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Food Safety Is a Serious Issue at Sports Stadiums Nationwide, ESPN Reports


Many food service providers at NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL venues face serious violations.

The Internet is shuddering in a collective response to a new ESPN investigative report published today, which dives deep into the surprisingly filthy world of food served at professional sporting stadiums across the nation. Journalists at ESPN analyzed more than 16,000 routine food-safety inspections that took place at 111 stadiums in North America between 2016 and 2017—including venues used within the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.

The report showed almost one-third of venues across the country incurred one, if not more, high-level health code violations at half or more of their various food outlets. What is a "high-level violation," exactly? It means a food service outlet operates in such unsanitary conditions that food produced in these spaces would likely pose a risk for foodborne illnesses, such as E.coli.

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Some examples from the report: raw ground beef for burgers and raw fish used in sushi being kept at unsafe temperatures, allowing them to breed potentially life-threatening bacteria before being served; or cooks sweating over food as well as other unsanitary prep conditions; or beef blood dripping onto shelves and remaining uncleaned. Details from the ESPN report highlighted what many on the Internet are calling horrifying tales from local health departments’ inspections.

Interested in avoiding unsanitary bacteria? Read on:

Which stadiums had the worst offenders, you may ask? Those visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, may want to think twice about dining at the Spectrum Center—this stadium was listed as the worst offender on ESPN's report, with 92 percent of their food outlets possessing health code violations in the last two years. Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit (which is now closed) and American Airlines Center in Dallas took second and third for highest violation rates, with 86.11 and 83 percent, respectively.

Golden State Warriors fans can rest easy, however, as the Oracle Arena in Oakland had the fewest violations, with a violation rate of only 1.12 percent. State Farm Arena in Atlanta had the second lowest rates of violations, at 4.17 percent, while NRG Stadium in Houston was a close third, at 4.44 percent.

If you're interested in learning more about the food being served in your local area, ESPN has created an interactive tool to help you understand where they rank on cleanliness and food safety


Food Safety Is a Serious Issue at Sports Stadiums Nationwide, ESPN Reports - Recipes

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Caramel Apples Linked to Listeria Outbreak, 5 Reported Deaths

Caramel Apples, commercially produced and prepackaged, are being linked to a Listeria outbreak that has caused 5 deaths and 21 hospitalizations in㺊 states.

 While we have recently seen recalls related to Listeria being detected on apple slices, this is one of the first cases of a Listeria outbreak related to apples.  Considering that there are as many illnesses and deaths, this is the type of outbreak that will have a huge impact on fruit packers and processors.

At this point, there is little information on the circumstances, but certainly more will follow.

Melted caramel is liquid in the 125F to 150F range, so depending on how fast it cooled, Listeria could survive on the surface.  It also could be forced into the apple via the wooden stake.

At this point, it may be wise to avoid caramel apples.

  • Apples that were probably washed, but in less-than-sanitary quality water contaminates the apple, and most importantly the calyx.  
  • Apples were stored prior to adding caramel, providing a greater chance for biofilm formation at the calyx end.
  • The stick, when shoved into the calyx of the apple, drags the inoculum into the center of the apple.
  • The core, perhaps not having as low a pH compared to the cells in the pulp, may be more apt to support the growth of Listeria.
  • Growth is further supported by the storage of those apples at room temperature..and that temperature may even be higher in that those apples were dipped in the warm caramel.
  • If the processor used bulk storage apples, the conditions for supporting biofilm would probably be greater.
  • Caramel apples can have a sell-by-date as long as one month, and this will provide more opportunity for growth, even if that growth is slow.
  • Using tree run fruit that is sorted for fresh sales.
  • Sanitizing apples followed by proper drying.  Sanitizer concentration must be controlled.
  •  Storage of fresh apples at refrigerated temperature in boxes with separators.
  •  Pre-dip the sticks in an acid sanitizing solution.
  •  Chilling apples after dipping in caramel,
  •  Storage of the caramel apples at refrigeration temperature.
  • Limit shelf-life of caramel apples.
  •  Can the calyx of the apple be removed?


CDC Outbreak Notices


Monday, December 17, 2018

Company Issues Another Recall for Nut Butter Product After Conducting Further Testing

Inspired Organics, LLC is recalling Organic Almond Butter due to potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.   This comes a week after the company had issued a recall for Sunflower Butter, due to Listeria which was the result of testing conducted by Mich. Dept of Ag.  This lot of Almond Butter is now being recalled because of additional tests conducted by Inspired Organics after they had the  Sunflower Butter contamination issue.

https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm628680.htm
Inspired Organics Issues Voluntary Recall of Organic Almond Butter Due to Potential Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 17, 2018

Produce Company Linked to E. coli Outbreak Issues Recall for Leaf Lettuce and Cauliflower, WA Sandwich Company Recalls Product

Adam Brothers, the only farm identified by FDA as one of the potential sources of the E.coli linked Romaine lettuce recall, issued a recall for leaf lettuce and cauliflower.  In a statement issued by the company, "The recall was initiated after it was discovered that sediment from a reservoir near where the produce was grown tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. Filtered and treated water from the
reservoir may have come in contact with the produce after it was harvested. None of the filtered,
treated water has tested positive for E. coli, all E. coli tests returning negative."

A Spokane WA sandwich company is recalling sandwiches made with green leaf lettuce grown by Adam Brothers.

While the leaf lettuce filets have not been tested to determine whether or not they have E. coli contamination, the fact that the E. coli was found in a sediment sample was sufficient enough evidence for the produce grower to issue a recall.  From the sandwich company's notice, "The affected products distributed by Spokane Produce include green leaf lettuce that was originated and recalled from Adam Bros. Farming Inc. of Santa Maria, CA."

https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm628722.htm
Adam Bros. Farming, Inc. Recalls Red and Green Leaf Lettuce and Cauliflower Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 17, 2018

California Company Recalls Salad Due to Listeria Positive Sample

Hopefully this company has faith in thier controls that the Listeria is limited to one lot, which would mean that the contamination is more an incidental, transient issue rather than an endemic, process-source contamination.  In the past, recalls start off small with companies assuming contamination was a one day event, only to expand as they discover the issue is much bigger.

FDA Recall Notice
https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm628566.htm
Apio, Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Five Skus of Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups™
For Immediate Release
December 15, 2018


The Queen Bee of Foodtech

This article appears in May/June 2015: Issue No. 40 of Edible Manhattan.

When Google, Amazon and the White House want to talk food and technology, they call Danielle Gould.

Meat Hackathon presented by Food Tech Connect | Photo by Mona T. Brooks

HACKING FOOD

On a spectacular Saturday last June, the cavernous sixth floor loft of General Assembly, the leading provider of programming classes in Manhattan, just across from the Flatiron Building, began to fill up. People checked in, browsed the juices, chia bars and Brooklyn Roasting Co. coffee, and started pecking on their MacBooks and iPhones.

Dress code was mostly T-shirts and jeans, TOMS, Converse or flip-flops. A clique of developers recently back from Google I/O were giggling over a poor-man’s Oculus Rift made out of an iPhone, cardboard and duct tape.

A who’s who of Gotham’s food and tech communities convened — staff from Facebook, Instagram, Cover, AmazonFresh, Mouth, ’wichcraft, Sea to Table, R/GA digital, Google, Sweetgreen, Feeding10Billion.com, Fitbit, Jawbone, AccelFoods, Culinary Institute of America, New York Angels — along with a bevy of start-ups.

And then Danielle Gould, the CEO and founder of Food + Tech Connect, a smiley 31 years old with long brown hair, took the microphone. “This isn’t just a community,” she said. “It’s a movement of many different types of people who want to use technology to improve the food system.” There was serious business to be done. Gould and her team had spent the last half year organizing this event, dubbed Hack//Dining, Gould’s fifth food-focused hackathon.

Glittering in a little black dress — the queen bee of the foodtech ecosystem — she explained that the goal wasn’t just to put together some very good brains to fix problems in our food system. The team from Google Food, a few unapologetically bespectacled in Google Glass, sought to encourage people to make food and behavior choices that allow them to achieve their personal and professional lifestyle goals. The Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group asked for a cloud-based dashboard where restaurants could navigate and comply with Byzantine health codes, anywhere in the world. Chipotle wondered how it could use technology to make restaurant design and operations more sustainable. Applegate wanted a solution for gathering eater feedback in large venues, like stadiums and food festivals.

These are heady times for the intersection of food and tech. Brita Rosenheim of Rosenheim Advisors reported in December that foodtech and food media industries have doubled in the last three years, investing $2.4 billion in 2014. Companies gathered even more than that — $3 billion — in the first quarter of this year alone. In April the Wall Street Journal reported that venture capital firms poured half a billion into agriculture and food last year, up by 54 percent.

While there’s been talk of a foodtech bubble, Rosenheim thinks we’re at the beginning of a long uptrend. The space has just begun to attract interest from large players in food, not to mention completely different industries considering leapfrogging into food through tech. Consider this collage: J. C. Penny partnered with Epicurious.com to market Epicurious-branded cookware Mars partnered with UC Davis to launch the tech-forward Innovation Institute for Food and Health Uber is plotting UberEssentials, a 10-minute grocery option Overstock launched a farmers market subsite. Even Under Armour is flirting with the field through its acquisition of calorie-intake apps MyFitnessPal and Endomondo. David Chang recently raised $25 million to launch Maple, a curated food delivery service. Amazon has rolled out AmazonFresh in Seattle, San Francisco and Brooklyn and launched a different grocery service in India called KiranaNow that’s heading for other cities in South Asia. The bustling marketplace hasn’t stopped at least a dozen wine, beer and spirits delivery services from rolling out nationwide, including Drizly, Minibar, Saucy, Pink Dot and Klink. (One of them was delivering cannabis in California until regulators asked them to stop.)

The biggest strategy deal to date seems to be Rocket Internet’s multi-billion dollar move to “create the biggest Internet-based food-ordering service outside of China,” according to a recent Rosenheim report. The network, internally called the “Global Online Takeaway Group,” now owns online food ordering in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, including the following local affiliate sites: Delivery Hero in America, Foodpanda in 14 Asian nations and 11 countries in Africa, HelloFresh in New York and Berlin, Talabat in Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, La Nevera Roja in Spain, PizzaBo in Italy and Yemeksepeti in Turkey.

Not to mention hundreds of smaller launches, mergers and acquisitions. In the AgFunder newsletter from early March, rounds of funding were announced for SWIIM (a water rights trading platform for farmers), Edyn (a smart garden sensor) and Agribotix (a family of drones and software designed for tending orchards).

6SensorLabs, which recently raised $4 million, is developing what it calls the first portable and accurate gluten sensor, while Rowbot’s weed-munching droids can be deployed in flocks of dozens to control weeds — and plant cover crops! — between corn plants. Food + Tech Connect (FTC) counted nearly two dozen entities that launched in 2014 to accelerate, incubate and fund food businesses, including two for beer (CraftFund and CrowdBrewed), Barnraiser (a Kickstarter for food businesses), 7-Ventures, launched by 7-Eleven to invest in food and foodtech start-ups, and Cultivian Sandbox, a Chicago-based incubator launched by Monsanto.

Gould has ridden this wave, wielding FTC’s logo, a brilliant hybrid of a head of wheat and a USB plug. And she has arguably helped fuel this growth by nurturing each new class/generation/vintage of start-ups in the food space.

“Smart technology is going to eat up the world,” social media guru and investor Gary Vaynerchuk said recently, while talking about the wearable tech that’s also starting to ripple through our virtual foodshed. Vaynerchuk, an early investor in Resy, Drizly, Grove Labs and other foodtech, drinktech and hospitech companies, made his first fortune selling wine online. But he could have easily been talking about smart tractors, handheld cloud-connected food safety probes and the SavorBand, a rubber RFID-enabled wristband developed by NYC-based ClearHart to allows attendees to record everything they liked at food and drink festivals. “It allows the physical to do so much more. Recall, push content, unlocking virtual places.”

When we consult Yelp for where to eat or stock our pantry from FreshDirect, when a restaurant owner logs in to a dashboard to see how her waitstaff are performing or a corn farmer assesses crop health using drone-gathered data, technology is radically shifting the way we decide what to grow and eat.

In fact, that’s what technology is doing to our food system. It is expanding the food chain. A smart tractor can know things that a farmer has never known. (Of course, a farmer can also know things that a tractor can never know.) “Be guided by the analytics, not your instinct,” is the mantra in the tech space. And when we consult Yelp for where to eat or stock our pantry from FreshDirect, when a restaurant owner logs in to a dashboard to see how her waitstaff are performing or a corn farmer assesses crop health using drone-gathered data, technology is radically shifting the way we decide what to grow and eat. Enhancing the physical food chain with a digital overlay. Smart kitchens and cookware appliances have been demoed at the gadget gathering CES for years. At Hack//Dining, I held a smart cutting board that could weigh, identify and log foods being cut. All that info was accessible from a dashboard on my phone or could be fed into my Fitbit nutrition log via Bluetooth.

“What they are doing is awesome,” said the serial entrepreneur and investor Alain Bankier of the players assembled to disrupt large-scale dining. Bankier is the former CEO of the Manischewitz Company and is arguably one of the kingmakers of the New York foodtech industry, with investments in Mouth, Plated, Homer and other firms. “They are dragging the hospitality business into today’s world,” he continued, juggling multiple conversations and grazing on pickles and seaweed-topped vegan hot dogs. “Big, big shift is younger people moving at a rapid rate toward this being the norm.” He was stream of consciousness now, referring to mobile reservation booking, online grocery shopping, geolocation around what we’re eating right now. “And it’s not going to cost us more. It will just happen. Boom. It’s happening.”

THE SMART GRID FOR FOOD

Gould didn’t set out to be the queen bee of foodtech. She grew up in Maryland. Her father owns a small advertising agency that specializes in nonprofit, political and car advertising. Her mother was one of the first female insurance agents at New York Life. (“They turned my mom down 12 times, but she kept going back until they hired her.”)

She stopped eating red meat when she was 11 years old but would turn pescatarian when she went to Israel and lived on a kibbutz as a high school senior. “Other than that, I grew up eating lots of processed, low-fat foods.” There were big family gatherings on the Eastern Shore on summer weekends and feasts for Jewish holidays, which Gould says contributed to “my proclivity to convene people.”

Ironically, Gould was a self-proclaimed technophobe. “I was that person that in my computer class in high school always lost files. I was definitely very scared of technology.”

Her interest in food as more than just something to eat blossomed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000. A sociology major dabbling in systems thinking and social entrepreneurship, she took a course with environmental historian William Cronin, who, on the first day of class, described the history of the American environment from the perspective of a loaf of bread. “My mind was blown,” she says. She suddenly started bumping into all sorts of food system examples in her studies. “I remember visiting a CSA and holding a chicken while discussing vegetarianism. And then we went to a landfill.” It was five years of “lots of different twists and turns, and then I had an ‘aha’ moment where I realized that, like food, the Internet is also a system. The rest is history.”

While pursuing a master’s in nonprofit management at the New School, Gould developed dual passions in green buildings and social entrepreneurship and eventually decamped to an intentional community in Arizona where she got some dirt under her nails and marveled at an Earthship-like “energy apron” built atop a mesa. She returned to New York knowing that food was her future and that the future of food was about to be completely rewritten.

Gould responded to a job announcement from BrightFarm Systems, a Manhattan-based start-up in the indoor and rooftop farming space, and joined as a sort of utility player, doing PR, business development and administration. Budget was minimal, so Gould invested heavily in Twitter and how to wield it for contact cultivation. “I became amazed by how much information in the food world we’re openly sharing. And this is information that we couldn’t get as a company, but that we really needed to inform our consulting work.” We needed data like how much food was being grown in the city? What are the prices paid to producers? She started asking: “What if someone could scrape all that data together to get a better real-time picture of what’s going on in the food system?”

“I realized that at the core of so many of the issues in our food system is this core lack of information flow. All of a sudden, technology became a thing that you could use, to connect people, to aggregate ideas and to improve decision making.” Gould threw herself into this effort. Staying up all night and trying to build a framework that could be used by others like her and even those she didn’t yet know. “I wanted to build this smart grid for food.”

“I was starting from a very data-centric standpoint. But at the core, people don’t necessarily want to share their data. It’s really about establishing trust. It’s about connecting people offline. It’s about improving the systems, and better understanding what needs to be built. And how to build things that are better.”

And then she got an alert from Meetup announcing a new group: the Food+Tech Meetup. “There were three of us that showed up,” says Holley Atkinson, the tech strategist and food activist. The third was Elizabeth McVay Greene, who created the Meetup. (The group now has over 2,000 registered members, and the monthly Meetups themselves are packed to the gills.) Greene and Gould started collaborating on a number of projects their big shared idea was the “Networked Food System” — a food system whose web of support wasn’t built only of fields and farms and freight haulers but also access to data, digital communication and automation. “I had an idea for an app that connected food artisans with underutilized kitchen space,” said Gould. Food + Tech Connect became the landing page for a SurveyMonkey to test the idea. They quickly moved onto other ideas, although the survey (and their social media–based link-spreading) was driving about 70 respondents a day. (Greene would go on to found Plovgh, a “marketing, logistics, and purchasing partner for farms and foodmakers,” that she still runs.) Gould started posting content (lists, links, graphics) to share what they were finding in the foodtech space. One of the first posts was an infographic of the global food system. It went viral. Michael Pollan included it as his link of the day. What Gould found most intriguing and exciting was that just as many food people were sharing it as designers, technologists, economists, politicians.

Among those drawn to it was Will Turnage. “Oh my gosh, it’s my people,” Turnage recalls feeling. An avid cook and senior vice president of technology at the ad agency R/GA, Turnage had caught the foodtech bug, collaborating with chef Michael Ruhlmann on the Ratio app and the Bread Baking Basics app. In these early meetups, often at Jimmy’s 43, the format included giving everyone an opportunity to make a rapid presentation on what they were working on. “It’s a very entrepreneurial space,” says Turnage. “The meetings were filled with farmers, cooks, homebrewing coders, graphic designer–jammakers. You kind of had all walks of life coming into the space.” Among the first expressions of this nascent creativity was when Turnage and Mike Lee, an entrepreneur and product designer (who would become Gould’s husband), presented “My Robotic Kitchen Planned This Dinner Party” at SXSW in 2012. Lee, an early foodtech adopter who is also behind, had launched Studiofeast, a pop-up dinner party platform in Brooklyn in 2007. “We got together and pitched this idea to South By and then built the software, and then threw a dinner party, and then gave the talk.” (Google it the slideshare still exists.)

Today, nearly all Food + Tech Connect’s activities contribute in some way to building out that grid, from collecting feedback from their online entrepreneur courses to building up an online database of interviews with movers and shakers in the space. “I was starting from a very data-centric standpoint. But at the core, people don’t necessarily want to share their data. It’s really about establishing trust. It’s about connecting people offline. It’s about improving the systems, and better understanding what needs to be built. And how to build things that are better.”

And Gould has become a keystone individual in the foodtech ecosystem in New York and beyond. “She came out of nowhere when there wasn’t all this New York interest in this in 2009 and 2010,” said Paul Matteucci, a venture capitalist at U.S. Ventures who focuses on food and ag. “She’s really been a major catalyst in making it all happen.” Matteucci first reached out to Gould when one of his advisers, Ken Caplan of Blackstone, saw an article on Gould in the Wall Street Journal. Matteucci, whose Twitter handle is @foodcrunch, cold-called her. They met up the next time he was in New York and have been in contact ever since. “We meet quite frequently to talk and give each other access to each other’s network,” he says. Matteucci, who also founded a nonprofit called Feeding 10 Billion to help entrepreneurs doing food system change, recently collaborated with Gould on a short course on raising money for your food start-up. “In terms of foodtech, which is the end of the supply chain” — compared to agtech or croptech — “I’d say that she’s taken pretty much the lead nationally. There’s a view that we were pioneers back then and now it seems like everybody is interested in food.”

CREATING CASUAL COMESTIBLE COLLISIONS

According to Wikipedia, the first-ever hackathon was held in 1999, either at Sun Microsystems or UC Berkeley. The events gather coders, designers and venture capitalists to quickly develop new software, often subsisting on energy drinks and little sleep.

Food + Tech Connect’s hackathons are notably different from most in two ways: much better food and a diverse group working around a goal rooted in a broken food system. At the very first one in 2010, which was in SoHo, one team built software to ease group buying of whole animals. Another hackathon project was all around food policy — and landed Gould a closed-door meeting at the White House. Another team was focused on using data to create a data visualization around something. “It was one of the first hackathons I had ever been to that was more content-based than technology-based,” said Turnage. Flyers on the tables asked: “What would the world look like if healthier food was affordable?”

Attendees were given a handbook that contained “The Design Hacking Toolkit,” a sort of 101 of future-friendly design thinking. The mission: “You’re here to hack and improve someone’s journey as they try to accomplish good in the world of dining.”

“What works? What doesn’t work? What would you change?” the facilitator Mike Lee asked repeatedly that night. Lee, founder and head of Studio Industries, a future-oriented branding and product strategy firm that developed the Future Market among other ventures, popped in on teams consuming reams of Post-its, posting queries at GitHub, drafting mock-ups in Proto. io, honing pitches with Keynotopia. “Who are your users? What are their needs? What insights influence your answer?” (Remember, we’re talking about food here.)

For instance, leadership from Applegate and Farm Aid aimed to get foodservice to “hack stadium food” — that is, replace Bud Light with local microbrews, offer a humanely raised heritage hot dog, fresher buns, small-batch sauerkraut on compostable dishware. Google had sent over a few executive chefs to listen in. “Danielle has this great ability to bring a wide variety of different stakeholders in this intersection of food and tech together without imposing her own perspective on the overall discussions,” said Michiel Bakker, the head of Google Food, which coordinates food and wellness for Google’s 50,000 employees worldwide. “She creates platforms and opportunities for people to have what we would call casual collisions. They tend to produce all kinds of interesting and new things.”

This was the third hackathon Applegate had co-hosted with Food + Tech Connect. “It’s rare that issues within the food system are tackled by groups that contain techies, designers, farmers, policymakers, entrepreneurs,” said Gina Asoudegan, director of communications for Applegate, who was there because hackathons can help the company fulfill its mission of “changing the meat we eat.” According to Asoudegan, one example of tech assisting the nose-to-tail utilization of meat relies on a “cloud-based inventory network,” which facilitates meat and poultry distribution from small, regional farms, providing the necessary economies of scale and streamlined supply chain to sell to large foodservice accounts like hospitals and school districts. Asoudegan finds the holistic approach and tireless passion of these hackathons immensely effective and impactful. At the Hack//Meat event in San Francisco, Applegate presented a challenge “that we were certain we understood from every angle,” Asoudegan explained. “However, when we presented it to the attendees, someone spoke up and completely reframed the problem in a way we never could have done with the knowledge base we were working from.”

This became FTC’s first pivot: How could we support them to build awesome stuff? Then our goal is to be kind of the connector and teacher in all of that. “We’re still figuring out the best way to do it,” said Gould, “but that’s the ultimate vision.”

Asoudegan listed how technology could bolster her lobbying work by quickly and widely measuring consumer sentiment on genetically modified foods, antibiotic use in livestock and farm estate tax crises. Food companies can hone their marketing materials and respond to real-time demands, and so can politicians, ideally. “It’s all possible, but it will take new ideas and solutions — many of which will involve technology.”

“Our goal is to create this infrastructure for the networked food system,” Gould told the crowd. All of a sudden there were all these other companies that were starting to build pieces of this smart grid — from allergen databases like Ingredient1 and the food investment mapping reports from Rosenheim to AgFunder’s agtech start-up database. Why should Food + Tech Connect be re-creating the wheel these start-ups were doing better and faster? This became FTC’s first pivot: How could we support them to build awesome stuff? Then our goal is to be kind of the connector and teacher in all of that. “We’re still figuring out the best way to do it,” said Gould, “but that’s the ultimate vision.”

GROWTH INDUSTRY

Even as all this dough gets plowed into foodtech — not to mention agtech (farm drones, handheld food safety sensors, robotic poultry butchers), hospitech (robot waiters, iPad-based menus) and nutritech (edible packaging, personal Food IDs) — there’s plenty of concern that the same venture capital model that could push valuation of Uber, Periscope, Instagram and Instacart to new heights, may be unprepared to deal with our most essential human endeavor — feeding ourselves. “I’ve got serious concern that the ‘move fast and break things mentality’ can help fix our food system,” said Michael Lippold of FreshRealm.

Matteucci is similarly wary that the approach he uses in his day job may run roughshod over the food chain, with no guarantee of making it more sustainable, equitable or even more delicious. “This roaring interest in foodtech and agtech isn’t that different in many ways from the introduction of the tractor,” said Matt Rothe, co-founder of the FEED Collaborative at Stanford. Like previous generations of farm tools, foodtech threatens to set farmers on a technology treadmill that ultimately pushes them to borrow money or scale up in order to justify the investment. “This is an allegory for every technology that has been developed since, and that includes artificial pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, it includes specialization of farming equipment and technology,” said Rothe, who was previously the director of operations at Niman Ranch and led the Sustainable Food Program for Stanford Dining. “It’s all the same story.”

It’s true that if you look at the spectrum of foodtech innovations, they run the gamut from mission-focused apps to connect food pantries and food to ideas and products that verge on sci-fi creepy: the data-driven meal-replacement powder Soylent that talks of eliminating the need to cook or the robotic bartenders being demoed in Tokyo hotels and on cruise ships or the 20,000-acre citrus groves using drones to scout for disease outbreaks. Which should make us glad that Gould has surrounded herself with sustainability-minded allies and mentors, and sees technology as a tool to bring good, healthy food to people everywhere.

Gould recently spearheaded the American contingent at Seeds & Chips, the first international foodtech expo in Milan. She returned emboldened and rejuvenated by the different approach to foodtech in Europe. More important, because there’s little venture capital culture in the Old World, most of the entrepreneurs she met were single-mindedly focused on creating an amazing experience for their users (folks ordering food online in small-town Italy apps to streamline regional procurement for school cafeterias) rather than building-to-sell as American entrepreneurs are wont to do.

“Tech won’t solve fundamental problems in the food system, but it is a critical component,” said Nevin Cohen, faculty associate of the NYC food policy center at Hunter College, “and Food + Tech Connect has become the place to go for information on innovations in this sector.”

Really, FTC is not a media company or a data aggregator or a groovy meetup. It is a connection machine, as the name implies, between the world of food and the world of technology. Gould calls herself a “social alchemist and data forager” on her Twitter profile. “I connect innovators at the intersection of food & gov 2.0, tech, data science, design, research, entrepreneurship.”

Which explains Gould’s latest pivot — ed.foodtechconnect.com: online and in-person, expert-taught business courses for food entrepreneurs launched last spring. They’ve had hundreds of sign-ups and will be rolling out additional course offerings in e-commerce, business planning and true-cost accounting. In this realm, too, Gould’s special sauce is the ability to open the door wider. To not just play to the coders and geeks, but to put them in a room in front of Danny Meyer or Marcus Samuelsson, who both lectured as part of “The Power of Brand: Growing Your Restaurant,” a first-of-its-kind boot camp. Samuelsson waxed poetic about how social media allows him to banter with many more diners than he could ever meet in person, while Meyer, an early adopter of such hospitech tools as OpenTable and Avero, explained how hospitality is just as important when making a reservation online as when on the phone.

In addition to the boot camps, FTC cooked up, in conjunction with Force Brands: FoodForce | BevForce, a “Fail Fridays” series that has seen packed rooms of folks just relaxing into happy hour to hear colleagues — big- and small-talk about their fails — and hopefully, teaching moments, pivots and successful exit from Rick’s Picks, Dig Inn, REDWOOD new york and Entrepreneurist. “It’s not easy being a food innovator,” the promo material proclaimed. “There’s no road map for reinventing an industry.”

Perhaps what makes Gould most effective is her favoring “product before personality.” “From an early point on it wasn’t just about Food Tech Connect and the Food Tech Meetup and the site,” says Turnage. “She was a very active collaborator with so many people’s food projects.” Colleagues speak of her fondly as both “catalyst” and “cheerleader.” “Danielle doesn’t eat meat and still dove wholeheartedly into butchering a pork shoulder at Eat Retreat,” said Heather Marold Thomason of Eat Retreat, an annual gathering of the food community held around the nation, which Gould has attended and helped support. “She embraced the retreat as an opportunity to unplug, play and build relationships with future collaborators. Danielle is an active member of our alumni network and an invaluable resource for the food entrepreneurs among us.”

FTC is a nurturing force for this growing ecosystem that stretches the food chain that we currently know into other dimensions. Equip a standard tractor with a few sensors and servos, and you give the farmer access to information they have never had. Instead of recipe books in our home pantry, platforms like Food52 and FeedFeed blow the culinary universe wide open — at our fingertips. What does a cloud-based food system look like? What does food look like in the cloud? Is it better for us or worse?

“There’s so much innovation going on in the food space, nobody knows how to make money off of it,” said Turnage. “Food + Tech Connect has hit on something that allows them to create huge amounts of value in the food world, in the tech world, in the emerging business space.” Food start-ups are unique because, as Turnage says, “there’s a pairing of this millennia-old food artisanship with this new world of mobile and online and digital and Twitter marketing and Pinterest.”

Matteucci, who taught a popular fund-raising course through Food + Tech Connect in February of this year (“This course will teach you everything you need to launch a kick-ass crowdfunding campaign,” the course promo announced), thinks the demand is national. “Education for entrepreneurs is the right focus. It will be interesting to see the audience when Danielle takes it to places like Minneapolis and Denver and the Bay Area, other places where there’s a lot of entrepreneurs working on food and tech.”

Throughout the food chain, a new generation of future-friendly companies comes to calcified issues with fresh eyes and sees new solutions. “What would it look like if we started over?” Hampton Creek Foods has famously asked.

“New York is this multi-headed monster that could dominate the space, especially the end of the food chain, more than Silicon Valley.”

Gould is also focused on a bigger geopolitical aspiration: establishing New York as the global center of innovation and entrepreneurship around food and technology. “New York is poised to become that foodtech hub because, unlike most other cities, New York is a hub for a diverse number of industries. We have a strong tech community, but fashion is based here, media is based here, Wall Street is based here,” says R/GA’s Turnage. Matteucci agrees: “New York is this multi-headed monster that could dominate the space, especially the end of the food chain, more than Silicon Valley.”

To further plant that flag in the sand, later this year, Gould and Lee are launching Alpha Food Labs, a brick and mortar “innovation space” in lower Manhattan that will be part co-working opportunity, part mini-MBA school. “A project in support of good food innovation,” according to Lee.

“Our goal is to work with our multi-disciplinary network partners to build a robust ecosystem for food system innovation,” says Gould. And then there’s the food mission. “We want to increase the supply and accessibility of good food,” she adds. “We’re going to do this by lowering the barriers to success for entrepreneurs and by making it easier for big companies to do good.”

Editor’s note, May 3, 2015: This story version includes images and text not in the print version, as well as the following corrections. Paul Matteucci is a venture capitalist at U.S. Ventures he was not at Hack//Dining, but has attended earlier Food + Tech Connect hackathons. Mike Lee founded StudioFeast,pop-up dinner party platform in Brooklyn, in 2007, not after “My Robotic Kitchen Planned This Dinner Party” at SXSW in 2012. Danielle Gould was 31 at the time of Hack//Dining, which was Food + Tech Connect’s fifth hackathon, not its fourth. Food + Tech Ed was launched last Spring, and has offered 5 ecourses since then. Alpha Food Labs is not an accelerator it is a co-working and education space.

Portrait credit: Matt Furman, James Collier and Julie Lowry Illustration credit: Gabrielle Muller


Recalls in August 2010

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Bella Kitchen Slow Cookers Recalled

Sensio has received 60 reports of the control panels of the slow cookers smoking, melting and sparking and three reports of panels catching fire. Fourteen incidents resulted in minor damage to countertops. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves the Bella Kitchen 5-quart programmable slow cookers. Only slow cookers with model number WJ-5000DE and date codes 0907 or 0909 are included in this recall. The slow cookers are black and "Bella Kitchen" is marked on the control panel. The model number and the four-digit date code are printed on a label on the underside.

The slow cookers, made in China, were sold by Kohl's Department stores from July 2009 through December 2009 for between $20 and $40.

Consumers should stop using the slow cooker immediately, unplug it and contact Sensio for information on receiving a full refund.

For additional information, contact Sensio toll-free at (888) 296-9675 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or visit the firm's website at www.acbpromotions.com/sensiorecall

The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

32-Inch Sharp LCD-TVs Recalled

This recall involves Sharp 32-inch LCD-TVs with model number LC-32SB28UT. The model number, serial number and manufacture dates of March 2010 through April 2010, are printed on a label on the back of the unit. Serial numbers included in the recall are:

Serial Number Range
0028 32837 through 0028 35190
0048 57501 through 0048 59020
0048 61401 through 0048 64020
0048 72001 through 0048 78800

No other model or serial number is included in this recall.

The TVs, made in China, were sold by major retail stores nationwide from March 2010 through August 2010 for about $550.

Consumers should immediately contact Sharp to arrange for a free replacement stand neck support.

For additional information, contact Sharp at (800) 291-4289 anytime, or visit the firm's website at www.sharpusa.com

The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Medical Device Maker Settles $1.35 Million Mass. Charges

Product pushed for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration

The payment will resolve allegations that it marketed certain orthopedic products for uses that had not been reviewed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and misled health care providers about the appropriate uses of its products.

As a result of a multi-year investigation, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley alleged that Stryker violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices that boosted sales of certain products used in orthopedic procedures to strengthen and promote growth of bones.

Under the terms of the settlement, Stryker will pay $325,000 in civil penalties, $875,000 to fund efforts to combat unlawful marketing and other programs to benefit health care consumers, and $150,000 to cover attorneys' fees and investigative costs.

"Stryker Biotech subverted review procedures designed to safeguard patients and promoted uses of its products that were not shown to be safe or effective," Coakley said. "Our office will vigorously pursue any allegations that health care companies are compromising patient safety in pursuit of profits."

Unauthorized uses

The attorney general's investigation focused on the company's marketing of OP-1 Implant and OP-1 Putty, which are bone morphogenetic protein products designed to promote bone growth and are used to treat orthopedic conditions involving weakened or deteriorated bones. The OP-1 products were granted a limited approval by the FDA that restricted the use of the products. With this limited form of approval, the OP-1 products could be used in patients only after a hospital's Institutional Review Board reviewed and approved their use.

In a complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the attorney general's office alleged that Stryker promoted OP-1 products for conditions that fell outside their very narrow FDA-approved uses and withheld information from health care professionals about the restrictions imposed on the use of the OP-1 products. The complaint also claimed that a Stryker sales representative falsified Institutional Review Board documentation for several Massachusetts hospitals, resulting in the use of OP-1 products in patients without adequate and required review.

In addition, the AG's complaint alleged that Stryker promoted the use of its OP-1 products in combination with Calstrux, a bone void filler made by Stryker, even though the mixture of the two products had not been studied and had not been approved by the FDA. Stryker continued to promote the unproven and unstudied OP-1/Calstrux mixture even after company officials became aware of reports that the mixture had caused adverse effects in patients, including poor wound healing and inflammation, according to the complaint.

The settlement bars Stryker and related Stryker entities including Stryker Corporation, Stryker Sales Corporation and Howmedica Osteonics, from engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices, including marketing Stryker products for uses that have not been reviewed and approved by the FDA and misleading health care providers about the appropriate uses of Stryker products.

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Suit Filed Against Duo Who Targeted Seniors With Medicaid Ploy

Pair preyed on nursing home residents, promising help that never came, officials say

The lawsuit contends the scam was orchestrated by two individuals who later left the state and now reside in New Mexico. Andrea L. West and George W. West, formerly of Dublin, are charged with multiple violations of Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitation Sales Act.

Misrepresentation

"The Wests operated a business called Estate Planning Paralegal Services and told consumers they were paralegals, when in fact that was a misrepresentation," said Cordray. "They targeted residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the state, promising to help the residents apply for Medicaid."

Cordray says while the Wests received thousands of dollars in payment, they never delivered the promised services. "As a result, consumers who paid for the services had their Medicaid applications denied," he says. "Those who fell victim to the scheme or know someone who may be a victim should contact my office immediately. We intend to seek full restitution for the victims of this scam."

According to the lawsuit, Estate Planning Paralegal Services operated out of Dublin and did not employ any lawyers. By using the word "paralegal" in the name of their business, the Wests misrepresented that consumers would receive professional services associated with legal counsel.

The Wests are accused of posing as "Medicaid specialists" and charging seniors up to $5,000 for assistance with the Medicaid application process. They often reached agreements at consumers' homes, but failed to provide consumers with a three-day right to cancel the contract, as is required by Ohio law. After accepting payment, the Wests not only failed to provide the services, but they also failed to return original copies of consumers' important financial documents.

Estate Planning Paralegal Services also was not incorporated or registered with the state as a business.

Cordray is asking the court to impose injunctive relief, restitution and civil penalties.

Seniors beware

"This lawsuit underscores the importance of educating residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes as well as their families," he said. "Unfortunately, this population can be particularly vulnerable to scam artists and unscrupulous salespeople. We need to work together to protect our growing senior population from individuals who intend to harm them."

Consumers are encouraged to research a company's reputation carefully with the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau and to be wary of companies that demand large upfront payments. They also should understand that paralegals are not attorneys and may not do legal work unless it is supervised by an attorney.

Magnetic Maze Boards Recalled

Sanus, Simplicity Flat-Screen TV Wall Mounts Recalled

Milestone AV Technologies is recalling about 131,000 flat-screen TV wall mounts. The elbow joint components on the wall mounts arm do not fit together properly, causing the attached television to tilt and possibly fall when the television is adjusted. This could pose an injury hazard to a consumer.

This recall involves the Sanus Vision Mount model LF228-B1 wall mounts and Simplicity model SLF2. The wall mounts were sold for flat screen televisions. The model numbers can be found on the UL sticker on the wall plate.

The Sanus Vision Mount model LF228-B1 was sold through independent television mount dealers nationwide from June 2009 through July 2010 for about $450. The Simplicity model SLF2 was sold through Costco from June 2009 through July 2010 for about $200. Both were made in China.

Consumers should immediately inspect the wall mount to determine if the elbow joint fits properly and contact Milestone for a free replacement wall mount arm. Instructions for visual inspections are located at www.milestone.com/recall.

For additional information, contact Milestone toll-free at (877) 894-6280 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday and between 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. CT Saturday through Sunday or visit the firms website at www.milestone.com/recall.

The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

FDA Releases Guidance On Federal Menu Labeling Requirements

Proposed regulations deal with chain restaurants, state and local laws


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released two documents that outline steps to help chain restaurants comply with new federal nutrition labeling requirements.

"One of the most important things we can do when it comes to the nation's health is to provide simple basic information to the American people so they can make choices that are best for them and their family," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D. "The menu labeling program will help Americans get the facts about food choices that are available to them in restaurants and vending machines so they know what is in the food and can make healthier selections."

Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March 2010, set new federal requirements for nutrition labeling for foods sold at certain chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Establishments with 20 or more locations may be affected.

Working papers

The documents released by the FDA include:

• A draft guidance document describing implementation of certain provisions of the federal law. For certain restaurants and similar retail food establishments, these statutory provisions include posting the number of calories for standard menu items on menus and menu boards, providing additional nutrition information in writing, and posting clearly on menus and menu boards that such information is available upon request. These establishments also must post calorie information for self-serve items and foods on display.

• A final guidance document for industry regarding the effect of the new federal nutrition labeling requirements on state and local laws.

The draft guidance states that the FDA realizes that industry may need additional information and time to comply with the new provisions, and that the agency expects to refrain from enforcement action for a time period that will be provided in the guidance once it is finalized. The agency is interested in comments from the public on the appropriate length of this time period.

Your opinion

Comments may be submitted by mail to:

The Division of Dockets Management

Food and Drug Administration

5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061

Comments may also be submitted electronically to the docket by following these directions:

1. Choose "Submit a Comment" from the top task bar

2. Enter one of the following docket numbers in the "Keyword" space:

• July 7, 2010 docket notice: FDA-2010-N-0298

• August 24, 2010 Draft Guidance for Industry: Question and Answers Regarding Implementation of the Menu Labeling Provisions of Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act of 2010: FDA-2010-D-0370

• August 24, 2010 Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding the Effect of Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act on State and Local Menu and Vending Machine Labeling Laws August 2010: FDA-2010-D-0354

Char-Broil Recalls Vertical Gas Smokers

When the temperature setting is in "low," the smoker's hose/valve/regulator (HVR) assembly does not allow sufficient gas to flow, causing the flame to extinguish. Gas continues to flow and build up inside the smoker. If the smoker is reignited the build-up of propane gas can cause an explosion that bursts the smoker's door open, posing an injury hazard.

The company has received five reports of doors bursting open and hitting consumers. Injuries reported include burns to face and head, head concussion and cuts.

This recall involves the Char-Broil vertical gas smokers with model number 07701413. The model number is printed on a metal tag located on the right rear leg of the smoker. The smoker measures 21.5" x 19.5" x 45.5" and weighs 75 pounds. A "G" inside a triangle is printed on the regulator (see photo below).

The smokers, made in China, were sold at Walmart and various other retailers nationwide from March 2008 through June 2010 for about $140.

Consumers should stop using the recalled smokers and contact Char-Broil for a free replacement hose/valve/regulator assembly and installation instructions.

For additional information, contact Char-Broil toll-free at (866) 671-7988 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm's website at www.charbroil.com.

The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Williams-Sonoma Recalls Beaba Express Baby Bottle Warmers

MamaLittleHelper Recalls Baby Hammocks

Video Game Caused Psychological Dependence, Suit Claims

Hawaii resident sues game developer for addiction

Video Game Caused Psychological Dependence, Suit Claims..

Mazda Plans Recall of 2007-2008 Mazda3, Mazda5 Models

Power steering can fail unexpectedly

Flaws in the power-steering system are driving Mazda to recall more than half a million vehicles worldwide, the company announced.

Mazda said it plans to recall 215,000 vehicles in the United States and more than 10,000 in China. Additional recalls are being planned in Europe and Australia, bringing the total to about 514,000 vehicles, a company spokesman said.

The affected models include the Mazda3 and Mazda5, as they are known in the U.S., manufactured in Japan from 2007 to 2008.

The company said the vehicles could experience a sudden loss of power steering, increasing the risk of a crash. Three accidents have been attributed to the defect in the United States, none involving injuries or deaths.

Zooper Tango Recalls Double Strollers

CVS, Pennsylvania, Reach Settlement On Expired Drugs, Food Products

Drug chain to reward whistleblowers with coupons, provide products to needy families

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Health Care Section has reached a $250,000 consumer protection settlement with the CVS Pharmacy chain addressing complaints that expired over the counter drugs, infant formula, baby food, dairy products and other food items were sold at stores in the Commonwealth.

"Expiration dates are included on various products to ensure that consumers are purchasing items that are effective and safe to use," Attorney General Tom Corbett said. "This settlement not only requires CVS to adopt policies designed to prevent expired items from being sold in the future, it will also help community organizations provide much-needed food and medical supplies to low-income families across Pennsylvania."

The agreement with Pennsylvania CVS Pharmacy and White Cross Stores Inc. No 14, known as an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), requires the pharmacy chain to take a number of steps to prevent items from being sold after their listed "sell by" or "expiration dates."

CVS is required to provide coupons for $2.00 off any future purchase to any consumers who find expired products offered for sale at a CVS store in Pennsylvania, said Corbett. Those consumers must notify a CVS employee about the expired product and present the expired item to a store employee or cashier.

Additionally, Corbett said the settlement includes a $150,000 payment from CVS, which will be distributed by the attorney general's office to organizations that provide assistance to Pennsylvania families by distributing baby food, infant formula, dairy products and over the counter drugs. The AVC also includes $100,000 that will be used by the AG's office for future consumer protection and education activities.

Clearing the shelves

In addition, the settlement requires CVS to institute a system to ensure that expired products are not sold, including:

• Daily inspection of all dairy products at CVS stores.

• Regular inspections of other products and removal of items that are within 60 days of their expiration dates (This includes all items related to allergy treatment, baby feeding, children's remedies, cold remedies, oral hygiene products, pain relievers, stomach remedies and all other over the counter drugs that contain expiration dates).

• Prominent notices in all stores reminding customers to check the "sell by" and "expiration" dates, and to notify CVS employees immediately if customers find expired products.

• Automatic prompts in store cash register systems requiring cashiers to verify expiration dates before items can be sold (expired products may not be sold).

• Training and certification for all store managers and employees involved in stocking baby food, infant formula, dairy products and over the counter drugs.

• Regular audits of CVS stores to verify compliance with the settlement.

Consumers with questions or complaints concerning expired products at CVS stores in Pennsylvania should contact the Attorney General's Health Care Section at 1-877-888-4877 or file an online complaint using the attorney general's website.

White Tiger Recalls Folding Wooden Chairs

Powertec Recalls Leverage Gyms

Powertec is recalling about 1,000 Leverage gyms. Detaching the exercise workbench from the gym system causes instability, posing a risk of injury to users.

This recall involves the Workbench Leverage Gym, 2010 version, which has a lock and load removable bench section opening up the lever area for power exercises such as squats, shrugs and rows. The gym has black upholstery and either a black or yellow frame. The Powertec logo with the Workbench series name is printed on the removable bench. The models affected by this recall are WB-LS10 and WB-LS10-B. . Workbench Levergyms with model numbers WB-LS10 and WB-LS10B sold after February 2010 are not affected by this recall.

The gyms, made in China, were sold by fitness equipment dealers nationwide and online at www.powertecfitness.com from October 2009 through February 2010 for about $850.

Customers should immediately stop using the product and contact Powertec to receive a free repair kit or to schedule a free repair with an authorized dealer. The firm has contacted all known purchasers of this product.

For additional information, call Powertec toll-free at (877) 525-5710 between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, email the firm at [email protected] or visit the firm's website at www.powertecfitness.com.

The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Do Advertising Bans Deter Bad Habits In Youth?

Review of youth drinking and smoking studies shows little effectiveness

"My conclusion is that the emphasis on advertising bans and similar regulations in the public health literature is misplaced," says Jon Nelson, professor emeritus of economics at Penn State. "More effective policies need to be sought to deal with issues of youthful risk-taking associated with alcohol and tobacco."

Among the deficiencies, Nelson reports that there were problems with how researchers selected people to participate in their studies and how they drew conclusions from the data they collected.

"The studies, in fact, are deficient in so many respects that the big question is whether there's any influence of marketing at all, especially the mass media," Nelson says.

Policy makers and advocacy groups use these studies to initiate and justify bans on alcohol and tobacco product advertising in order to lower the social costs associated with using these products and to promote youth health.

According to Nelson, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are among the organizations that uncritically cite these studies in their advocacy of tobacco and alcohol advertising bans.

Room for improvement

Nelson recommends several ways to improve studies on youth alcohol and tobacco behaviors. Researchers who explore advertising's influence on youth drinking and smoking should better identify why variables, such as peer and parental influences, are included in the study and choose variables that more effectively measure the exposure of alcohol and tobacco marketing in youth behavior.

In a recent review of 20 youth drinking studies and 26 youth smoking studies published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Nelson found that only 33 percent of the results were statistically significant in linking marketing with youth drinking.

He considered only 49 percent of the results significant on marketing and youth smoking behavior.

"These studies should be done against a well-defined scientific standard for an empirical investigation," says Nelson. "There is really no such thing as a perfect study, but the object should be to get closer to those acceptable standards."

Nelson identified longitudinal studies that measured the influence of a range of alcohol and tobacco marketing efforts including mass media, in-store displays, branded merchandise, movie portrayals, and brand recognition. The participant in a longitudinal study is interviewed or surveyed over two or more years.

Nelson looked at these studies in two categories -- youth drinking and youth smoking. Although these studies had common features, they were treated separately because they used slightly different models to explore advertising receptivity and exposure.

Nelson then offered critical assessments of the studies in each category, paying particular attention to the consistency of empirical results among the studies.

The review reinforced findings in Nelson's previous work. In 2001 and 2010 studies, he showed advertising bans in European countries did not reduce adult alcohol consumption. In 2003 and 2006 studies, he reported a similar finding for tobacco advertising bans.

Is Tylenol Good for Heartaches, Too?

Acetaminophen could help alleviate emotional pain, study finds

August 16, 2010
Everybody being mean to you? There may be a pill for that.

A new study shows that acetaminophen -- an ingredient in the popular over-the-counter pain reliever Tylenol -- may relieve social pain from hurt feelings.

The findings suggest for the first time that emotional and physical pain are interrelated, according to Gregory Webster, a University of Florida psychologist who wrote the study with a team of researchers.

"We think that social pain piggybacks onto physical pain and the two systems sort of bleed into each other, so that just as you feel emotional distress from physical pain, the social pain of having a romance breakup, or getting a horrible grade can translate into feeling sick to your stomach or getting a bad headache," he says.

In the study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, people who took acetaminophen daily for three weeks reported less emotional suffering over time and showed less activity in regions of the brain previously shown to respond to social rejection than those who took the placebo, Webster says.

"Even so," he adds, "we don't want to tell people to go take Tylenol to cope with their personal problems until more research is done."

Further applications

The findings, Webster believes, have the potential for acetaminophen to be used eventually to treat minor social pains instead of more powerful drugs. In addition, he says acetaminophen may show promise in curtailing antisocial behavior. Because research has found that being rejected triggers aggression, using acetaminophen to alleviate emotional distress could reduce the likelihood of destructive actions, he adds.

"The fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) results from our study show that acetaminophen diminished reactivity in regions of the brain that have been linked to emotional processing, which helps regulate aggression," he says.

The study's participants received fMRI during a computerized game of cyberball, which simulated social rejection. Each participant, accustomed to passing a ball with two computerized images of people who were ostensibly other participants, was suddenly excluded from the exchange as the others pass it back and forth.

"They were not given a reason why, which made it frustrating, which is exactly what we wanted to do," Webster explains. "We wanted to give them this feeling of being socially ostracized."

By random assignment, nearly half the participants, 24 women and six men, took a 500-mg pill of acetaminophen immediately after waking up each day and another 500-mg pill one hour before going to sleep, while 24 women and eight men took a placebo.

Each night the participants filled out a survey to assess their level of hurt feelings during the day.

Solid results

Throughout the three weeks, those who took acetaminophen reported significantly fewer hurt feelings on average than participants in the placebo group, Webster says. In addition, they showed much less activity in areas of the brain linked with emotional feelings, such as hurt and rejection.

"The possibility of this link between physical and social pain systems is exciting because we live in a dualistic society where people see the mind and body as being very separate," Webster says. "In terms of public policy, it may indirectly support the notion that we should treat mental health issues the same way we treat physical health issues instead of having separate systems for the two."

The connection of mind and body to the extent that pain in one sphere can be transferred at least indirectly to another may have provided an evolutionary edge to our ancestors, he says.

Because humans have an extended infancy compared with many other animals in which they are unable to defend or feed themselves, developing social connections from an early age was crucial, Webster says.

As a result, humans' social attachment system may have developed by piggybacking onto the physical pain system and becoming an outgrowth of it in order to promote survival, he adds.

"Our findings have important implications because social exclusion is such a common part of life," he concludes. "People can feel ostracized at work, snubbed by friends, excluded by their partners or slighted in any number of situations."

Circus World Recalls Levana Wireless Video Baby Monitors

P. Graham Dunn Recalls Toy Rattles

New York Expands Health Care Financing Probe

Relationship between health care providers and lenders explored

Cuomo disclosed last week that his investigation found that some health care providers use fast-talking sales pitches to pressure and deceive consumers into applying for health care credit cards such as Chase Health Advance, Citi Health, and GE Money's CareCredit. The investigation also found that CareCredit pays kickbacks in the form of rebates to the providers based on how much business they charge consumers on CareCredit cards.

The investigation was based in part on hundreds of consumer complaints received by the attorney general's Office. Consumers reported that health care providers promised that the credit card had "no interest," when it often carried retroactive interest of over 25 percent if not paid in full during a promotional period.

Consumers were also unknowingly charged up front for services they never received, and their attempts to obtain refunds were often thwarted or ignored. Meanwhile, the credit card companies typically paid the health care providers in full within 48 hours of the charge, Cuomo said.

The investigation also found that CareCredit charges the providers a fee for the right to offer the cards, and then rebates part of the fee based on the amount of money the providers generated through CareCredit sales. This kickback arrangement, plus CareCredit's payment in full to providers within two days of the charge, creates an incentive for providers to push consumers to use CareCredit rather than other methods of payment. In fact, providers pushed CareCredit over cash.

Conflicts of interest

"Our ongoing investigation has uncovered conflicts of interest and predatory practices in the health care industry that are hurting New Yorkers and patients across the country," Cuomo said. "Patients are being misled into paying for services they never received by the people they should be able to trust the most -- their doctors. Doctors are supposed to represent patients, not credit card companies, no matter what kind of kickbacks they are offered."

Cuomo issued subpoenas to 14 dental and health care clinics that promote CareCredit, as well as to GE's CareCredit, Chase Health Advance, and Citi Health Card. The subpoenas seek marketing materials, applications, terms of credit, contracts and rebate agreements, policies and procedures, consumer complaints, and regulatory inquiries. The investigation continues.

In addition to the 14 subpoenas, Cuomo has written letters to a number of medical organizations that promote CareCredit or other health care financing cards. The letters, asking why they endorse these credit products, were sent to the American Dental Association, American College of Eye Surgeons, and American Hearing Aid Associates, among others.

Widely accepted

CareCredit is accepted by more than 125,000 health care practices nationwide. The New York State Dental Association asserts that more than eight million dental patients and 80,000 dental practices use CareCredit nationwide.

The credit card is advertised as a way to pay for services often not covered by insurance, including:

In recent years, Cuomo says, his office received hundreds of complaints from consumers indicating they were lured and misled by providers into applying for, accepting, and using health care credit cards.

Goldstar, Comfort-Aire Dehumidifier Recall Repeated

Honda Recalls 2010 Element Models to Fix Gear Position Indicator

The company said that because of a problem during assembly, the transmission may not be in the gear selected by the driver.

Dealers will correctly set the shift cable bushing. Some owners have already been contacted by telephone.

Owners may contact Honda at 1-800-999-1009.

Consumers may contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY: 1-800-424-9153) or at www.safercar.gov.

Tattooing Linked To Hepatitis C Risk

Thirty-six percent of Americans under 30 have a tattoo

A new University of British Columbia study suggests people with multiple tattoos that cover large parts of their bodies are at higher risk of contracting hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases.

The researchers reviewed and analyzed 124 studies from 30 countries, including Canada, Iran, Italy, Brazil and the United States, and found the incidence of hepatitis C after tattooing is directly linked with the number of tattoos an individual receives. The findings are published in the current issue of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

In the U.S., an estimated 36 percent of people under 30 have tattoos. In Canada, approximately eight per cent of high school students have at least one tattoo and 21 per cent of those who don't have one want one. During tattooing, the skin is punctured 80 to 150 times a second in order to inject color pigments.

"Since tattoo instruments come in contact with blood and bodily fluids, infections may be transmitted if instruments are used on more than one person without being sterilized or without proper hygiene techniques," said lead author Dr. Siavash Jafari, a Community Medicine Resident in the UBC School of Population and Public Health (SPPH).

"Furthermore, tattoo dyes are not kept in sterile containers and may play a carrier role in transmitting infections," said Jafari. "Clients and the general public need to be educated on the risks associated with tattooing, and tattoo artists need to discuss harms with clients."

HIV also a risk

Other risks of tattooing identified by the study include allergic reactions, HIV, hepatitis B, bacterial or fungal infections, and other risks associated with tattoo removal.

The researchers are calling for infection-control guidelines for tattoo artists and clients, and enforcement of these guidelines through inspections, reporting of adverse events and record-keeping. They also recommend prevention programs that focus on youth the population who are most likely to get tattoos and prisoners who face a higher prevalence of hepatitis C to lower the spread of hepatitis infection.

In Canada, 12 to 25 per cent of hepatitis C infections among prisoners are associated with tattooed individuals, compared to six per cent of the general population.

Reducing Portions and Eating Healthier Key To Controlling Weight

American diet has become larger and less healthy over time

Sun-baked tourists by the hundreds jam into Benjamin's Calabash Restaurant in Myrtle Beach, S.C., each evening, drawn by the establishment's 171 item buffet. On any given night, patrons paying $28 a head will make multiple trips to the buffet to make sure they get their money's worth.

Chances are good they will also leave after consuming enough calories to last a couple of days.

Restaurants offering "all you can eat" are popular with many consumers, but may be one of the reasons America has a weight problem. When there is no limit to what we can consume, we tend to lose all sense of proportion. How much should we be eating on a daily basis? How much is too much?

Health experts tend to agree that the problem lies in two areas Americans eat portions that are significantly greater than they need for nourishment and they tend to eat too much unhealthy food. Often, we do it without thinking about it.

How much?

So, if we tend to eat too much, how much should we be eating each day? Dr. Mary Lou Gavin, Medical Editor at KidsHealth.org, says it all depends on your age, gender, height and weight, and activity level.

"In general, I don't recommend counting calories but it may be helpful for people to have some idea what their caloric requirements are," Gavin told ConsumerAffairs.com.

There are a number of calorie calculators online, where you can get an idea of how much food you should be consuming on a daily basis. For example, a male, age 59, 5 feet, 11 inches tall, weighing 175 pounds and getting moderate exercise can -- according to one calculator -- consume 2200 calories a day to maintain weight and 1800 calories to lose fat.

"The MyPyramid website is a good resource to find out an estimate of calories and it also provides a food plan that breaks it down into servings of each particular food group, Gavin said. "Planning meals with food groups in mind is a more practical approach than counting calories on a daily basis."

Portion size, of course, is a big part of healthy meal planning. That's where vigilance is required while shopping. Portions of food -- especially packaged food -- tend to be larger than they were a few years ago.

Bigger bagels

As an example, the average bagel had a three inch diameter 20 years ago and had 140 calories. Today, bagels are normally six inches in diameter and have about 350 calories, with half of a person's recommended number of grain servings for the day.

Some consumer advocates blame the food industry for feeding America's appetite, as restaurants try to outdo one another in offering huge servings. Gavin says competition may play some role in consumers' growing appetites as they tend to perceive greater value in a generous helping. Businesses, too, see an advantage in serving up giant sized portions.

"The original notion was that there is a higher profit margin with larger portions," she said. "That idea may have come full circle as food companies have found a way to make money off of portion controlled packages."

When you add excessive amounts of fat, sweetener and sodium to the excessive portions of food we eat, the health problems are compounded. In its recent list of the Top Ten Worst Foods, the Center For Science In the Public Interest (CSPI) selected Marie Callender's (16.5 oz) Chicken Pot Pie. The nutrition label notes it has 520 calories, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 800 mg of sodium.

But upon closer inspection, you will see that the pie is actually two serving portions. In other words, one person should eat only half the pot pie.

But who eats half a pot pie? Eat the entire pie, as most people probably do, and you're consuming 1,040 calories, 22 grams of saturated fat, and 1,600 mg of sodium, which equals an entire day's worth.

What makes the list of the 10 best foods? Not surprisingly, these foods tend not to come in a box, bag, can or wrapper. The sweet potato tops the list. CSPI calls it "a nutritional all-star," noting it's loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

"Bake and then mix in some unsweetened applesauce or crushed pineapple for extra moisture and sweetness," CSPI suggests.

Mangos and watermelon also make the "best food" list.

Stick with plants

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have published their own healthy eating pyramid, echoing CSPI's endorsement of fresh fruit and vegetables as a dietary mainstay.

"Go with plants," the researchers advise. "Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest. Choose plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats, like olive and canola oil."

Change may not come overnight, as some habits die hard. But Gavin offers a tip for both controlling portions and eating healthier, something she calls the divided plate.

"Think of your plate divided in four equal sections," Gavin said. "Half the plate is for fruits and/or vegetables, one quarter is for protein foods, the remaining quarter of the plate is for starchy foods."

When eating out, look for restaurants that provide nutritional information, and choose something healthy from the menu. At the grocery store, look past claims -- such as low fat or whole grain -- and look at the nutrition facts label and ingredient list to see the nutritional value of the food as a whole.

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New Food Safety Bill Targets E. Coli

Would impose tougher restrictions on slaughterhouses

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the E. coli Traceability and Eradication Act. She says the measure would require stricter testing procedures for meat and processing facilities with the goal of eradicating the dangerous Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, and establishing a tracking procedure that would enable the USDA to implement faster recalls should any be found to be contaminated.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are bacterial pathogens similar to E. coli O157, the most commonly known and reported strain. It causes the same type of illness, and can be found in processed meat, ground beef, and can be transferred to other food products such as packaged lettuce.

The Food Safety and Modernization Act, which would give the Food and Drug Administration expanded authority to deal with a wide range of food safety and public health issues, has passed the House but remains stalled in the Senate.

DeLauro says by implementing stricter and more comprehensive testing of meat, slaughterhouses, and grinding facilities, her bill would ensure that the U.S. food supply is safer. The bill would require that these facilities test ground beef and beef trim multiple times throughout the manufacturing process by an independent, USDA-certified testing facility, including 'beef trim,' leftover pieces from larger cuts of meat commonly used in ground beef, that have not previously been subject to analysis.

Should any facilities be producing products that are unsafe for either three consecutive days or ten days throughout a year, their company name will be posted to a list of safety offenders with the USDA. Additionally, the legislation creates a tracing protocol that would enable the USDA to track any contaminated meat or meat products, leading to faster recalls and less hazard to consumers. For facilities that are found to be producing contaminated meat, the USDA will test their products for 15 consecutive days following the positive test.

57,000 illnesses

"By the end of this year, an estimated 57,000 people will have been made ill from E. coli, which represents an astounding failure on the part of our food safety system," DeLauro said. "We must do more to address the dangers American consumers face on a daily basis from these hidden killers, and ensure that the food entering the marketplace, our homes, and even our schools, is safe."

DeLauro says the legislation will require rigorous new testing standards, calling for multiple examinations of products and specifically testing for all Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria. And should test results reveal E. coli contamination, the bill would require slaughter facilities to report it to USDA immediately.

"Also, because this bill will require processors to test incoming beef trim, it would cease the current industry practice of processors being blackballed by their suppliers," DeLauro said.

When E. coli is detected at a facility, the measure would require USDA to establish a traceback procedure all the way back to the original source of the contamination. This will allow USDA to recall products more quickly and prevent additional illnesses during an outbreak.

"Our current food safety system is not doing its job, contaminated meat is still hitting the shelves, and people are still getting sick," DeLauro said.


School Report Card: States issue guidance for school proms, University of Michigan locks out students who fail to get tested for COVID-19

Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.

States have a range of different policies on school prom

It's prom season or close to it in many parts of the country, and states are adopting a wide spectrum of policies regarding the high school rite of passage.

Connecticut plans to allow proms but with restrictions, according to guidance released by the state's Department of Public Health. Event attendees should wear masks, regardless of whether they're vaccinated. The state is also asking organizers to hold prom in large, open-air outdoor spaces and plan rain dates instead of moving the event indoors, the Hartford Courant says. Officials are also asking schools to consider combining prom with other celebrations like graduation nights to eliminate multiple exposures over several events.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health also urged schools to consider delaying proms until later in the school year, both to limit students potentially needing to miss class due to possible exposure to COVID-19 and to allow older students to get vaccinated first. Prom should also be limited to just students who attend the school, and a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event is recommended.

In Minnesota, the state's Department of Health and Department of Education is referring schools to venue-specific guidance that recommends that organizers limit attendance, don't allow food or drinks after 11 p.m., have designated eating areas and encourage students to dance and mingle in groups of six.

In Massachusetts, the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released guidance that says officials "strongly recommend" schools skip the event this year. "If schools do choose to hold proms, it is strongly recommended that they delay the prom until after the end of the school year, ideally delaying until such time when most students attending prom will have been vaccinated," the guidance reads.

New York is allowing prom, but health officials recommend limiting attendance, having live bands separated from attendees, staggering food service and assigning parties at different times on the dance floor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not specifically released guidelines around prom but does recommend that people avoid large gatherings with others who are not in their household at this time. For those who choose to go to gatherings anyway, the CDC advises wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet away from people who don't live with you, opting for outdoor activities and washing your hands often.

Doctors say prom can be held in a way that lowers the risk of spreading COVID-19 if certain precautions are taken. "It's a common-sense issue," Dr. John Schreiber, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. "Outside is better than inside, limiting crowd size is a positive. . If you do it outdoors under a tent and separate people as best as you can, it's potentially possible to do prom."

But Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells Yahoo Life that prom "is a little bit tricky" to pull off and a lot depends on what's happening with the spread of COVID-19 in the community. If there are high numbers of COVID-19 in the community, the risk of prom turning into a superspreader event is high, he says. "Prom often leads to interactions of young people that involve kissing and close contact, and that can involve risk," he says. "But certain parts of the country are in better shape than others, and some older teens might have been vaccinated."

Overall, prom can be done "reasonably safely," Dr. Lawrence C. Kleinman, chief of the Division of Population Health, Quality and Implementation Science at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. But, he adds, "schools just need to get creative."

Schools cancel employee and student vaccination events over the pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

Atlanta's public school system canceled a district-wide vaccination event scheduled for April 21 where they planned to offer staff the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC announced a "pause" in the use of the vaccine in the U.S. while they investigate reports of a rare form of blood clots that happened in six women who received the vaccine.

The event was scheduled to take place at a local Walgreens. This isn't the first vaccination event Atlanta Public Schools has held — the district also offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to staff in March. Those employees received their second doses at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this week.

Atlanta Public Schools is located in Fulton County, Ga. According to CDC data, 92,829 residents are fully vaccinated against COVD-19 as of Thursday, which is 8.2 percent of the total population.

Similar cancellations happened across the country. The University of Tennessee Knoxville announced Tuesday that it had canceled a vaccination event scheduled for Tuesday, but said that Moderna vaccines would be given out instead on Friday. The University of Rochester also canceled an event scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, encouraging people to sign up to get vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines instead.

Dr. Daniel Ganjian, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Life that people who planned to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shouldn't get discouraged. "It's a bump in the road — not a complete halt," he says. Russo also calls this a "blip" for school systems looking to vaccinate students and staff. "It's a transient issue," he says. "But we have enough doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to vaccinate the entire country."

The University of Michigan has locked out more than 1,000 students who violated COVID-19 testing rules

More than 1,000 students at the University of Michigan who did not comply with the school's COVID-19 testing protocol have been locked out of nonresidential buildings. The students, who have not completed a mandatory weekly COVID-19 test for four or more weeks in a row, had their official university ID "Mcard" access deactivated.

The university requires that all students who are on campus to complete weekly testing through the school's mandatory Community Sampling and Tracking Program. Students were informed by email on Monday that they were locked out.

Michigan is currently experiencing a COVID-19 surge at levels just below what the state saw around the holidays. On Thursday, the state reported 6,303 new cases of COVID-19, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, down from 7,955 new cases on Wednesday. Michigan has the highest rate of new infections in the country over the past seven days, at 551.6 per 100,000 people. The next closest state is Rhode Island, which has 304.5 cases per 100,000.

"This expectation of students accessing in-person classes or campus facilities was broadly communicated to the community," Dr. Robert Ernst, associate vice president of student life for health and wellness at the University of Michigan, tells Yahoo Life. Ernst says that saliva-based tests are "easily accessible" at several sites across campus.

"Students living in university housing have had a consistently very high level of compliance with the weekly testing requirement, and no students have been subject to lockout of campus housing facilities," he says. Ernst also says that students who attend in-person classes were "clearly" told that being locked out would be a consequence of not complying with school testing standards.

Students can have their cards reactivated, though. They just need to go through testing and then provide a screenshot of their ResponsiBLUE test tracker app to document the testing collection.

"Overall, the surveillance testing program has been very well received by our campus community," Ernst says. "It has provided useful information about COVID activity, it has reassured many and participation has been very consistent throughout the semester."

The university had 69 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 on campus for the week beginning April 11.

While some have criticized the university's action, doctors say it can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus. "If you have rules and you want them to be followed, you have to have consequences," Kleinman says. He points out that students missed testing four weeks in a row before their card access was revoked, adding, "it's not like you're a day late and you get locked out."

Russo cites Michigan's high COVID-19 rates as justification for extreme actions. "Michigan is really the COVID hot spot of this country right now," he says. "Desperate times call for more desperate actions."

Iowa City schools relaxed COVID-19 rules after nearly 1,000 students were placed in quarantine

The Iowa City Community School District school board voted Tuesday to ease its quarantine protocol to be in line with that of the Iowa Department of Public Health after nearly 1,000 students were placed in quarantine.

Under the previous guidance, students and staff were considered to be in "close contact" and were required to quarantine when they were within 6 feet of a COVID-19-positive individual for 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period or spent two hours in an indoor space with them, regardless of distance. Close contacts needed to quarantine for 14 days.

The new regulations allow students and staff to leave quarantine if they have a negative COVID-19 test after seven days or are not showing symptoms after 10 days in quarantine.

"Throughout this past year, we have tried to balance the need to keep students—and staff—healthy and safe with the need to educate them and provide the supports that they need to be successful," school board president Shawn Eyestone, tells Yahoo Life. "With a rapidly increasing number of students in quarantine, it was becoming unsustainable to keep these two pieces in balance."

Iowa City is located in Johnson County, which has a 6 percent COVID-19 percent positive average over the past 14 days. Overall, cases are low — the county reported 22 new cases on Thursday — and 33 percent of the local population is vaccinated, according to the New York Times' coronavirus tracker.

Eyestone says that "academic outcomes were slipping" and that many students and families were concerned about mental health and school engagement. "In the end, I felt that the increase in risk with less students in quarantine was outweighed by the positives our students would receive by being in school," he says. Eyestone says that the school district "will continue to monitor the positive test rates among our students to see if that increased risk was higher than we expected and can change course if need be."

Eyestone also says that feedback from staff and families has been "mixed."

Schreiber says that relaxing quarantine rules safely "depends on the data" within the community. "If you're in a state where there's slow community spread and a high vaccination rate, it's a good time to review your rules and whether you can loosen them up," he says. "There's definitely an opportunity to reevaluate what we do as numbers get better."

Kleinman also says it's "reasonable" to do "periodic assessments" of school COVID-19 policies. "It's important to look at how many cases were prevented because of quarantining and how many people were quarantined," he says. "But doing it simply because a lot of people were under quarantine is not terribly helpful."

Ultimately, "each school district has to be in touch with their department of health about these things," Ganjian says. But, he adds, "safety protocols are important."


Covid-19 Vaccine, Cases Live Updates: The Latest

The Trump administration, in a major policy shift aimed at accelerating lagging distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, announced on Tuesday that it would release all available doses and instructed states to immediately begin vaccinating every American 65 and older, as well as tens of millions of adults with health conditions that put them at higher risk of dying from the virus.

The announcement, by Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II and other top federal health officials, came amid continuing complaints about the pace of the vaccine rollout. Mr. Azar warned that states will lose their allocations if they don’t use up doses quickly, and that starting in two weeks, how many each state receives will be based on the size of its population of people 65 and older.

Precisely how that will work is unclear in two weeks, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will already have been sworn in as president. Mr. Azar said the incoming Biden administration would be briefed on the changes, though he added that Americans “operate with one government at a time, and this is the approach that we believe best fulfills the mission.”

The new distribution plan, first reported Tuesday morning by Axios, is a reversal for the administration, which had been holding back roughly half of its vaccine supply — millions of vials — to guarantee that second doses would be available. Mr. Azar said the administration always expected to make the shift when it was confident in the supply chain. Both vaccines authorized in the United States so far require two doses: 21 days apart for the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, and 28 days apart for the one from Moderna.

“This next phase reflects the urgency of the situation we face,” he said.

Just days ago, Mr. Azar and officials from Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s fast-track vaccine initiative, criticized aides to Mr. Biden for announcing a similar plan. Mr. Azar said at the time that releasing nearly all of the doses, as the Biden team proposed, would jeopardize the “system that manages the flow, to maximize the number of first doses, but knowing there will be a second dose available.”

He called any proposed changes an “untenable position.”

Health officials also recommend that the vaccines be given to all adults with pre-existing conditions that make them more likely to develop serious illness from the virus, such as diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Before the change, the vaccines were largely being distributed to people in the highest-risk categories, including frontline health care workers and older people in nursing homes.

In addition to the eligibility changes, health officials are also adding more community centers and pharmacies to the list of places where people can be vaccinated.

Mr. Azar’s new directive threatens to create more confusion in states that had already articulated different plans for who should receive the vaccine next. As of Monday, about 9 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, far short of the federal government’s original goals. At least 151,000 people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, as of Jan. 8, according to a New York Times survey of all 50 states. More than 375,000 people have died related to the virus and in recent days, the number of daily deaths in the country has topped 4,000.

Instead of holding back vaccine doses all existing doses will be now sent to states to provide initial inoculations. Second doses are to be provided by new waves of manufacturing.

The idea of using existing vaccine supplies for first doses has raised objections from some health workers and researchers, who worry that frontloading shots will raise the risk that second injections will be delayed. Clinical studies testing the vaccines showed the shots were effective when administered in two-dose regimens on a strict schedule. And while some protection appears to kick in after the first shot, experts remain unsure of the extent of that protection, or how long it might last without the second dose to boost its effects.

But others have vocally advocated for explicit dose delays, arguing that more widely distributing the partial protection afforded by a single shot will save more lives in the meantime.

The new recommendations come after some states have already begun vaccinating people 65 and older, leading to long lines and confusion over how to get a shot. Health experts and officials have faced difficult choices as they decided which groups would be prioritized in the vaccine rollout. While the elderly have died of the virus at the highest rates, essential workers have borne the greatest risk of infection, and the category includes many poor people and people of color, who have suffered disproportionately high rates of infection and death.

Despite the bumpy rollout, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who prioritized people 65 and older from the start, said he believed making all older people eligible was always the right thing to do.

The initial guidelines “would have allowed a 20-year-old healthy worker to get a vaccine before a 74-year-old grandmother,” he said on Tuesday at a news conference in the sprawling retirement community of The Villages. “That does not recognize how this virus has affected elderly people.”

In New York, which began vaccinating people 75 and older and more essential workers this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the state will accept the new federal guidance to prioritize those 65 and older, though he criticized the administration for not clearly defining who should be considered “immunocompromised.”

The new guidance will make more than 7 million New Yorkers eligible for the vaccine, Mr. Cuomo said, though the state only receives 300,000 doses a week.

“The federal government didn’t give us an additional allocation,” he said. “At 300,000 per week, how do you effectively serve 7 million people, all of whom are now eligible, without any priority?”

New Yorkers 65 and older are immediately able to schedule appointments on the state’s website, according to Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, who added that the state was working with the C.D.C. on who is considered immunocompromised.

New guidelines released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now note that while people should get their second shots “as close to the recommended 3-week or 1-month interval as possible,” there is “no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine.”

The update perplexed experts, who said that while other, previously licensed vaccines that involve multiple doses can be administered months or even years apart, no evidence yet exists to clearly support this strategy for Covid-19. “They will need to back this up with data,” said Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician at the George Washington School of Public Health, echoed the call for an explanation. With skepticism of vaccines already hindering the rollout of some shots, “the last thing we want to do is give the impression that there are shortcuts being taken in the approval process.”

Health officials in Britain are now allowing intervals between the first and second doses of Pfizer’s vaccines of up to 12 weeks. Last week, the World Health Organization said the injections could be given up to six weeks apart. The agency’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization “considers the administration of both doses within 21 to 28 days to be necessary for optimal protection,” said Saad Omer, a vaccine expert at Yale University who helped draft the WHO’s position on the matter.

In response to queries about dose delays, representatives from Pfizer and Moderna have repeatedly pointed to the company’s clinical trials, which tested dosing regimens of two shots, separated by 21 days for Pfizer, and 28 days for Moderna.

“Two doses of the vaccine are required to provide the maximum protection against the disease, a vaccine efficacy of 95 percent,” Steven Danehy, a spokesman for Pfizer, said earlier this month. “There are no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days.”

United States › United States On Jan. 11 14-day change
New cases 222,902 +37%
New deaths 2,048 +48%

World › World On Jan. 11 14-day change
New cases 625,815 +32%
New deaths 10,307 +28%

Where cases per capita are highest

Scientists in Brazil on Tuesday provided a markedly less enthusiastic assessment of the efficacy of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine that they hailed as a major triumph last week.

Officials at the Butantan Institute in São Paulo said a trial conducted in Brazil showed that the CoronaVac vaccine, manufactured by Beijing-based Sinovac, had an efficacy rate of just over 50 percent. That rate was far lower than the 78 percent efficacy rate announced last week.

Officials have since clarified that the higher figure pertained to the protection the vaccine provided to people who developed mild symptoms of Covid-19 that required medical treatment. While officials had asserted last week that the vaccine provided absolute protection against moderate to severe symptoms, they acknowledged on Tuesday that the data underpinning that claim was not statistically significant.

The 50 percent efficacy rate is just over the threshold the World Health Organization and the Food and Drug Administration use to assess the efficacy of vaccines.

Scientists and world leaders regard CoronaVac as a potential game-changer in fighting the pandemic because it could be rapidly produced and distributed in countries in the developing world. Unlike other vaccines, it does not require storage in freezing temperatures.

Natalia Pasternak, a microbiologist and the president of Instituto Questão de Ciência, told reporters on Tuesday that the results of the trial meant it will not be a panacea.

“It is not the best vaccine in the world,” she said at the news conference during which the efficacy rate was disclosed. But she called it a “perfectly acceptable vaccine” that would reduce the number of patients who develop serious cases or die from the virus.

Brazil’s health regulatory agency, Anvisa, is reviewing data from the trial, which relied on volunteers who are health care professionals. If Anvisa approves emergency use of CoronaVac, officials hope to start giving out shots in Brazil late this month.

Dimas Covas, the director of Butantan Institute, called the vaccine an “excellent” tool “waiting to be used in a country where currently 1,000 people are dying per day.”

President Jair Bolsonaro has spoken derisively about CoronaVac, fueling an growing anti-vaccination movement in Brazil, where more than 200,000 people have died from Covid-19. The vaccine has been championed by the São Paulo governor João Doria, who is widely expected to run for president in 2022 and is among the president’s most vocal critics.

Denise Garrett, a Brazilian-American epidemiologist and vaccine expert, said there was no reason to doubt the vaccine’s safety, adding that the data presented so far suggests it will provide a significant level of protection. But Dr. Garrett said the vague and at times misleading manner in which information about the vaccine has been presented to the public stands to shake people’s confidence in its reliability and fuel the political battle over the vaccine.

“The lack of transparency really damages people’s trust,” she said. “They’ve just reinforced the narrative that this vaccine is not good.”

Three Democratic members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus, and say they believe their infections are linked to their time spent in a secure location with colleagues who did not wear masks during last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol.

Representative Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois, said he received a positive test result Tuesday morning after driving home to Illinois, and that he did not have symptoms. Like Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Pramila Jayapal of Washington, two Democrats who had announced positive tests on Monday, he directly blamed a group of House Republicans who refused to wear masks while sheltering in a secure location during the Capitol siege.

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” Mr. Schneider said.

He called for lawmakers who ignore public health guidance to be sanctioned “and immediately removed from the House floor by the Sergeant-at-arms for their reckless endangerment of their colleagues.”

Capitol Hill has long struggled to contain the spread of the virus, and within hours of the beginning of the 117th Congress on Jan. 3, lawmakers began announcing positive test results.

Now lawmakers, aides, police officers and reporters who fled to secure locations during the siege have been warned that they might have been exposed to the virus while sheltering from the mob.

On Sunday, Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, who was also in protective isolation at the Capitol during the siege, said that he had tested positive for the virus after being exposed to his roommate, Representative Gus Bilirakis of Florida, also a Republican.

Mr. Fleischmann told the local news station WRCB that he was notified Wednesday that Mr. Bilirakis had tested positive, but did not receive the notification amid the riot. He said he did not know how many other lawmakers he had come in contact with.

Democrats, already frustrated by resistance from their Republican colleagues to wearing masks, accused maskless Republicans in the secure House location of reckless indifference.

“It angers me when they refuse to adhere to the directions about keeping their masks on,” Ms. Watson Coleman said in an interview. “It comes off to me as arrogance and defiance. And you can be both, but not at the expense of someone else.”

Ms. Jayapal said on Twitter that she had tested positive “after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”

Ms. Jayapal, who said she had begun quarantining immediately after the siege on the Capitol, also said that any member of Congress who did not wear a mask should be removed from the floor by the sergeant-at-arms and fined.

“This is not a joke,” she said in a statement. “Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced on Tuesday that CitiField, the Mets’ home stadium in Queens, will be a mass vaccination site starting the week of Jan. 25. The site will operate around the clock, seven days a week, with the capacity to vaccinate 5,000 to 7,000 people a day, Mr. de Blasio said. The location is ideal, the mayor said, because it is right next to a subway and railroad station and has plenty of parking.

“It’s going to be big, and it’s going to be a game changer,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Large sports venues across the country have been used as sites for mass coronavirus testing, and more recently for vaccination, including the home stadiums of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres baseball teams, the Arizona Cardinals of the N.F.L. and the San Antonio Spurs of the N.B.A. Testing and vaccination efforts at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami were temporarily suspended on Monday to allow the college football championship game between Alabama and Ohio State to be played there.

The pool of people eligible for the vaccine in New York has recently expanded to include teachers and a range of other essential workers, as well as any resident who is 65 or older. At first, the vaccine was limited to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents.

The CitiField location is part of New York City’s initiative to establish mass inoculation sites in each of the city’s five boroughs. Vaccination centers opened in Brooklyn and the Bronx this week locations in Manhattan and Staten Island have not yet been announced.

More than 26,000 vaccine doses were administered in the city on Monday, according to Mr. de Blasio, who is trying step up the pace of inoculations. The mayor has said his goal is to have one million doses administered by the end of January.

Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said on Tuesday that the state intended to set up a series of rapid testing sites in areas where restrictions have closed indoor dining and arts events, and closed offices. Some of these sites would be located in vacant retail spaces or shuttered businesses, he said, promising hundreds of “pop-up” testing sites.

At the same time, Mr. Cuomo wants to reopen office buildings — a major element of New York City’s economy, both for their tenants and developers — saying he had received assurances from their owners that they could ramp up testing for workers. “Bringing workers back safely will boost ridership on our mass transit, bring customers back to restaurants and stores, and return life to our streets,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo also said that bringing back art and culture was crucial — not just to help artists, who have suffered some of the worst unemployment in the nation, but to keep New York City a vital, exciting center where people will want to live and work.

“Cities are, by definition, centers of energy, entertainment, theater and cuisine,” Mr. Cuomo said, noting the threats the city is facing from the rise in remote work, crime and homelessness. “Without that activity and attraction, cities lose much of their appeal.”

Mr. Cuomo said that the state would begin a public-private partnership to offer a series of statewide pop-up concerts featuring artists such as Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Renée Fleming and Hugh Jackman begin a pilot program exploring how socially distant performances might be held safely in flexible venues whose seating is not fixed and work in partnership with the Mellon Foundation to distribute grants to put more than 1,000 artists back to work and provide money to community arts groups.

New York could not wait for enough people to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity before taking steps to revive its performing arts scene, Mr. Cuomo added.

“We need to begin to act now,” he said. “We can’t float along letting pain, hardship and inequality grow around us.”

This year’s Masters tournament in April will be attended by a limited number of spectators, the Augusta National Golf Club announced Tuesday. The club, which prohibited fans from the event two months ago, did not specify how many fans would be allowed in 2021, adding that spectators would be permitted if “it can be done safely.”

The 2020 Masters was postponed from its usual April date to November because of the coronavirus pandemic and was contested with protocols that included virus testing before the event for all players, caddies, club members, staff and other personnel, including a reduced number of media members.

Fred Ridley, the club chairman, said in a statement issued Tuesday that similar health standards would be instituted for this year’s tournament, which is scheduled to be contested from April 8 to 11. The club, based in Augusta, Ga., made the announcement as the state reported 16 new coronavirus deaths and 7,957 new cases on Jan. 11. Over the past week, there has been an average of 9,604 cases per day, an increase of 55 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

“Following the successful conduct of the Masters Tournament last November with only essential personnel, we are confident in our ability to responsibly invite a limited number of patrons to Augusta National in April,” Ridley said. “As with the November Masters, we will implement practices and policies that will protect the health and safety of everyone in attendance.”

The Augusta National statement said the club was in the process of communicating with all ticket holders and that refunds will be issued to those patrons not selected to attend.

Another new coronavirus variant has been detected in four people who traveled to Japan from Brazil.

Japan’s health ministry said that the people who arrived this month at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport had tested positive for the coronavirus and that it was a separate variant with similarities to those detected in Britain and South Africa. It is also distinct from another variant recently identified in Brazil, according to experts who have analyzed the data.

Makoto Shimoaraiso, an official with Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat and Office for Covid-19 Preparedness and Response, said on Tuesday that the country was consulting with the World Health Organization.

It is not unusual for viruses to accumulate mutations or for new variants to emerge. But scientists are calling for greater surveillance of variants, particularly after those from Britain and South Africa proved to be more contagious.

Mr. Shimoaraiso said epidemiologists were not sure whether the variant identified in Japan was more infectious or likely to cause more severe illness.

According to Japan’s health ministry, one of the passengers infected with the new variant, a man in his 40s, was admitted to a hospital after having breathing difficulties. Of the other cases, a woman in her 30s and a teenage boy are experiencing sore throats and fever, and a teenage girl is asymptomatic.

California is trying to speed up its vaccination efforts, which have lagged amid the state’s struggle with a weekslong deluge of coronavirus cases that has led to some of the most dire consequences in the country.

Emergency rooms have had to shut their doors to ambulances for hours at a time. Nearly one in 10 people has tested positive for the virus in Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous. And a surge of hospitalizations has caused problems for the oxygen delivery and supply system used by medical facilities.

Over the past week, an average of 480 people daily have died of Covid-19 in the state, according to a New York Times database.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday that California would employ an “all-hands-on-deck approach” to ramp up vaccinations.

The approach includes transforming Dodger Stadium from one of the nation’s biggest and most visible Covid-19 testing sites into a mass vaccination center. Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres play, and the state fairgrounds in Sacramento are also being set up as vaccination sites, the governor said.

The Orange County board of supervisors said on Monday that the county’s first of five planned “super” vaccination sites would open this week at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, which has been closed for much of the pandemic. Vaccinations will be available by appointment to everyone in “Phase 1a,” which includes frontline health care workers, paramedics, dentists and pharmacists.

Los Angeles County opened vaccine eligibility to a wider group of health care workers on Monday, allowing workers in facilities like primary care clinics, Covid-19 testing centers, laboratories, pharmacies and dental offices, as well as those who work with people who are homeless, to be vaccinated.

Previously, workers in hospitals and long-term-care facilities were prioritized. But as The Los Angeles Times reported, large numbers of health care workers in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties were declining to be inoculated.

And relatively few people in California have gotten vaccine doses, compared with other places: Only 2 percent of the state’s population has received a vaccine, according to a New York Times database 782,638 doses out of the more than 2.8 million that the state has received have been administered.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, said at a news conference on Monday that the state was working to distribute vaccines to those who need them and want them — without allowing wealthy people to cut the line.

Mr. Newsom said the state was allowing a broader range of workers to administer vaccines, including pharmacists and dentists, and was rolling out a public awareness campaign in 18 languages.

“People have said, ‘Well, what about sending in the National Guard?’” he said of the groups administering vaccines. “Well, we have the National Guard out there.”

He also said there were urgent efforts to “vaccinate the vaccinators.”

In recent weeks, scientists have raised concerns about a coronavirus variant first detected in December in South Africa, noting that this version of the virus may spread more quickly than its cousins, and perhaps be harder to quash with current vaccines.

Their worries are compounded by skyrocketing Covid-19 cases in the United States and another highly infectious new variant that is driving a surge in Britain.

Scientists still have a lot to learn about these variants, but experts are concerned enough to warn people to be extra-vigilant in masking and social distancing. Here’s what you need to know:

The British variant has been found in about 50 countries, including the United States, where dozens of cases have been identified. The South African variant has spread to about 10 countries but has yet to be detected in the United States.

Both variants carry genetic changes in the virus’s spike protein — the molecule used to unlock and enter human cells — that could make it easier to establish an infection. Researchers estimate that the British variant is about 50 percent more transmissible than its predecessors. Julian Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester, said that researchers didn’t yet have a good estimate for how much more contagious the South African variant is.

There is no evidence that any of the new variants are more deadly on their own, but an uptick in the spread of any virus creates ripple effects as more people become infected and ill. That can strain already overstretched health care systems and undoubtedly lead to more deaths.

It is unlikely that either variant will completely evade the protective effects of the new Covid vaccines. A recent study, not yet published in a scientific journal, found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is still effective against a virus carrying a mutation common to both new variants.

The South African variant does carry genetic changes that could make vaccines less effective: One mutation appears to make it harder for antibodies produced by the immune system to recognize the coronavirus, which means they may be less effective at stopping the variant. But it is “important to note that doesn’t mean vaccines won’t be functionally protective,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist affiliated with Georgetown University.

Vaccines use multifaceted immune responses, and while some antibodies may be confused by the variant, others probably won’t be. In addition, antibodies are only one sliver of the complex cavalry of immune cells and molecules that battle infectious invaders.

Also, if the virus accumulates more genetic changes, many of the authorized vaccines, including Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, can be adjusted fairly quickly.

America’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry plummeted more than 10 percent last year, reaching their lowest levels in at least three decades as the pandemic slammed the brakes on the nation’s economy, according to an estimate published Tuesday by the Rhodium Group.

The steep drop was the result of extraordinary circumstances, however, and experts say the United States still faces enormous challenges in getting its planet-warming pollution under control.

“The most significant reductions last year were around transportation, which remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels,” said Kate Larsen, a director at Rhodium Group, a research and consulting firm. “But as vaccines become more prevalent, and depending on how quickly people feel comfortable enough to drive and fly again, we’d expect emissions to rebound unless there are major policy changes put in place.”

Transportation, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gases, saw a 14.7 percent decline in emissions in 2020 as millions of people stopped driving to work and airlines canceled flights. Although travel started picking up again in the second half of the year as states relaxed lockdowns, Americans drove 15 percent fewer miles last year than in 2019.

Over all, the fall in emissions nationwide was the largest one-year decline since at least World War II, the Rhodium Group said. It put the United States within striking distance of one of the major goals of the Paris climate agreement, a global pact by nearly 200 governments to address climate change.

As part of that agreement, President Barack Obama had pledged that U.S. emissions would fall 17 percent below 2005 levels by last year. President Trump withdrew the country from the Paris accord, and before last year, it appeared that the United States would miss the emissions target. But America’s industrial emissions are now roughly 21.5 percent below 2005 levels.

Scientists say that even a big one-year drop is not enough to stop climate change. Until humanity’s emissions are essentially zeroed out and nations are no longer adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the planet will continue to heat up. As if to underscore that warning, European researchers announced last week that 2020 was probably tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record.

Malaysia’s king declared a national state of emergency on Tuesday to stem a surge in coronavirus cases, suspending Parliament, closing nonessential businesses and locking down several states and territories, including the largest city, Kuala Lumpur.

The emergency declaration could last until Aug. 1, and some critics said the main beneficiary would be the prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, the head of an unelected government who for months has barely maintained his hold on power.

Mr. Muhyiddin, who asked the king to issue the declaration, went on television to assert that the emergency measure was necessary to contain the virus — and that it was not about extending his political career.

“Let me assure you, the civilian government will continue to function,” he said. “The emergency proclaimed by the king is not a military coup.”

Mr. Muhyiddin promised to hold a general election after the virus was brought under control.

Malaysia was mostly successful in containing the virus for much of last year, but the number of infections began rising in October and reached a daily peak of more than 3,000 new cases on Thursday. The surge was caused in part by an election campaign in the state of Sabah and by an outbreak among migrant workers. The government reported a total of more than 141,000 cases and 559 deaths as of Tuesday.

Mr. Muhyiddin came to power in March after the previous government collapsed. He formed a new coalition and the king appointed him prime minister without a parliamentary vote. Opponents have since questioned whether he has the support of a majority of Parliament’s 222 members.

Now, the king’s declaration means that no parliamentary vote or general election can be held for more than six months, as long as the virus persists.

James Chin, professor of Asian studies at the University of Tasmania, said the declaration gave Mr. Muhyiddin extraordinary powers, including the authority to pass laws that override existing ones and to use the military for police work.

“Politically he will benefit the most from this Covid emergency,” he said. “This will give him what he wants without any scrutiny from Parliament.”

Other global developments:

Taiwan on Tuesday reported two locally transmitted coronavirus infections: a doctor and a nurse at a hospital in the northern part of the island that treats coronavirus patients. They are Taiwan’s first locally transmitted cases since Dec. 22, when it reported the first such case since April.

The European Union’s top drug regulator said it would assess the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University “under an accelerated timeline,” after receiving an application for emergency authorization of the drug.

The leader of the German state of Bavaria has urged health care workers to do their “civic duty” by getting vaccinated, and called on the government to consider making coronavirus vaccinations for medical personnel mandatory in some cases. And about half of the staff at Charité, Germany’s largest research hospital, has refused to receive vaccine shots, according to Dr. Andrej Trampuz, a department head at the facility.

Because of high infection numbers, Berlin residents will be restricted from traveling more than about 9 miles outside the city, under new rules agreed to by German lawmakers. The distance of travel within Berlin is not being limited.

A couple who were out walking on Saturday night in Sherbrooke, Quebec, told the police that they were in compliance with a new overnight curfew because the wife was walking her crawling husband on a leash like a dog, CTV News reported. People walking their dogs are excluded from the province’s curfew, which is in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., as are essential workers and those seeking medical care. The pair were fined 1,500 Canadian dollars each. The province’s leader, François Legault, said on Monday that 740 people were fined over the weekend for violating the curfew, the first of its kind in Canada.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard, has been nominated by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to be director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a column for The New York Times Opinion section, excerpted here, she writes about her plans for the agency.

On Jan. 20, I will begin leading the C.D.C., which was founded in 1946 to meet precisely the kinds of challenges posed by this pandemic. I agreed to serve as C.D.C. director because I believe in the agency’s mission and commitment to knowledge, statistics and guidance. I will do so by leading with facts, science and integrity — and being accountable for them, as the C.D.C. has done since its founding 75 years ago.

I acknowledge that our team of scientists will have to work very hard to restore public trust in the C.D.C., at home and abroad, because it has been undermined over the last year. In that time, numerous reports stated that White House officials interfered with official guidance issued by the C.D.C.

As chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital, I and many others found these reports to be extremely disturbing. The C.D.C.’s science — the gold standard for the nation’s public health — has been tarnished. Hospitals, doctors, state health officials and others rely on the guidance of the C.D.C., not just for Covid-19 policies around quarantine, isolation, testing and vaccination, but also for staying healthy while traveling, strategies to prevent obesity, information on food safety and more.

Restoring the public’s trust in the C.D.C. is crucial. Hospitals and health care providers are beyond tired, beyond stretched. I know because I have stood among them, on the front lines of the Covid-19 response in Massachusetts. We also face the need for the largest public health operation in a century, vaccinating the population — twice — to protect ourselves and each other from a surging pandemic. Because the impact of Covid-19 does not fall equally on everyone, we must redouble our efforts to reach every corner of the U.S. population.

The research and guidance provided by the civil servants at the C.D.C. should continue regardless of what political party is in power. Novel scientific breakthroughs do not follow four-year terms. As I start my new duties, I will tell the president, Congress and the public what we know when we know it, and I will do so even when the news is bleak, or when the information may not be what those in the administration want to hear.

Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming what federal officials say are the first known apes in the United States to be infected.

Zoo officials said on Monday that they believed the gorillas were infected by an asymptomatic staff member who had been following safety recommendations, including wearing personal protective equipment when near animals.

Veterinarians are closely monitoring the troop, which is made up of eight western lowland gorillas. The infected animals are expected to make a full recovery, officials said.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Lisa Peterson, the Safari Park’s executive director, said in a statement.

Three animals are exhibiting symptoms, officials said. And because gorillas live together in troops, “we have to assume,” the zoo said, “that all members of the family group have been exposed.”

The total number of western lowland gorillas, which can be found in central Africa, has declined more than 60 percent over the past two decades, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Zoo officials learned that at least two gorillas had been infected with the coronavirus after the animals were observed on Wednesday “coughing and showing other mild symptoms,” the zoo said in the statement.

The zoo’s Safari Park has been closed since Dec. 6 amid a lockdown, and the primate habitat where the gorillas are housed poses “no public health risk,” officials said. Last year, as the pandemic spread across the country, the zoo installed additional barriers to ensure that more than six feet of space separated visitors from “susceptible species,” officials said.

The gorillas are among the latest animals in the country to become infected with the coronavirus. In April, the first case of human-to-cat transmission was detected in a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. In August, minks on two farms in Utah tested positive. In December, a coronavirus infection in a snow leopard was detected at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.

How well a country has responded to Covid-19 is not explained by the country’s economic power or scientific capacity, but by how its people relate to one another and their government, according to preliminary findings of a research study.

“Countries with traditions of acting in concert against social problems, and countries with histories of deference to public authorities, fared better on compliance than countries lacking either or both,” the researchers wrote.

Investigators compared characteristics of 23 countries on six continents, considering outcomes related to disease burden, economic impact and disparities. In the United States, rated as one of the poorest-performing countries, “the virus ‘exploited’ pre-existing weaknesses” in public health, the economy and politics.

Before the pandemic, numerous reports and congressional testimony “recognized vulnerabilities that became apparent during Covid-19,” another study found, including threats of viruses emerging from animals, economic disruption, inadequate stockpiles and vulnerability to global supply shortages. For that study, researchers compiled more than 1,200 pre-pandemic records in an expanding online library that was introduced on Tuesday — Health Security Net — in the hopes that it will “inform future planning and response efforts.”

Another team, studying five countries in Africa, found that national leaders there had quickly recognized the threat from the virus and imposed measures to limit its importation and spread. “That managed to at least curtail the outbreak,” said Wilmot James, a Columbia University research scholar who was one of the study’s principal investigators, “but the impacts on the economies were quite devastating.”

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a four-year-old institution modeled in part on its U.S. counterpart, was unique in providing technical assistance for an entire continent.

The research reports were released Tuesday in conjunction with a two-day symposium, the Futures Forum on Preparedness, supported by Schmidt Futures and the Social Science Research Council.


Jamaica is a great destination for families. There are lots of family-friendly accommodation options to choose from, but ask before you book to make sure there are kid-friendly facilities. If you&rsquore traveling with children, here are a few tips to keep everyone safe:

  • Keep your family close together in crowded areas to avoid separation. You could also introduce a code word to keep children alert and know when they need to stay by your side
  • Larger resorts and hotels on the north coast of Jamaica tend to be more family-friendly but you can easily find places suitable for families all across the island
  • Keep constant watch of children at the beach or pool.

Three Mile Island nuclear plant notifies regulators of intent to close

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The owners of the Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear plant have formally notified regulators and a regional power grid operator of their previously announced intentions to close the plant.

LNP newspaper reports Exelon Corp. sent a letter June 20 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission saying the plant would be shut down around Sept. 30, 2019 due to “severe economic challenges.”

Exelon criticized electrical grid operator PJM Interconnection in a May 30 letter to the company saying PJM has not adapted to changes in the energy market. It said market rules don’t value the “clean, resilient” electricity provided by the plant.

The plant was the site of the United States’ worst commercial nuclear power accident, a 1979 partial core meltdown of one reactor. The other reactor is still in use.

Shown is the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pa., Monday, May 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


Watch the video: AARON JUDGE OWNING THE RED SOX Highlights (December 2021).