WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the U.S. government’s pandemic response, has donated his personal 3-D model of the COVID-19 virus to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Dr. Anthony Fauci holds his personal 3D model of the COVID-19 virus, which he is donating to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Fauci presented the donation Tuesday night in a virtual ceremony to honor him with the museum’s Great Americans Medal. Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History via AP

The museum on Tuesday honored Fauci with its Great Americans Medal.

“Dr. Fauci has helped save millions of lives and advanced the treatment and our understanding of infectious and immunologic diseases across more than five decades of public service,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s director. “His humanitarianism and dedication truly exemplify what it means to be a Great American.”

The museum asked Fauci to contribute a personal artifact to mark the pandemic, and he chose the lumpy blue and orange ball that he used to explain the complexities of the virus in dozens of interviews.

The model was made with a 3D printer and shows what the Smithsonian’s announcement calls “the various components of the SARS-CoV-2 virion (the complete, infectious form of the virus), including the spike protein.”

Fauci showed off his new medal in a video call Tuesday night, calling it “an extraordinary and humbling” honor.

“This has been a terrible year in so many respects,” he said. “Decades from now, people will be talking about the experience that we went through.”

Fauci, 80, is the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. After serving as the beleaguered and frequently sidelined face of the Trump administration’s COVID response, Fauci was retained as a senior adviser to President Joe Biden.

The Great Americans Medal was founded in 2016. Previous honorees include former secretaries of state Madeleine K. Albright and Gen. Colin L. Powell, tennis star Billie Jean King and musician Paul Simon.

Fauci received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award, in 2008 from then-President George W. Bush for his decades of work, dating back to the earliest days of the AIDS crisis.

Texas decides to lift its mask mandate, reopen businesses at 100%

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is lifting its mask mandate, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday, making it the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans.

The Republican governor has faced sharp criticism from his party over the mandate, which was imposed eight months ago, as well as other COVID-19 restrictions on businesses that Texas will also scuttle starting next week. The mask order was only ever lightly enforced, even during the worst outbreaks of the pandemic.

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A customer exits a store with a mask required sign displayed, Tuesday, March 2, in Dallas. AP Photo/LM Otero

The repealed rules include doing away with limits on the number of diners or customers allowed indoors, said Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. He said the new rules would take effect March 10, although leaders in Houston and other big Texas cities were already reacting with alarm.

“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from the crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks.

“It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.

The decision comes as governors across the U.S. have been easing coronavirus restrictions, despite warnings from health experts that the pandemic is far from over. Like the rest of the country, Texas has seen the number of cases and deaths plunge. Hospitalizations are at the lowest levels since October, and the seven-day rolling average of positive tests has dropped to about 7,600 cases, down from more than 10,000 in mid-February.

Only California and New York have reported more COVID-19 deaths than Texas.

“The fact that things are headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we have succeeded in eradicating the risk,” said Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

She said the recent deadly winter freeze in Texas that left millions of people without power — forcing families to shelter closely with others who still had heat — could amplify transmission of the virus in the weeks ahead, although it remains too early to tell. Masks, she said, are one of the most effective strategies to curb the spread.

Read the full story here.

Twitter cracks down on COVID vaccine misinformation

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter says it has begun labeling tweets that include misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines and using a “strike system” to eventually remove accounts that repeatedly violate its rules.

The company said Monday that it has started using human reviewers to assess whether tweets violate its policy against COVID vaccine misinformation. Eventually, the work will be done by a combination of humans and automation, it said.

Twitter had already banned some COVID-related misinformation in December, including falsehoods about how the virus spreads, whether masks are effective and the risk of infection and death.

“Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behavior and their impact on the public conversation,” Twitter said in a blog post Monday.

People with one violation — or strike — will see no action. Two strikes will lead to an account being locked for 12 hours. Five or more will get a user permanently banned from Twitter.

Facebook has also stepped up its vaccine misinformation fight after years of half-hearted enforcement. It announced an expanded policy last month that includes all vaccines — not just those against COVID-19.

San Francisco-based Twitter said the new labels only apply to COVID vaccines, not others.

San Francisco to reopen indoor dining, movie theaters, gyms

SAN FRANCISCO  — Indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms can reopen within 24 hours in San Francisco, an upbeat Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday as the county officially moved into a less-restrictive tier as the rate of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths improve statewide in California.

“This is the beginning of a new day in San Francisco,” Breed said from Pier 39, an area popular with tourists in picturesque Fisherman’s Wharf.

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FILE – In this June 18, 2020, file photo, people visit Pier 39 during the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco. San Francisco is poised to allow indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms with reduced capacity as the rate of coronavirus cases and deaths improve, allowing more of California’s economy throughout the state to open back up for business. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

California on Tuesday reported an additional 2,533 confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total known cases to nearly 3.5 million. Officials also announced an additional 303 deaths, raising that total to just under 52,500 fatalities in the state of nearly 40 million.

Several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area issued a strict-stay-at-home order nearly a year ago, in advance of a statewide shutdown. Public health officials for the most part have been more cautious than peers in southern California and in other states about reopening the economy.

Business activity in San Francisco shut down in early December after several Bay Area counties pre-emptively went into lockdown as the positivity rate surged and the rate of cases climbed. Outdoor dining, outdoor museums and some indoor and outdoor personal services reopened in late January after the state called off its regional stay-home order.

The economic toll has been grim, with rents for apartments and offices plummeting as downtown eateries that once fed throngs of hungry office-workers and tourists at lunch struggled.

The city’s landmark cable cars have been out of operation for a year and there’s no timeline on when they might return. The mayor, in her state of the city address to residents this year, vowed that San Francisco will return bigger and better and dismissed those who say the city has lost its luster.

San Francisco, a city and county of roughly 900,000 before the pandemic, has among the lowest case and death rates in the country. It reported 34,000 new cases of the coronavirus and 422 deaths on Tuesday.

Most of California’s 58 counties remain in the state’s most restricted purple tier of a four-tier color coded system, although San Francisco and several other counties are expected to move Tuesday into the less restrictive red tier.

Merck to help produce rival Johnson & Johnson vaccine

WASHINGTON — A Biden administration official says drugmaker Merck will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly-approved coronavirus vaccine.

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Employees with the McKesson Corporation scan a box of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine while filling an order at their shipping facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., Monday. AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, Pool

The official spoke Tuesday on the condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

The announcement comes as the White House looks to speed the production of the single-dose vaccine. Officials have said J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and only produced 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization on Saturday. The company says it is on pace to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June.

Read the full story here.

10 million in India have registered for vaccine

NEW DELHI — An estimated 10 million people in India have registered to get vaccinated since the country expanded its vaccination drive beyond health care and frontline workers on Monday.

India’s health ministry says 5 million registrations had been recorded in an online system for registrations, and on average each registration is for two people to get the shots. In the past 24 hours, India has vaccinated more than 200,000 people who are above the age of 60 or have underlying medical conditions.

Since January, India has administered over 14.8 million doses of vaccine. More than 6.7 million health workers and 5.3 million other frontline workers have received the first dose of the vaccine. Nearly 2.6 million health workers have received both doses, the health ministry says.

In the past two weeks, cases have increased in several states after months of decline. Scientists are concerned about variants of the virus.

4 million vaccine doses arrive in Nigeria

DAKAR, Senegal — Nearly 4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

It’s the third and largest delivery to be made by the global COVAX initiative, which was created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to doses.

The COVAX program, which has fall short of its goals to quickly get vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people, shipped 3.94 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, from Mumbai to Abuja, according to UNICEF and its partners.

The delivery is part of a first wave of vaccines for Nigeria. On Tuesday, the West African nation recorded 156,017 cases and 1,915 confirmed deaths.

China pledges 500 million vaccine doses to 45 countries

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press.

With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.

Amid a dearth of public data on China’s vaccines, hesitations over their efficacy and safety are still pervasive in the countries depending on them, along with concerns about what China might want in return for deliveries. Nonetheless, inoculations with Chinese vaccines already have begun in more than 25 countries, and the Chinese shots have been delivered to another 11, according to the AP tally, based on independent reporting in those countries along with government and company announcements.

Sri Lanka will use small island to bury those who died of COVID-19

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s government said Tuesday that it has earmarked a small island off the northern coast to bury the bodies of those who die of COVID-19.

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said health authorities are now preparing rules for safe burial at Iranaithivu island.

The government last month approved burials for COVID-19 victims after insisting that it may contaminate ground water. All those died of the disease were cremated, a rule resisted by many as insensitive toward religious beliefs, especially of the Muslims.

The matter also became a topic at the ongoing U.N. human rights council sessions.

There are 83,552 COVID-19 positive cases in Sri Lanka including 476 deaths.

Toronto will vaccinate police before 80+ residents

TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province has started vaccinating police officers ahead of people 80 years of age and older.

A Toronto police spokesperson said Monday police constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required have been moved to the current phase by Ontario’s provincial government.

A police spokesperson said 2,250 of Toronto’s 5,000 officers are eligible.

The provincial government has said those 80 and above will start getting vaccinated in the third week of March but some regions of the province have already started vaccinating those residents while the province sets up a website to make appointments.

Authorities haven’t said which essential workers will be vaccinated but police started to get doses Monday.

WHO says it’s ‘premature’ to think pandemic will end this year

GENEVA — The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization said it was “premature” to think that the pandemic might be stopped by the end of the year, but the roll-out of vaccines could at least help dramatically reduce hospitalizations and death.

Dr. Michael Ryan said at a press briefing Monday that the world’s singular focus right now should be to keep transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible.

“If we’re smart,” he said, “we can finish with the hospitalizations and the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic” by the end of the year. He said WHO was reassured by emerging data that many of the licensed vaccines appear to be helping curb transmission.

But Ryan warned against complacency, saying that nothing was guaranteed in an evolving epidemic. “Right now the virus is very much in control.”


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