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COVID-19

WHO Chief urges governments to ‘bring back face masks’ and Los Angeles may be first

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Mask Mandate

Americans fought for their freedom from mandates surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic for over two years and the World Health Organization and city of Los Angeles may take it all back in the blink of an eye.

The Associated Press reports “Los Angeles County, home to 10 million residents, is facing a return to a broad indoor mask mandate later this month if current trends in hospital admissions continue, county health Director Barbara Ferrer said this week.”

On Tuesday, the White House response team urged all adults 50 and older to get a booster shot if they haven’t yet this year. The White House also suggested getting any available booster shot, and not wait for the next wave.

The AP notes that the latest variant, BA.5, is highly transmissible and now accounts for 65% of cases. Its “cousin” BA.4 makes up another 16% of cases. “The variants have shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by vaccination.”

World Health Organization Chief Dr Ghebreyesus is urging all governments to reinstate Covid measures like masking and ventilation due to an “increasing trend of deaths”

“I am concerned that cases of Covid-19 continue to rise – putting further pressure on stretched health systems and health workers,” he said. Governments should “deploy tried and tested measures like masking, improved ventilation and test and treat protocols.”

Requiring masks again “helps us to reduce risk,” Ferrer told Los Angeles County supervisors. She is expected to discuss details of the potential new county mandate during a public health briefing Thursday afternoon.

“I do recognize that when we return to universal indoor masking to reduce high spread, for many this will feel like a step backwards,” Ferrer said Tuesday.

For most of the pandemic, Los Angeles County has required masks in some indoor spaces, including health care facilities, Metro trains and buses, airports, jails and homeless shelters. The new mandate would expand the requirement to all indoor public spaces, including shared offices, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, retail stores, restaurants and bars, theaters and schools.

 

 

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COVID-19

New data reveals NIH scientists collected $710 Million in royalties during pandemic

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New data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveal that the agency and its scientists collected $710 million in royalties from late 2021 through 2023. These payments, made by private companies such as pharmaceutical firms, are for licensing medical innovations developed by government scientists. A significant portion of these funds — $690 million — was directed to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, and its 260 scientists.

An in depth report by the New York Post reveals that the vast majority of the royalties collected during the pandemic era went to NIAID, the subagency under Dr. Fauci. The NIH has been secretive about disclosing details of this private royalty complex. OpenTheBooks.com, an organization advocating for government transparency, had to sue to uncover royalties paid from September 2009 to October 2021, which amounted to $325 million over 56,000 transactions. A second lawsuit, with Judicial Watch as counsel, was necessary to release the latest data.

During the pandemic, royalty payments to the NIH more than doubled compared to the previous twelve years combined, amounting to $1.036 billion. However, it remains unclear if royalties from COVID-19 vaccines, particularly from Pfizer and Moderna (the latter having agreed to pay $400 million to NIH), are included in these figures. The NIH has not provided clarity on this matter.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key figure in the U.S. COVID-19 response, is set to testify before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic to address potential conflicts of interest and transparency issues that have plagued NIH’s handling of royalties and FOIA requests.

Fauci’s deputy, Dr. David Morens, has been implicated in using strategies to circumvent the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), such as misspelling words and using physical couriers for messages. These actions have drawn significant criticism and calls for greater transparency.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has sponsored the Royalty Transparency Act, which has unanimously passed the committee stage and is awaiting a floor vote. This act aims to provide greater transparency regarding royalty payments to government scientists.

 

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