WASHINGTON – The coronavirus vaccine, on its way for approval in the US, is eagerly awaited by tired Americans longing for a way back to normal life. But criminals are also waiting to use this desperation to their advantage, say federal investigators.
Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna, and dozens of other drug companies to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the impending scams, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with improper personal protective equipment, improper healing practices and extortion programs.
"We are all excited about the potential vaccine and treatments," said Steve Francis, assistant director of global trade investigations for Homeland Security Investigations. "But I am also warning about these criminal organizations and individuals who are trying to exploit the American public."
No vaccine has yet been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved the first treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug Remdesivir. Both vaccines and treatments have been warned of the potential for fraud.
"The FDA is particularly concerned that these misleading and misleading products could cause Americans to delay or discontinue appropriate medical treatment, resulting in serious and life-threatening harm," the agency said in a recent statement.
The pharmaceutical companies should have protective measures and brand protection functions in place to prevent fraud. However, these may only be available in the second generation of vaccines as everything operates in such an emergency, said Karen Gardner, director of marketing at SIPCA North America, a company that acts as a bridge between government, businesses and consumers. She said that made it more important to educate health care providers about what the reality is.
"If you have something with high demand and limited supply, there will be fraud," she said. Despair will drive people through normal channels.
In the meantime, investigators learn how the vaccine will be packaged and relay the message to the sales force. They create a mass database of information from more than 200 companies so that they are prepared to spot counterfeiting and fight dangerous fraud. They monitor tens of thousands of fake websites looking for evidence of counterfeit remedies being sold online.
Earlier this year, when cases exploded, hospitals and governments were lacking masks, gloves and other protective equipment. Fraud also increased. Fraudsters persecuted ignorant citizens to hand over money for goods they would never receive.
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Legislature learns of positive tests while meeting with Trump
HARRISBURG, PA. – A Pennsylvania state senator abruptly walked out of a west wing meeting with President Trump after being informed that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting on Sunday told The Associated Press.
Republican Senator Doug Mastriano had gone to the White House with like-minded Republican lawmakers last Wednesday, shortly after a more than four-hour public meeting that Mastriano hosted maskless in Gettysburg to discuss efforts to overthrow President-elect Joe Biden in victory Country.
Trump told Mastriano that the White House medical staff would take care of him, his son and his son's friend, who were also there for the Oval Office meeting and tested positive. The meeting continued after Mastriano and the others left, the person said.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private session as the matter is politically sensitive.
Positive coronavirus cases are increasing in the United States, and the nation's leading infectious disease expert said Sunday that the US may see "spikes at a time" in the coming weeks. The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. topped 200,000 for the first time on Friday.
Anyone who is in close proximity to the President must take a quick test. Trump himself was hospitalized in October after contracting the virus. Dozens of White House staff and others close to the President have also tested positive, including the President's first lady and two sons.
All attendees at Wednesday's meeting took part in COVID-19 tests, but the positive results were not announced until they were in the west wing of the White House.
"The president immediately called the White House doctor and took them back to the medical site," the person said. The meeting with Trump should develop a strategy for the electoral effort, the person said.
After Mastriano and the others left, the discussion with Trump lasted about half an hour. Mastriano did not return to the meeting.
Mastriano was looking for the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Committee meeting Wednesday, attended by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a second Trump attorney, several witnesses and a crowd of onlookers. Few of them were masked.
The committee let Giuliani and others voice their belief for several hours that there had been problems with the conduct and counting of the vote in Pennsylvania. All claims were unfounded; No evidence was presented to support the claims they made.
Trump even attended, calling from the White House while one of his lawyers held a phone to a microphone. He repeated the same unsubstantiated allegations of fraud that he tweeted about for weeks.
These beliefs have continued even though Trump has repeatedly lost in state and federal courts, including a Philadelphia-based federal appeals court ruling on Friday that the "Trump campaign claims have no value" and a state Supreme Court ruling on Friday Saturday that sparked a legal challenge the election and efforts to stop certification of its results.
Mastriano, a conservative from a rural district in central Pennsylvania and an outspoken Trump supporter, did not return multiple messages on Sunday for comment.
Republican Senator Dave Argall, chairman of the political committee, declined in a text message on Sunday to discuss Mastriano's health and the White House visit.
"I've received some conflicting information that I'm trying to resolve," Argall said in the text. "I understand that a Senate statement later today will help all of us understand this better."
Argall said he would not speak publicly about the matter "until I know more".
Senate Republican spokeswoman Kate Flessner declined to comment, describing it as a personnel matter.
The person with knowledge of the White House visit said several people drove to the White House in a large van from Gettysburg, where the political committee met in a hotel. Mastriano, his son, and his son's friend drove in a different vehicle.
It's not clear why Mastriano's son and friend accompanied the Senator to the meeting, which was also attended by Trump and the President's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who tested positive in early November.
Mastriano has aggressively spoken out against policies under the government of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to contain the spread of the coronavirus and keep people safe.
He has led rallies at which he campaigned to reopen stores despite the risk of infection, and he has repeatedly and sharply denounced Wolf's orders. Mastriano also spoke to a few thousand Trump supporters who gathered outside the Capitol on November 7, hours after Democrat Joe Biden's national victory became apparent.
New York City reopens school system
NEW YORK – New York City will reopen its school system to study in person and increase the number of days per week that many children attend classes, even as the city's coronavirus pandemic intensifies.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that some elementary and preschool programs will resume classes on December 7th. Others will take longer to open their doors again. The announcement marks a major political reversal for the country's largest school system.
It comes just 11 days after de Blasio announced that schools were closing due to an increasing number of cases. The plan to reopen middle and high schools is still under development.
Some elementary schools and preschool programs will resume classes on December 7th, a week from Monday, the mayor said. Others take longer to reopen their doors.
Czechs loosen virus restrictions as cases decline
PRAGUE – The Czech government said on Sunday it is easing measures to contain the new coronavirus as new confirmed cases rise.
Health Minister Jan Blatny said all shops, restaurants and bars could reopen on Thursday and a ban on Sunday sales would be lifted.
Restaurants can be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but are limited to 50% of their capacity. Stores and malls also need to limit the number of customers.
Hair salons, fitness centers and fitness studios as well as zoos, museums and galleries are allowed to reopen.
The Czech Republic was hit hardest by a new wave of infections in autumn, but the number of new cases has fallen since November 4th.
The country of nearly 10.7 million people had 518,649 confirmed cases with 8,054 deaths. The daily increase in new cases reached 2,667 on Saturday.
The French court orders the government to re-examine the church attendance limit
PARIS – France's highest administrative court on Sunday ordered a rethinking of the government's 30-person attendance restriction for church services to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure went into effect this weekend when France eased some virus restrictions, but it was rejected by places of worship and the faithful, who labeled it arbitrary and unreasonable. Even before the verdict, several bishops had announced that they would not enforce the restrictions and some churches were expected to oppose it.
The Council of State has ordered Prime Minister Jean Castex to change the measure within three days.
French churches, mosques and synagogues reopened their doors to believers this weekend – but few of them as France cautiously begins to reopen after its last virus lockdown.
Many people expressed their irritation in front of several Parisian churches where priests held services for groups of over 30 people.
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Beware of COVID-19 scams as vaccine nears FDA approval