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Empty middle seats reduce the risk of viruses on airplanes, a new study finds, regardless of wearing masks.

Keeping middle seats vacant during a flight could reduce passenger exposure to airborne coronavirus by 23 to 57%, researchers reported in a new study that modeled the spread of aerosolized viral particles through an airplane cabin simulated.

“Further afield is always better in terms of exposure,” said Byron Jones, a mechanical engineer at Kansas Sate University and co-author of the study. “It’s true on airplanes, it’s true in movie theaters, it’s true in restaurants, it’s true everywhere.”

But the study may have overestimated the benefits of empty middle seats because it did not take into account the wearing of masks by passengers.

“It’s important for us to know how aerosols travel on airplanes,” said Joseph Allen, a ventilation expert at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health who was not involved in the study. But he added: “I’m surprised to see this analysis come out now, making a big statement that the middle seats should stay open as a risk reduction approach, when the model didn’t include impact. masking. We know that masking is the most effective measure to reduce respiratory aerosol emissions. “

Although scientists have documented several cases of coronavirus transmission in airplanes, airplane cabins are generally low-risk environments as they tend to have excellent ventilation and air filtration.

Yet concern has revolved around the risk of air travel since the start of the pandemic. Planes are confined environments, and full flights make social distancing impossible. Some airlines have started to keep the middle seats vacant as a precaution.

The new document, published Wednesday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is based on data collected at Kansas State University in 2017. In this study, researchers sprayed a harmless aerosol virus through two simulated airplane cabins. (One was a five-row section of an actual single-aisle plane; the other was a mock-up of a wide, two-aisle plane.) The researchers then monitored how the virus spread through each cabin.

For the new study, researchers from the State of Kansas and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used data from 2017 to model how passenger exposure to an airborne virus would change if each seat in the middle remained open in a 20-row single-aisle cabin.

Depending on the specific modeling approach and the parameters used, keeping the middle seats vacant reduced the total exposure of passengers exposed in the simulation by 23 to 57%, compared to a fully occupied flight.

“Some airlines have operated with a vacant seat policy, and this study supports the effectiveness of this intervention, against the backdrop of other measures that are in place,” a CDC spokesperson said in a statement sent by email.

This reduction in risk stems from increasing the distance between an infectious passenger and others as well as reducing the total number of people in the cabin, reducing the chances that an infectious passenger will be on board in the first place.

Laboratory experiments on the dispersion of the virus in aircraft cabins were carried out several years before the onset of the current pandemic and did not take into account the protection that wearing masks could offer.

The masking would reduce the amount of virus infectious passengers emit into the cabin air and likely reduce the relative benefit of keeping the middle seats open, Dr Allen said.

Dr Jones agreed. “In general, I think wearing a mask would make this effect much less pronounced,” he said. He also noted that just being exposed to the virus does not mean someone will be infected with it.

“The extent to which reducing exposure could reduce the risk of transmission is not yet understood,” the CDC spokesperson said.

Cost-benefit analysis is tricky for airlines. But purely from a health perspective, keeping the middle seats open would help, providing a buffer between an infectious person and others nearby, according to Alex Huffman, an aerosol researcher at the University of Denver who does did not participate in the study. “Distance matters, both for aerosols and for droplets,” he said.

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Video: ‘Fight to the end’: Biden urges use of masks

President Biden has called on states and local governments to reinstate mask orders amid a spike in coronavirus cases in parts of the country, just weeks before all adults are eligible for a vaccine. the New York Times.

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Michael Bennett, small town doctor who pushed for masks, dies at 52

This obituary is one in a series on people who died in the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the others here.

In the past 15 years, there were only two family physicians in Greenfield, Missouri, a town of 1,371 people about 40 miles northwest of Springfield. One of them was Dr Michael Bennett, who opened his practice, Greenfield Medical Center, in 2005.

He was a strong supporter of wearing masks and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, although he faced resistance to his calls from some city residents, and he offered free Covid tests. 19 to his patients with the financial assistance of the federal CARES law.

Dr Bennet took precautions in treating infected patients but nevertheless tested positive for the coronavirus at the end of December. He was quickly hospitalized in Saint-Louis and spent 50 days connected to a ventilator and an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a machine that acts like an artificial lung. He died of Covid-19 on March 6, his ex-wife Teresa Bennett said. He was 52 years old.

Since the start of the pandemic, Dade County, Missouri, where Greenfield is located, has recorded 715 positive tests and 31 deaths, most of the deaths of nursing home residents, according to Pamela Cramer, administrator of the Department of the Department of Health. county health. “It really hit us, but not as hard as in other areas,” she said on Wednesday.

Nationwide, 452,706 healthcare workers have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,505 have died as of March 26, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michael Keith Bennett was born on February 15, 1969 in New London, Missouri, in the northeast of the state. His father, Bob, was a farmer; his mother, Meredith (Arnold) Bennett, recently helped run her son’s clinic.

A head injury from a car accident while in high school changed Dr. Bennett’s career path.

“He was very seriously injured and during that hospital stay he decided he wanted to be a doctor,” Bennett said by phone. “He was in auto mechanics before that.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Missouri in Colombia, he obtained his medical degree from his medical school. And after completing his residency at Cox Medical Center South in Springfield, he worked at St John’s Hospital in Willard, Missouri.

In addition to his medical practice, which was closed, Dr. Bennett had a 500 acre farm with beef cattle and he enjoyed fishing and hunting.

“I think one of the reasons his patients loved him was that he was a good old boy,” said Ms Bennett, who ran her former husband’s practice until 2012, date to which they divorced.

Besides his parents, he is survived by his son, Austin; his daughter, Shelby Bennett; her sister, Veronica Bennett; her brother, Damon; and his girlfriend, Haley Hendrixson.

Dr Bennett worked closely with Ms Cramer, the county official, and suggested to her last year that the city adopt a mask-wearing warrant after several deaths at nursing homes linked to Covid. But the idea did not advance.

After learning that Dr Bennett had tested positive for Covid-19, Ms Cramer tried to stay in touch. In his last text from the hospital on January 8, he wrote, “I’m hanging on in there. Will stay in touch. “

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A new study suggests that 3 feet, not 6 feet, is enough distance for students, with masks and other safety measures kept in place.

School closures have been a divisive issue since the pandemic broke, and a new study has sparked debate over the six-foot rule of social distancing and whether it could be relaxed in classrooms, which would facilitate the return of children to school.

The new study, published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests that public schools may be able to safely reopen for in-person instruction as long as children maintain a three-foot distance from each other and from each other. ‘other mitigation measures maintained, such as the port. masks.

Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have traveled as part of a concerted campaign to reopen safe schools, as parents and educators grow frustrated with recurring and repetitive policies from one district to another.

Asked Sunday about Jake Tapper’s new report on CNN’s State of the Union program, Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist, agreed the study seemed to indicate that three feet would be a distance sufficient to slow down the transmission of the virus.

No official guidance on shortening the recommended six-foot rule has yet been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although Dr Fauci said the agency was studying the data.

“What the CDC wants to do is accumulate data, and when the data shows an ability to measure three feet, they will act on it,” Dr. Fauci said. He added that the agency’s director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, was aware of the new research and that the CDC was also conducting its own studies. “I don’t want to get ahead of official guidelines,” he said.

While CDC advice stays within six feet of social distance between students, the World Health Organization recommended one meter or 3.3 feet apart, and the study found that the latter was enough to limit school-related cases. The CDC’s recommendations call for a social distancing of six feet in schools in counties with high coronavirus transmission rates. CDC officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Some experts have said moderating social distancing recommendations could be an important step towards getting children back to class. Dr Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, suggested on Twitter that CDC guidelines may change, and that’s “good.” Because 6 feet does not protect teachers. But it prevents children from going to school.

“Do you want to open safe schools? Masks. Ventilation. Test. Vaccination of teachers / staff. This is the list, ”wrote Dr Jha.

The new study, released Wednesday, compared the incidence rates of cases of the virus among students and staff in Massachusetts school districts who required at least six feet of separation with those who only required three feet apart, and found no statistically significant difference in infection. rate among staff or students.

The researchers, who monitored community rates of coronavirus in their analysis, concluded that weaker physical distance policies can be safely adopted in school settings, as long as other measures such as universal masking are in place.

The study authors looked at infection rates among staff members and students in some 242 Massachusetts school districts, with varying levels of in-person instruction from September 24 to January 27.

Children are less likely to require hospitalization when infected with the coronavirus, and children under 10 are less likely to be infected than adolescents. But the true incidence of infections may not be known because children and adolescents are much less likely than adults to develop serious illness and are less likely to be tested.

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Video: Governor of Alabama extends order for masks statewide until April

new video loaded: Alabama Governor Extends Statewide Mask Order Until April

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Alabama Governor Extends Statewide Mask Order Until April

Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama said Thursday she would maintain a statewide order for masks until April 9, breaking with Republican governors who planned to end mask terms against officials’ advice health.

We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to take their first photo before taking a step some states have taken to remove the mask order entirely and lift other restrictions. Folks, we’re not there yet, but God knows we’re getting closer. Our new amended order will include several changes that will ease some of our current restrictions while keeping our mask order in place for another five weeks until April 9. But let me be absolutely clear, after April 9, I will not keep the order mask in effect. Now, there is no doubt that wearing masks has been one of our best tools in the fight against the spread of the virus. That, combined with good hygiene and social distancing, has helped us prevent more people from getting sick or dying. And when we – even when we lift the order of the masks, I will continue to wear my mask while I am with other people and I will urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same. But then, but then, it will become a matter of personal responsibility and not a government mandate.

Recent episodes of Coronavirus pandemic: latest updates

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Men pose as marshals to avoid masks at Florida Resort, authorities say

Two men were arrested and charged with posing as a federal officer after pretending to be US marshals to avoid wearing masks at a South Florida resort, according to a criminal complaint.

Walter Wayne Brown Jr., 53, and Gary Brummett, 81, flashed mask exemption cards and fake US Marshal badges to circumvent hotel mask rules, according to the criminal complaint filed with of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. They were arrested last week after a real US Marshal was sent to the hotel to validate their claims.

The men were invited to the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort, a beachfront hotel in Broward County, Florida. The resort did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the arrests, which were reported by The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

During their confrontations with station staff, both men wore “authentic-looking” circular badges with a seven-pointed star that read “Cherokee Nation Marshal” and “Aniyvwiya Criminal Justice Deputy,” according to the report. complaint.

Around their neck, plastic cards bearing the words “NOTICE / FACE MASK EXEMPT CARD”. The cards said they were “exempt from any ordinance requiring the use of a face mask in public” and that “wearing a face mask presented me with a mental and / or physical risk”.

“Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I am not obligated to disclose my terms to you,” the cards read. The cards also listed true violations of the ADA reporting the phone number.

While there, Mr Brummett approached the front desk to ask for coffee, according to the criminal complaint. When an employee working at the front desk asked him to wear a mask, Mr Brummett presented the face mask exemption card and said the hotel would be fined $ 75,000 if forced to wear a mask. Then he showed a badge on his belt and threatened to arrest the employee.

“Do you know what this means? I am an American Marshal and I can get you arrested if you force me to wear a mask,” Mr. Brummett said, according to the complaint.

On two occasions, Mr Brown showed a similar card and US Marshal identification to hotel managers when asked to wear a mask in the common areas of the resort, according to the complaint.

Hotel staff “thought it odd that a federal agent would dispute the wearing of a mask,” according to the complaint, so they informed the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, who called a real US Marshal to investigate the authenticity of the allegations. .

The men have never been employed by the US Marshals Service or the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, based in North Carolina and Oklahoma, according to the complaint.

The men were arrested on February 11, according to records from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. If found guilty, the men face a fine or up to three years in prison.

Tony Moss, a lawyer representing Mr. Brummett, declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr Brown did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Fraudulent cards that claim to offer exemptions to hide the rules have been circulating since the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, a group called the Freedom to Breathe Agency sold the cards online in boxes of at least 500 for $ 49.99. Federal officials said the cards were neither issued nor approved by the Department of Justice.

Although health officials, including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend wearing a face covering in public to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, there remains resistance among some who view the mask rules as a violation of personal freedom.

Kitty bennett contributed to the research.

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US seizes 1 million more counterfeit N95 masks

One million counterfeit N95 masks were seized by federal agents on Wednesday as part of a broad investigation into fraud linked to the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the Department of Homeland Security said.

The seizure brought to more than 11 million the total number of counterfeit masks that have been confiscated in recent weeks, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, told a press conference.

Mr. Mayorkas appeared next to several boxes of seized masks stamped with the name 3M, America’s largest producer of N95.

Officials said the company worked with investigators to identify the sources of counterfeit masks, which originated in China, and that the department planned to make arrests.

Authorities declined to provide further details on the seizures, citing the continued investigation. They said federal agents had executed search warrants in five states in the past two weeks, but would not identify which ones.

Well-fitting N95 masks, which provide 95% efficiency in filtering airborne particles, have become the gold standard for frontline workers in the pandemic. But the intense demand for the masks, considered superior to the ubiquitous pleated masks, has resulted in the production of counterfeit N95 masks.

Steve K. Francis, deputy director of homeland security investigations’ global trade investigations division, told the press conference that the sale of counterfeit N95 masks could have deadly repercussions.

“They are extremely dangerous,” Francis said. “They give a false sense of security to our first responders, to American consumers. I cannot stress how important it is to make sure we have the legitimate 3M N95 masks that are deployed for our first responders. “

He said buying directly from 3M and the company’s authorized suppliers was secure, but consumers going through outside channels could be exposed to fraud.

Mr Mayorkas said the Department of Homeland Security would continue to aggressively prosecute criminals who exploited Americans’ vulnerability “for a quick sum”.

“The seizures of these counterfeit surgical masks are ensuring the health and safety of our frontline health workers, who are fighting the pandemic so courageously, by preventing them from receiving substandard personal protective equipment,” he said. declared.

Mr Mayorkas urged Americans to be wary of claims by sellers of medical supplies.

“We are simply imploring the public to be aware of any websites or individuals selling products claiming to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure Covid-19,” he said.

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Americans must tighten or double their masks, CDC says

Federal health officials on Wednesday urged Americans to keep their masks on and take action to make them more fitted – or even layering a fabric covering a surgical mask – saying new research had shown the masks significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Recent laboratory experiments showed that viral transmission could be reduced by 96.5% if Americans wore tight-fitting surgical masks or a surgical tissue-mask combination. In announcing the results, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with Americans to wear a “tight-fitting mask.”

“With cases, hospitalizations and deaths still very high, now is not the time to roll back mask requirements,” she said. “The bottom line is this: Masks work, and they work when they are properly fitted and worn correctly.”

Masking is now mandatory on federal property and on national and international transport. Studies in households in Beijing, hair salons in Missouri, and aboard an aircraft carrier in Guam have proven that “any mask is better than nothing,” said author Dr John T. of the agency’s new research on masking.

“Wearing a mask is reducing the spread, and in communities that adopt a mask, new infections are decreasing,” Dr Brooks said.

But while masks reduce respiratory droplets and aerosols exhaled by infected carriers and protect uninfected wearers, air leaking around the edges of a mask can reduce its effectiveness. The agency’s new lab experiments have shown how to fix the problem.

One option is to wear a cloth mask over a surgical mask, the agency said. The alternative is to adjust the surgical mask more closely to the face by “tying and tucking” – that is, by tying the two strands of the earrings together where they attach to the edge of the mask, then by folding and flattening the extra fabric at the edge of the mask and tucking it in for a tighter seal.

The agency’s experiments were based on surgical and three-ply fabric masks, and only one type of each mask was tested. Other combinations – like lining up on fabric masks or wearing two surgical masks, or layering a surgical mask over a fabric mask – have not been tested.

The advice comes even as states have started lifting measures to slow the transmission of the virus. About three dozen states have masking requirements, but on Monday Iowa ended its tenure, joining Mississippi and North Dakota, which it did months ago.

States are rushing to restart businesses and reopen schools. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for example, announced on Wednesday that supporters would be allowed to return to stadiums and arenas for sporting events and concerts, at limited capacity with mandatory testing and seating. New York City will allow dining in the dining room to resume on Friday, at a capacity of 25%.

Deaths linked to the virus, which resurfaced strongly in the United States in November and remain high, appear to be steadily declining. New cases and hospitalizations also started to decline last month.

But the CDC has warned that even as cases have declined, the new variants could explode infections if Americans let down their guards. Cases of a more contagious variant of the virus first discovered in Britain are doubling about every 10 days in the United States. The CDC warned last month that it could become the dominant variant in the country by March.

Until the vast majority of adults are vaccinated, “we want to fix that,” said Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. Masks are an effective and easy way to do this, avoiding another catastrophic “roller coaster”, he added.

“The less we allow this virus to multiply, the less chance there is for mutations to occur and the less likely we are to get new variants,” said Dr Schaffner.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, is the co-author of an article on making more effective masks that inspired the CDC to conduct the new research.

“We want to do our best to reduce transmission using all the elements: masking, keeping away, hand hygiene, ventilation,” she said. “If we reduce transmission and vaccinate en masse at the same time, there is no way the virus can escape the vaccine.”

The CDC presented a few more options to improve the effectiveness of masks, including the use of a mask-adjuster – a frame contoured to the face – over a mask. Recent studies have shown that adjusters can increase protection against aerosols containing viruses by 90% or more.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the agency also suggested that people consider wearing a sheer nylon hosiery sleeve around the neck and pulling it up onto a surgical fabric or mask.

The CDC’s recommendations were based in part on ideas formulated by Dr Gandhi and Linsey Marr, an aerosol transmission expert at Virginia Tech. Both recommended a surgical mask covered with a tight-fitting fabric mask or a three-layer fabric mask consisting of two outer layers of tightly woven fabric that hug the face and a middle layer of filter material, like the material. of the vacuum bag.

The tight fit and filtration are both important, Dr Marr said. Even with an N95 respirator, the type used by healthcare workers, a good fit is essential.

While a growing number of Americans say they support the wearing of masks, resistance persists in some circles and in some regions. Dr Marr said she expected the CDC’s new advice to be ridiculed.

“I’m sure the resistance will say, ‘What’s the next step? Three masks? Four masks? Said Dr Marr. “But people who want to know how good their masks are and how they can improve them, get a lot of interest. People want the best possible protection. “

The CDC experiments simulated the production of aerosols from a cough and estimated their absorption. While an untied surgical mask blocked 42% of particles and a cloth-alone mask blocked 44.3%, the combination of a cloth mask over a surgical mask blocked 92.5% of cough particles, found Dr Brooks and colleagues.

When both the aerosol source and the exposed form were fitted with the combination of masks or the knotted and folded surgical mask, receptor exposure was reduced by 96.4% and 95.9%.

Neither method was perfect: tying and folding reduce the mask area and may be more appropriate for people with smaller faces, Dr Brooks noted.

Likewise, the combination of fabric and surgical mask works well, but makes the mask thicker and may make breathing more difficult for some people. The extra layers can also obstruct peripheral vision, increasing the risk of tripping or falling.

Breathability is also important, Dr Marr said. “If you layer too many things on top of each other that prevent you from breathing, it’s counterproductive – it’s more likely that the air will find holes to infiltrate,” she says.

Dr Brooks stressed that masking, as Americans currently practice, is not “insufficient”. But the new advice offers “an opportunity to take it to the next level.”

“We are now concerned about forms of the virus that could be transmitted more efficiently or compromise the usefulness of existing diagnostics, therapies and vaccines,” he added. “We need to improve our game to slow the spread of the virus and slow down its progress.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting from Washington.

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Millions of counterfeit N95 masks have been purchased in 5 states, according to US

Millions of counterfeit masks have been purchased by hospitals, medical institutions and government agencies in at least five states – and some of them have been used by healthcare workers in Washington state, announced Wednesday federal authorities by announcing an investigation.

Many of the masks were smart counterfeits, stamped with the 3M logo and shipped in boxes marked “Made in USA,” even though they were not made in the United States or by 3M, federal investigators say. .

Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, said fraudulent masks are dangerous because they may not offer the same level of protection against the coronavirus as legitimate N95 masks made by 3M.

“We don’t know if they meet the standards,” said Brian Weinhaus, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations.

News of the investigation came as the intelligence arm of the Department of Homeland Security separately warned law enforcement on Wednesday that dark web criminals had since December sold counterfeit coronavirus vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration for “hundreds of dollars per dose.”

The assessment, produced by the Office of Homeland Security Intelligence and Analysis and obtained by The New York Times, said transnational criminal organizations in Latin America were probably best placed to take advantage of a vaccine shortage. legitimate to distribute counterfeit and stolen vaccines, was unclear whether they had done so.

Cassie Sauer, president and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, said about two million counterfeit N95 masks could have been brought into the state. Hospitals in Washington state have purchased hundreds of thousands of fraudulent masks and the association itself has purchased 300,000 for its members, she said.

The masks were “very good fakes,” Ms. Sauer said, noting that they included a 3M logo, secure straps, a metal bar on top and a foam strip on the nose.

“They look, they feel, they’re okay and they breathe like a 3M mask,” she says. But they weren’t made by 3M, she said, and officials don’t know enough about them to know how protective they could be.

Many counterfeit masks have not been used in Washington, Ms. Sauer said, noting that around 60,000 masks purchased by the hospital association are still in a warehouse. But some healthcare workers used them before the association received bulletins from 3M and the federal government and started alerting hospitals to the fraud on Friday night, she said.

“It’s incredibly disheartening – really, really frustrating to find out that we have these masks,” Ms. Sauer said.

“This is reprehensible, depravity,” added Ms. Sauer. “We are horrified.”

June Altaras, senior vice president and head of quality, safety and nursing at MultiCare Health System, which includes 10 hospitals in Washington, said some of the workers in her network had used counterfeit N95 masks.

She said officials spent the past weekend collecting fakes and replacing them with legitimate masks. She said the organization had recommended that staff members who had treated Covid-19 patients be tested for the coronavirus.

“There is a special place in the afterlife for people who would do this,” Ms. Altaras said, adding that the fraudulent masks have created anxiety and fear among frontline healthcare workers. .

“Trying to make money out of this situation is really very frustrating,” Ms. Altaras said. “These clinicians have suffered enough.”

Credit…U.S. Immigration and Customs, via Associated Press

Coronavirus fraud has been a problem since the start of the pandemic, with unscrupulous businesses seeking to exploit the health crisis by selling fake test kits, treatments and personal protective equipment. Law enforcement has seized more than 10 million counterfeit respirators and hundreds of shipments of banned drugs and medical supplies, according to 3M and Homeland Security Investigations.

But the investigation into counterfeit masks, which had previously been reported by The Associated Press, shows how these deceptive products have become increasingly sophisticated, officials said.

“We are all very careful and try to verify our sources and be wary of them,” said Shane McGuire, general manager of Columbia County Health System in Washington. “But the bottom line is that the easiest to detect frauds have started to go away, and now you’re starting to see much, much better construction and much more difficult to detect PPE ”

Mr. Weinhaus, the special agent, said companies claiming to be medical suppliers buy N95 imitators, usually in China, and sell them as legitimate 3M masks. Many masks feature a reflective seal with the word “Peru,” which 3M has said it does not use outside of Latin America. Mr Weinhaus said the agency was trying to trace the respirators to the source and stop them at the border.

3M said it has helped Washington, Minnesota and other states confirm that respirators purchased from non-3M distributors were not genuine 3M products. While the company said it had increased production of N95 respirators, it also said it had also launched a global effort to fight fraud and price abuse.

“As part of this effort, 3M is working with law enforcement and customs agencies to prevent the sale and manufacture of counterfeit 3M respirators,” the company said.

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In Biden’s White House, masks, closed doors and empty rooms

She added, “Am I going to work on a fun day?”

The new White House rules were drafted by Anne Filipic, the director of management and administration, and Jeffrey Wexler, the COO of Covid-19. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who served as Mr Biden’s campaign manager and is now deputy chief of staff, also oversaw their execution.

White House officials said it was a continuation of the approach to the virus Mr Biden took when he was a candidate and his advisers first raised the danger of tightening the hand along a rope of supporters. “His question is always, ‘What do the documents say? Ms. Dunn said. “Following doctors’ instructions has always motivated decisions.”

Even strict precautions cannot protect everyone in Biden’s orbit. In December, Cedric Richmond, the former congressman appointed by Mr Biden to be the director of the public engagement office, tested positive for the coronavirus. In October, Kamala Harris had to cut her travel schedule after two people who had traveled with her tested positive.

Senior officials said their aim was to avoid the fate of the White House of Trump, who took few precautions and ended up with a large chunk of senior executives – as well as the President, the First Lady and their teenage son, Barron Trump – infected. with the coronavirus.

All staff in the West Wing are still being tested daily, although a growing number of administration officials are getting vaccinated. The whole arrangement has led to awkward moments in the hallways, when staff members don’t recognize each other because everyone is required to wear an N95 mask and many have opted for the double mask, said officials.

So far, officials said, the measures appeared to be working. But they admit it’s a difficult way to run a White House, just as it was a difficult way to run a presidential campaign and transition.

“Adjusting to most video meetings and doing most of our work with our colleagues remotely hasn’t been a leap forward,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. “It’s been a long adjustment as humans to not be able to hug old colleagues or shake hands with new ones, but so far we don’t think that’s stopping us from doing our jobs.”