Exclusive: US hospitals still ration medical N95 masks as stockpiles swell; COVID-19 shots might be tweaked if variants get worse

“VIDEO: US hospitals still ration masks as stockpiles swell”


From The Associated Press


Media www.rajawalisiber.com  – One year into the pandemic, the United States finds itself with many millions of N95 masks pouring out of factories and heading into storage.


Yet there still aren’t nearly enough going to hospitals, with some nurses allotted one mask only for their entire grueling and dangerous shift.


The AP found that this logistical breakdown is due to federal failures over the past year to coordinate supply chains, Jason Dearen, Juliet Linderman and Martha Mendoza report.


Internal emails also show there were deliberate decisions to withhold vital information about new mask manufacturers and availability.


Exclusive trade data and interviews with manufacturers, hospital associations and frontline medical workers reveal a deadly disconnect — and not an actual shortage — that is depriving doctors, nurses, paramedics and other people risking exposure to COVID-19 of first-rate protection.


Vaccines & Variants: The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are working out how to tweak their recipes just in case the shots need an update against worrisome virus mutations.

But changing the mix is just one step. Harder is deciding if the coronavirus has mutated enough to update vaccines — and if so, how. Flu vaccines are reformulated just about every year, and authorities are looking to that system as a blueprint.


“It’s not really something you can sort of flip a switch, do overnight,” cautioned an expert who directs a World Health Organization flu center from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Viruses always mutate, and one key step will be better tracking to target only the variants that really threaten the vaccines’ effectiveness, Lauran Neergaard reports.


Grocery Workers: As panicked Americans cleared supermarkets of toilet paper and food last spring, grocery employees gained recognition as among the most indispensable of the pandemic’s front-line workers. A year later, most of those workers are waiting for vaccines, with little clarity about when their turns may come. The chaotic U.S. vaccine rollout has resulted in a patchwork of policies that differ from state-to-state and even county-to-county. The result has been an inconsistent approach to vaccinating low-paid essential workers who are exposed  to hundreds of customers each day. Alexandra Olson, Dee-Ann Durbin and Anne D’ Innocenzio report.


Muted Mardi Gras: Fat Tuesday has arrived in New Orleans. But officials in the tourism-dependent city aren’t hoping for big crowds. All Mardi Gras parades are canceled and bars have been closed since Friday. Even take-out drinks are forbidden. And officials put restrictions on crowds in the historic French Quarter, which is usually the scene of huge gatherings, Kevin McGill reports.

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