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Pfizer vaccine nears authorization for use

The U.S. registered 229,928 new cases and 3,110 deaths on Thursday — new single-day records.
Image: Registered nurse Tamara Jones dresses in PPE outside an isolation room in the intensive care unit at Roseland Community Hospital on the South Side of Chicago
Registered nurse Tamara Jones dresses in PPE outside an isolation room in the intensive care unit at Roseland Community Hospital on the South Side of Chicago. Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading Covid-19 news from Dec. 12, 2020.

More people in the United States have died this year from Covid-19 than were killed in four years of fighting on the battlefields during World War II, NBC News data shows.

On Thursday, the U.S. again broke single-day Covid-19 records for both reported deaths and cases. The country saw 229,928 new cases and 3,110 deaths. The previous single-day record was just on Wednesday. The rise in cases in large parts of the country has prompted dire warnings about hospital capacity and whether colder weather and the holiday season will help the virus spread.

On Thursday, Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine got the recommendation from an independent panel of experts that the FDA authorize it for emergency use. The FDA is not obligated to go along with the panel's recommendation, but it is widely expected to authorize the vaccine for emergency use promptly.



616d ago / 2:03 AM UTC

Mexico approves emergency use of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government’s medical safety commission approved the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine Friday, making Mexico the fourth country to do so.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said Mexico’s approval came after Britain, Canada and Bahrain.

Mexico is set to receive 250,000 doses of the vaccine, enough for 125,000 people, because each person requires two shots. López-Gatell has said that front-line health workers will get the shots first.

Vaccinations are expected to begin as soon as next week. López-Gatell said the approval “is of course a reason for hope,” though the initial rounds of shots are not nearly enough for Mexico’s coronavirus cases Friday, for a total of 1,229,379 infections during the pandemic.

616d ago / 12:39 AM UTC
616d ago / 11:56 PM UTC

States get tracing apps that allow phones to 'talk to each other'

RALEIGH, N.C — As coronavirus exposure notification technology slowly rolls out across the country, every resident in 17 states and the District of Columbia will now be able to send and receive alerts beyond their home state if they've tested positive for the coronavirus or come into contact with someone who has.

On Friday, Virginia joined Washington, D.C., and 16 other states that have been using the Association of Public Health Laboratories’ National Key Server, which allows phones to “talk to each other” across state borders. This means users in these 18 areas won’t have to download a separate app in places they are visiting.

“This is especially important considering added travel during the holiday season,” said a statement from Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia’s state health commissioner.

Apple and Google co-created the technology that uses Bluetooth wireless signals to anonymously detect when two phones have been in close proximity. A user who tests positive for the virus can have their phone trigger a notification to other people they’ve spent time near.

The states beyond Virginia are Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, ​Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wyoming.

616d ago / 10:50 PM UTC

Newsom reveals card that vaccinated Californians will get

616d ago / 10:40 PM UTC

Trump administration secures 100 million more vaccine doses

Three days after the federal government was criticized for rejecting an option to secure millions of additional doses of a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, White House officials said they will purchase another 100 million doses from pharmaceutical company Moderna.

The mRNA-1237 vaccine doesn't have the recommendation a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel gave the Pfizer vaccine Thursday, but Moderna has applied for the same endorsement.

"If authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use as outlined in agency guidance, doses of the vaccine will begin shipping immediately," the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. "The vaccine would be provided at no cost to Americans."

Anticipating approval, Moderna will rapidly produce its vaccine, the department said.

"This strategy will help meet the anticipated demand for mRNA-1273 and safely accelerate the delivery schedule for the 200 million doses the U.S. government is purchasing," it said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in the statement that the purchase should give U.S. residents confidence the federal government can vaccinate all "who want it" by the end of spring.

616d ago / 10:31 PM UTC

Mississippi has run out of ICU beds as cases soar, health official says

Mississippi's leading health official said the state has run out of intensive care unit beds as new Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have soared in recent weeks, requiring a need for new restrictions. 

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during a briefing on Friday that the hospitals are full and that the "average daily numbers are really frightening," especially as about 10 percent of new infections require people to go to the hospital. 

The state, he said, will have to delay all elective procedures that require hospitalization until at least Dec. 23, beginning on Tuesday. 

"We filled up the cup and the cup runneth over, and so we’re going to have to do some things," Dobbs said.

In the last two weeks, Mississippi has seen 25,000 new cases of coronavirus. Two weeks prior to that it was 14,000 — a trend that health officials called "mind boggling."

Dobbs noted that there is a glimmer of hope with the anticipated arrival of the vaccine in Mississippi on Monday, but state officials warned that the number of vaccines they receive could change and health care providers will be the first to get shots in arms.

That will be followed by nursing home workers and residents, as approximately 144 nursing homes have seen outbreaks in recent weeks. 

"Things are going to be moving fast," one official said. "We’re having to be pretty flexible and are doing some planning as we go."

616d ago / 10:28 PM UTC

Outbreaks at 2 Washington nursing homes after staff attended wedding

Washington state health officials are investigating coronavirus outbreaks that occurred at two nursing home facilities after some staff attended a 300-person wedding.

Between the two Grant County facilities — Lake Ridge Center and Columbia Crest Center — officials have reported 23 deaths.

One additional death that "can be directly linked to an attendee of the wedding" was reported at a nursing home facility in Ephrata, the Grant County Health District said in a press release Thursday.

Health officials said three longterm care facility staff members self-identified as guests at a Nov. 7 wedding in Ritzville, about 59 miles southwest of Spokane.

The staff — two who work at Lake Ridge and a third who works at the Ephrata center — worked while contagious but did not know they had the virus, health officials said.

Read the full story here. 

616d ago / 10:24 PM UTC
616d ago / 10:07 PM UTC

Los Angeles records second straight day of record cases

Health officials Friday said Los Angeles County has posted a second straight day of record coronavirus cases, reaching 13,815.

Thursday's record figure was 12,819, besting yet another high, 10,528, recorded Sunday. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, who fought back tears during a daily virus briefing Thursday, on Friday said she was optimistic the impending vaccination would turn things around by spring.

The nation's largest county also reached another milestone, health officials said: It has surpassed a half million total cases, with 501,635 recorded. There have been 8,199 deaths connected to Covid-19 in the county since the pandemic began, the health department said.

Los Angeles County is part of a Southern California region under strict stay-at-home orders imposed by the state. They include no restaurant dining, even outdoors, and 20 percent capacity at essential retailers.

The orders are triggered when a region's intensive care unit capacity falls below 15 percent. On Friday the California Department of Public Health reported the capacity in the Southern California region, which includes L.A., San Diego, Orange and several other counties, had fallen to 6.2 percent.

616d ago / 9:22 PM UTC

The ghost of Christmas presents: Retailers forge a new path with pandemic-era holiday ads

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Already a holiday season like no other, the 2020 shopping experience has seen a huge shift in terms of when and where it is taking place — and how companies are advertising their wares amid a bleak economic landscape.

The new promotions, protocols and platforms have also led to a shift in holiday messaging.

“Advertisers are really trying to figure out this different world of ‘I'm not drawing people into the store,'” one expert told NBC News.

The home is now central to where retailers are placing their ads, as well as forming the core of the message itself. Spending on billboards, transit, street furniture and other outdoor advertising was down almost 22 percent this year, while ads on personal devices increased by 7.5 percent.

Traditional holiday themes such as family gatherings, lavish celebrations and in-person gift exchanges are off the table for 2020. Instead, companies are tapping into messaging surrounding the pandemic.

A Walmart ad features neighbors sharing a holiday dinner across a fence between their backyards, with a narrator saying, “This year, we came together. Tastes were shared. Traditions were invented and family was redefined. Let’s end the year united.”

Read the story here.

616d ago / 8:40 PM UTC

Experts warn of low Covid vaccine trust among Black Americans

The patients who stream into her clinic in a low-income and predominantly Black section of Chicago's South Side have been terrified by the coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. Brittani James, stressed out by its harmful effects on the community and frustrated by mixed messages from government officials.

But now, just as a possible solution to the virus's spread is on the horizon, she is particularly worried about what she is hearing from her patients. Many of them fear that the vaccines aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 will be harmful to Black Americans.

Concerns about vaccines have left some Black people entirely unwilling to take a vaccine, while others have said that they want to wait and see how the first wave of vaccine distribution is handled.

When those concerns come up, “I look my patients in the eye and I say that I understand, I’ve read the studies myself, and my job is to protect you and I will not do you wrong,” said James, a family physician who is also an assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. “I don’t respond with writing them off as irrational and ignorant.”

As a result of her conversations with patients and her own medical experience, “I’m already seeing the writing on the wall that we are not prepared to roll this vaccine out to vulnerable communities,” said James, who co-founded the Institute for Antiracism in Medicine earlier this year. “I feel like I’m screaming into a void in trying to get people to understand that I can see that this will fail if we continue to do what we normally do with distribution.”

Read the fully story here.

616d ago / 8:09 PM UTC

How bad could the daily coronavirus death count get?

Almost 300,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 this year. Whether the worst is still yet to come is up to us.

The latest coronavirus death projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington shows in striking detail how the behaviors of everyday Americans and their elected officials could affect the death toll from the pandemic this winter. In most states, universal mask usage will either prevent daily deaths from rising exponentially or quicken declines that are already happening. 

Conversely, the relaxing of distancing mandates could lead to some states seeing death counts higher than ever before.

In California, daily deaths are projected to rise to five times their August peak if mandates are eased.

Deaths per day in Pennsylvania could reach twice April's levels without distancing mandates.

Oregon could reach almost 100 new Covid deaths per day by late January without distancing mandates.

Read more and find your state’s projection here.

616d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

NYC launches command center for Covid vaccines

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that a command center will open Monday to facilitate the distribution of the vaccine across the city. 

The Vaccine Command Center will be led by Deputy Mayor Hartzog and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dave Chokshi and will track critical metrics on vaccine coverage, with a focus on the 27-hardest hit neighborhoods as identified by the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity.

"A vaccine must be distributed equally to be effective," de Blasio said in a news release Friday. "COVID-19 has exposed our city's most painful disparities, and we are addressing those inequities head-on and making a vaccine available for all New Yorkers."

New York City is expected to receive 465,000 doses of the vaccine by the beginning of January, de Blasio said.

The Vaccine Command Center will provide real-time troubleshooting and rapid response across public and private providers, including urgent cares, private pharmacies, hospitals and community vaccination sites. 

616d ago / 7:17 PM UTC

Know anti-maskers or anti-vaxxers? Here’s how to approach them

Joel Hulsey’s 70-year-old mother is at high risk for complications from Covid-19. But even as cases skyrocket across the country, he knows she isn’t taking proper precautions.

Hulsey said he can't even talk to her about wearing a mask anymore.

“She went from wearing a mask, to not wearing a mask, to getting very upset when I mention if she’s wearing a mask,” Hulsey said.

Like many Americans, Hulsey has found himself caught in the country’s divisions over public health measures needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic. For millions of people, the simple matter of wearing a mask has turned into a flashpoint driven more by politics and conspiracy theories than by science.

Without the ability to reach common ground, some like Hulsey are finding it hard to cope with non-believing friends and family members. But experts who have been studying the psychology of pandemics, and how human behaviors are shaped by moments of uncertainty and anxiety, say there are ways to prevent pandemic squabbles from fracturing relationships beyond repair.

They tend to agree on a central theme: Don't get into confrontations.

Read the full story here.

616d ago / 6:13 PM UTC
616d ago / 5:38 PM UTC

Gov. Cuomo bans indoor dining in NYC

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that he is banning indoor dining in New York City starting Monday, as hospitalization and infection rates continue to rise. Cuomo said that indoor dining was "too high of a risk" as the city faces an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

He did not say when the indoor dining would resume, but takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining will remain open. 

616d ago / 5:31 PM UTC

Up to 300,000 Covid cases worldwide can be traced back to Boston conference

A conference held in Boston in February has been linked to between 205,000 and 300,000 Covid-19 cases around the world, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The conference, at which nearly 200 people gathered for a Biogen corporate meeting, was at the heart of local outbreaks in Massachusetts early in the pandemic and has become one of the most prominent examples of a superspreader event. But in the new study, researchers show just how widely the virus was able to spread from the conference’s attendees.

Through genetic analyses, the scientists found that approximately 1.6 percent of all the Covid-19 cases in the United States could be traced back to the Biogen conference. In Florida alone, the researchers estimated that more than 71,000 cases had genetic links to the Boston superspreader event.

There is no official definition of a superspreader event, but they are typically characterized as incidents that result in large clusters of infection. Other examples include a cluster of more than 180 cases in June was traced to a restaurant and bar in East Lansing, Michigan. And an indoor wedding in Maine in August is thought to have resulted in at least 176 coronavirus cases and seven deaths.

616d ago / 5:03 PM UTC

Snow leopard at Louisville Zoo tests positive for Covid

A 5-year-old female snow leopard at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 in humans.

It is the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a snow leopard, the zoo said. 

The zoo said in a news release Friday that it is awaiting results of its two male snow leopards — Kimti and Meru.

All the cats have "very mild symptoms," the release said, adding that the zoo "continues to monitor their health closely."

The snow leopards all began exhibiting minor respiratory symptoms, including an occasional dry cough or wheeze, within the last two weeks.

NeeCee is believed to have acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member, "despite precautions" by the zoo, the release said.

All three cats are expected to recover and no other animals at the zoo are showing symptoms.

The zoo said that the risk of infected animals, including the snow leopard, spreading the virus to humans is "considered low," as Covid-19 "remains predominantly a disease transmitted from person to person."

616d ago / 4:17 PM UTC

Long-term care facilities expect coronavirus vaccine in less than two weeks

Walgreens and CVS are gearing up for the coronavirus vaccine rollout, which could start in less than two weeks. 

Once the vaccine is approved for emergency use authorization and administered to health care workers and first responders, Walgreens is expected to distribute the vaccine to vulnerable long-term care facilities -- and that could start as soon as December 21, Walgreens chief medical officer Kevin Ban said Friday on TODAY. 

"We're working very hard to make sure the vaccine is distributed and administered safely, but also that people have the facts to make a decision so that they'll decide to get vaccinated,” said Ban. 

The federal government has contracted with Walgreens and CVS to vaccinate millions of residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. While health care workers and nursing home residents will get the vaccine first the initial supplies won't cover all 21 million health care workers and 3 million long-term care residents across the country. 

616d ago / 3:37 PM UTC

When can we expect to see Clorox wipes back on the shelves?

Consumers hunting for Clorox wipes to disinfect counters and surfaces from the coronavirus will face difficulties until at least “mid-2021," the company’s chief operating officer, Eric Reynolds, told NBC News.

The new date represents the third time the company has pushed back availability of the wipes, which were one of the first things to disappear in stores as the pandemic took hold, along with toilet paper and paper towels.

In May, the company said supplies would be ready by this summer. In August, an executive said it would take until at the least the end of 2020. Yet at year’s close, the wipes are still hard to find on the shelves — or going for a premium via online resellers.

While Clorox has ramped up capacity, making and shipping 1 million canisters every day and hiring more than 2,000 employees worldwide, that’s still not enough to meet demand that has surged 500 percent since the start of the pandemic.

The biggest holdup is the cloth itself, made from nonwoven polypropylene, a plastic that is also used in face masks, which comes from specialized suppliers.

Read the story here.

616d ago / 2:33 PM UTC

How to get a Covid vaccine: Everything we know, from cost to effectiveness

Public health experts are bracing for what they expect to be a dark and deadly winter. But as the vaccines become available, it will ultimately give way to a more hopeful spring.

With the U.S. on the brink of a turning point in potentially taming the virus, NBC News spoke to more than a half-dozen experts to answer the most pressing questions about the Covid-19 vaccines and the months ahead.

As part of this effort, NBC News has also compiled data on how many Americans live near pharmacies that are preparing to distribute vaccines — and where it could end up hard to get one.

Read the full story here.

616d ago / 2:26 PM UTC
616d ago / 2:12 PM UTC

Russian scientists slam lack of publicly available data on country's Covid vaccine

A group of scientists from leading Russian universities have published an open letter slamming the lack of publicly available data on the safety and efficacy of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

Calling the process "completely unacceptable" and "ridiculous," the letter entitled "Behind the hype: design defects, poor execution and questionable publication" calls on British medical science journal The Lancet to withdraw a paper published by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute that said the Russian vaccine was safe and effective. 

"This completely unacceptable, even ridiculous, political move to create competition between vaccines is a violation of the most important testing standards," the letter's authors say.

In the letter in the Lancet, the Gamaleya Institute said their Phase II trials showed the vaccine was safe and effective.  

Within Russia, these claims have not seen any significant challenge from government officials or the state media. Soon after publishing those initial results in The Lancet, Russia moved on to register the vaccine with regulators and began distributing it beyond the scope of Phase III trials.  

The letter was published last month but first reported on in the Russian media on Thursday. One of the authors of the letter is Vasily Vlasov, a virologist at the Higher School of Economics and former World Health Organizations advisor.  

The letter’s authors say they requested the raw research data Gamaleya used in their paper, so that their claims could be scrutinized, but "for more than two months they have not responded to our request."

"We consider this to be a gross violation of the norms of publication ethics," they added.  

616d ago / 1:39 PM UTC

Live events industry lost $30B in 2020, publication says

Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, concert trade publication Pollstar puts the total lost revenue for the live events industry in 2020 at more than $30 billion.

Pollstar on Friday said the live events industry should have hit a record-setting $12.2 billion this year, but instead it incurred $9.7 billion in losses.

In March hundreds of artists announced that their current or upcoming tours would need to be postponed or canceled because of the pandemic. While a small number of performers have played drive-in concerts and others have held digital concerts, the majority of artists have not played live in 2020.

Pollstar said the projected $30 billion figure in losses includes “unreported events, ancillary revenues, including sponsorships, ticketing, concessions, merch, transportation, restaurants, hotels, and other economic activity tied to the live events.”

616d ago / 12:45 PM UTC

Four months that will decide the future

How was a microscopic virus able to bring the world’s richest and most powerful country to its knees?

Americans might have expected that their country would marshal its tremendous financial and intellectual resources, and its technological might, to fend off Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Instead, it has been crippled for the better part of a year, and is now heading into a winter that one of its top doctors said could be the gravest public health crisis in its history. Ten months after the first Covid-19 death in the United States, the country is hurtling toward an appalling milestone: 300,000 deaths out of more than 15 million confirmed cases.

Yes, vaccines are coming, and the first vaccinations may begin next week. But their cumulative effect on the nation’s health will not be felt until well into 2021. If Americans do not change their behavior quickly, experts warn, the weeks and months ahead will be filled with more death and despair, packed hospitals and unemployment lines, and further political polarization and alienation.

“We have to act like everybody we come into contact with has Covid, and we are going to have to make the kind of sacrifices beyond what we were asked to make in March and April,” said Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician in Washington who is a scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Read the full story here.

616d ago / 12:38 PM UTC

FDA says it's 'rapidly' working toward approval for Covid vaccine

FDA Commissioners Drs. Stephen M. Hahn and Peter Marks said Friday morning that the regulatory body will "rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization" for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine after the "positive advisory committee meeting outcome."

"The agency has also notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution," Hahn and Marks said. 

616d ago / 11:42 AM UTC

Australia abandons Covid vaccine after it produced false positives for HIV

CANBERRA, Australia — Australian researchers say they have abandoned development of a potential coronavirus vaccine because it produced false positive results on HIV tests.

A statement said Friday that the University of Queensland vaccine that was to be manufactured at Australian biopharmaceutical company CSL’s Melbourne headquarters proved safe and produced a “robust response” to the virus during initial trials.

But it said the researchers and the government agreed not to proceed further because of the false positive result of some HIV tests due to a protein contained in the potential vaccine.

It was one of five potential vaccines on which the Australian government had signed contracts with developers.

616d ago / 11:35 AM UTC

The U.S. sets new Covid case and death records for the second day in a row

On Thursday, the U.S. reported two records: 229,928 Covid-19 cases and 3,110 deaths, driven by large case counts in California, Texas and Florida as well as record case counts in New York and New Jersey, according to an NBC News tally.

In the past week, the U.S. has averaged 209,684 cases and 2,316 deaths. Four weeks ago, the U.S. averaged and 165,665 cases and 1,329 deaths.

These states and territory set records:

  • Nevada, 50 deaths
  • New Jersey, 9,993 cases
  • New York, 11,995 cases
  • Puerto Rico, 32 deaths
616d ago / 11:22 AM UTC
617d ago / 10:31 AM UTC

Farmworkers, firefighters and flight attendants jockey for vaccine priority

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With front-line health workers and nursing home residents and staff members expected to get the initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines, the thornier question is figuring out who goes next.

The answer will likely depend on where you live.

While an influential federal advisory board is expected to make its recommendations this month, state health departments and governors will make the calls on who gets access to a limited number of vaccines this winter.

As a result, it has been a free-for-all in recent weeks as manufacturers, grocers, bank tellers, dentists and drive-share companies all jostle to get spots near the front of the line.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 this month to give first vaccination priority to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities after one or more Covid-19 vaccines are approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. The advisory committee is expected to provide further details of its list of prioritized recipients before year's end.

Its next recommendations are likely to focus on prioritizing people who keep society functioning, like workers in food and agriculture, public safety and education. Older people and those with chronic diseases are also considered to be high on the list.

Read full story here.

617d ago / 10:27 AM UTC

Sanofi and GSK delay Covid-19 vaccine, marking setback for global fight

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said clinical trials of their Covid-19 vaccine showed an insufficient immune response in older people, delaying its launch to late next year and marking a setback in the global fight against the pandemic.

The announcement on Friday, which highlighted the challenges of developing shots at record speed, hinders efforts to develop the multiple options that experts say the world needs to counter a disease that has killed over 1.5 million people.

The news, which came on the same day as Australia axed a domestic vaccine project, is also a blow for many governments that have booked hundreds of millions of doses of the shot, including the European Union, United States and Britain.

The two companies said they planned to start another study next February, hoping to come up with a more effective vaccine by the end of 2021.

The setback affects one of the most established technologies in vaccines — used against the human papillomavirus, hepatitis B and pertussis among other pathogens — which aims to introduce lab-made proteins into the body to prod the immune system into developing a targeted defense against the novel coronavirus.

It cements the lead of more novel approaches used by vaccines from the likes of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which use mRNA genetic technology to trick the body into producing those proteins. Both of those shots were found to be about 95 percent effective in successful large-scale trials.