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Washington hospitals pulling fake N95 masks off shelves: ‘We’re horrified’

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Washington hospitals pulling fake N95 masks off shelves: ‘We’re horrified’

Hospitals across Washington state were alerted Friday to pull select N95 masks off their shelves and send them for analysis after an investigation uncovered knockoffs, said the state’s hospital association.

The fake masks closely resemble N95 masks manufactured by a company called 3M. The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) and other hospital executives told reporters on a call Monday that 3M’s masks are typically in high demand because they come in smaller sizes and allow for a snug fit around the face.

WSHA estimates there are over 2 million fake N95s that were likely acquired by the state’s hospitals, 300,000 of which were bought by WSHA and distributed to dozens of hospitals. While many hospitals reported not using the masks, others did, and 60,000 of WSHA’s masks are still in a warehouse.

“3M has recently assisted Washington State authorities in confirming that N95 respirators purchased from distributors with no relationship to 3M are not authentic 3M products,” the manufacturer wrote to Fox News in an email. “3M recommends purchasing our products only from a 3M authorized distributor.”

Cassie Sauer, president and chief executive officer of WSHA, said frauds have become quite adept in creating fradulent personal protective equipment (PPE), and some health care workers who donned the fake N95s didn’t even notice a difference. 

“They look, they feel, they fit and they breathe like a 3M mask,” Sauer said, displaying one of the knockoffs over a call. Sauer said it remains unclear what level of protection the knockoffs offer, but was encouraged about an apparent lack of increase in coronavirus infections in hospitals across the country where the knockoffs were in use.

“People keep asking us, ‘How protective are they?’ and we don’t know the answer to that, but we know that they’re really good fakes,” she said. 

In a related press release sent to Fox News, Sauer said “these masks had the appropriate paperwork and passed physical inspection and testing.”

Sauer explained that WSHA purchased the masks from distributors and said WSHA “absolutely believed they were 3M masks.” A fact sheet on 3M’s website advises buying “products only from a 3M authorized distributor or dealer” to avoid counterfeit.

Sauer said officials worked to get the knockoffs out of the state’s circulation during the weekend, and legal teams will soon meet to determine if the money spent on the masks can be recouped, which is in the millions. She noted ongoing conversations with the Department of Homeland Security and the manufacturer, 3M.

“The anger level over the weekend was incredibly high,” she said. “It’s reprehensible, depravity. We’re horrified.”

As of Monday afternoon, WSHA couldn’t identify the third-party vendor at fault but said Homeland Security is actively investigating the issue.

Other health officials echoed Sauer’s anger over the call Monday.

“I will to say to quote one of my colleagues, Cassie Sauer, ‘there’s a special place in the afterlife for people who would do this,’” June Altaras, nurse and senior vice president of MultiCare Health System, told reporters. “To have to reintroduce fear and anxiety to our clinicians who are out there taking care of their communities because someone chose to try to make money off of this situation is really highly frustrating.”

Altaras, speaking on behalf of a network spanning 10 hospitals in Washington, said masks were pulled from over 500 different departments. “They were broadly utilized across our organization,” she said.

The association has since ordered 1 million masks directly from 3M, which agreed to expedite the order in light of the fraud.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but I feel like…the frauds are getting better and better and better, they’re harder to spot and that’s quite worrisome,” Sauer said.

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Museums are safest indoor activity, study finds

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Museums are safest indoor activity, study finds

For people fatigued with quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study from Germany recommends what to do after getting out of the house.

Don’t go out to eat or get a haircut, don’t go shopping for food or go to the gym —  go to a museum.

According to the Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin) in Germany, the risk of COVID-19 infection via aerosol particles is far lower in museums than in supermarkets, restaurants, offices and on public transportation.

Variables considered were the quality of the airflow, the type of activity carried out in the space, and the dose of aerosol particles inhaled by people in a room.

“What is clear from the study is that it is above all the situations in which we like to be that are unfavorable,” said Martin Kriegel, who helped lead the study. “Situations in which many people come together in a confined space: there you can not ventilate sufficiently, it will always be an unfavorable situation.”

Outdoor activities all increased last year in the face of canceled indoor events and cautions about the dangers of catching the virus while around other people inside.

The study said food shopping, dining indoors or exercising in a gym are at least twice as risky as visiting a museum to view art.

Museums, however, haven’t been considered essential to the populace.

Celeste DeWald, the executive director of the California Association of Museums, told the New York Times earlier this month: “It’s frustrating to see crowded shopping malls and retail spaces and airports, yet museums are completely closed and many have not been able to reopen at all for the last 10 months. […] There is a unique impact on museums.”

Critics think museum closure is a political matter.

In a column for the Los Angeles Times, art critic Carolina A. Miranda called California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s policies “absurd.” Museums in the Golden State remain closed to visitors.

“The wildly uneven criteria speak more to the powerful, well-funded lobbies helping shape public health policy than to anything resembling science or even common sense,” Miranda wrote. “At a moment in which it is possible to get a tattoo or paw the goods at Chanel in Beverly Hills, it should be possible to visit a museum. Period.”

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New version of first-ever African-American screen kiss discovered in Norway

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New version of first-ever African-American screen kiss discovered in Norway

A new version of the first known on-screen kiss between two African-American actors has been discovered in the collections of the National Library of Norway.

The 1898 film, directed by US film industry pioneer William Selig, stars vaudeville actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown and shows them courting and kissing in front of a cloth backdrop.

The only previously known copy of ‘Something Good – Negro Kiss’ was acquired from a collector in Louisiana in 2017 and added to the US Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2018 for its cultural value.

It depicts a tender scene between two African-American actors at a time when caricatures of Black life were more common.

The version identified by Norway’s National Library differs in that it is longer and the actors are filmed from a greater distance.

“It is more complex, there is more of a prelude before the kisses, with wooing, refusal and negotiation,” said Eirik Frisvold Hanssen, head of the National Library of Norway’s film section.

It was taken to Norway by a young Norwegian man, who likely bought a copy at the time in the United States and brought it back home, the National Library said. It is among the oldest films in the library’s collections.

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German police carry out dozens of dawn raids on far right crime network

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German police carry out dozens of dawn raids on far right crime network

BERLIN – Hundreds of police in Germany carried out dawn raids on 27 homes and business premises on Friday, including a lawyer’s office, in an operation targeting members of far right groups suspected of drugs and weapons trafficking, public broadcaster MDR said.

Prosecutors told the broadcaster that eight people, aged from 24 to 55, had so far been arrested in the raids which were carried out by 500 police officers. The suspects were members of the neo-Nazi groups Turonen and Garde 20, MDR said.

Authorities said the two gangs have for years been kingpins in the drugs trade in the eastern state of Thuringia, running a network that distributed crystal meth and weapons.

The offices of a lawyer in the central state of Hesse were also raided.

MDR said that its own investigations had revealed that the raids were the result of two years of tapping and bugging operations by security services.

The Turonen and Garde 20 are recognizable by their wearing of black clothes with far right nationalist insignia on them. They have become major players in the promotion of far right heavy metal concerts, at which neo-Nazi bands from Germany and other countries perform.

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