New York Lifts A Majority Of Covid-19 Restrictions As Vaccination Rates Continue To Rise 

New York officially has 70% of its population inoculated with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, meaning the state is now fulfilling its promise of lifting nearly all pandemic restrictions as a result of having such a large vaccinated population. 

All New York City restaurants, bars, and museums will no longer be required to have a limited capacity, enforce social distancing, conduct health screenings, or collect information for contact tracing purposes. 

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All private businesses, however, do hold the right to continue to enforce all of these policies. 

“Not only do we have the lowest COVID positivity rate in the United States of America, we have hit 70% vaccination ahead of schedule. We’re no longer just surviving – we’re thriving.”

Vermont, California, Florida, and Illinois are a few of the other states New York is joining in terms of lifting most of their pandemic restrictions. The US in total has administered about 309 million Covid-19 vaccinations, driving down a lot of the daily reports of new cases throughout the nation. 

In New York City specifically about 60% of all adults are fully vaccinated while 65% have received at least one dose of either of the two-dose vaccine options (Pfizer or Moderna). Statewide about 70% of the population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine ever since Pfizer announced individuals aged 12 and up can receive their vaccine. 

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In healthcare settings all pandemic restrictions obviously will remain in place. Public transportation systems and large indoor event venues that can hold up to 5,000 people or more will also be required to enforce restrictions.

 The venues will likely include places like Madison Square Garden or other large stadiums where social distancing would be easy. 

Large event venues, however, have already started allowing vaccinated individuals to attend certain events without a facial covering as long as they remain in designated areas for vaccinated individuals.

 Some venues have even split up their space for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to keep everyone separated. 

Vaccinated individuals have been able to use their proof of vaccine to attend sports games without social distancing or wearing a mask of any kind while unvaccinated fans are required to be in specified sections that allow for distanced seating; facial coverings are also still required as well. 

Cruise Line on Water

Two Passengers Test Positive For Covid On First Major Sea Cruise Hosting Americans 

Two guests aboard the first major sea cruise to host American passengers since the Covid-19 pandemic first began have tested positive for Covid-19 in what the cruise line is calling a required end-of-cruise testing. 

The two guests shared a stateroom on the seven-day Celebrity Millennium cruise from St. Maarten. The two are reportedly asymptomatic, in isolation, and being closely monitored by an on board medical team, the cruise line said in a news release this week. 

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“We are conducting contact tracing, expediting testing for all close contacts and closely monitoring the situation.” 

“The ship set sail Ssturday with fully vaccinated crew and guests and following comprehensive protocols that align with our destination partners and exceed CDC guidelines to protect the health and safety of our guests,” the release said.

It’s not completely shocking that two individuals still tested positive for Covid despite the fact that the cruise was strictly for vaccinated individual, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study this week that claimed “breakthrough coronavirus cases,” or cases that appear in vaccinated individuals, aren’t uncommon, and as expected the cases that did appear were completely mild. 

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Fully vaccinated individuals are more than 90% protected against infection while partially vaccinated people are 81% less likely to become infected than those who are completely unvaccinated. 

According to an ongoing study of essential workers who got Pfizer/BioNTech’s or Moderna’s vaccine, “those who got breakthrough infections after one or two doses had 40% less virus in their bodies and were 58% less likely to have fever. They spent two fewer days in bed than unvaccinated Covid-19 patients.”

The release claimed that every individual on the cruise was required to show proof of vaccination as well as a negative Covid-19 test that was taken within 72 hours of the cruise’s initial departure. 500 passengers were on board. 

“This situation demonstrates that our rigorous health and safety protocols work to protect our crew, guests and the communities we visit,” the news release said.

The Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company of Celebrity Cruise Lines, focused more on the fact that returning to Barbados “for the first time in over a year is truly special. Every measured step was taken to ensure that we protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the residents of this treasured destination and we are thankful,” its post said.

US Airline Companies Want Government Leaders To Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions 

Major airline companies are urging the United States government to move quicker when it comes to lifting travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Many countries within the European Union have opened up their borders for international travel, causing many US airline leaders to urge our nation to do the same. 

This week, the heads of several major airline companies held a virtual news conference to discuss the easiest way to ease and fully remove travel restrictions, specifically between the United States and United Kingdom, where Covid-19 has been prominent. 

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The call included chief executives of Heathrow Airport, group leaders in the US Travel Association, as well as the CEOs of American Airlines, IAG unit British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and JetBlue. 

The US has barred nearly all non-US citizens who have been to the UK from coming back to the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Airline officials have claims that no change is expected to occur, so they’re taking matters into their own hands by calling on government leaders. 

This past Friday France announced, however, that vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the country starting June 9th. American Airlines President Robert Isom said: 

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“We know there is tremendous pent-up demand for service. We have a lot of capacity to be ready to go for European travel, so we’re going to take it whenever it comes.”

Many airline officials believed that May 2021 was going to be the month in which international travel would really be able to resume with many individuals getting vaccinated, however, the government has yet to make any major changes to the current restrictions and requirements. 

The White House is mainly focused on bringing US vaccination rates to where President Joe Biden initially planned for it to be by the 4th of July; 70% of Americans having at least one vaccine. Additionally, the Biden administration is focusing on getting younger Americans vaccinated, as adolescents currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America. 

“We certainly understand the desire of many Europeans to come to travel the United States and vice versa. We can’t respond to public pressure or even emotion. We have to rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts,”  White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

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What Vaccinated Americans Need To Know If They Want To Travel To Europe This Summer 

As more Americans receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, many are planning their first vacations for when the world begins to reopen more. On May 19th, the European Union voted to ease Covid-19 restrictions for travelers from Covid “safe” countries, as well as vaccinated foreigners from nations that are deemed “unsafe,” like the US. 

The new list of criteria for nonessential travel to Europe is likely to be enforced within the next two weeks. These restrictions will also only apply to Americans who are fully vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson; other vaccines will not be accepted. Fully vaccinated also means it’s been at least two weeks since your final dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks from the single J&J shot. 

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The European Union is made up of 27 countries, all of which will open their borders to vaccinated Americans once the new restrictions are officially adopted. Greece, Ireland, and Italy have already begun accepting American travelers who arrive on a Covid-tested flight or provide proof of vaccination. 

Americans are also able to travel to the United Kingdom, which formally split from the European Union last year, although nonessential travel is still discouraged between the US and UK. The Bureau of Consular Affairs also has a list of all the countries accepting vaccinated US tourists.

People who are not vaccinated may travel to some countries if they show proof of a negative Covid-19 test and adhere to each country’s quarantine rules. The overall goal is to get everyone vaccinated, so quarantine policies will likely stay enforced for a while until the world reaches a greater herd immunity. 

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As of right now the only way to prove your immunity is to display the card you received after getting your Covid-19 vaccine, which carries the CDC logo and all appropriate information. Covid-19 “passports” and smartphone applications are a growing concept, and will likely be more heavily enforced not only for travel, but massive gatherings as well like sporting events and concerts. 

If you’re vaccinated, for the most part it’s safe to travel, but continue to adhere to all proper social distancing and safety procedures, including wearing a mask on public transportation. Like with the rest of the pandemic, it’s important to think about your personal health and the individuals in your house. 

According to the CDC, “all air passengers returning to the US from another country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before returning, and then test once more three to five days after returning home. Before traveling, you should consider the current prevalence of COVID-19 in your chosen country.”

Couple Camping

Why The Travel Industry Thinks Glamping Will Save The Tourism Sector This Summer

Bookings for camping and glamping locations all around the nation have been reaching record levels, as more people are ready to get back to some level of safe travel this summer now that more people are being vaccinated. 

Mike Bevens is an MD at glamping specialist company Canopy and Stars; a glamping business that assists travelers with all their travel needs and luxury wants. Bevens recently spoke about the increase in business that he’s endured, along with the rest of the industry. 

“We’ve had the busiest winter in terms of bookings, but there’s also been a huge increase in the number of new sites wanting to advertise. We’re up 200% on bookings from last year and have around 100 new sites coming online for this summer.”

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Derry Green is a UK resident who spoke with the local press about how he knew he had to do something to motivate his kids to leave the house with restrictions easing up this summer, however, he didn’t think his personal quarantine project would lead to a great new business opportunity.

“My kids were watching Love Island all the time, so when I got done building my back deck (my personal quarantine project) I put up a pod with a fire pit and lights, inspired by the show. Then people started asking me if they could come and stay in it so I put it on Airbnb and it sold out for two years in advance in five days,” he boasted.

Green quickly went viral on Facebook, so much so that now he has six more glamping units currently under construction that will be made available in the coming months. He personally owns four acres of woodland, so there’s plenty of room for his new business to thrive. 

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Green is not the only one who’s taking advantage of this new glamping trend. For those who are able to set up camp sites on their larger properties, renting out these spaces on Airbnb, and other rental services, have helped them immensely in terms of making an income during the past year of economic turmoil.  

“I believe in the transformative power of camping. It’s perfect for the situation we are in. Campsites can appear quickly in a way that cottages and hotels can’t, and they tend to benefit other businesses around them.”

Mojo and Kizzy Fell joined the glamping industry by necessity, after the pandemic halted all business for them last year. Originally, the two ran a successful rental business for Airsteam caravans that they would use mainly for film locations and music festivals. So when the pandemic shut down all of those activities, they needed to rethink their business model. 

“Our income just disappeared. We had to diversify, so we put five Airstreams on our 40-acre farm and called it The Wells Glamping. The caravans sold out immediately and now we have applied to increase the number to 12, hoping to be ready for bookings by the end of April. Luxurious vans that used to accommodate stars such as Will Ferrell and Kenneth Branagh will be repurposed for family holidays – and create up to 20 new jobs at the same time,” Mojo explained.

Airplane Taking Off

Airline CEOs Urging Governments To Open Travel Between US And UK

Several large airlines based in the United States and United Kingdom have called upon their government leaders in an attempt to revive air travel between the two countries. Airline leaders are asking for an international summit to discuss the issue and lay out a possible plan for bringing back travel between the two nations. 

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his UK counterpart Grant Shapps received the letter which was signed by the CEOs of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and JetBlue Airways.

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“Public health must guide the reopening of international air travel and we are confident that the aviation industry possesses the right tools, based on data and science, to enable a safe and meaningful restart to transatlantic travel.” 

JetBlue and US industry group Airlines for America have stated previously that they both have plans to revive travel between the US and UK this summer. 

“US and UK citizens would benefit from the significant testing capability and the successful trial of digital applications to verify health credentials.” 

The executives discussed in the letter how an increase in vaccinations between both countries, as well as advanced testing efforts now being implemented in international airlines, should give travelers the confidence that they’ll be safe from infection. 

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Both nation’s airlines also discussed the economic recovery efforts that they’re enduring, as the travel industry took one of the biggest hits as a result of the pandemic. The US is the nation that currently bars the most non-US citizens from entering into the country due to Covid-19 safety concerns. 

“Just last week, Secretary Buttigieg and G7 Transport Ministers met to discuss the complexities around reopening international travel and how to do so safely.” the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement. 

“These conversations are ongoing. The Department will be reviewing the letter with other agencies as part of the whole of the government approach to COVID recovery.”

The UK’s Department for Transport didn’t immediately respond to the letter, however, it’s expected that the two nations will be in talks in the coming months on how to best reopen travel. 

Woman Traveling Alone

A Guide Eco Friendly Travel

Earth day landed on Thursday the 22nd April this year and brought with it new pledges from the Climate Summit from world leaders to reduce carbon emissions. Travel can be bad for the environment too, with gas-guzzling cars and trucks pumping emissions into the environment to the huge impact aviation has on CO2 output. So, if you are looking to be eco-friendlier in your life, yet are still desperate to travel, here are some ways you can be more eco-conscious and still quell that wanderlust. 

Pick a green destination

If you don’t mind where you go, or simply would like to travel anywhere and everywhere, why not support a destination that is working to combat climate change? An article from Condé Nast Traveler in 2019 referenced ‘Slovenia, Portugal, Lake Tahoe, and Sani Isla, Ecuador, all of whom were singled out at the 2018 Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards for their focus on going green.’ The Good Travel Guide lists green destinations across the world including destinations in Finland, Croatia and Italy in Europe, Cambodia, Japan, and Indonesia in Asia; Seychelles, Rwanda and Tanzania in Africa; Brazil, Chile and the Caribbean in Latin America and destinations in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

When you are in your chosen destination support local businesses, eat local, try the local farm foods or beer, products and crafts. This will cut down on the emissions from the transportation of goods and also support the local communities that you are visiting. You can also minimize your carbon emission by picking a destination closer to home or one that you can reach by transport other than plane. 

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Offset your carbon emission

Some carbon outputs are unavoidable if you want to travel, but there may be ways in which you can attempt to offset the emissions you are using. You may be able donate to organizations such as carbonfind.org. Some flights may have a carbon offset option when booking your flight. There are also eco-tourism options, with travel companies offering holidays which support sustainable development, avoid impacting negatively on the environment and support local communities. 

Travelling with an environmentally responsible tour-operator may also be a good option as small groups of travelers sometimes have less of an environmental impact – as they share transportation and so forth. 

Go for green options again and again

Similar to picking a green destination you can also try to opt for hotels, restaurants, transport that are environmentally friendly or support those areas. Such as hotels which are energy efficient, recycle, use environmentally friendly energy sources and so forth. While you are there, support the local waste systems by recycling, disposing of waste properly, limiting energy usage etcetera. Can you get to your destination by using the train rather than flying – when you are there can you rent a bike rather than taking a cab?

There are several apps or travel companies which can help you make greener choices when you are travelling, some even highlighting the best restaurants, bars and cafes which are eco-friendly or pointing you to conservation projects, eco-lodges and tours. 

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Make Small eco – friendly adjustments

Rather than utilizing the free amenities in hotel rooms which are normally not bio-degradable or thrown out after your one use, pack your own. You can also opt to use e-tickets where possible rather than printing off your own and using paper. You may also be able to use the lights/heating/aircon less in your hotel – especially turning them off when you leave (you may not be paying the bills but the environment is affected by the energy consumption).

Can you stop buying tacky souvenirs and gifts that will just end up in the bin, instead look for something that you will keep or use for a long time – or simply leave with the memories. When you are there – are you able to walk around rather than use a cab – or can you opt for an eco-friendlier option like a bus? Some destinations such as Rome are perfect for strolling around and exploring the back streets with no need for vehicular transport.

You can also cut down on plastic waste or general waste by bringing re-usable items such as bags, utensils, bottles and straws with you. Often you may find this more convenient anyway with items such as water bottles and straws as you can ensure they are up to your hygiene standards. When you are packing, look to dispose of any packaging at home for goods, as the re-cycling program at your destination may not be as efficient. Also – try to pack lightly, those weight restrictions on your baggage don’t just keep you from paying more – the more a plane weighs the more carbon emissions it produces.

Geminid Meteor Shower

How To Watch The Upcoming Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

In late April and early May, scientists claim the Eta Aquarid meteor shower will illuminate the sky all over the world, dazzling any onlookers with up to 50 meteors passing through the sky per hour. The show is actually a result of debris left behind by Halley’s Comet. 

According to experts each spring, the Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley’s Comet; one of the most famous comets in history. As bits of ice and rock enter into our atmosphere from the comet itself, they burn up into meteors, and light up the sky in what we view as a multitude of shooting stars. 

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The Earth passes through the trail of Halley’s Comet twice a year, this marks the first for 2021 and the second crossing will occur this fall and create what is known as the Orionid meteor shower. During this specific shower, however, scientists claim that the shooting stars seem to come directly from the constellation Aquarius; which is how the event got its name. 

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is known for having extremely fast stars that can travel up to 44 miles per second from our vantage point. However, don’t worry if you’re not quick enough to catch one, because most leave glowing trials behind them for a few seconds. 

The shower in total runs from April 19th to May 28th, but more times than not there will only be a handful of shooting stars every night. For the best chance of seeing one, go out before dawn on May 5th, when the shower is predicted to be at its peak. The days leading up to and following the peak will be most ideal for viewing. 

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Predawn early hours are thought to be the very best time to see shooting stars, so you’ll have to get up nice and early if you really want to see the show.

Your distance from the equator also may impact how many meteors you’ll see in the coming month. The closer you are, the more likely you’ll see shooting stars light up the sky every night. Scientists claim the Southern Hemisphere has the most prime viewing of this shower, however, the Eta Aquarids are visible all over the world, they’re just more predominant in some places. 

The next two meteor showers that will be around the same size as these two annual ones will be the Southern Delta Aquarid shower and the Alpha Capricornids shower, both of which are set to begin and peak in late July. However, the Perseid meteor shower coming up this August is projected to be one of the biggest of the year.

Covid-19 Immunity Passport

EHRC Suggests Vaccine Passport Scheme Could Be ‘Unlawful Discrimination’

The notion of a vaccine passport scheme, seems to be a quickly catching idea to restart the tourism industries in many countries. The basic premise would be that those who are vaccinated against COVID-19 would be able to travel freely or more freely to certain countries that accepted the ‘passport’. Some variations may allow those who have recovered from coronavirus or present a negative COVID-19 test to also attain a vaccine passport.

Some countries are already implementing this or similar schemes, with the European union recently presenting a proposal for digital Covid passports. There have even been some suggestions that the passports could be used internally in a country to allow the ‘safe’ opening of entertainment venues such as theatres and restaurants. However, since the idea’s initial musings, there have been questions on the ethicality of the scheme as many worried that it would lead to discrimination. 

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In the UK vaccine passports have not yet been authorized but the idea has been bouncing around Parliament following the EU’s proposal for their introduction by summer.  The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), who have been reviewing the idea, said that the certificates could help ease restrictions “in principle” but, they would create a “two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights” adding that blanket vaccination policies are “likely to be unlawful” (perhaps referring to the recent suggestion that vaccinations for careers working in care home should be made mandatory). 

The BBC reported: ‘the independent commission says Covid status certificates – sometimes called Covid passports – could discriminate against marginalized groups where take-up of the vaccine is lower, as well as the small number of people who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons. Requiring the certificates for travel, going to work, enjoying social activities or accessing essential services could risk further excluding people from some ethnic minority groups, migrants and people from lower socio-economic groups, the watchdog said.’

In the UK, after months of denying the introduction of international or domestic vaccine passport schemes, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced a review into the idea. Government officials have since suggested that ‘COVID Status’ certificates could be introduced for a limited time and record whether a person has been vaccinated, tested negative or developed natural immunity from an infection within a six-month time frame. Suggestions included that they could be used to gain access to a pub or theatre, but apparently ruled out the use of such documents being needed in essential shops or on public transport. According to the BBC ‘the FA Cup final in May is one large-scale event where certification will be trialed.’

Chair of the EHRC, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, said that if they are introduced that they must be time-limited and regularly reviewed to ensure they are proportionate and those that are not able to take the vaccine should have easy access to exception documentation. She stated: ‘”We would monitor the rollout to ensure the right balance is struck between protecting the public’s health and our individual freedoms.”

Some people have allergies to the vaccination, are unable to take the vaccination due to pregnancy, have not yet been offered the vaccine or else cannot access it and some may not want to take the vaccination for personal reasons. 

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EHRC also raised concerns about proposals to make vaccination a condition of employment, stating that this would be a “significant departure from current public health policy” and may lead to contractual requirements to have other vaccinations. It argued that a “a blanket policy requiring workers to be vaccinated, applied inflexibly, is likely to be unlawful”. 

Echoing the BBC, the Guardian also reported: ‘But it said they risked further excluding groups among whom vaccine take-up is lower – including migrants, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and poorer socio-economic groups – from access to essential services and employment. “There is a risk of unlawful discrimination if decisions taken in this process disadvantage people with protected characteristics who have not received, or are not able to receive, the vaccine, unless they can be shown to be justified,” it said. “Any mandatory requirement for vaccination or the implementation of Covid-status certification may amount to indirect discrimination, unless the requirement can be objectively justified.”’

The Watchdog outlined that in the UK, apart from a few exceptions it is against the law for an employer to ask about a job applicants health before making an offer of employment, which includes vaccination status.

West Virginia Will Pay Remote Workers $12,000 To Move There

Throughout the pandemic, cities throughout the US have begun offering remote workers cash as an incentive to relocate. Tulsa, Oklahoma and Natchez, Mississippi have both created official programs to pay remote workers to move there, and now, West Virginia wants to pay remote workers $12,000 to move to its “country roads.” 

On April 12th Governor Jim Justice announced the Ascend WV program, which would “allow adventurers to enjoy world-class recreation, uncrowded spaces, and a low cost of living while staying fully connected to their jobs.” 

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Major companies throughout the US are beginning to bring their employees back into the office as multiple vaccines become available throughout the country. This is a major motivator for West Virginia, who’s looking to bring in a greater population as the nation returns to a greater sense of normalcy in the coming months. 

The $12,000 West Virginia is offering is paid over two years, with $10,000 divided in monthly payments for the first year and $2,000 paid at the end of the second year, according to the program’s website. If you move early, you keep the money that you’ve earned so far,” according to news reports. 

According to the website, “the incentive package also includes a year’s worth of free outdoor recreation, bringing the total value to $20,000. That includes a year of access to activities such as whitewater rafting and downhill skiing, as well as two years of free outdoor gear rentals, such as camping gear or paddleboarding equipment.”

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Applicants must be 18 years or older with a full-time remote job at a company located outside the state of West Virginia in order to qualify for the program. Shepherdstown, Lewisburg and Morgantown are the first three host cities accepting applicants who are interested in the program. More than 2,000 people have already applied for the 50 spots available in Morgantown. 

Applications will be open until the end of May for Morgantown, and will open up for Shepherdstown and Leqisburg in the beginning of 2022. 

The governor’s office also revealed that the program is partially supported by Brad Smith and his wife Alys; Brad was the former CEO of Intuit and is a native West Virginian. According to the governor’s office the couple donated $25 million to West Virginia University to get the program off the ground. 

“Alys and I are committed to the success of this program and its ability to leverage West Virginia’s outdoor assets to attract fresh talent, cultivate dynamic communities and continue to fuel the entrepreneurial and innovative thinking that are hallmarks of the state,” Smith said. The Smiths hope the program will eventually include all of the states’ 55 counties as well.