They all were infected with a bacteria known as Burkholderia pseudomallei, and the disease it causes is called melioidosis, marked by non-specific symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue and nausea. It’s most commonly seen in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Northern Australia, and is found in soil and contaminated water.
It’s not expected in middle America, and certainly not in a lavender-scented aromatherapy spray with gemstones.
Usually, when Americans are diagnosed with melioidosis, it’s associated with travel. But these cases popped up in the middle of a pandemic, when international travel was virtually nonexistent. And none of the affected families had traveled.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a heath alert last June, when the three cases in Kansas, Minnesota and Texas were linked. By the time they found the source this month, it had made four people sick and killed two of them.
Cold trails and fishing expeditions
The trail had gone cold in Kansas, said CDC epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, who helped lead the investigation. The CDC worked with the state health departments to try to figure out how the people had become infected with such an unusual bug.
“It really was a fishing expedition because we didn’t have any early clues to guide us in any direction,” McQuiston told CNN.
“The teams really looked at personal care products, lotions, soaps, food items, vitamins — things they might have been exposed to,” McQuiston said.
“Cleaning products — all of those sorts of things. The thing about Burkholderia pseudomallei is it really needs a moist or wet environment in order to survive. It can survive in some types of moisture that you would not normally think of a bacteria surviving in, so even hand sanitizers.”
Then in July, a patient died of melioidosis in Georgia. Genetic testing linked it to the other three cases.
The CDC teams doubled down on their searches, going through all the products they could find that might possibly be a source of the bacteria. Even so, there was no smoking gun.
“They had tested several hundred specimens and it looked like it was coming to a dead end,” McQuiston said.
In a last-ditch effort, they went back to the home of the last patient for another look earlier this month.
“And in that particular second search, they collected a specimen from an air freshener bottle that had not been collected the first time around, and this week that we got a positive PCR results out of that air freshener bottle for Burkholderia pseudomallei,” McQuiston said.
PCR — polymerase chain reaction — is the same type of lab test used to amplify genetic material for coronavirus tests. This time, it found genetic material from the bacterial crime suspect.
There, they found it: “Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones.” The product had been manufactured in India and sold at Walmart.
Walmart recalled the product Friday.
“We were all so relieved to have something that pointed to a source of infection because our biggest worry was that whatever had caused infection in those four previous cases might still be out there posing a health risk to people,” McQuiston said.
“This showed us that that was true — our instincts on that were right because there are households in America that have this bottle of air fragrance in their homes, potentially spraying it,” she added.
“That’s why we thought it was so important to go out quickly with this information, even though we’re still waiting on the sequence confirmation results showing that what came from the bottle matched the patient from Georgia. The PCR results are what prompted us to go forward with this announcement.”
The CDC has been able to link the strain of bacteria to the patients in Texas, Kansas and Minnesota. “So we’ve got A connected to B, B connected to C and the sequence results will help us connect A to C,” McQuiston said.
It’s not clear which ingredient in the spray may be the contaminant. It might the “gemstones,” however.
“Rocks are collected from the environment and there’s bacteria in the environment, so if the rocks weren’t sterilized before they went in, that’s a possibility,” McQuiston said. “The other thing is the possibility that another component was contaminated and the rocks made a little micro-environment in that bottle for the bacteria to grow in,” she added. “So the significance of the rocks we don’t really know yet, but having rocks in a fragrance bottle is definitely unusual. So that’s something I think we’re interested in looking at.”
The same manufacturer made other scents using “gemstones” that the CDC will be examining, McQuiston said.
It’s also not clear how people might get infected by a spray. It doesn’t necessarily appear as if the victims breathed it in.
“A lot of people said that they sprayed this on their pillows at night before they went to sleep, to give them a nice fragrance — so you can imagine that there are, there are uses of this, even beyond just spraying in a room, where it might bring someone in very close contact with the bacteria,” McQuiston said.
Now investigators will go back to see if the patient in Texas might have purchased the same brand of spray.
“There was not a mention of this specific product or brand in the initial interview questions I think that the states undertook with those families,” McQuiston said. “I believe there was a mention of a possible fragrance room spray in a family member of the Texas patient. So I think we’re going to try to go back and drill down a little more carefully.”
This is the difficult part.
“We may or may not ever make that connection, given that we’re several months out now. The bottle may not be in the home any more but I think there’s going to be an attempt made.” It likely will not be possible for the Kansas patient, who died in March, or for the Minnesota patient, she said.
“But I will say we’ve heard that both of those individuals had a history of using scented products or essential oil type products so I think that you can imagine the possibility of that link is there.”
CDC epidemiologists are often called disease detectives, and this is an example of why.
“You weigh the excitement of being able to put the pieces of this puzzle together with, really, the horrific knowledge that two people died and four families were dramatically impacted by this,” McQuiston said. “And I really think the knowledge of how serious this was is what drove our scientists to work so hard to try to solve this mystery.”
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Jerseyville Walmart Supercenter Closed Briefly Saturday Morning With Power, System Issues, But Back To Normal Functions
“We had a way of working before the pandemic and we developed an effective way of working during the pandemic. Now, I’m excited about our new, more flexible way of working,” Donna Morris, chief people officer, said in a statement Friday.
Walmart, with nearly 1.6 million US employees, is the nation’s largest private retailer. The majority of the company’s employees work in its warehouses and brick-and-mortar stores. Many of those in-store employees who have to follow President Joe Biden’s mandate requiring people who work for businesses with more than 100 employees get vaccinated or do weekly testing.
“As part of our ongoing efforts, we made the decision to have vaccinations as a condition of employment for all campus office associates and field leaders (or have an approved religious or medical accommodation),” a Walmart spokesperson said.
Morris said employees will hear from their leaders soon on expectations.
The company is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, and is currently building a new campus in the city. Walmart also has offices in Hoboken, NJ, as well as San Bruno and Sunnyvale, CA.
“We also never imagined the playbook for being back on campus together would be adjusted so many times throughout the various waves of the pandemic,” Morris said in the statement.
“We expect that there will be teams that continue working mostly remotely, others that will work some combination of remotely and in the office, and still others that will decide customers are best served having the team work mostly in the office,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in a note to employees.
Target told employees in August it will not require office workers to return until 2022.
ORLANDO, Fla. — In addition to its Black Friday plans, Walmart announced three new delivery options this holiday season to make things easier for customers.
Extended delivery hours: Walmart is extending store delivery hours nationwide. Stores will now close at 10 p.m. local time, giving customers more time to place orders for delivery.
Adding delivery windows: A new feature on the Spark driver app, called shopping and delivery, gives service providers the option to shop and deliver customers’ orders.
More items for delivery: Walmart has enabled delivery of oversized items from more than 2,800 stores to be delivered locally. Items like bicycles, 70-inch TVs and even artificial Christmas trees can be delivered.
Walmart has also expanded the number of stores that offer pickup and delivery on alcohol. Alcohol can now be picked up from 3,000 stores and delivered from 1,500 Walmart locations.
All U.S. store locations will close for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25. Pickup and delivery from stores will operate as normal the day before Thanksgiving and will resume at 12 p.m. local time the day after.
- Walmart asked all of its corporate associates to return to the office in a memo released Friday.
- The retailer did not disclose if this change is mandatory.
- The transition will begin on November 8, according to Walmart’s chief people officer Donna Morris.
Walmart asked its corporate associates to return to the office next month, saying in a note to employees “there is no substitution for being in the offices together.”
The note, posted on the company’s website, stated that associates who work in the companies campus offices will return November 8 as part of a “new, more flexible way of working” after operating remotely for most of the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s Global Tech team will continue to work remotely, the note said.
Walmart did not respond to Insider’s request to comment on whether or not the return to campus offices is mandatory for employees. Walmart also did not disclose any specific details related to this plan or if employees will have the choice to work remotely.
“Given all campus associates will be fully vaccinated or have an approved accommodation in November, we will transition to working together in our campus offices on a more regular basis starting the week of Nov. 8,” Donna Morris, Chief People Officer, said in the note. “There is no substitution for being in the offices together,” she added.
The move comes as many companies grapple with whether to make a return to the office mandatory for employees who transitioned to remote work about 18 months ago in the early days of pandemic lockdowns. Many workers have said they would refuse to come back to offices full time. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet Inc., said this week the company would enact a hybrid model. Amazon this month said it would let corporate employees work from home indefinitely.
In July, Walmart mandated corporate employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Employees had until October 4 to get vaccinated, Insider reported. Walmart was the first major retailer to require certain corporate employees get vaccinated.
Black Friday 2021, arguably the biggest shopping event of the year, is just a few weeks away.
Although Black Friday takes place the day after Thanksgiving, retailers have long used the weeks leading up to it as a way to introduce early deals.
Walmart recently leaked its always popular Black Friday ad online, and some big deals are already available ahead of the holiday shopping event. Items already on sale include Samsung’s Chromebook 4 and Galaxy Buds+, and the Roku Ultra LT.
Here’s everything we know so far about Walmart’s Black Friday 2021 shopping event.
When is Black Friday 2021?
Black Friday 2021 will be held on Nov. 26, so that’s when Walmart is also expected to launch their actual Black Friday deals.
When is Walmart expected to launch early Black Friday deals?
Do Walmart+ members get any perks during the Black Friday shopping event?
Yes. Members of the big-box retailer’s subscription shopping service Walmart+ can get exclusive early access to all Black Friday deals four hours before sales go live, according to a statement. Walmart+ offers free delivery, along with savings on gas and access to the “Scan & Go” feature in the Walmart app. It costs $12.95 a month or $98 a year, and includes a 15-day free trial.
What items can I already find on sale that are a part of Walmart’s early Black Friday deals?
The following deals are already available, but will be further discounted once all early deals launch:
What early Black Friday deals is Walmart expecting to launch?
The following deals will be available on Wednesday, Nov. 3 through Nov. 7:
- TCL 55″ Class 4K Smart TV with Roku, $228
- Keurig K-Compact Single-Serve Coffee Maker, $35 instead of $67
- Samsung Chromebook 4, $87 instead $299
- Rainbow High Dolls 6-Pack, $64 instead of $119
- L.O.L. Surprise! Amazing Surprise, $64 instead of $100
- New Bright 4WD 1:6 RC Rock Crawler, $45
- HP X360 Chromebook, $179 instead $299
- Toshiba 1TB Portable HDD, $38.88 instead of $51.72
- Night Owl 4-Camera Home Security System, $175
- Samsung 65″ Class 4K Smart TV, $568 instead of $648
- Roku 4K Premiere, $19.88 instead $39.88
- Merkury Smart LED 16′ Strip, $18.18 instead of $26.88
- Samsung Galaxy Buds+, $59 instead of $150
- Sanus Extended Tilting TV Mount, $39 instead of $79
- Karaoke Machine, $39
- NERF Elite 2.0 Turbine CS-18 Blaster, $39.88
- Little People Sit & Stand Skyway, $29 instead $40
- LEGO Classic Bricks, $29 instead of $58
- LEGO Duplo Tower, $29 instead of $100
- Disney Princess or Frozen Play Kitchen, $34
- Jurassic World 18″ Super Colossal Dino, $34 instead of $99.87
- Paw Patrol: The Movie City Paw Patroller, $34 instead of $59
- Eufy Robovac 25C Robot Vacuum, $99 instead of $120
- Hoover WindTunnel XL Pet Upright Vacuum, $59 instead of $119
- Tineco PWRHERO 11 Cordless Vacuum, $125 instead of $199
- Hart 6-Gal 5.0 HP Wet/Dry Vacuum, $29, instead of $59
- Emeril Lagasse 5-Qt 6-in-1 AirFryer, $39
- Farberware 23-Piece Mixing Bowl & Prep Set, $10
- Mainstays 18-Piece Tritan Food Storage Set, $10
The following deals will be available on Wednesday, Nov. 10 through Nov. 14:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab A7, $139 instead of $219
- HP Intel Core i3 Laptop, $279 instead of $399
- Shark EZ Bagless Self-Empty Robot Vacuum, $288 instead of $499
- Barbie Dream Camper, $60 instead of $100
- onn. Tablet, $79 instead of $109
- onn. Kids’ Tablet, $59 instead of $99
- Apple AirPods with Charging Case, $89 instead of $119
- Skullcandy Jib XT 2 True Wireless Earbuds, $19 instead of $35
- Canon MG2522 Wired All-in-One Printer, $29 instead of $40
- Arlo Essential Camera 3-Pack, $199 instead of $349
- Netgear Nighthawk AX1500 WiFi 6 Mesh System, $149 instead of $249
- HP Intel Core i5 Laptop, $379 instead of $499
- Samsung 55″ Class 4K Smart TV, $478 instead of $498
- Samsung 60″ Class 4K Smart TV, $548 instead of $850
- RCA 720p Projector with Roku, $89 instead of $126.44
- Lenovo Smart Clock Gen 2, $39.88
- Roku Ultra LT, $30 instead of $79
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 7+ Bundle, $48
- GoPro Hero8 Black Bundle, $249
- Crosley Cruiser Turntable Plus, $35 instead of $50
- Gourmia Air Fryer Toaster Oven, $49 instead of $89
- Protégé Hardside Carry-On, $29
- Blackstone 22″ Adventure Ready Griddle, $117
- TAL Zeus 4-Liter Water Bottle Set, $30
- Moultrie Exo 18MP Trail Camera, $62
- Shark Cordless PetPRO with Powerfins, $159 instead of $279
- Shark Navigator PRO Pet Upright Vacuum, $99 instead of $199
- Thyme & Table 28-Piece Cook & Prep Set, $79
- Thyme & Table 20-Piece Baking Set, $30
- Hotel Style Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set, $45
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Bitcoin is one step closer to being readily available to the masses. If you have any doubts, check out your nearest Walmart. You might be able to buy Bitcoin there at a Coinstar kiosk.
To be clear, Walmart itself is not offering customers a way to buy bitcoin—its partner Coinstar is. Coinstar is most known for offering kiosks that allow people to trade in their spare change for bills or gift cards. (It certainly was my go-to for my jars of coins when I was a kid). Now, Coinstar will allow people to use its kiosks to buy bitcoin through a collaboration with Coinme, a crypto wallet company that provides bitcoin ATMs.
Coinstar’s new service was first spotted and confirmed by CoinDesk on Thursday.
“Coinstar, in partnership with Coinme, has launched a pilot that allows its customers to use cash to purchase bitcoin,” a Walmart representative told CoinDesk. “There are 200 Coinstar kiosks located inside Walmart stores across the United States that are part of this pilot.”
Buying bitcoin appears to be relatively simple. On its website, which has a very long FAQ section, Coinstar explains that you first have to create a Coinme account. After that, you can head to your nearest Walmart with a participating Coinstar kiosk—only 200 kiosks at select Walmart stores are part of the pilot, so make sure to check that the one near you offers the service—and buy bitcoin with cash.
Curiously, you can only buy bitcoin with paper bills, not coins. It also won’t give you change, so make sure you have the exact amount you want to buy in cash. In addition, Coinstar only allows users to buy bitcoin, not sell bitcoin they already own for cash.
Once you’ve completed your purchase, the Coinstar kiosk will give you a voucher with a code that you can redeem at Coinme. All purchases come with a 4% transaction fee, part of which goes to Walmart, and a 7% cash exchange fee. A Coinme account, which provides users with a complimentary crypto wallet, is required to obtain access to your bitcoin.
As far as data privacy goes, Coinstar does require customers to provide a valid phone number to use its kiosks but says it doesn’t store it or any other sensitive data of people who buy bitcoin. Coinme, meanwhile, carries out a Know Your Customer check to confirm users’ identities, which includes providing a non-expired driver’s license or state ID and confirming the user is older than 18 years old.
Although Coinstar’s pilot is small at the moment, the company has big plans for cryptocurrency. It plans to offer the ability to buy bitcoin at more than 10,000 of its kiosks and allow the purchase of different cryptocurrencies by the end of the year.
Walmart‘s corporate employees will begin to return to the company’s Arkansas headquarters and other offices across the country in early November, according to a company-wide memo obtained by CNBC.
In a memo to employees on Friday, the big-box retailer said workers will “transition to working together in our campus offices on a more regular basis” starting the week of Nov. 8.
“We are a company whose success is attributed to our people,” said Walmart’s Chief People Officer Donna Morris in the message. “While technology has enabled us to succeed while working virtually throughout the pandemic, there is no substitution for being in the offices together — it helps shape our culture, collaborate, innovate, build relationships and move faster.”
Morris said company leaders will notify employees about expectations for return to office, based on their role. She said Walmart’s global tech team will continue to primarily work virtually. That team includes software engineers and data scientists.
Walmart is the country’s largest private employer with nearly 1.6 million workers. Most of those employees work in stores and warehouses across the country that have stayed open throughout the pandemic. The retailer is requiring corporate employees to get Covid-19 vaccinations, but stopped short of requiring them for its entire workforce.
Morris cited the vaccine requirement in the return to the office memo, saying that all campus employees will be fully vaccinated or have an approved accommodation in November.
In a statement in early October, a Walmart spokesperson said the “overwhelming majority of campus associates and field leaders have been vaccinated.” She said some employees received an approved medical or religious accommodation, which will mean regular Covid tests, mask wearing and social distancing in most cases.
Over the past several months, major employers have pushed back return to office dates and shared updates about their plans. Amazon said last week that the company will leave it up to individual team directors to decide how often their employees work in the office. Target said in August that it won’t require employees to return to its headquarters until 2022.
Walmart is in the process of building a new home office in Bentonville, Arkansas.