BLOG: It’s time to reopen health clubs and gyms

BLOG: It’s time to reopen health clubs and gyms

  • August 31, 2020

published on August 31, 2020 – 2:39 PM
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It’s time for California to take a fresh look at the steps needed to keep people healthy.

We all know of the terrible toll of COVID-19, and health officials have been vigilant in ordering steps to reduce its spread. But the effects of the pandemic – just as surely as the virus itself – are also taking a toll.

Research suggests coronavirus vaccine will likely require 2 shots to be effective

Research suggests coronavirus vaccine will likely require 2 shots to be effective

  • August 31, 2020

A vaccine against the novel coronavirus will likely not be as simple as a quick shot from the doctor at your local pharmacy.

Evidence and continuing studies are suggesting that people may need two doses, not just one in order for the vaccine to be effective.

“We are applying that knowledge to determine rapidly the very best way to produce an effective, long-lasting vaccine against a new virus by testing strategies that have worked before and refining our vaccines and vaccination schedules as we learn more about the immune system’s response to COVID-19 and to vaccines that work in different ways,” Kelly Moore, the associate director for immunization education with the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), said.

Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the federal government’s expedited mission to create and distribute a vaccine, aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.

Of the six pharmaceutical companies given money to develop a vaccine, two of those companies, Pfizer and Moderna, are in Phase 3 clinical trials.

Pfizer and Moderna’s current Phase 3 trials are slated to enroll 30,000 volunteers in each trial, and each company is giving two doses — spaced out a month apart — to participating individuals.

RELATED: Infectious disease experts say it may take 1 year for COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available after approval

AstraZeneca, another leading vaccine candidate, is expected to start trials soon. According to Reuters, the shot is “likely to provide protection for about a year, and the company is leaning towards a two-dose strategy for the potential vaccine.”

In Johnson & Johnson’s upcoming Phase 3 trials, the company is considering some participants take a single dose, while others do a double dose.

“As the Company plans its COVID-19 Phase 3 clinical development program, discussions are underway with partners with the objective to start a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial of the single vaccine dose versus placebo in September, pending the interim data of the Phase 1 and 2 trials and approval of regulators. Simultaneously, the Company also is planning to start a parallel Phase 3 clinical trial of a two-dose regimen versus placebo,” Johnson & Johnson said.

Why two doses?

“If researchers believe two doses may be needed based upon their early animal studies, they measure the immune response in the blood of volunteer study participants in the early vaccine trials after the first dose and the second dose,” Moore said.

Researchers will be able to see if a second dose produces a much stronger immune response than the first dose, which would suggest that the recipient may be protected better and longer from disease than the first dose.

According to trials thus far, there is a strong likelihood that the vaccine will be given in a series, about a month apart, and may even require a booster several years later.

“The process of vaccination is literally teaching your immune system to recognize and react to a dangerous virus when it sees the virus. The first dose triggers important immune system changes, sometimes called ‘priming’ the immune response, and this process takes about two or three weeks. The second dose boosts that first immune response and the boosting process take about two weeks,” Moore said.

RELATED: Companies test antibody drugs to help treat and prevent coronavirus ahead of a vaccine

According to Moore, scientists will continue to choose certain intervals between doses based upon their experience and then study the immune response after different intervals under they have found a “sweet spot that produces the best immune response in the shortest amount of time for that vaccine.”

“If you give the two doses too close together, the immune response is not as strong,” Moore said.

Financial and logistical concerns

There are significant challenges to vaccinating a large proportion of the adult population against a virus using a two-dose vaccine.

While many vaccines already require two doses, including vaccines for chickenpox and Hepatitis A, two doses for a global vaccine could pose challenges financially and logistically.

There is concern over whether it will be difficult to convince individuals to get a vaccine not once, but twice.

In a poll by Gallup released Aug. 7, as many as one in three Americans said they would not get a vaccine for COVID-19 — even if the vaccine were FDA-approved and free of charge.

According to the poll, 65% of participants said they would and 35% said they would not.

“For a two-dose vaccine, people will need to make two vaccination visits in a month. This might mean time away from work or other obligations, depending on where and when they can be vaccinated,” Moore said.

RELATED: Poll: 1 in 3 Americans say they would not get coronavirus vaccine if it were ready now

“They need to understand that they are not protected until a week or two after their second dose, which might be five or six weeks after their first dose.”

The public will need to reminded that they cannot assume they will protected from infection after just one dose.

Moore said the public must be continually educated about the importance of getting two doses of vaccine and that it must be convenient and affordable for them to do so.

“We will need to focus on reminder systems, as we do with other vaccines that require two or 3 doses, to prompt people when it’s time to come back so they don’t forget,” Moore added.

The exact dosing will become clear over time, but another unknown is whether one round will even be enough.

While some vaccines like the measles make a person immune for life, others like influenza have different strains and require updated vaccinations each year.

Only testing will ultimately tell.

“I am especially encouraged to see how quickly people are volunteering to enroll in these clinical trials. Both companies that have started their Phase 3 trials in the United States have already enrolled more than half of the 30,000 volunteers needed. I hope this means we’ll begin getting answers about safety and about how well these vaccines work in a few months, ” Moore said.

Working out is more important now than ever – The Famuan

Working out is more important now than ever – The Famuan

  • August 31, 2020
FAMU student Fonzi Selmour working out. Photo courtesy Fonzi Selmour

Many of our everyday routines are limited during the coronavirus pandemic, and it can be hard to maintain an activity schedule.

On the off chance that you appreciate wellness, you’re most likely missing the brotherhood and the air of a gym. What’s more, regardless of whether you are getting some exercise in, you may be feeling disappointed that you’re not at your typical degree fitness.

Right now, people are in need of strategies to reduce stress and anxiety, which is where I think exercise is really beneficial,” Teresa Liu-Ambrose, director of the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab housed in the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, said.

With gyms being forced to shut down many have been forced to work out at home. There are many ways you can get a good workout at home, and numerous reasons why you should as well.

At-home workouts are hardly new. YouTube offers wellness recordings of various types, including classes customized for at-home workouts.

You can find virtually any type of exercise at any workout length or intensity youre looking for, which can help keep you accountable and give you a social connection. Presently, even your preferred recreation center may be offering free applications and online courses to keep you moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working out is especially important now because a lot of people are living a less active life because of COVID-19. Fast food places are being utilized more through all the food delivery services so it really can be easy to gain weight or be less healthy.  Food prepping holds you accountable for what goes into your mouth and even on one of the busiest days youll still have all the meals needed for that day,” said Fonzi Selmour, a fourth-year food science major at Florida A&M University. Selmour is a vegan enthusiast and his food business page is @selmourvegan on Instagram. He is also a certified trainer @Fonzifit on Instagram.

Remaining fit can keep you healthy, yet practice additionally supports your psychological and well-being. During a pandemic it’s significant not to abandon your wellness routine. Since you can’t get to the rec center, go to an activity class, or play a sorted out game.

It very well may be hard to remain propelled to practice in the best of times. The additional disturbance and worry from the coronavirus pandemic makes it harder. All things considered, there are things you can do to help yourself.

The world battles a global pandemic and one of the biggest health crisis of all times. It is time to prioritize our physical and mental well-being at all costs,” the Hindustan Times publication says.

Consider having a go at something totally new. For example, try yoga, which is extraordinary for fortifying muscles, improving equalization and unwinding. Some online programs and businesses are currently offering an assortment of free yoga classes.

While being fit won’t keep you from catching the virus, it has numerous other defensive impacts. Physical movement improves all parts of your wellbeing, including boosting your immune system. It also lowers blood pressure and improves disposition, and encourages you to rest better and forestalls burnout.

Best Defense -

Best Defense –

  • August 31, 2020

Wash your hands often. Practice social distancing. Wear a mask. 

Yes, these tactics can help prevent COVID-19 infection. However, boosting your immune system could give you a much-needed edge in the fight against the virus. There’s no magic pill, but certain lifestyle changes can improve your chances of staying healthy. 

We spoke to Nicole Cook, Ph.D., associate professor of public health at Nova Southeastern University’s Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, for her dos and don’ts of building your immunity.

DO get plenty of sleep.

Poor slumber has been linked to higher susceptibility to illness, Dr. Cook says, while rest helps regulate immune function. When you’re sleep deprived, your body produces cortisol to stay alert, which suppresses your immune system. Adults need an average of seven to eight hours of sleep a night, she says. “It’s important to get uninterrupted deep sleep so your body can do what it needs to keep you healthy.”

DON’T over-supplement.

Yes, supplements like vitamin C and zinc can strengthen your body’s immune response. However, too much isn’t beneficial. “You have to be careful about what you take,” says Dr. Cook. “You want to make informed choices.” For example, zinc, a popular supplement right now, isn’t meant for long-term use, she says. Always speak with your doctor about supplements, especially if you’re taking other medications.

DO practice mindfulness.

“Many of us tend to be planners and like to be in control,” she says. “These days, we can’t really plan and may feel out of control. It’s a good time to retrain our thinking to focus on the present and accept what we can’t change.” Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help regulate breathing and reduce stress and anxiety, leading to improved sleep and better immunity. Try journaling, yoga or an app. (Dr. Cook suggests Insight.)

DON’T socially isolate.

Social distancing is one thing. But social isolation is another. Feeling cut off from others can increase depression and lead to lowered immunity, says Dr. Cook. “Isolation puts your mind, body and spirit out of balance.” Stay connected via safe means, such as FaceTime calls or window visits, and don’t forget vulnerable people who have no choice but to distance, such as seniors and the immunocompromised. “Everyone has a social responsibility to engage those who have to distance,” she says. O

St. Vincent’s looking for individuals for COVID-19 vaccine trial

St. Vincent’s looking for individuals for COVID-19 vaccine trial

  • August 31, 2020

From The Tribune staff reports

BIRMINGHAM — Ascension St. Vincent’s is recruiting for a COVID-19 vaccine clinical research trial. The study will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of mRNA-1273, a vaccine candidate against COVID-19.

Sponsored by Moderna, the COVE Study is looking for healthy individuals ages 19 or older in high-risk populations, including those age 65 and older, those who are at higher risk for COVID-19, and essential workers in close contact with potentially infected persons.

“We are excited and hopeful as we begin participating in the COVE Study, understanding this could be one of the most important and impactful clinical research studies in our lifetime,” said Dr. Timothy Bode, Ascension St. Vincent’s Chief Clinical Officer. “Ascension St. Vincent’s is proud to be at the forefront of research for this trial, which could potentially bring the world one step closer to ending this global health crisis.”

The Phase 3 study will evaluate if mRNA-1273 boosts the immune system to produce enough antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, so it does not cause illness in case of infection. Ascension St. Vincent’s is one of 89 research sites across the country participating in the COVE Study.

To be eligible for the study, healthy volunteers must be 19 years of age and older with no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection or previous participation in an investigational coronavirus vaccine. Within this population, Ascension St. Vincent’s is especially looking for candidates whose locations or circumstances put them at higher risk of exposure to the virus, including:

  • Individuals age 65 and older
  • Essential workers in close contact with potentially infected persons, including, but not limited to, healthcare and hospital workers, first responders, transit employees, institutional residents or workers, factory employees, and teachers and students
  • Those at high risk for COVID-19

If a person is eligible and decides to participate, the research staff at Ascension St. Vincent’s will randomize patients to receive either the mRNA-1273 vaccine or a matching placebo. The total length of participation is 25 months and includes approximately seven visits to the clinic and 24 phone calls.

Those who are interested in learning more can visit for more information and to complete a health questionnaire.

About Ascension St. Vincent’s

In Birmingham, Alabama, Ascension St. Vincent’s operates five hospitals in addition to several healthcare facilities and employs more than 4,800 associates. Across the region, Ascension St. Vincent’s provided more than $57.8 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2016. Serving Birmingham for over 118 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable.

Ascension is one of the leading non-profit and Catholic health systems in the U.S., operating 2,600 sites of care – including 151 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities – in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Visit

Give Your Liver A Break With These 7 Zero-Proof Beverage Options

Give Your Liver A Break With These 7 Zero-Proof Beverage Options

  • August 31, 2020

After months of pandemic-induced alcohol consumption, some of us are looking to give the liver a break. Boost the immune system and all. Maybe we need a refreshing and flavorful drink for times when we don’t necessarily want an alcoholic beverage. According to a recent Nielsen report, 66% of millennials are trying to reduce alcohol consumption. And with soda consumption also on the decline, the market for alternative beverages is booming.

These are a few that I’ve enjoyed in recent months.

Upriver Cacao

Most people are familiar with nitro coffee cans, but nitro cacao? Founded in Austin, Texas by the husband and wife team of Curtis and Claudia Bomgaars, Upriver Cacao seeks to introduce the many benefits of cacao-based beverages. Although Claudia grew up in Colombia in a family of coffee producers, she found that cacao provided her with a more gentle, steady source of energy without the jitters, caffeine crash or upset stomach that commonly occur when consuming coffee. Best of all, they are incredibly delicious.

 “Our nitro cacao drinks make the perfect afternoon pick-me-up,” says Claudia of the five current flavors – Dark Wild, Chocolate Chai, Matcha Mama, Strawberry Hibiscus and Vanilla Cream. “They’re full of brain-boosting antioxidants and relaxing magnesium too.” They are light yet creamy, with a small dose of caffeine naturally occurring in cacao beans.


Right now, everyone is looking for healthier ways to relax without impairing their immune system, while easing added stress and pressures. Enter Bimble, an all-natural, CBD infused sparkling beverage containing 25mg of THC-free, broad spectrum hemp extract.

These fizzy bevvys comes in two light and delicious flavors, Blueberry Lemon Ginger and Grapefruit Mint Basil, made with a touch of sustainably sourced Vermont honey – cofounder Jay Moskowitz left his 30-year gig on Wall Street to become a beekeeper, so supporting other beekeepers was important. These chill, drink and chill sodas are great on their own right out of the bottle, served on ice, or as a base to make a calming zero-proof cocktail. At about $6 for each 12 oz glass bottle they may seem dear, but that’s still less than the price of a cocktail in most bars. Bimble is available at select retailers, but you can get it safely delivered straight to your door

Bimble on The Beach

6 oz Bimble Grapefruit Basil Mint, chilled

2 ounces pomegranate or cranberry juice

¼ lemon

2 large mint leaves

1 teaspoon grenadine

Fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lemon quarter with the mint leaves. Add ice, pomegranate juice and grenadine. Shake well. Strain into a glass and add Bimble. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit or lemon.


Austin-based Mayawell was developed by Texan Oliver Shuttlesworth and his partner in Oaxaca, mezcal guru Vicente Reyes. With a name that plays off the famed agave goddess Mayahuel, these healthy, bubbly tonics are made with organic, hand-harvested agave that helps improve digestion and boost immunity due to its rich prebiotic properties. The current flavors include Pineapple Mango Turmeric, Pear Lime Green Tea and Strawberry Hibiscus Ginger, all incredibly refreshing since they’re not too sweet, and are suitable for mixing in cocktails since they’re low in sugar and use all-natural ingredients.

 Shuttlesworth founded Esperos, a bag company that had a strong community support component. He then decided he wanted to be in the health and wellness space and coincidentally met Reyes, an early mezcal pioneer in Oaxaca who has spent years studying how agave plays a role in immunity and health. His proprietary agave ingredient, called PREGAVE, is the hero of the drink, providing all the positive prebiotic benefits.

“PREGAVE is our proprietary formula of prebiotic agavin and agave nectar, which allows us to deliver a meaningful amount of prebiotic fiber with a very low amount of sugar,” says Shuttlesworth. “We use a unique blend of agave species with a clinically validated prebiotic benefit. PREGAVE is clinically proven to retain up to 60% of healthy gut bacteria, which helps fortify the immune system, improve digestive health, and elevate cognitive function. The gut is the body’s second brain, so ensuring it operates at peak function is critical to one’s holistic health and wellness.”

In addition, Mayawell provides jobs, fair wages for local workers and education on how to sustainably take care of the land and source agave properly in Oaxaca. Mayawell is currently sold in Los Angeles, New York City and Austin, Texas.

Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits

Named after the lyrebird, an Australian species known for its ability to replicate any sound, Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits offer a toolkit of flavors to expand your zero-proof game. Lyre’s range draws from over 12,500 extracts, all-natural essences and distillates to recreate the flavors of bourbon, gin, vermouth, and more. The collection includes an American Malt, Dry London Spirit, Coffee Originale, Amaretti, Orange Sec, Aperitif Rosso, Aperitif Dry, and a Dark, White, and Spiced Cane Spirit.

Each flavor comprises a proprietary mix of fruits, spices, and botanicals, with no artificial sweeteners. When mixed or stirred with sodas, tonics, and other easy-to-source ingredients, each product serves as a building block to replace some of the alcohol in a drink. Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso and Dark Cane Spirit earned gold medals from the 2020 San Francisco Wine & Spirits Competition, while Aperitif Dry, Coffee Originale, and Spiced Cane Spirit were recognized with silver. Lyre’s launched its US online store in April.


This recently launched non-alcoholic aperitif, inspired by Mediterranean aperitivo culture and formulated with pure extracts of various botanicals, is one of the best zero-proof aperitifs currently in the market. Ghia contains ingredients found in traditional amari, without any added sugars. All are sourced mindfully and as close to their elemental form as possible, most within the Mediterranean region.

Founder Melanie Masarin is from Lyon, France, but spent summers with her family in the Mediterranean. “My grandmother always served low ABV aperitifs before dinner to prepare the palate and open the conversation,” she says. “The memories I have from that time entertaining friends, cooking together and having conversations that lasted until dawn inspired me to create a non-alcoholic beverage that similarly connects people over shared experiences and creates moments to remember.” 

When it came to formulating, Masarin was set on using gentian root since it provides the same signature bitter profile that classic Italian aperitifs have. “We went through 55 weeks of R&D -and 1001 pours to friends & family for feedback- until we landed on the bright and clean flavor we wanted,” she says. Ghia can be enjoyed on ice, topped with sparkling water, spiked with a favorite spirit or straight from the bottle. Each order includes an adorable cocktail book with signature recipes by Alison St. Pierre, Bartender at acclaimed restaurant King in NYC.


Award-winning tea designer, Caroline MacDougall, dreamed of creating an alternative drink that delivered a rich, bold flavor to satisfy both coffee and tea drinkers, but without the effects of caffeine and acidity. In 1995 she launched a line of blends she named Teeccino, made from roasted herbs, roots, fruits and nuts that are ground to brew like coffee or steep like tea. All are made from high quality, non-GMO, organic ingredients and prebiotics without any artificial flavors, preservatives, chemicals or stimulants. They are surprisingly tasty, calming and comforting served hot with or without milk, and very refreshing over ice.

Teeccino recently launched two unique wellness lines featuring adaptogenic mushrooms and botanicals and prebiotic herbs plus extracts: Mushroom Adaptogen Herbal Coffees & Teas and Prebiotic Superboost™ Herbal Coffees & Teas with flavors of dark chocolate, macadamia nut, toasted maple and more. The Dark Chocolate Prebiotic SuperBoost tea with a splash of coconut milk is a nice after dinner treat with hints of sweetness, but with no sugar or sweeteners. Available on their website, select Whole Foods and Sprouts and via Amazon.

GT’s Synergy Kombucha

Kombucha as an alternative to alcoholic beverages is not new, but I made a recent discovery worth noting: the tropical flavors from GT’s Kombucha make fantastic bases for creating zero-proof cocktails. Their newest flavor, Golden Pineapple, is made with pineapple, lemon juice and sage, and tastes like a seaside vacation. GT’s website offers recipes to get you started with the new flavor and the rest of the tropical line including Watermelon Wonder, Mystic Mango, and Guava Goddess, with the optional addition of your favorite spirit. To boot, they provide 9 billion living probiotics that aid in digestion and gut health.

Golden Colada

Fill a tall Collins glass with crushed ice. Pour 4oz. GT’s Synergy Golden Pineapple Kombucha and 1oz. coconut cream. Stir until combined. Garnish with pineapple frond & grated nutmeg *Optional: add 2oz. aged dark rum

PR Newswire

California Immunization Coalition and California Chronic Care Coalition Urge People to Get Vaccinated During Seasonal Influenza and COVID-19 “Twindemic”

  • August 31, 2020


Robinhood’s Rise Brings Dark Side of Irate Traders, U.S. Probes

(Bloomberg) — Robinhood Markets has catapulted ahead of its online brokerage rivals with a smartphone app that has attracted an army of young investors. Yet with the company’s rise has come a litany of problems: trading outages, angry customers and regulatory probes.Over the first half of the year, U.S. consumer protection agencies received more than 400 complaints about Robinhood — roughly four times more than competitors like Charles Schwab Corp. and Fidelity Investments’ brokerage unit. The grievances, obtained via a public records request to the Federal Trade Commission, depict novice investors in over their heads, struggling to understand why they’ve lost money on stock options or had shares liquidated to pay off margin loans.Among the setbacks highlighted in the documents is a pivotal breakdown in early March when Robinhood stopped working for more than a day, just as markets were swinging wildly on coronavirus fears. Some complainants reported losing thousands of dollars because they couldn’t sell holdings. Others bemoaned the missed opportunity to profit. Most disturbing to the investors was that as the chaos reigned, there was nobody at Robinhood to call for assistance. Many couldn’t even find a listed phone number.“It just says to submit an email,” one investor in Atlanta fumed after spending a week trying to get help from the firm’s customer service department. “This company’s negligence cost me $6,000.” Another, from North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, who estimated losing $20,000, couldn’t reach a live person to close an account. “I can’t make trades, can’t take my own money and can’t leave their service.”A company spokesman said Robinhood takes seriously its responsibilities to clients, especially when so many investors are making their initial forays into trading. Though the firm doesn’t disclose exact figures, it has doubled its customer service representatives this year, and is hiring hundreds more, he said. After the March trading glitch, the company’s engineering team has strengthened its platform and improved reliability, the spokesman said, adding that affected customers were given compensation on a case-by-case basis.Rapid GrowthOffering commission-free trades through technology that can seem more like a video game than a financial tool, Robinhood signed on more than 3 million clients in the first four months of 2020 and has become a symbol of U.S. investors’ resilience during the pandemic. The rapid growth, fueled by quarantined millennials, is also drawing attention in Washington where market watchdogs and politicians are suddenly getting an earful about the broker.Read More: Robinhood’s New Traders Ignore Danger Signs to Bet on StocksSome regulators have privately vented that they feel like they have become Robinhood’s de facto customer-service line because so many of the firm’s clients contact them after failing to reach anyone at the company, said people with direct knowledge of the discussions.Robinhood’s two main overseers, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, are now investigating the company’s handling of the March outage, according to people familiar with the probe who asked not to be identified because it isn’t public. One focus is the lack of customer response.The SEC and Finra declined to comment on any investigations, as did the Robinhood spokesman.If the government scrutiny — which also includes inquiries from lawmakers — escalates, the risks to Robinhood are substantial. The company was recently valued at $11.2 billion after a round of venture capital funding. More trouble could endanger a potential initial public offering, something Wall Street has long expected, or a sale to a big bank or tech firm.Hiring LobbyistsMoving quickly to tamp down the furor, Robinhood recently hired Dan Gallagher, a former Republican SEC commissioner steeped in the culture of federal regulation, as its top lawyer. The company is also opening an office in the nation’s capital and hiring lobbyists to aggressively make its case before Congress and federal agencies.“Robinhood is empowering a whole new class of investors, and I think it is critical for us to have a voice in Washington to advocate for our customers and fairer markets,” Gallagher said in an interview.Founded seven years ago, Menlo Park, California-based Robinhood bills itself as “investing for everyone.” It has sought to disrupt the often staid brokerage industry by making investing cheap, easy and, yes, fun. Trades can be placed with a quick swipe and may be heralded with a burst of virtual confetti. More than 13 million people have opened Robinhood accounts, which don’t have minimum balance requirements. The median age of the firm’s customers is 31, and nearly half say they’re first-time investors.Read More: Robinhood Blows Past Rivals in Record Retail Trading YearEven though its clients tend to be unsophisticated traders, the firm has expanded into options and cryptocurrencies, products that are riskier than stocks. It also offers a premium package that costs $5 a month and gives investors access to research as well as the ability to buy securities with borrowed money, which can amplify gains or losses.Robinhood facilitates trades for investors but doesn’t offer stock recommendations, allowing it to escape some of the onerous regulation faced by competitors with a lot of human employees. The company makes the bulk of its money by selling customer orders to Wall Street trading firms, a common industry practice that existed long before Robinhood.Trader’s SuicideThis summer, lawmakers’ anxieties about the company were heightened after the suicide of a 20-year-old college student who mistakenly thought he had lost more than $700,000 while using the firm’s app to bet on options. The tragedy stirred concerns that Robinhood was allowing customers to take risks they didn’t comprehend — and incur losses they couldn’t afford.Two senators and four House members sent a sharply worded July 13 letter demanding answers about the suicide, the trading snafus and the firm’s efforts to provide training and safeguards for clients.“Robinhood has been very successful in marketing itself as an easy to use and low-cost brokerage service among first-time retail investors,” the Democratic lawmakers, led by California Representative Brad Sherman, wrote. “By seeking to cultivate a customer base of relatively inexperienced investors, you have also taken on an especially great responsibility to make sure your customers are protected.”Robinhood believes it has a good story to tell on Capitol Hill, about how it has “democratized” investing and compelled the online brokerage industry to drive down commissions to zero — a phenomenon some call “the Robinhood effect.” It’s a talking point that the firm’s two founders, Baiju Bhatt and Vladimir Tenev, regularly use, but few in Washington have heard. The company reinforced that message in an 11-page letter responding to the lawmakers.“Our goal is to empower more Americans of all backgrounds to take greater ownership of their financial future, which we believe can help shrink the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’ and lead to a healthier, more robust economy,” wrote David Dusseault, president and chief operating officer of the subsidiary Robinhood Financial. “Our ethos is a commitment to building products that make the financial markets more accessible and approachable, while demystifying otherwise intimidating financial concepts.”The letter added that after the death of student Alex Kearns, the broker was re-tooling its interface for options trading, putting more investor education materials on its app and considering new requirements for investors who want to make more complex bets. Robinhood also made a $250,000 donation for suicide-prevention efforts.Resolving ProbeOn the regulatory front, Robinhood’s most pressing issue is the joint SEC-Finra investigation. But the broker is also looking to establish good relations with other agencies, including the Treasury Department, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, FTC and overseers in each state.To guide the company through that thicket, Robinhood brought on Gallagher, 48, as chief legal officer in May. An attorney who specializes in the often arcane world of broker regulation, Gallagher is friendly with lawmakers of both parties and more comfortable in the Washington uniform of a suit and tie than the tech world’s hoodie and Allbirds sneakers. He’s also brought deep relationships with government officials to the firm. Among his close confidants is SEC Chairman Jay Clayton.Last month, Gallagher hired another SEC insider, ex-Clayton Chief of Staff Lucas Moskowitz, to run Robinhood’s regulatory, litigation and lobbying efforts. Moskowitz has worked for Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee, and he’s been an enforcement lawyer at the SEC. Robinhood also named new chief compliance officers at two subsidiaries in August, one who came from Wells Fargo & Co.’s brokerage and another from Fidelity.Another concern for Robinhood is that the firm’s surging popularity — particularly among traders who will make up the next generation of investors — has other online brokers gunning for it. The rivals, not surprisingly, have been eager to point out Robinhood’s setbacks in discussions with politicians and regulators, as well as in public comments.Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman, for instance, praised his bank’s acquisition of E*Trade Financial Corp. on a July 16 earnings call, drawing a distinction with Robinhood’s troubles, and taking a subtle dig at the firm though not mentioning it by name. E*Trade, Gorman said, has added hundreds of thousands of new accounts without suffering major breakdowns during the pandemic. “But with that has come real money, not just kids playing,” he said.Numerous ComplaintsThe FTC complaints obtained by Bloomberg News, which cover the March outage, do show a wide disparity between Robinhood and its peers. From January through mid-July, the agency had received 473 reports about Robinhood, compared with 126 for Schwab, 111 for E*Trade, 69 for Fidelity and seven for Interactive Brokers Group Inc.Looking to make sure that its competitors don’t succeed in framing the narrative about Robinhood in Washington, the company this month retained four outside government relations firms. Some of the lobbyists have longstanding connections to the SEC and Gallagher, including Justin Daly, a former Senate Banking and SEC aide, and Walton Liles and Ben Brown of Blue Ridge Law & Policy. Two others — The Williams Group and Thorn Run Partners — have Democratic ties.One point the lobbying effort wants to get across is that while Robinhood’s investors may be younger, not all are day traders. Many use a buy-and-hold strategy, and those with less money can purchase fractional shares that allow them to diversify their portfolios with more expensive blue-chip stocks. The company also provides numerous educational materials on its app.Robinhood adds that it’s addressing its customer-service problems. Dusseault, Robinhood Financial’s president, said in his letter to lawmakers that the company was on a hiring binge and would end 2020 with almost triple the amount of representatives that it employed in January, including some who are registered brokers. Still, he didn’t promise that there would be a phone number investors could easily find and call when they need help.“We’ve found that, currently, we’re best able to reach customers quickly over email,” Dusseault wrote.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Study provides insight on how to build a better flu vaccine

Study provides insight on how to build a better flu vaccine

  • August 31, 2020
This digitally-colorized transmission electron microscopic image depicts the ultrastructural details of an influenza virus particle. Credit: CDC, Frederick Murphy

Flu season comes around like clockwork every year, and sooner or later everyone gets infected. The annual flu shot is a key part of public health efforts to control the flu, but the vaccine’s effectiveness is notoriously poor, falling somewhere from 40% to 60% in a typical year.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a history of exposure to influenza virus might be undermining the effectiveness of the annual flu vaccine. Partial immunity developed during prior flu seasons—either through natural infection or vaccination—might interfere with the body’s response to a new vaccine, such that vaccination mainly boosts the recognition of prior influenza but does little to create the ability to fight new strains.

Now, a team led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has developed an approach to assess whether a vaccine activates the kind of immune cells needed for long-lasting immunity against new influenza strains. Using this technique, the researchers showed that the flu vaccine is capable of eliciting antibodies that protect against a broad range of flu viruses, at least in some people. The findings, published Aug. 31 in the journal Nature, could aid efforts to design an improved flu vaccine that provides protection not only against old influenza viruses but also new ones.

“Every year, about half of the U.S. adult population gets vaccinated against influenza,” said senior author Ali Ellebedy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University. “It’s necessary for public health, but it’s also incredibly expensive and inefficient. What we need is a one-and-done influenza shot, but we are not there yet. Anything that helps us understand how immunity develops in the context of prior exposures would be important as we try to make a better vaccine.”

The key to long-lasting immunity lies in lymph nodes, minuscule organs of the immune system positioned throughout the body. Easy to miss in healthy people, lymph nodes become swollen and tender during an infection as immune cells busily interact and multiply within them.

The first time a person is exposed to a virus—either by infection or vaccination—immune cells capture the virus and bring it to the nearest lymph node. There, the virus is presented to so-called naïve B cells, causing them to mature and start producing antibodies to fight the infection. Once the virus is successfully routed, most of the immune cells that take part in the battle die off, but a few continue circulating in the blood as long-lived memory B cells.

The second time a person is exposed to a virus, memory B cells quickly reactivate and start producing antibodies again, bypassing naive B cells. This rapid response quickly builds protection for people who have been reinfected with the exact same strain of virus, but it’s not ideal for people who have received a vaccine designed to build immunity against a slightly different strain, as in the annual .

“If our influenza vaccine targets memory cells, those cells will respond to the parts of the virus that haven’t changed from previous influenza strains,” Ellebedy said. “Our goal is to get our immune system up to date with the new strains of influenza, which means we want to focus the immune response on the parts of the that are different this year.”

To get decades-long immunity against the new strains, the flu strains from the vaccine need to be taken to the lymph nodes, where they can be used to train a new set of naïve B cells and induce long-lived memory B cells specifically tailored to recognize the unique features of the vaccine strains.

To find out what happens inside lymph nodes after influenza vaccination, Ellebedy enlisted the help of co-authors Rachel Presti, MD, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine, and Sharlene Teefey, MD, a professor of radiology at Washington University. Presti led a team at the Infectious Disease Clinical Research Unit that coordinated the sampling of blood and lymph nodes from healthy volunteers before and after vaccination. Guided by ultrasound imaging, Teefey carefully extracted so-called germinal centers that hold immune cells from underarm lymph nodes of eight healthy, young volunteers vaccinated with the 2018-19 quadrivalent influenza vaccine. That vaccine was designed to protect against four different strains of . The immune cells were extracted at one, two, four and nine weeks after vaccination.

Ellebedy and colleagues—including co-senior authors Steven Kleinstein, Ph.D., a professor of pathology at Yale University School of Medicine, and Andrew Ward, Ph.D., a professor of integrative structural and computational biology at Scripps Research Institute, as well as co-first authors Jackson Turner, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher who works with Ellebedy, Julian Zhou, a graduate student in Kleinstein’s lab, and Julianna Han, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar who works with Ward—analyzed the in the germinal centers to find the ones that had been activated by vaccination.

In three volunteers, both memory B cells and naïve B cells in the responded to the vaccine strains, indicating that the vaccine had initiated the process of inducing long-lasting immunity against the new strains.

“Our study shows that the influenza vaccine can engage both kinds of in the germinal centers, but we still don’t know how often that happens,” Ellebedy said. “But given that influenza vaccine effectiveness hovers around 50%, it probably doesn’t happen as often as we would like. That brings up the importance of promoting strategies to boost the germinal centers as a step toward a universal .”

Vaccine additives can enhance immune flexibility, with implications for flu and SARS-CoV-2

More information:
Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2711-0

Study provides insight on how to build a better flu vaccine (2020, August 31)
retrieved 31 August 2020

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Be sure to get your flu shot, but expert advises to wait a few weeks | Entertainment/Life

Be sure to get your flu shot, but expert advises to wait a few weeks | Entertainment/Life

  • August 31, 2020

Dr. Karen Muratore wants you to get a flu shot this year — especially this year. But not right away.

Although the flu vaccine won’t keep you from getting COVID-19, it could keep you out of the hospital. And that could keep the health care system, which is desperately fighting the pandemic, from becoming overwhelmed.

“Even when there is no coronavirus, during flu season generally hospitals are at full capacity with ICUs and ERs taking the brunt of that,” said Muratore, a primary care physician with Ochsner Health Center. “It would be even more complicated if there is a surge in coronavirus.”

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Part of the complication, Muratore said, is that both viral infections share common symptoms —  fever, headaches, muscle aches, weakness, nasal discharge, cough and sore throat.

Coronavirus can include loss of taste and smell and sometimes diarrhea, which aren’t usually associated with the flu. It also is possible to have both diseases simultaneously.

Muratore said she knows of no studies that show having both would make either disease more deadly, but she’s concerned that simultaneous infections would weaken the body’s ability to recover.

It takes the flu vaccine about two weeks to provide full protection, Muratore said, and its strongest protection is in the first three months after receiving it.

The peak of flu season is usually December through February. So, she advises patients to wait until mid-October or early November to get their shots to maximize the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“Everybody pushes for people to get the flu shot, so they’re accepting whenever you want to get it as long as you get it,” she said. “It’s still probably not a good idea to get it too early because you want that full impact of the antibodies protecting you through the entire flu season.”

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All flu vaccines in a year are identical, so it doesn’t matter if you get one from a doctor or pharmacy, Muratore said.

Those 65 and older should get a high-dose vaccine since their immune systems don’t respond as well to the normal dosage, the physician said.

And, no, you can’t get the flu from a flu shot because the vaccine is made from what is essentially a dead virus, Muratore said.

“I come across that all the time in my office, and sometimes it is like walking into a wall,” she said. “People just won’t believe. When you first get the flu shot, it’s going to take two weeks for the immunity to build up. You could get the flu in that two weeks before that flu vaccine is at full action, so you’re going to blame the vaccine when you were incubating the flu all along.”

Everyone 6 months old and older should be immunized, she said. Protecting younger infants just requires common sense.

“Obviously, the best way to protect your infant from the flu is for everyone around that child to get the flu vaccine,” Muratore said. “Secondly is to use the same safety precautions that people are doing now for corona, which is washing your hands thoroughly, washing off surfaces and keeping sick people away from the infant and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also can afford protection because the mother has antibodies which can also boost the child’s immunity.”

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Muratore believes the pandemic is making the public more receptive to getting the flu vaccine.

“People who have refused it in the past, they’ve shown they’re interested now,” she said. “I’m glad that they’re willing to help bring about herd immunity for the flu so that other people who are more vulnerable don’t get sick. That’s another reason to get the flu shot, to avoid giving the flu to your elderly parents, to people who are immune-compromised. You’re doing your part not only for yourself but for others.”

Nutrition Week: Five Easy Foods to Boost Your Immunity This Monsoon Season

Nutrition Week: Five Easy Foods to Boost Your Immunity This Monsoon Season

  • August 31, 2020
Nutrition Week: Five Easy Foods to Boost Your Immunity This Monsoon Season

While the monsoon season brings with it soothing rains, cloudy skies, and much-needed respite from the summer heat, illnesses are the undesirable companions that tend to follow along. Increased proneness to flu and weakened immunity are associated with damp air, which is more conducive to the spread of bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses.

Furthermore, this year’s monsoon season has coincided with the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, which continues to affect people and claim lives not just in India, but all around the world.

In such vulnerable times, maintaining high immunity levels is of utmost importance. Luckily, it is also a feat that is easily achievable, as it does not require one to follow any “special” diet of sorts. Several easily available foods can help one achieve this goal, and here are five such examples that can help you do just that:

Citrus fruits

While apples are repeatedly credited for keeping the doctors away, if you do catch a cold, citrus fruits ought to be your go-to choices to build back the immunity. The high amounts of Vitamin C in these fruits help increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections. Therefore, easily available citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, tangerines, and limes must be consumed not just when sick, but on a regular basis, because the human body neither produces nor stores Vitamin C on its own.


Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins A, C, and E; minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron; along with beta-carotene, fibre, and many other antioxidants—all of which make it one of the healthiest vegetables you can consume. It also consists of a compound named glutathione, which is dubbed as a master antioxidant for the body. Together, these vitamins and minerals help the immune system run in top form. However, the key to keeping broccoli’s power intact is to cook it as little as possible—or better yet, not at all. Steaming is the best way to ensure it retains the maximum amount of nutrients.


Another immunity-boosting ingredient that many turn to after getting sick is ginger. The spice is known to help reduce sore throat, nausea, and inflammatory illnesses. It packs some heat in the form of gingerol—a chemical compound that activates the spice receptors on the tongue.

A girl enjoying the rain showers in Mulund gardens, Mumbai.

(Sanjay Hadkar/TOI, BCCL/Mumbai )

Apart from its evident benefits, ginger is also believed to be capable of dealing with chronic pain and possessing cholesterol-lowering properties. All positives considered, a brownie point that adds to ginger’s favour is that it can be a great addition to your everyday chai.


Almonds are full of powerful antioxidants that are key to a healthy immune system. Packed with vitamin E and healthy fats, they possess vitamins that require the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. While classified as bone-building foods—they lower the risk of fractures and breaks—almonds also provide us with magnesium and potassium, which help oxygen and nutrients flow more freely through the blood.


While it is a common practice to drink warm chicken soup when sick—it helps reduce mucus and get over the cold quickly—consuming poultry on a regular basis has its own set of advantages for the non-vegetarians. Poultry such as chicken is high in vitamin B-6, which is not only crucial for several chemical reactions that happen in the human body but also plays a vital role in the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Further, stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chon-droi-tin, and other nutrients that help with gut healing and immunity.


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