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COVID-19 Map Tracker | COVID-19 News Features

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Consumer Daily Reports

Trusted reliable news sources from around the web. We offer special news reports, topic news videos, and related content stories. Truly a birds eye view on news.
Photo (c) Richard Maguluko - Getty Images
Foot Locker announced Monday that it will buy two shoe store chains for about $1.1 billion in cash. The first store, U.S.-based WSS, will be purchased for $750 million. The second, Japan-based Atmos, will be purchased for $360 million. Both deals are expected to close late in the third quarter. 

Foot Locker said both transactions will help it extend its reach beyond malls and tap into other consumer bases -- specifically, the Latinx-consumer base and the Asia-Pacific consumer base. WSS has a large Hispanic consumer base at its stores across California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. Atmos, which is headquartered in Japan, has grown in popularity as a result of footwear collaborations with brands like Nike. 

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Foot Locker, Inc., Richard A. Johnson, said Atmos is “uniquely positioned through its innovative retail stores, high digital penetration, and distinctive products that have made it a key influencer of youth and sneaker culture.” 

“With atmos, we are executing against our expansion initiative in the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific market, establishing a critical entry point in Japan and benefitting from immediate scale,” Johnson said. 

Both deals “reflect our commitment to our growth strategy and engaging with new and incremental consumers,” he continued. “With our ongoing investments in the business, we are confident in our ability to continue creating significant long-term value for our shareholders, consumers, vendor partners, and other stakeholders.” 

Photo (c) MistikaS - Getty Images
Are you planning on going out of the country anytime soon? If you don’t have an updated passport, get ready to wait a while because there’s a serious backlog of applications at the passport office.

How long is the waiting period? The agency says applicants need to allow at least six months before any planned international travel. It says some of the backlog is a result of prioritizing customers with life-or-death emergencies

The first recommended steps

According to a passport application guide published by Scott’s Cheap Flights, anyone planning to fly out of the U.S. should first check their current passport if they have one. Passports are good for 10 years for those over the age of 16; they’re good for 5 years for those under 16. Scott Keyes, founder of the airfare deal service, says there’s more to check than the expiration date though. 

“Many countries require that your passport be valid for 3-6 months beyond your travel dates, and that you have at least one blank page (it varies by country, some require more),” Keyes told ConsumerAffairs.

“For example, if you roll up to the airport for a trip to any of the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area and your passport isn’t valid for at least three months beyond your trip, you’re gonna get some bad news.”

The Department of State Travel says appointments must be scheduled by phone: Call 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 TDD/TTY from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, Mondays through Fridays. The agency’s appointment line is closed on weekends and federal holidays. 

What to expect after that

The U.S. Passport office says applicants should expect delays of up to 18 weeks (4 ½) months from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received by the applicant. Mind you, it might not take that long, but the agency is playing it safe. 

It says the 18-week timeframe includes up to 12 weeks for processing and up to 6 weeks for mailing times on the front and back end. Regarding those mailing times, the agency says processing times begin the day it receives your application, not the day you mail it. If you’re in a hurry, an additional $60 will get you expedited service, but it won’t save you much time -- only about six weeks. 

“If that’s still not soon enough, there are two dozen passport agencies around the US where you can get an Urgent Travel or Life-or-Death Emergency appointment,” Keyes suggested. “To cast the widest net, visit the USPS passport site and look for available appointments within 100 miles of your zip code.” 

Here are some other suggestions the Passport office offers:

  • Send your application via trackable mail so you can track your application before it enters the office’s system. The agency said that can be done regardless of whether you apply at an acceptance facility or by mail.

  • Pay an extra $17.56 for 1-2 day delivery for the return of your completed passport.

  • Use the agency’s Self-Service Tools Online. This will allow you to get immediate answers to your questions, and you can check online for your passport status. However, consumers should note that customer service representatives do not give status updates over the phone. 

Photo (c) JJ Gouin - Getty Images
Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌ 

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 35,007,771 (34,981,891)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 613,231 (613,164)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 198,519,853 (198,060,664)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,228,484 (4,220,776)‌

Cases surge in Florida

Florida had a rough weekend. On Saturday, the state set a record for the number of daily new cases; on Sunday, it set a record for hospitalizations.

More than 10,000 COVID-19 patients started the week in Florida hospitals, eclipsing the previous record set in July 2020. The virus has been quickly spreading across the state for several weeks.

The Florida Department of Health reports that cases have risen 50% over the last seven days, with 110,477 infections from July 23 to July 29. As the number of U.S. cases surpassed 35 million, the White House said Florida now accounts for one out of every five new cases nationwide.

Deaths declined in July despite spread of Delta variant

Masks are back on in many areas as health officials grow increasingly concerned about the rapid spread of COVID-19 caused by the highly contagious Delta variant. But despite the large increase in cases of the virus, deaths declined in July.

A ConsumerAffairs analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University showed that 8,426 deaths were attributed to the virus during July, an average of 272 deaths per day. In June, the university’s COVID-19 Tracking Project reported 9,907 deaths, averaging 330 fatalities per day.

New evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are still vulnerable to infection. However, previous research has suggested vaccinated individuals are protected from serious illness in most cases.

Gallup poll shows optimism is fading

The increase in new coronavirus cases is causing businesses to ask customers to put masks back on, and it appears to be weighing on the American psyche. A new Gallup Poll shows that optimism about the end of the pandemic has plunged.

For the first time since January, more U.S. adults have been pessimistic than optimistic about the COVID-19 situation. It’s nearly back to the levels seen during most of 2020, a time before vaccines were available. In November, 73% said the situation was deteriorating amid a dramatic surge in cases last fall.

While the current infection numbers may look discouraging, at least one health expert sees some hope. In an interview last week, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), predicted that the Delta variant would be significantly diminished in the U.S. in about three weeks.

Around the nation

  • Missouri: Despite a low vaccination rate that has made Missouri a COVID-19 hotspot, two Kansas City restaurants say they will require customers to show proof of vaccination. Hamburger Mary’s Kansas City and Woody’s KC will both start requiring proof of vaccination starting Tuesday.

  • New Hampshire: The U.S. government is continuing to close off the border with Canada, and businesses in New Hampshire say they’re feeling the pain. Business leaders have told  U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that the ban on non-essential cross-border travel is costing the state millions of dollars.

  • Georgia: When it comes to masks, Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s largest school districts are at odds. Kemp has said there will be no mandate for students and staff to mask up this fall. The city of Atlanta and surrounding school districts say they plan to require masks.

  • Mississippi: The CDC’s new mask guidance is based on areas of high transmission rates of COVID-19. County statistics show that nearly the entire state of Mississippi falls into that category.

  • Kentucky: Health officials in Eastern Kentucky say the surge in cases caused by the Delta variant is causing many vaccine-hesitant residents to roll up their sleeves. “We are having a lot of calls, a lot more calls about vaccine, taking some appointments,” said Jelaine Harlow with the Lake Cumberland District Health Department. 

Photo (c) Alistair Berg - Getty Images
Zoom has agreed to pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that it violated user privacy by sharing personal data with several social networking sites and allowing hackers to disrupt virtual meetings through a practice called “Zoombombing.”

The settlement money will go toward funding refunds to Zoom users who used the service between March 30, 2016, and the date of the settlement. 

Participants in the proposed suit would be eligible for 15% refunds on their subscriptions or $25, whichever is larger. Those who used the free version of Zoom without a subscription may be able to claim up to $15. The settlement filed on Saturday still requires approval by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California. 

Boosting security

In addition to agreeing to pay the fine, Zoom has agreed to enhance its security measures through changes "designed to improve meeting security, bolster privacy disclosures, and safeguard consumer data.” 

In the suit, Zoom was accused of sharing user data without permission with companies including Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. While Zoom agreed to settle, it has not admitted any wrongdoing. 

“The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us,” the company said in a statement. 

Photo source: Lincoln
Ford Motor Company is recalling approximately 40,995model year 2020-2021 Lincoln Aviators with 3.0-liter gas engines.
The battery cable wire harnesses is not secured properly, allowing contact with the A/C compressor pulley.

Over time, the A/C pulley may rub through the wire harness insulation and contact the unfused battery positive (B+) circuit, resulting in a short circuit and potential fire.

What to do

Dealers will inspect the vehicle, and if there is no evidence that the battery cable has contacted the A/C compressor pulley, they will add a tie strap near the frame rail between the battery cable harness and the engine compartment harness.

If any of the small gauge circuits are damaged, dealers will add a tie strap near the frame rail between battery cable and engine compartment harnesses and replace the A/C compressor belt.

If any of the four large gauge circuits are damaged, dealers will inspect the wire harness and replace the battery cable harness and will also add a tie strap near frame rail between battery cable harness and engine compartment harnesses and replace the A/C compressor belt.

Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 21S34.

Photo (c) Photography by Keith Getter (all rights reserved) - Getty Images
The shift back to wearing face masks has made another strong turnabout. Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and California’s policy changes regarding masking up, Walmart has decided to address the issue for its employees. 

Effective immediately, all company employees must wear face coverings while on the job inside of a Walmart store located in an area of “substantial or high transmission.” That designation is determined by the CDC and even applies to fully vaccinated workers. Shoppers are strongly encouraged to wear masks in stores, but they will not be required to.

Walmart says the CDC is its main guidepost, but it’s also basing its decisions on guidance issued by local health experts. The company also said it will soon implement a new process for verification of vaccine status for U.S. associates.

“We continue to watch with deep concern the developments of the pandemic and the spread of variants, especially the Delta variant,” commented Donna Morris, Chief People Officer, and Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Executive Vice President, Health and Wellness, in announcing the change.

“We know vaccinations are our solution to drive change. We are urging you to get vaccinated and want to see many more of you vaccinated. We realize there is a small number of our associates who cannot get vaccinated due to medical issues or religious reasons.”

Other companies changing mask policies

ConsumerAffairs found the following when researching other companies that are changing mask policies:

Publix: Effective August 2, Publix is requiring associates, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix location.

Theme Parks: At Disney World and Busch Gardens, face coverings are once again required for all guests aged 2 and up while indoors. Universal is again mandating masks for employees, and non-vaccinated guests will have to wear masks while inside any building. Vaccinated guests will not be required to wear a mask when they’re at Universal.

Kroger: In a statement provided to ConsumerAffairs, Kroger said its current mask policy requires unvaccinated employees to wear masks and “requests” that unvaccinated customers wear masks when shopping in stores. 

“In light of the Delta variant and updated CDC recommendations, we strongly encourage all individuals, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask when in our stores and facilities. We will continue to abide by all state and local mandates and encourage all Americans to get vaccinated, including our associates,” a company representative said.