Posts

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. 

Embed from Getty Images

“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.” 

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.” 

Embed from Getty Images

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. 

Embed from Getty Images

“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.

Embed from Getty Images

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. 

Embed from Getty Images

“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. 

Embed from Getty Images

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. 

Embed from Getty Images

“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. 

Embed from Getty Images

“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. 

Embed from Getty Images

“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.

Europe & British Union Flags

How Will Brexit Affect American Travelers?

After several years of debate the United Kingdom is still trying to secure its deal for leaving the European Union, and following Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party securing victory in their general election just before Christmas, it seems Britain can finally leave the European Union on 31st January 2020. However many travelers are worrying about how this may affect them when traveling to the UK and Europe.

The good news is that nothing should change straight away. Although the official date is 31st January 2020 both the European Union and Britain has until the end of the year to finalize all the details. But for travelers there could be an issue at the borders.

Currently travelers have been able to move from one country to another without having to use customs or passport control, however once Britain has officially left this could all change. In fact one of the major issues causing the delay in the agreement has been the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The former will remain a member of the EU as it is not part of the UK and there have been concerns that some people could abuse the “back door” entry into the country.

So far the effect that Brexit may have on the country’s politics and economy is unclear yet there appears to be more certainty on how the post-Brexit world will impact travelers.

Embed from Getty Images

The main concern is air travel and how this could be disrupted between America and Britain. There is currently an agreement known as an EU open skies agreement between America and the European Union, allowing airlines from both regions into each other’s areas. However Britain has already created bilateral open-skies agreements with several other countries, including Iceland, Morocco, Albania, Switzerland as well as the United States. They are also in talks with other countries to enable replica agreements to be set up.

Having the open-skies agreement already in place with America means that airlines are still able to fly between the two countries after January 31st.

Ninan Chacko is a former chief executive at the Travel Leaders Group, a corporation that represents over 50,000 travel agents in North America and believes that “the UK is taking all the steps necessary and is rolling out the welcome mat.”

But what if you are traveling and want to fly from Britain to any of the countries in the EU? There should not be many changes for Americans, as they will still have to pass through both customs and immigration in Britain as well as the country they are visiting or leaving, just as they always have done.

The main changes will be for European Union or British nationals who can travel between the different countries only showing a national ID card and a passport when entering Great Britain. However they will now be forced to use their passport across the EU and European Citizens will not be able to only use their national cards when entering the UK at the end of the year.

Embed from Getty Images

The British government and the European Commission are currently discussing whether British nationals could be allowed to travel within the EU for short trips of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However the proposal from the EU will only allow this if the same privilege has been returned to their citizens. If this is the case all citizens will receive a specific stamp in their passports.

Another issue that could affect Americans travelling between Britain and the EU is the use of trains and ferries. Currently the French passport control for the Eurotunnel is on the British side of the channel and the British government has confirmed that all trains, ferries, cruises as well as bus and coach services will continue to run without any changes.

Another change that had been thought to occur is the Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, which is the European Union’s reimbursement scheme for any passengers who have had a delayed or canceled flight. This scheme is open to all travelers, whichever country they are from, and it has been confirmed this should not change.

Christian Nielsen, Chief Legal Officer at AirHelp, has confirmed that it is anticipated that Brexit will not impact travelers’ protections under EC 261, even if the airline they are using is a British airline. Nielsen commented “since the UK has previously acknowledged European air passenger rights laws like EC 261 – and then incorporated them into the UK Withdrawal Act of 2018 – passengers’ rights will remain protected.”

At the moment, Americans are not required to hold a visa when visiting Britain and this is expected to remain the same. However passports will need to be valid for the entirety of the trip. If they are traveling into the Schengen area – the area comprising of the 26 European countries that allow travelers to cross their borders – the passport will need to be valid for six months after their trip has ended.

A new security system to screen visa-free travelers will be in place from January 2021. Although not related to Brexit all Americans, Britons and travelers from other countries will have to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System. The authorization is relatively easy to do online and only costs a small fee.

Convenience Store

America Has A New Favorite Style of Restaurant, And You May Be Surprised

When planning where to go for dinner many of us would think of a nice restaurant or maybe a takeaway restaurant but there is another option that is becoming more popular with Americans.

Thanks to the variety of meal kits, keto snacks, salads and coffees offered by many gas stations and convenience stores, it appears that our favourite restaurants are now Kwik Trip, Wawa and Sheetz.

The improvement in these areas has seen an unexpected rise for sales at convenience stores, especially when we are currently in a situation where many stores have to close due to shoppers opting to buy their products online. And with many Americans working late or inconvenient shifts, it is easier for them to eat on the go, especially when filling the car.

Nielsen’s senior vice president of retail services Jeff Williams said, “it has absolutely been a hidden gem. They are demanding that consumers view them as a destination for food.”

With the way Americans eat continuing to change – many prefer to snack rather than have a sit-down meal – convenience stores have had to adjust their businesses in an attempt to cash in. And it seems to have worked.

Many chains have started employing restaurant executives, prepare the food on site and have increased the choice of food on offer. Customers are no longer prepared to visit a fast food restaurant or spend time searching for food at the grocery store according to analysts. With time an issue – especially for millennials – many prefer to head to the convenience store where the average visit is under four minutes.

Embed from Getty Images

Leadership development specialist for Kwik Trip, Carl Rick, agrees. “People simply don’t have the time to sit down a whole meal at night like they used to. The more places where people can duck in, be out in three minutes with milk, eggs, maybe a sandwich, something to drink – those places are doing very well.”

The growth of the convenience store has grown over the last twenty years with The National Association of Convenience Stores confirming there were now 28% more stores in America. Sales have also improved with an increase of 30% over the last ten years.

The convenience store first came into existence in Dallas when the Southland Ice Company opened their first store. Now known as 7-Eleven, they noticed a gap in the market for customers wanting to buy staple supplies when the conventional grocery stores were closed in the evenings and on Sundays.

By 1965 there were around 5,000 convenience stores across the country and today we now have nearly 153,000, which is more than America’s dollar stores, drug stores and grocery stores combined.

And with 93% of Americans able to access a convenience store within 10 minutes of their home and nearly 80% of those have a gas station attached it is easy to see why sales have grown.

In the past, convenience stores used a business model popularly known as “Cokes, smokes and gas” which saw many of them profiting from the sales of soft drinks, tobacco and fuel. However, today’s Americans are healthier which has forced the industry to take a different approach in order to stay in business.

Embed from Getty Images

The sales of food steadily increased, becoming the biggest seller between 2009 and 2018, and with 2010 seeing the spending on food outside of the home higher than food inside the home, it was clear a shift had started. Something Kwik Trip’s Rick agrees with.

“Fewer people are making those big grocery trips and more and more people are buying individual meals. We’re looking to capitalize on that.”

A 2017 USDA study also discovered that millennials “exhibit a higher preference for convenience” who tend to eat out more often than the previous generation.

Sheetz’s chief operating officer Travis Sheetz confirmed that they are moving their sales goals, stating their “bullseye is kind of that younger age group – the late teens to the early thirties for food and beverage…..They tend to be much more accepting of eating at a gas station”.

Sheetz have admitted that McDonald’s is their biggest competitor and have been offering more choice in their food, including their breakfasts that you can buy at night, something McDonald’s has only recently started to offer.

However other areas of retail have noticed this trend and have started to introduce “copycat” convenience store type deals with many restaurants improving their snack and breakfast offerings. The move could have a drastic effect on the convenience store with Steve Holtz of CSP Magazine worried that “other retail channels also are trying to steal our thunder.”

Some stores are even creating smaller versions – such as Dollar General (DG) who have opened DGX, while Kroger (KR) has joined forces with Walgreens (WBA) to install Kroger Express sections in some of the locations.

A recent research report from real estate firm CBRE confirmed it is believed that “major grocery players will employ more small-format, convenience-oriented concepts.”