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Health Highlights: July 1, 2020

Promising Results for Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine in Early Testing: Pfizer U.S. Grab of Only COVID-19 Treatment Outrages Health Experts Travelers From 16 States Must Self-Quarantine When Arriving in N.Y., N.J. and Connecticut Republicans Now Urging People to Wear Masks Face Mask Exemption Cards are Fake: U.S. Officials Carl Reiner Dead at 98 New Swine Flu Virus Poses Hypothetical Pandemic Risk

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Promising Results for Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine in Early Testing: Pfizer

An experimental COVID-19 vaccine yielded promising results in early testing, according to Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Preliminary findings show that the 45 study volunteers who received either a low or medium dose, in two shots about a month apart, had immune responses in the range expected to protect against the disease, the Associated Press reported.

The results have been submitted for publication in a scientific journal but not yet reviewed.

Pfizer and BioNTech are working on four experimental vaccines. About 15 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in human testing worldwide, with several poised to begin large, last-stage studies to determine if they're actually effective, the AP reported.


U.S. Grab of Only COVID-19 Treatment Outrages Health Experts

The United States' deal with Gilead Sciences to scoop up nearly all of the world's supply of the only drug licensed to treat COVID-19 has outraged health experts.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services said it secured 500,000 treatments of the antiviral drug remdesivir through September, representing 100% of Gilead's July production capacity and 90% of its capacity in August and September, the Associated Press reported.

This type of selfish behavior sets a dangerous precedent for attempts to share scarce treatments during the pandemic, health experts warned.

"It so clearly signals an unwillingness to cooperate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights," Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex in the U.K., said in a statement, the AP reported.

"I have never seen anything like that. That a company chooses to sell their stock to only one country. It's very strange and quite inappropriate," Thomas Senderovitz, head of the Danish Medicines Agency, told Danish broadcaster DR.

A "a stronger framework" is needed to ensure fair prices and access to key medicines for people and nations worldwide, Dr. Peter Horby, who is conducting a large clinical trial testing several treatments for COVID-19, told the BBC, the AP reported.

He suggested that since it's an American company, Gilead was likely under "certain political pressures locally."


Travelers From 16 States Must Self-Quarantine When Arriving in N.Y., N.J. and Connecticut

Eight more states have been added to the list of states that people arriving from are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days when they reach New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The list now includes 16 states: California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, ABC News reported.

Those states have a positive COVID-19 test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or have a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average, according to officials.

People traveling to or returning to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from those states by any mode of transportation are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days. While the self-quarantine is voluntary, people are expected to comply, ABC News reported.


Republicans Now Urging People to Wear Masks

Despite President Donald Trump's refusal to do so, many Republicans have reversed themselves and are urging Americans to wear face masks.

Masks can save lives, say GOP officials who are challenging Trump's stance that masks are about politics, the Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, called on Trump to start wearing a mask, at least some of the time, to set a good example.

"Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask. If you're against Trump, you do," Alexander said, the AP reported.


Face Mask Exemption Cards are Fake: U.S. Officials

Cards that claim to exempt people from wearing face masks are fake, U.S. officials warn.

The bogus cards, which have an eagle logo, are being sold online by an outfit called the Freedom to Breathe Agency, which is not associated with any government entity, said Matthew Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, CBS News reported.

"Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle," he said in a news release. "These cards do not carry the force of law. The 'Freedom to Breathe Agency,' or 'FTBA,' is not a government agency."

The Federal Trade Commission also issued a warning about the cards and advised people to get coronavirus pandemic information from government agencies instead of from social media, CBS News reported.


Carl Reiner Dead at 98

American comedy legend Carl Reiner has died at age 98.

His death Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills was confirmed by his daughter, Annie Reiner, The New York Times reported.

The performer, writer and director created "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and also partnered with Mel Brooks on the popular "2000 Year Old Man" records.

Reiner appeared in films such as "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming" and "Ocean's Eleven" and its sequels, The Times reported.


New Swine Flu Virus Poses Hypothetical Pandemic Risk

As the world grapples with the new coronavirus pandemic, researchers have discovered a new type of swine flu virus that can infect people and has the potential to cause a future pandemic.

The G4 virus is genetically descended from the H1N1 swine flu that caused a pandemic in 2009, CNN reported.

The Chinese scientists who discovered G4 said it shows "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus," but added that it does not pose an immediate global health threat.

Their study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One expert said the public shouldn't "freak out."

"Our understanding of what is a potential pandemic influenza strain is limited," Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University's public health school, posted on Twitter, CNN reported.

"Sure, this virus meets a lot of the basic criteria but it's not for sure going to cause a hypothetical 2020 flu pandemic, or even be a dominant strain in humans."

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