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U.S. Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Strain To Meet Wider Eligibility, Second Doses

vaccine supplies
COVID-19 mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 15, 2021. Irfan Khan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

By Peter Szekely

Scattered shortages of Covid19 vaccine supplies persisted on Saturday under pressure from growing demand, as previously inoculated Americans returned for their required second shots and millions of newly eligible people scrambled to get their first.

The supply gaps, coming as the U.S. vaccination effort enters its second month, prompted some healthcare systems to suspend appointments for first-time vaccine seekers and one New York healthcare system to cancel a slew of existing ones.

“As eligibility increases, you just increase demand, but we’re not able to increase supply,” Northwell Health spokesman Joe Kemp told Reuters by telephone.

Northwell, New York’s largest healthcare provider, offers appointments only as it gets more vaccine, and only after allocating doses to people scheduled for their second shots, Kemp said.

Although the supply flow has been sporadic, Northwell expects to offer appointments in the coming week, he added.

Both approved vaccines, one from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech and the other from Moderna Inc, require a booster three to four weeks after the first shot to maximize their effectiveness against the coronavirus.

While healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff got first priority, eligibility for the vaccines has since widened, with some states opening it to healthy people aged 65 and up and people of any age with pre-existing conditions.

Besides New York, signs of vaccine supply strains appeared in Vermont, Michigan, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Oregon.

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown said vaccinations for seniors and educators would be delayed, while Vermont Governor Phil Scott said the state would focus exclusively on its over-75 population because of “unpredictable” federal supplies.

Dr. Richard Dang, assistant professor USC School of Pharmacy administers COVID-19 vaccine to Ashley Van Dyke (L) as mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 15, 2021. Irfan Khan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

 

NOT “OVER-PROMISING”

“Rather than over-promising a limited supply to a broad population that we know we can’t vaccinate all at once, we believe our strategy will get shots in arms faster and more efficiently, with less loss of life,” Scott said on Twitter.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that the looser requirements would make 7 million of New York’s 19 million residents eligible for inoculations.

New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital said on Friday that it canceled vaccination appointments through Tuesday because of “sudden changes in vaccine supply.”

An official at NYU Langone Health, another healthcare giant, said it has indefinitely suspended new appointments because it had received no confirmation that it would get more vaccine.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that while the city was ramping up its vaccination capacity, supplies were still coming in at “a very paltry” 100,000 doses a week, which put it on course to run dry in the coming week.

De Blasio was among three dozen big city mayors who asked the incoming Biden administration last week to send COVID19 vaccine shipments directly to them, bypassing state governments.

Jack Sterne, a spokesman for the state, blamed the supply problems on the federal government, which he said was cutting New York’s vaccine shipment in the coming week by 50,000 doses to 250,000.

“The problem all along has been a lack of allocation from Washington, and now that we’ve expanded the population of those eligible, the federal government continues to fail to meet the demand,” Sterne said by email.

Adding to the inter-governmental tension was a squabble in which several governors accused the Trump administration on Friday of deceptively pledging to distribute millions of COVID19 vaccine doses from a stockpile that the U.S. health secretary has since acknowledged does not exist.

Since the first vaccine was administered in the United States in mid-December, nearly 12.3 million doses have been given, out of 31.2 million doses distributed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total includes 1.6 million people who have received both doses, the CDC said.

Since the onset of the pandemic, 23.4 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, 392,153 of whom died, according to a Reuters tally.

While seriously ill patients are straining healthcare systems in parts of the country, especially in California, the national rate of hospitalizations has leveled off in the past two weeks and was at 127,095 on Friday.

A widely cited model by the University of Washington projects that January will be the deadliest month of the pandemic, claiming more than 100,000 lives.

But the newly revised model of the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that the monthly toll will abate thereafter, shrinking to about 11,000 in April, as more people are vaccinated.

“By May 1, some states may be close to herd immunity,” the IHME said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Simons Taps Brown As Chair of Setauket-based Renaissance Board After Mixed 2020

Setauket-based Renaissance
Hedge fund director James Simons, director of Renaissance Technologies LLC, testifies before a US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the regulation of hedge funds, on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

Billionaire investor James Simons, of Long Island, is stepping down as chairman at the Setauket-based Renaissance Technologies but will remain on the board of the $60 billion hedge fund he founded nearly 40 years ago.

Simons told investors late in 2020 — a year of mixed returns for the firm — that he would be handing the reins as board chairman to Peter Brown, who has been running the company as sole CEO since 2017. The move signaled a shift after Simons named his son, Nathaniel, as co-chair of the board in January 2020. James and Nathaniel Simons will remain as board directors.

“Simply put, I believe it is time: this transition has been many years in the making and Peter Brown, our incoming Chairman, is more than ready to take on the responsibility,” Simons wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the move.

Simons, who will turn 83 this year, is a former mathematics professor and code breaker who turned Renaissance into one of the world’s most successful hedge funds since its 1982 launch.

Simons retired and stepped down as CEO in 2010, handing over to Brown and Robert Mercer, who were co-CEOs until 2017.

Mercer stepped down amid controversy over his strong support of Donald Trump and the media outlet Breitbart News. Simons, whose net worth was estimated at $23.5 billion in 2020 by Forbes, donated millions to elect Joe Biden as president.

Investors have been drawn to quant funds like Renaissance where computers instead of star stock-pickers make the allocations, for years.

But in 2020, returns at Renaissance were mixed.

Its Medallion Fund, available only to Renaissance insiders, returned 76%. But its Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund, the oldest portfolio available to outsiders which was launched in 2005, tumbled nearly 20%, a person familiar with the numbers said.

Simons acknowledged the returns in his letter, writing “I know it has been a difficult year and that Renaissance has been through challenging periods before, but I continue to believe in our processes and our people. I remain fully committed to our investors, to our employees, and to our firm, and I am stepping down as Chair because I believe that is what’s best for the firm.”

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by David Gregorio)

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14 MS-13 Leaders Charged on Long Island With Terrorism

A migrant from Central America, who border patrol agents suspected was a member of the gang Mara Salvatrucha (commonly known as MS-13), is handcuffed after being apprehended with a group of men who crossed into the United States from Mexico in La Joya, Texas, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

The United States has charged 14 leaders of the international criminal gang MS-13 on terrorism charges, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Thursday, part of an intensified crackdown on the group.

The indictment, filed in Central Islip, and unsealed on Thursday, charged the individuals with conspiracies to support terrorists, commit acts of terrorism and finance terrorism, according to the department.

“The indictment announced today is the highest-reaching and most sweeping indictment targeting MS-13 and its command and control structure in U.S. history,” acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement.

The department said that Borromeo Enrique Henriquez, considered the most powerful member of Ranfla Nacional, which the U.S. government said comprises the highest level of MS-13 leadership, as well as 10 other people were in custody in El Salvador. The United States would “explore options for their extradition,” it said.

Three of the defendants, Fredy Ivan Jandres-Parada, Cesar Humberto Lopez-Larios and Hugo Armando Quinteros-Mineros remain at large and should be considered armed and dangerous, the department said.

The FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have offered $20,000 in rewards for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the three, the statement said.

In July, the department said it was stepping up a crackdown on the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and would seek the death penalty against an accused New York gang leader facing murder charges.

U.S. President Donald Trump has previously linked the fight against the gang with his campaign against illegal immigration. Critics of the administration’s tactics argue that the crackdown has also unlawfully detained immigrant teens accused of gang affiliation.

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U.S. to Require Negative Covid-19 Tests for Arriving Int’l Air Passengers

FILE PHOTO: Travelers check in for their flights at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Romulus, Michigan, U.S., December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Emily Elconin/File Photo

By David Shepardson

Nearly all air travelers will need to present a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States under expanded test testing requirements announced on Tuesday.

Under the rules taking effect Jan. 26, nearly all travelers including U.S. citizens must show a negative test within three days of departure or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, under an order signed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield.

All travelers aged 2 and older must comply except passengers who are only transiting through the United States. The CDC will also consider waivers of testing requirements for airlines flying to countries with little or no testing capacity, including some places in the Caribbean.

The order dramatically broadens a requirement imposed on Dec. 28 for travelers arriving from the UK as a more transmissible variant of the virus circulated there.

In an interview, Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s global migration and quarantine division, said, “We to have really up the ante… We have to take these mutations seriously.”

Canada imposed similar rules for nearly all international arrivals starting Jan. 7, as have many other countries.

The CDC confirmed last week it had circulated a proposal to expand the testing requirement after discussing the idea for weeks. Some senior White House officials opposed it, and officials briefed on the matter said last week that U.S. public health officials had essentially given up winning approval until President-elect Joe Biden took office.

At a White House meeting on Monday, Redfield again made an urgent case to adopt the testing requirements, people briefed on the meeting said. He raised concerns that vaccines could potentially not be effective against virus variants.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group, praised the testing plan. Airlines had also wanted a ban to be dropped on most non-U.S. visitors who have recently been in Brazil and most of Europe, but the White House opted not to end it.

Cetron said the entry restrictions should “be actively reconsidered.”

Cetron confirmed the CDC has discussed the idea of expanding the testing requirement to domestic U.S. flights but emphasized the new order only applies to international flights.

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‘We’re Going To Run Out’: New York Urges U.S. To Increase Vaccine Supply

People speak to a healthcare worker while in line to receive a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a 24 hour vaccination center at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen

New York officials said on Monday that they feared efforts to accelerate the vaccination of people against the novel coronavirus will be hampered by an insufficient supply of doses from the U.S. government.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to vaccinate 1 million residents, about an eighth of the population, by the end of January.

So far, about 194,000 people in the city have received at least the first of two doses of a vaccine. The city has another 230,000 doses on hand, and is expecting to receive another 100,000 this week, officials said on Monday.

“We’re going to run out of doses in the next few weeks if we don’t get more of a supply coming in,” de Blasio told reporters.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, is considering distributing more doses to states by departing from the current practice of holding back a supply to ensure that required second doses of the vaccines are available on schedule.

Second shots of the two vaccines authorized so far are supposed to be given three or four weeks after the first.

The slow rollout of vaccinations has yet to make a dent in the health crisis as the pandemic continues to surge across the United States, claiming on average about 3,200 lives each day over the last week. COVID-19 has killed more than 374,000 people in the United States since the pandemic began.

Still, some public health experts have noted that no U.S. state, including New York, has so far come close to using up its federal allotments of vaccines, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is due in part to the slow expansion of a patchwork system of vaccination centers and, in some instances, rigid rules that sharply limit who can receive a vaccine.

States in recent days have been adding vaccination capacity with the ad hoc conversion of sports venues, convention halls and empty schools into vaccine centers.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo relented last week on his demand that all healthcare workers be offered a vaccine before members of other vulnerable groups become eligible, which led to hundreds of doses being wasted as half-finished vials were discarded at the end of each day.

He has since said that certain groups of other essential workers and people over age 75 as of Monday can make appointments to receive a shot. In contrast, Texas and Florida have been vaccinating people over age 65 since late December, although reports from those states have indicated that demand has far outstripped available vaccination appointments.

There are now over 4 million people in New York state eligible to receive the vaccine out of a population of about 19 million, Cuomo said on Monday at his annual State of the State Address, but only about 1 million doses on hand.

“We only receive 300,000 doses per week from the federal government,” he said. “At this rate, it will take us 14 weeks, just to receive enough dosages for those currently eligible.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Anurag Maan; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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U.S. Transport Chief, a Long Island Native, Among Trump Aides to Quit After Capitol Violence

Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation speaks at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019 (GES 2019) in The Hague, Netherlands June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

By David Shepardson, Matt Spetalnick and Steve Holland

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, a Syosset High School graduate, announced her resignation on Thursday, the first Cabinet member to join a list of officials of President Donald Trump’s administration who are leaving in protest at the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

Chao, the wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said in an email to staff that the mob attack “has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.” She said her resignation will take effect on Monday.

With less than two weeks left of Trump’s presidency, many aides were already heading for the door, but the sudden departures suggested revulsion among some over his encouragement of supporters who brought chaos to the Capitol on Wednesday in an ultimately futile bid to prevent formal certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.

Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a leading figure in the development of Trump’s China policy, quit abruptly on Wednesday, said a senior administration official.

He was followed by Ryan Tully, senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, said a second senior official.

Republican Trump’s pledge on Thursday that there would be an “orderly transition” to the presidency of Democrat Joe Biden on Jan. 20 was partly intended to head off further resignations, but the second official told Reuters: “It’s not going to stop it.”

The images filled television screens in the United States and around the world, forever marking Trump’s presidency.

HELP FOR SUCCESSOR

Chao, a labor secretary and deputy transportation secretary under previous Republican presidents, has led the department for four years. In an interview with Reuters on Dec. 31, Chao had said she planned to remain on the job through Jan. 20.

On Thursday, she was at pains to say that “we will help my announced successor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department.”

Chao made the announcement a day after McConnell condemned the violence and the effort by some Republican lawmakers to block certification of Biden’s victory. Trump has sought unsuccessfully to overturn the results with unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.

Among those spurred to quit was Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff who resigned as a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of my friends resign over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said on CNBC.

John Costello, deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, announced his departure in a blistering tweet, writing, “yesterday’s events were an unprecedented attack on the very core of our democracy – incited by a sitting president.”

Further departures are especially likely at the NSC, one of the officials said. It coordinates U.S. foreign policy and maintains close contacts with foreign governments, so the loss of key staff could raise questions about national security as the new administration takes over.

Pottinger’s boss, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, has no plans to quit, the first official said. But sources familiar with the matter said O’Brien had considered resigning.

“A strong national security team remains in place at the State Department, the Department of Defense, Treasury, the intelligence community and the National Security Council”, the official said, adding that the team had been guarding against any foreign threats prior to Biden’s inauguration.

The White House had no immediate comment.

Confirming Pottinger’s departure, O’Brien tweeted: “His work lead to a great awakening in our country and around the world to the danger posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

ISOLATED AND ANGRY

Trump has increasingly isolated himself in the White House, relying on a small group of diehard loyalists and lashing out at those who dare to cross him, including Vice President Mike Pence.

An administration official said that “national security officials who are loyal to their oath to the constitution will be standing watch until Inauguration Day and will then turn over power to the duly elected new president.”

There has been no indication that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a close Trump ally, plans to resign. But he put daylight between himself and Trump by condemning the mob that overran the Capitol as “criminals”.

Trump’s top cabinet secretaries – Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen – are not expected to quit, but other lower-profile cabinet members could still leave, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Former U.S. diplomats said it was unlikely there would be major departures at the State Department, where staffers have long endured Trump’s accusations that they are part of a “deep state” seeking to frustrate his policies.

But a State Department adviser on Iran, Gabriel Noronha, was fired from his post by the White House on Thursday after tweeting that Trump was “entirely unfit to remain in office.”

First lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, also resigned on Wednesday. Two sources told Reuters that White House social secretary Rickie Niceta also quit, as did Sarah Matthews, a deputy White House press secretary.

Pottinger, a former Reuters and Wall Street Journal reporter who left journalism to join the U.S. Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, had served in the White House since the beginning of Trump’s presidency in 2017.

Trump’s administration has pursued hardline policies towards China on issues ranging from trade to espionage and the coronavirus, with relations at their worst level in decades.

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Cuomo Boosts Pot, Sports Betting, to Help Pandemic-battered Economy

FILE PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media while visiting the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center which will be partially converted into a hospital for patients affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing an economic chasm resulting from COVID-19 shutdowns, wants to follow neighboring New Jersey in legalizing mobile sports betting and recreational marijuana to help his state regain its financial footing.

After years of resisting the legalization of online sports betting, the governor will push for the lucrative measure in his State of the State address next week

“New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States and by legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars of tax revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Under his proposal, the New York State Gaming Commission would select a sports operator or platform that has partnered with an existing licensed casino. However, unlike some other states’ online betting schemes, New York’s would be administered so that a greater portion of the revenue goes into state coffers rather than to the casino, Cuomo said.

“We want to do so the way we do the lottery, where the state gets the revenues,” Cuomo told a press conference.

Online sports betting in New York was estimated to bring the state as much as $500 million a year, Cuomo‘s administration said.

Another revenue stream that will be pushed by Cuomo is the legalization of recreational marijuana, which was expected to eventually generate more than $300 million in tax revenue.

“The governor’s proposal builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use,” the Cuomo administration said in a statement.

“Decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.”

In 2019, Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize unlawful possession of marijuana.

Voters in New Jersey in November legalized marijuana for recreational use.

The likelihood that online sports betting may help New York close its multibillion-dollar budget gap is highlighted by the success across the Hudson River, with New Jersey’s sports betting handle, or total amount wagered, in November amounting to $931.6 million. At the same time, New Jersey’s sports books recorded $50.6 million in revenue and $6.2 million in taxes.

An estimated 20 percent of New Jersey’s sports betting revenue comes from New Yorkers who cross bridges and tunnels to bet.

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A Covid-19 Shot for $150? Online Scams Surge As Slow Vaccine Rollout Frustrates

covid-19 shot
Dado Ruvic/Ilustration/File Photo/Reuters

By Tina Bellon

As millions of people await their turn to get a COVID-19 vaccine that could be months away, scammers online, in emails and on messaging apps are luring victims with claims they can deliver shots within days for as little as $150.

COVID-19 vaccine scams are on the rise, according to European and U.S. government officials who are warning the public of fraudsters out for money and personal data.

A Reuters search online, in dark web forums and on messaging app Telegram found seven different offers for alleged COVID-19 vaccines.

Scams include emails promising entry to supposedly secret lists for early vaccine access and robocallers impersonating government agencies. Message boards on the so-called dark web have added COVID-19 vaccines to more traditional illicit goods for sale.

The U.S. FBI and Interpol, among others, have warned of emerging pandemic-related fraud schemes, saying false cures and vaccines advertised on fake websites could pose cyber threats and a significant risk to peoples’ health, or even lives.

Website domains containing the word vaccine in combination with COVID-19 or coronavirus more than doubled since October to roughly 2,500 in November, when the first legitimate vaccines were nearing regulatory approval, according to cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which is tracking COVID-19 fraud online.

“So far a lot of these domains just appear to be opportunistic registrations, but some are going to be used for phishing attempts to have people click on (malicious) links,” said Lindsay Kaye, director of operational outcomes at Recorded Future.

Kaye said her team, which also scours the dark web, so far has not come across any legitimate vaccine diverted from healthcare facilities or national stockpiles.

The scams are preying on concerns about the far slower-than-promised rollout of vaccines to protect against the virus that has claimed more than 1.8 million lives worldwide so far. Most people will likely have to wait well into the spring, or even summer, to get their shot.

In the United States, only about 4.5 million people had received their first shot as of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That is a fraction of the 20 million who were supposed to have been vaccinated by the end of 2020, according to earlier government forecasts.

VACCINES, GUNS AND MONEY

On dark web forum Agartha, fake COVID-19 vaccines were offered next to cocaine, opioid medication, “super high quality fake money,” hand guns and gift cards. Posts showed stock photos of vaccines and offered vials for $500 and $1,000, or the equivalent in Bitcoin.

On another dark web site, a seller claiming to be from the “Wuhan Institute of Science” offered COVID-19 vaccines in exchange for a donation, and asked buyers to provide their medical history.

On Telegram, several channels claimed to offer COVID-19 vaccines, accompanied by stock images. One user offered supposed Moderna Inc vaccines for $180, and claimed the vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE could be had for $150 and AstraZeneca’s for $110 per vial.

Asked how the vaccines would be shipped, the account creator said they were transported in “regulated temperature packs” and ice packs within a few days, or overnight for an additional charge.

Actual COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the Pfizer/BioNTech offering, must be temperature controlled to remain effective, with drugmakers equipping shipments with temperature trackers to ensure the cold chain. Vaccine shipments and distribution are also tightly controlled by officials and will be administered at no cost.

The United States has so far authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use – the ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The European Union to date has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and is expected to clear the Moderna vaccine this week.

The UK has already authorized those two and just added the vaccine developed by Oxford University with AstraZeneca.

Asked about vaccine scams, Pfizer said it had taken meticulous steps to reduce the risk of counterfeiting and tracked trends very carefully.

“Patients should never try to secure a vaccine online – no legitimate vaccine is sold online – and only get vaccinated at certified vaccination centers or by certified healthcare providers,” a Pfizer spokesman said in a statement.

Moderna referred a request for comment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which did not respond. AstraZeneca did not respond to a request for comment.

The HHS, FBI and U.S. Department of Justice have urged the public to report any COVID-19 vaccine scams, including people asking for out-of-pocket payments for the vaccine and online vaccine advertisements.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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New York Unveils New $1.6 Billion Train Hall at Penn Station

train hall at penn station
Glass skylights are seen during the public unveil at The Moynihan Train Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

New York City unveiled a new $1.6 billion concourse at Penn Station on Wednesday, expanding North America’s busiest train terminal and helping rectify what a celebrated architect called the “tragic demolition” of the old station six decades ago.

The construction of a new concourse in the iconic Farley Post Office building across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station had been talked about for decades before being set on a concrete path by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016.

The 255,000 square-foot Moynihan Train Hall, featuring a 92-foot high glass skylight and a lounge for nursing mothers, will feed passengers to 17 Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road tracks and provide more space for the notoriously congested transit hub, which served 650,000 customers a day prior to the pandemic.

Ticketed waiting room is seen during the public unveil at The Moynihan Train Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

It was named after the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who in the 1990s promoted the idea of converting the under-utilized post office as a way to restore the architectural beauty lost when the old Penn Station was torn down starting in 1963.

The demolition of the old station, brought about by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s bankruptcy, triggered a backlash and helped lead to the establishment of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, amid other efforts to protect its architectural history.

Paul Goldberger, a Pulitzer prize-winning architectural critic who advised on the new train hall, on Wednesday lamented the “tragic demolition” of the old Penn Station, which he called a “masterpiece of public architecture.”

“It took a couple of decades but it has finally happened in a way that is remarkably true to Senator Moynihan’s great idea,” Goldberger told a press briefing to unveil the new facility.

“There is a still long way to go but we are moving in the right direction toward a recognition that great public space belongs to everyone, that a great city deserves a noble public rail.”

The Amtrak lounge is seen during the public unveil at The Moynihan Train Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

The new concourse will open for business on Jan. 1.

Construction began in 2017 and the project was completed on time and within budget despite challenges thrown up by the virus, which has killed more than 25,000 people in the city.

“This would be an amazing accomplishment at any time, but it is an extraordinary accomplishment today,” Cuomo told a news briefing, speaking from a platform bathed in sunlight from the glass above. “As dark as 2020 was, to me this hall brings the light literally and figuratively.”

The project is the result of a public-private partnership that included developers Vornado Realty Trust and Related Companies. Over the summer, Vornado announced that Facebook Inc. signed a lease for office space at the Farley Building, a sign of confidence in the development.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

An entrance to a ticketed waiting room is seen during the public unveil at The Moynihan Train Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

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Regeneron’s COVID-19 Antibody Therapy Shows Promise in Hospitalized Patients

FILE PHOTO: An employee works in a lab at the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Westchester campus in Tarrytown, New York, U.S. September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Tuesday initial data from an ongoing study of its experimental antibody cocktail for use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring low-flow oxygen show the therapy was sufficiently effective to warrant continuing the trial.

The drugmaker said in September the cocktail, a combination of two antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, reduced viral levels and improved symptoms in non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Study participants included those who had produced their own antibodies (seropositive) and those who had not (seronegative).

Seronegative patients treated with the antibody cocktail had a lower risk of death or needing mechanical ventilation, the company said. (http://bit.ly/3pA1AsI)

Based on these results, the company said an ongoing late-stage study in hospitalized patients will continue.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month issued emergency use authorization for the antibody therapy for use in mild to moderate COVID-19 patients who are not currently hospitalized.

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