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The Latest: Customs seizes fake vaccination cards in Alaska – Powell River Peak



SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections exceeded 2,000 for the second straight day as officials extended the highest level of social distancing restrictions short of a lockdown in large population centers.

The 2,052 new cases reported on Friday marked the 45th consecutive day of over 1,000 and brought the country’s caseload to 232,859, including 2,197 deaths.

The viral spread, driven by increased travel and the highly contagious delta variant, is a worrisome development in a country where a slow vaccine rollout has left more than half of the population still waiting for a first shot.

More than 1,300 of the new cases came from capital Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan region, where officials on Friday decided to enforce the strongest Level 4 social distancing rules for at least another two weeks. The rules prohibit private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. and force nightclubs and churches to close.



— U.S. schools open amid record coronavirus delta wave

— Maine Sen. Angus King tests positive for virus

— Africa WHO official knocks nations that ‘hoard’ vaccines

— 4 of Florida’s 5 largest school districts to require masks


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SYDNEY — Sydney’s lockdown was extended throughout September on Friday and tougher pandemic restrictions were imposed, including a curfew and compulsory mask wearing outdoors.

New South Wales state reported 642 locally acquired COVID-19 infections in the latest 24-hour period, the fourth consecutive day of tallies exceeding 600.

Australia’s largest city has been locked down since June 26, 10 days after the delta variant was first detected in an unvaccinated limousine driver who became infected while transporting a U.S. cargo aircrew from Sydney Airport.

Since then, 65 people have died from coronavirus in New South Wales, included four overnight.

The Sydney lockdown was to end on Aug. 28, but the state government announced it will continue until Sept. 30.

A curfew will apply from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday in the worst-effected Sydney suburbs.

Mask wearing will become compulsory across the state will outside homes. Masks haven’t been compulsory in all circumstances outdoors


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s first virus outbreak in six months has spread from the largest city of Auckland to the capital, Wellington.

Health authorities said Friday that three people in Wellington who recently visited Auckland had tested positive. They said the outbreak had grown to 31 cases, and that some patients were being diverted from an Auckland hospital after one patient may have unknowingly been infectious while being treated.

The government on Tuesday hurriedly put the entire nation into a strict lockdown after the first community case was found in Auckland. Genome testing has linked the outbreak to an infected traveler who returned from Sydney earlier this month and was quarantined, although health authorities say they don’t yet know how the virus escaped quarantine.

New Zealand is continuing to pursue an elimination strategy aimed at wiping out the virus entirely.


AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court has declined to block restraining orders against Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban.

The justices remanded Attorney General Ken Paxton’s appeal to the 3rd Texas Court of Appeal in Austin for a hearing. The court did not issue an opinion for its Thursday decision.

The move comes the same day as the Texas Education Agency dropped, for now, enforcement in the state’s public school systems of Abbott’s mask mandate ban.

In a public health guidance letter issued Thursday, the TEA said enforcement was being dropped because of ongoing court challenges to the ban.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — More than 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards have been confiscated at cargo freight facilities at the Anchorage airport as they were being shipped from China.

Officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the cards in the last week as they arrived in small packages.

An agency spokesperson said there were between 135 to 150 packages found in Anchorage, all sent by the same person in China. Each package contained a small number of the fake cards, between 20 to 90 cards.

A high volume of counterfeit vaccination cards have been detected nationwide.

Another 3,600 fake cards were found recently at cargo facilities in Memphis. Federal law enforcement officers are investigating.


HONOLULU — Organizers of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii said Thursday this year’s contest will be postponed to February because of increasing COVID-19 cases in the state.

On Thursday, the state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases hit 713, up 56% from two weeks ago.

A statement on the group’s website said COVID-19 in Hawaii is worse now than it has been at any point during the pandemic. The race had been scheduled for Oct. 9.

The Ironman competition is considered one of the most important Ironman triathlon events. Participants swim 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers), ride bikes for 112 miles (180.3 kilometers) and then run a marathon, which goes for 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers).

Organizers rescheduled the contest last year too, only to later cancel it completely because of ongoing coronavirus concerns and the risks of international travel. It was the first time in the triathlon’s four decade history that the event wasn’t held.


PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says all teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers in K-12 schools must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The announcement was made Thursday amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the state and as hospitals near capacity.

Teachers are the latest to be added to the growing statewide vaccine mandate, which also includes health care workers and state employees. They must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever is later.

“There are those who will disagree with the actions I’m taking today,” Brown, a Democrat, said during Thursday’s press conference. “But school is starting across the state and COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids. Our kids need to be protected and they need to be in school. And that’s why I’m willing to take the heat for this decision.”

In addition, Brown announced weekly testing for health care workers will no longer be an option for those who want to avoid vaccination. The only opt-out of the requirement is either a medical or religious exemption.


ATLANTA — Georgia’s Republican governor issued an executive order Thursday banning cities from requiring businesses to enforce local pandemic restrictions.

But what impact, if any, the measure would have on new mask requirements in Atlanta, Savannah and other cities was not clear.

At a news conference, Gov. Brian Kemp said his order will prevent local governments from forcing businesses to be the city’s mask and vaccine police. He said he was concerned about measures in Atlanta and Savannah. Both cities have mask requirements, but it was not immediately clear that either would be affected by the governor’s order.

The order comes amid an explosion in COVID cases in the state.


TOPEKA, Kan. — Officials in some Kansas communities are battling a rise in COVID-19 cases by mandating masks for kids, issuing emergency orders and requiring vaccines.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 605 new cases per day on Aug. 3 to 797 new cases per day on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

In the Lawrence area, Douglas County leaders approved a health order Wednesday that will require children ages 2 to 12 to wear masks while in indoor public spaces. The decision followed four hours of public comment that included jeering and interruptions from a largely maskless crowd, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

In the Wichita area, hospital status was changed to critical Wednesday, as about 150 COVID-19 patients fill beds there, The Wichita Eagle reports.


DENVER — Colorado U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper announced Thursday that he has tested positive for a “breakthrough” case of COVID-19.

The first-term Democrat issued a statement saying he tested positive after experiencing mild symptoms and is self-isolating at the direction of the attending physician for the U.S. Congress, Dr. Brian P. Monahan.

Infections and illnesses can happen even after being vaccinated. Experts say vaccination could help make any illnesses less severe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that newer versions of the coronavirus could be a factor in “breakthrough” cases.

Hickenlooper, 69, is a former brewpub entrepreneur, Denver mayor and two-term governor who defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in the 2020 election.


CLAYTON, Mo. — A judge on Thursday issued an order barring St. Louis County from enforcing a mask mandate while a lawsuit against it is litigated.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page issued the mandate last month, prompting the County Council to vote to rescind it. Page maintained that the mask requirement nonetheless remained in effect.

Circuit Judge Ellen “Nellie” Ribaudo then issued a temporary restraining order, finding that the state was likely to prevail in its argument that current law gives the council the authority to terminate the mask requirement. That order was in effect only until a decision was made on a preliminary injunction.

Ribaudo was critical of some who had claimed victory after the temporary injunction was issued.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee hospitals warned Thursday that the intensive care units are full in nearly every hospital in the state’s major metropolitan areas.

The Tennessee Hospital Association said in a statement that the hospitals with full ICUs are the same ones that normally accept transfers of sicker patients from smaller hospitals.

Hospital officials are pleading with Tennesseans to get vaccinated and wear masks.

Meanwhile, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona warned Tennessee in a letter sent Wednesday that Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates might violate federal law.

Separately, a Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt School of Medicine report released Thursday found that hospitalizations have increased more than tenfold in a little more than a month, the fastest rate of increase seen during the pandemic.


COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s top prosecutor on Thursday sued the state’s capital city over a school mask mandate that officials allege violates state law.

The city of Columbia’s school mask order conflicts with a state budget requirement that went into effect July 1 and bans school districts from using appropriated funds to require face coverings, State Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a complaint filed with the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The lawsuit comes as average daily cases of COVID-19 have risen by more than 60% over the last two weeks, with hundreds of students across the state already required to quarantine for exposure to the virus.

Earlier this month, Columbia’s city council ratified an ordinance mandating the use of masks in the city’s elementary and middle schools for at least the beginning of the school year.

The Republican attorney general said days later that the emergency ordinance should be “rescinded or amended,” but city leaders said the mandate doesn’t violate state law because city, not state, funds are being used.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey will require all teachers, school administrators and other staff who have not been vaccinated to produce twice-weekly negative COVID-19 tests once schools reopen and resume in-person classes on Sept. 6, the president said.

Speaking following a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said universities would also demand regular PCR tests from unvaccinated students and teaching staff.

People who have not been vaccinated and want to travel on buses and planes or to go to concerts, theaters and cinemas will also face mandatory COVID-19 testing, Erdogan added.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the tests would be conducted free-of-charge at state-owned hospitals.


RALEIGH, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says unvaccinated students and those who don’t disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status will be required to get tested for the coronavirus twice a week.

In a message to the community, the university says 87% of students have attested they are fully vaccinated. Those who become fully vaccinated and report their status to the university will no longer have to face twice-weekly testing.

The move comes as the state witnesses its worst levels of transmission of the virus in months.

North Carolina on Thursday registered more than 7,000 daily COVID-19 cases, the highest in seven months. More than 3,000 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19, the most since Jan. 28.


PHOENIX — A northwestern Arizona school district has banned employees from discussing vaccination status or mask- wearing with students.

The Mohave Daily News reports the governing board for the Colorado River Union High School District made the decision this week. The edict carries no repercussions for administrators, staff and teachers who violate it. That will be up to the district’s superintendent, who supported the motion.

The school board’s gag rule is rare. Vaccines and masks remain contentious topics across Arizona as students return to school.

On Thursday, the state reported 3,546 confirmed coronavirus cases and four more deaths.

The Associated Press

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Mass vaccination campaign against Monkeypox needed, experts say – Global News



As the World Health Organization calculates whether to declare monkeypox a global health emergency, infectious disease experts are urging health officials to be more proactive and start ramping up vaccinations and surveillance — especially in African nations where the virus is most prevalent.

The WHO convened its emergency committee Thursday to consider whether the spiralling outbreak of monkeypox should be declared a “public health emergency of international concern,” the WHO’s highest level of alert.

But the United Nations agency is facing criticism over its treatment of monkeypox — jumping into action only after the disease started to spread in rich western nations.

Read more:

WHO to discuss declaring monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency

The viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions is endemic in parts of Africa, which means it is consistently present in certain regions. The continent has registered just over 1,500 suspected cases since the start of 2022, of which 70 have been fatal, according to the WHO.

By comparison, Canada has confirmed over 200 cases, the majority of which are in Quebec, and has had no deaths.

“There are more cases that occur in Africa on a yearly basis than have already been reported outside of Africa right now. And there are more deaths that have occurred in Africa from monkeypox than have occurred in the rest of the world,” said Dr. Sameer Elsayed, an infectious disease physician and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University.

Read more:

Monkeypox in Canada: 211 confirmed cases reported across the country

That’s why he believes Africa should be getting the lion’s share of resources to deal with monkeypox — and that should include mass vaccinations, he says.

“I think Africa needs to be looked at with high, high priority,” he said.

“It needs to be a mass vaccination campaign for monkeypox with the newer vaccines for people in the African continent, especially in the high endemic areas.”

He’s not alone.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, a physician and infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, says she also believes more people living in regions where monkeypox is more prevalent should be vaccinated.

“That will actually stop it in endemic regions in this non-endemic outbreak.”

That the WHO is only now taking monkeypox seriously is “profoundly problematic,” Gandhi says, given that the disease has been spreading and killing people in Central and West Africa for years.

Click to play video: 'Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll'

Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll

Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll – Jun 17, 2022

“It’s been circulating since 1958. There are increasing outbreaks — a severe one in Nigeria, for example in 2017 — and it’s only really essentially when this has affected high-income countries that the WHO is jumping on it.”

Experts who have worked on monkeypox in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo have long taken note of rising cases while population immunity to pox viruses has been decreasing, due to lack of vaccination. This is why the world shouldn’t be surprised at the current outbreaks, said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California, who has studied monkeypox for two decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how quickly a deadly virus can spread across the globe when the right conditions are present, so health officials ought to learn from this and start being more proactive, she said.

“When it comes to infectious diseases, in particular those viruses that have the potential for global spread, it’s much easier to stay out of trouble than it is to have to get out of trouble.”

In addition to providing vaccines, health officials should also be ramping up resources to study this disease and do more surveillance to get a better understanding of monkeypox and learn why it is spreading in new and unusual ways, Rimoin said.

Read more:

Monkeypox outbreak: Case count rises to more than 3,200 globally, says WHO

“We’ve given this virus a lot of runway to be able to spread. We have not been looking for it as vigilantly as we should be,” she said.

“I think we have to learn the lessons that we’ve learned with COVID-19 and that it is much better to invest ahead of time to get in front of these viruses, to do the kind of surveillance it’s necessary to be regularly updating our knowledge about viruses.”

Good disease surveillance is just as important in poorer countries as it is in “high-resource settings,” she added.

Like many countries around the world, Canada and the United States stopped vaccinating the general population against smallpox by around 1972, which means many on this continent are highly susceptible to pox viruses like monkeypox.

Given that scientists expect to see more emerging infectious diseases due to factors such as climate change, deforestation and globalization, the world should start getting better prepared for new outbreaks, Elsayed said.

Read more:

Monkeypox has Canadian researchers scrambling. Why, and how contagious is it?

This is why, in addition to calling for vaccinations and more resources to fight monkeypox in Africa, Elsayed believes governments in developed nations should also consider more options to protect citizens from pox viruses, including possibly re-introducing mass smallpox vaccinations.

“I believe that these vaccines should come on board again for the general population … but not (just) for monkeypox, but also to protect the world against perhaps a smallpox pandemic that can happen in the future, or even another virus that’s closely related to monkeypox but hasn’t reached humans,” Elsayed said.

He stressed this should only be considered after addressing the more pressing needs in Africa first.

Click to play video: 'WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen'

WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen

WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen – Jun 15, 2022

Rimoin noted that when the world stopped vaccinating against smallpox, it opened a “gap of immunity” for populations to once again be vulnerable to it. And with the emergence of a number of new pox viruses in different parts of the globe, including mousepox, cowpox and camelpox, the world is not immune to new outbreaks, she said.

“We now have to really think about, How important is it for us to be able to keep pox viruses out of the population?” she said. “What are the stakes of allowing this virus to spread? And then acting accordingly.”

-With files from Global News reporter Reggie Checcini and Reuters.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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New Brunswick prepares for COVID-19 vaccine rollout for children under 5 –



New Brunswick will be ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to children under five as soon as they’re approved and available, according to the chief medical officer of health.

The province is also working on an early flu vaccination campaign in anticipation of “a higher than normal” influenza season this year, said Dr. Jennifer Russell.

In the U.S., immunization of infants and preschoolers against COVID-19 began this week after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in children as young as six months old last Friday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended use of the vaccines in this age group the following day.

No COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children under five in Canada yet. Health Canada is reviewing an application from Moderna.

“We are waiting for Health Canada as well as NACI [National Advisory Committee on Immunization] to come forth with their recommendations,” said Russell.

The province is “watching very closely,” she said, and is “ready to act on those when they come through.”

Russell could not estimate when that might be.

“But we are preparing ahead of time for that inevitability.”

No details yet

Planning for the rollout is underway, said Department of Health spokesperson Michelle Guenard.

The department is working with its primary care partners, including the regional health authorities, community pharmacies and the New Brunswick Medical Society, she said.

No other details, such as where the shots will be available or who will administer them, are available yet.

“Final decisions will be made after Health Canada has given approval to the vaccine,” Guenard said in an emailed statement. “This includes reviewing a statement from NACI and local considerations.”

“Guidance will be provided to those identified to be immunizers for the under-five vaccinations,” she added. “This includes sharing information from Health Canada, the vaccine supplier, NACI and guidance from New Brunswick Public Health.”

‘Very encouraging’

Russell called the U.S. approval “very encouraging.”

“I think whatever protections we can provide to the population as a whole is very important,” she said. “This is one of the last pieces, really, that we’ve been waiting for.”

The under-five age group is the only one in the province that doesn’t currently have COVID-19 vaccines available to them.

Children aged five to 11 have been able to get a shot since November.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said with COVID-19 vaccines already available to New Brunswickers aged five and older, the pending approval for those under five is ‘one of the last pieces’ the province has been waiting for. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

“As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” FDA commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in a statement.

“Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data,” he said.

The FDA found the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines “outweigh the known and potential risks in the pediatric populations.”

According to the clinical trial data, the most commonly reported side effects in children aged six months to five years old included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fever and underarm (or groin) swelling/tenderness of lymph nodes in the same arm (or thigh) as the injection.

Spike in flu cases

A total of 52.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received a COVID-19 booster shot, as of this week’s COVIDWatch report, 88.1 per cent have received two doses and 93.3 per cent have received one dose.

The province wants to have as many people protected as possible going into the fall, said Russell.

The “pattern of the pandemic” has been that the risks tend to decrease in the summer when people are outside more, physically distancing, and increase in the fall and winter, she said.

“I think that correlation is holding true at the moment but you know we try to be prepared for whatever comes our way with COVID because there aren’t any guarantees.

“We are aware that we’re expecting a higher than normal flu season this year and so we will be pushing our vaccination campaigns early.”

The red line indicates the growth in the percentage of positive influenza tests in New Brunswick. Yellow represents the Influenza A (H3)cases, while green illustrates Influenza A (unsubtyped). (Government of New Brunswick)

New Brunswick is dealing with an unusually late flu season, due in part to the lifting of COVID-19 protective measures in March, such as masking.

Normally, the flu season really starts to “take off” in January and “peters out” once the warmer weather begins, the province’s acting deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Yves Léger has said.

But nearly a quarter of this season’s cases occurred in one week this month.

Seventy-three positive influenza cases were reported in week 23, which ended June 11, the most recent statistics available from Public Health show. Six of the cases required hospitalization.

Two new influenza outbreaks were reported in nursing homes and one new influenza-like illness outbreak was reported in a school, the influenza surveillance report shows.

A total of 302 cases have been reported so far this season, which began Aug. 29, 2021 and continues until Aug. 27. That’s up from 40 just a month ago.

There have been 60 hospitalizations and four deaths.

‘Double’ risk

If the risks for COVID-19 transmission increase in the fall at the same time the risks for the flu are expected to rise, “then we’ve got, you know, a double kind of risk happening,” said Russell.

“So we want to address that early and making sure that everybody who’s eligible for flu vaccination gets vaccinated as well.”

The province is also “really keen” to have people who fell behind with their routine vaccinations to get caught up on those, she said.

“We wouldn’t want to see a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

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COVID-19 vaccines saved 20M lives in 1st year, scientists say – CTV News



Nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, but even more deaths could have been prevented if international targets for the shots had been reached, researchers reported Thursday.

On Dec. 8, 2020, a retired shop clerk in England received the first shot in what would become a global vaccination campaign. Over the next 12 months, more than 4.3 billion people around the world lined up for the vaccines.

The effort, though marred by persisting inequities, prevented deaths on an unimaginable scale, said Oliver Watson of Imperial College London, who led the new modelling study.

“Catastrophic would be the first word that comes to mind,” Watson said of the outcome if vaccines hadn’t been available to fight the coronavirus. The findings “quantify just how much worse the pandemic could have been if we did not have these vaccines.”

The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France and 507,000 in the United Kingdom.

An additional 600,000 deaths would have been prevented if the World Health Organization target of 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021 had been met, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The main finding — 19.8 million COVID-19 deaths were prevented — is based on estimates of how many more deaths than usual occurred during the time period. Using only reported COVID-19 deaths, the same model yielded 14.4 million deaths averted by vaccines.

The London scientists excluded China because of uncertainty around the pandemic’s effect on deaths there and its huge population.

The study has other limitations. The researchers did not include how the virus might have mutated differently in the absence of vaccines. And they did not factor in how lockdowns or mask wearing might have changed if vaccines weren’t available.

Another modelling group used a different approach to estimate that 16.3 million COVID-19 deaths were averted by vaccines. That work, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, has not been published.

In the real world, people wear masks more often when cases are surging, said the institute’s Ali Mokdad, and 2021’s Delta wave without vaccines would have prompted a major policy response.

“We may disagree on the number as scientists, but we all agree that COVID vaccines saved lots of lives,” Mokdad said.

The findings underscore both the achievements and the shortcomings of the vaccination campaign, said Adam Finn of Bristol Medical School in England, who like Mokdad was not involved in the study.

“Although we did pretty well this time — we saved millions and millions of lives — we could have done better and we should do better in the future,” Finn said.

Funding came from several groups including the WHO; the U.K. Medical Research Council; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


AP health and science reporter Havovi Todd contributed


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content


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