The Conversation: 4 things you can do to help kids cope with upheaval from coronavirus quarantines

About 55 million U.S. schoolchildren attend schools that have been closed or are being directly affected by the new coronavirus social distancing rules. Erika London Bocknek, a family therapist who studies early childhood development, parenting and family resilience, encourages parents and others raising kids to focus on the 4 R’s: routines, rules, relationships and rituals.

1. Routines

A good routine should create a pattern each day for a child that is predictable. But there are many ways to do that besides setting up a traditional schedule.

New strict schedules may increase anxiety for some kids, especially if the transitions between one activity and the next seem arbitrary. To create predictability outside the constraints of a traditional school schedule, consider holding daily morning meetings to set priorities. Families can use that time to clearly communicate, sort out expectations and remind one another of what’s ahead, from online chats with teachers to when lunch will be to who will do which household chores or where to go on an afternoon walk. Older children can write those priorities down to use as checklists. Little kids benefit from daily reminders about what they can look forward to throughout the day.

Several studies, including some I’ve conducted, have consistently found that sticking with dinnertime and bedtime routines in particular is good for positive mental health outcomes throughout childhood.

Even if families opt for a model that’s more flexible than what kids are used to on school days, consistency is key. For example, kids and adults should have at least one meal at about the same time every day together. That meal is a good opportunity for everyone to spend time together free of electronic devices and other distractions.

To be clear, the gathering itself matters as much as what’s on the table. These types of routines anchor the day, and research shows that they organize children’s external worlds in ways that support self-regulation, the building block of good mental health. In addition, predictable family environments help children feel like their homes are stable and supportive — which is especially important when under stress.

2. Rules

While parents and other guardians may see fit to reduce expectations and ratchet down demands, they should stick with the rules that matter most in the long term for their families. For example, it may be reasonable to relax expectations about tidiness or screen time. However, families should maintain rules about safety and kindness and be consistent with consequences. Children of all ages feel and behave better with predictable family rules.

Parents and other caregivers may want to set new family rules at this time, such as requiring kids to do more chores and share in household responsibilities. Such rules may instill some of the independence, community obligation and social engagement that students otherwise experience at school.

3. Relationships

As families find themselves spending more time together, responsible adults should reflect on their own mood and behavior. Children don’t need perfect parents to thrive, but they do benefit from parenting they find predictable.

For example, children should be able to anticipate how their parents or other caregivers will typically interact with them and how the most important adults in their lives will respond to stress. It’s OK for those adults to let on that they’re feeling stressed out, as long as children see them coping with these feelings in safe and appropriate ways.

Kids fare best when their moms, dads and other caregivers are warm and responsive when directly interacting with them. This doesn’t require nonstop attention and, in fact, attempts to sustain direct attention throughout the day may detract from adults’ overall capacity to provide this kind of positive attention. Aim instead for planned moments of focused, positive interaction even if brief and repeat throughout the day.

Read:Here are essential resources to help parents take advantage of the coronavirus lockdown to teach some lifelong financial literacy lessons to their teenagers

4. Rituals

Any special routine can become a family ritual — which are predictable and help every family member feel like they belong to a special group. Research shows that rituals support good mental health in childhood because of the previously mentioned sense of family organization and the added benefit of family cohesion that gives children a positive sense of their identity.

Taco Tuesdays and regular movie nights work, as do religious practices like bedtime prayers. I’ve found that rituals that connect children to previous generations may be particularly powerful, so this could be a good time to revive and adapt a beloved ritual from your own childhood. Or create new family rituals together. Especially during periods of uncertainty like this pandemic, rituals make it clear to kids that their families are stable and strong.

Now read:Help for frazzled parents: 20 virtual field trips to keep your kids occupied (and learning)

Erika Bocknek is an associate professor of educational psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit. This was first published by The Conversation — “4 good practices for anyone caring for quarantined kids”.

Next Avenue: The science behind why older immune systems are more vulnerable to COVID-19

This article is reprinted by permission from This “Ask the Expert” article is part of an editorial partnership between Next Avenue and The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research.

Dr. Sean X. Leng and his laboratory team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study the biology of healthy aging with a focus on chronic inflammation in late-life decline. The lab also studies “immunosenescence” — the decline in immune function as we age. Leng’s team is interested in the relationship between immunosenescence and the basic biological and physiological changes related to aging and frailty in the human immune system.

A professor of medicine, molecular microbiology and immunology and a board-certified geriatrician at Johns Hopkins, Leng is also president of the Milstein Medical Asian American Partnership Foundation, which works to improve world health by developing mutually beneficial partnerships between the U.S. and China, as well as greater Asia.

We recently talked with Leng — a 2006 Paul B. Beeson Emerging Leaders Career Development Award in Aging recipient — about the role of immunosenescence in the COVID-19 pandemic, and how a geroscience approach can help address the problem.

AFAR: As a researcher in the field of aging research who has studied viral infections and immune function, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about how it effects older adults?

Dr. Sean X. Leng: The thing that’s most pertinent to aging and gerontologists is that older adults are at the greatest risk of hospitalization, winding up in the intensive care unit (ICU) and death from COVID-19. The case fatality rate is far higher among older adults than among the young and middle-aged.

When you look at the data from China through Feb. 11, for those in their 80s and older, the case fatality rate is 14.8%, compared to basically zero among children under the age of 10. In Italy, as of March 17, the case fatality rate for those over age 80 was 20.2%, compared to zero for those age 29 and younger. It should be noted that older adults account for a much higher proportion of Italy’s population (22.8%) than in China (11.9%). This may explain why Italy has a much higher overall case fatality rate than China.

And in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of March 18, 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions and 80% of deaths associated with COVID-19 were among adults age 65 and older. And the highest percentage was among those age 85 and older. Clearly, older adults are the ones most vulnerable to COVID-19.

What role does decline in immune function as we age, known as immunosenescence, play in making aging the greatest risk factor for severe COVID-19 and deaths?

I think there are two points in terms of older adults’ vulnerability to the severe disease.

One is that our overall immune defense decreases as we age. To put it in simple terms, because of the decline in immune function, if even one viral particle gets into the airways of an older adult, it may be enough for the virus to survive and grow there because of the decline in immune function. For younger individuals, if you have a very strong immune system, the body may be able to kill that virus even if more particles get in.

The other aspect is what we call immune dysregulation. Some of the initial research shows that the virus can actually stimulate the airway to produce what’s known as a ‘cytokine’ storm. Cytokines are small protein molecules, or peptides, that play an important role both in the acute inflammatory response and also in the immune response.

Because the immune system, like other systems in our bodies, is highly regulated, the production of excess cytokines can cause tissue damage. It’s an overreaction to the virus. As in the pathogenesis of sepsis, a cytokine storm, in some cases, can lead to hypotension (low blood pressure), circulation collapse and multiorgan failure.

In China, one of the key indicators for severe COVID-19 cases in the ICU was when patients developed what we call lymphopenia — a dangerously low level of lymphocytes in the blood — between four and six days after disease onset. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that include T cells and B cells, which are critical immune cells. So they found the virus killed both CD4 and CD8 cells, which are the two major categories of T cells. Those severe cases where patients developed lymphopenia in day four to six resulted in very poor outcomes. Most of these patients died from COVID-19.

The key issue is really, how can we help increase the immune function of older adults, which will help to limit the severity of the disease?

So, the virus is kind of a double whammy for older adults. When you think about it, older adults have a weaker immune system to start with, so it’s easier for the virus to get in and grow there. And then when this virus starts to kill those remaining immune cells, it will make outcomes for older adults even worse.

You’ve said that some of your colleagues on the front lines of the pandemic refer to COVID-19 as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) plus HIV. What do they mean by that?

Some of my friends in China have experience dealing with SARS, and they think COVID-19 is worse. They say it’s like SARS plus HIV. It’s actually worse than HIV, because HIV only kills CD4 T cells. But this thing kills both CD4 and CD8 T cells.

Why is the geroscience approach necessary to lessen the severity of viruses including COVID-19 in older adults?

Geroscience addresses resiliency and the ability of older adults to fight infections and other diseases by targeting the underlying biology of aging, rather than just a specific pathogen. Even within the coronavirus family, we had SARS, we had MERS, and now we have COVID-19. So, going after specific individual pathogens, which is the traditional paradigm, won’t work.

The key issue is really, how can we help increase the immune function of older adults, which will help to limit the severity of the disease?

Even if we develop the best vaccine — the most potent vaccine — in the world, if a person, particularly an older adult, does not respond well or is not able to mount a good immune response, then it really doesn’t matter. Instead of focusing only on the virus, we really need to focus on the host, on older adults. It’s obvious.

If an older adult’s immune system is not working well, no matter what vaccine you give, it’s not going to be able to mount a good immune protection.

Learn more about geroscience and COVID-19

For more of Leng’s insights on the unique impact of COVID-19 on older adults globally and for additional expert perspectives on promising geroprotectors that target age-related disease by targeting the biology of aging, check out the video of this recent AFAR webinar “COVID-19: Can the Science of Aging Move us Forward?

The American Federation for Aging Research is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research. @AFARorg

This article is reprinted by permission from, © 2020 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

Autotrader: The best cars of 2020

From sports cars and family SUVs to hybrids and pickup trucks, 2020 is a big year for automobiles. The new decade is starting off with a bang with lots of competitive new cars in just about every segment. To help you with your car shopping, we’ve carefully compiled a list of the 12 best new cars for 2020 with enough variety to please just about everyone.

Before we dive in on which cars made our list, a word on our criteria. Every member of our team had to unanimously agree on a car’s excellence to make it onto this list. A car needs to satisfy a range of personal tastes to be considered the best of the best and every car, truck and SUV on this list checks that box.

A car also has to be an all-new model or a recent redesign of an existing model to make it into our top 12. Every vehicle on this list comes with some unexpected benefit or set of features that change the way you’d think of that car or the brand that it comes from. Each car on our list must have a base price of less than $75,000, although most are well under. Also, each car on our list has to score an overall 3.9 or higher on our 5-point evaluation sheet.

Speaking of brands, we think it’s worth noting that out of the 12 best cars of the year, only one of them comes from a luxury brand. That tells you just how good cars from volume brands have gotten in their top trims when it comes to comfort, technology and design. If you’re in the market for a new luxury car, you may want to consider a car from a more mainstream brand that could be every bit as nice as a more expensive luxury car, just without the brand panache.

Another notable aspect of this year’s list is that there are three midsize 3-row SUVs from volume brands on the list. While we like to have as much variety as possible in our top 12, all three SUVs in question are simply so good that we felt they all truly deserved a spot on this list. If you’re shopping for an SUV in this particular segment, we really recommend test-driving all three if possible to see which one best suits your tastes and your needs.

One more fact to call out: Four of the 12 cars on our list are available as a hybrid, one of which is a plug-in hybrid, meaning you can drive some distance on electricity only before it reverts to a gasoline/electric hybrid.

Without further ado, here are Autotrader’s 12 best new cars for 2020 with commentary from our staff. Commentary is from executive editor Brian Moody, managing editor Tara Trompeter, automotive data manager Ben Cheney, data specialists Dwight Cunningham and Tommy Flanagan and editors Rob Nestora and Doug DeMuro.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 is a huge milestone for the legendary nameplate. The basic formula of the Corvette has been unchanged for decades as a two-seater sports car with a V8 in the front powering the rear wheels. However, the formula has changed in a big way with the 2020 redesign, with the engine finally moving behind the driver in a mid-engine configuration that’s been rumored for almost all of Corvette history.

The Corvette.


“Overall, I found the car to be tremendously well-executed,” Doug said of the C8. He expressed that he thought the C7 was a bit overrated but the C8 lives up to the hype. “The C8 drives well, it’s nice inside, it’s roomy, it’s fast, it’s fun and most important, it’s cheap. You will never find one for $60K (base car doesn’t have nav, wireless charging, heated seats, cargo netting), but even at $85K, my test car felt like a bargain compared to a lot of the exotic cars I drive,” Doug said.

Brian Moody said, “The idea of a mid-engine Corvette may seem foreign to many purists, but that set-up was actually part of the Corvette plan dating as far back as the 1950s. On the other hand, if your main complaint with previous Corvettes was the interior quality, the C8 fixes that and then some.”

Available as a coupe or a convertible, the new Corvette continues the nameplate’s legacy as one of the best sports car values on the market.

2020 Ford Expedition

The 2020 Ford Expedition is the only car on this list that is not an all-new model or a full redesign for 2020. That’s because we wanted to put a full-size SUV on this list and there just aren’t any all-new ones for 2020 since this segment only has a handful of players. The Ford F, -4.21% Expedition got a big redesign for 2018 and it’s been aging tremendously well ever since as a roomy and capable family hauler.

Ben thought that the Expedition ”was overshadowed by its pricier Lincoln Navigator sibling but indeed deserves a look itself.” Indeed, the 2018 Navigator got a lot of well-deserved attention when it was new, but its more affordable Ford cousin has just as much to offer, just in a less luxurious package.

“Big SUVs are hard to get just right, they can feel overwhelming and very trucklike,” Brian said. “The Expedition is different. Yes, it is big, but it feels manageable from behind the wheel. With a starting price of just over $50,000, you won’t find a better full-size SUV for 2020.”

We can’t wait to see how the upcoming all-new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban compete with the excellent Expedition. 

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

For the first time, a hybrid version of Honda’s HMC, -2.46% popular compact crossover is available in the U.S. in the form of the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. This compact crossover goes toe-to-toe with the excellent Toyota TM, -0.85% RAV4 Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid and does an admirable job checking all of the boxes for shoppers looking for an efficient small SUV. It’s super-efficient, has plenty of interior space and it’s reasonably priced. The gasoline-only CR-V gets a light update for 2020. Yes, the CR-V is a good small SUV no matter which one you get, but the hybrid version really stands out.

The Honda CR-V


Brian believes that Honda went above and beyond when it comes to refinement in the CR-V Hybrid. “On the road, the CR-V Hybrid feels like it’s engineered to a higher standard when compared to other compact SUVs. Same goes for the interior, it’s just pleasant — spending time inside the CR-V is something to look forward to. Your friends will think it looks and feels like the small SUV you really wanted, not just the one you can afford,” Brian said of this hybrid Honda.

Moody also said the CR-V deserves praise for its performance and capability. “Acceleration is another high point — it feels quick but the engine sound isn’t harsh or overwhelming. We also had a chance to sample the all-wheel-drive capabilities. The CR-V uses a mechanical system versus an electric drive for the rear wheels. The result is that CR-V feels like it can tackle slightly more serious weather or off-road trails versus the RAV4.” 

2020 Hyundai Palisade

It can be tricky to strike a balance between an affordable volume car and a premium luxury car, but the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is a very good midsize 3-row SUV that gets that formula just right. It’s a roomy family SUV with levels of refinement you might be shocked to find in a Hyundai. Well, you’ll only be shocked if you haven’t driven a Hyundai HYMTF, -7.00% lately.

The Hyundai Palisade


Brian thinks that the Palisade makes a powerful statement about Hyundai as a brand. “Even if you don’t buy or even like the Palisade, it’s indicative of what Hyundai is doing overall. My advice to shoppers is to look at what Hyundai is doing with the Palisade, inside and out, and see if it doesn’t move you to check out other Hyundai vehicles,” Brian said.

Our editor Tara is also enthusiastic about where Hyundai is in 2020 and where the brand is headed in the new decade. “Hyundai is killing it at the moment! The Palisade is a great-looking, feature-rich 3-row SUV option for families needing a bit more space for their kids and cargo. Between the Palisade and the new Sonata, Hyundai has stepped up its game big-time, emerging as a modern automaker that really gets how to deliver style, features and value, all in one attractive package,” Tara said.

For some drivers, Hyundai may still carry a reputation of being a bargain brand that you go with if you can’t afford a nicer Japanese car, but Tommy thinks the Palisade puts that reputation to rest. He described the Palisade as “a worthy competitor to the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.” 

2020 Hyundai Sonata

You may not have expected to see two Hyundai models on this list, but the 2020 Hyundai Sonata makes a strong case as a class leader in the competitive midsize sedan segment. Its redesign brought with it a stunning new look, a roomy, premium interior and a generous list of standard features, plus some interesting available tech when you get into the higher trims like remote parking assist that helps with tight parking spaces. That’s a feature you’d normally expect to see in a much more expensive luxury car. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is offered as a hybrid as well.

The Hyundai Sonata hybrid


“The new Sonata is an excellent sedan — it’s the pinnacle of all Hyundai has been working toward since the company first landed in the U.S. 34 years ago,” Brian said of the redesigned Sonata. “This is a very good-looking midsize sedan. The rear-end treatment, the chrome strips/lighting feature and wheel choices are excellent. There’s also a good deal of cool tech: Smart park assist and digital key are just two examples. The turbo engine is also a blast and has a brilliant combination of power and refinement.”

Also see: New car review: The Hyundai Venue

You may default to the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord when thinking of a midsize sedan, and we wouldn’t blame you. But this Hyundai is a serious challenger to the longtime class leaders. 

2020 Jeep Gladiator

The idea is simple: Put a pickup truck bed on the back of a Jeep Wrangler and you’ll automatically have the most fun midsize pickup in the world. Technically, though, the Gladiator really isn’t just a Wrangler with a pickup bed on the back. It’s a dedicated midsize truck. Think of it like a modern version of the Jeep Scrambler. Regardless of how the 2020 Jeep Gladiator was designed, we couldn’t be happier with the result. The Gladiator is the first Jeep pickup truck since the 1992 Comanche and the brand has returned to this segment with a bang.

The Jeep Gladiator


Not surprisingly, there was a lot of enthusiasm from our staff about the Gladiator. “This was one of my favorite vehicles of the year,” Dwight said of this off-roader. “For all the obvious reasons Wrangler is beloved, and now with a truck bed in the back. We all win!” Ben had a similar sentiment about the Gladiator. “It’s a pickup that’s also a convertible, what’s not to love? All of the coolness of a Wrangler with the functionality of a pickup bed.”

Jeep models with exceptional off-road capabilities have historically not been the best for on-road use, but like the Wrangler JL, the Gladiator is an off-roader without compromise. It delivers a surprisingly smooth and comfortable ride quality on the street while displaying all of the off-road chops you’d expect when the pavement ends. The Gladiator is simply a blast to drive on any terrain. 

2020 Kia Telluride

The 2020 Kia Telluride is a midsize 3-row crossover that is mechanically similar to the new Hyundai Palisade, but there’s enough setting the two apart to both warrant their own respective spot on this list. Also, they’re both really that good.

The Kia Telluride


Brian could not say enough good things about this surprising new Kia. “The Telluride is an excellent SUV — a home run for Kia. Everything about it is terrific: the look, the ride, the features, the space. Excellent. Just a well-executed midsize SUV that somehow manages to be simple, authentic and luxurious all at the same time.”

Tara says the Telluride is a top choice for growing families looking for an SUV. “A lot of my mommy friends ask for my advice when shopping for a new car for their growing families, and without hesitation, I tell them not to buy a single thing without first test-driving the Kia Telluride. It’s the most surprising — not to mention best-looking — three-row SUV on the market right now from a mainstream brand. There’s a reason Kia can’t keep up with the demand for them! Offering family-friendly features galore, a supremely luxurious interior and styling that’ll constantly turn heads, the Telluride is an absolute winner.”

The fact is, these things are flying off dealer lots. “It seems customers have all noticed that this vehicle provides a great amount of value and style for the price. I don’t think it drives quite as well as some of the competitors but everything else is top-notch,” Ben said of the Kia.

We talked earlier about cars from volume brands being competitive with pricey luxury vehicles in 2020 and the Telluride is an excellent example of that. “I loved the bold rugged design and refined driving dynamic,” Dwight said of this Kia. “They provide an SUV that is near-luxury, without the luxury price tag.” Tommy says the Telluride is “hard to beat on price.” He went on to praise the “ride quality, quietness and comfort” of this SUV. F

2020 Lincoln Aviator

And now for the one luxury vehicle that made it on our top 12 list; the 2020 Lincoln Aviator. The midsize Aviator came on the scene to a lot of fanfare following the launch of the outstanding new Navigator in 2018 and the Aviator is a very good luxury SUV and lives up to the expectations that were set by its big brother. In fact, many of our editors like the Aviator better because of it’s interior layout and more urban-friendly size.

Our staff likes the Aviator so much that some have boldly declared it the best luxury midsize SUV, period. Previously, Lincoln was kind of in its own segment of American luxury which was affordable but couldn’t quite compete with the fancier German luxury brands. That disparity is now gone and Lincoln is back on top of the luxury game for the first time in decades.

“The Aviator is the most stylish, luxurious midsize SUV on the market today, bar none. From the pillowy leather seats to the bevy of tech features to the gorgeously styled front fascia, Lincoln knocked it out of the park on this one. Skip the Caddys. Skip the Benzes. Go directly to Lincoln,” Rob said of the Aviator.

The Aviator is great for families, too. “When my kids stepped into the Lincoln Aviator for the first time, my 8-year-old daughter gushed, ‘Mommy! This is so FANCY!’ And she’s right — the Aviator oozes luxury, inside and out,” said Tara, who used the Lincoln for family duty. “It drives like a dream and there’s not a feature it doesn’t offer. If you have the budget for it (which might be the sticking point for many) and you’re looking for a three-row SUV for your family or cargo, the 2020 Aviator is the best midsize luxury SUV choice available today.” When even your 8-year-old notices how luxurious your SUV is, you know you have something special.

Tommy echoed the high praise of the Aviator’s interior. “What most impressed me about the Aviator is the interior. The seats were extremely comfy and I like that there were quite a bit of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin.”

Brian went a step further and said the Lincoln Aviator just might be the perfect daily driver. “This is what Lincoln has become: a true luxury brand with amazing interior details, compelling tech and a plug-in hybrid option that will get you to rethink hybrids. This is the perfect car for every day luxury. Looking for a high-end SUV? Compare the Aviator to the best. Porsche, Mercedes, BMW — it is that good!”

Also see: The most affordable 3-row SUVs

In case we were unclear, you should absolutely test drive a Lincoln Aviator if you’re in the market for a midsize luxury SUV. 

2020 Mazda CX-30

Filling in the space between a subcompact crossover and a compact crossover is the all-new 2020 Mazda CX-30. Mazda’s CX-30 is good small SUV. Mazda MZDAY, -3.16% has built a reputation for building athletic SUVs in segments where performance and handling are normally missing. You won’t get bored behind the wheel of any new Mazda model, including the CX-30. “If you are in the market for a small crossover but still want particularly good handling, this could be the vehicle for you,” Ben said of the new Mazda.

The Mazda CX30


Another thing Mazda has become known for is incredible value. “Price is one of the first things that surprised me about the CX-30,” Tommy said of the CX-30, noting its base MSRP of $21,900. “That gets you an 8.8-in center display, rain-sensing wipers and loads of standard safety equipment. As spacious as it is up front, rear-seat legroom suffers quite a bit.” If you’re planning on having back seat passengers often, consider upgrading to the bigger CX-5.

Even on the high end, the pricing of the top Premium trim with all-wheel drive still starts under the $30k mark. That includes leather seating, a power moonroof, a head-up display, Bose premium audio, adaptive headlights and much more. The CX-30 might have the highest bang-for-the-buck factor of any car on this list.

“The Mazda CX-30 is just Mazda doing what Mazda does,” Brian said. “Clean lines inside and out, good acceleration and an overall vibe that makes you do a double-take on the price. If sporty handling and a premium interior are important to you in a small SUV, get the CX-30.” 

2020 Nissan Sentra

There weren’t a lot of nice things we could say about the 2019 Sentra since it was getting pretty stale. However, that has been remedied by an all-new 2020 Nissan Sentra, which gets our unofficial “most improved” award compared to the previous model year. The 2020 Nissan Sentra is a very good compact sedan for buyers looking for comfort and value.

Don’t miss:The new world of car-buying: Remote negotiation, home delivery and no-touch test drives

A premium interior isn’t normally a characteristic you might associate with compact sedans, but Nissan has been making big strides in interior quality and design in recent years. “Again, the interior is what won me over on the new Sentra. The quilted leather from the Premium Package felt really upscale and was something I wouldn’t normally expect to find in a Nissan,” NSANY, -2.98% Tommy said of the thoroughly redesigned Sentra. “Exterior styling is also much better for 2020. From a distance, you might mistake it for an Altima. Another plus is all Sentras now come with standard safety equipment such as forward and reverse automatic braking, blind spot warning, lane departure and automatic high beams.” That’s safety tech that we love to see as standard equipment, especially in such an affordable car.

Brian noted that the Sentra is a symbol of the idea that an affordable economy car doesn’t need to be a bummer. “Value — that’s the selling point here. Getting an affordable car doesn’t have to mean sacrifice. The color choices and interior appointments are enough to make your co-workers think you got a much more expensive car. A quiet ride is also a big selling point. Not every small sedan is a good choice for summer road trips — the Sentra is.”

Ben echoed the praise for the interior quality. “Where this car stood out was with its interior materials and value. Also, the back seat seemed particularly roomy for this segment,” Ben said noting that the Sentra can work as a small family car.

“This is finally a Sentra that I would actually want to drive,” Dwight said. “They have upgraded the Sentra in every way. The interior is a big standout and the exterior is well-executed. Stepping up to SL trim provides very nice appointments.” 

2020 Subaru Outback

You might not notice by a first glance at the exterior, but the 2020 Subaru Outback is all-new. The new Outback is a very good family car. Subaru intentionally didn’t mess with the look too much because Subaru people like the Subaru look. However, when you step inside, the redesign becomes much more apparent. Naturally, AWD is standard on every trim which, combined with generous ground clearance and Subaru’s X-Mode, gives the Outback some serious off-road chops while still being a pleasure to drive on the road.

The Subaru Outback


“The Outback is indeed an all-new vehicle even though it closely resembles the outgoing model,” Ben said of the familiar-looking new Outback. “I found that it was surprisingly quiet and composed on the highway. The interior, especially that of the large center screen, is nicer than expected.”

Whether the Outback is a wagon or an SUV depends on who you ask, but Brian thinks the Outback is a good, unconventional alternative to a more cookie-cutter crossover. He said this Subaru is “the perfect SUV alternative for those who want a rugged family car without the bulky size of a more trucklike vehicle.”

Another thing we love about the new Outback is the return of a turbocharged engine option which delivers better performance and better fuel economy than the 6-cylinder engine in the outgoing model. The turbo engine is a win-win if your budget allows it. 

2020 Toyota Highlander

The third midsize 3-row crossover from a volume brand on our list this year is the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander. The Highlander is a good SUV and has been a leader in this segment since it was first introduced almost 20 years ago and its dominance continues with the freshly redesigned fourth generation. The new Highlander has more interior space, more standard tech and it finally has a standard V6, having ditched the pokey base 4-cylinder in the previous model. We know what you’re thinking: the Toyota is the expected choice. Maybe, but the driving dynamics and handling with this new Highlander are anything but expected. Plus, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is available as a hybrid, too.

The Toyota Highlander


Brian was impressed with every aspect of the new Highlander. “The main thing to keep in mind about the new Highlander is the driving experience,” Brian said. “Toyota engineers must have worked overtime getting the ride and handling just right. There’s none of that imprecise or sloppy feel you sometimes get in midsize SUVs. It all feels like every screw, nut and bolt was tightened just a little extra. The 12.3-in touch screen on the higher trim levels is also great — not what we expected from Toyota. We really appreciate that Toyota still has a V6 engine — 295 hp is more than enough.”

Also see: These 3 EVs are the lowest cost to own over 5 years

Tommy also liked the interior and agreed that Toyota has caught up with the competition in terms of infotainment tech. “The interior is really what shines on the new Highlander,” Tommy said. “For starters, it finally gets Apple AAPL, -3.09% CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon AMZN, -2.73% Alexa capability. Higher trims can get a 12.3-in touchscreen. An interesting feature of the dash is all the extra storage space.”

But an even bigger deal than the nice new infotainment tech is the abundant safety technology that now comes standard on every trim of the Highlander. Every 2020 Highlander comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes a pre-collision system with low-light pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, automatic high beams and road sign assist. What more could you ask for in a family vehicle? 

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‘We will not have a vaccine by next winter.’ What happens when coronavirus returns?

America is staring down a widespread COVID-19 testing shortage with no vaccine in sight. So what happens when coronavirus makes its unceremonious return?

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the novel coronavirus “might keep coming back” year after year. “The ultimate game changer in this will be a vaccine,” he said. But that, Fauci estimated, could take 12 to 18 months.

“The four seasonal coronaviruses do not seem to induce long-term immunity,” Gregory Poland, who studies the immunogenetics of vaccine response in adults and children at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told MarketWatch. “We can speculate, but not dogmatically.”

Coronavirus immunity differs from other diseases.

“We will not have a vaccine by next winter,” Poland added. “The Southern Hemisphere is just starting their fall and winter. They will have a severe course of this disease due to less preparedness, less medical infrastructure and less public infrastructure.”

Coronavirus immunity differs from other diseases. Immunizations against smallpox, measles or Hepatitis B should last a lifetime, Poland said. Coronaviruses, first discovered in the 1960s, interact with our immune system in unique and different ways, he added.

How do other coronaviruses compare to SARS-CoV-2? People infected by SARS-CoV, an outbreak that centered in southern China and Hong Kong from 2002 to 2004, had immunity for roughly two years; studies suggest the antibodies disappear six years after the infection.

For MERS-CoV, a coronavirus that has caused hundreds of cases in the Middle East, people retain immunity for approximately 18 months — although the long-term response to being exposed to the virus again may depend on the severity of the original infection.

The world, Poland said, should brace itself for round two: “We will start moving into our summer when they’re moving into their winter,” he said. “If, as is likely, we don’t restrict all travel, cases will start coming back into the Northern Hemisphere and we’ll have another outbreak this fall.”

It’s too early for ‘herd immunity’ to be effective

Without a vaccine, “herd immunity” is another option. That theory, briefly considered in the U.K. as an alternative to closing businesses and practicing social distancing, was deemed too risky. Ultimately, enough people would need to be immune to shield the most vulnerable.

“There’s no chance that immunity is going to be high enough to reach herd immunity,” Poland said. “With influenza, you need herd immunity of 60% to 70%. With measles, you need about 95%. With COVID-19, it’s somewhere in the middle.”

In the absence of a vaccine, Poland said several conditions are necessary for herd immunity to work: a very high level of population immunity, for that immunity to be durable, and for the virus to not mutate. “None of those seem to be operational at present,” he said.

Just over 4.1 million people have been tested in the U.S. for SARS-CoV-2, there are 824,147 confirmed cases, and nearly 45,000 deaths. Testing has been delayed by shortages of reliable tests nationwide. A recent Reuters poll suggested 2.3% were diagnosed with COVID-19.

With influenza, you need herd immunity of 60% to 70%. With measles, you need about 95%. With COVID-19, it’s somewhere in the middle.

— Gregory Poland, who studies the immunogenetics of vaccines at the Mayo Clinic.

In addition to the level of herd immunity (or lack thereof) to protect those who are most vulnerable, people will have to be cognizant of the disease spreading through asymptomatic carriers — that is, people who are infected but show no signs that they’re ill.

For example, a New England Journal of Medicine study published this month found that 29 (or 14%) of 210 pregnant women arriving at New York–Presbyterian Allen Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center tested positive for COVID-19, yet displayed no symptoms.

“Our use of universal SARS-CoV-2 testing in all pregnant patients presenting for delivery revealed that at this point in the pandemic in New York City, most of the patients who were positive for SARS-CoV-2 at delivery were asymptomatic,” the study concluded.

“It underscores the risk of Covid-19 among asymptomatic obstetrical patients,” added the study, which was published earlier this month. “Moreover, the true prevalence of infection may be underreported because of false negative results of tests to detect SARS-CoV-2.”

Lessons in immunity from the Spanish flu of 1918

So what will happen if or when SARS-CoV-2, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, returns? “We’re just 14 weeks into this, so no one knows,” Poland said. If it has a slight mutation, he added, the response of our antibodies will be “moderately irrelevant.”

We can’t expect to have the same “herd immunity” or “original antigenic sin” — the ability of our immune systems to remember a virus that is similar, but not the same, as a previous version — as influenza. Influenza, after all, has been around for 500, if not 1,000 years.

“During the great influenza pandemic of 1918, the age group that disproportionately died were young people, not older adults,” Poland said. “Older adults had seen previews of this virus in earlier years, probably in the late 1800s, so they had immunological memory.”

‘COVID-19’s sweet spot could be October to May.’

— Ravina Kullar, adjunct faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles

There are similarities between influenza and SARS-CoV-2, and they have almost identical symptoms — fever, coughing, night sweats, aching bones, tiredness, and nausea and diarrhea in the most severe cases. Like all viruses, neither are treatable with antibiotics.

They can both be spread through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing, but they come from two different virus families — and ongoing research to develop a universal vaccine for influenza shows how tricky both influenza viruses and coronaviruses can be.

“The 1918 Spanish flu’s second wave was even more devastating than the first wave,” Ravina Kullar, an infectious-disease expert with the Infectious Diseases Society of America and adjunct faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles, told MarketWatch.

Historians believe that a more virulent influenza strain hit during a hard three months in 1918 and was spread by troops moving through Europe during the First World War. That would be a worst-case scenario for a second wave of SARS-CoV-2 this fall or winter.

“It will likely hit harder in areas not severely impacted the first time in the interior of the U.S., where there’s a lot more susceptible people,” Kullar said. “COVID-19’s sweet spot could be October to May, with it peaking, likely, in October and November.”

Kullar said scientists are learning something new every day from modeling studies. “If it follows the same pattern as influenza, it will likely level off during the summertime,” she said. “If immunity is in existence, then likely the virus will come back looking for new victims.”

Testing will determine the rate of asymptomatic carriers

What else, aside from social distancing to “flatten the curve” of new infections, can be done between now and then? While scientists work to crack the code of the novel coronavirus, the government and members of the public can work together.

There is reason to be optimistic. “We still have a lot to learn about the flu, even though we’ve had flu vaccines since the mid-1940s,” Poland said. “It’s amazing what the world has done in 14 weeks on COVID-19, but what’s more amazing is how much more there is to learn.”

In those 14 weeks, scientists around the world have learned a lot about SARS-CoV-2, including the virus’s genetic structure; how it infects human cells; what kind of disease manifestation it causes; and how it impacts the liver, kidney and brain.

‘It all comes down to testing.’

“It all comes down to testing,” Kullar said. “We really need to have wide-scale testing available, and contact tracing to find everyone who has been exposed and get them to self-isolate for 14 days. We don’t have a system like that in the U.S. at present.”

On Monday, more than 50 days after the first coronavirus case was reported in New York, the state began random antibody testing on consenting grocery-store patrons in different regions across the state. There is no guarantee as yet that the presence of antibodies confers immunity.

The procedure, also known as serology testing, uses a finger-stick blood sample. It will analyze 3,000 people across New York, which has a population of 19.5 million, over the next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday. But questions remain about the tests’ effectiveness.

Assuming testing is up to speed by the end of summer, Kullar says Americans should be on a sound footing for round two of SARS-CoV-2 with, ideally, enough hospital supplies and testing in place to ensure we all make fewer mistakes next time around.

But a lot will come down to the American people. “How we behave will really determine how big this virus is going to get,” she said. “Maintain social distancing and wear masks in public until we see infection rates go down, and keep doing it until we get enough testing.”

Personal Finance Daily: 25% of U.S. workers fear they’ll lose their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Social Security recipients with kids won’t want to miss this stimulus-check deadline

Hi there, MarketWatchers. Stay safe and don’t miss these top stories:

Personal Finance
‘Creditors may view stimulus payments as an opportunity to seize money’ — 5 ways to protect your stimulus check

‘Millions of Americans have court judgments against them,’ says Lauren Saunders, an associate director at the National Consumer Law Center.

‘My wife and I earn $90K. The government needs to discriminate between the needy and the merely unfortunate. I’m giving my $1,200 stimulus check away’

‘Are there funds in my city to help laid off workers? Funds to help small business owners pay their rent? I’m going to find out.

‘My dad claimed me as a dependent on his 2018 return. I haven’t filed my 2019 return. Can I still claim $1,200?’ Answers to your stimulus check questions (Part 2)

Tax Guy answers reader questions about the $1,200 payments many Americans will receive under the CARES Act.

‘On IRS Form 1040, I accidentally checked the box saying I could be claimed as a dependent. Will I receive $1,200?’ Answers to your stimulus check questions (Part 3)

Tax Guy answers more reader questions about the $1,200 payments many Americans will receive under the CARES Act.

Gallup: 25% of U.S. workers fear they’ll lose their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic

With an additional 22 million Americans claiming unemployment benefits, the COVID-19 pandemic has erased nearly all the jobs gains of the last decade.

Thinking about a new job after coronavirus? Don’t make this giant mistake

How to properly vet your prospective employer before you say yes.

Air quality worsens as EPA rules can’t keep up with climate change, says American Lung Association

Nearly 9 million more people this year than last year are breathing unhealthy air despite decades of declines in the overall amount of air pollution.

Social Security recipients with kids won’t want to miss this stimulus-check deadline

The stimulus bill pays $500 per qualifying child, but some people need to give the IRS information to get the money this year.

Existing-home sales slump 8.5% in March — but the worst is yet to come as the coronavirus hits the U.S. housing market

Sales slowed in March before most states were under stay-at-home orders, suggesting even slower sales activity will be reflected in the data in future months.

3 million Americans skip mortgage payments, but Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will cut mortgage servicers a break

As of April 12, nearly 6% of all mortgages nationwide were in forbearance.

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International business will be an early victim of coronavirus as governments take greater control of their economies

COVID-19 has exposed a fundamental weakness of the U.S. and world economies, writes Satyajit Das.

Senate approves deal expanding aid for small businesses, hospitals hit by coronavirus pandemic

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a nearly $500 billion aid package for small businesses and hospitals hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, setting up a vote in the House of Representatives as President Donald Trump threw his support behind the measure.

One $1,200 stimulus check won’t cut it. Give Americans $2,000 a month tax-free to fire up the economy

Emergency Money for the People Act covers what the CARES Act missed, writes Rep. Tim Ryan.

Bernie Sanders still has $16.2 million in campaign cash — here’s what he can do with the money

Bernie Sanders this month became the last politician to drop out of the Democratic presidential race, leaving Joe Biden as the last man standing. Every departure triggers a financial question: What to do with any money left from the campaign?

It’s time to consider what kind of government Joe Biden would surround himself with

As president, Joe Biden would want to right the helm and project a calm, steady-as-she-goes stability as the U.S. recovers from the pandemic and recession.