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US investigating massive counterfeit N95 mask scam; South African virus variant found in California
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US investigating massive counterfeit N95 mask scam; South African virus variant found in California

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About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won't get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Federal authorities are investigating a massive counterfeit N95 mask operation in which fake 3M masks were sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. The foreign-made knockoffs are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and could put health care workers at grave risk for the coronavirus.

These masks are giving first responders “a false sense of security,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department’s principal investigative arm. He added, “We’ve seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity.”

Officials could not name the states or the company involved because of the active investigation.

In other developments:

  • California has identified the state's first two cases of the South African variant of the coronavirus in the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday as he touted overall positive trends in the state's control of the virus.
  • A new government study finds that wearing two masks can be better than one in protecting against coronavirus spread. But health officials are stopping short of recommending that everyone double up.
  • About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll that some experts say is discouraging news if the U.S. hopes to achieve herd immunity and vanquish the outbreak.
  • As the European Union surpassed the shocking toll of 500,000 people lost to the virus, the EU Commission chief said Wednesday that the bloc’s much-criticized vaccine rollout could be partly blamed on the EU being over-optimistic, over-confident and plainly “too late.”
  • As the coronavirus takes a devastating toll on seniors in nursing homes, many attorneys are turning down grieving families seeking to sue long-term care providers for wrongful death. More than half of U.S. states have granted nursing homes and other health providers protection from lawsuits during the pandemic.
  • Independent experts advising the World Health Organization about immunization on Wednesday recommended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine even in countries that turned up worrying coronavirus variants in their populations.

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

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