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haiti

Dozens Of US Citizens Evacuate Haiti On State Department Charter Flight Amid Increase In Gang Violence 

Dozens of US citizens have been evacuated from Haiti on a State Department charter flight this past Sunday while others wait to be taken back to the states as well. The departures are a result of increasing gang violence and political instability which has left necessities like food and gas in short supply. 

The State Department said that the flight departed from Cap-Haitien and landed in Miami International Airport, but they warned Americans to only consider taking the flight if they could reach Cap-Haitien safely. Government officials are now “assisting with next steps,” after more than 30 Americans made it safely to Miami over the weekend, according to CNN

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A Florida-based nonprofit has also been working to rescue the more than 100 people that are asking for assistance in leaving Haiti. 

The problems in Haiti have increased greatly within the last month. Security sources have stated that rival gangs and coalitions have been “wreaking coordinated havoc,” according to CNN

More than 100 miles from Cap-Haitien, in Port-au-Prince gangs took the airport under siege, and they now control 80% of Port-au-Prince, according to estimates from the United Nations. Through this control, the gangs have “severely limited supplies of food, fuel, and water across the city.” 

Vedant Patel of the State Department said that they will continue to help US citizens truing to leave Haiti, calling it a “fluid and quickly evolving situation on the ground.” 

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“We’ll be in touch with them should additional measures materialize. [Haiti is now] one of the most dire humanitarian situations in the world.”

Project DYNAMO is a non-profit, veteran-led, donor-funded international search, rescue, and aid group based in Florida that has also been conducting evacuations, receiving more than 100 rescue requests from Americans currently in Haiti. 

“What we find is, every time we rescue one person, that actually turns into three or four or five. That’s usually how it works. It is very hard, [we’re] trying to focus on Americans who are in remote areas where no other rescue resources exist. We’ve been working day and night,” co-founder and CEO Bryan Stern told CNN Monday afternoon.

Stern also stated that the waiting list of Americans needing rescuing in Haiti is currently in triple digits, but Project DYNAMO is in need of more funding.

“We need people’s help, and we need it badly. Some of these people are in extremely dire circumstances, and we can do it. I just need help with resources,” he said. 

mexico

Mexican Drug Cartel Issues Apology for Deaths of Kidnapped Americans

A Mexican drug cartel believed to be responsible for the kidnapping last week that ended in the deaths of two Americans and a Mexican woman in Matamoros, Mexico, has issued an apology letter. The cartel also handed over five of its members, believed to be the perpetrators, to local authorities.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter from authorities in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where the kidnappings occurred.

“The [Gulf Cartel] apologizes to the society of Matamoros, the relatives of Ms. Areli, and the affected American people and families.”

The two murdered Americans have been identified as Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown. Their bodies were delivered to US diplomatic authorities. Survivors Latavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams returned to the U.S. and were hospitalized.

According to family members who spoke to CNN, the four victims were close friends from South Carolina. They drove to Matamoros for McGee to have surgery.

The FBI reported that the trip abruptly ended when gunmen opened fire on the group’s van before forcing the Americans into another vehicle and driving them away. A stray bullet also killed a Mexican bystander during the shooting.

Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica believes the cartel may have mistaken the Americans for Haitian drug smugglers.

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The Associated Press reported that a photograph depicting five men bound, lying face down on the pavement, with their shirts pulled over their heads, was included with the apology letter they received.

A separate unnamed state security official said five men had been discovered tied up inside a vehicle authorities had been searching for alongside the handwritten letter. Police have not confirmed that they have the new suspects in custody.

The cartel stated that the five men did not abide by the cartel’s rules, including “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent.” Allegedly, they acted of their own volition.

“The Gulf Cartel, Scorpion Group, strongly condemns the events of last Friday. For this reason, we decided to hand over those directly involved and responsible for the acts, who at all times acted under their own determination and indiscipline and against the rules in which the [Gulf Cartel] always operates.”

Authorities have yet to confirm the letter’s authenticity. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a professor at George Mason University who studies cartels, told CNN that in the wake of high-profile incidents, it is common practice for Mexican cartels, particularly in the country’s northeast, to issue statements to the authorities or rival groups.

The official who shared the letter with CNN said that Mexican and American authorities investigating the kidnapping have doubts about whether the apology letter is authentic. If so, they believe the apology was issued after the attack drew much attention to the cartel’s activities and increased public scrutiny of their movements.

Mexican security analyst David Saucedo told The Associated Press that the killings brought in National Guard troops and an Army special forces to run patrols that “heat up the plaza” in “narco terminology.”

“It is very difficult right now for them to continue working in terms of street-level drug sales and transferring drugs to the United States; they are the first ones interested in closing this chapter as soon as possible.”

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Shaeed Woodard’s father, James Woodard, watched the video of his son’s abduction on television and said it was difficult to get through.

“That was so hard for me to see those videos and see him dragged and thrown on the back of the vehicle. He was a baby, and for him to be taken from me like that was very hurtful. My family is hurt real bad because he was so lovable. He had the biggest heart.”

Eric Williams’s wife, Michele Williams, told CNN that her husband was shot three times in the legs. She revealed that Williams underwent surgery in Texas after he and McGee were found alive. McGee was unharmed, but she was traumatized.

“She watched them die. They were driving through and a van came up and hit them, and that’s when they started shooting at the car, shooting inside the van. … She said the others tried to run, and they got shot at the same time.”

The kidnapping and murder have intensified US and Mexican efforts to reduce cartel activities, a key factor of the fentanyl trade between the two countries. According to a government report, Mexico is the “dominant force” of fentanyl in the United States.

A U.S. National Security Council spokesman told CNN that a U.S. delegation traveled to Mexico to “discuss our governments’ ongoing cooperation in combating illicit fentanyl.” They will address the kidnapping and develop a “fundamental strategy to attack the cartels.”

Two Positive Covid Tests

US Government To Begin Shipping ‘Free’ At-Home Covid Tests To Citizens 

A new federal law now states that health insurance companies in the US must pay for at-home Covid test kits. Customers will be able to be reimbursed for up to eight tests per month per individual, or receive them for free at participating pharmacies; meaning under this new law a family of five could get up to 40 free tests per month. 

Individuals with health insurance will be able to receive their free at-home tests directly from the federal government starting Wednesday January 19th by going to COVIDTests.gov to request their supply. Kits will begin shipping out within seven to 12 days. 

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“This program will ensure that Americans have at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available in the weeks and months ahead — in addition to the number of other ways they can get tested,” the White House said on Friday

“The administration is quickly completing a contracting process for the unprecedented purchase of 1 billion at-home, rapid tests to distribute as part of this program.” 

The US Postal Service will be delivering kits throughout the continental US through First-Class Package Service, according to the government. Any shipments made to Alaska, Hawaii, and other US territories will be sent via Priority Mail. 

President Biden announced Thursday the government was “doubling the number of available free tests to 1 billion and providing 5 million PCR tests for free to schools per month.” 

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Colorado, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Washington, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon,  and New Hampshire. Washington, DC, is making at-home tests available for pickup at area libraries while other cities, such as New York and Boston, are distributing them to local health clinics,” according to the White House. 

In another plan announced by President Biden, health insurance companies are now required to reimburse Americans for eight at-home antigen tests per person per month. If an individual is required to undergo testing due to an underlying health condition, or other factors, there will be no limit implemented on the amount of tests covered. 

For those without insurance, Biden announced that there would be “thousands of locations” where Americans can pick up free Covid-19 test kits to use at home, rather than needing to go get tested at a facility. 

Those without insurance are also able to access free testing kits at community health clinics, and other local participating sites. The Department of Health and Human Services has also provided an online search tool for Americans needing to find a community-based Covid-19 testing site.

President Biden Announces New Vaccine Mandate For Working Americans 

President Joe Biden announced this week that he would be imposing a new stringent set of vaccine requirements for federal workers, large employers, and health care staff in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19. 

The new requirement is set to apply to over 100 million Americans; about two-thirds of the workforce in the nation. 

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us. Vaccinated America is growing frustrated with the 80 million people who have not received shots and are fueling the spread of the virus. While America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact: We’re in a tough stretch and it could last for a while,” Biden said.

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The new plan requires the Labor Department to force businesses with 100 or more employees to either get everyone vaccinated or get tested once a week. Companies that refuse could face thousands of dollars in fines per employee who refuses to comply.

Biden also signed an executive order that requires every government employee to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and they can’t opt for regular testing. The same standard will also be applied to employees of contractors who do business with the federal government. 

“300,000 educators in federal Head Start programs must be vaccinated, governors need to require vaccinations for school teachers and staff. The 17 million health care workers at facilities receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid will also need to be fully vaccinated, we’re expanding the mandate to hospitals, home care facilities and dialysis centers around the country. We have the tools to combat the virus if we come together to use those tools,” Biden said.

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The new “emergency temporary standard” from the Labor Department will also require all large employers to give their employees paid time off to receive their vaccines if they haven’t done so yet.  “If businesses don’t comply, the government will take enforcement actions, which could include substantial fines up to nearly $14,000 per violation,” according to officials.

“Each employer will decide exactly what they want to do, but what we’re saying through the Department of Labor rule making process is a minimum of testing once a week or full vaccination,” a senior administration official said.

“Federal employees will have 75 days to get vaccinated or risk being fired. The expectation is if you want to work in the federal government or want to be a contractor, you need to be vaccinated,” press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Additionally, Biden announced a slew of new health and safety measures as a means of slowing the spread of the Delta variant. The Defense Production Act will be evoked in order to accelerate the production of rapid Covid tests. The administration is hoping to send 25 million free tests to US health clinics. 

Biden overall unveiled a six-pillar plan to cobatting the pandemic. According to reports, “The six pillars of Biden’s plan include: vaccinating the unvaccinated; further protecting the vaccinated through booster shots; keeping schools open; increasing testing and requiring masks; protecting the economic recovery; and improving care for those with Covid-19.”

USA Covid-19 Virus

US Hits 40 Million Cases Of Covid-19, 4 Million Of Which Were Reported This Month Alone

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the US has now tallied more than 40 million Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 4 million of them being reported within the last four weeks alone.

England, Scotland, And Northern Ireland Loosen Travel Restrictions For Vaccinated Americans 

Fully vaccinated Americans can now visit England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland without quarantining beginning next week. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made the announcement on Twitter this week. 

“We’re helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK.” 

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Initially the updated requirements were just for individuals in the US and UK, but Scotland and Northern Ireland said they would also be joining England in waiving their 10-day isolation requirement for fully vaccinated individuals from the European Union and US. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, announced this week that they recommend all US citizens remain in the country and don’t travel to the UK specifically due to rising Covid case numbers in both nations. 

Visitors to England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland will still be subject to Covid testing upon their arrival. Pre-departure testing as well as testing upon arrival will still be enforced, and vaccinated Americans must provide proof of US residency as well as proof of vaccination. 

American travelers must also fill out a patient-tracker form so that authorities are able to contact them should someone they traveled with test positive. Travelers returning to the US must also show a negative Covid result in order to board a US-bound international flight. 

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“Given where we are today … with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons. The more transmissible delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.”

“Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Monday. 

United Airlines announced that it would have six daily flights between the US and London starting in August. The airline plans to resume additional flights in the coming months as well. 

“Today’s announcement is yet another major milestone in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with the opening of one of the most important markets from the U.S.” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances, in a news release.

Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association trade group, urged U.S. leaders to “follow the U.K.’s lead and set a timeline to reopen its borders to travelers. We encourage them to start with vaccinated travelers from the U.K., E.U. and Canada. The reality is there’s no difference between a vaccinated American and those vaccinated in the U.K., the E.U. and Canada.”

The White House

Biden’s Stimulus Plan Relieves Lower-Income Americans Of Heavy Taxes

The relief law also extends the federal boost for unemployment benefits as well as food stamps and other aid programs for struggling renters and homeowners throughout the country. The overall goal of this relief package was to specifically help lower-income households who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. 

Coronavirus Vaccination

4.2 Million Americans Have Been Vaccinated For Covid-19

Although more than 4 million Americans have now been vaccinated with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, health experts are saying the country needs to start moving a lot quicker. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to the media this past Sunday regarding the current rate that America is getting its citizens vaccinated. 

“No excuses, we’re not where we want to be, but hopefully we’ll pick up some momentum and get back to where we want to be in terms of getting people vaccinated.” 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 13 million doses have already been distributed throughout the nation, however, the federal government had repeatedly promised that 20 million individuals would have received their initial dose by the end of 2020. While they may be behind with their original predictions, the rate of distribution is still increasing.

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According to Fauci 1.5 million doses were administered within 72 hours this past week, which means the rate is continuously increasing as well. Moncef Slaoui is the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, who recently told the media that 17.5 million doses have now been shipped and the government is confident that this will help that rate increase even further. 

Currently vaccines are only being administered to healthcare workers and long-term care patients who are much more susceptible to getting infected with Covid-19. While America continues to wait for vaccinations to be distributed, our current administration is still battling the results of the 2020 election, meaning no further health and safety guidelines are being enforced throughout the nation, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are still being infected. 

The US has reported over 100,000 new Covid-19-related hospitalizations every day for 33 consecutive days, and a majority of the states are still relatively open in terms of businesses and public settings. With holiday travel restrictions being practically non-existent this past month, even more Americans are expected to become infected in the coming weeks. 

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“There’s no running away from the numbers. It’s something that we have absolutely got to grasp and get our arms around and turn that inflection down by very intensive adherence to the public health measures, uniformly throughout the country, with no exceptions.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus response, recently claimed, however, that there is still hope for the US and other countries currently enduring massive surges in new cases and deaths, but only if these countries adopt federally enforced measures such as mass-testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantining. President-elect Joe Biden has made multiple claims in the past that it’s likely he would be placing America under another lockdown once he’s inaugurated to alleviate all the pressure currently being placed on the nation’s hospitals. 

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged Americans, especially those who gathered over the holidays, to “self-quarantine, get tested, wear a mask, wash their hands and watch their distance. The projections are pretty scary, but they’re projections, and what we do now matters. I want people to understand that if we get over this current surge, then things will start to get better, but it depends on the actions that we all take right now.”

Covid-19 vaccines are expected to continue to be distributed throughout the nation to all vulnerable parties first. Fauci has claimed that it is likely most Americans will be vaccinated by the summer, however, that will also be dependent on what happens with this pandemic in the meantime in terms of new infections.

Over 14 Million Americans Are Moving In Order To Find Remote Work, Study Shows

According to a study from Upwork’s Remote Workers, between 14 million to 23 million Americans are planning to relocate to a new U.S. city, region, or even state due to the Covid-19 pandemic and rising popularity of work-from-home positions appearing throughout the nation. 

Many businesses and industries have been adapting to the new normals 2020 has presented to us by moving to a more digitized work environment. For some, they’re even realizing that remote work is a much more efficient way for staff to get their daily duties done, and will likely continue to do so post-pandemic. 

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The study specifically surveyed 20,490 Americans over the age of 18 and it was conducted from October 1st to the 15th. The results showed that one of the biggest reasons so many Americans are planning to make the permanent move in order to work remotely is because of the amount of companies who are permanently adopting the work-from-home model. 

For example, Facebook and Twitter both announced offers that they would be making to their employees that would allow them to make their home-office their permanent workspace. 

Even small businesses are seeing the perks of this, in fact 57% of small and medium-size businesses plan to offer remote work plans to their employees in the long term. Small businesses have also reported that employee availability has increased by 19% with the move to remote work; obviously this depends on the specific business and employee duties as well. Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist, recently discussed the not-so-surprising results of the study. 

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“Companies were thrown feet first into a massive experiment with remote work due to the pandemic. The experiment has gone well; and it’s changing the future of the workforce. Remote work is the fastest game-changer for the U.S. economy since World War II.”

The rise in mobility among Americans looking to relocate means that there could be an increase in economic efficiency for businesses, and individuals, throughout the country.  “Remote work presents a potential solution for those seeking job opportunities that don’t want to pay the high housing costs of a major city,” Ozimek claimed, emphasizing how normally when individuals relocate to work from home, they’re more so focused on living in a city that they can afford and actually want to be in. 

The study also revealed that 20.6% of residents of major cities in the US are planning to move far away from their current home. Specifically, 54.7% said that they want to relocate somewhere two or more hours away from their current location. 

For employers this is also a positive, as the massive migration of individuals throughout the nation gives them a whole new pool of potential employees who are ready and willing to adapt to a permanent work-from-home model that will work well into the future. The renting market in America is currently the worst it’s been in years, and has many real estate industry workers worried about another major housing crisis in the US. However, the moving of up to 23 million Americans can help drive that market back up and boost the local economies throughout the entire nation.

Roadtrip

Here’s Where Americans Want To Go Once The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Over

The annual Longwoods International Travel Sentiment Tracking Study has been released and provided some insight into the trips that all Americans want to take once this pandemic is over and we get the green-light to start living life normally again. Over half of the responses indicate that the first trip most Americans want to make is to travel domestically to visit their friends and family that they’ve been separated from for the past few months. 

To be specific, 52% of the respondents said they want to visit their loved ones first and foremost. In total, 76% of Americans surveyed said their first trip would be in the car while 24% said they would travel by air if it was completely safe. 

Among the sub-group that said they would be taking their first post-pandemic vacation via the car, 52% of them said they would stay within 200 miles of their home, while 48% agreed they wanted to go much further away. 

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“The survey, supported by Miles Partnership, was fielded April 29, 2020 using a national sample randomly drawn from a consumer panel of 1,000 adults, ages 18 and over.  Quotas were used to match Census targets for age, gender, and region to make the survey representative of the U. S. population,” according to the Longwoods International website

Again, keep in mind that all of these individuals were answering these questions under the assumption that the Covid-19 virus would no longer be a cause for concern and social distancing policies would no longer in place by the time they take these vacations. 

Once all the pandemic-imposed flying restrictions are lifted, 86% of Americans said they would want to visit somewhere domestically, within the US.  4% of individuals said they would go somewhere international, and 2% said they would keep it relatively local/plan a staycation near home. The remaining 8% of those surveyed said they have no intention of travelling for at least six months post-pandemic. 

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“Despite the pandemic, Americans are eager to travel, especially to spend time with family and friends. The vast majority of Americans will make their first trip after the pandemic in the U.S., with only four percent planning international travel as their first destination,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of market research consultancy, Longwoods International.

70% of all respondents said that they already have trips planned for within the next six months. Individuals who were recording the data for the survey kept in contact with these individuals as the pandemic has worsened, and so far, no one has made any adjustments or cancellations to those plans. 

On the opposite end, 55% did admit that the pandemic in general would greatly impact their travel for the six months, whether that be personal or business related travel; four weeks ago that number was 67%. 22% of these individuals also made this claim based on economic factors that have heavily impacted everyone’s life plans; not just travel. 

Regardless of when we’re all able to travel and see our loved ones again, it’s imperative that we continue to listen to our healthcare workers and remain inside, so that we have a greater chance at returning to normalcy sooner rather than later.