rite Aid Corp.

      • The Kroger Co. (incl., Kroger, Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer, Frys, Ralphs, King Soopers, Smiths, City Market, Dillons, Marianos, Pick-n-Save, Copps, Metro Market)

      • Topco Associates, LLC (incl. Big-Y Pharmacy and Wellness Center, Brookshire’s Pharmacy, Super One Pharmacy, FRESH by Brookshire’s Pharmacy, Coborn’s Pharmacy, Cash Wise Pharmacy, MarketPlace Pharmacy, Hartig Drug Company, King Kullen, Food City Pharmacy, Ingles Pharmacy, Raley’s, Bel Air, Nob Hill Pharmacies, Save Mart Pharmacies, Lucky Pharmacies, SpartanNash, Price Chopper, Market 32, Tops Friendly Markets, ShopRite, Wegmans, Weis Markets, Acme Fresh Markets)

      • Walgreens (incl. Duane Reade)

      • Walmart, Inc. (incl. Sam’s Club)

      • Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. (incl. Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Fresco Y Mas)

      When a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is approved, you’ll probably be able to get it at your neighborhood supermarket or drugstore.The Department of He...
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      Hacker sells email credentials of ‘hundreds’ of high level executives

      Stolen account credentials are being sold for $100 to $1500 each

      A hacker is reportedly selling access to email accounts belonging to “hundreds” of high level executives across the world. The accounts are going for $100 to $1500 each, depending on the value of each account. The targets include CEOs, vice presidents, and directors. 

      The email and password combinations are being sold on a “closed-access underground forum for Russian-speaking hackers named Exploit.in,” according to ZDNet. The seller did not disclose how he obtained the login credentials, but he claimed to have hundreds of additional accounts to sell. 

      ZDNet said a cybersecurity source has confirmed the validity of the stolen data. That source has begun the process of notifying all the affected companies. 

      Scam potential 

      If corporate executive login credentials fall into the wrong hands, both the executives and their workers could be affected. Cybercriminals can use compromised corporate email credentials for a variety of money-making schemes, KELA Product Manager Raveed Laeb explained to ZDNet. 

      "Attackers can use them for internal communications as part of a 'CEO scam' - where criminals manipulate employees into wiring them large sums of money; they can be used in order to access sensitive information as part of an extortion scheme,” Laeb said.

      Stolen login credentials can also be “exploited in order to gain access to other internal systems that require email-based 2FA, in order to move laterally in the organization and conduct a network intrusion," Laeb added.

      To reduce the likelihood of such events unfolding, cybersecurity experts highly recommend using two-step verification or two-factor authentication for online accounts. Attackers won’t be able to do anything with stolen login details in cases where the user has set up 2SV or 2FA. 

      A hacker is reportedly selling access to email accounts belonging to “hundreds” of high level executives across the world. The accounts are going for $100...
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      Any Volume recalls bicycle helmets

      The helmets do not comply with federal federal safety standards

      Any Volume of Bridgeville, Pa., is recalling about 660 bicycle helmets.

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

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves Any Volume’s medium-sized adult bicycle helmets sold in blue, green, pink, red, white and yellow.

      The helmets have black nylon fabric straps with white striped patterns in the center and a black plastic knob at the back of the helmet for adjusting the fitting.

      The helmets, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively online at ebay.com from May 2020, through October 2020, for about $15.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled helmets and contact Any Volume for a full refund. Any Volume is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Any Volume toll-free at (877) 391-5003 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at cs@anyvolume.com or online at www.anyvolume.com and click on “BH 11 and H-103 Bike Helmet Recall Notice” at the center of the page for more information.

      Any Volume of Bridgeville, Pa., is recalling about 660 bicycle helmets. The helmets do not comply with the U.S. CPSC federal safety standard for bicycle...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2014-2019 Jeep Grand Cherokees

      The Exhaust Gas Recirculation cooler may crack internally

      Chrysler is recalling 28,884 model year 2014-2019 Jeep Grand Cherokees with 3.0L EcoDiesel engines.

      The Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) cooler may crack and allow pre-heated vaporized coolant to enter the EGR system. This mixture may combust inside the intake manifold.

      Combustion in the intake manifold can increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the EGR cooler free of charge. Dealers will also inspect and -- as necessary – replace the intake manifold.

      The recall is expected to begin December 31, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W79.

      Chrysler is recalling 28,884 model year 2014-2019 Jeep Grand Cherokees with 3.0L EcoDiesel engines. The Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) cooler may crack...
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      What’s the deal on Cyber Monday?

      Compare top discounts for tech, gifts and more

      Even if you bought a few discounted big-ticket items last Friday, today is the day to save on electronics and gifts. Check out these deals on new tech devices, toys, jewelry and more.

      We also like that the Small Business Gift Guide makes it easy to support independent makers and crafters. For the most up-to-date information, check the Amazon app or ask Alexa, “What are my deals?” All Amazon Cyber Monday deals below are valid from November 28 through November 30.

      Cyber Monday deals on Amazon

      This year, millions of items are available with free shipping and delivery, even if you don’t have an Amazon Prime account. If you do have a Prime membership, you can get a free $100 gift card by applying for an Amazon Rewards Visa Card.

      Deals for new homeowners

      If you or someone you know is settling into a new space this holiday season, there’s no place like the internet — you’ll find plenty of gift ideas for making new digs feel like home among these online deals.

      Compare inexpensive rugs in a range of colors, shapes and sizes. With a robot vacuum cleaner, tidying up can be as easy as “Hey Alexa, clean my house!” Plus, sweet deals on video doorbells can help you keep an eye on things no matter where you are. For more, check out our resources on easy ways to renovate, decorate and protect a home.

      35% off iRobot 675 Roomba Vacuum

      • Ideal for hard floor and carpets
      • Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity

      Shop on Amazon

      30% off Safavieh, nuLOOM and Unique Loom rugs

      • Prices start around $12
      • Stain-resistant area rugs available

      Shop on Amazon

      $60 off Ring Video Doorbell 3

      • Enhanced Wi-Fi and motion detection
      • Easy to install

      Shop on Amazon

      Electronics and tech gifts

      Every year, new tech tempts even the staunchest Luddites. This year, we’re eyeing deals on these fancy Jabra headphones and the Toshiba Smart Fire TV. Plus, the new fourth-generation Amazon Echo is on sale — Alexa, can you say upgrade?

      $30 off the new Echo

      • Available in multiple colors
      • Simple to set up

      Shop on Amazon

      32-inch Toshiba Smart HD Fire TV for $119.99

      • Stream 500,000+ movies and shows
      • 720p resolution

      Shop on Amazon

      40% off Jabra Headphones

      • Wireless connectivity technology
      • Engineered with SmartSound

      Shop on Amazon

      Gifts for kids

      Whether the little ones in your life are adventurers, bookworms or artists, Cyber Monday has you covered. Don’t worry if you overdo it with too many toys — there are always storage options.

      30% off select Magic: the Gathering decks

      • Decks come with 71 cards
      • Recommended for ages 13+

      Shop on Amazon

      40% off L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. 4-in-1 Glamper

      • Regularly priced around $99
      • Recommended for ages 6+

      Shop on Amazon

      30% off Mynt Printing Pens and Accessories

      • Turns drawings into 3D works of art
      • Includes one-year limited warranty

      Shop on Amazon

      20% off kids bikes and helmets

      • Wide selection of colors and styles
      • Regular bike prices start around $60

      Shop on Amazon

      Gifts for moms and dads

      Now’s a good time to repay Mom and Dad for all the times they’ve lifted you up. Roald Dahl said it best: “It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

      50% off 23andMe DNA Tests

      • Regularly priced around $200
      • Includes Personal Genetic Service kit

      Shop on Amazon

      40% off Samsung AirDresser cabinet steamer

      • Deodorizes, sanitizes and relaxes wrinkles
      • Easy installation and built-in Wi-Fi

      Shop on Amazon

      35% off Nixplay Digital Frames

      • Share pictures via email or an app
      • Multiple sizes available

      Shop on Amazon

      40% off select handbags and accessories

      • Variety of styles available
      • Select brands include Baggu, Shashi and Gorjana

      Shop on Amazon

      30% off select Greenworks power tools

      • Wide selection of battery-powered outdoor tools
      • 4-year limited warranty

      Shop on Amazon

      Health, beauty and self-improvement

      Do we really have to wait for the new year to start on our resolutions? We say no. It’s 2020, and there are no rules. Consider the deals below if you’re looking to get a jump-start on your weight loss goals or improve your smile (because we won’t be wearing masks forever).

      Up to 47% on teeth whitening kits

      • Discounts on Oral-B, Crest and more
      • Some see improvements after one use

      Shop on Amazon

      60% off Haus Laboratories by Lady Gaga Collection

      • Quality products for eyes, lips, brows and more
      • Variety of color options

      Shop on Amazon

      Treat yourself

      This winter, find solace in stories with these digital and print book deals. Go ahead and stock up on succulents while you’re at it — they improve air quality and look pretty. After all, you have everything you need if you have a garden and a library, according to Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero.

      20% off succulents plants

      • Adaptable and easy to maintain
      • Naturally converts respiratory waste into oxygen

      Shop on Amazon

      50% off select books and Kindle Unlimited for $0.99

      • Paper and digital reading options
      • Get up to 2 months of Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents

      Shop on Amazon

      Holiday shopping should be a breeze this year — we’ve all got plenty to worry about otherwise. Next, read about where buyers admitted to suffering from the worst holiday-spending hangovers last year.

      What’s the deal on Cyber Monday?...
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      FTC offers tips for holiday shopping in 2020

      Consumers are reminded to look out for scams and do their research to save money

      While Black Friday may represent the official start to the holiday shopping season for many consumers, there are many people who are already scouring online sites to get good deals on products for their friends and family. To help in that effort, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a blog post with various tips to keep in mind. 

      Shameka Walker, an attorney with the FTC’s Division of Consumer & Business Education, says that holiday shopping has taken on a new shape this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      “Because of COVID-19, it’s likely that we’ll be going online to look for those perfect gifts. With so many deals around and what seem like eternal ‘Black Friday’ sales, it’s important to keep some online shopping tips in mind,” she said. 

      Holiday shopping tips

      Walker says one of the most important things to do if you’re planning to shop from home is to make sure your computer is outfitted with up-to-date antivirus software. Computer security, in general, is something that the FTC takes very seriously, and it has published a comprehensive list of things consumers can do to make sure their cybersecurity is up to snuff. 

      ConsumerAffairs also has several resources focused on helping consumers protect themselves against threats like identity theft.

      Other tips Walker provides include things that consumers can do when doing their actual shopping to ensure that they’re getting the best deal and keeping themselves safe. They include:

      • Taking time to compare products. If you know that there’s a product out there that you’ll want to get for the holidays, don’t be content to buy it from the first source you look at. Shopping around can allow you to save money that can be used for other gifts or to sock away for a rainy day. 

      • Checking out sellers. Going hand-in-hand with comparing products is the necessity of checking out who is selling you a product. Sites like ConsumerAffairs can allow you to look up reviews about a company to ensure that you’re buying from a legitimate source. 

      • Looking for coupon codes. There’s more than one way to get a good deal. While steep discounts are always nice, finding an eligible coupon can be another way that you can increase your savings. 

      • Paying by credit card. Paying for online purchases with a credit card gives consumers protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act. This allows you to dispute certain charges and limits the amount of money that a hacker or scammer can potentially steal from you in the event of a cybersecurity lapse. 

      • Using secure checkout. You’ll want to make sure that the site you’re using to buy a product is protected by enhanced security protocols. One easy way to check for this is by checking the site’s URL and seeing if it starts with “https.” The “s” in that case stands for “secure,” which means you can have more confidence when it comes to entering your information. 

      • Keeping records of transactions. Keeping a running tab of the products you’ve ordered will give you an easy checklist once packages start coming in. If you notice there’s something missing, you can contact the vendor early on to resolve the issue.

      While Black Friday may represent the official start to the holiday shopping season for many consumers, there are many people who are already scouring onlin...
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      Coronavirus update: Strict enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines, an ambitious vaccination goal

      Employers may require workers to get vaccinated

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 12,619,931 (12,433,676)

      Total U.S. deaths: 260,322 (258,172)

      Total global cases: 59,985,053 (59,401,413)

      Total global deaths: 1,413,325 (1,401,106)

      States plan strict enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines

      Various state and local governments are planning tough enforcement of coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation guidelines during the Thanksgiving holiday. The crackdown comes as polls show that many Americans are ignoring health officials’ pleas not to travel and gather for Thanksgiving celebrations.

      Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf reinforced his request to state residents to stay home, warning that Pennsylvania hospitals will run out of intensive care beds if cases continue to rise. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took to Twitter to advise people to cancel non-essential travel.

      “Travelers arriving at LAX or Van Nuys Airport from another state or country will be required, starting tomorrow, to fill out an online form to acknowledge California’s recommended 14-day self-quarantine,” Garcetti wrote.

      110 million vaccinated by February?

      U.S. regulators have yet to approve any of the promising COVID-19 vaccines that have completed clinical trials, but plans are already underway to inoculate Americans. Moncef Slaoui, an Operation Warp Speed advisor, says 110 million people in the U.S. could receive a vaccine by February. 

      “The U.S. population as a whole should be covered in terms of vaccine doses available somewhere between the month of May and the month of December” of 2021, Slaoui told “CBS This Morning.” 

      UPS, meanwhile, says it has stepped up its production of dry ice to keep Pfizer’s vaccine at the required ultra-low temperature. Pfizer has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) and expects to receive it within days.

      Some employers will require workers to be vaccinated

      Now that as many as three promising vaccines appear to be headed to market within weeks, debate has occurred among some people about whether or not to take the vaccine. NPR reports that a growing number of employers are saying it won’t be an option -- if you aren’t inoculated you aren’t coming to work.

      "I'm not going to open until I can indeed be sure that everyone on my staff is vaccinated," Holly Smith, owner of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, Wash., told NPR. "The immediate people on the team — you've got to take care of them. If you don't take care of them, they cannot help you take care of business."

      Lawyers say a legal precedent is firmly in place. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ruled that employers can require workers to get a flu shot.

      Unemployment continues to creep higher

      The Labor Department reports that first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week totaled 778,000, an increase of 30,000 from the previous week. Claims have risen in each of the last three weeks, suggesting a weakening in the labor market caused by the pandemic.

      There was one bit of good news, however. Continuing claims -- covering people who have collected unemployment benefits for at least two weeks -- fell by nearly 300,000.

      FDA approves new antibody test

      The FDA has given its approval to yet another antibody test, but this one is a little different. Most tests measure antibodies to determine whether someone has had the virus in the past.

      The new test, the COVID-SeroKlir test, measures how many antibodies are in your system and how well they provide immunity against COVID-19. 

      Scientists say the new test can help doctors better understand how the immune system counters the virus, and it may help explain why some immune systems are more effective than others. 

      Around the nation

      • South Carolina: Most of the colleges in the state will not be bringing students back to campus after the Thanksgiving break. Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Charleston Southern University, the College of Charleston, and the Citadel will finish out the semester online.

      • Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott says that students and their parents will be asked next week if they attended gatherings outside their households on Thanksgiving . Those who did will be asked to quarantine, the governor’s office said.

      • Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey says a COVID-19 vaccine may be in Arizona before the end of the year. "We’ve enrolled hundreds of providers who are ready to administer the vaccine, and we expect doses on the ground in mid to late December," he said.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 12,619,931 (12,433,...
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      Delta pilots sign off on deal to avoid furloughs until 2022

      The airline says it’s not out of the woods yet, and it’s watching the COVID-19 spikes carefully

      Delta Air Line pilots should be happy going into the Thanksgiving weekend. On Wednesday, they voted yes on a cost-cutting deal designed to avoid more than 1,700 furloughs until 2022. 

      But the pilots also had some skin in the game, agreeing to accept up to a five percent cut in hours. In addition, any pilot that would have been furloughed by the airline at the end of the month is guaranteed to receive partial pay of 30 hours a month and will not have to fly.

      Other Delta employees had caught a break earlier this year, saving tens of thousands from the unemployment line. Still, other airlines such as JetBlue and United had earlier cut deals with their pilots to escape some level of furlough. When all the coronavirus-led job losses are added up, U.S. airlines have cut more than 70,000 jobs this year, all in an effort to keep carriers from completely going belly-up. 

      Delta says it’s grateful

      Things like furloughs and shedding jobs to make ends meet is painful for everyone involved. Delta’s chief of operations, John Laughter, expressed his gratitude in a note to pilots, saying that the company is “grateful to keep all our pilots actively employed and provide stability for you and your families.”

      Laughter also warned about potential challenges that the latest spikes in coronavirus infections might create for both the airline and its workers.

      “Our recovery will be uneven -- as evident by the recent increase in COVID rates which are affecting our bookings for the holiday season,” Laughter wrote. “But there is still much to be thankful for, and by working together we continue to maintain and grow a loyal customer base that feels confident choosing Delta time and again for our safety, reliability and service.”

      Delta Air Line pilots should be happy going into the Thanksgiving weekend. On Wednesday, they voted yes on a cost-cutting deal designed to avoid more than...
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      CDC plans to cut suggested quarantine period to 7-10 days

      Health officials are hoping the change will translate to a larger number of people isolating for the recommended time

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is finalizing plans to shorten the advised quarantine period to between seven and 10 days, The Wall Street Journal reports

      Currently, the CDC and the World Health Organization both suggest a 14-day self-isolation period for people potentially exposed to the virus. In cutting down the quarantine time, the CDC hopes more people will fully isolate for the recommended time. 

      “We do think that the work that we’ve done, and some of the studies we have and the modeling data that we have, shows that we can with testing shorten quarantine,” Henry Walke, a senior CDC official told the Journal. “Hopefully, people would be better able to adhere to quarantine if it was, for example, seven to 10 days.”

      A test to ensure that the person quarantining is negative for the coronavirus would be part of the new guidelines, said Walke. If the test returns a negative result, he said the person’s “probability of going on and developing an infection after that is pretty low.”

      He added that there is a risk that some infections would be missed, but public health officials believe the shorter quarantine period would be worth it since a larger number of people would be more likely to quarantine effectively.

      Fall surge

      The expected guideline change comes in the midst of a fall surge in COVID-19 infections. On Tuesday, the U.S. surpassed 12.5 million confirmed cases of the virus. 

      Despite rising case numbers, millions of Americans are still expected to ignore the advice of health officials and go through with their Thanksgiving travel plans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has expressed concern that Americans who travel this week could potentially create a new wave of infections that will manifest a few weeks later. 

      Health officials are continuing to urge people to avoid gathering with friends and family outside of their household this holiday season, as well as to keep practicing COVID-19 safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing in public spaces.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is finalizing plans to shorten the advised quarantine period to between seven and 10 days, The Wall St...
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      Walmart, Target, and Amazon roll out deals to kick off Black Friday

      Some deals are available now, others start tonight

      Black Friday might lack some of the excitement and dramatic savings of past years, but Walmart, Target, and Amazon -- the three heavyweights in the retail space -- will still make it worth consumers’ while to shop.

      At Walmart, the Black Friday online deals start tonight at 7 p.m. ET and continue at midnight ET on Friday, with stores opening up at 5 a.m. local time. Walmart’s ad circular highlights the following deals:

      • Fitbit Inspire 2 --  $69.

      • 70-inch Vizio 4K TV --  $478.

      • Nintendo Switch Bundle --  $299.

      • AirPods Pro --  $169.

      • Apple Watch Series 3 --  $119

      Thanksgiving will be a big online shopping day

      Target’s latest Black Friday ad offers discounts on smart products for the home, toys, electronics, games, toys, and apparel. Some of the deals went live at Target.com on Sunday, but the bulk will be available on Thanksgiving day.

      Target stores are closed on Thanksgiving but will open as usual on Black Friday. Here are some of the deals listed in Target’s circular:

      • $70 off Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1-inch

      • $70 off Fire HD 10 Tablet 

      • 50 percent off most board and card games

      • $400 Target gift card with purchase of Samsung Note20 5G, Galaxy s20+5G, or Note10+

      New deals each day

      Amazon, which offered a sneak peek at its Cyber Monday deals earlier this week, has been putting up new deals each day since Friday and will continue the offerings through Black Friday itself. 

      Its deals cover a wide range of categories, from health and beauty products to smart devices for the home. Deals include:

      • $149.99 for the Ring Video Doorbell 3 and an Echo Show 5

      • $129.99 for the Fire HD 10 Kids Edition tablet, a $70 savings

      • Up to 30 percent off on select Adidas activewear, backpacks, and more

      • Up to 40 percent off on Gillette and Venus razors, refills and more

      • Up to 30 percent off on STEM toys from Learning Resources

      Despite the expected high volume of shipping resulting from this year’s massive shift to online shopping, Amazon says Prime members in the U.S. can shop a selection of over 10 million items eligible for Prime Free One-Day Delivery with no minimum purchase, and millions of items available for Same-Day Delivery in 47 major metropolitan areas. 

      Black Friday might lack some of the excitement and dramatic savings of past years, but Walmart, Target, and Amazon -- the three heavyweights in the retail...
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      Consumer confidence tumbles heading into the holidays

      The drop coincides with a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases

      Consumer confidence has fallen sharply as the nation’s retailers hope to make up some ground lost to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with a robust holiday shopping season.

      The Conference Board’s overall Consumer Confidence Index declined only slightly, buoyed by long-term expectations for the economy. But as for the short-term, many people are significantly less optimistic.

      The Expectations Index – based on consumers' short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions – fell from 98.2 in October to 89.5 this month, a fairly significant one-month decline.

      "Consumer confidence declined in November, after remaining virtually flat in October," said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Heading into 2021, consumers do not foresee the economy, nor the labor market, gaining strength. In addition, the resurgence of COVID-19 is further increasing uncertainty and exacerbating concerns about the outlook."

      Spike in COVID-19 cases

      During the time that the survey was taken by Nielson, the country was recording more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, the fastest rate since the beginning of the pandemic. The surge prompted governors in some states to renew restrictions on some businesses and to limit public gatherings.

      The Conference Board notes that consumers have grown less optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy and their personal circumstances. When asked if business conditions would improve over the next six months, only 27.4 percent said they would. In October, 36 percent gave an affirmative answer.

      By the same token, those predicting things would get worse rose from 15.9 percent in October to 19.8 percent this month. The growing pessimism comes amid a record rally on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 30,000 for the first time on Tuesday.

      Consumers' optimism about the job market also eroded in just the last month. In October, 32 percent expected to see more job opportunities in the months ahead -- this month only 25.9 percent do.

      But the drop in confidence, at this point at least, doesn’t appear to be based on personal experience. While the percentage of consumers expecting an increase in income was virtually unchanged at 17.6 percent, there were fewer people who expect to lose income over the next few months.

      Consumer confidence has fallen sharply as the nation’s retailers hope to make up some ground lost to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with a robust holi...
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      Volkswagen recalls Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport with Continental Cross Contact LX Sport tires

      The tires may have been overcured

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 760 model year 2020-2021 Atlas Cross Sport, and model year 2021 Atlas vehicles equipped with Continental Cross Contact LX Sport tires, size 255/50 R 20 105 T.

      The tires may have been overcured.

      Overcured tires can result in a sidewall break causing a sudden loss of air pressure or the tread separating from the tire. Both conditions increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect DOT date code and mold number on the vehicle's tires to see if they are affected, replacing them -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 12, 2021.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 44Q5.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 760 model year 2020-2021 Atlas Cross Sport, and model year 2021 Atlas vehicles equipped with Continental Cross Con...
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      BMW Z4s and Toyota Supras recalled

      A fuel tank weld may fail

      BMW of North America is recalling 49 model year 2020-2021 Z4s and model year 2020-2021 Toyota Supras.

      The weld between the fuel tank halves may have been insufficiently welded, causing the weld to fail.

      The failed weld may allow fuel to leak, increasing the risk of a fire in the presence of an ignition source.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel tank free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 4, 2021.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417 or Toyota customer service at (888) 270-9371.

      BMW of North America is recalling 49 model year 2020-2021 Z4s and model year 2020-2021 Toyota Supras. The weld between the fuel tank halves may have bee...
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      Toyota recalls model year 2021 RAV4 Prime vehicles

      The headlights may be misadjusted

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 413 model year 2021 RAV4 Prime vehicles.

      The headlight aiming caps may have been improperly closed, allowing for horizontal adjustment of the headlight beam.

      Adjusting the horizontal headlight beam can increase glare, reducing the visibility of an oncoming driver or the vehicle operator, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will close the aiming caps on the headlights free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 4, 2021.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 331-4331. Toyota's number for this recall is 20TA15.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 413 model year 2021 RAV4 Prime vehicles.The headlight aiming caps may have been improperly closed...
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      More Black Friday deals we love

      Compare top holiday sales this year

      The following companies participate in our Authorized Partner Program: The Bouqs, Byte and Identity Guard

      We already told you about some of our favorite Black Friday sales earlier in the week, but we couldn’t help sharing a few more. More stores are running sales earlier in the week before Thanksgiving, and many will continue to offer discounts next week. Keep reading to find out which retailers we’re keeping an eye on.

      Gifts for friends and family

      Looking for a gift to show someone you’re thinking of them? Save big on fishing and hunting gear, outdoor clothing, camping supplies and more from Bass Pro Shops or take advantage of The Bouqs post-Thanksgiving discounts to make a special statement.

      Bass Pro Shops

      • Save up to 65% + free shipping*
      • Offer valid 11/23 - 11/29

      Shop on Bass Pro Shops

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      The Bouqs

      • 25% off with code BLACKFRIDAY*
      • Offer valid 11/23 - 11/27

      Shop on The Bouqs

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Health and self-improvement

      Health is the greatest gift of all. Starting today, you can save $100 and get a free rod upgrade bundle on the Bowflex X2SE model. You can also take advantage of the Byte’s cyber sale — by this time next year, your smile could be straighter, brighter and ready to dazzle the world.

      Bowflex

      • Save $100 + get free shipping*
      • Offer valid 11/25 - 12/2

      Shop on Bowflex

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Byte

      • Up to off $400 impression kits*
      • Offer valid 11/24 - 11/30

      Shop on Byte

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Pet treats and gifts

      This year, Petco is where it’s at for special seasonal treats and toys, and Chewy is a great place to find discounts on the supplies you need anyway. Plus, you can get an extra treat for your puppy or kitty, like a personalized collar, new toy or a cozy bed.

      Petco

      • 50% off Holiday Tails Collection*
      • Buy one, get one on select treats*

      Shop on Petco

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Chewy

      • Save up to 30% or more*
      • Free shipping on orders over $49*

      Shop on Chewy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Mattress deals

      If you’ve been dreaming of a better bed, we highly suggest you take advantage of the sales below. Get $300 off plus a free pillow when you buy a new Puffy mattress through the end of November. For a limited time, you can also save up to 35% on a new Cocoon by Sealy mattress. Your back, shoulders and hips will thank you.

      Puffy

      • $300 off all mattresses + a free pillow*
      • Offer valid through 11/30

      Shop on Puffy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Cocoon by Sealy

      • Save 35% (up to $400 off)*
      • Offer valid through 11/30

      Shop on Cocoon by Sealy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Identity theft protection

      If cybersecurity threats have been keeping you up at night (and a new mattress doesn’t help), consider a professional monitoring plan. Get more than half off annual terms when you sign up with Identity Guard.

      Identity Guard

      • 60% off all annual terms*
      • Offer valid 11/23 - 12/1

      Shop on Identity Guard

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      The new year will be over before you know it. If you’re already thinking about 2021 resolutions, check out our guides on home improvements, weight loss programs or learn how to fix your credit.

      More Black Friday deals we love...
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      GM to recall 7 million vehicles due to potentially deadly Takata airbags

      Eighteen people have died and hundreds have reportedly been injured by these airbags in the U.S.

      General Motors Corp. (GM) has announced that it plans to recall 7 million 2007-2014 model pickup trucks and SUVs that contain potentially lethal Takata airbags. Those models include Chevrolet Silverado 1500, 2500, and 3500 pickups; Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe, and Avalanche vehicles; GMC Sierra 1500, 2500, and 3500 pickups; and various versions of the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon.

      Takata airbags have a worrisome, costly, and tragic history. All told, tens of millions of vehicles have been recalled for Takata-related problems. In 2016, U.S. senators petitioned that certain Hondas with Takata airbags be taken off the road. 

      Between 2017-2018, Nissan reached a class action settlement over Takata airbag cases to the tune of $97.68 million, and Ford reached its own at a cost of $299.1 million. Defective Takata airbags claimed their 17th and 18th lives earlier this year.

      Takata’s hazards

      The primary issue with Takata’s recalled airbags is that their inflators are made with ammonium nitrate. This chemical can deteriorate over time, and the process can be accelerated by hot and humid conditions. When deterioration reaches a certain point, it can cause the airbags to explode and shoot shrapnel into the passenger cabin. 

      GM’s recall could very well close the door on Takata’s future since it accounts for the final group of cars manufactured with Takata airbag inflators. The decision comes after Takata submitted four unsuccessful petitions to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that sought to stop these recalls. 

      “The GM recall is a huge step in the right direction,” said Grace Brombach, an associate with U.S. PIRG. “Airbags exist to protect drivers, not to do more harm. Vehicle owners shouldn’t have to worry that their car’s airbag could be the thing that kills them during a minor fender bender or a more serious collision.”

      How to check if your vehicle is affected

      Vehicle owners can verify whether their GM vehicle is part of the latest recall by visiting https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and entering their seventeen digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). 

      It might also be good for any vehicle owner to double check to see if their vehicle, especially previously owned ones, was part of any earlier recall.

      General Motors Corp. (GM) has announced that it plans to recall 7 million 2007-2014 model pickup trucks and SUVs that contain potentially lethal Takata air...
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      Nearly 60 percent of older adults say they'd get a COVID-19 vaccine

      Researchers found that there are still mixed feelings around getting vaccinated

      A new poll conducted by researchers from Michigan Medicine explored older consumers’ feelings about a COVID-19 vaccine. Their work revealed that nearly 60 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 80 would get vaccinated, though many still remain unsure about the safety of a vaccine at this point. 

      “Effective vaccines will be crucial to getting this pandemic under control and preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, especially among people over 50 and those with underlying health issues,” said researcher Dr. Preeti Malani. 

      “Our findings point to a strong need to communicate effectively and transparently about how well the vaccines work, the safeguards built in to protect the safety of recipients, and the public health importance of widespread vaccination starting with priority groups.” 

      Differing viewpoints about vaccination

      For this study, the researchers analyzed nearly 2,000 responses to a survey created by the National Poll on Healthy Aging. All participants were between the ages of 50 and 80, and they were asked a variety of questions that gauged their perception of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

      Overall, the researchers learned that nearly 60 percent of the participants reported that they would get vaccinated to protect against COVID-19. However, just 20 percent of participants said they’d get vaccinated right away; more than 45 percent said they were interested in a vaccine but wanted others to get it first. Those who were between 65 and 80 were the most likely to want to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

      The poll also revealed that respondents with lower incomes, people of color, and women were among the groups who were still hesitant about getting vaccinated. Conversely, those who had higher education levels and those who lived in houses with many people expressed interest in getting vaccinated. 

      Clarity is key

      The researchers say that clear communication with consumers about the vaccine and its potential side effects is key to getting more people vaccinated. While few participants were swayed by their own personal experiences with the virus, the biggest factors in making a decision were the vaccine’s effectiveness, personal research, and doctor’s recommendations. 

      This means that it’s of the utmost importance for all messaging and official reports to be as clear as possible to ensure that consumers -- especially those who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 -- are getting the most accurate information. In recent weeks, companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca have all completed trials of a vaccine that yielded more than a 90 percent success rate, which means that deciding on getting vaccinated could be a reality for consumers sooner rather than later. 

      “Any coronavirus vaccine must be FDA-authorized or approved, safe, effective, and accessible,” said researcher Alison Bryant, PhD. “Once vaccines are available, it will be important for Americans to talk to their providers to understand which vaccine is best for them and make an informed choice, and for public health officials to monitor uptake and the impact on community health.”

      “It is also important to engage higher-risk groups, hear their concerns, and work to address them honestly and with sensitivity,” she added. 

      A new poll conducted by researchers from Michigan Medicine explored older consumers’ feelings about a COVID-19 vaccine. Their work revealed that nearly 60...
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      Coronavirus update: Cases could double by Jan. 20, fewer people are dying

      More consumers are looking online for Black Friday deals

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 12,433,676 (12,261,424)

      Total U.S. deaths: 258,172 (256,837)

      Total global cases: 59,401,413 (58,819,529)

      Total global deaths: 1,401,106 (1,391,311)

      Model projects 20 million cases by January 20

      A new model constructed by researchers studying the coronavirus (COVID-19) estimates that the U.S. could reach a total of 20 million cases of the virus in just two months. That’s nearly double the current level of cases in the pandemic that began in March.

      The forecasting model, produced by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, predicted that the U.S. would hit the 20 million infections mark by January 20, the day President-elect Biden is sworn in.

      Cases have been rapidly increasing since early October. The severity of the illnesses is rising along with the number of cases, with a record 85,000 people being hospitalized with COVID-19.

      Death rate appears to be leveling off

      Despite the surge in new COVID-19 cases and the dramatic rise in hospitalizations, researchers say patients are surviving at a greater rate than early in the pandemic.

      STAT News cites health experts who suggest the improvement is driven by a more refined understanding of the disease and how to treat it, along with less strain on the health care system. They cite other factors as well.

      Steroids that help save some lives are being used more widely. Also, many of the recent infections involve younger, healthier people who sought treatment in the early stages of the disease’s progression.

      COVID-19 forces changes in Black Friday plans

      The trend was in place for the last several years, but this year, for the first time, consumers are expected to do more Black Friday shopping online than in stores. A survey by Deloitte suggests that 61 percent of consumers plan to look for bargains online instead of in stores.

      For those who do plan to visit retail stores on Friday, 30 percent said a retailer’s COVID-19 safety precautions are almost of equal importance to getting a great deal on a gift.

      "As COVID-19 brings added health and financial concerns, both consumers and retailers are reimagining Thanksgiving shopping traditions,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman at Deloitte. 

      AAA predicts 50 million Thanksgiving travelers

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) couldn’t have made it any clearer. It “strongly advised” Americans not to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, traditionally one of the busiest travel times of the year.

      Americans appear to be ignoring the warning. AAA estimates that 50 million people will travel over the “Thanksgiving holiday travel period,” the five-day period beginning Wednesday, Nov. 25. 

      The U.S. just recently surpassed 12 million cases of COVID-19, and Dr. Anthony Fauci -- the nation’s top infectious disease expert -- is warning that Thanksgiving travel could have a grim ripple effect this holiday season.

      Boys more at risk of falling behind with remote learning

      When schools closed with most of the economy during the spring, classes became virtual. While it was an adjustment for just about everyone, pre-pandemic studies suggest that boys struggle more than girls with virtual learning and are more at risk of falling behind.

      The Wall Street Journal reports that researchers have now found that students have fallen far behind in math because of the loss of in-person instruction that began last spring. The reading losses weren’t as steep.

      “I expect that remote learning will widen the existing achievement gap between boys and girls, assuming that remote learning demands greater conscientiousness than classroom learning,” Rose O’Dea, a postdoctoral researcher who led the analysis, told The Journal.

      Around the nation

      • California: Gov. Gavin Newsom and his family are spending Thanksgiving week in quarantine. The governor’s family is taking that precaution after three of his children were exposed to someone with the coronavirus. 

      • Texas: State health officials have compiled a list of the first health care workers who will get the coronavirus vaccine once one receives government approval. They include hospital-based nurses, doctors, custodians, and other workers who have direct contact with patients, as well as the staff of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities who work directly with residents.

      • New Jersey: New statewide restrictions took effect this week in a bid to slow the surge in new coronavirus cases. The outdoor gathering limit is now 150 people, down from 500.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 12,433,676 (12,261,...
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      Here’s what people are shopping for on ‘Black Friday week’

      Consumers’ wishlists appear to be top-heavy with electronics

      This year, thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Black Friday has been extended from just one day to most of the month of November. Deals are increasing this week as the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season approaches.

      According to BestBlackFriday.com, most retailers are staging week-long sales promotions that lack the “OMG doorbuster” deals from previous years. But the savings are there, especially when it comes to technology and gadgets.

      The iPhone 12 is reportedly high on many people’s gift lists this year. Other tech items consumers say they want to find under the tree are video game consoles, which got a workout as people spent a lot more time at home during the pandemic.

      BestBlackFriday’s survey of consumers about what tech gifts they valued most found that 17 percent asked for a Playstation 5. Another 9 percent wanted an Xbox Series X/S.

      Fourteen percent requested smart devices for the home, and 7 percent hoped for a foldable phone in their stockings.

      Just three retailers

      The survey also shows that 64 percent of consumers planned to do the bulk of their shopping at three retailers -- Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

      "We're seeing that U.S. consumers are prioritizing electronics purchases and flocking to online marketplaces as many face new `stay at home' orders," said David Sykes, Head of U.S. at Klarna, a payments and shopping service. "Recent Wish List data from the Klarna app echoes these trends, showing that shoppers across all age demographics are particularly interested in personal electronics, footwear and home items as we enter the holiday season."

      Klarna’s survey of consumers also reveals a gift list top-heavy with technology products. The top 10 requested gifts are:

      1. Apple AirPod Pro

      2. Nike Air Force 1

      3. Nintendo Switch

      4. Gramercy Kitchen Glass Food Storage Containers

      5. Vans Canvas Old Skool

      6. MacBook Pro

      7. Apple iPhone 12

      8. Apple Watch Series 5

      9. Adidas Superstar Athletic Shoe

      10. Food Network Acacia Wood Salad Bowl Set

      Electronics sale growing faster than other categories

      Consumers have already made a lot of electronics purchases. Klarna's app data showed that the share of wallet in the electronics category grew by 15 percent in the week ending November 15 when compared to the previous week - the most of any category during the comparison period. 

      The company said this was especially pronounced among Gen Zers and baby boomers, who increased their share of wallet in the category by 19 percent and 21 percent week-over-week, respectively.

      This year, thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Black Friday has been extended from just one day to most of the month of November. Deals are incr...
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      IRS urges taxpayers to get head start on 2020 tax preparations

      There are a number of changes, so planning in advance can save time and stress

      It’s still 2020 and there’s plenty of time before the next April 15 Tax Day, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is encouraging taxpayers to take necessary actions now to facilitate a timely and accurate filing of federal tax returns in 2021.

      The IRS knows what a crazy year 2020 has been because of the pandemic, and it’s certainly been a part of that craziness due to changing tax deadlines and extensions. Its basic reason for urging taxpayers to move ahead now is that there are several changes in forms that many filers will have to address. 

      The agency says it may also help people discover potentially overlooked deductions or credits.

      Changes to start preparing for

      Unemployment, gig economy, or refund interest income: On top of the standard documents such as Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and records of virtual currencies, the IRS reminds taxpayers that “income” also includes unemployment income, refund interest, and any income from the gig economy. For example, this could include if an unemployed person started driving for Uber to try and keep their lives afloat during the COVID-19 intermission.

      Miscellaneous Income form has changed: Also beginning in 2020, some individuals will receive Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation, instead of Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, if they performed certain services for and received payments from a business. The IRS suggests that anyone in that position refer to the Instructions for Form 1099-MISC -- for miscellaneous income like from a rental property -- and Form 1099-NEC to ensure they’re filing the appropriate form and are aware of this change.

      The IRS also wants taxpayers who have received substantial amounts of non-wage income like self-employment income, investment income, taxable Social Security benefits, and, in some instances, pension and annuity income to consider making quarterly estimated tax payments. The last payment for 2020 is due on Jan. 15, 2021. Payment options can be found at IRS.gov/payments.

      Stimulus check recipients: Taxpayers may also need Notice 1444, Economic Impact Payment (aka the stimulus check), which shows how much of a payment they received in 2020. The IRS says this particular amount is needed to calculate any Recovery Rebate Credit a taxpayer may be eligible for when they file their federal income tax return in 2021. Conversely, people who didn’t receive an Economic Impact Payment in 2020 may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021.

      Did you move during the pandemic? It may come as a surprise to those who hunkered down in their own homes since the coronavirus outbreak, but nearly 16 million people moved according to USPS data. Those taxpayers should update their records to avoid delays in tax return processing.

      Double-check tax ID numbers: Taxpayers with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) should ensure it hasn’t expired before filing a tax return in 2021. For example, ITINs not used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three years will expire on Dec. 31, 2020. If the ITIN has expired, the IRS recommends taxpayers submit Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, now to renew it. Taxpayers who fail to renew ITINs before filing a tax return next year could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for certain tax credits.

      Consider having more tax withheld from paychecks: It’s not a mandatory requirement, but the IRS encourages everyone to do a “paycheck checkup” by using its Tax Withholding Estimator. This will help you make sure you have the right amount of tax withheld from your paycheck and, if not, you can adjust accordingly before 2020 ends.

      It’s still 2020 and there’s plenty of time before the next April 15 Tax Day, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is encouraging taxpayers to take necess...
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      Doctors urge transparency about COVID-19 vaccine side effects

      Physicians say people are ‘probably not going to feel wonderful’ after getting the two-dose vaccine

      With a successful COVID-19 vaccine on the way, doctors are urging CDC officials to make sure patients are prepared for the possibility of side effects after getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

      During a virtual meeting on Monday with CDC advisors, Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association emphasized the need for drugmakers and health officials to be transparent about side effects. 

      Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines require two doses in order to be fully effective. Fryhofer expressed concern that patients may decide not to come back for the second dose of the shot due to the side effects they may experience after the first shot. 

      “We really need to make patients aware that this is not going to be a walk in the park,” Fryhofer said. “They are going to know they had a vaccine. They are probably not going to feel wonderful. But they’ve got to come back for that second dose.”

      Uncomfortable side effects possible 

      In clinical trials for both of the vaccines, patients reported experiencing symptoms including high fever, body aches, bad headaches, and daylong exhaustion, CNBC reported. However, most patients said the symptoms subsided after a day. Participants also said short-lived side effects were better than getting COVID-19. 

      Pfizer and Moderna have both said their vaccines could cause side effects like muscle pain, chills, and a headache -- symptoms that experts say indicate that the body is starting to develop immunity to the virus.

      One participant in the Moderna study said she got a migraine that interfered with her ability to focus. She reported feeling better the following day after taking Excedrin, but she said Moderna should consider advising people to take the day off after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. 

      “The first dose is no big deal. And then the second dose will definitely put you down for the day for sure,” she said. “You will need to take a day off after the second dose.” 

      States are gearing up to start distributing a vaccine as early as next month. Vulnerable populations, such as elderly people in nursing homes, are expected to be first in line to be given the option of getting the vaccine. 

      With a successful COVID-19 vaccine on the way, doctors are urging CDC officials to make sure patients are prepared for the possibility of side effects afte...
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      Polaris recalls RZR ROVs

      The vehicle’s clutch can fail, posing an injury hazard.

      Polaris of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 model year 2020-2021 RZR ROVs sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The vehicle’s clutch can fail, posing an injury hazard.

      The firm has received 136 reports of clutch failure, including eight reports of debris and clutch component ejection that damaged nearby parts of the vehicle. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves model year 2020 RZR PRO XP and RZR PRO XP 4, and model year 2021 RZR PRO XP, RZR PRO XP 4, RZR Turbo S, RZR Turbo S 4, RZR XP Turbo and RZR XP 4 Turbo recreational off-highway vehicles.

      The two or four-seat vehicles were sold in the following colors: Black, blue, gray, lime (green), sand (light brown), orange, red, titanium (silver) and white.

      POLARIS is stamped on the front grille and POLARIS and RZR are printed on the sides of the vehicles.

      The ROVs, manufactured in Mexico, were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from March 2019, through October 2020, for between $18,600 and $32,300.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a Polaris dealer to schedule a free inspection and repair. Polaris is notifying all dealers and contacting registered owners directly.

      Consumers may contact Polaris at (800) 765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      In addition, owners may check their vehicle identification number “VIN” on the “Product Safety Recalls” page to see if their vehicle is included in any recalls.

      Polaris of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 model year 2020-2021 RZR ROVs sold in the U.S. and Canada. The vehicle’s clutch can fail, posing an ...
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      Hyundai again recalls model year 2007-2012 Veracruz vehicles

      An oil leak could result in a charging system failure

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 60,097 year 2007-2012 Veracruz vehicles that were previously recalled.

      Oil may leak from the front cylinder bank cover gasket, potentially dripping onto the alternator and causing the charging system to become inoperative.

      An inoperative charging system can result in an engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the valve cover gasket and repair it as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 8, 2021.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (855) 371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 197.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 60,097 year 2007-2012 Veracruz vehicles that were previously recalled. Oil may leak from the front cylinder bank cove...
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      Some parents think visiting family is worth COVID-19 risk, poll finds

      Health officials say parents should consider modifying their travel plans this Thanksgiving holiday

      With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise dramatically, health officials have strongly recommended that Americans avoid gathering with people outside of their household this Thanksgiving.

      However, a new poll finds that a third of parents believe holiday gatherings are worth the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. 

      The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that more than half of parents are sad that the pandemic has resulted in "a substantial decrease in the time their children spend with extended family members.” As a result, 61 percent of parents said they plan to gather in-person with extended family for the holiday. 

      The Mott poll found that more than three-quarters of Americans believe it’s important to prevent the spread of the virus at a family gathering, but 53 percent of respondents said it was important to them that their child(ren) be able to see extended family this Thanksgiving.

      The researchers recommended that parents consider modifying their Thanksgiving plans in light of the circumstances. 

      "In this unique situation, children may be better served if parents are thoughtful about how to preserve family traditions without an in-person gathering," poll conductors said. "Parents may want to talk with children about their favorite Thanksgiving foods, decorations or activities, and then use that input to plan a virtual celebration that includes family members in different locations." 

      Thanksgiving travel advised against

      On Friday, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they were concerned about people traveling this Thanksgiving holiday period as it could give rise to a surge in COVID-19 infections. 

      "We’re very concerned about people who are coming together sort of outside their household bubble,” Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said on a call with reporters. The agency strongly encouraged all Americans not to gather in person this year, as indoor gatherings are particularly risky. 

      “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year," the CDC said. "It’s important to talk with the people you live with and your family and friends about the risks of traveling for Thanksgiving."

      With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise dramatically, health officials have strongly recommended that Americans avoid gathering with people ou...
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      Coronavirus update: Another successful vaccine, FDA approves antibody drug

      Health officials are fretting over Thanksgiving travel plans

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 12,261,424 (12,219,209)

      Total U.S. deaths: 256,837 (256,723)

      Total global cases: 58,819,529 (58,538,551)

      Total global deaths: 1,391,311 (1,386,204)

      Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine 90 percent effective

      A third coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate has been shown to be at least 90 percent effective in clinical trials. AstraZeneca, developing a vaccine with Oxford University, is the third drugmaker in the last two weeks to report promising results.

      In the last two weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have reported that their vaccines were shown to be about 95 percent effective in preventing the spread of the virus. While the success rate for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is a bit lower, researchers say the latter vaccine costs less to make.

      "The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by [the virus]," the vaccine's architect, Prof. Sarah Gilbert, told the BBC.

      FDA approves Regeneron antibody treatment

      In addition to promising vaccine news, progress continues in the area of therapeutic treatment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Regeneron’s drug cocktail, which is made using antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients.

      The agency issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the drug, pending a formal review. It was used in October to treat President Trump.

      The drug is designed to treat COVID-19 patients who are recently diagnosed and have yet to develop severe symptoms. It is not approved for the treatment of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized.

      Health officials worry about Thanksgiving travel as cases mount

      Thanksgiving week is giving health officials a sense of dread, as Sunday marked the 20th straight day the U.S. recorded more than 100,000 new cases of the coronavirus. Early indications that Americans are ignoring pleas to stay home are leading to predictions of a massive explosion in new cases two weeks before Christmas.

      The Thanksgiving holiday has traditionally been the busiest travel time of the year. While travel may be less than in recent years, officials say semi-crowded airports and even small family gatherings could be super-spreader contributors.

      Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance that strongly advised Americans not to travel this week.

      New tool aids COVID-19 prognosis

      A new tool developed by Kaiser Permanente researchers and physicians reportedly helps doctors predict how COVID-19 will affect the recovery chances for patients who have the virus. The tool, subject of a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, could be used to determine a patient’s treatment.

      "As the pandemic surges again across the country and hospitalizations are increasing, front-line physicians often must make quick decisions to hospitalize or discharge patients with COVID-19 symptoms," said Dr. Adam Sharp, an emergency medicine physician who is also a researcher for the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. 

      Sharp said the research team created a risk assessment that looks at many different patient variables that might predict a critical poor outcome — without any lab or diagnostic testing.

      Fish prices have fallen during the pandemic

      While the pandemic has caused the price of some food to go up, it’s having the opposite effect on fish and seafood prices, industry experts say. The fishing industry had been hard-hit by COVID-19.

      That’s because the biggest market for seafood is not the consumer, but rather restaurants -- mostly full-service restaurants. Most of those businesses are either closed or are buying less seafood than they did before the pandemic.

      The Virginian Pilot reports that  Norfolk fish market, which previously sold only to restaurants, is now selling directly to consumers for up to 50 percent off the retail price.

      Around the nation

      • Florida: Florida is poised to join Texas and California as recording at least a million cases of the virus. The Florida Department of Health reported 8,410 new cases over the weekend, bringing the state’s overall total to 931,828 cases since March.

      • Iowa: The state saw its situation improve slightly over the weekend. Positive COVID-19 tests declined Saturday from the day before, as did the number of hospitalizations, according to data recorded by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

      • Virginia: Virginia experienced a spike in coronavirus cases last week, according to health officials who reported cases were up nearly 50 percent. Even so, the state ranks 47th in the nation for the spread of the virus.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 12,261,424 (12,219,...
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      Amazon rolls out its Cyber Monday deals

      The company has improved its fulfillment process to make shipping more efficient

      With many retailers taking a pandemic-led breather on Black Friday, Cyber Monday is predicted to be a big bargain stand-in. Amazon is planning ahead for the event by giving shoppers a sneak peek into everything from savings to stocking stuffers.

      Actually, Amazon’s Cyber Monday isn’t a Monday-only thing. It starts Thanksgiving weekend, lasting three days from November 28 through November 30. On top of shopping deals, customers will also have the chance to support small businesses through recently launched collections at amazon.com/supportsmall

      In a news release announcing the event, Amazon said it’s committed to making it easy for consumers to save this holiday season with free shipping on “millions of items.” That’s made possible through an improved processing system that the online retailer was forced to review in the wake of unexpected fulfillment problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      The company also touted some new research from ecommerce analytics firm Profitero that found Amazon to be the “lowest price online retailer.”

      What’s on sale?

      For those of you who’ve already got your pencil out, here’s a selection of Amazon’s Cyber Monday deals covering several categories. For the complete list of what’s on sale, Amazon has published a press release with more information here.  

      Fashion

      • Savings of up to 30 percent on select seasonal fashion trends, including bright puffers, plaid and printed loungewear, and cozy fleece.

      • Savings of up to 50 percent on CUBCOATs fashion hoodies.

      • Shoppers can save as much as 30 percent on Nautica men's and women's apparel.

      • Deals of up to 50 percent off on Cole Haan men’s and women’s shoes.

      • Savings of up to 40 percent on Lands' End apparel.

      Beauty, Health, and Personal Care

      • Savings of up to 35 percent on razors from Braun, Gillette, and more.

      • Shoppers can save as much as 47 percent on whitening kits and oral care from Oral-B, Crest, and more

      • Save 50 percent on 23andMe Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Service Kit.

      Amazon Devices

      As you might expect, Amazon’s own devices are getting the royal sales treatment. This year’s Cyber Monday deals in that category include:

      • The all-new Echo is $30 off at $69.99. As an extra bonus for consumers with Amazon Music Unlimited, those who purchase a select Echo device now get six months of the premium, ad-free streaming tier for free.

      • The all-new Echo Dot Kids Edition is $21 off at $38.99.

      • The all-new Fire TV Stick Lite is $12 off at $17.99.

      • Ring Video Doorbell 3 is $60 off at $139.99.

      • Kindle Paperwhite is $45 off at $84.99. New Amazon members can also enjoy 2 months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99.

      Toys & Games

      • Cyber Monday shoppers can save as much as 30 percent on Baby Alive, Littlest Pet Shop, and more.

      • Savings of up to 30 percent on Playskool and more preschool toys.

      • Shoppers can save as much as 30 percent on NERF.

      • Savings of up to 30 percent on Hasbro Games.

      • Save up to 30 percent on Disney toys and home products.

      Household, Kitchen, Office, Smart Home and Home Improvement

      • Save 47 percent on select Bissell floor care products.

      • Savings of up to 45 percent on select Instant Pot products.

      • Deals of up to 30 percent off on select Cuisinart products.

      • Shoppers can save as much as 30 percent on Ashley Furniture.

      • Savings of up to 35 percent on iRobot 675 Roomba Vacuum.

      Electronics

      • Save up to 30 percent on Smart Home Security Cameras.

      • Savings of up to 15 percent on weBoost Signal Boosters.

      • Shoppers can save as much as 40 percent on Jabra Headphones.

      • Savings of up to 40 percent off select video games, including Just Dance 2021.

      Major Appliances, Lawn & Garden and Tools

      • Save 15 percent on GE Profile Nugget Ice Maker.

      • Cyber Monday shoppers can save as much as 10 percent on select GE Compact Refrigerators.

      • Save 20 percent on select Worx Tools.

      • Shoppers can save as much as 30 percent on select BLACK+DECKER Products.

      • Savings of up to 20 percent on select SKIL Tools.

      Sports & Outdoors

      • Shoppers can save as much as 15 percent on select Intex Airbeds.

      • Savings of up to 25 percent on select baseball and softball equipment.

      • Save up to 20 percent on select kids bikes, adult bikes, helmets and more.

      • Select golf clubs, balls, and accessories are on sale with savings of up to 60 percent off.

      Automotive

      • Save 50 percent on Tire Installation.

      • Savings of up to 30 percent on Select NOCO Products.

      • Shoppers can save as much as 20 percent on Select Gator ETX Roll Up Truck Bed Tonneau Covers.

      Amazon Gift Cards

      • Savings of 20 percent or more on select gift card brands, including Gap, H&M, Petco, and more if purchased from November 26 through November 30. 

      • Gift card users can receive a $10 bonus with their reload of $100 or more through Amazon Reload if they are replenishing their Amazon Gift Card balance for the first time from now through December 31. 

      • Gift card shoppers can receive a $15 promotional credit with the purchase of $50 or more in Amazon Gift Cards from now through December 20. Promotional credits expire on February 6, 2021, and other restrictions may apply.

      Whole Foods Market and Grocery Items

      For grocery shoppers, Amazon’s Cyber deals for its Whole Foods Market last a bit longer -- from November 27 to December 1. Shoppers can find deals on customer favorites, including organic honeycrisp apples ($2.99/lb), Animal Welfare Certified air-chilled organic chicken wings ($2.99/lb), and all probiotic supplements (25 percent off). 

      Prime members can also enjoy an additional 10 percent in savings, both in-store and online, and everyone can save up to 30 percent on holiday beverages.

      Special limited-time deals

      It may not be something on every shopper’s deals knowledge base, but Amazon has another deal site -- Woot! -- that promises to deliver dozens of additional, limited-time discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The site is offering free shipping for Prime members and daily doorbuster deals. 

      At Amazon Warehouse, shoppers can save an extra 20 percent on select quality pre-owned and open box items for the kitchen, home, office. This includes major appliances, furniture home décor, and more.

      With many retailers taking a pandemic-led breather on Black Friday, Cyber Monday is predicted to be a big bargain stand-in. Amazon is planning ahead for th...
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      Experts say COVID-19 cases could double before President-elect Biden takes office in January

      A study highlights the importance of maintaining social distancing guidelines

      A new study conducted by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis predicts that COVID-19 cases could double before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. 

      Researchers at the university have created a COVID-19 forecasting model that they’ve used throughout the pandemic, and it has proved effective in predicting infection trends across the country. In looking towards 2021, the researchers expect to see 20 million positive cases by the end of January if social distancing measures remain as they are. 

      “One of the key reasons for the increased accuracy of this model over other COVID-19 forecasts is that this model accounts for the fact that people live in interconnected social networks rather than interacting mostly with random groups of strangers,” said researcher Raphael Thomadsen. “This allows the model to forecast that growth will not continue at exponential rates for long periods of time, as classic COVID-19 forecasts predict.” 

      Social distancing can keep consumers healthy

      To push back on the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the researchers recommend stricter social distancing guidelines. They explained that this is consumers’ best defense against the virus, and even small efforts can prevent millions of positive cases. 

      Current social distancing recommendations have allowed various aspects of life to return to 60 percent of “normal” levels when compared to life before the pandemic. However, if this trend continues, consumers can expect to see upwards of 20 million positive COVID-19 cases by the end of January 2021. 

      This isn’t set in stone, though. If social distancing guidelines tighten up by just 10 percent, the researchers say approximately five million cases could be prevented. 

      “Going back to a 50 percent return to normalcy, which was the average level of distancing in early August, would likely result in 5 million fewer cases by the end of January,” said Thomadsen. “We could effectively squash out the COVID growth within a few weeks if we went back to the levels of social distancing we experienced in April.”

      The holidays will determine a lot

      With the holidays right around the corner, the researchers anticipate that future COVID-19 trends will depend a great deal on how consumers choose to celebrate. In an effort to reduce rising infection rates, both Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have urged consumers to keep gatherings small and eliminate travel this holiday season. 

      However, the researchers anticipate that more than 20 million positive cases could be identified by January if consumers ignore those warnings. 

      “The upcoming holiday seasons will provide a great deal of uncertainty to the outlook of the pandemic as people travel more at the end of the year,” said researcher Meng Liu. “This will likely make our forecast an optimistic one.” 

      A new study conducted by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis predicts that COVID-19 cases could double before President-elect Joe Biden tak...
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      Amazon reminds holiday shoppers that they can also pick up packages at delivery hubs

      The company says the alternatives are easy and can even be used for returns

      It’s all well and good for Amazon to trumpet its Cyber Monday deals and its improved fulfillment processes, but in a follow-up to the rollout of its Cyber Monday price busters, the company is also pushing its customers to consider using alternative pickup locations and consolidate deliveries.

      Amazon is urging holiday shoppers to use brick-and-mortar retail locations and neighborhood “hubs” to pick up their packages as it reinforces itself for a spike in online orders. Hub locations include self-service kiosks like Amazon lockers, and most of the people-hosted pickup counters are located inside or near local retail stores. Added up, Amazon says those hubs and lockers can be found in more than 900 cities and towns across the U.S. 

      “This year many customers and their families are opting to stay home so the challenge of keeping those special gifts under wraps from family, friends or loved ones is going to be greater than ever,” John Felton, vice president of Amazon’s global delivery services, said in a statement.

      “We’re helping customers keep their orders a surprise this year and have a number of ways we’re providing them more flexibility, control and convenience over their deliveries—whether that’s ordering to an alternative pickup location, tracking their package en route to their home, or consolidating their deliveries to a single day so they can plan ahead.”

      How to use Amazon’s delivery alternatives

      Amazon’s reason for suggesting alternative delivery or pickup is pretty straightforward. For one thing, it saves the company lots of money since it can lessen the number of last-mile delivery trips to get a package to a specific address. The “last mile” part in the delivery chain is a huge link because it’s rather labor-intensive and expensive.

      Some of Amazon’s own FAQs about alternative delivery to hubs and kiosks include:

      How do you use it? “To use an Amazon Hub location simply find a convenient location and add it to your Amazon address book or search for it when prompted at checkout. Then, select it as your delivery address,” the company says.

      Then, once a parcel has been delivered, Amazon will email the customer a collection barcode. All that's left at that point is to visit the selected Locker or Counter to collect the parcel. Once a customer gets to a Locker, they will scan the barcode to access their delivery. If they’re using a counter location, the store assistant will scan the barcode before handing over the parcel.

      What is the difference between Locker and Counter? Lockers are simply self-service kiosks where customers can collect or return their Amazon parcels at a time that's convenient for them, 24/7. Counters can be found at retail locations such as convenience stores; parcels at these locations will be handed over by a staff member in store.

      How much does using Amazon Hub cost? There is no transaction fee associated with shipping to an Amazon Hub, but there is one caveat: Amazon Hub locations aren't eligible for Release-Date Delivery.

      How long do I have to pick up my parcel? There’s some flexibility in pickup times, but it doesn’t last forever and it varies between Lockers and Counters. Customers have 3 calendar days to pick up their parcel from a Locker and 14 calendar days to pick up their parcel from a Counter. If you're not able to collect your parcel within this time frame, it will automatically be returned for a refund.

      How do I sign up for the service? Amazon customers who opt in for the alternative delivery options have to do one very important thing at checkout online: search and select the most convenient location for them when prompted. 

      Can you return an item to an Amazon Hub location? Absolutely. 

      Will Alexa blow my cover? Good question. Amazon says that its Alexa device will keep mum on who an item is for, even if a customer asks, “Where’s my stuff?” or checks their delivery update notifications. If a customer likes, they can also mark an item as a gift during checkout and Alexa will not reveal the names of those items either. 

      “Customers who want to be extra cautious of keeping those gifts under wraps or are worried they might forget to mark an item as a gift during checkout can also change their settings for item names in the Alexa app to hide all titles,” the company suggested.

      And what is “Amazon Day”?

      Another fair request that Amazon is asking its customers to consider is receiving all of their deliveries as a single delivery on a specific day that it’s dubbed “Amazon Day.” The company says Amazon Day is free to Prime members in the U.S. If they so choose, Prime members can opt to receive all of their orders on one day of the week, often in fewer boxes, to reduce the number of packages and deliveries.

      Eligible items can typically be ordered for Amazon Day delivery up to two days before a customer’s chosen day. Interested consumers can learn more here.

      ---

      Editor's Note: The headline of the story has been modified to clarify that Amazon's alternative package delivery options are not being offered due to any existing "delivery crunch."

      It’s all well and good for Amazon to trumpet its Cyber Monday deals and its improved fulfillment processes, but in a follow-up to the rollout of its Cyber...
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      Most consumers are ‘anxious’ about shopping in stores this holiday season, poll finds

      Analysts say shoppers will favor online shopping this Black Friday

      With the number of COVID-19 infections continuing to climb, a Deloitte poll has found that more than half of consumers (57 percent) are anxious about shopping in stores over the holidays. 

      Deloitte conducted the survey between October and early November and found that the percentage of consumers who are anxious about shopping in stores has only increased since September. Deloitte officials said the figure is likely even higher now.

      “My guess is that percentage is probably even higher now,” said Rod Sides, Deloitte vice chairman and U.S. leader for retail, wholesale and distribution. The pandemic is “driving folks online and changing behavior,” he said.

      Deloitte said consumer anxiety stemming from the health crisis is likely to fuel an increase in online spending this holiday shopping season. Sixty-one percent of consumers are planning to shop online this Black Friday, according to the poll. 

      Shaping shopping behaviors

      Although the days following Thanksgiving are typically big days for group shopping trips, Deloitte found that this year is likely to be different. Around 60 percent of consumers said they’re either “unsure” or “have no plans” to shop with family and friends this week. 

      “We’re not going to have a meaningful vaccine rollout, even with the great news this week, in time to have people feel comfortable from a holiday perspective,” Sides said. “So I think this one is going to turn out to be predominantly online.”

      Nearly two-thirds of consumers (74 percent) said they plan to shop online during the week of Thanksgiving in order to avoid crowds, according to the survey. That’s up from 62 percent a year ago. 

      The poll results come as health officials urge Americans to avoid traveling and mingling with people outside of their household this Thanksgiving holiday period. The U.S. has reported a million new cases of COVID-19 per week for the past few weeks.   

      Aware of the health risks of shopping in stores, a number of retailers have already started rolling out Black Friday-like deals. Walmart has planned three Black Friday-esque shopping events, and Target’s Black Friday sales have been going on for weeks now. Other retailers that have launched early deals in stores and on their websites include Macy’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Best Buy.  

      With the number of COVID-19 infections continuing to climb, a Deloitte poll has found that more than half of consumers (57 percent) are anxious about shopp...
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      Black Friday car shoppers will need to do some extra homework

      Deals will be harder to come by this year

      A new car is one of the big-ticket gifts people sometimes give themselves or a family member, but shoppers looking for a Black Friday bargain may have to look a little harder this year.

      Industry analysts say dealers have less wiggle room and are likely to stay closer to the sticker price. Because of the pandemic, new car inventories are running low.

      The pandemic forced the closure of U.S. assembly plants for about six weeks in the spring. As the factories reopened and the industry tried to catch up, demand for new and used cars accelerated. People who normally relied on public transit and ride-sharing suddenly found they needed a car.

      Edmunds, an automotive data company, reports the average discount from MSRP for new vehicles dropped to $2,046 in October, nearly 23 percent less than last year. Because of a shortage of 2020 models, Edmunds predicts that more than half the cars sold this month will be 2021 models, which will carry fewer incentives and discounts.

      ‘Mostly just hype’

      "This Black Friday is looking much different in terms of sales compared to the blowout bargain events promoted in years past," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights. "Although automakers are doing a good job of broadcasting a 'buy now' message to shoppers with holiday advertising campaigns, they're mostly just hype.”

      The reality, says Caldwell, is that there is less of a transition phase between model years as 2020 draws to a close. For that reason, the dealers feel like they’re firmly in the driver’s seat.

      “Dealers and automakers aren't facing the overwhelming pressure to sweeten deals to clear out their lots," she said.

      Shoppers aren’t going to find things are much more accommodating on the used car lot. Cox Automotive recently reported used car prices gained momentum throughout the summer as demand increased and inventories shrank. 

      Higher prices for used cars too

      “Higher wholesale prices were supported by strong retail demand and below-normal levels of supply that eased in September as seasonal demand normalized and supply increased modestly,” Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathon Smoke said last month.

      Supplies of used cars rose slightly at the beginning of November but remain about 3 million units lower than at the beginning of 2019.

      New car shoppers with a fairly recent model to trade in may find they have slightly more bargaining power since dealers are actively seeking to replenish their used car stocks. Research the trade-in value of your vehicle using Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book and negotiate that price just as firmly as the new vehicle price.

      National used car dealers Carmax and Carvana purchase vehicles directly from consumers. NPR recently reported that a Maryland consumer sold his 2014 Volkswagen Jetta, which he purchased in 2016, for $1,800 more than he paid for it.

      A new car is one of the big-ticket gifts people sometimes give themselves or a family member, but shoppers looking for a Black Friday bargain may have to l...
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      Volkswagen recalls Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport vehicles

      The vehicle may suffer a loss of steering

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 776 model year 2021 Atlas and model year 2020-2021 Atlas Cross Sport vehicles.

      One or both steering knuckles may have been damaged during production.

      A damaged steering knuckle can fail, causing a loss of steering and increasing the risk of a crash.

      Owners are advised against driving the vehicle until it has been inspected and repaired if necessary.

      What to do

      Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will inspect and -- as necessary -- replace the steering knuckle free of charge.

      The recall began November 19, 2020.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 40Q6.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 776 model year 2021 Atlas and model year 2020-2021 Atlas Cross Sport vehicles. One or both steering knuckles ma...
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      Ford recalls F-650s and F-750s with 7.3L gas engines

      Transmission fluid may leak

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 225 model year 2021 F-650s and F-750s with 7.3L gas engines.

      The transmission oil cooler line may contact the air conditioning compressor pulley, possibly causing a transmission fluid leak.

      Leaking transmission fluid may contact hot engine components, increasing the risk of an engine compartment fire.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect transmission oil cooler lines for proper orientation and damage, correcting the lines and replacing any that are damaged free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 14, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S66.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 225 model year 2021 F-650s and F-750s with 7.3L gas engines. The transmission oil cooler line may contact the air condit...
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      Fresh Express recalls expired Caesar Supreme kits

      The product may be contaminated with Escherichia coli STEC 026 bacteria

      Fresh Express is recalling a limited number of cases of expired 10.5-oz. Fresh Express Kit Caesar Supreme.

      The product may be contaminated with Escherichia coli STEC 026 bacteria.

      No illnesses or consumer complaints have been reported to date.

      The recalled item, with product code s296 and use-by date NOV 8, located in upper right corner on the front of the package, and UPC Code 0 7127930104 4 on the reverse side of the package, may have been sold in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may call Fresh Express toll-free at (800) 242-5472 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET)

      Fresh Express is recalling a limited number of cases of expired 10.5-oz. Fresh Express Kit Caesar Supreme. The product may be contaminated with Escheric...
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      BMW recalls M2 and M4 Coupes

      The fuel injectors may be missing a component

      BMW of North America is recalling 21 model year 2020-2021 M2 Coupes and model year 2020 M4 Coupes.

      Fuel injectors may have been installed without a damping component which is used to reduce vibration.

      If a damping component is not present, vibration will increase at the connection between the fuel line and the fuel rail, which over time, can result in damage at the connection.

      A damaged connection between the fuel line and the fuel rail could lead to a fuel leak and -- in the presence of an ignition source -- increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel injectors. If a damping component is missing, the injectors and the fuel rail will be replaced free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 21, 2020.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 21 model year 2020-2021 M2 Coupes and model year 2020 M4 Coupes. Fuel injectors may have been installed without a damp...
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      Our favorite Black Friday sales so far

      ‘Tis the season for discounts

      It’s that time of year again. Cue the holiday music playlists and get your credit card out. Check out our favorite Black Friday shopping deals below — most retailers have sales available all week. All deals are current as of time of publication.

      Overstock

      Overstock is known for its expansive inventory, but we’re eyeing the rug and furniture deals in particular. If you need a little help getting into the festive spirit this year, we also suggest taking advantage of Overstock’s seasonal home decor discounts. Plus, get extra savings through the Spin To Win pop-up offer.

      • Extra 20% off select rugs and furniture*
      • Up to 55% off seasonal decor*
      • Free shipping on everything*

      Shop on Overstock

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Chewy

      Chewy is giving us all lots of excuses to spoil our fur babies and stock up for the winter with lots of food, treats and supplies. For instance, you can mix and match a variety of eligible items for the “Buy 3 Get 1 Free” deal.

      • Discounted toys for dogs and cats*
      • Spend $50, get $10 off in December*
      • Free shipping on orders over $49*

      Shop on Chewy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Academy

      Find discounted sports equipment, backyard accessories, sweatshirts, sunglasses and more. Featured brands include Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Magellan, Columbia and The North Face.

      • Up to 50% off clothing and shoes*
      • Up to 50% off hunting and fishing gear*
      • Free shipping on orders over $25*

      Shop on Academy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Samsung

      If you’ve been putting off a larger purchase — a new phone, television, refrigerator, washer, etc. — check out what Samsung has to offer this week. New Galaxy phones, tablets and smartwatches start at $139.99 with an eligible trade-in.

      • Galaxy S20 5G from $389.99*
      • Galaxy Note 20 5G from $249.99*
      • Up to $1,800 off 4K QLED TVs*

      Shop on Samsung

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Amazon

      Sometimes shopping on Amazon is overwhelming. There are so many options, and it can be hard to know where to start. This year, we suggest seeking out the discounts on books, kids’ toys, home office products and electronics.

      • Discounts up to 50% and more*
      • Books starting at 99 cents*
      • New deals through Nov. 27*

      Shop on Amazon

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      It’s normal to feel anxious about holiday shopping this year. Luckily, most of us can clear our lists without leaving the house. For more, read about Cyber Monday deals.

      Our favorite Black Friday sales so far...
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      Coronavirus update: States clamp down as cases surge, Pfizer seeks vaccine approval

      A study casts strong doubt on remdesivir’s effectiveness

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,743,780 (11,558,241)

      Total U.S. deaths: 252,861 (250,898)

      Total global cases: 57,164,742 (56,435,244)

      Total global deaths: 1,364,959 (1,354,205)

      Cities and states clamp down amid record cases

      New cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) set another single-day record on Thursday as Johns Hopkins University reported 187,833 cases of the virus. As cases mount, the nation’s most populous states are imposing new restrictions.

      California has beefed up its stay-at-home mandate as cases in Los Angeles County reached the highest number since July. “At this point, no one should still be questioning this virus, nor should they be questioning the actions that need to be taken,” said Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis.

      In New York City, many parents are expressing frustration with Mayor Bill de Blasio, noting that the city’s bars and restaurants are still open amid surging cases despite the mayor suddenly closing the city’s schools. 

      "This is a tough day. It was a tough decision yesterday. It's not something anyone can possibly be happy about. I understand the frustration of parents," de Blasio said Thursday.

      Pfizer ready to deploy its vaccine

      Pfizer said today that it is seeking emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin inoculating Americans with its COVID-19 vaccine, days after it concluded Phase 3 clinical trials.

      Pending government approval, the company said it could begin administering shots within the next couple of weeks. “Our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine has never been more urgent,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

      Meanwhile, researchers from Oxford University published findings of a study that suggested people who have recovered from the virus don’t need to be in a hurry to get a vaccine. It showed people who have had the virus have enough antibody protection that they are unlikely to get the virus again for at least six months.

      WHO recommends against using remdesivir

      We haven’t heard much lately about Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir, which has been used as a treatment for the coronavirus since April. The World Health Organization (WHO) now says the drug should not be used to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

      The agency based its recommendation on the results of a large study of patients who had received the drug. The study concluded the drug has little effect on patients’ recovery.

      "Remdesivir has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement," WHO officials said.

      Mnuchin holds out hope for ‘limited’ stimulus

      If Congress and the Trump administration couldn’t agree on a stimulus package to help Americans economically impacted by the pandemic before, what hope is there now that President Trump is refusing to concede or cooperate with a transition to the Biden administration?

      Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin thinks there is a chance, and he is huddling with Republican congressional leaders to craft a package to offer congressional Democrats.

      Congress passed the $2 trillion Cares Act in the early days of the pandemic but has been unable to come to terms on a second phase of aid, which economists say is badly needed by consumers and businesses.

      British study finds supermarkets are major transmission points

      If you want to improve your chances of avoiding COVID-19, it may be wise to avoid bars and restaurants. But a new British study says supermarkets are a more likely place to get infected.

      Data collated by Public Health England (PHE) from Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace app has revealed that grocery stores are the most frequent coronavirus exposure setting. Supermarkets were the most frequently visited place among people who reported testing positive for the virus.

      Even during economic shutdowns early in the pandemic, supermarkets remained open since they are considered essential businesses. Most have stepped up delivery and curbside pickup offerings to reduce the number of people in stores.

      Around the nation

      • New Jersey: The state is considering new coronavirus restrictions after reporting 4,500 new cases of the virus on Thursday. “Next week, we’ll continue to take steps. If we see transmission, we will get at it,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

      • Minnesota: Gov. Tim Walz made a televised address to residents of his state this week, imploring them to strictly observe virus mitigation protocols. He imposed new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, including a ban on wedding receptions.

      • Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert is bucking the trend of public officials urging citizens to avoid gathering for Thanksgiving next week. While urging caution, he said, “what you do in the confines of your own home is up to you.” The CDC said on Thursday that people should not travel to see friends and relatives over the holiday.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,743,780 (11,558,...
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      New breast cancer discovery could help slow the spread of the disease

      Experts have identified a gene responsible for the rapid progression of breast cancer

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia Cancer Center has found a way to potentially slow the spread of breast cancer

      Some of the most serious cases of breast cancer are those that become metastatic, which means that cancerous cells have traveled to other parts of the body. In this study, the researchers identified the gene responsible for metastatic breast cancer -- TRIM37 -- and learned that it could make tumors resistant to traditional treatments like chemotherapy. 

      “Despite metastasis being the key reason for failure of cancer therapies, it remains poorly understood,” said researcher Sanchita Bhatnagar, PhD. “We do not clearly understand what drives the metastatic growth in patients. In general, several genes are altered during tumorigenesis. However, whether targeting the same genes will prevent metastatic transition remains to be addressed.” 

      Preventing cancer cells from spreading

      The majority of breast cancer patients are typically treated using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, once a tumor becomes metastatic, these treatments are unsuccessful. 

      Dr. Bhatnagar and her team set out to discover how they could specifically target the TRIM37 gene and ultimately give patients a viable treatment option. She conducted her study on mice and used a combination of nanoparticles and antibodies that were designed to block the cancerous cells and allow healthy cells to flourish. 

      “It’s a kiss of death that selectively reduces the expression of TRIM37 in cancer cells and prevents the spread,” said Dr. Bhatnagar. 

      The researchers decided to target the mice’s lungs with the nanoparticle treatment, as it is the site of the majority of metastatic tumors for breast cancer patients. The treatment was delivered nasally, and the researchers monitored the mice’s lungs to see how effective this intervention was at slowing the spread of cancerous cells. Ultimately, the researchers observed significant improvements in the mice that were given the nanoparticle treatment. 

      “The lungs showed dramatic reduction in metastatic lesions after the treatment in comparison to the mice that received no treatment,” Dr. Bhatnagar said. 

      Very effective option

      While the researchers plan to continue developing this work, they predict that targeting the TRIM37 gene in this way could be an effective treatment option for nearly 80 percent of those with triple negative breast cancer. They also noted that this could be an effective way to treat other types of cancer. 

      “This is a delivery platform, not only for targeting our protein of interest, but for many other chemotherapeutic drugs that can be packaged into the nanoparticles and selectively delivered,” said Dr. Bhatnagar. 

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia Cancer Center has found a way to potentially slow the spread of breast cancer. Som...
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      ‘Password’ and ‘123456’ top list of worst passwords in 2020

      Experts say these weak passwords have been cracked millions of times by hackers

      Password manager NordPass has released its annual list of the worst passwords, and 2020’s list includes many of the same weak passwords as years prior. 

      Consumers are still protecting their data with simple passwords that are infamous for being easy to crack, according to this year’s list. For example, NordPass found that millions of people are still using “password" and “123456” as passwords. The firm said the latter has been breached more than 23 million times. 

      Many people may choose variations of the number bar because it’s quick and easy to type, but research has found that these frequently used passwords take less than a second to crack. Combinations of adjacent keys, such as “asdfghjkl” or “qwertyuiop,” have also been found to be highly vulnerable to cracking. 

      Worst passwords of 2020

      NordPass’s full list contains 200 of the most commonly used passwords, ranked by metrics such as how many times each password has been exposed and how long it would take an unauthorized party to crack it. 

      Below are the top 20 worst passwords of the year. 

      • 123456

      • 123456789

      • picture1

      • password

      • 12345678

      • 111111

      • 123123

      • 12345

      • 1234567890

      • senha

      • 1234567

      • qwerty

      • abc123

      • Million2

      • 000000

      • 1234

      • iloveyou

      • aaron431

      • password1

      • qqww1122

      Protecting your data

      To keep sensitive data from being exposed, NordPass recommends making sure all passwords are unique and complex. This can be made easier through the use of a password manager or a third-party service like LastPass or Apple’s iCloud Keychain. 

      NordPass also suggests enabling two-factor authentication when possible and deleting any old or inactive accounts. 

      Password manager NordPass has released its annual list of the worst passwords, and 2020’s list includes many of the same weak passwords as years prior....
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      Cats can easily spread COVID-19 to other cats, and possibly humans

      New research finds that cats can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus

      ​Cats can easily spread COVID-19 to other cats, even in cases where the infected animal is asymptomatic, according to new research out of Kansas State University. 

      Researchers have found that COVID-19 can spread efficiently from cat-to-cat through viral shedding via nasal, oral, and rectal cavities within two days. The researchers noted that other studies have found that humans infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to cats. 

      “This includes domestic cats and even large cats, such as lions and tigers,” said Jürgen A. Richt, DVM, PhD, the Regents distinguished professor at K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “Our findings are important because of the close association between humans and companion animals.”

      Cat-to-human transmission? 

      The study authors said more research is needed to determine whether domestic cats can transmit the virus to other species of animals and/or humans. That research will be crucial to virus mitigation efforts, said Richt.  

      “This efficient transmission between domestic cats indicates a significant animal and public health need to investigate a potential human-cat-human transmission chain,” said Richt. 

      He added that researchers are planning to carry out additional research to find out whether cats are immune to COVID-19 after recovering from it. 

      “This research is important for risk assessment, implementing mitigation strategies, addressing animal welfare issues, and to develop preclinical animal models for evaluating drug and vaccine candidates for COVID-19,” he said.

      ​Cats can easily spread COVID-19 to other cats, even in cases where the infected animal is asymptomatic, according to new research out of Kansas State Univ...
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      Former CDC chief criticizes study that downplayed effectiveness of masks

      Health officials says a growing body of evidence shows masks are effective in reducing infection rates

      Former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thomas Frieden has criticized a study that casts doubt on the effectiveness of surgical masks in protecting wearers from COVID-19. 

      In an editorial piece published in response to a Denmark study published earlier this week, Frieden contended that masks are a significantly better virus mitigation tool than nothing at all. 

      "Although no single strategy can control the pandemic, widespread masking in the community can mitigate spread as part of a comprehensive approach,” he wrote. “An N95 mask is better than a surgical mask. A surgical mask is better than most cloth masks. A cloth mask is better than nothing.” 

      The study released Wednesday was carried out by researchers at the University of Copenhagen. The study involved nearly 5,000 participants who were separated into two groups: masks-wearers and non-mask wearers. 

      In the end, 42 mask-wearers and 53 non-mask-wearers contracted the virus. The team said the study’s results were “inconclusive,” but the researchers later noted that it did not appear that surgical masks played a “statistically significant” role in reducing infection rates. 

      Study caveats

      In his response to the study, Frieden argued that the study was flawed because it relied on patient reported home tests during a period when infection rates in Denmark were low. Additionally, other virus prevention strategies had already been put into effect. 

      Frieden’s belief that masks are an effective virus mitigation strategy is supported by a growing body of evidence from other studies that have found that wearing a mask is one of the most effective tools for protecting oneself and others. 

      A report from the CDC released last week concluded that "adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation." On Monday, NIH director Francis Collins called masks a "lifesaving medical instrument.” 

      Frieden agreed that wearing a mask is even more effective when paired with other COVID-19 safety measures. 

      “Community mask use can substantially reduce risk for SARS-CoV-2 transmission, especially when enough people use them and when mask use is combined with other effective public health and social measures,” he wrote. 

      Former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thomas Frieden has criticized a study that casts doubt on the effectiveness of surg...
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      Hulu hikes price for its +Live package by $10 a month

      Consumers can expect routine price increases for streaming services to continue

      Hulu is raising the roof on its rates for their Hulu + Live TV package by $10 per month -- an aggressive 18 percent increase over the current $54.99 price. It’s the third major price hike for a live TV streaming service in 2020, and it brings Hulu up to the same price point as YouTube TV and FuboTV, both of which started charging $65 per month during the summer.

      Hulu subscribers have reportedly been notified about the price increase and have until December 18 to fish or cut bait from the service. Hulu’s on-demand streaming service has 32.5 million subscribers for a total of 36.6 million Hulu subscribers. 

      Streaming services are Disney’s new cash cows

      The price jump comes just days after Disney CEO Bob Chapek praised Hulu’s live TV offering during the company’s quarterly earnings call, saying its subscription base was “growing rapidly.”

      Actually, Chapek has several reasons to be happy. Disney has 120 million paid subscribers between Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+. If the company can get half of Hulu’s current 36.6 million subscribers to pay the extra $10 per month, it becomes a bonafide cash cow, bringing another $180 million a month to the table. 

      “We’ve got a product that we’re really excited about and ... it really gives the utility that consumers might normally find from the cable or satellite subscriber and be able to get it over-the-top directly to their homes,” Chapek said on the call. 

      ConsumerAffairs’ Hulu reviewers seem to agree with Chapek, giving the service close to a 4-star rating and applauding the service for everything he says it offers.

      Is cord-cutting still worth it?

      While bundling streaming services seems like a smart idea, by the time you add up a few to get what you consider the perfect little personal network, it may not be. Things can add up quickly when a service increases its rates a dollar here or there. A good case in point is Netflix, which has bumped up its subscription price five times in the last 10 years.

      “Sad as it is, we shouldn’t be surprised,” mused cord-cutting watcher Jared Newman. “If there was any doubt left about how the pay TV industry would respond to cord cutting, this latest price hike makes the endgame clear: There will be no pivot toward flexible packages, lower prices, or the mythical a la carte cable TV service. The prevailing strategy is now a scorched earth one, with routine price increases imposed on a shrinking number of pay TV subscribers.”

      Hulu is raising the roof on its rates for their Hulu + Live TV package by $10 per month -- an aggressive 18 percent increase over the current $54.99 price....
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      Existing home sales surged last month as prices spiked

      Realtors say they see no letup in demand heading into 2021

      The housing market is still soaring. Sales of existing homes jumped 4.3 percent last month, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

      Homes sold in October at an annual rate of 6.85 million units. While sales were up sharply from September, they were even higher when compared to last year, rising 26.6 percent over October 2019.

      The numbers show a trend that began soon after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began and the economy shut down for six weeks in the spring. Since then, people have been moving out of cities and buying homes in the suburbs and smaller cities.

      “Considering that we remain in a period of stubbornly high unemployment relative to pre-pandemic levels, the housing sector has performed remarkably well this year," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. 

      Resilient net worth

      The economy is still struggling with the effects of the pandemic. Unemployment remains at more than twice pre-pandemic levels, and new claims for unemployment benefits have begun rising again. Many Americans are facing economic hardships, but homeowners have seen their net worth remain remarkably resilient.

      "The surge in sales in recent months has now offset the spring market losses," Yun said. "With news that a COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available, and with mortgage rates projected to hover around 3 percent in 2021, I expect the market's growth to continue into 2021." 

      Yun expects the sales trend to continue, recently forecasting that existing-home sales will rise by 10 percent to 6 million in 2021.

      Fewer homes to choose from

      The demand for housing may spur homebuilders to increase the nation’s supply, but that is happening at a plodding pace so far. That means there are fewer available homes to purchase, and those on the market are carrying higher price tags.

      The median existing-home price for all housing types in October -- including condos and co-ops -- was $313,000, up 15.5 percent from October 2019. NAR said prices were up in every region of the country.

      The nation’s inventory of homes on the market continued to shrink. At the end of October, total inventory was 1.42 million units, falling 2.7 percent from September.

      Taken with the rise in sale prices, that presents a challenge to people trying to purchase a home. According to NAR, unsold inventory sits at an all-time low 2.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 2.7 months in September and lower than the 3.9-month figure recorded in October 2019.

      The housing market is still soaring. Sales of existing homes jumped 4.3 percent last month, according to the latest data from the National Association of R...
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      Gas prices remain stable in the face of rising demand

      A fast-spreading virus is failing to keep people out of their cars

      The price of gasoline remained stable during the week as the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases grew dramatically across the country. Despite the spread of the virus, fuel demand continued to rise.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.11 a gallon, two cents less than last Friday. The price is down five cents over the last four weeks.

      The average price of premium gas is $2.73, one cent less than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.39, two cents less than seven days ago.

      AAA suggests the slight increase in price at the pump in a handful of states is a reaction to government data showing demand is rising, when analysts predicted it would fall because of the spread of the virus. Several states in the last week took steps to curb activity, including placing restrictions on restaurants and other businesses.

      “Following a jump in demand, we’ve seen a number of state gas price averages increase on the week. However, the majority of these increases were just a few pennies,” said Jeanette Casselano McGee, a AAA spokesperson. “With many states seeing rising COVID-19 case numbers and a number of officials warning against holiday travel, demand is likely to see a dip in coming weeks.”

      But despite suggestions that people stay home on Thanksgiving -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a stern request Thursday -- surveys have shown as much as half the country plans to go somewhere on the holiday, mostly by car. Rising demand could keep upward pressure on prices, at least for a while.

      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 ($3.25)

      • California ($3.17)

      • Washington ($2.76)

      • Nevada ($2.59)

      • Oregon ($2.59)

      • Alaska ($2.50)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.46)

      • Utah ($2.30)

      • Idaho ($2.30)

      • Arizona ($2.22)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Missouri ($1.77)

      • Mississippi ($1.80)

      • Texas ($1.80)

      • Oklahoma ($1.81)

      • Arkansas ($1.83)

      • Louisiana ($1.84)

      • Alabama ($1.86)

      • Tennessee ($1.86)

      • Kansas ($1.88)

      • South Carolina ($1.88)

      The price of gasoline remained stable during the week as the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases grew dramatically across the country. Despite the sprea...
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      GM recalls various Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet vehicles

      The tires may have been overcured

      General Motors is recalling 7,516 model year 2020 Buick Enclaves Cadillac XT5s, GMC Acadias & Chevrolet Traverses, and model year 2020-2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s.

      The vehicles may have been manufactured with Continental tires that were overcured.

      Overcured tires may experience a carcass break in the sidewall resulting in a sudden air loss, or could develop a belt edge separation that could lead to partial or full tread/belt loss.

      Either condition increases the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect vehicles and replace tires that have DOT number and production mold number combinations identified by Continental free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 21, 2020.

      Owners may contact GMC customer service at (888) 988-7267, Buick customer service at (800) 521-7300, Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020 or Cadillac customer service at (800) 458-8006. GM's number for this recall is N202319030.

      General Motors is recalling 7,516 model year 2020 Buick Enclaves Cadillac XT5s, GMC Acadias & Chevrolet Traverses, and model year 2020-2021 Chevrolet Silve...
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      BMW recalls X class vehicles

      The front axle support arm and right control arm are not welded properly

      BMW of North America is recalling 83 model year 2020 X5 sDrive40i, xDrive40i, X5 M50i, X5M, X7 xDrive40i, X7 M50i, X6 xDrive40i, X6 M50i & X6M vehicles and model year 2021 X5 xDrive45e vehicles.

      The weld between the front axle support and the right front control arm bearing bracket may separate.

      If the weld between the front axle support and the right front control arm bearing bracket separates, vehicle handling and control may be affected, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front axle support free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 28, 2020.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 83 model year 2020 X5 sDrive40i, xDrive40i, X5 M50i, X5M, X7 xDrive40i, X7 M50i, X6 xDrive40i, X6 M50i & X6M vehicles and...
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      Our favorite deals for November 2020

      Compare deals in several categories

      The following companies participate in our Authorized Partner Program: Nom Nom, LifeLock, Identity Guard and Pure Talk

      November is an excellent month for shopping. Retailers are putting out some of their best deals for holiday shoppers right now. Keep reading for details about some of our favorite discounts and offers.

      Pet food and treats

      Holiday shopping lists can get long pretty quick. As you’re buying gifts for friends and family, don’t forget a special treat for furry companions.

      Nom Nom

      Get half off your first order from Nom Nom plus free shipping. In addition to the savings, we like that the recipes are formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists and made without fillers, artificial preservatives or by-products.

      • 50% off first order*
      • Free shipping

      Shop on Nom Nom

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Chewy

      Save 30% on your order just by signing up for autoship. With autoship, Chewy sends regularly scheduled deliveries of food, treats and supplies for dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles, horses and other pets.

      • 30% off first order with autoship*
      • Order personalized holiday gifts

      Shop on Chewy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Mattress deals

      A new mattress is one of the best gifts to give to yourself, and it’s doubly worth it if you sleep with a partner. Compare our favorite holiday mattress deals below.

      Puffy

      Now through the end of November, you can get $300 off and a free pillow when you buy a new Puffy mattress. Plus, save an extra 15% on all accessories. As of publishing, Puffy mattress prices start around $500.

      • $300 off all mattresses + free pillow*
      • 15% off accessories*

      Shop on Puffy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Saatva

      Save $200 when you spend $1,000 or more on a Saatva mattress this month. Select from memory foam, gel-infused foam, latex and coil-on-coil innerspring. As of publishing, mattress prices start around $800.

      • $200 off when you spend $1,000+*
      • Free white-glove delivery

      Shop on Saatva

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Cocoon by Sealy

      Save 35% for up to $400 in savings on a new Cocoon by Sealy mattress. Features include premium memory foams and a proprietary phase-change material that helps keep you cool while you sleep. As of publishing, Cocoon Chill prices start under $500.

      • 35% off*
      • Free shipping

      Shop on Cocoon by Sealy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Nectar Sleep

      Get a free sheet set, cooling pillow and mattress protector with each mattress purchase. The combined value of these free gifts is estimated at $399. As of publishing, Nectar Sleep mattresses start at less than $800.

      • $399 of free accessories
      • Free shipping and returns

      Shop on Nectar Sleep

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Fitness and weight loss deals

      Why not finish out the year on a productive note by doing something good for yourself? There’s no reason to wait until January to start working toward your diet goals. Depending on your plan, one of the meal replacement plans or diet apps might be right for you.

      Nutrisystem

      You can save 50% on Nutrisystem meal plans and get a week’s supply of free shakes through the end of the month. If you aren’t satisfied, return the remaining meals for a full refund within two weeks.

      • 50% off all meal plans*
      • 1 free week of shakes*

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      BistroMD

      People at the beginning of their weight loss journey can save 25% when they sign up for BistroMD, a meal delivery service designed to help dieters lose weight. The company also offers free shipping for the first week.

      • 25% discount*
      • Free shipping on first week

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Aaptiv

      We like that the Aaptiv app doesn’t require you to look at a screen while working out. You can try the audio-guided training program for free for a month.

      • 30-day free trial*
      • Access to 30+ classes each week

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Noom

      Noom is a personal weight loss app that gives you personalized guidance, coaching and support. The app was designed by psychologists and nutritionists to reinforce positive behavioral changes. Try it for free through the month of November.

      • Free trial*
      • App to get fit or lose weight

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Identity theft protection

      We’re all vulnerable to fraudsters. Identity theft protection services can help you safeguard your personal identifying information from cybercriminals.

      LifeLock

      Save up to 25% off the first year of your new LifeLock plan. The company makes it easy to enroll and provides a user-friendly app for monitoring your account.

      • Save up to 25% off first year*
      • Up to $1 million stolen funds reimbursement policy

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Identity Guard

      Save up to 33% when you enroll in an individual or family plan with Identity Guard. The company specializes in artificial intelligence technology that alerts you when your personal information might be vulnerable.

      • Up to 33% off*
      • Up to $1 million identity theft insurance

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      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Cellphones

      Virtual communications were perhaps more important this year than ever before. A cellphone plan makes a practical gift for those loved ones who are hard to get a hold of.

      Pure Talk

      Save 10% each month for two years when you sign up for a single-line plan with Pure Talk. Find low-cost cell phones without a contract and select from pay-as-you-go or unlimited prepaid plans.

      • 10% off single-line plans for the first 24 months*
      • Available across the U.S.

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      The holidays will be here before you know it. If you’re shopping for young children, check out what the toy experts are saying this year. Once the shopping is taken care of, learn these simple cocktails recipes you can make at home.

      Our favorite deals for November 2020...
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      CDC ‘strongly’ recommends not traveling this Thanksgiving

      The agency says it’s concerned about people mingling with people outside of their ‘household bubble’

      With the second wave of COVID-19 underway, health officials are advising Americans not to travel this Thanksgiving. 

      In new guidance issued on Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that traveling for Thanksgiving could increase the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. 

      “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year,” the CDC said. 

      The new guidance comes amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Just in the past week, over 1 million new infections have been reported in the U.S. The CDC says indoor household gatherings could cause case numbers to rise even more dramatically. 

      "We’re very concerned about people who are coming together sort of outside their household bubble,” said Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, on a call with reporters.

      Consider the risks before traveling

      The CDC recommends making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying travel -- especially if someone you plan to visit will be at an increased risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19.

      The agency’s guidance is similar to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s, who last month recommended either holding off on Thanksgiving gatherings or keeping them just between immediate family. 

      The CDC now defines “household” family members as those that have been living with you for the past 14 days. Under this definition, older relatives or college students may not count as household members.  

      Fauci said gatherings of any size should involve safety measures to limit the spread of the virus. "Make sure you do it in a way that people wear masks and you don't have large crowds of people,” he said. 

      Additional precautions “strongly” recommended by the CDC include enhancing ventilation and using hand sanitizer during family gatherings. 

      With the second wave of COVID-19 underway, health officials are advising Americans not to travel this Thanksgiving. In new guidance issued on Thursday,...
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      United Airlines says spike in COVID-19 cases is impacting air travel again

      Two other major U.S. carriers say things are tough, but they stopped short of blaming it on a rise in positive cases

      The rollercoaster ride of the COVID-19 pandemic is tough enough for the average Joe, but it’s even more of an up-and-down existence for businesses, especially airlines.

      Just three days after United Airlines appeared to feel good about testing a program that guaranteed passengers that the crew tested negative before departure, the company is now moaning that the spike in positive COVID-19 cases is starting to impact air travel once again.

      According to a report from CNN, United warned in a filing Thursday morning that it has witnessed a drop in bookings and, concurrently, a rise in canceled reservations. It blames these two developments on the increased infection rates across the country.

      Back to the chopping block

      The potential outcome of what United is witnessing could lead to even bigger cuts to its fourth quarter schedule, far beyond the planned cut of 55 percent. To try and save themselves from bleeding any more red ink, seven major U.S. airlines (including United) lobbied Congress on Thursday for a new cash infusion to help keep them afloat.

      United was the first major U.S. airline to pare back its domestic schedule in early spring when the initial stateside outbreak first started affecting air travel. Delta and American quickly followed suit

      United didn’t mention job cuts in its filing, but it’s proven that it’s not shy about taking a knife to those, either.

      Other airlines feel the heat

      Speaking of American, it, too, mentioned a downturn in recent bookings. However, it did not tie that dip to a rise in reservations being canceled. Vasu Raja, American Airlines chief revenue officer, told investors at a conference on Tuesday that his airline also has "definitely seen a flattening of ticket sales."

      "It's been nowhere near to the kind of negative effects we saw either in July or in the March-April period," he said. "But now we're at a place where we can absolutely anticipate it and plan a network ... around that. We've seen it."

      In a report sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, Southwest said it has experienced a “deceleration in improving revenue trends for November and December 2020 in recent weeks.” 

      “While the Company expected the election to impact trends, it is unclear whether the softness in booking trends is also a direct result of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. As such, the Company remains cautious in this uncertain revenue environment,” the company said.

      The rollercoaster ride of the COVID-19 pandemic is tough enough for the average Joe, but it’s even more of an up-and-down existence for businesses, especia...
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      Apple to pay $113 million to settle latest ‘batterygate’ investigation

      States argue that the company knew it could profit off of consumers who thought they needed a new phone

      Apple has agreed to pay $113 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the battery throttling scandal, better known as “batterygate.” 

      In 2017, a barrage of customers accused Apple of deliberately slowing the speed of older iPhones. Apple said the feature was designed to protect and extend the lifespan of aging devices, but customers contended that Apple was in the wrong because it didn’t state upfront that it would slow the speed of older models.

      To make amends, Apple offered $29 battery replacements and tweaked its settings to make its battery-management practices more clear to users -- but that didn’t stop the lawsuits from pouring in. The company agreed to a $500 million class action settlement earlier this year, and now it has agreed to a second settlement. 

      The tech giant will pay an additional $113 million as part of a settlement with 34 states. In this suit, state attorneys general argued that Apple concealed the battery-throttling feature from iPhone owners knowing that it could profit off of consumers who thought they needed to buy an entirely new iPhone rather than just a new battery.

      “Big Tech must stop manipulating consumers and tell them the whole truth about their practices and products,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “I’m committed to holding these goliath technology companies to account if they conceal the truth from their users.”

      Apple has not admitted wrongdoing, and the settlement doesn’t require it to do so. 

      Apple has agreed to pay $113 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the battery throttling scandal, better known as “batterygate.” In 2017, a barrage...
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      Coronavirus update: U.S. deaths pass 250,000, a week of encouraging vaccine news

      There was a big jump in unemployment claims last week

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,558,241 (11,419,204)

      Total U.S. deaths: 250,898 (249,430)

      Total global cases: 56,435,244 (55,997,737)

      Total global deaths: 1,354,205 (1,344,557)

      U.S. deaths exceed 250,000

      Just weeks after cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) exploded in the U.S., the number of deaths from the virus has also risen sharply, moving past the 250,000 mark. The U.S. has moved from recording fewer than 1,000 deaths per day to seeing nearly 2,000 people a day succumb to the virus.

      One expert told CNN that the increase in cases of the virus is directly connected to the rising death toll, which he said is only going to get worse in the weeks ahead.

      “If you're alarmed at the 1,700 deaths today, two to three weeks from now, we're going to see 3,000 deaths a day," said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor at George Washington University School of Medicine.

      More good vaccine news

      This week has brought a wave of good news about the various COVID-19 vaccines being developed around the world. Here’s some more: The vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca is safe, and it triggers a similar immune response among all adults.

      The promising results from early-stage trials were published today in the British medical journal, The Lancet. It showed that not only is the vaccine safe, but it produced the same immune response in subjects, regardless of their age.

      The news follows Pfizer’s completion of its Phase 3 clinical trial with a 95 percent success rate. Moderna’s preliminary results showed that its vaccine protected 94 percent of the people getting it.

      Unemployed claims jumped last week

      The labor market is struggling to get back to normal and appears to have hit a roadblock. The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits increased last week to 742,000 -- 30,000 more than the previous week.

      Since August, the trend has been towards a lower number of claims each week. Last week’s number, while higher, is significantly less than the 1 million claims the government reported through most of the spring and summer.

      To put the numbers in perspective, Americans typically filed around 200,000 new claims each week before March, when the pandemic began to shut down businesses.

      Macy’s may close more stores

      Macy’s, a struggling retailer before the pandemic hit, says it may temporarily close more stores in the coming weeks. It recently closed a store in a mall in El Paso, where cases of the coronavirus have ballooned in recent weeks.

      In a conference call with analysts, CEO Jeff Gennette said the nationwide surge in cases of the virus has impeded the company’s recovery. Supply chains have improved, he said, but problems remain.

      Unlike Target, Macy’s has seen a significant drop in foot traffic at its brick-and-mortar locations. The flagship store in New York’s Herald Square has been particularly hard-hit, Gennette said, because of a decline in tourism and the closure of offices.

      Stricter protocols on the gridiron

      The Hill reports that the NFL is imposing stricter coronavirus protocols starting Saturday. The new rules will require all 32 teams to strictly follow protocols to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

      The Hill said it obtained a memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that told teams they must all follow intensive protocols to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among players and other employees. 

      The new protocols require masks to be worn in all team facilities, including during practice and in the weight rooms. Group meals are prohibited, and meetings must be held virtually unless they are held outdoors or in an approved large indoor space. 

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Like other Midwestern states Illinois has seen its case numbers surge. But Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says the people in her state getting the virus most are not the ones dying from it. She said the disease is spreading fastest among people in their 20s.

      • Ohio: Three of the state’s four largest cities have issued stay-at-home orders for residents. The orders come one day after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a statewide curfew starting today to slow the spread of COVID-19.

      • New Mexico: During the shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic, most big box stores were considered “essential” and stayed open. But as New Mexico reacts to a surge in cases, some big box stores, such as Ross Dress For Less and Hobby Lobby, have been ordered to close.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,558,241 (11,419,...
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      Airlines lobby Congress for new infusion of cash to help keep them afloat

      Adding urgency to the matter is the role airlines might play in distributing a new vaccine

      Seven of the U.S.’ biggest airlines are begging Congress for another bailout, claiming the $25 billion payroll assistance they received earlier in the government’s COVID-19 rescue mission is not enough to get them through the end of the year.

      The letter to congressional leaders was sent by lobbying group Airlines for America (A4A) on behalf of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue Airways. 

      No help could lead to more cuts

      Airline executives claim that they’ve done all they can to curtail furloughs, reductions in workforce, and cuts to service, but they say there could be an even greater slashing of jobs and services unless Capitol Hill writes some new checks for the industry.

      Then, there’s the situation with a coronavirus vaccine. Airline officials say they think their companies will play an important role in the distribution process.

      “As the nation looks forward and takes on the logistical challenges of distributing a vaccine, it will be important to ensure there are sufficient certified employees and planes in service necessary for adequate capacity to complete the task,” the letter said.

      'We respectfully ask that you come together and extend the successful PSP (payroll support programs) this year so that we can continue to support our critical aviation workforce and infrastructure. Your leadership is needed before the close of the 116th Congress so that this bipartisan and incredibly effective COVID-relief measure can continue to save American jobs and allow us to continue our significant role in the health of our US economy.”

      Will push come to shove?

      When the first round of checks were sent, some U.S. senators thought they were large enough to help airlines stay alive without having to resort to job cuts. However, airlines wrestled with the strings attached to receiving the aid -- namely, that they would need to keep a certain level of workers employed. 

      Later, when Delta and JetBlue decided to reduce employee hours to cope with their loss of revenue, lawmakers were quick to say they would be violating the goal of the Payroll Support Program. More than a dozen U.S. senators fired off letters to airline CEOs pushing for an immediate end to the “potentially illegal” action. 

      In late September, as the airline’s commitment to the payroll support program came to an end and airlines threatened to make even more cuts, congressional leaders took another swing at an additional infusion of cash, but it went nowhere, despite President Trump’s support.

      “Time already ran out for U.S. airlines and many of our employees, yet there is a glimmer of hope that our leaders in Washington will act and save these jobs before it’s too late to turn back the clock,” A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said at the time.

      “Some U.S. airlines may be able to reinstate employees if they receive direct payroll assistance from the federal government soon, but that becomes increasingly challenging with each passing day. Extending the Payroll Support Program is a critical step for preserving jobs, rebuilding the travel industry and restoring the economic health of our country.”

      As they say, fasten your seatbelt. This turbulence is likely to continue.

      Seven of the U.S.’ biggest airlines are begging Congress for another bailout, claiming the $25 billion payroll assistance they received earlier in the gove...
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      Social isolation during COVID-19 linked to increase in high blood pressure cases

      Researchers found that more patients landed in the ER with hypertension issues

      The COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumers’ physical and mental health, and now researchers from the European Society of Cardiology have discovered how social isolation created by current conditions can be detrimental to health and wellness. 

      According to findings from a new study, mandatory social isolation measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in high blood pressure cases in emergency rooms. 

      “After social isolation began, we observed that more patients coming to emergency had high blood pressure,” said researcher Dr. Matías Fosco. “We conducted this study to confirm or reject this impression.” 

      Blood pressure concerns

      To understand what effect the pandemic has had on consumers’ blood pressure, the researchers analyzed patient data from Favaloro Foundation University Hospital in Argentina. They compared emergency room data from the first three months of the pandemic with figures from the three months preceding the pandemic and three months from 2019. 

      The researchers learned that the first three months of the pandemic were linked with an increase in patients in the ER with high blood pressure issues. Between March and June of 2019, just over 15 percent of ER patients presented with high blood pressure. However, in that same time span in 2020 -- when the pandemic had just started -- nearly 24 percent of patients were experiencing high blood pressure problems in the ER. 

      “There are several possible reasons for the connection between social isolation and high blood pressure,” said Dr. Fosco. “For example, increased stress because of the pandemic, with limited personal contact and the onset or exacerbation of financial or family difficulties. Changed behaviours may have played a role, with higher intake of food and alcohol, sedentary lifestyles, and weight gain.” 

      The researchers hope that these findings prompt consumers to put their heart health at the forefront, and take the necessary actions to maintain healthy blood pressure levels -- during the pandemic and beyond. 

      “Blood pressure control helps prevent heart attacks and strokes and serious illness from COVID-19, so it’s essential to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, even under social isolation and lockdown conditions,” said Dr. Fosco. 

      The COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumers’ physical and mental health, and now researchers from the European Society of Cardiology have discovered how s...
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      Gen Z renters are filling the apartments others are leaving behind

      The sudden migration to single-family homes has created opportunities for younger consumers

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a home-buying binge that has significantly raised the price of the average single-family home. But it has also reduced what landlords can charge for rent, and Generation Z appears to be taking advantage of it.

      New research from Zillow shows that vacancy rates in New York and other large cities rose sharply as families moved to the suburbs during the spring and summer. Young people, many of whom were living with their parents, have begun moving in.

      They’re being drawn by concessions like a free month's rent and are either renting a place for the first time or moving up from a smaller apartment. According to Zillow, most of the move-ups say they moved because they got a better deal.

      "What we're seeing is that renters who might have been in a small apartment are instead looking at larger units -- maybe a two-bedroom instead of a one-bedroom," said Zillow Premier Agent Kenny Truong, founder of Fast Real Estate in the San Francisco Bay Area. "Some others are moving to a rental with a view or a yard for a similar price." 

      Rising vacancy rates creating deals

      According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the rental home vacancy rate rose from 5.7 percent in the second quarter to 6.4 percent in the third quarter as apartment dwellers suddenly working from home decided they needed more space. At the same time, the owner-occupant vacancy rate shrank to 0.9 percent.

      The Zillow survey found more than a third of Gen Z renters who moved in the past year reported moving from the home of a family member or friend. That's up from 20 percent who reported the same in an April survey. This data is consistent with previous Zillow research that found the number of young adults living with parents or grandparents was beginning to fall in September, after rising dramatically in the spring.

      The survey found that Gen Z renters who moved from an existing apartment they were renting to another paid more for their new home, but many said it was a better value that gave them more home for their money.

      On a national basis, the typical monthly rent was nearly 1 percent higher in September but lower than last year in seven major metro areas. This suggests that a glut of empty apartments has pulled rents lower in some areas.

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a home-buying binge that has significantly raised the price of the average single-family home. But it has al...
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      Starbucks increasing barista pay by 10 percent

      The pandemic has pushed retail and service companies to increase employee pay

      Starbucks, which recently reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, is investing some of that revenue in its personnel. A corporate memo cited by Bloomberg News said the company is increasing pay for its front-line workers by 10 percent starting Dec. 14.

      Bloomberg reports that it has seen a memo from Starbucks Executive Vice President Rossann Williams that increases pay by at least 10 percent for baristas, shift supervisors, and cafe attendants hired on or before Sept. 14.

      The memo also said that starting pay for new employees will go up by 5 percent to help store managers attract and retain talent during the pandemic, when working conditions have become more challenging.

      The company also said it will increase the extra amount above the minimum wage it pays employees in the U.S. markets where it has stores.

      The pay raises come at a time when other retail and service sector businesses have faced difficulty hiring and retaining workers. Target raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in July and gave employees who worked during the pandemic a $200 bonus at the end of that month.

      The increase in payroll didn’t seem to hurt Target’s bottom line. The retailer this week reported same-store sales surged more than 20 percent in the third quarter.

      In September, Walmart announced across-the-board pay hikes for its 165,000 hourly employees. It also announced the creation of new hourly and salaried leadership positions at its supercenters. 

      Up to $30 an hour at Walmart

      Pay for these new “team leader” positions range from $18 to $21 an hour, and some will pay up to $30 an hour. The new system will result in a boost in pay for tens of thousands of the company’s hourly workers, Walmart said.

      Two years ago, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The e-commerce giant said in a statement that the new minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 full-time and part-time Amazon employees across the country, as well over 100,000 seasonal workers.

      At the beginning of the pandemic, Starbucks authorized extra pay and benefits for employees affected by the health crisis, including sick pay, to encourage people who might be infected with the virus to stay home.

      The improvement in hourly pay, long championed by organized labor, could remain in place once the pandemic passes. The state of Florida this year mandated a higher minimum wage and President-elect Joe Biden is on record supporting a $15 an hour minimum wage.

      Starbucks, which recently reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, is investing some of that revenue in its personnel. A corporate memo cited by B...
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      Nissan recalls Altima S grade vehicles with Continental ProContact TX tires

      The tires may have been overcured

      Nissan North America is recalling 2,214 model year 2020 Altima S grade vehicles with Continental ProContact TX tires, size 215/60 R16 H, with TIN date code 3320 and Mold ID S-419149.

      The tires may have been overcured.

      Overcured tires can result in a sidewall break causing a sudden loss of air or the tread separating from the tire. Both conditions increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the vehicle's tires to see if they are affected, replacing them -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 10, 2020.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 8677669. Nissan's number for this recall is PC765.

      Nissan North America is recalling 2,214 model year 2020 Altima S grade vehicles with Continental ProContact TX tires, size 215/60 R16 H, with TIN date code...
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      Coronavirus update: Pfizer’s vaccine 95 percent effective, production issues could inhibit vaccine distribution

      North Dakota has set a devastating record for COVID-19 deaths

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,419,204 (11,218,305)

      Total U.S. deaths: 249,430 (247,263)

      Total global cases: 55,997,737 (55,243,538)

      Total global deaths: 1,344,557 (1,330,930)

      Pfizer completes vaccine clinical trial

      A day after Moderna reported preliminary results of its coronavirus (COVID-19) clinical trial, Pfizer has reported final results showing that its two-shot vaccine was 95 percent effective against the virus.

      The company said there were 10 severe cases of COVID-19 observed in the trial, with nine of the cases occurring in the placebo group and one in the group that received the vaccine. The group monitoring data said it found no serious side effects.

      The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar, and so far have achieved similar results, though Moderna has yet to complete its trial. The Pfizer vaccine faces tougher logistical challenges, however, since it must be kept at extremely cold temperatures.

      Vaccine reality check

      The last 10 days have been filled with optimism due to impressive results from Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trials. But the company partnering with Moderna to actually produce the vaccine has some sobering observations.

      Swiss drugmaker Lonza says there are “big challenges” in producing the Moderna vaccine at scale and distributing it around the world. Company Chairman Albert Baehny told CNBC his company will have to greatly expand to meet the need.

      “We can only produce more than 500 million doses a year if we install additional manufacturing lines, so it is clear that we need additional investments in installation if we want to produce more than 500 million (per year) in the future,” he told the network.

      North Dakota sets world record

      North Dakota may have a small population, but people there are dying from the coronavirus at the highest rate in the world. That’s the assessment of the Federation of American Scientists, which conducted an analysis of mortality data. 

      The analysis shows North Dakota has a rate of 18.2 deaths per 1 million people. South Dakota is not far behind, with 17.4 deaths per million. That ranks as the third-highest rate in the world.

      North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum last week ordered a new set of restrictions on businesses and imposed a new mandate in certain settings. “Our situation has changed, and we must change with it,” he said.

      Pulling the emergency brake in California

      California Gov. Gavin Newsom is reimposing restrictions on public activities after coronavirus cases and resulting hospitalizations spiked. Last week, California became the second state, after Texas, to record a total of 1 million cases of the virus.

      “We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said. “The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes. That is why we are pulling an emergency brake in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

      Twenty-eight California counties are moving back into Tier 1 -- the most restrictive category -- covering 94 percent of the state’s population. 

      Listening for signs of the virus

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first COVID-19 test that can be taken at home, but health experts believe it may be possible to test for the virus simply by listening.

      Researchers at Mayo Clinic have teamed up with an artificial intelligence (AI) company to scan voices for signs of illness. The technology hones in on certain frequencies in the voice and identifies certain vocal biomarkers to screen and detect patient health.

      “The body is sending us a lot of signals that we’re not paying attention to,” said the clinic’s Dr. Amir Lerman. “When we talk about voice, it’s not exactly what you and I can hear. The voice is a spectrum of a lot of frequencies.”

      Around the nation

      • New York: Law enforcement in New York City will step up patrols on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, traditionally a big party night for young people in the city. Police said they will respond to reports of large gatherings at private homes.

      • Wisconsin: Wisconsin is one of the Midwestern states where cases of the virus are surging. The state set records for COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations Tuesday and reported more than 7,000 new coronavirus cases after receiving a record number of tests.

      • Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis said several counties in the state are soon going to be moving to a new, more restrictive phase of coronavirus limits. That means 15 counties, including the Denver metro, will soon stop indoor dining at restaurants.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,419,204 (11,218,...
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      FAA gives Boeing permission to restart production of its 737 MAX aircraft

      Companies that use the aircraft will be able to bring them back into service after fulfilling requirements

      There’s cause for celebration at Boeing. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rescinded the order that halted commercial operations of Boeing 737-8s and 737-9s -- aka the 737 MAX -- after the jets were involved in two fatal crashes. 

      The FAA’s move gives all airlines under the FAA's authority to take whatever steps necessary to resume service using the aircraft and gives Boeing the all-clear to deliver those planes to buyers.

      What the FAA will be watching for

      In the traveler’s best interests, the FAA thoroughly examined the 737 MAX from cockpit to rudder to look for anything that could prove troublesome and cause another crash -- like the structural cracks it found on 38 of Boeing’s 737 NG jets. 

      The agency’s new Airworthiness Directive spells out the requirements that must be met before U.S. carriers can resume service with their 737 MAX’, including installing software enhancements, completing wire separation modifications, pilot training, and accomplishing thorough de-preservation activities that will ensure the airplanes are ready for service.

      "The FAA's directive is an important milestone," said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide."

      Boeing’s commitment going forward

      Needless to say, Boeing does not want to go through another 20-month period where it can’t sell one of its best-selling jets and certainly can’t afford to lose more billions of dollars in sales cancellations or put its employees at risk of losing their jobs like this setback caused. 

      To set itself up for success going forward, the company has realigned its org chart by merging more than 50,000 engineers into a single organization that includes a new Product & Services Safety unit, intended to unify safety responsibilities across the company.

      It’s also empowered those engineers to identify, diagnose, and resolve issues with a higher level of transparency and immediacy.

      Southwest commits to rigorous testing

      Southwest Airlines -- one of two major domestic carriers using the 737 MAX --  likes what it’s seen from the FAA so far. Alan Kasher, Southwest’s Pilot and Senior Vice President of Air Operations, said that “with these changes we believe the MAX is now amongst the most reviewed and tested commercial aircraft in the world.”

      Further up the corporate ladder, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that his company wants to thoroughly test out the the 737 MAX before risking the safety of a single passenger. The executive has committed to flying on the MAX before Southwest returns the aircraft to service — and he promises the same for many other Southwest Leaders.

      “Before we return the aircraft to customer service, however, every active Southwest Pilot will complete additional FAA-required flight training in one of our nine 737 MAX simulators and will complete additional FAA-required computer-based training covering MAX procedures,” Kelly said.

      “Southwest will also require active Pilots to re-take our original 737 MAX 8 computer-based differences training as a refresher to complement the FAA-required training. Additionally, Southwest will conduct multiple readiness flights on each of our 34 MAX aircraft and complete thousands of hours of work, inspections, and the software updates before any of our Customers board a Southwest 737 MAX.”

      There’s cause for celebration at Boeing. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rescinded the order that halted commercial operations of Boeing...
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      FDA approves first COVID-19 test that can be taken at home

      The agency says the test will improve efforts to monitor and track the virus

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval to the first coronavirus (COVID-19) test consumers can perform at home to see if they are infected with the virus.

      The FDA said the test is for prescription home use with self-collected nasal swab specimens in people who are at least 14 years old and who are suspected of having COVID-19 by their healthcare provider. It was approved under the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA).

      The test is also authorized for use at the point of care (POC), in patient care settings operating under a “CLIA Certificate of Waiver, Certificate of Compliance, or Certificate of Accreditation, with self-collected nasal swab specimens in individuals aged 14 and older, and in individuals aged 13 and under when the specimen is collected by a healthcare provider at the POC.”

      The agency said the test utilizes a molecular amplification technology for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in individuals with known or suspected COVID-19.

      The home test is produced by Lucira Health, a California biotech company. The company’s website lists the cost of the test as less than $50.

      Results in 30 minutes or less

      The self-collected sample swab is swirled in a vial that is then placed in the test unit. In 30 minutes or less, the results can be read directly from the test unit’s light-up display that shows whether a person is positive or negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the FDA said.

      If the results are positive, the person who took the test will be instructed to self-isolate and seek additional care. People who test negative should follow up with a health care provider to treat the symptoms that caused them to take the test in the first place.

      Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, called the test’s approval a significant step forward in the agency’s attempts to significantly improve testing for the virus.

      “A test that can be fully administered entirely outside of a lab or healthcare setting has always been a major priority for the FDA to address the pandemic, he said. “Now, more Americans who may have COVID-19 will be able to take immediate action, based on their results, to protect themselves and those around them.” 

      FDA officials also say the addition of the test will improve tracking. Health care providers who prescribe the test will be required to report all test results they receive from individuals who use the test.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval to the first coronavirus (COVID-19) test consumers can perform at home to see if they are in...
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      Time in nature can boost mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

      Researchers say that being outdoors can help lower stress levels

      With stress levels at an all-time high in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have been working to find ways for consumers to improve their mental health. Now, a new study has found that regularly spending time in nature could be a great way for consumers to maintain better mental health during the pandemic. 

      “Our results suggest that nearby nature can serve as a buffer in decreasing the adverse impacts of a very stressful event on humans,” said researcher Masashi Soga, PhD. 

      Green spaces improve mental health

      The researchers conducted a survey of 3,000 adults in Tokyo to see how spending time in nature can give consumers a mental health boost. The survey was designed to help the team figure out how often the participants were spending time outdoors or looking at green spaces from inside their homes. In terms of mental health, the researchers focused on five key factors: loneliness, happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and depression. 

      The researchers learned that access to nature or having the ability to look out a window to a green space was linked with improved mental health for the participants, and those benefits only got better as exposure increased. These findings were overwhelmingly positive, as the researchers found that regular time in nature led to improvements for each of the five mental health factors they were studying. 

      As more and more research boasts the benefits of consumers spending time outdoors, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect consumers in countless ways, the researchers hope that these findings can act as a catalyst to affect real change. Access to green spaces can greatly benefit consumers’ mental health, and the researchers hope that more communities prioritize maintaining these spaces as a way to aid in stress relief. 

      “Protecting natural environments in urban areas is important not only for the conservation of biodiversity, but also for the protection of human health,” said Dr. Soga. 

      With stress levels at an all-time high in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have been working to find ways for consumers to improve their mental...
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      GM recalls Chevrolet Bolt EVs

      The high-voltage battery may catch fire

      General Motors is recalling all model year 2017-2018 and 50,932 model year 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs.

      The high-voltage battery could catch fire when charged to full or nearly full capacity, posing an injury risk.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners and, as an interim repair, dealers will reprogram the hybrid propulsion control module 2 (HPCM2) to limit the full charge to 90% free of charge.

      Owners are advised to activate either the Hill Top Reserve (2017 and 2018 models) or Target Charge Level (2019 models) feature in their vehicle to limit the charge level to 90%, or park outside, until the software update is completed.

      The final remedy is still under development.

      Owners will be notified of the interim repair beginning November 23, 2020. A second notice will be mailed when the final repair becomes available.

      Owners may contact the Bolt EV Concierge Team at (833) 382-4389. GM's number for this recall is N202311730.

      General Motors is recalling all model year 2017-2018 and 50,932 model year 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs.The high-voltage battery could catch fire when charg...
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      Model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators recalled

      The driveshaft may fracture along the weld seam

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 11,000 model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators.

      Eighteen of the affected vehicles were produced with a driveshaft that may fracture along the weld seam. Defective driveshafts could lose the mechanical connection between the transfer case and rear axle, which may result in unintended vehicle movement and/or loss of motive power.

      Defective driveshafts may also deform and separate from the driveline and potentially contact the fuel tank, increasing the risk of fuel leaks and/or fire.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the driveshaft label and replace the driveshaft as needed.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S65.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 11,000 model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators. Eighteen of the affected vehicles were produced with a...
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      Coronavirus update: PPP loans didn’t help all businesses, Iowa decides to mask-up

      Look out; toilet paper hoarders are back

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,218,305 (11,082,027)

      Total U.S. deaths: 247,263 (246,586)

      Total global cases: 55,243,538 (54,615,099)

      Total global deaths: 1,330,930 (1,320,742)

      Pandemic loans failed to save all businesses

      Congress passed a number of emergency measures in the early days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including money for more small business loans for businesses hard-hit by the economic shutdown.

      However, not all the companies that got their loans were able to overcome the challenges they faced, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. It shows that about 300 businesses receiving a total of a half-billion dollars have already filed for bankruptcy.

      The Journal said the total is likely much higher since it focused only on large firms. It said that accounted for only about 13.5 percent of total participants in the loan program.

      Iowa governor reverses course, orders masks

      It’s no secret that there has been a political undercurrent running through the controversy over requirements to wear masks. With a few exceptions, Republican officials have been less supportive of these measures than Democrats.

      But as large increases in coronavirus cases have swept the Midwest, Iowa Gov. Kim Richards is the latest GOP officeholder to reverse course. Starting today, she’s requiring Iowans to wear a mask in indoor public places.

      "No one wants to do this,” Reynolds told reporters. “I don't want to do this, but if Iowans don't buy into this, we'll lose. Businesses will close once again, more schools will be forced to go online, and our health care system will fail."

      Toilet paper hoarders are back

      Have you tried to buy toilet paper at the supermarket lately? Reports from shoppers say shelves are beginning to look as bare as they did during the toilet paper panic back in April.

      The run on the essential item appears to be worse in states that have recently enacted new restrictions on activity to curtain the virus. In Spokane, Wash., local media outlets report that area grocery stores have placed purchase limits on toilet paper to keep shelves from being picked clean.

      “I really hope we don't have hoarding going on in our stores. That's really not necessary and most unhelpful,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who recently imposed new restrictions, including indoor seating at bars and restaurants and social gatherings.

      Survey shows consumers aren’t using cash

      The use of cash has been on the decline for years, but new research from Blumberg Capital, a venture capital firm, suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened cash’s demise.

      A survey of consumer behavior and attitudes on fintech since the start of the pandemic shows that COVID-19 lockdowns stepped up the need for electronic payments for a clear majority of consumers. Fifty percent of respondents said they were now significantly less reliant on cash.

      "The general public is far more receptive and far less resistant to fintech solutions now than ever before and the COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing, and work from home were clearly catalysts that accelerated the rapid broader adoption," said David Blumberg, founder and managing partner at Blumberg Capital.

      Dolly Parton helped make the Moderna vaccine possible

      If you end up getting inoculated against COVID-19 with Moderna’s vaccine, you can thank, in part, country music icon Dolly Parton. In the footnotes of the New England Journal of Medicine’s announcement about the vaccine’s successful clinical trial, “the Dolly Parton Covid-19 Research Fund” is noted as one of the sponsors.

      In April, Parton made a $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville to combat COVID-19. The hospital channeled the donation into a number of projects, including Moderna’s vaccine research.

      “We can’t save the world, but we can save the world we’re living in,” Parton told the Today Show this week. “Maybe I’m dreaming. But I don’t think so.”

      Around the nation

      • North Carolina: Coronavirus cases are spreading fastest in rural areas of the state, according to researchers at Harvard. Nearly half of North Carolina’s 100 counties are described as being close to “a tipping point” when it comes to outbreaks of the disease.

      • Florida: Alberto Moscoso, in charge of public information for the Florida Department of Health throughout the pandemic, has abruptly resigned. The move reportedly came during a  reshuffling of personnel at the state agency. 

      • Nevada: Concern is growing among business leaders in Nevada that another economic shutdown could be looming as the virus quickly spreads across the state. Gov. Steve Sisolak has yet to impose mandatory restrictions, but he has urged residents to stay home as much as possible.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 11,218,305 (11,082,...
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      Walmart celebrates Thanksgiving with free meal giveaways

      Consumers have to connect their Walmart account with a web browser extension to get the freebie

      Did someone say free Thanksgiving meal? Yep... Walmart. The mega retailer has looped in Butterball, Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, and others to offer consumers everything they need for a Thanksgiving dinner -- from cranberry sauce to the turkey itself -- compliments of the brands involved. 

      Walmart locations nationwide are participating in this event through Thanksgiving Day, November 26.

      The freebies

      In total, there are nine gratis food products in the promotion, though some include caveats about specific sizes and other factors. Here are the details:

      • Butterball Turkey Breast Roast: Offer valid for 100 percent cash-back on all flavors of the 3 lb Butterball turkey roast, which includes a gravy packet. Also valid for $9.98 cash-back on Butterball whole turkeys.

      • McCormick Gravy: Offer valid for all 0.87 oz. McCormick gravy packet flavors.

      • Great Value Stuffing Mix: Offer valid for all 6 oz. Great Value Stuffing Mix flavors.

      • Idahoan Mashed Potatoes: Offer valid for all 8 oz. Idahoan Mashed Potato flavors.

      • Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup: Offer valid on 10.5 oz. can only.

      • Great Value Cranberry Sauce: Offer valid for all canned 14 oz. cranberry sauce varieties.

      • Great Value Green Beans: Offer valid on Great Value Fine Green Beans, 12 oz. frozen bag.

      • French’s Crispy Fried Onions: Offer valid on French’s Original Crispy Fried Onions, 2.8 oz..

      • Coca-Cola: Offer valid on 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola: Cherry Zero Sugar, Vanilla, Caffeine Free, Caffeine Free Zero Sugar, Original Taste, and Zero Sugar.

      A 12 oz. bag of green beans or a 3 pound turkey may not go very far for some families. To get enough for everyone, it might take multiple people using separate Walmart accounts connected to Ibotta to stretch “free” into a family-size windfall.

      “Free” takes some doing 

      In all fairness, while Walmart and its partners are throwing around the word “free,” it’s a slight misnomer because the promotion is really a “cash-back” one. 

      In reality, a consumer can’t just walk into a Walmart, load up their cart with the foods that are part of the promotion, and then check out without having to scan their credit card. To take advantage of the deal, a consumer has to complete two key steps:

      Once that’s done, the consumer simply logs in to their Walmart account. They’ll immediately find all nine free Thanksgiving items in their browser extension (and via the Ibotta phone app within an hour) in the form of cash-back for the entire purchase (approx. $20.27).

      Consumers are likely to see more “thanks” from major retailers and brands in the run-up to Thanksgiving. On Monday, Zoom announced that it was lifting its 40-minute time limit on the free version of its software so families could enjoy a longer virtual Thanksgiving together. BJ’s Wholesale Club also announced that it’s handing out free turkeys in advance of Thanksgiving.

      Did someone say free Thanksgiving meal? Yep... Walmart. The mega retailer has looped in Butterball, Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, and others to offer consumers ev...
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      Amazon sellers fined for price gouging hand sanitizer during the pandemic

      Three sellers have been ordered to reimburse New Yorkers

      A trio of Amazon sellers have been hit with a fine from New York Attorney General Letitia James for price gouging hand sanitizer during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      On Tuesday, James’ office said three third-party sellers -- Mobile Rush, EMC Group, and Northwest-Lux -- sold upwards of 1,000 units of hand sanitizer on Amazon’s marketplace “at prices that grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable” elsewhere.

      During February and March, Northwest-Lux was charging Amazon customers $79.99 to $129.99 for 2-liter bottles of Purell. Mobile Rush was charging $19.99 to $29.99 for single, 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer. EMC was charging consumers $35.98 to $52.99 for 8-packs of 1-ounce Purell bottles. 

      James said she has stopped the merchants from selling hand sanitizer at expensive rates. She also said she will reimburse New Yorkers that bought the high-priced hand sanitizer.

      Consumer reimbursement ordered

      The sellers have been ordered to pay a fine of $52,000 to the state of New York. Defrauded consumers will collectively be reimbursed almost $23,000. 

      “Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James in a press release. 

      “Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products. My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic.”

      Consumers who purchased overpriced hand sanitizer products from any of the three sellers don’t need to do anything to receive restitution. James said the companies are required to automatically issue partial refunds to the credit card, debit card, or bank account that consumers used to make their original purchases. 

      A trio of Amazon sellers have been hit with a fine from New York Attorney General Letitia James for price gouging hand sanitizer during the early months of...
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      Amazon CEO announces first beneficiaries of Earth Fund

      The fund will provide millions to those seeking to ‘preserve and protect the natural world’

      Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced the first recipients of his “Earth Fund,” a $10 billion fund established earlier this year to help address the climate crisis. 

      In his announcement of the fund back in February, Bezo said grants from it would go to scientists, activists, and other environmental advocacy groups that have set out to combat climate change. The Amazon executive said the goal of the fund is to financially support individuals and groups that are seeking to “preserve and protect the natural world.”

      On Monday, Bezos named the first 16 beneficiaries of the fund. Grants will be going out to the following groups: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, ClimateWorks Foundation, Dream Corps Green For All, Eden Reforestation Projects, Energy Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, NDN Collective, Rocky Mountain Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Solutions Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund.

      These initial recipients will get a collective $791 million. The amount allocated to each organization varies, but it ranges from between $5 million to $100 million. 

      Taking action

      In an Instagram post, Bezos said the first round of grants was “just the beginning” of his multi-billion dollar commitment to fighting climate change. 

      “I’ve spent the past several months learning from a group of incredibly smart people who’ve made it their life’s work to fight climate change and its impact on communities around the world,” Bezos said. “I’m inspired by what they’re doing, and excited to help them scale.” 

      “We can all protect Earth’s future by taking bold action now,” he added.

      The Nature Conservancy said it will be putting some of its grant money towards supporting programs that benefit temperate rainforests.

      “These vast forests are globally critical for carbon capture, and our conservation strategy prioritizes Indigenous and local communities,” said Eric Delvin, a program director for The Nature Conservancy. “In direct collaboration with Indigenous peoples across the rainforest’s diverse regions, we support sovereign authority and supporting sustainable economies.”

      Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced the first recipients of his “Earth Fund,” a $10 billion fund established earlier this year to help address the climate...
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      Obesity makes COVID-19 more severe for young people, study finds

      Researchers say the combination could lead to severe medical conditions

      A new study conducted by researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center found that young people who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19. Their work found that age wasn’t a protective factor against infection; instead, obesity increased the likelihood for serious medical complications associated with COVID-19. 

      “In general, obese individuals are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than normal weight individuals,” said researcher Dr. Nicholas Hendren. “In the hospital, obese individuals are at a higher risk for death, or the need for medical ventilation to help them breathe, even if they are young.” 

      Risks of obesity

      To better understand the risk that obesity poses to young people with COVID-19, the researchers analyzed data from more than 7,600 patients involved in the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry. They broke down the data by patients’ ages, prior health concerns, and body mass indices (BMIs). 

      Overall, the researchers found that patients under the age of 50 were more likely to be overweight or obese than patients over the age of 70, which translated to poorer health outcomes for the younger group. The researchers learned that obesity in younger COVID-19 patients increased the risk of death by more than 35 percent, and that percentage only went up as BMI scores increased.

      “There is a greater proportion of obese people among those hospitalized for COVID-19, and obese patients are at higher risk for complications,” said researcher Dr. Justin Grodin. 

      While the team had no concrete explanation for why obesity greatly affects COVID-19 outcomes, the researchers noted several possible reaons. Having excess body weight can have an effect on breathing without the virus; once infected, those breathing troubles are only exacerbated. They also explained that obesity is often accompanied by other health complications, like diabetes, which can weaken the immune system and increase the risks associated with coronavirus. 

      “If you’re young and obese, you’re still at a high risk despite your age,” said Dr. Grudin. 

      A new study conducted by researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center found that young people who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of de...
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      Amazon launches Amazon Pharmacy

      The online drug store offers drug discounts for Prime members

      In one of its most ambitious expansions to date, Amazon has launched an online pharmacy that allows consumers to order prescription medication at the same place they order household products and groceries and have them delivered to their homes.

      Amazon Pharmacy, accessible through Amazon’s website and app, will allow customers in most of the U.S. to have prescription medication delivered to their homes. Prime members will get free delivery.

      At the same time, the online retailer is launching a prescription discount program for Prime members who don’t have prescription drug coverage. The benefit applies not only at Amazon Pharmacy but also at 50,000 other participating drug stores in the U.S.

      Amazon says the two services together make it easier for customers to shop around for the best prices and to conveniently order medications for home delivery.

      Builds on Amazon’s PillPack acquisition

      Amazon’s move into health and medicine doesn’t exactly come as a surprise since it’s been inching in that direction for years. In 2018, it acquired PillPack, a mail-order prescription service. Analysts say Amazon Pharmacy is using much of the PillPack infrastructure and experience to build out its new online pharmacy business.

      “As more and more people look to complete everyday errands from home, pharmacy is an important and needed addition to the Amazon online store,” said Doug Herrington, senior vice president of North American Consumer at Amazon. “PillPack has provided exceptional pharmacy service for individuals with chronic health conditions for over six years. Now, we’re expanding our pharmacy offering to Amazon.com, which will help more customers save time, save money, simplify their lives, and feel healthier.”

      Amazon says the Amazon Prime prescription savings benefit will cut the price of generic medication by up to 80 percent and reduce brand name medication prices by up to 40 percent. The company explains how it works here.

      Integrated into the site and app

      Amazon Pharmacy is fully integrated into the Amazon site and app. After clicking on “Amazon Pharmacy,” consumers enter the state in which they live and then complete a three-step registration process that ends with the placing of an order.

      To start, five states --  Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Minnesota -- are not served by the new service, although Amazon said it expects to serve consumers in those states in the future. In cases where medication is needed in the immediate future, Amazon recommends using a local pharmacy. 

      T.J. Parker, founder of PillPack and Amazon’s vice president in charge of Amazon Pharmacy, says one of the goals of the new service is to take a complex business and make it simple for the consumer.

      “We work hard behind the scenes to handle complications seamlessly so anyone who needs a prescription can understand their options, place their order for the lowest available price, and have their medication delivered quickly,” he said.

      In one of its most ambitious expansions to date, Amazon has launched an online pharmacy that allows consumers to order prescription medication at the same...
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      Consumer authorities warn holiday scams are on the rise

      COVID-19 has led to the creation of new schemes criminals are using to trick people

      Scams seem to be a staple of the holiday season and this year, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) changing so much about daily life, consumer advocates warn it’s about to get a lot worse.

      With so many traditional holiday events being canceled, some are being staged virtually. Scammers have noticed this trend and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns they are trying to trick people into attending fake events.

      You might see something in a search queue or on social media about your town’s holiday event moving online because of the virus. But there’s something else different about it. In past years, attendance has been free but for the (fake) online event, you have to buy a ticket.

      The scammer may explain the cost by saying it’s to pay for logistics, or he might tug at your heartstrings by saying the money will go to help the less fortunate in your community. It all sounds reasonable.

      Fake event pages and social posts

      “Unfortunately, the ‘ticket’ is a scam!” BBB warns in its latest scam update. “The event information you found was posted by scammers and not affiliated with the real holiday market. Con artists are creating fake event pages, social posts, and emails to confuse attendees into sharing their credit card information.”

      The BBB suggests steering clear of paying to attend a local virtual holiday event. If you do pay for any kind of event, use a credit card since it likely has greater fraud protection than other forms of payment.

      With cold weather arriving with the holidays, home heating bills may be rising. Each year scammers try to trick people by claiming to be from the utility company and threatening to cut off their electricity or gas if they don’t pay immediately.

      "Utility scammers are very sophisticated, and they use a variety of tactics to take advantage of you,” said Corynne Arnett, Dominion Energy's senior vice president of regulatory affairs and customer experience. “Sometimes they will use scare tactics and a false sense of urgency to obtain your personal information, while other times they will sound friendly and sympathetic to gain your trust.”

      Utility companies don’t call

      Remember that utility companies never demand payment over the phone. If you get one of these calls during the holidays or later in the winter, Arnett says you should hang up immediately.

      If you are victimized by a scam during the holidays, consumer authorities urge you to report it immediately. They say there’s no reason to feel embarrassed.

      “We always think it’s seniors or it’s those who are uneducated, and that’s absolutely not the case, everyone is vulnerable and what we have seen is over the last six months even more people are vulnerable because we are doing so much more online,” said Janet Robb, CEO of the Arkansas Better Business Bureau.

      Scammers are criminals who employ psychological tricks to catch people off guard. Authorities say by reporting the crime, victims can help others avoid becoming victims.

      Scams seem to be a staple of the holiday season and this year, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) changing so much about daily life, consumer advocates warn i...
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      Ford Taurus, Explorer and Edge vehicles recalled

      The vehicle could lose motive power while being driven

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 16,000 model year 2014-16 Taurus & Explorer and model year 2014 Edge vehicles.

      The link shaft bracket may fracture after long-term use as a result of certain vehicle vibrations causing a loss of motive power while being driven, or a loss of park function, resulting in unintended vehicle movement.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the link shaft bracket free of charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S63.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 16,000 model year 2014-16 Taurus & Explorer and model year 2014 Edge vehicles. The link shaft bracket may fracture...
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      Albright’s Raw Dog Food recalls Chicken Recipe For Dogs

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Albright’s Raw Dog Food of Fort Wayne, Ind., is recalling 67 cases of Chicken Recipe for Dogs.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      One animal illness has been repor ted. No human illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product is labeled Albright’s Raw Dog Food Chicken Recipe for Dogs and is packaged in 2 lbs chubs/rolls. Each chub/roll is printed with “Lot number C000185, Best By 19 May 2021.”

      It was sold frozen through retail stores, mail order and direct delivery in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (260) 422-9440 Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4 pm (EST).

      Albright’s Raw Dog Food of Fort Wayne, Ind., is recalling 67 cases of Chicken Recipe for Dogs. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. One a...
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      GM recalls Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks

      The driveshaft may separate while the vehicle is moving

      General Motors is recalling 42 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & GMC Sierra 1500, and model year 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 trucks.

      One of the driveshaft joints may not have been properly welded, causing the driveshaft to separate while the vehicle is moving.

      Separation of the driveshaft may cause a loss of propulsion, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driveshaft free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 7, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020 or GMC customer service at (888) 988-7267. GM's number for this recall is N202314870.

      General Motors is recalling 42 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & GMC Sierra 1500, and model year 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 trucks. One...
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      FTC gives tips on how to avoid the COVID-19 clinical trial scam

      Consumers should never pay or give out financial information to ‘researchers’

      Last week, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a warning to consumers about a growing scam linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said scammers had recently begun targeting people with the opportunity to participate in bogus clinical trials. 

      This scam is particularly dangerous right now because of the success that companies like Pfizer and Moderna have seen with their recent Stage 3 clinical trials. With that in mind, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stepped in with several tips to help people avoid becoming victims.

      In a blog post, FTC consumer education specialist Jim Kreidler lays out the following things that consumers should keep in mind when considering participation in a research study:

      Never pay to be part of a clinical trial or to find out about them. Real clinical trials will never ask for payment for either of those things. 

      Conduct an online search. Before joining a trial, it’s a smart idea to search its official name and add keywords like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint” to see if anything suspicious pops up.

      Beware of what information the researchers are asking for. To help identify valid candidates, clinical trials will often need certain details like your name, contact information, age, gender, race, ethnicity, and any pertinent health information. However, they should never ask for financial information in that line of questioning.

      Don’t share financial information. The FTC notes that real clinical trials will sometimes pay consumers for their participation, but you can request payment in the form of a check instead of having it directly deposited in your account.

      Use approved resources to sign up for trials. To give yourself an even better chance of avoiding scammers, you can sign up for clinical trials by going to websites that have been vetted by regulators. The FTC offers ClinicalTrials.gov and the COVID-19 Prevention Network as two good resources.

      As always, the FTC asks consumers to inform its officials about any potential scams that they might run into. You can do that by submitting a fraud report on the agency’s website.

      Last week, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a warning to consumers about a growing scam linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said scammers had...
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      Coronavirus update: Another promising vaccine, U.S. records 11 million cases

      The flu and COVID-19 can be a dangerous combination

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases:  11,082,027 (10,997,987)

      Total U.S. deaths: 246,586 (245,979)

      Total global cases: 54,615,099 (54,251,464)

      Total global deaths: 1,320,742 (1,315,291)

      Moderna vaccine reported to be 94 percent effective

      A week after Pfizer reported its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate was over 90 percent effective in preliminary results from its clinical trial, Moderna said its vaccine candidate was more than 94 percent effective.

      While the two vaccines are similar, the Moderna vaccine may have some logistical advantages over the Pfizer drug, which must be kept at frigid temperatures at all times. Health experts say that makes distribution complicated.

      The Moderna vaccine, and others currently under development by other companies, only have to be kept in a refrigerator or freezer, experts say.

      Another milestone

      The United States recorded its 11 millionth case of COVID-19 over the weekend as the number of cases got bigger by the day. In another grim milestone, the U.S. recorded 1 million new cases over the last seven days.

      There were 133,000 new cases of the virus reported on Sunday. The COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University reported nearly 70,000 hospitalizations by the end of the weekend. The U.S. death toll from the virus is more than 246,000.

      Flu, COVID-19 combine for a ‘twindemic’

      It’s flu season, and coronavirus cases are surging across the country. The “twindemic” is posing challenges for rural hospitals, according to TeleHealth Solution.

      "Recently we had a patient in rural Northwest Wisconsin go to his local emergency department with generalized weakness, nausea and abdominal pain," said Dr. Ricardo de Leon. "The patient tested positive for COVID-19, but when the hospital reached out to TeleHealth Solution for specialist care, based on the patient's symptoms, we had the physician run an influenza test as well—which came back positive.”

      Having the flu at the same time as COVID-19 is a complicating factor. TeleHealth Solution said it was able to triage the patient quickly and get him on oxygen to prevent a transfer to a larger hospital.

      Johnson & Johnson testing two-dose vaccine

      Johnson & Johnson has begun a clinical trial of its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to determine whether the second dose provides another layer of protection. 

      The company hopes to enroll as many as 30,000 participants in the study and run it at the same time as its single-dose trial. That trial, which began in September, has around 60,000 participants.

      “The study will assess efficacy of the investigational vaccine after both the first and second dose to evaluate protection against the virus and potential incremental benefits for the duration of protection with a second dose,” the company said in a statement.

      Dr. Gottlieb: It could be over next year

      The news that two pharmaceutical companies have achieved more than 90 percent effectiveness in their vaccine trials suggests that the pandemic’s days are numbered, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      “Once we get these vaccines in sufficient qualities heading in 2021, the combination of the fact that a lot of the population will have already had Covid, combined with the fact that we’ll be vaccinating the public with a highly effective vaccine, we could effectively end this pandemic in 2021 with our technology,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

      People who have gotten the virus and recovered from it are believed to have some level of immunity that could protect them for a year or longer.

      Around the nation

      • Connecticut: Researchers at Yale have reported a dramatic increase in the coronavirus found in municipal wastewater around the state, suggesting cases of the virus are rapidly rising. Yale scientists said virus concentration in wastewater from Stamford, Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven are especially heavy.

      • West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice has issued an order that tightens state requirements for residents to wear masks in public places. The governor’s order also cancels winter high school sports.

      • Texas: The growing number of coronavirus cases in Texas is taking a heavy toll on hospitals around the state. Burnout appears to be a growing problem. Hospital officials say staff resignations are rising as the number of patients increase.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases:  11,082,027 (10,997...
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      Moderna’s vaccine shows its more than 94 percent effective

      Pfizer’s promising vaccine faces some difficult logistical challenges

      A week ago, the world woke to the news that Pfizer’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine appeared to provide protection against the virus. This Monday, it was Moderna’s turn.

      The pharmaceutical company reported preliminary results of a Phase 3 clinical trial which indicate that its vaccine was effective 94 percent of the time.

      “This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO. ”Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible.”

      Logistical challenges for Pfizer

      The next step is for both Pfizer and Moderna to seek emergency use authorization (EUA) for their vaccines, which are similar. However, health experts say one vaccine holds a logistical advantage over the other.

      The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at frigid temperatures -- as low as minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit -- or it is rendered useless. This will not be an easy task when it comes to moving hundreds of millions of doses around the country to clinics, hospitals, and other distribution centers.

      Refrigerated trucks don’t get the cold. In fact, commercially-available freezers don’t reach that temperature. Existing cold storage plants may be of little use.

      “Nothing that we’re building can even get that cold,” Tony Pricco, president of Bridge Development Partners, which builds and owns cold storage buildings and other warehouses throughout the country, told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t think it’s even feasible to keep a large space that cold. This is not a conventional freezer type of use.”. 

      Once planners get beyond the logistical problem of keeping large amounts of the vaccine at frigid temperatures, they will need facilities to keep smaller amounts at that temperature at doctors’ offices and health care facilities around the country.

      ‘Frozen in its tracks’

      Dr. Henry Fishman, an allergy and immunology specialist with a practice in Washington, DC, says the Prizer vaccine “may be frozen in its tracks.”

      “As a practical matter, the country is not set up for this kind of distribution,” he told ConsumerAffairs.”So I think this is a big logistical problem, especially because they need to distribute it very quickly. I don’t see how they’re going to do it.” 

      Pfizer has designed what it calls “dry ice briefcases” that can be used to store small amounts of the vaccine. But these are effective for a limited period of time, and the sheer number needed will require a massive manufacturing process. 

      Thermal shipping containers

      Pfizer says it will employ thermal shipping containers that can hold nearly 5,000 doses of the vaccine. The company says the containers can maintain the recommended temperature for up to 10 days, as long as the containers are not opened.

      Fishman said he was a subject in the Moderna vaccine clinical trial and believes he received the vaccine, not the placebo, although he was not told what he received. He said at this point, the Moderna vaccine doesn’t appear to present the same logistical challenges as the Pfizer vaccine.

      “It just needs to be kept in a refrigerator or a freezer, like most other vaccines,” Fishman said.

      Other pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi, are also working on vaccines that don’t have to be kept as cold and may pose less of a logistical challenge.

      A week ago, the world woke to the news that Pfizer’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine appeared to provide protection against the virus. This Monday, it was M...
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      Health care workers face largest threat of COVID-19 infection, study finds

      Researchers say nurses face some of the highest risks

      Consumers across the U.S. are being urged to practice social distancing as new cases of the coronavirus sweep across the nation. But staying isolated isn’t an option for some workers, and it’s putting them at a much higher risk of infection. 

      A new study conducted at Rutgers shows that health care workers, in particular, have a much higher infection rate than other professionals. Researchers found that those who had a high amount of direct contact with multiple COVID-19 patients -- such as nurses -- were at the highest risk of infection. 

      The team noted that as of November 15, over 216,000 U.S. health care workers had been infected with COVID-19. Of that number, they said that there were at least 799 deaths.

      Identifying risk factors

      Among different types of health care workers, the researchers found that those who worked in intensive care units were the least likely to be infected with COVID-19. While their findings weren’t definitive, they speculated that this was due to greater use of personal protective equipment. 

      While new cases of COVID-19 are sweeping across the U.S.,  and the nation’s hospitals may soon be overburdened with an influx of new patients, the researchers say their work may help provide information on how transmission can be prevented among frontline workers.

      "The baseline data reported here have helped us to monitor the spread of infection and examine risk factors for transmission among health care workers and others," said Daniel Horton, lead co-author of the study. "These findings and our ongoing follow-up of study participants have informed local strategies to protect the health care workforce, their families, and their patients."

      Consumers across the U.S. are being urged to practice social distancing as new cases of the coronavirus sweep across the nation. But staying isolated isn’t...
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      Healthy sleeping habits could lower the risk of heart failure, study finds

      Being vigilant about a nighttime routine can be incredibly beneficial for consumers’ heart health

      Recent studies have highlighted the ways that poor sleeping habits can negatively affect consumers’ heart health. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association has found the inverse to be true: healthy sleeping habits can be good for consumers’ hearts. 

      According to their findings, consumers with solid sleep routines lowered their risk of heart failure by more than 40 percent compared to those who had inconsistent nighttime habits. 

      “Our findings highlight the importance of improving overall sleep patterns to help prevent heart failure,” said researcher Dr. Lu Qi. 

      Prioritizing healthy sleeping habits

      To understand how healthy sleeping habits can affect consumers’ heart health, the researchers analyzed data from more than 408,000 participants involved in the U.K. Biobank database. Healthy sleeping habits were identified from five major characteristics: daytime sleepiness, sleep duration, snoring, tendencies towards being a night owl versus an early riser, and insomnia. Each participant received a sleep score based on how many of the habits they followed each night; the higher the score, the better the sleep quality. 

      The researchers learned that those with the best sleep scores had the lowest risk of heart failure. Those who incorporated the most healthy habits into their nightly routines had a more than 40 percent lower risk of heart failure than those who had the lowest sleep scores. 

      While consumers should strive to incorporate as many healthy sleep habits as they can, the researchers found that meeting only one healthy habit was still enough to reduce the risk of heart failure on its own. For example, those who rarely felt tired during the day were nearly 35 percent less likely to experience heart failure, whereas those who were prone to waking up earlier were roughly 10 percent less likely to experience heart failure. Similarly, those who slept at least seven hours each night and those who didn’t experience insomnia-related symptoms also had a lower risk of heart failure. 

      As the health risks associated with disrupted sleep continue to mount, these findings highlight the importance of cultivating healthy habits at bedtime. 

      Recent studies have highlighted the ways that poor sleeping habits can negatively affect consumers’ heart health. Now, a new study conducted by researchers...
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      Nearly two-thirds of older adults say they won't treat their depression

      Many older people try to get through their mental health issues on their own

      Depression affects consumers young and old, and now a new poll is exploring how the latter deals with mental health struggles. 

      According to responses to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, nearly two-thirds of older consumers reported that they wouldn’t seek professional help for their depression. 

      “The ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mindset of some seniors and reluctance to talk about mental health are hindering them from getting the help they need -- especially now when the pandemic is having an enormous impact on the mental health of older Americans,” said researcher Dr. Mark Pollack. “People will seek treatment for conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Depression is no different. It is an illness that can and should be treated.” 

      Why are seniors avoiding treatment?

      The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor polled consumers aged 65 and older across the country to determine their attitudes about depression. Their findings revealed that more than 60 percent of older consumers wouldn’t seek out mental health treatment for depression. 

      Survey respondents hadn’t been formally diagnosed with depression, but they did have concerns that they were exhibiting depression-related symptoms. Despite that, they still reported that they wouldn’t get help for those concerns. Ultimately, over 30 percent of the participants believed that they could handle their depression themselves, and nearly 40 percent were confident that they didn’t need a doctor’s help. 

      More than 30 percent of the participants also reported that they noticed their depression had affected their lives in tangible ways; they struggled to enjoy activities that normally brought them joy, and they had difficulties interacting with the people closest to them. Having strong, supportive connections is an important aspect when it comes to protecting against depression. 

      “In my experience, there is a commonly held view that depression is a normal part of aging; it is not,” said researcher Dr. Parikshit Deshmukh. “I’ve found older adults have a very difficult time admitting that they have depression. When they do acknowledge it, they are still reluctant to start treatment for a wide variety of reasons.” 

      The researchers explained that there is a stigma around mental health and depression for many older consumers, and finding the right treatment can be time-consuming and ultimately ineffective. However, the researchers hope that older consumers treat their mental health concerns the same way they’d treat their physical health concerns. They encourage seniors to take time to find a treatment plan that works for them. 

      Depression affects consumers young and old, and now a new poll is exploring how the latter deals with mental health struggles. According to responses t...
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      Microsoft says Russian and North Korean hackers attacked COVID-19 vaccine makers

      The company says most of the attacks were throttled by its own security software

      In all the hoopla regarding new vaccine test success from Moderna and Pfizer, Microsoft has uncovered a series of cyber attacks coming from Russia and North Korea targeted at research companies doing those tests.

      In a blog post, Microsoft says the attacks targeted seven major pharmaceutical companies and researchers in Canada, France, India, and South Korea, and the U.S. Microsoft didn’t say which companies were targeted or what type of information may have actually been compromised or stolen, but officials said they had notified the organizations and offered help where the attacks were successful.

      “Two global issues will help shape people’s memories of this time in history – COVID-19 and the increased use of the internet by malign actors to disrupt society. It’s disturbing that these challenges have now merged as cyberattacks are being used to disrupt health care organizations fighting the pandemic,” wrote Microsoft’s Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security & Trust.

      “We think these attacks are unconscionable and should be condemned by all civilized society. Today, we’re sharing more about the attacks we’ve seen most recently and are urging governments to act.”

      The attacks and the protection

      There are actually three key players in the attacks: “Strontium,” an actor originating from Russia, and two actors originating from North Korea that Microsoft has dubbed “Zinc” and “Cerium.”

      Strontium uses “password spray” and brute force login attempts to steal personal login credentials. The software it uses conducts millions of rapid attempts to crack a third-party’s personal data. Zinc’s game is to use spear-phishing lures for credential theft by sending messages with fabricated job descriptions pretending to be recruiters. And Cerium? The angle it works is spear-phishing with email lures using COVID-19 themes while masquerading as World Health Organization representatives. 

      Luckily, Burt says the “majority” of the attacks have been blocked by security protections built into the company’s products. The company is continuing to make its threat notification service, “AccountGuard,” available for free to health care and human rights organizations working on COVID-19. 

      The company says that 195 health care-related groups have enrolled in the service, and it now protects 1.7 million email accounts that those organizations serve.

      In all the hoopla regarding new vaccine test success from Moderna and Pfizer, Microsoft has uncovered a series of cyber attacks coming from Russia and Nort...
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      Arena North America recalls swim snorkels

      The snorkels can release excess material from inside the tube or mouthpiece

      Arena North America of Portland, Ore., is recalling about 10,000 Arena Swim Snorkels Pro II and Swim Snorkels II sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

      The snorkels can release excess material from inside the tube or mouthpiece, posing a choking hazard.

      The firm has received one report of a small piece of the swim snorkel being inhaled.

      This recall involves the Arena Swim Snorkel Pro II (style 001969) sold in black, acid lime and pink and Swim Snorkel II (style 001970) sold in black and acid lime.

      Both styles have the “Arena” logo printed on the top of the tube. The style code and production date are printed on the tube above the mouthpiece along with EN 1972 Class A and Made in China.

      A list of the recalled styles may be found here.

      The snorkels, manufactured in China, were sold at Xtreme swim stores, Metro swim shops, Swim Suit West stores nationwide and online from arenasport.com and amazon.com from February 2018, through May 2020, for between $35 and $45.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled snorkels and contact the firm for a free replacement tube or mouthpiece.

      Consumers may contact Arena North America toll-free at (888) 902-7362 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at customerserviceUSA@arenawaterinstinct.com, or online at https://www.arenasport.com/en_us/ and click on “Snorkel recall campaign” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Arena North America of Portland, Ore., is recalling about 10,000 Arena Swim Snorkels Pro II and Swim Snorkels II sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Th...
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      Coronavirus update: Experts worry about a pandemic Thanksgiving; zero cases in six months?

      New cases of the virus in the U.S. broke records again on Thursday

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10.569,558 (10,421,678)

      Total U.S. deaths: 242,536 (241,949)

      Total global cases: 52,918,582 (52,331,462)

      Total global deaths: 1,295.976 (1,287,966)

      Growing concern about Thanksgiving

      Health officials are pleading with Americans to stay home during the Thanksgiving holiday and to not travel to visit friends and family. Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, compares Thanksgiving gatherings to “pouring gasoline on a fire.”

      Early evidence suggests Americans are not heeding the advice. A survey of consumers conducted from Cars.com found that 47 percent of Americans plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, most of them by car.

      By way of comparison, only 21 percent fewer Americans traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2019 when there was no pandemic.

      Economists predict a huge turnaround in the pandemic

      Things may look bleak at the moment, but economists at the Swiss bank UBS say the situation is likely to look very different six months from now. 

      “We might get a situation where reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States fall very close to zero in Q2 (second quarter) of next year,” Seth Carpenter, chief U.S. economist at UBS, told CNBC.

      The bank originally predicted that it would be the second quarter of 2022 when COVID-19 cases disappear in the U.S. Carpenter said this week’s announcement from Pfizer that its vaccine appeared to be highly effective is a game-changer.

      COVID-19 cases spinning out of control

      The COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University counted 153,000 new cases of the virus in a single day on Thursday, breaking the record from the previous day. Health experts say the wave of new cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals across the country.

      Hospitals everywhere seem to be feeling the pressure. COVID-19 hospitalizations across the nation rose to a record 67,096 on Thursday, with about 20 percent of the patients requiring treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU).

      The case count has surged in recent weeks along Texas’ border with Mexico. El Paso has been particularly hard-hit. The city’s hospitals are full, and the state has set up a temporary medical center at the local civic auditorium.

      Why some patients die and others don’t

      Researchers writing in Science say they have stumbled across a discovery that may explain why some people are more likely to die from COVID-19. 

      While age and underlying conditions are big factors, the scientists said they found that about 10 percent of nearly 1,000 patients who developed life-threatening pneumonia had antibodies that disable key immune system proteins called interferons. The sinister antibodies were absent in 663 people with mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 infections. 

      Scientists call it a “breakthrough” finding that will help physicians better treat patients who become severely ill.

      Vaccines should handle a mutating virus

      An outbreak of a mutating strain of the coronavirus at European mink farms initially caused concern among health officials. They believed that vaccines currently in development might prove ineffective against it, but now it appears the concern might be overblown. 

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said it’s important to investigate the new strain, but he doesn’t think it should derail the current vaccine efforts.

      “It does not appear, at this point, that that mutation that’s been identified in the minks is going to have an impact on vaccines and affect a vaccine-induced response,” Fauci said during a webinar this week.

      Around the nation

      • Texas: Just days after becoming the first state with more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, Texas officials have announced that state colleges will hold in-person graduation ceremonies next month. The ceremonies will be spread out over several days to reduce crowd size.

      • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the state may need to shut down again as cases of the virus spike. Illinois public health officials reported a one-day record of 12,702 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 43 deaths.

      • New Jersey: New Jersey is a step closer to shutting down the state. Gov. Phil Murphy is limiting hours for bars and restaurants and prohibiting bar seating at all times.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10.569,558 (10,421,...
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      New COVID-19 cases topped 150,000 on Thursday

      The surge in cases is occurring all across the nation

      It was a grim week in America as the coronavirus (COVID-19) raged out of control. While the week began with hope – on Monday Pfizer reported that its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in a clinical trial – the U.S. reported more than 150,000 new cases on Thursday.

      The COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University counted 153,000 new cases in a single day, breaking the record from the previous day. The wave of new cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals across the country, a situation that existed in New York in the early days of the pandemic. 

      Now, hospitals everywhere are feeling the pressure. COVID-19 hospitalizations across the nation rose to a record 67,096 Thursday, with about 20 percent of the patients requiring treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU).

      The case count has surged in recent weeks along Texas’ border with Mexico. El Paso has been particularly hard-hit. The city’s hospitals are full, and the state has set up a temporary medical center at the local civic auditorium. 

      Records set

      Texas became the first state this week to record a total of 1 million cases of the coronavirus. The following day, California also moved past that milestone. Cases are also spreading quickly throughout the Midwest, and public officials have begun to talk about shutting down much of the economy again. 

      In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has issued a “stay-at-home advisory,” urging people not to venture out except for essential business. Illinois reported a record number of infections Thursday for the second day in a row. 

      The virus is also racing across Ohio and Minnesota. Both states reported more than 7,000 daily cases for the first time. Cases are also multiplying in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North and South Dakota, Utah, New Mexico, and Oregon.

      Even New England states are not being spared. Despite low case counts throughout the pandemic, attributed to residents strictly following mitigation measures, cases are on the rise in Vermont and New Hampshire.

      Reviewing options

      Governors reviewed options this week for curtailing the spread in their states. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says what happens next is really up to citizens of the state.

      “New Yorkers just have to continue to take it seriously,” Cuomo said this week. “I know it has been a long time, but these next weeks are going to be key and we really need people to buckle down to fend off the tide."

      Cuomo and other governors are urging people to avoid family gatherings for Thanksgiving due to concerns that even small groups of people can spread the virus to others.

      While the case count continues to mount, the death toll hasn’t risen nearly as fast -- but health experts caution that deaths are a lagging indicator of the severity of the virus. As of Friday morning, the death toll from COVID-19 stood at more than 242,000 in the U.S.

      It was a grim week in America as the coronavirus (COVID-19) raged out of control. While the week began with hope – on Monday Pfizer reported that its vacci...
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      Job interest isn't the only factor behind overall job satisfaction, study finds

      Experts say that bosses and fellow colleagues also play a big role

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Houston found that consumers’ interest in their jobs isn’t the biggest factor in their overall job satisfaction. 

      They found that being interested in a role is important when it comes to how employees perform, but other factors like positive relations with colleagues and bosses are more important when it comes to feeling satisfied at work. 

      “In popular guidance literature, it is widely assumed that interest fit is important for job satisfaction,” said researcher Kevin Hoff. “Our results show that people who are more interested in their jobs tend to be slightly more satisfied, but interest assessments are more useful for guiding people towards jobs in which they will perform better and make more money.” 

      Finding the right fit

      To understand how job interest plays a role in satisfaction, the researchers analyzed 105 related studies spanning from 1949 through 2016. After evaluating data from over 39,000 participants, the researchers learned that having interest in a position wasn’t the only thing that contributed to job satisfaction. 

      The study revealed that several factors come into play when determining satisfaction at work, including the values of the company and having a good rapport with co-workers. The researchers learned that having a genuine interest in a job was more closely related to how well employees performed in their roles and any subsequent progress that they made in that role, including promotions and raises. 

      “Our main finding was that interest fit significantly predicts satisfaction, but it’s not as strong of a relation as people expect,” Hoff said. “Other things that lead to satisfaction include the organization you work for, your supervisor, colleagues, and pay.” 

      For those looking for a career change or those just entering into the workforce, it can be overwhelming to try to find the perfect fit. The researchers explained that many assessments tend to focus solely on job interest, but these findings highlight that several other factors can come into play. 

      “To be satisfied with a job, you don’t have to worry too much about finding a perfect fit for your interests because we know other things matter, too,” said Hoff. “As long as it’s something you don’t hate doing, you may find yourself very satisfied if you have a good supervisor, like your coworkers, and are treated fairly by your organization.” 

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Houston found that consumers’ interest in their jobs isn’t the biggest factor in their overall...
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      FTC warns marketers to stop claiming products and services can treat or prevent COVID-19

      The agency has now sent letters to over 300 companies

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Thursday that it is once again sending out warning letters to companies that have made unsupported claims that their products and services can help fight COVID-19. 

      In total, the agency says that it has sent over 330 such letters in an effort to stop health-related COVID-19 scams. The latest batch of letters is the ninth set sent by the FTC, and it covers everything from copper water bottles to water treatment systems. 

      If the companies do not retract their false claims, regulators say they will seek a federal injunction and demand that victims receive a refund. Details published by the FTC about the products being sold and the offending marketers are shown below:

      Bead Bracelets

      • Bombshell Beads, LLC (Mount Juliet, TN) 

      Copper Water Bottles

      • Copper H2O (Blaine, WA)

      Fitness Classes/Personal Training

      • Camp TUF (Pantego, TX) 

      Indoor Tanning/Red Light Therapy/Intravenous Ultraviolet Light Therapy

      • I B Tan (Citrus Heights, CA) 

      • Vibrant Life Oklahoma (Claremore, OK) 

      Peptide Therapies/Intravenous Vitamin Drips and Injections/Intravenous Laser Therapy

      • Age Management Institute Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA) 

      • MD Beauty Labs, P.A. (W. Palm Beach, FL) 

      • Murfreesboro Bio Renew Clinic (Murfreesboro, TN) 

      • Park Avenue Skin Solutions (New York, NY) 

      • Revive Colorado (Denver, CO) 

      • Tribeca Wellness Collective (New York, NY) 

      Ozone Therapy/Stem Cell Therapy and Immunotherapy/Intravenous Therapy

      • American Regenerative Clinic (Bingham Farms, MI) 

      • Health and Wellness of Carmel (Carmel, IN) 

      • Howard Robins, DPM (New York, NY) 

      • The Fuel Stop (New York, NY) 

      Supplements

      • C’est Si Bon Company (Torrance, CA) 

      • Integrative Health Carolinas (Charlotte, NC) 

      • Robert O. Young (Valley Center, CA) 

      Water Filtration Systems

      • Hector Gotay Feliciano, dba Gotay’s Group Systems and Cebilon Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico) 

      • Karen Martí Reyes, dba Cebilon Y Vivenso #1Germany Sistem “Premios Awars [sic]  2020” (Puerto Rico)

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Thursday that it is once again sending out warning letters to companies that have made unsupported claims that...
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      BJ’s Wholesale Club offers members a deal for a free turkey ahead of Thanksgiving

      Company officials say the retailer is gearing up for Black Friday

      With November nearly halfway gone, consumers across the U.S. are gearing up to face Thanksgiving during a pandemic. While holiday gatherings will doubtless look different this year, retailers are still offering special deals to help people save money on holiday essentials. 

      One such retailer, BJ’s Wholesale Club, has announced that it will be offering a coupon to members that they can use to get a free frozen or fresh Butterball turkey. The in-store coupons are being offered while supplies last from November 14 through November 25. 

      The company said BJ’s members can take advantage of the free turkey deal by buying three qualifying items from a list of over 80 products that can be found at BJs.com/FreeTurkey. The offer is supposedly one of many that will be offered in the coming weeks.

      “We’re helping our members give thanks this holiday season by offering incredible savings on everything from fresh food and groceries to entertaining items and household essentials," said Michael Leary, BJ’s senior vice president of GMM, perishables, grocery, and beverages. "We’re committed to providing our members outstanding value in an easy one-stop holiday shop. That’s why we’re excited to announce our free turkey promotion to help members stress less and save even more this Thanksgiving,” 

      Also included in a company press release was BJ’s upcoming holiday schedule. The retailer said it will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but it will be opening its doors for deals on Black Friday starting at 7 a.m. Consumers who want an even bigger jump on deals can shop for items on BJs.com starting at midnight on Thanksgiving. 

      With November nearly halfway gone, consumers across the U.S. are gearing up to face Thanksgiving during a pandemic. While holiday gatherings will doubtless...
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      Gas prices rise slightly as fuel demand rises

      Most states saw little price movement over the last week

      Gasoline prices were mostly flat for most of the week in most states, but an increase in demand at midweek is pushing prices at the pump slightly higher.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows that the national average price of regular gas is $2.13 a gallon, two cents more than last Friday. But in the last four weeks, the average price has dropped five cents. The average price of premium gas is $2.74 a gallon, also a penny higher on the week. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.38 a gallon, up from $2.36 last week.

      Across the nation, prices were fairly stable over the last week, rising or falling by a penny a gallon in most states. South Carolina, where the price rose six cents a gallon, and Pennsylvania, which experienced a three cents a gallon increase, were outliers.

      Fuel demand has been uneven lately, but it rose at midweek. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, tweeted that demand on Wednesday was up 2.6 percent, according to Pay with GasBuddy data.

      Demand could creep higher with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. Despite health officials’ pleas to the public not to gather with family and friends and risk the spread of the coronavirus, a Cars.com survey suggests that many people will, in fact, travel over the holiday.

      The survey found that 47 percent of Americans said they plan to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, the overwhelming majority by car. A year ago, 68 percent of Americans said they planned to hit the road.

      Despite the predicted uptick in travel over the holiday period, AAA still expects demand to weaken as we reach the end of the year. The spike in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is causing some states to place new restrictions on travel.

      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 ($3.26)

      • California ($3.17)

      • Washington ($2.77)

      • Nevada ($2.59)

      • Oregon ($2.56)

      • Alaska ($2.50)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.47)

      • Utah ($2.32)

      • Idaho ($2.30)

      • Illinois ($2.24)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Missouri ($1.77)

      • Mississippi ($1.80)

      • Texas ($1.81)

      • Oklahoma ($1.81)

      • Arkansas ($1.83)

      • Louisiana ($1.85)

      • Alabama ($1.86)

      • Tennessee ($1.87)

      • Kansas ($1.88)

      • South Carolina ($1.88)

      Gasoline prices were mostly flat for most of the week in most states, but an increase in demand at midweek is pushing prices at the pump slightly higher....
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      National Herring recalls Adar brand Schmaltz Herring in Oil

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      National Herring Co. is recalling Adar brand Schmaltz Herring in Oil.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no illnesses reported to date.

      The recalled product, which comes in a 300-gram container with UPC code 0 62451 00128 9, was sold in Canada's Quebec province.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard or return it to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with question may contact the firm at (514) 274-4774 or by email at info@nationalherring.com.

      National Herring Co. is recalling Adar brand Schmaltz Herring in Oil. The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. There have been no...
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      Foreign Tire recalls Otani commercial truck tires

      The tread may crack

      Foreign Tire Sales is recalling 138 Otani OH-306 425/65R-22.5 commercial truck tires with DOT code 0320.

      The tread may crack due to a manufacturing defect.

      Cracks in the tread can lead to tread separation and a sudden loss of air pressure, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Foreign Tire will notify owners and dealers will reimburse the customer for the affected tires.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a schedule for recall notification.

      Owners may contact Foreign Tire customer service at (908) 687-0559.

      Foreign Tire Sales is recalling 138 Otani OH-306 425/65R-22.5 commercial truck tires with DOT code 0320. The tread may crack due to a manufacturing defe...
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      Quality Bicycle Products recalls Salsa Cycles Cutthroat bikes

      The bicycle’s fork legs can crack or break, posing a fall hazard

      Quality Bicycle Products of Bloomington, Minn., is recalling about 700 Salsa Cutthroat bicycles and forks sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The bicycle’s fork legs can crack or break, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received seven reports of cracked forks. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves 2020 Salsa Cutthroat series bicycles, including: Salsa Cutthroat with model names GRX 810 Di2, GRX 810 1x, GRX 600, Apex 1, framesets, and Carbon Deluxe V2 aftermarket forks.

      The model name is printed on the frame of the bicycles. The bicycles are sold in a variety of different colors and sizes.

      This recall involves only Cutthroat bicycles, framesets and forks in which the fork serial number contains the letter G. A Cutthroat fork serial number is visible when the fork is removed from the frame.

      The recalled Salsa Cutthroat models include:

      • Salsa Cutthroat GRX 810 Di2
      • Salsa Cutthroat GRX 810 1x
      • Salsa Cutthroat GRX 600
      • Salsa Cutthroat Apex 1
      • Salsa Cutthroat framesets
      • Salsa Cutthroat Carbon Deluxe V2 aftermarket fork (Matte and Gloss)

      The bicycles, manufactured in China, were sold at Salsa authorized bicycle dealerships nationwide from September 2019, through September 2020, for between $2,700 and $5,800.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles, contact Salsa Cycles, and bring the recalled Salsa Cutthroat bicycles, framesets, and aftermarket forks to a Salsa authorized retailer for inspection and free installation of a replacement fork.

      Consumers may contact Salsa Cycles toll-free at (877) 774-6208 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT), Monday through Friday or online at www.salsacycles.com click on “Safety and Support” at the top of the page, then “Recall” for more information.

      Quality Bicycle Products of Bloomington, Minn., is recalling about 700 Salsa Cutthroat bicycles and forks sold in the U.S. and Canada. The bicycle’s for...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls E350s, E450s, AMG E53s, and AMG E63s

      The front passenger seat may be missing the adjustment limit stop

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,337 model year 2021 E350s & E450s, model year 2019-2021 AMG E53s, and model year 2020-2021 AMG E63s.

      The front passenger seat may be missing the mechanical seat adjustment range limit stop, allowing the seat to move outside of the acceptable range in relation to the airbag.

      If the front passenger seat is adjusted beyond the acceptable range in relation to the airbag, there could be an increased risk of injury in the event of a crash with airbag deployment.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect for the mechanical seat adjustment range limitation for the front passenger seat and install it -- if necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 29, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 368-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,337 model year 2021 E350s & E450s, model year 2019-2021 AMG E53s, and model year 2020-2021 AMG E63s. The front ...
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      Our Top 2020 Holiday Mattress Deals

      Savings and discounts to help you sleep at night

      It’s fair to say we all spent more time inside than we would have liked this year. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how important it is to feel comfortable in your own home. Keep reading to find out about our top 10 favorite mattress deals this holiday season.

      Puffy

      Puffy is offering a $300 discount and a free pillow with all mattress purchases. Through the end of November, you can also get 15% off all accessories. As of publishing, Puffy mattresses start around $500. Puffy mattress features include body-adapting foam for support plus cooling beads to minimize heat absorption.

      • $300 off all mattresses + free pillow*
      • 15% off accessories*

      Buy on Puffy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Saatva

      Save $200 when you spend $1,000 or more. Saatva has a wide selection of mattresses made with memory foam, gel-infused foam, latex and coil-on-coil innerspring. As of publishing, mattresses start around $800.

      • $200 off when you spend $1,000+*
      • Free white glove delivery

      Buy on Saatva

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Cocoon by Sealy

      For a limited time, customers can save 35% on purchases for up to $400 in savings. As of publishing, Cocoon Chill mattress models start at under $500. Features include premium memory foam and a proprietary phase change material that absorbs and dissipates body heat. Select from medium-soft and extra-firm comfort levels.

      • 35% off*
      • Free shipping

      Buy on Cocoon by Sealy

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Nectar Sleep

      Get $399 of free accessories with each mattress purchase. Free gifts include a sheet set ($150 value), a cooling pillow ($150 value) and a mattress protector ($99 value). As of publishing, Nectar Sleep mattress prices start at under $800. Features include high-density and gel-coated memory foam to align the spine and relieve pressure around the shoulders and hips.

      • $399 of free accessories*
      • Free shipping and returns

      Buy on Nectar Sleep

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Leesa

      Save up to $500 on all mattresses and get two free down pillows. Leesa mattresses are designed to provide core support for most body types and sleeping positions. As of publishing, prices start at under $700. The company also provides free no-contact delivery.

      • Save up to $500*
      • Get 2 free pillows*

      Buy on Leesa

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Level Sleep

      You can save 10% on a new Level Sleep mattress just for signing up for the company’s newsletter. Standout mattress features include Enduroplush HR Foam for pressure relief and an extra-firm mattress base. As of publishing, prices start around $800, and financing is available.

      • Save 10% when you sign up for a newsletter*
      • 365-night risk-free trial

      Buy on Level Sleep

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Nolah Sleep

      Nolah Sleep announced its Black Friday deal early this year — get up $300 off select models plus two free pillows. The two pillows have an estimated value of $198. As of publishing, Noah Sleep mattress prices start at around $500.

      • Up to $200 off*
      • 2 free pillows*

      Buy on Nolah Sleep

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Eight Sleep

      Save 20% off accessories plus up to $350 on Pod and Pod Pro covers when you use the code “HOLIDAYS” at checkout. Discounted accessories include Carbon Air pillows, Air Lite comforters and gravity blankets.

      • 20% off accessories*
      • Up to $350 off Pod and Pod Pro covers*

      Buy on Eight Sleep

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Plushbeds

      For most of November, you can save up to $1,100 on mattresses and get a free Plush Luxury sheet set. Select from models made with certified organic latex, cotton and wool. As of publishing, mattress prices start under $2,000.

      • Up to $1,100 off mattresses*
      • Free Plush Luxury sheet set*

      Buy on Plushbeds

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Casper

      Now through November 25, customers can save up to 30% when they use the code “BLACKFRIDAY” at checkout. Casper is offering 10% off sitewide plus 15% of all mattresses and 30% off bundles as part of the promotion. As of publishing, mattress prices start around $500. Select from all-foam and hybrid models.

      • 10% off sitewide*
      • 15% off mattresses and 30% off bundles*

      Buy on Casper

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Even during good times, most people spend about a third of their lives in bed. Why not do what you can now to make your bed cozier than ever? Next, check out our tips to make your home cozier or learn how to find the best home security system.

      Our Top 2020 Holiday Mattress Deals...
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      Coronavirus update: Hospitals are being overwhelmed, researchers identify the riskiest activities

      There may be logistical challenges to distributing Pfizer’s vaccine

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,421,678 (10,272,929)

      Total U.S. deaths: 241,949 (239,896)

      Total global cases: 52,331,462 (51,684,237)

      Total global deaths: 1,287,966 (1,275,995)

      Hospitals at the breaking point

      The daily increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. -- and there have been more than 100,000 each day this month -- is taking a toll on the nation’s hospitals, which faced the same crisis in the early days of the pandemic.

      On Wednesday, the number of hospitalized patients exceeded 65,000, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project. It broke the record set the day before, and no one expects that it will remain intact for very long.

      Epidemiologists say many of the new infections have been among young people, many of whom rarely need hospital treatment. But they say young people are passing it on to older people, who are more vulnerable to the virus and usually need a hospital’s care.

      Here’s where you’re most at risk of getting COVID-19

      Cases of COVID-19 are rapidly increasing all across the country, seemingly without rhyme or reason. But new research is shedding light on infection risks and identifying where you’re most likely to get the virus.

      Researchers at Stanford and Northwestern created models that predict where infection risks are the highest. They include full-service restaurants, gyms, hotels, cafes, religious organizations, and limited-service restaurants.

      “Infections are happening very unevenly — that there are about 10 percent of points-of-interest that account for over 80 percent of all infections, and these are places that are smaller, more crowded and people dwell there longer,” Jure Leskovec, an associate professor at Stanford University, told reporters.

      Pfizer’s vaccine could present logistical challenges

      Pfizer’s announcement Monday that its vaccine candidate proved to be highly effective has given the world hope that the coronavirus pandemic can be overcome. But getting a vaccine to the global population always poses challenges.

      Medical experts say that in the case of Pfizer’s vaccine, the challenges are bigger than usual. Pfizer’s vaccine must not only be transported around the country, but it has to be kept at subzero temperatures at all times.

      Just how cold must the vaccine be kept? Minus 70 degrees Celsius or below. Breaking the cold chain could render the vaccine useless, experts say. 

      Cruise lines may still face stormy seas

      Pfizer’s vaccine news was a much-needed pick-me-up for the travel and hospitality industries that have been devastated by the pandemic. But the worst may not be over yet.

      At midweek, a passenger on SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream 1 reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. Gene Sloan, a senior reporter for cruise and travel at The Points Guy, reported that he was aboard the ship. 

      The ship turned back and returned to port. It was on its first sail since March, when the pandemic effectively shut down the cruise line industry.

      Unemployment claims keep falling

      The Labor Department reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled 709,000 last week, 48,000 fewer than the week before. Economists say the numbers are moving in the right direction and suggest that the job market, disrupted by the coronavirus, is beginning to recover.

      While new claims reflect recent layoffs, continuing claims provide a picture of overall employment. In the most recent week, continuing claims totaled  21,157,111, a decrease

      of 374,179 from the previous week.

      Around the nation

      • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reimposed new restrictions on bars, restaurants, and gyms as the state grapples with a big increase in COVID-19 cases. "Any establishment with a state liquor license, including bars and restaurants, must close" for in-person dining at 10 p.m. starting on Friday night, Cuomo said in his announcement.

      • Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine says Ohio will reinstate its mask order, originally ordered July 23, with several new provisions. Among them is the caveat that the state will take over the responsibility of mask rules enforcement from the local counties.

      • California: As cases approach the 1 million mark, concern is growing at hospitals in the state about their ability to handle the load of COVID-19 patients. Members of the California Nurses Association held rallies at hospitals across the state this week. They’re calling for better staffing as winter, the holidays, and an expected spike in cases occur. 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,421,678 (10,272,...
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      Baby boomer retirements have taken a big jump in the past year

      Some retirees may not have enough money to make a successful transition

      The number of baby boomers who are deciding to retire is at a record pace, at 3.2 million more from 2019-2020 than in previous years. However, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of monthly labor force data, the makeup of those retirees is starting to change. 

      The recent increase is more pronounced among Hispanic and Asian American boomers -- up four and three points, respectively. On the geographic side of the equation, the increase is coming from those living in the Northeast U.S. -- up from 35 percent in February to 38 in September.

      Job loss may be a factor

      Pew researchers say job losses may be a dominant factor in this wave of retirements, probably at the hands of the COVID-19 recession. Since February 2020, the number of retired boomers has increased by nearly 1.1 million. 

      Pew couches that number by saying that some of this increase could reflect seasonal change in employment activity. But running the numbers from February to September period in 2019, the population of retired boomers increased by only about a fourth of what happened last year.

      Another interesting metric is that the share of retiring boomers differs by education attainment. The number of boomers who finished their education when they graduated from high school are up two points since February, and those who completed a four-year degree are up one point. For those who had some college education, but didn’t walk away with a diploma, there’s been no change at all. 

      Will boomers have enough money to retire?

      Baby boomers and retirement savings go hand in hand, and many of those new retirees face mounting challenges regarding their savings nest. Navigating that can of worms comes with things like supplemental Medicare insurance.

      Baby boomers have an average of $152,000 pegged for retirement, according to the 19th Annual Retirement Survey of Workers conducted by the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies. While that may seem like a decent number when it stands alone, it’s not nearly enough to last through most people’s retirement. Based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, adults between ages 65 and 74 spend $48,885 per year on average, which means they would blow through that $152k in less than four years.

      Does this mean that boomers should be sounding the alarm? Not exactly, but the situation does beg a reassessment of how long a boomer’s savings can last. It also begs the question of what adjustments can be made to soften a boomer’s cash outlay.

      "Aside from solely relying on Social Security, looking to downsize your home, moving to a more affordable state, relying on public transportation, and having a robust budget that itemizes discretionary and non-discretionary items are all a good start,” Mark Hebner, president and founder of Index Fund Advisors, Inc., told Investopedia.

      “The most important thing is that retirees have the right mindset about their lifestyle in retirement. This is why it is important to start making lifestyle adjustments before you retire."

      The number of baby boomers who are deciding to retire is at a record pace, at 3.2 million more from 2019-2020 than in previous years. However, according to...
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      Ticketmaster plans to check vaccine status when live events start up again

      Researchers say the likelihood of spreading a virus at a concert is ‘very low’

      When the concert world fully reopens, some music lovers can expect to have to show their vaccine status, as well.

      With the news that Pfizer’s vaccine has proven 90 percent effective, Ticketmaster is working ahead of a hopeful 2021 concert reopening season by announcing a novel plan to check concertgoers’ vaccine statuses prior to attending concerts.

      Ticketmaster’s strategy involves its ticket app, which is being built to collect third-party health information using databases like IBM’s Digital Health Pass and CLEAR Health Pass; it will also check information from testing and vaccine distribution providers such as Labcorp or the CVS Minute Clinic. As the company explained to Billboard, the goal is to ensure safety by verifying fans’ vaccination status and whether they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 within a 24-to-72-hour window.

      Connecting the dots for the sake of safety

      Ticketmaster has added more layers of health security by linking a ticket to the buyer’s identity and using a SmartEvent system to help encourage social distancing and contact tracing. 

      Event/concert organizers also have some input in this initiative. They’ll have the ability to establish specific prevention protocols like sanitation, mask compliance, and social distancing for individual shows.

      To avoid sticking their toe over the line of personal privacy, Ticketmaster made it known that it will not store any attendee’s personal health information and will comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Instead, it will let the third-party health care providers store that info securely and encrypted. The only personal data Ticketmaster would receive is if a fan is cleared to attend an event on a specific date. 

      Ensuring safety while remaining flexible

      The company noted that this is not a one-size-fits-all measure because different states have different requirements, and it understands that it will have to address those differences.

      “We imagine there will be many third-party health care providers handling vetting -- whether that is getting a vaccine, taking a test, or other methods of review and approval -- which could then be linked via a digital ticket so everyone entering the event is verified,” Ticketmaster President Mark Yovich told Pitchfork.

      “Ticketmaster’s goal is to provide enough flexibility and options that venues and fans have multiple paths to return to events, and is working to create integrations to our API and leading digital ticketing technology as we will look to tap into the top solutions based on what’s green-lit by officials and desired by clients.”

      A recent study by German scientists is good news for live music fans. In an experiment on transmission of the coronavirus at concerts, the researchers found that the risk of spreading the coronavirus at indoor concerts is “low to very low” -- just as long as concertgoers adhere to the standard hygiene protocols and the venue has good ventilation and limits the number of concertgoers.

      When the concert world fully reopens, some music lovers can expect to have to show their vaccine status, as well.With the news that Pfizer’s vaccine ha...
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      Walmart announces new pet insurance coverage

      Consumers can also find pet sitting and dog walking services through the retailer’s website

      Walmart has started selling pet insurance from Petplan and connecting customers to pet sitters and dog walkers through a partnership with Rover. 

      The retailer has revamped its website to include a new section called Walmart Pet Care, through which consumers can get pet supplies and find pet care services, including insurance. 

      Melody Richard, vice president of Walmart Pets, said Walmart customers can save up to 10 percent on insurance policies by going through Walmart. They’ll also get Walmart gift cards in exchange for booking pet sitting or dog walking through Rover on the Walmart website. 

      “We’re focused on bringing our customers and the beloved pets in their lives trusted, convenient and affordable programs at one destination,” Richard said. “And we’ll continue to focus on that.”

      Increase in pet ownership

      Walmart’s expanded roster of pet services coincides with an uptick in the number of consumers who recently got a new pet. The pandemic spurred a wave of pet adoptions as consumers sought companionship and found that they had more time at home. 

      Subsequently, demand for pet supplies has increased, and pet supplies and seasonal costumes are expected to be popular gifts this holiday season. 

      Walmart estimates that 90 million pet owners shop at Walmart. Last year, the retailer introduced Walmart PetRx, an in-store and online pharmacy that sells prescriptions at prices “significantly below competitors.” 

      The company says its new Walmart Pet Insurance offering “provides coverage for veterinary fees due to accident, injury or illness, including chronic and hereditary conditions.” Customers can also file claims and schedule appointments through Petplan and get access to “$1000 worth of online virtual vet appointments at no additional charge.” 

      Walmart has started selling pet insurance from Petplan and connecting customers to pet sitters and dog walkers through a partnership with Rover. The re...
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      Microsoft urges users to stop using phone-based multi-factor authentication

      A company executive says app-based authentication is more secure

      A Microsoft executive is urging users to move away from phone-based multi-factor authentication (MFA) mechanisms and instead embrace newer security technologies, like app-based authenticators and security keys.

      In a blog post, Alex Weinert, Director of Identity Security at Microsoft, said app-based two-factor authentication provides greater security.

      Weinert said telephone-based multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions -- like one-time codes sent via SMS and voice calls -- are “based on publicly switched telephone networks (PSTN), and I believe they’re the least secure of the MFA methods available today.” 

      “That gap will only widen as MFA adoption increases attackers’ interest in breaking these methods and purpose-built authenticators extend their security and usability advantages,” he said. “Plan your move to passwordless strong auth now – the authenticator app provides an immediate and evolving option.” 

      MFA is ‘essential’

      In 2019, Weinert penned a blog post in which he said that internal Microsoft statistics showed that users who enabled MFA blocked around 99.9 percent of automated attacks against their Microsoft accounts. 

      In a follow up blog post earlier this week, he stressed that MFA itself is essential -- but the way people use it should change. If users have to choose between multiple MFA mechanisms, he said they should avoid phone-based MFA which can be intercepted by attackers. 

      Weinert said a good place to start is by using Microsoft’s Authenticator MFA app. For even greater security, hardware security keys can be used. 

      A Microsoft executive is urging users to move away from phone-based multi-factor authentication (MFA) mechanisms and instead embrace newer security technol...
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      Toyota expands for a second time its recall of vehicles with possible fuel pump issue

      The fuel pump may fail causing the engine to stall

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is expanding an earlier recall to include another 1,517,721 of the following vehicles:

      • Model year 2018-2019 4Runners,
      • Model year 2019-2020 Avalons,
      • Model year 2019 Corolla Hatchbacks,
      • Model year 2017-2019 Highlanders,
      • Model year 2018-2020 Camrys,
      • Model year 2020 Corollas,
      • Model year 2018-2019 Land Cruisers,
      • Model year 2017-2020 Tacomas,
      • Model year 2019-2020 RAV4s,
      • Model year 2019-2020 Sequoias,
      • Model year 2017-2020 Siennas,
      • Model year 2019-2020 Tundras,
      • Model year 2018-2020 Lexus ES350s,
      • Model year 2017 Lexus GS200t's,
      • Model year 2017-2019 Lexus GS350s,
      • Model year 2019 Lexus GS300s,
      • Model year 2018-2020 Lexus LC500h's,
      • Model year 2019-2020 Lexus LS500s,
      • Model year 2018-2019 Lexus GX460s,
      • Model year 2017 Lexus IS200t's,
      • Model year 2019 Lexus IS300s, 2019 Lexus IS350,
      • Model year 2018-2020 Lexus LC500s,
      • Model year 2018 Lexus LS500s,
      • Model year2019 Lexus LS500h's,
      • Model year 2018-2019 Lexus LX570s,
      • Model year 2017 Lexus RC200t's,
      • Model year 2019 Lexus RC300s & RC350s,
      • Model year 2017 & 2019-2020 Lexus RX350s,
      • Model year 2018-2020 RX350Ls,
      • Model year 2019 Lexus UX200, and
      • Model year2018-2019 Lexus NX300s.

      The low-pressure fuel pump inside the fuel tank may fail.

      If the fuel pump fails while the vehicle is being driven, the engine can stall increasing the risk of a crash

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel pump assembly with an improved one free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 23, 2020.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 442-8696. Toyota's number for this recall is 20TA02. Lexus' number for this recall is 20LA01.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is expanding an earlier recall to include another 1,517,721 of the following vehicles: Model year 2018-2019 ...
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      Volvo recalls model year 2001-2003 S80s and s60s

      The driver side front airbag inflator may rupture

      Volvo Car USA is recalling 54,124 model year 2001-2003 S80s and S60s sold or ever registered in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

      The driver side front airbag inflator may rupture when the airbag is deployed.

      Metal fragments can strike vehicle occupants increasing the risk of serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Volvo will notify send an interim notice to owners beginning January 4, 2021. A second notice will be sent when parts become available during the first quarter of 2021.

      Dealers will replace the driver sideair bag module free of charge.

      Owners may contact Volvo customer service at (866) 870-2046. Volvo's number for this recall is R10058.

      Volvo Car USA is recalling 54,124 model year 2001-2003 S80s and S60s sold or ever registered in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mis...
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      Coronavirus update: New cases keep multiplying, new guidance on face masks

      A survey suggests that young people are less likely to follow mitigation advice

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,272,929 (10,110,552)

      Total U.S. deaths: 239,896 (238,251)

      Total global cases: 51,684,237 (50,913,451)

      Total global deaths: 1,275,995 (1,263,089)

      Each day brings a new record

      The U.S. recorded 136,000 new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Tuesday, once again setting a record for the number of infections in one day, according to Johns Hopkins University. Statistics show hospitalizations are increasing at the fastest rate since the pandemic began.

      To put the numbers in perspective, a ConsumerAffairs analysis shows April was previously the worst month for the spread of the virus, with more than 868,000 new cases during the month and an average of 28,950 daily infections. So far in November, new cases have averaged over 100,000 and are projected to increase during the holidays. 

      Hospitalizations have risen at an alarming rate this month, increasing by about 30 percent since Nov. 1. On Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins numbers showed nearly 62,000 hospitalizations, exceeding the previous record of nearly 60,000 that was set in April.

      CDC revises its mask guidance

      Government health officials have once again clarified their guidance on the wearing of masks, determining that the face coverings protect both the wearer and others nearby. Previously, it was believed that most cloth masks only protected others but not the person wearing the mask.

      A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said studies have shown that most masks -- in addition to those with an N95 rating -- provide a measure of protection if they come in contact with someone carrying the virus.

      “Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers' exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns," the report's authors wrote.

      Survey finds young people just aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously

      A survey conducted for the CDC has some good news and bad news about efforts to control the pandemic. The good news is that public acceptance of wearing face masks rose sharply between April and June. Chances are good that it’s even higher now.

      But the survey also found that young people were the least likely to follow recommended behaviors, such as frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and avoiding crowded indoor spaces such as bars and restaurants. 

      Scientists say that piece of data might help explain why there has been a gradual increase in coronavirus infections among people in their 20s and 30s.

      COVID-19 sends more malls into bankruptcy

      The “retail apocalypse” used to refer to Amazon’s impact on the sector. Now, it means something else entirely.

      The economic impact of the pandemic has not only hammered retailers like JC Penney and Brooks Brothers; it’s also taking down the malls where many of these stores were located. The Wall Street Journal reports that CBL & Associates Properties Inc. and Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, mid-sized mall owners, plan to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

      The companies are simply reorganizing, not closing. Still, The Journal notes that the move is unusual for a real estate investment trust (REIT) that is set up to withstand a harsher economic climate than a single retail company.

      Pandemic led to surge in multigenerational homes

      The COVID-19 pandemic led to a home buying frenzy as many apartment dwellers, suddenly working from home, sought more space. But the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that it also led to a sharp increase in multigenerational home purchases.

      A NAR survey shows multigenerational home purchases accounted for 15 percent of sales after March, compared to 11 percent for those who closed before April. In many cases, families consolidated households because of a loss of income.

      "The coronavirus without a doubt led home buyers to reassess their housing situations and even reconsider home sizes and destinations," said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR. "They also shopped for larger homes because extra space would allow households to better accommodate older adult relatives or young adults that are now living within the residence."

      Around the Nation

      • Virginia: With cases of the coronavirus quickly spreading throughout the city, Richmond public schools have made the decision to cancel winter high school sports in 2021. Officials cited the school division's decision to go 100 percent virtual for the first semester and rapidly rising infection rates as the reasons for its decision.

      • Texas: Texas is the first state to record more than 1 million cases of the coronavirus. Texas, the second-most populous U.S. state, now has more coronavirus cases than all of Italy, according to CBS News.

      • Iowa: Gov. Kim Richards has signed a proclamation that extends the state’s public health emergency for another 30 days as cases continue to rise. Richards says Iowa reported 21,000 new cases of the virus in the last week.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,272,929 (10,110,...
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      Two-thirds of Americans would favor a month-long lockdown to combat COVID-19

      Like everything else these days, the pros and cons tend to follow party lines

      Would you favor your state instituting a one-month COVID-19 lockdown? If you’re like most Americans, you would, according to a new  study by YouGov. 

      YouGov polled nearly 13,000 U.S. American adults and found that the majority of them -- 64 percent -- were in favor of their state instituting a one-month lockdown in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Twenty-nine percent are against it and seven percent are undecided.

      What can the U.S. learn from Europe?

      Several European countries recently instituted temporary national lockdowns to prevent a rise in COVID-19 cases -- and it seems to be working. France, Belgium, Czech Republic, and Wales all reported declines in the number of new coronavirus cases. 

      While Europe’s plan seems to be working its magic, the United States is experiencing record numbers of coronavirus cases. 

      Partisan splits

      Do Europe’s signs of progress beg the question if the U.S. states should reconsider more lockdowns here as well? That depends on who you ask. The tug of war between conservatives and liberals didn’t end at the ballot box on Election Day, and it certainly is in full force on the lockdown question.

      An overwhelming majority -- 87 percent -- of Democrats say they’re in favor of a one-month statewide lockdown, as do 58 percent of Independents. On the flip side, only 30 percent of Republicans would favor a lockdown versus 64 percent who would oppose such an initiative. 

      Other interesting breakouts from the study include:

      • Women are more likely than men to say they would support a temporary lockdown -- 67 percent vs. 59 percent, respectively. 

      • Most Americans polled -- 60 percent -- think the government has the right to impose a lockdown, but 27 percent consider a one-month state lockdown as a violation of constitutional rights. The sub-metric to this is also political, with Democrats giving a thumbs-up to a lockdown and Republicans giving a thumbs-down.

      Would you favor your state instituting a one-month COVID-19 lockdown? If you’re like most Americans, you would, according to a new  study by YouGov. Yo...
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      Home mortgage applications dropped sharply last week

      It shows that a red-hot housing market is beginning to cool down

      The number of mortgage applications to purchase a home fell sharply last week to a six-month low. It’s a signal to people who have been thinking about a home purchase that now may be the time to pull the trigger.

      Since the early days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the housing market has been on a tear. Not only has there been increased competition for available homes, but the overheated market has also pushed up home prices.

      Now there are fewer buyers competing for homes, as evidenced by the Mortgage Bankers Association report. It showed that mortgage applications last week fell 3 percent from the week before, continuing a downward trend during the fall.

      But to give you an idea of how heated 2020’s housing market is compared to last year’s, the report shows demand for mortgages last week was still 16 percent higher than during the same week in 2019.

      Plenty of headwinds

      There are still plenty of headwinds facing home buyers in the fall of 2020, but at least the competition, which was fierce during the summer, isn’t as intense. There may be fewer bidding wars between competing buyers.

      But home prices have risen significantly since this time a year ago, partly because people working from home have decided they need more space and partly because there remains a lack of available homes on the market.

      Low rates, higher prices

      Housing experts say something else may be encouraging sellers to keep raising their asking prices -- record-low interest rates. If buyers are paying less interest they can afford to pay more for the home, and sellers haven’t been shy about asking for higher prices.

      The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that the median price for all housing types in September was $311,800, a nearly 15 percent increase from September 2019. It said September's national price increase marked 103 straight months of year-over-year gains.

       “Inadequate housing supply is putting upward pressure on home prices and is impacting affordability — especially for first-time buyers and lower-income buyers,” Joel Kan, an economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, told CNBC.

      The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to a low of 2.98 percent last week. That’s a full point lower than buyers could have gotten a year ago.

      The number of mortgage applications to purchase a home fell sharply last week to a six-month low. It’s a signal to people who have been thinking about a ho...
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      Another survey shows consumers will spend less this holiday season

      The reason isn’t entirely related to the pandemic

      The 2020 holiday season will be unlike any in recent memory. No large parades, no office parties, and even extended family gatherings may be a rarity.

      With the disruption to traditional routines caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the economic uncertainty it has produced, a survey by the personal finance site Debt.com found 60 percent of U.S. consumers plan to spend less on the holidays this year. 

      But the factors listed above many have little to do with it, the study authors say. Spending will be down because the pressure’s off.

      Thirty-seven percent of those who are spending less say they feel less pressure to buy gifts because holiday celebrations are going to be virtual this year. Another 23 percent said they don’t expect friends and family to spend as much on them because of the pandemic. Debt.com Chairman Howard Dvorkin calls it “Grinch logic.”

      "I've spent nearly three decades counseling Americans on how to save more and spend less, but that's nearly impossible to do during the holidays," Dvorkin said. "No matter how blunt they are about their debts, they'll blow their holiday budget.”

      ‘No one wants to be the Grinch’

      Dvorkin says Americans fear only one thing more than landing deep in debt and that’s the fear their family and friends will think they’re cheap.

      “Everyone wants to be Santa Claus, and no one wants to be the Grinch," he said.

      The findings may come as a rude awakening for retailers, who have already begun their holiday sales push. The National Retail Federal estimates the average consumer spent $1,000 on the holidays last year but Debt.com found that 73 percent of consumers say they’ll spend less than $500. Only 2 percent say they’ll spend more than $1,500.

      Without a doubt, a sizable portion of the reduced holiday spending will be related to cutbacks in travel. Fewer people will travel for the holidays, either to see family or to enjoy a vacation.

      Holiday travel booking are down

      Right after Labor Day, when holiday travel tends to be booked, CNBC reported advance reservations for Thanksgiving were off by 16 percent, while Christmas bookings were down 35 percent and New Years’ Eve reservations were 33 percent lower.

      Only 30 percent of consumers said they will spend less this year because they’ve lost income. To make those dollars go farther, personal finance experts recommend making a holiday budget and sticking to it. 

      Other ways to avoid debt is to aggressively price-check before you guy and don’t forget to use your credit card rewards.

      The 2020 holiday season will be unlike any in recent memory. No large parades, no office parties, and even extended family gatherings may be a rarity.W...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls GLE class vehicles

      The middle seat belt buckle may be unable to be retrieved

      Mercedes-Benz AG USA (MBUSA) is recalling 55,326 model year 2021 AMG GLE53s, AMG GLE63s, model year 2020 GLE580s, and model year 2020-2021 GLE350s and GLE450s with 5 passenger seating.

      While buckling the seat belt, the middle seat belt buckle could be pushed down into the gap below the seat cushion. If the buckle can't be retrieved, the buckle latch will be inoperable and unable to restrain an occupant.

      An unrestrained occupant has an increased risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will secure the middle seat belt buckle free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 29, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz AG USA (MBUSA) is recalling 55,326 model year 2021 AMG GLE53s, AMG GLE63s, model year 2020 GLE580s, and model year 2020-2021 GLE350s and GLE4...
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      Tanimura & Antle recall romaine lettuce

      The product may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7

      Tanimura & Antle is recalling packaged single head romaine lettuce.

      The product may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The single head of romaine lettuce with the UPC number 0-27918-20314-9 and labeled with a packed on date of 10/15/2020 or 10/16/2020, was sold in Alaska, Oregon, California, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and Illinois.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it but discard it.

      Consumers with questions may call Tanimura & Antle at (877) 827-7388, Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

      Tanimura & Antle is recalling packaged single head romaine lettuce. The product may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7. No illnesses have been repo...
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      Coronavirus update: FDA clears another treatment as U.S. surpasses 10 million cases, hospitals are filling up fast

      A study finds mental health issues among survivors

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,110,552 (9,985,509)

      Total U.S. deaths: 238,251 (237,619)

      Total global cases: 50,913,451 (50,591,307)

      Total global deaths:  1,263,089 (1,258,817)

      FDA clears Eli Lilly drug for emergency use

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization to another antibody treatment against the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the day when the total number of cases in the U.S. went over the 10 million mark. The drug is produced by Eli Lilly.

      Lilly says the drug is authorized for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older with a positive COVID-19 test. The treatment especially targets those who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. 

      It says the drug, bamlanivimab, should be administered as soon as possible after a positive COVID-19 test and within 10 days of symptom onset. The authorization allows for the distribution and emergency use of bamlanivimab, which is administered via a single intravenous infusion.

      Here’s where hospitalizations are increasing the fastest

      The coronavirus’ second wave is in full swing and hitting states with strict mask rules and no mask rules, although the latter category has seen the sharpest rise in cases requiring hospitalization.

      NPR reports that the five states seeing the sharpest increase in hospitalizations are Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The worry now is that hospitals everywhere will be taxed to the max.

      “We have a legitimate reason to be very, very concerned about our health system at a national level," Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told the network.

      Study shows COVID-19 patients often develop mental illness

      A new study in The Lancet Psychiatric Journal found that 20 percent of patients who recover from COVID-19 later develop symptoms of mental illness.

      The researchers said they found the most common mental health issues experienced by COVID-19 survivors are anxiety, depression, and insomnia. These symptoms usually appear as late as 90 days following diagnosis.

      The study analyzed electronic health records of over 62,000 coronavirus patients in the U.S. It found the study group was twice as likely to suffer from a new mental illness than other groups of patients during the same period.

      Researchers say misinformation is a roadblock to curbing the pandemic

      In a world where social media allows anyone to say virtually anything and reach millions of people, it shouldn’t be a surprise that all types of misinformation about the coronavirus -- which was almost unknown before January -- is widespread. 

      Understanding the impact of misinformation “is important for identifying potential barriers to public health efforts” to combat the virus, according to Valerie Earnshaw, associate professor at the University of Delaware and lead author on two studies about the issue.

      “Evidence suggests that people are more likely to believe conspiracy theories when they feel anxious, powerless, and unable to control their outcomes, as well as in times of crisis and when faced with large-scale events with serious consequences,” she said. “Pandemics such as COVID-19 are powerful contexts wherein individuals may turn to conspiracy theories in an attempt to restore feelings of safety and control.”

      New COVID-19 scam just got more dangerous

      Monday’s announcement about Pfizer’s promising COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial may have made a new scam even more dangerous. The scam sends texts to potential victims, enticing them to become part of a COVID-19 clinical trial and earn $1,000 or more.

      Clinical trials have been in the news over the last few months, which is why scammers are using the topic to target consumers. The topic is now the lead story around the world, and consumer advocates urge everyone to be leery of these clinical trial pitches.

      One version of the message reads: “Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to $1,220! Qualify Here: [link removed] stop2stop,” and contains a link. The message instructs the recipient to click to determine whether they are eligible.

      “No matter how curious you are – or how much you could use an extra $1,200 – don’t click,” the Better Business Bureau advises. “It’s a scam!”

      Around the nation

      • New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy has announced new restrictions on indoor dining, requiring dining rooms to close by 10 p.m. The orders also prohibit all indoor, interstate organized sports up to the high school level in an effort to slow the resurgence of COVID-19.
      • Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown is reportedly ready to place several counties on a “social pause,” which changes virus restrictions to curb the recent rise in cases. People in these counties will be asked to only have contact with people in their household, or to limit gatherings to no more than six people.
      • Arizona: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Pamela Gates sided with a group of Arizona bar owners who challenged Gov. Doug Ducey’s easing of rules for restaurants, which have been selling mixed drinks to go. The group argued that the rules give restaurants an unfair advantage over bars.
      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 10,110,552 (9,985,5...
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      COVID-19 scam promises big money to participate in clinical trials

      Pfizer’s clinical trial success could make this scheme even more dangerous

      Since April, a handful of pharmaceutical companies have been developing vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and testing them in clinical trials.

      These clinical trials have been in the news for months. Monday’s report from Pfizer that its vaccine candidate achieved a more than 90 percent efficacy rate elevated clinical trials to the lead story. That could make a new COVID-19 scam even more dangerous.

      For weeks, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been tracking a scam in which people receive a text message promising $1,000 or more if they’ll participate in a clinical trial. The trial is supposedly one that is testing either a vaccine or treatment for the virus.

      One version of the message reads: “Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to $1,220! Qualify Here: [link removed] stop2stop,” and contains a link. The message instructs the recipient to click to determine whether they are eligible.

      “No matter how curious you are – or how much you could use an extra $1,200 – don’t click,” the BBB advises. "It’s a scam!”

      Unleashes malware

      The link doesn’t lead to a potential $1,200 but instead downloads malware onto your device. Once downloaded, the virus can give scammers access to your usernames, passwords, and other personal information stored on your device.

      In another version of the scam, the link actually takes potential victims to a webpage that looks like a real clinical trial. But the questions you’ll be asked extend far beyond what a legitimate clinical trial would ask. Some targets have reported being asked for Social Security and bank account numbers.

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also tracking this scam. Jim Kreidler, consumer education specialist at the FTC, recently warned that some of these scams are highly sophisticated and hoping to catch consumers off guard.

      “They might promise you a doctor’s care and more than $1000 in payment...but as soon as they try to charge you for access, or ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number, your Spidey sense should start tingling, because, unfortunately, some of these so-called ‘research studies’ are fake,” Kreidler wrote in a consumer information bulletin.

      How to avoid the scam

      The best way to avoid these scams is to simply ignore the message. While drug developers sometimes advertise for clinical trial participants, they don’t do it with random text messages. 

      One big tipoff that the offer is a scam is if the “clinical trial” expects you to pay to be involved. It doesn’t work that way.

      If you’re curious, go to ClinicalTrials.gov, a site maintained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). You can see what trials are actually being conducted and who’s running them. 

      If the text message does not mention a government agency, university, or hospital, it’s additional evidence that you’re dealing with a scam.

      Since April, a handful of pharmaceutical companies have been developing vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and testing them in clinical...
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      AMC launches private theater rental program

      Private screenings will have precautions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19

      AMC Entertainment has announced that it’s launching a private theater rental program

      The movie theater chain was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and recently reported a staggering $905.8 million quarterly loss. Company officials are hoping to bolster revenue by offering consumers the option of renting out an entire theater for as little as $99. 

      On its official website, AMC said private screenings will have COVID-19 safety measures in place, and the number of guests allowed in each theater will be capped at 20. 

      “As part of our AMC Safe & Clean initiative, private movie showings can accommodate 1-20 total guests (host included), so the auditorium can remain at 40% capacity (or less based on municipality guidelines), leaving plenty of space for social distancing,” the company said. 

      Masks will be required “unless you are actively enjoying food or drinks,” AMC said. The company added that outside food and drink may not be brought into private screenings. 

      Test showed significant interest

      Consumers who rent out a theater can choose from one of the movies AMC is offering. The theater chain is currently offering 17 films including “Jurassic Park” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” New releases -- such as “Tenet,” “The War With Grandpa” and “Freaky” -- can be viewed for a higher price of between $149 to $349, depending on location.

      AMC said it recently tested the program and it drew “110,000 inquiries around the country” in the span of a month -- more than four times higher than the total number of requests it got in all of 2019 for private theater rentals.

      “The results and feedback from our guests about AMC Safe & Clean have been overwhelmingly positive, and Private Theatre Rentals at AMC provides an additional layer of safety and security to those moviegoers who are looking to see movies with just their family members and friends,” Elizabeth Frank, executive give president of worldwide programming and chief content officer, said in a statement. 

      “It’s unprecedented for AMC to receive 110,000 contacts in four weeks about a private theatre rental, based only on word of mouth and organic publicity, and we are excited about and appreciative of the interest this has sparked among AMC guests,” she said. 

      AMC Entertainment has announced that it’s launching a private theater rental program. The movie theater chain was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and...
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      HHS Secretary says Pfizer vaccine could be ready for public distribution by spring

      Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was recently found to be more than 90 percent effective

      Just a day after Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in clinical trials, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has predicted that there will be enough of the drugmaker’s vaccines ready for general public vaccination by Spring 2021.   

      During a TODAY show interview on Tuesday, Azar said Pfizer is ramping up to deliver up to 1.3 billion doses of its yet-to-be-approved vaccine in 2021. That would be “enough for all Americans by the end of March to early April to have general vaccination programs,” he said. 

      Protecting vulnerable populations first

      At-risk nursing home residents, health care workers, and first responders would be the first groups to receive the vaccine, Azar said, adding that these individuals could get a vaccine by January. 

      “We have anticipated that we will have enough vaccine by the end of December to have vaccinated our most vulnerable citizens and nursing homes and otherwise,” Azar said. 

      After that, health care workers and first responders would get access to the vaccine, and “all Americans who would want to take a vaccine" could get it by the spring, he said. 

      Cases surging

      With temperatures falling and more people gathering indoors, COVID-19 cases are climbing across the nation. The number of confirmed infections in the U.S. recently surpassed 10 million. 

      On Monday, Pfizer cited data from its clinical trials suggesting that the vaccine could be 90 percent effective. The pharmaceutical giant said it’s aiming to deliver 20 million doses to the government per month starting at the end of November. 

      Azar’s remarks came the day after Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that vulnerable Americans could start getting the vaccine before the end of the year. Fauci called the reported efficacy rate of Pfizer’s vaccine "extraordinary."

      Just a day after Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in clinical trials, Health and Human Services (HHS...
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      EU charges Amazon with antitrust violations over use of Marketplace data

      A major complaint is how Amazon chooses who’s included in its ‘Buy Box’

      Bad news landed on the doorstep at Amazon’s headquarters early Tuesday. The European Commission has informed the online retailer that it feels the company has breached European Union (EU) antitrust rules by “distorting competition in online retail markets.” 

      The Commission’s biggest problem with Amazon is that it supposedly gleans non-public business data about independent sellers on its marketplace and uses that information to the benefit of its own retail business, which directly competes with those third-party sellers. 

      The value of that information could easily catapult Amazon’s own version of a product to the front of the line. The Commission said that Amazon’s insider information on third-party sellers included the number of ordered and shipped units of products, the sellers' revenues on the marketplace, the number of visits to sellers' offers, shipping data, data related to sellers' past performance, and other consumer claims on products.

      “We must ensure that dual role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition. Data on the activity of third-party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers,” said Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president in charge of competition policy.

      The almighty “Buy Box”

      The Commission didn’t let Amazon off the hook with just one indiscretion. It also opened a second antitrust investigation into the possible partisan treatment of Amazon's own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services.

      In particular, the Commission will take a deep look into the criteria that Amazon sets to select who’s included in its “Buy Box.” The Buy Box is the white box on the right side of an Amazon product’s detail page where customers can click and add items to their cart.

      The rub for the Commission is that only businesses with exceptional seller metrics get a chance to be included in the Buy Box -- and guess what decides who qualifies as “exceptional?” Amazon’s own algorithms.

      Eyal Lanxner at BigBusiness said that 82 percent of Amazon sales go through the Buy Box, and the percentage is even higher for mobile purchases. Lanxner says that in mobile, the Buy Box takes on heightened importance because, unlike on a desktop or laptop, the mobile site features the Buy Box directly under the product image.

      “If you’re that one lucky seller who gets the ‘Buy Box,’ you make all the sales,” says Christo Wilson, lead researcher of a Northeastern University study of Amazon's algorithmic pricing practices.

      “This is very much a winner-take-all system. If you’re that one lucky seller who gets the ‘buy box,’ you make all the sales. So if you want to be competitive for the top-selling products, you pretty much have no choice: You have to be an algorithmic seller.”

      The Commission and Amazon’s end game

      The two sides now enter the fray hoping for a judgment in their favor. The Commission is going to be leaning heavily on an EU law that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. And in the other corner, Amazon will be battling to prove that it plays fair and square with third-party vendors.

      “The conditions of competition on the Amazon platform must also be fair. Its rules should not artificially favour Amazon's own retail offers or advantage the offers of retailers using Amazon's logistics and delivery services,” Vestager said.

      “With e-commerce booming, and Amazon being the leading e-commerce platform, a fair and undistorted access to consumers online is important for all sellers.”

      Bad news landed on the doorstep at Amazon’s headquarters early Tuesday. The European Commission has informed the online retailer that it feels the company...
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      Single-family home rents are rising at a near-record rate

      The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sharp increase in demand for suburban homes

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not only raised home prices; it’s also significantly raised rents, which were pretty high to start with.

      As the median purchase price of a single-family home has risen nearly every month during the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reports that the cost of renting a single-family home has risen just about as fast.

      It analyzed data from large corporate landlords, such as Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent, describing their business as “pandemic proof.” These large landlords picked up thousands of homes across the nation during the financial crisis of 2009, when home prices plunged.

      Many of these homes are in suburban areas of the country that have seen an influx of former city dwellers seeking more room, inside and out. Housing experts attribute this migration to the fact that so many people have been working from home since late March.

      “The demand we see today is totally insatiable, and it’s growing,” David Singelyn, chief executive of American Homes 4 Rent, told The Journal. The company reportedly owns more than 53,000 houses in 22 states. Most recently, its monthly rent has averaged just under $1,700 a month.

      Rent costs continue to increase

      According to The Journal, which cited data from analytics firm Green Street, listed rents for available homes owned by large corporate landlords rose 7.5 percent in October alone. It was the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year increases and the largest on record.

      For a household that hasn’t lost income during the pandemic, rising rents are a financial burden but not a crisis. For families where one or both wage-earners are out of work, rising rents may pose quite a large crisis.

      Because of the growing shortage of available homes to buy or rent, housing costs have been rising sharply for the last three years. In January, even before the pandemic hit, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies issued a report showing that rent affordability was beginning to affect even middle-income consumers.

      With higher-income households accounting for much of the growth in rental demand since 2010, the report noted that new supply has been concentrated at the upper end of the market. At the same time, demand for rental housing at the low-to-middle income segments of the market took off.

      "Rising rents are making it increasingly difficult for households to save for a downpayment and become homeowners,”  said Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a research associate at the Center and lead author of the report. “Young, college-educated households with high incomes are really driving current rental demand."

      That also seems to be the case 11 months later. People with young families have led the wave of new renters, seeking greener pastures in the suburbs amid the COVID-19 pandemic and creating new demand that has put upward pressure on rents.

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not only raised home prices; it’s also significantly raised rents, which were pretty high to start with.As the...
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      Continental Tire recalls Continental and General brand tires

      The tire carcass may break, causing sudden loss of air

      Continental Tire the Americas is recalling 11,728 Continental and General brand tires sold as original or replacement equipment.

      The recalled tires were cured for a time beyond the specification limits.

      Tires that are over-cured may develop a break in the sidewall resulting in sudden air loss or a belt edge separation which could lead to a tread/belt loss. Either condition can cause a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      The recalled tires include:

      • ProContact TX P205/55R16 with DOT code 2420 and Mold number 416290
      • ProContact TX 215/60R16 with DOT code 3320 and Mold number 419149
      • Conti ProContact P215/60R16 with DOT code 2220 and Mold numbers 214574, 214571, 404245, or 214573
      • ProContact GX P225/60R17 with DOT code 0120 and Mold number 218037
      • CrossContact LX Sport 235/65R18 with DOT code 0220 and Mold numbers 418538 or 415347
      • CrossContact LX Sport 245/50R20 with DOT code 2920 and Mold numbers 421921 or 421920
      • CrossContact LX Sport 255/50R20 with DOT code 1020 and Mold number 416221
      • CrossContact LX20 EcoPlus+ 255/55R20 with DOT code 0220 and Mold number 421238, DOT code 0120 and Mold number 421241, DOT code 0820 and Mold number 421236 or DOT code 0420 and Mold number 421246
      • Reliatrek 205/55R16 DOT code 1120 and Mold numbers 419193 or 419442
      • Reliatrek HT 275/65R18 with DOT code 0420 and Mold number 421380
      • Altimax RT43 225/60R18 with DOT code 2220 and Mold number 409762 or DOT code 2420 and Mold number 409762
      • Altimax RT43 235/55R19 with DOT code 1120 and Mold number 415663
      • Grabber HTS60 225/75R16 with DOT code 2720 and Mold number 412441
      • Grabber HTS60 LT275/70R18 with DOT code 0520 and Mold numbers 413243 or 412872
      • Grabber HTS 255/70R17 with DOT code 3020 and Mold number 418570
      • Grabber AT2 265/70R16 with DOT code 2820 and Mold numbers 069114 or 075987
      • Grabber X3 35 X 12.50R20 with DOT codes 1120 and Mold number 415373 or DOT code 1220 and Mold number 415373
      • Grabber HD LT245/75R17 with DOT code 2420 and Mold number 416034
      • Grabber A/TX LT275/70R18 with DOT code 2420 and Mold number 417330 or 417331
      • Grabber A/TX LT315/70R17 with DOT code 2520 and Mold number 417395

      What to do

      Continental Tire will notify the owners who purchased the tires as replacement equipment. Various vehicle manufacturers will conduct recalls to cover the original equipment tires.

      The tires will be inspected to verify that they are affected, and will be replaced -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a schedule for recall notification. Owners may contact Continental Tire customer service at (888) 799-2168.

      Continental Tire the Americas is recalling 11,728 Continental and General brand tires sold as original or replacement equipment. The recalled tires were...
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      Model year 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters with possible braking issue recalled

      The brake hoses may have been damaged and leak

      Daimler Vans USA (DVUSA) is recalling 463 model year 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.

      The outer area of the brake hoses on the front and rear axles may have been damaged during production.

      Over time, the hose could begin to leak brake fluid, affecting the braking performance of the vehicle, including the potential loss of directional stability when braking, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      DVUSA will notify owners, and dealers will check the condition of the brake hoses on the front and rear axles and replace them -- as needed -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 30, 2020.

      Owners may contact DVUSA customer service at (877) 762-8267. DVUSA's number for this recall is VS3MONTLAU.

      Daimler Vans USA (DVUSA) is recalling 463 model year 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. The outer area of the brake hoses on the front and rear axles may hav...
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      Taste for Luxury recalls Raschera DOP (cheese)

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Taste for Luxury is recalling Raschera DOP (cheese) that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      A list of the recalled products, sold in Canada's Ontario and Quebec provinces may be found here.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (800) 503-1581 or by email at info@tasteforluxury.ca

      Taste for Luxury is recalling Raschera DOP (cheese) that may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been reported to date. A list of the ...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2019 GLA250s

      The engine compartment fusebox may come loose

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 47 model year 2019 GLA250s.

      The engine compartment fusebox may come loose over time, potentially damaging fuses and disrupting certain vehicle functions such as engine, power steering assist, electronic stability control (ESP), and Active Brake Assist.

      A loss of engine operation, power steering assist, ESP system, or Active Brake Assist can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the engine compartment fusebox mounting and correct it -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 29, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 47 model year 2019 GLA250s. The engine compartment fusebox may come loose over time, potentially damaging fuses a...
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      Coronavirus update: Pfizer vaccine 90 percent effective, U.S. cases still surging

      President-elect Biden has appointed a panel to advise on the pandemic

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 9,985,509 (9,870,018)

      Total U.S. deaths: 237,619 (237,154)

      Total global cases:  50,591,307 (49,979,746)

      Total global deaths:  1,258,817 (1,252,471)

      Pfizer vaccine shows 90 percent efficacy

      Pfizer and its partner BioNTech today announced that their vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, has emerged as the most likely weapon to defeat the coronavirus (COVID-19). The vaccine achieved spectacular results in a Phase 3 clinical trial.

      Researchers say the vaccine prevented viral infection in more than 90 percent of the test subjects who received it. That sort of efficacy is on par with the smallpox vaccine, which eradicated that disease.

      “Today is a great day for science and humanity,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO. “The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19.”

      Over 237,000 new cases over the weekend

      Pfizer’s vaccine news could not come at a better time, as the virus is raging across the United States and Europe. The U.S. has seen its case count surge in the last three weeks, recording 237,000 new cases over the weekend.

      An analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University shows there were 105,927 new coronavirus cases reported on Sunday alone. It was the fifth consecutive day that the number of cases exceeded 100,000.

      "We're about to see all of these little epidemics across the country, crossed and mixed, and it's going to be an awful lot like pouring gasoline on a fire," Dr. Megan Ranney told CNN.

      Biden sets up COVID-19 transition panel

      President-elect Joe Biden has appointed a COVID-19 Advisory Board to work during the transition to establish a national response to the pandemic. 

      The panel will be led by Dr. David Kessler, who was U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner in both the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General during the Obama administration.

      “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations,” Biden said.

      FDA clears new antibody test

      The FDA has authorized the first serology test that detects neutralizing antibodies from recent or prior COVID-19 infections. These antibodies bind to a specific part of a pathogen and have been observed in a laboratory setting to decrease infection of cells. 

      The agency issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the cPass SARS-CoV-2 Neutralization Antibody Detection Kit, which specifically detects this type of antibody.

      "The ability to detect neutralizing antibodies can help us gain additional insight into what the existence of antibodies may mean for patients as we continue the fight against COVID-19," said Tim Stenzel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health.

      How to keep your mask clean

      Patrick Grant, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical science at Florida Atlantic University, has designed a compact and portable sanitizing device for masks and other items that can be used at home or at work.

      It’s described as a “portable hanging rack device” that has been designed as an enclosed chamber. It has a plastic container with a handle and a stainless steel compartment. The hanging rack and an ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light source is placed within either of these enclosed chambers and is capable of sterilizing up to six masks simultaneously and quickly, killing bacteria, yeasts, mold spores, and viruses.

      The device was developed in response to consumers’ repeated use of face coverings. Grant says bacteria from even a healthy wearer’s own respiratory droplets can collect on the inside and outside of a mask, and they could contain airborne pathogens capable of living on its surface.

      Around the Nation

      • Michigan: State health officials say COVID-19 diagnostic testing has increased over the last couple of weeks, with the state surpassing more than 50,000 daily tests in multiple days. Of concern to doctors is the fact that the positivity rate has also risen sharply.

      • North Carolina: Cases of COVID-19 have increased in the urban region of the state known as the research triangle. But state health officials say cases are growing at a much faster rate in rural areas of North Carolina.

      • Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert has issued emergency orders to help control the spread of the virus, which is rapidly growing in Utah. Those orders include a statewide mandate to wear a face-covering in public places, a move the governor resisted for months.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 9,985,509 (9,870,01...
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      Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in clinical trials

      Scientists hail the news as a turning point in the fight against the pandemic

      The world may be a big step closer to banishing the coronavirus (COVID-19). Pfizer and its partner BioNTech today announced their vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, achieved spectacular results in a Phase 3 clinical trial.

      Researchers say the vaccine prevented viral infection in more than 90 percent of the test subjects who received it. That sort of efficacy is on par with the vaccine that eradicated smallpox.

      “Today is a great day for science and humanity,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO. “The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19.”

      A step closer

      The news comes as the virus is raging across the United States and Europe. The U.S. has seen its case count surge in the last three weeks, recording 237,000  new cases over the weekend.

      “With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” Bourla said. “We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

      The Pfizer researchers said the different outcomes for those who received the vaccine and those who received a placebo indicate a vaccine efficacy rate above 90 percent, achieved about seven days after subjects received the second dose.

      The company says researchers have not reported any serious safety concerns and have recommended that the study continue to collect additional safety and efficacy data as planned. It said the data will be discussed with regulatory authorities worldwide.

      The Phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine candidate began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,538 participants so far. Pfizer says 38,955 of the subjects have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of Sunday. 

      Should work for nearly everyone

      The trial results suggest that the vaccine should work for nearly everyone, according to Pfizer. The company says approximately 42 percent of global participants and 30 percent of U.S. participants have racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. 

      Just how big is this news? Pretty big, according to scientists who tend to keep their emotions under control and are not given to hyperbole..

      “I’m near-ecstatic,” Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists, told The Guardian. “This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we’re now in.”

      The next step is for Pfizer and BioNTech to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization (EUA) pending formal approval of the vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech have already been producing the drug and expect to have 50 million doses on hand by the end of next month. The companies estimate that they can produce 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

      The world may be a big step closer to banishing the coronavirus (COVID-19). Pfizer and its partner BioNTech today announced their vaccine candidate, BNT162...
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      Amazon launches points-based rewards program for Flex drivers

      Perks for delivery drivers include debit card access and preferred scheduling

      Amazon has launched a new rewards program for its Flex drivers -- independent contractors who make Amazon and Whole Foods deliveries with their own cars and cover their own expenses. 

      On its website, the company has added a section called Amazon Flex Rewards. Amazon said the program gives drivers a chance to earn perks through the accrual of points. 

      Perks include access to a Flex Debit Card and the ability to reserve preferred delivery shifts. Flex drivers can earn different perks depending on how much work they do for Amazon and how well they do it. 

      “Amazon Flex Rewards is a program exclusively for Amazon Flex delivery partners to thank you for all the work you do,” the website states. “With Amazon Flex Rewards, you can earn cash back with the Amazon Flex Debit Card, enjoy Preferred Scheduling and access thousands of discounts as well as tools to navigate things like insurance and taxes.”

      More points, different perks

      The rewards program gives drivers the opportunity to earn points for each completed delivery. Additional points may be earned based on metrics like on-time delivery rates and overall standing in the app. 

      CNBC points out that it can be difficult for Flex drivers to find work. Drivers usually only have a few seconds to “accept” a shift before someone else claims it. The rewards program has a perk to help alleviate some of the pressure to act fast.

      Drivers who have earned 650 points can reserve shifts aligned with their preferences, such as their preferred delivery station and time of the day. They will have up to 30 minutes to accept a reserved shift. 

      Amazon says it will reset drivers’ points after each three-month earnings period, but drivers will still have access to the perks they earned from the previous period. 

      The company told CNBC that it’s in the early stages of launching the program. Eventually, all Flex drivers in the U.S. will have access to it. 

      Amazon has launched a new rewards program for its Flex drivers -- independent contractors who make Amazon and Whole Foods deliveries with their own cars an...
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      FTC requires Zoom to enhance its security practices in new settlement

      The company was accused of following deceptive and unfair practices

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement with video conferencing platform Zoom on Monday that will require the company to implement a sturdier information security program. The FTC alleged that Zoom engaged in a series of “deceptive and unfair practices” that essentially undermined the security of its users.

      The FTC’s complaint dates back to 2016 when the agency alleged that Zoom deceived users by falsely promising that it offered “end-to-end, 256-bit encryption” to secure users’ communications. Regulators said the falsehood created the possibility that other people (including Zoom) could read a user’s content. 

      In the FTC’s eyes, Zoom also erroneously told users who wanted to store recorded meetings on the company’s cloud storage that those meetings were encrypted immediately after their meeting ended. Instead, some recordings allegedly were stored unencrypted for up to 60 days on Zoom’s servers before being transferred to its secure cloud storage.

      Enter COVID-19

      The matter was complicated further during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom’s reach skyrocketed from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020, putting even more users’ privacy at risk. 

      Earlier this summer, the company attempted to soften the FTC’s angst by improving its security for all users versus only its paying subscribers, but those actions seemingly weren’t enough to appease regulators.

      “During the pandemic, practically everyone—families, schools, social groups, businesses—is using videoconferencing to communicate, making the security of these platforms more critical than ever,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Zoom’s security practices didn’t line up with its promises, and this action will help to make sure that Zoom meetings and data about Zoom users are protected.”

      What changes Zoom users will see

      The FTC’s laundry list of changes that Zoom users are supposed to see thanks to the settlement include:

      • The annual assessment and documentation of any potential internal and external security risks and develop ways to safeguard against such risks;

      • Implementation of a vulnerability management program; and

      • Deployment of safeguards such as multi-factor authentication to protect against unauthorized access to its network; institute data deletion controls; and taking steps to prevent the use of known compromised user credentials.

      The FTC didn’t stop there, though. On top of those three key changes, Zoom agreed to review any software updates for potential security flaws and must ensure that software updates will not hamper third-party security features. The company has also agreed not misrepresent to the public its collection and use of personal information, and it will have an assessment of security program made by an independent third party every other year.

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement with video conferencing platform Zoom on Monday that will require the company to implement a stur...
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      Platform used by Hotels.com and Expedia leaks data of ‘millions’ of guests

      Security researchers don’t know whether the data has already been found by a cybercriminal

      The hotel reservation firm Prestige Software has exposed the data of millions of guests worldwide, Website Planet reports

      Prestige Software -- a platform that enables hotels to automate their availability on booking websites like Expedia and Booking.com -- reportedly stored files dating as far back as 2013 without any protection in place. 

      Exposed information included names, credit card details, ID numbers, and reservation details. In some cases, logs contained personally identifiable information for multiple members included in a single booking.

      No evidence of third party access 

      At this time, it’s not known how long the trove of data was left unsecured or if any third parties accessed it. If the data was found by a cybercriminal, the party could steal identities, carry out phishing scams, or even hijack a reservation.

      “Millions of people were potentially exposed in the data breach, from all over the world. We can’t guarantee that somebody hasn’t already accessed the S3 bucket and stolen the data before we found it,” said researcher Mark Holden. “So far, there is no evidence of this happening. However, if it did, there would be enormous implications for the privacy, security and financial wellbeing of those exposed.”

      Website Planet said the firm quickly fixed the vulnerability after being alerted to the issue. 

      Holden said that due to the sheer number of hotel and travel websites involved in the breach, it’s “impossible to help anyone already exposed if somebody found the data before us.” Clients of Prestige Software include Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, and many others. 

      “If you’re a customer of any of the websites listed in this report and are concerned about how this leak might impact you, contact the company directly to determine what steps it’s taking to protect your data,” Website Planet said.

      The hotel reservation firm Prestige Software has exposed the data of millions of guests worldwide, Website Planet reports. Prestige Software -- a platf...
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      GM recalls model year 2020 Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC vehicles

      The fuel pump's jet nozzle may be blocked

      General Motors is recalling 2,781 model year 2020 Buick Enclaves, Cadillac XT5s, Cadillac XT6s, Chevrolet Traverses, and GMC Acadias.

      The fuel pump's jet nozzle may have a plastic burr remaining from the manufacturing process, possibly causing a blocked nozzle and an insufficient fuel supply to the engine.

      An insufficient fuel supply can result in an engine stall without warning, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel pump module.

      The recall is expected to begin November 30, 2020.

      Owners may contact GMC customer service at (888) 988-7267, Buick Customer service at (800) 955-9007, Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020 or Cadillac customer service at (800) 458-8006. GM's number for this recall is N202314760.

      General Motors is recalling 2,781 model year 2020 Buick Enclaves, Cadillac XT5s, Cadillac XT6s, Chevrolet Traverses, and GMC Acadias.The fuel pump's je...
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      Coronavirus update: Over 121,000 new cases in a day, the unemployment rate fell in October

      Tests have ruled out an existing arthritis drug as a treatment

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 9,628,469 (9,499,459)

      Total U.S. deaths: 235,071 (233,836)

      Total global cases: 48,947,235 (48,280,133)

      Total global deaths: 1,237,417 (1,227,891)

      The surge in cases is picking up speed

      The U.S. notched another record number of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on Thursday as 121,888 people were diagnosed. That exceeded the record of nearly 103,000 cases set just the day before.

      Cases of the virus are escalating just as health experts predicted late last month. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), warned the country in October that “we are in a bad place.”

      Deaths, which tend to be a lagging indicator of the virus, are also rapidly increasing, underscoring the need to protect the elderly and people with underlying health conditions during the outbreak.

      The job market improved in October

      Despite the increase in coronavirus cases across the nation the job market improved significantly last month. The Labor Department reports that the economy produced 638,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent.

      In October, 15.1 million people reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. They either did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last four weeks due to the pandemic. That number is down from 19.4 million in September.

      Despite the new wave of illnesses, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 271,000 in October, with gains in food services and drinking places, arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation. Those gains could be in jeopardy if the spreading virus forces those places to close or limit hours again.

      Study says arthritis drug doesn’t help

      Canakinumab, an existing drug made by Novartis to treat arthritis, failed to help COVID-19 patients survive without going on a ventilator. The company says the drug made little difference in tests that compared it to standard treatments.

      It was hoped canakinumab could be deployed against the coronavirus, which is now raging across the U.S. and Europe. The drug also failed to reduce deaths during the clinical trial.

      “There’s still an urgent need for effective ways to combat COVID-19 and we will continue to apply our best scientific minds in support of the global pandemic response,” Novartis chief drug developer John Tsai told Reuters.

      Wearable and app provide early detection

      The U.S. Army has signed a contract with technology firm Empatica to deploy a wearable and algorithm that enables the early and pre-symptomatic detection of COVID-19. The purpose is to identify someone who has been infected before the virus can spread.

      Empatica said its Aura algorithm gives a daily risk-indication of an individual having contracted COVID-19 by using physiological data collected by Empatica's medical smartwatch, EmbracePlus. That device has clinical-grade sensors that measure heart rate, heart rate variability, temperature, respiratory rate, and electrodermal activity. It monitors a person's vitals and sends in-app alerts for patterns suggestive of COVID-19 infection, helping wearers self-isolate and seek testing without unwittingly infecting others.

      "Use of wearable tech to prevent rapid spread of COVID-19 within our units is an important capability," said Commander Christopher Steele, Director of the Military Operational Medicine Research Program at USAMRDC. "Key Industry partners are well-positioned to help the DoD in this regard."

      The downside to rapid result tests

      Millions of new coronavirus tests that reveal results in as little as 15 minutes have been deployed across the country. They have allowed organizations large and small to operate with some semblance of normality by providing some reassurance that people are free of the virus.

      But some health officials see a downside. The organizations administering these tests are usually not equipped to record the data. The system now has an incomplete picture of who tests positive or negative.

      According to Stat News, the pandemic has been a “data horror story” from day one. The outlet points out that testing has always been a struggle, leaving cases of the virus undetected and losing information about the patients.

      Around the nation

      • Vermont: Vermont is one rural state where cases of the virus appear to be under control. State officials are crediting the population’s compliance with mitigation efforts. Vermont’s new daily cases peaked at 72, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

      • Washington: Health officials voiced concern this week at the rise in coronavirus cases in the state. They report that some 55 percent of the most recent cases are now in people below the age of 40. However, most deaths are among people aged 60 or older.

      • Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear has issued a color-coded list of Kentucky counties, with red showing where the virus is increasing the most. In the initial list, 80 of the state’s 120 counties show up as red, with a heavy concentration in Northern Kentucky

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 9,628,469 (9,499,45...
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