By Manas Mishra
(Reuters) – Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday participants were showing mild-to-moderate side effects when given either the company’s experimental coronavirus vaccine or a placebo in an ongoing late-stage study.
Over 12,000 study participants had received a second dose of the vaccine, Pfizer executives said on an investor conference call.
The company has enrolled more than 29,000 people in its 44,000-volunteer trial to test the experimental COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech.
Pfizer said it was continuously scrutinizing the safety and tolerability of the vaccine in its study.
An independent data monitoring committee could recommend pausing the study at any time, but has not done so till date, the company said.
The comments follow rival AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trials being put on hold worldwide on Sept. 6 after a serious side effect was reported in a volunteer in Britain.
AstraZeneca’s trials resumed in Britain and Brazil on Monday following the green light from British regulators, but remain on hold in the United States.
House Republicans Call on Attorney General Barr to Investigate Recent Spike in Anti-Catholic Hate Crimes
A group of House Republicans led by Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.) on Friday called on attorney general William Barr to investigate a recent rise in anti-Catholic hate crimes.
There have been 70 instances of anti-Catholic violence in North America this year — with 57 crimes being reported since May alone — according to a letter sent to the attorney general by Banks and 15 other House Republicans.
By contrast, in all of 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the FBI reported 53 incidents of anti-Catholic hate crimes in the U.S.
“Bigoted criminals are threatening Catholics and undermining America’s core ideal of religious liberty,” Banks said in a statement. “The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division exists to combat spikes in targeted violence. It needs to fulfill its duty, determine who is behind this pattern of attacks and bring them to justice.”
Beginning in early July, reports of “horrific and brutal attacks on Catholic and Church properties” spiked, the letter says, including in Boston where a statue of the Virgin Mary at Saint Peters Parish Church was set ablaze.
One day earlier, the letter says, a man in Florida allegedly drove a van into a church with parishioners inside before spilling gasoline in the church’s foyer and attempting to set it on fire.
That same day, San Gabriel Mission in California was burned down. The letter calls the issue “ongoing,” citing an incident in September where a man was videotaped toppling an Our Lady of Guadalupe statue in Coney Island, N.Y.
“As in any other instance of a rapid spike in hate crimes targeted at a specific group, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has an obligation to investigate the perpetrators of this violence and any organizational or ideological connections between them,” the letter states.
“Crimes like these aren’t just targeted at individuals and their property; they are targeted at American society as a whole,” it continues. “They are motivated by a destructive impulse to harm property and persons, but also the equally warped desire to undermine America’s constitutionally guaranteed rights and social trust within our communities.”
The Republicans’ call to investigate concludes in saying the attacks threaten the physical safety of Catholics as well as the integrity of the American system, and saying the Department of Justice has an obligation to uphold both.
The letter was co-signed by Representatives Andy Harris (R., Md.), Greg Steube (R., Fl.), Ted Yoho (R., Fl.), Jackie Walorski (R., Ind.), Doug Collins (R., Ga.), Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), Rick Allen (R., Ga.), Pete Olson (R., Texas), Glenn Grothman (R., Wisc.), Chuck Fleischmann (R., Tenn.), Ron Wright (R., Texas), Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.), Mike Kelly (R., Pa.), Ken Buck (R., Colo.), and Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas).
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Experts say there are 2 times when you should wear a mask at home
When the window in my bedroom broke, the ever-hovering threat of COVID-19 made me hesitant about letting someone in to our apartment to fix it. Even though the repairman was only in my home for 15 minutes and wore a mask the whole time, I found myself full of questions: When is it safe to take my mask off? How long should I keep the windows open? Would it help to spray Lysol in the air? What can I do to protect my family?
After spending so many months quarantined at home to distance from others, the presence of an outsider within my walls was unsettling and also confusing. Was it only strangers I should be concerned about? What about family and friends who don’t live with me? And what about those who are living under the same roof?
By now it’s second nature to slip your mask on when walking out the door, but when to wear a mask in the safety of your own home is a little less clear cut. So we tapped the experts. And it turns out that there are two circumstances where infectious disease experts recommend doing it.
Related: With COVID-19, fall looks a little different this year. Follow these expert tips to stay safe and healthy.
When anyone who doesn’t live with you comes over
“Whenever you have someone who is coming into your home that’s not a member of your immediate household, they should wear a mask, you should wear a mask, you and whoever else is in the house should wear the mask,” says Soniya Gandhi, MD, associate chief medical officer, Cedars-Sinai/Marina Del Rey Hospital. “You don’t know if that person is infectious — people can be asymptomatic and can still transmit the virus. Wearing masks and maintaining as much physical distance as possible when somebody is coming into your home are the cornerstones of trying to mitigate the risk of transmission.”
The right kind of mask helps as well, says Thomas A. Russo, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Either a N95, surgical mask or well-fitting multilayered cloth mask — no bandanas, no scarves, no gators and definitely no masks with valves, because those valves are just one-way valves, so they protect the wearer but the stuff that they breathe out is not filtered, so if they were infectious they’d just be spewing stuff on you,” Russo explains.
Theoretically, if you’re both wearing well-fitting masks (snugly over the nose and mouth, extending over your chin, and fitting snugly on the face) the entire time and neither of you drop the mask, your risk of contracting COVID from a home visitor is relatively low, says Russo.
This recommendation extends to friends and family who don’t live with you, says Gandhi. “There’s an assumption that because people are family outside of your immediate household, that maybe you somehow have less risk. That’s unfortunately just not true,” she says.
The good news is, if masks are worn properly, Russo says you can probably take your mask off soon after they leave. “If you’re very vulnerable, want to be very conservative, are nervous about imperfect mask usage, and you’re living in a place that isn’t optimally ventilated, you could consider wearing your mask for 30 minutes after they leave,” he suggests.
Related: Your guide to having awkward conversations and minimizing coronavirus spread at family get-togethers.
When someone in your home is sick
If someone in your home comes down with COVID symptoms (including common cold symptoms like a stuffy nose, low grade fever, and a sore throat) it might be a good idea for them — and you — to mask up until they get tested when in shared spaces. “If anyone has any symptoms in the house, you should assume it’s COVID until proven otherwise,” says Gandhi. “The individual should isolate the best they can, use a separate bathroom if at all possible, and try to get COVID tested as soon as possible,” she says.
“Perhaps keep the mask on for up to 30 minutes (especially if you are vulnerable) after you leave the sick person’s space, since it’s possible that aerosols will escape the room when the door is open,” Russo advises.
Related: Experts answer key questions about how to clean and store coronavirus face masks.
In addition to wearing a mask, it also helps to:
Stay at least six feet apart
“Close proximity is the most important risk factor of COVID transmission,” Russo says. “Respiratory secretions come in two modes: respiratory droplets are larger particles, and since they’re larger they could contain a lot more infectious virus but they fall out within seconds. The other mode are what we call aerosols. They’re smaller and they could remain suspended in the air for longer periods of time, and could travel greater distances. There’s a lot of controversy in terms of the relative importance of aerosols because even within the 6-foot range, you’re going to get a mix of aerosols and droplets at a much higher concentration. Aerosols could remain suspended in the air — and the science is not great — for 30 minutes, though experimentally they’ve been shown to remain in the air up to three hours,” Russo explains.
Throw open a window
Russo says good ventilation — even if everybody’s wearing a mask — can also help decrease your risk when someone new comes into your space by circulating both respiratory droplets and aerosols. How long you should keep the windows open depends on the weather and your risk tolerance, says Russo.
Ultimately, both infectious disease specialists say it’s better to err on the side of caution with either scenario. “It only takes one person to infect you. If there’s only a 1 percent chance that someone is infected, that one out of 100 could still be the person that fixes your window,” says Russo. “We’re learning now that even people with asymptomatic or mild disease, there are potentially long-term consequences in other organs from this infection. We should all consider ourselves relatively vulnerable and make every effort to protect ourselves.”
A rising Black GOP star faces fury from African Americans over Taylor case
Cameron’s performance drew kudos from McConnell and Trump, who said after the Taylor news that the Kentucky attorney general was doing a “fantastic job.” While his handling of the high-profile case probably won’t hurt him with Republicans in future potential bids for public office — it might well help — Cameron has ensured a motivated, well-funded opposition.
“You know what they say? All skinfolk are not kinfolk,” said Phelix Crittenden, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Louisville. “This was absolutely a career-defining moment … [designed] to set him up for stuff in the future. He had a chance to do right by his people. And he chose to do right by himself.”
Some civil rights groups have begun holding strategy meetings to discuss ways to hold Cameron accountable for his actions in the case and plan to work against him if he runs for office again down the line.
“Unfortunately, he was recently elected,” said Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color of Change. She alluded to activists’ efforts to oust St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in 2014. “There will be repercussions for his refusal to act, and we believe that he should resign or be replaced.”
Elected a year ago, Cameron is the first African-American attorney general of Kentucky and one of six Black attorneys general in the country, two of them Republicans. Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, the only other Black Republican who currently holds that post, told POLITICO that Cameron insisted his role in the case “has nothing to do with any personal feelings that he might have or any emotional reactions that might tug at his own heartstrings.”
“I recognize there have been problems in our country with race from Day One, and we’re still dealing with that. So it’s very near and dear to our thought process on a regular basis,” Hill said.
Cameron alluded to his personal feelings at his news conference announcing the grand jury decision, at one point choking up as he invoked his own family.
“I understand that as a Black man, how painful this is … which is why it was so incredibly important to make sure that we did everything we possibly could to uncover every fact,” Cameron said.
“My heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor,” Cameron added. “And I’ve said that repeatedly. My mother, if something was to happen to me,” he said, pausing as his voice faltered and he held back tears, “would find it very hard. … I’ve seen that pain on Miss [Tamika] Palmer’s face,” he said, referring to Taylor’s mother. “I’ve seen that pain in the community.”
Critics dismissed his remarks as performative, saying the mention of his race did nothing to alleviate the damage done in the case. Palmer said Friday she “never had faith in Daniel Cameron to begin with.”
“I knew he had already chosen to be on the wrong side of the law the moment he wanted the grand jury to make the decision,” Palmer said in a statement read by Taylor’s aunt, Bianca Austin. “He knew he had the power to do the right thing, that he had the power to start the healing of this city, that he had the power to help mend over 400 years of oppression. What he helped me realize is that it will always be ‘us against them.’”
Cameron’s lack of transparency on what led to the grand jury’s decision — he has not released transcripts of its deliberations — has compounded frustrations. His Wednesday remarks roughly outlined the circumstances leading to Taylor’s death: that only one of the six bullets fired at her killed her and that none could be traced back to Brett Hankison, the only police officer charged. He faces three counts of wanton endangerment because his bullets pierced the apartment of the family next door.
Cameron also cited testimony from a neighbor who relayed hearing police announce themselves before entering Taylor’s home. An analysis by the New York Times, however, found that of 12 neighbors, 11 did not hear the police announce themselves.
Pointing to that reporting, critics say the attorney general’s suggestion that Taylor’s death was an unavoidable tragedy is misleading. It has amplified calls for the attorney general to provide more information on the details of the case, something Cameron has said he cannot do to ensure the integrity of the investigation.
“The facts as we know them generally [don’t] really support the charges that were brought,” said Cedric Powell, a professor at the University of Louisville School of Law. “Daniel Cameron in his press conference was really selective about the evidence that he presented and the public doesn’t have confidence in this charge. The charge is just really like a compromise. A really bad compromise.”
Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the Taylor family, called on Cameron to release the grand jury transcripts, saying he believes that not all evidence was presented to the jurors before they made their decision.
“Did [Cameron] allow the one neighbor who they keep proclaiming heard the police knock and announce [themselves] testify before the grand jury? Even though I understand on two previous occasions he declared that he did not hear the police,” Crump said at a news conference. “Is this the only person out of her apartment complex that [Cameron] allowed to testify before the grand jury? That doesn’t seem fair. That doesn’t seem like you’re fighting for Breonna. That doesn’t seem like you’re putting forth evidence for justice for Breonna.”
Cameron’s allies describe him as a hard worker whose team followed the facts of the Taylor case without bias or caving to public pressure.
“To be crystal clear, Attorney General Cameron is not anybody’s enemy. He’s working hard on behalf of all Kentuckians of all backgrounds to uphold the law,” said Mike Lonergan, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Republican Party. “Kentucky has a lot of strong Republican leaders, and certainly Daniel Cameron is one of them.”
Those words of support amplify how polarizing a figure Cameron — who, according to one poll during his attorney general campaign, had the support of roughly a third of African-American voters — has become the past week. Leaders of the racial justice movement in Louisville say that until now Cameron wasn’t especially disliked, but was viewed as part of a flawed criminal justice system.
But now it’s personal.
Shauntrice Martin, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Louisville who attended the University of Louisville with Cameron, said it was “disappointing” to see her former classmate on the opposite side of this case.
“I was hopeful that because we finally had someone who was Black in a position … that possibly, things will be different, at least a little,” she said. “Instead of being better [for] Black people, he’s actually been worse.”
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