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The boxes of counterfeit N95 masks seized by Customs and Border Protection officers in Chicago. Photo: Customs and Border Protection.

Customs and Border Protection officers have seized 500,000 counterfeit N95 masks at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, in a shipment bound for a firm in Manalapan, New Jersey, from Schenzhen, China, the agency announced Monday.

Why it matters: Health officials say they're facing shortages of N95 masks used to prevent COVID-19's spread, per a September AP/Frontline/Global Reporting Centre report. The CDC tested 30 of the masks seized on Sept. 10 and found 10% of the respirators had a filter efficiency rating below 95%. The "faulty" face coverings risked "jeopardizing the health and well-being of everyone," said Shane Campbell, port director for the Chicago area, in a statement.

Go deeper

Sep 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

What might have been: Massive USPS coronavirus face mask operation called off

In April, the Postal Service "drafted a news release announcing plans to distribute 650 million masks nationwide, enough to offer five face coverings to every American household," the Washington Post reports, based on documents obtained by American Oversight, a watchdog group that requested them under FOIA.

  • What's happening: The idea originated at HHS, "which suggested a pack of five reusable masks be sent to every residential address in the country, with the first shipments going to the hardest-hit areas," per The Post.

Why it matters: Imagine if five months ago, Americans not only got a signal from their government that they should wear masks, but even had them handed to them. Incalculable loss — human and economic — could have been avoided.

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  3. Education: Devos extends federal student loan relief to Jan. 31
  4. States: New Mexico to allow hospitals to ration coronavirus medical care
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.
1 hour ago - Health

A safe, sane survival guide

Photo: Luka Dakskobler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

We all know, it’s getting worse.

Reality check: Here are a few things every one of us can do to stay safe and sane in coming months: