Current Events in December 2020

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    Graco recalls inclined sleeper accessories

    Infant fatalities have been reported with other manufacturers’ inclined sleep products

    Graco Children’s Products of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 51,000 inclined sleeper accessories included with various Graco playard products.

    Infant fatalities have been reported with other manufacturers’ inclined sleep products, after infants rolled from their back to their stomach or side while unrestrained, or under other circumstances.

    No incidents or injuries have been reported with the Graco product.

    This recall involves the inclined sleeper accessory sold with the Graco Pack ‘n Play Day2Dream Playard with Bedside Sleeper, Graco Pack ‘n Play Nuzzle Nest Playard, Graco Pack ‘n Play Everest Playard and Graco Pack ‘n Play Rock ‘n Grow Playard.

    A list of the model numbers, located on a label on the underside of the playyard on one of the tubes, may be found here.

    The inclined sleeper accessory is the only portion of the product that is being recalled.

    The inclined sleeper accessories, manufactured in China, were sold at Babies R Us, BuyBuyBaby and other stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, Target.com and various other websites from November 2017, through September 2020, for Day2Dream Playard & Bedside Sleeper, May 2015, through December 2018, for Nuzzle Nest Playard, September 2015, through December 2018, for Everest Playard, and December 2019, through April 2020, for Rock ‘n Grow Playard, for between $270 and $350.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled inclined sleeper accessory and contact Graco for a refund for the accessory. Consumers may continue to use the playard portion of the product and other accessories included with the playard.

    Consumers may contact Graco at (800) 345-4109 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at https://recalls.gracobaby.com for more information.

    Graco Children’s Products of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 51,000 inclined sleeper accessories included with various Graco playard products. Infant f...

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      Coronavirus update: Stimulus on the way, optimism about a third vaccine

      A vaccine ‘passport’ may be key to getting back to normal

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 19,151,651 (18,986,062)

      Total U.S. deaths: 333,326 (331,929)

      Total global cases: 80,979,476 (80,435,226)

      Total global deaths: 1,768,048 (1,759,408)

      Trump signs stimulus bill

      After going right down to the wire, President Trump has signed the coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus bill into law, sending most Americans, including children, a $600 direct payment.

      As Trump signed the legislation, he issued a list of changes he wants to be made to the legislation, including the removal of some non-pandemic provisions. Democrats have said they have the votes to block that move.

      Trump also called for a second measure increasing the amount of direct payments to Americans to $2,000, which many Democrats support.

      AstraZeneca bullish on its vaccine

      While the vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are rolling out around the world, drugmaker AstraZeneca is expressing optimism about its vaccine that is being developed in conjunction with Oxford University.

      AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times that his company’s COVID-19 vaccine has achieved a “winning formula” for efficacy, saying it provides “100 percent protection” against severe COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization.

      The vaccine is still in clinical trials, but Soriot said he believes it will show the same effectiveness against the virus as the two vaccines currently being distributed. The vaccines produced by Moderna and by Pfizer and BioNTech were shown to be at least 94 percent effective in their recently concluded trials.

      Vaccine passport?

      As more and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, they will likely expect life to return to normal -- with activities like traveling, going to concerts, and crowding into stadiums for sporting events. But how will you know if everyone else has been vaccinated?

      Technology companies are already working on that by developing apps that allow people to upload proof of vaccinations and test results, creating a digital credential.

      The initiative was begun by The Commons Project, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization. It’s getting support from a number of travel-related businesses, including hotels, casinos, and airlines.

      Bracing for a post-holiday surge

      Against all medical advice, millions of Americans traveled over the holidays, something health officials fear could lead to a surge of new cases of the coronavirus in January. Adm. Brett Giroir, who serves as director of U.S. coronavirus diagnostic testing, says a spike in cases may or may not occur.

      "It really depends on what the travelers do when they get where they're going," Giroir told "Fox News Sunday."

      Giroir said the real threat is not the travel itself but the mingling of “bubbles” once people arrive at their destinations. If one person out of a group of a dozen has the virus, it’s likely that many of the others will also get it.

      Therapies going unused

      While there is a race to vaccinate people against the coronavirus and as the U.S. death toll continues to rise, pharmaceutical executives say their drugs to treat people who already have the virus are sitting on the shelf unused.

      The Wall Street Journal reports that the rollout of these therapies has been pushed aside by many infectious disease specialists who say they want more clinical trial data before using them. The report says some providers aren’t even aware that the drugs are available.

      The Journal cites officials at Operation Warp Speed who say hospitals are only using about 20 percent of the monoclonal antibody drugs they receive each week.

      Around the nation

      • Iowa: The coronavirus didn’t take off for the Christmas holiday. State health officials report that Iowa recorded 2,532 new cases and six more COVID-19 deaths between Thursday and Sunday afternoon.

      • New York: The state legislature is expected to give final action today to a bill to halt evictions in the state until May 1. "Far too many of our friends and neighbors struggled to find safe, affordable housing before COVID-19 hit our state," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement.

      • Ohio: Cases of the coronavirus slowed considerably during the holiday week. State health officials said new cases of the virus fell by more than 17 percent. Health officials are bracing, however, for what could be a post-holiday surge.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 19,151,651 (18,986,...

      Holiday spending showed a modest increase in 2020

      The pandemic changed how consumers shopped and what they bought

      Consumers spent more on the holidays than last year, but not by much. In this season shaped by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Mastercard’s SpendingPulse report shows that sales between November 1 and Christmas Eve grew by 2.4 percent year-over-year.

      “American consumers turned the holiday season on its head, redefining ‘home for the holidays’ in a uniquely 2020 way,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard.

      Sales from online shopping grew by a staggering 49 percent. That was hardly a surprise, though, since consumers hunkering down at home were ordering just about everything online.

      What consumers purchased this season was also a bit different. The report shows spending was down on traditional gift items -- notably apparel -- and much higher for home furnishings. In fact, home furniture and furnishings saw the strongest growth of any sector compared to 2019, up 16.2 percent. Online spending for the home surged 31 percent compared to last year.

      People working from home apparently decided they don’t need to dress up. Clothing sales sank 19.1 percent while electronics and appliances were up 6 percent overall.

      Department stores were the big losers because fewer consumers ventured out to malls and shopping centers. Sales were down 10.2 percent year-over-year, though stores with an online channel saw their online sales increase by 3.3 percent.

      Earlier start, earlier end

      Consumers spread their shopping over a wider period this year. A number of major retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, staged promotions in October. The numbers show consumers took advantage of those earlier opportunities.

      “Across our expanded 75-day holiday shopping season, sales were up 3 percent, a testament to the holiday season and strength of retailers and consumers alike,” Sadove said.

      Because so many shoppers depended on shipping, the season drew to a close this year a lot earlier than in the past. After Black Friday, the top shopping day was December 12 -- one of the last days shippers would guarantee delivery before Christmas.

      December 21, the Monday before Christmas, was the third-biggest shopping day in 2019. This year, it didn’t even crack the top 10.

      Consumers spent more on the holidays than last year, but not by much. In this season shaped by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Mastercard’s SpendingPu...

      Vaping could harm cognitive function and thinking ability, study finds

      Researchers worry about the effect on young people’s brain development

      As more and more studies highlight the health concerns associated with vaping -- which include serious lung damage and heart issues -- a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center is exploring how e-cigarettes can affect consumers’ mental function. 

      According to their findings, vaping can have a negative effect on memory, thinking skills, and the ability to focus. The researchers say they are most worried about young people who vape. 

      “Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking,” said researcher Dongmei Li, PhD. 

      Issues with cognitive function

      The researchers conducted two studies to help them better understand what effect vaping has on consumers’ mental faculties. One study analyzed data from over 886,000 participants involved in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, and the other study looked at more than 18,000 responses to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. 

      Ultimately, the researchers learned that participants who vaped or smoked cigarettes were more likely to struggle with cognitive function than those who had never smoked in any capacity. The study revealed that smoking -- whether e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes -- was associated with three primary cognitive issues: decision-making, memory, and concentration. 

      Additionally, the researchers explained that age played a large role in the participants’ cognitive abilities. They found that when participants were younger than 14 when they started vaping or smoking, they were even more likely to have cognitive struggles as adults. 

      Though vaping rates for young people have declined in the last year, and many companies have put age restrictions on e-cigarettes to help prevent young people from picking up the habit, a great deal of e-cigarette advertising has previously been geared towards the younger demographic. The researchers are particularly concerned because high school age is a pivotal time in the brain’s development process. If young people have already picked up a smoking habit by this age, it could affect brain function long-term. 

      “With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests that we need to intervene even earlier,” said Dr. Li. “Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late.” 

      As more and more studies highlight the health concerns associated with vaping -- which include serious lung damage and heart issues -- a new study conducte...

      Hyundai recalls Nexo Fuel Cell and Kona Electric vehicles

      The integrated electronic brake system may malfunction

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 8,176 model year 2019-2020 Nexo Fuel Cell and model year 2019-2021 Kona Electric vehicles. The Integrated Electronic Brake (IEB) system may detect an abnormal sensor signal and -- as a result -- may significantly reduce braking performance.

      Reduced braking power could lengthen the distance required to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will update the IEB software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 22, 2021.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (855) 371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 199.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 8,176 model year 2019-2020 Nexo Fuel Cell and model year 2019-2021 Kona Electric vehicles. The Integrated Electronic Bra...

      Cycling Sports Group recalls Cannondale Canvas NEO bicycles

      The front fender can detach and cause the front wheel to stop abruptly

      Cycling Sports Group of Wilton, Conn., is recalling about 1,270 Cannondale Canvas NEO bicycles.

      The front fender can detach and cause the front wheel to stop abruptly, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received eight reports of the fender detaching and contacting the bicycle wheel, two of which resulted in injuries involving bruising and abrasions.

      This recall involves all Cycling Sports Group Cannondale Canvas NEO bicycles.

      These are “e-bicycles” that have an electric assist motor, and they were sold in a variety of different colors and sizes. Affected bicycles are marked “Canvas” on the top tube and have an electric assist motor.

      Only models of “Canvas” bicycles with an electric assist motor are included in this recall.

      The bicycles, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Cannondale dealers nationwide from June 2019, through October 2020, for between $3,200 and $4,200.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop riding the bicycle until the front fender is removed, and contact their local authorized Cannondale dealer or Cycling Sports Group to arrange for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact their local authorized Cannondale dealer, or Cycling Sports Group at (800) 245-3872 (800-BIKE USA) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday, by email at ridersupport@cannondale.com or online at www.cannondale.com and click on “Recalls and Notices” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Cycling Sports Group of Wilton, Conn., is recalling about 1,270 Cannondale Canvas NEO bicycles. The front fender can detach and cause the front wheel to...

      Coronavirus update: Vaccines tested against new virus stain, tests considered for U.K. arrivals

      Biden considers order to increase vaccine production

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 18,057,172 (17,860,634)

      Total U.S. deaths: 319,827 (317,729)

      Total global cases: 77,556,703 (76,975,940)

      Total global deaths: 1,706,513 (1,697,062)

      Vaccines are being tested against new virus strain

      A new strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19) discovered in the U.K. has raised a troubling question. Will the newly developed vaccines currently being rolled out work against it? The developers are about to find out.

      Both Pfizer and Moderna have said they are testing their vaccines against the mutated virus, which appears to be much more contagious than the original. 

      "We expect that the Moderna vaccine-induced immunity would be protective against the variants recently described in the UK; we will be performing additional tests in the coming weeks," Moderna said in a statement. Pfizer said it is currently generating data on how well blood samples from immunized people "may be able to neutralize the new strain."

      U.S. considers COVID-19 test for arrivals from the U.K.

      After three airlines said they would begin testing arriving passengers from the U.K. for the new strain of the coronavirus, the U.S. government is reportedly considering mandating the move for all carriers.

      If enacted, all passengers traveling from the U.K. would be required to receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. Most European nations have already imposed the requirement.

      New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pressed the issue over the weekend, expressing the concern that some of the thousands of travelers arriving in New York from the U.K. could be carrying the new strain.

      Biden may order more vaccines to be produced

      President-elect Biden is reportedly weighing the possibility of invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to increase the production of the coronavirus vaccines that are now being distributed nationwide.

      Published reports say Biden’s coronavirus advisory team has talked with both scientists and supply chain experts about whether that move would be helpful. The vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech has been moving across the country for more than a week. The Moderna vaccine began distribution on Monday.

      Early in the pandemic, the Trump administration invoked the DPA to increase the production of medical supplies and elements needed to conduct more tests for the virus.

      Pharmacy chains scramble to hire pharmacists

      Both Walgreens and CVS have been pressed into early service to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to nursing homes around the country, and both companies are looking for reinforcements.

      CVS sent a mass email to customers asking for available pharmacists, nurses, and pharmacy techs to sign on. CVS said it is hoping to hire both short- and long-term employees for the project.

      Walgreens may hire as many as 25,000 health care professionals. Specifically, it says it needs as many as 9,000 pharmacists to join its staff of 75,000 pharmacists and technicians.

      Pandemic likely to reduce U.S. life expectancy

      Life expectancy in the U.S. increased slightly in 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says life expectancy may take a step back in 2020 because of the coronavirus. COVID-19 became the third leading cause of death this year.

      There have been well over 300,000 deaths from the virus so far this year, but health officials say other factors are at work. There have been fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer this year, which are the top two causes of death in the U.S.

      Around the nation

      • Missouri: CVS drug stores will be busy next week. The retail pharmacy chain said it plans to administer 100,000 COVID-19 vaccinations at nursing homes around the state next week.

      • New Jersey: State officials are asking residents to keep holiday celebrations to a minimum this week -- or at least, keep the number of participants in check. "Please, even though we all want to, do not hold a large indoor family Christmas gathering or indoor New Year's Eve party," said Gov. Phil Murphy. 

      • Delaware: As Congress prepared to vote on a national aid package, Gov. John Carney and the Delaware Division of Small Business announced a new round of relief funding – $26 million to support small businesses most affected by COVID-19 restrictions. “Small businesses continue to make sacrifices that will help get us through this crisis and beat COVID-19. We owe them our support,” Carney said.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 18,057,172 (17,860,...