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Feds seize over 10M phony N95 masks in COVID-19 probe; US scrambles to map virus mutations
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Feds seize over 10M phony N95 masks in COVID-19 probe; US scrambles to map virus mutations

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Federal agents have seized roughly 10 million fake 3M brand N95 masks in recent weeks, the result of an ongoing investigation into counterfeits sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies.

Federal agents have seized more than 10 million fake 3M brand N95 masks in recent weeks, the result of an ongoing investigation into counterfeits sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies.

The most recent seizures occurred Wednesday when Homeland Security agents intercepted hundreds of thousands of counterfeit 3M masks in an East Coast warehouse that were set to be distributed, officials said.

Investigators also notified about 6,000 potential victims in at least 12 states including hospitals, medical facilities and others who may have unknowingly purchased knockoffs, urging them to stop using the medical-grade masks. Officials encouraged medical workers and companies to go to 3Ms website for tips on how to spot fakes.

“Not only do they give a false sense of security, how dangerous is the exposed individual without any protective gear? They have no utility whatsoever,” Homeland Security Secretary Ali Mayorkas said of the fake masks.

In other developments:

  • The icy blast across much of the U.S. injected more confusion and frustration into the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive Wednesday just when it was gathering speed, snarling vaccine deliveries and forcing cancellation of countless shots around the country.
  • The U.S. is scrambling to expand DNA mapping of coronavirus samples taken from patients to identify potentially deadlier mutations that are starting to spread around the country.
  • The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has squeezed many city budgets and prompted mayors and local leaders — both Republicans and Democrats — to look to Washington for help.
  • U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is sharply criticizing the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75 percent of vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • By the thousands, U.S. service members are refusing or putting off the COVID-19 vaccine, with frustrated commanders trying to knock down internet rumors and find the right pitch that will persuade troops to take the shot.
  • President Joe Biden has promised that most elementary schools will open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office. That’s Biden’s clearest statement yet on school reopenings, an issue where his administration came under fire when aides said schools would be considered open if they held in-person learning just one day a week.
  • Health officials around the world are racing to vaccinate enough people to stop the spread of COVID-19, but what qualifies as “enough” is still an open question.
  • Pitchers and catchers around the game reported to MLB spring training Wednesday saying they appreciate what’s at stake as they try to make sure the season starts on time. The protocols have been tightened even further from what they experienced during the abbreviated 2020 season.

For more summaries and full reports, select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest virus numbers.

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