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U.S. Opens Mexican, Canadian Land Borders To Fully Vaccinated People

After over a year and five months of heavily restricted travel, the United States will begin easing bans by allowing fully vaccinated, nonessential travelers to cross into the country over the Mexican and Canadian land borders.

Details of the new policy were previewed to a number of reporters by senior administration officials, who chose to remain anonymous. The officials gave comments on the opening, saying that the vaccination requirements will ensure safety during travels.

“This is an important step that will further enhance the safety of international travel and the safety of Americans at home. These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Officials explained that the easing of nonessential traveling across borders will begin in early November, although a date was not specified. Unvaccinated persons can only enter if they have essential purposes.

The second phase of the rules will begin in early January 2022, which will see all travelers, whether essential or nonessential, require vaccinations in order to enter the country.

According to officials, the period between November and January should “provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers and others to get vaccinated, enabling a smooth transition to this new system.”

While the current travel restrictions end on Oct. 21 as USA Today points out, there will be a new restriction placed leading up until the day in November that phase one begins.

While it isn’t know what vaccines will be permitted at the border crossings, USA Today gave a list of vaccines that are either U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO) approved, which include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, and Sinopharm.

These new travel rules also only apply to legal travelers. Illegal travelers who attempt to enter into the country will still be in violation of Title 42, which allows the U.S. to expel immigrants without allowing them a chance for asylum.

While the Trump Administration came under scrutiny for their use of Title 42, the Biden Administration has also enforced the law as recently as late September when thousands of Haitians congregated at the Texas border.

Officials explained that travelers via vehicle, rail, and boat will be asked by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their vaccination status, along with other typically needed admission documents. Officials also stated that COVID-19 testing will not be required for vehicle, sea, or rail assuming the passengers have their vaccination.

The timing of these new protocols were likely influenced by the surrounding countries’ vaccine statuses. One official explained that both Mexico and Canada have high vaccination rates, as well as vaccine availability. Additionally, the official discussed about having both air and land travel approaches be “consistent.”

Right now, 38% of the total population in Mexico is vaccinated, while 52% have had at least one dose. Meanwhile, 72% of Canada’s population have reached full vaccination, while 77% have received at least one dose.

As CNN notes, the U.S. had been extending the restrictions on Canadian and Mexican border travel on a monthly basis since the pandemic accelerated back in March of 2020. Canada had previously announced that vaccinated U.S. citizens would be able to enter the country in early August. However, the U.S. remained noncommittal about border restrictions at that time.

Ironically, despite the United States’ reservations regarding opening Canadian borders to nonessentials, America currently has a lower overall fully vaccinated rate (57%).

Travelers from Mexico and Canada won’t be the only foreigners impacted by new protocols. Yahoo! Finance reported that starting in November, all international travelers must be fully vaccinated and provide a negative COVID-19 test three days before a U.S.-bound flight. Additionally, unvaccinated Americans flying abroad will face stricter requirements.

Football Player

Despite COVID And Vaccine Controversies, NFL Ratings Are Better Than Ever

Everything seemed to be pointing the wrong way for the NFL’s ratings heading into 2021. The previous year saw record-lows, and the league has been right in the middle of COVID-19 vaccine feuds. However, they’re managed to overcome the predictions and have soared to rating highs.

According To Pearson/NORC Poll, Most Americans Think Misinformation Is A Problem

According to the results of a poll released by the Pearson Institution and Associated Press-NORC, 95% of Americans believe that misinformation regarding current events and issues to is a problem, with 81% saying it’s a major problem.

Additionally, 91% say that social media companies are responsible for the spread of misinformation, with 93% saying the same of social media users. More Americans said that they blame social media users, social media companies, and U.S. politicians for misinformation spreading more than the U.S. Government or other foreign governments. However, older adults are more likely to blame foreign countries than younger adults.

41% are worried they have been exposed to misinformation, but just 20% are worried they have spread it themselves. The poll, which involved 1,071 adults, found that younger adults are more likely to worry about possibly having spread misinformation more than older adults.

Lastly, most Americans felt that social media companies and users, the U.S. government, and U.S. politicians all share responsibility for dealing with the spread of misinformation.

The results of this poll shouldn’t be too surprising, as the threat and spreading of misinformation has grown exponentially during the rise of social media in the past decade.

In addition, major events have been at the center point of misinformation, such as elections, natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have had their opinions on the virus and vaccines effected due to the fake news that is swirling around them, which shows us that something as simple as a lie or exaggeration in an article can have massive, negative impacts.

Social media platforms have made attempts in the past to combat misinformation. Back in 2017, Facebook discussed some of the steps it was taking to limit this matter, such as updating fake account detection, identifying fake news while fact-checking organizations, and making it harder for parties guilty of misinformation spreading to buy ads. Facebook also assured users of easier reporting of fake news and improved news feed rankings.

Those improvements clearly haven’t done much, if anything at all. In 2020, Forbes reported on a study that found that Facebook was the leading social media site to refer to fake news over 15% of the time, while referring to hard news just 6%. It wasn’t a close margin between social media sites, either. Google came in with 3.3% untrustworthy versus 6.2% hard news, while Twitter had 1% untrustworthy versus 1.5% hard news.

Speaking to 60 Minutes, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen explained how the tech giant prioritized what content users would see on their news feeds, which helped led to the spread of misinformation that targeted fierce reactions.

“And one of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is it is — optimizing for content that gets engagement, or reaction. But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions.”

If you are worried about biting the bait on or spreading around misinformation, there are plenty of ways to train yourself to have a more keen eye. According to The Verge, looking at factors such as survey and infographic sources, quotes, names and keywords, and the time-sensitivity of an article can all help you in concluding whether or not there may be misinformation afoot.

You should also take the time to consider other details, such as who is providing the information and how the story is being presented by different media sources. The Verge also urges for readers to think about their own feelings— are you getting strong emotions from reading the article? Do you want to instantly share it? If articles are feeding into reactions more than emphasizing actual facts or information, then that could be a red flag.

Hundreds Of Vaccinated Healthcare Workers In Indonesia Get Covid-19 

More than 350 doctors and medical workers have tested positive for Covid-19 despite being vaccinated with Sinovac. Officials made the announcement this week following a growing amount of concerns being raised about the efficacy of some vaccines against the more infectious coronavirus variants. 

Most of the workers who tested positive were asymptomatic and simply had to self-isolate at home. Badai Ismoyo, the head of health offices in the district of Kudus, claimed that dozens of workers have also been hospitalized with high fevers and falling oxygen-saturation levels. 

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Kudos district alone has about 5,000 healthcare workers, and are battling this major outbreak that they believe is being driven by the Delta Covid-19 variant. This variant is much more transmissible than the traditional Covid-19 virus that we’ve been battling for the past year. Additionally, the spreading of this variant has caused Kudos’ bed occupancy rates to reach 90%. 

Healthcare workers were obviously among some of the first to receive their vaccinations as they began being distributed. According to the Indonesian Medical Association, almost all healthcare workers received their vaccines from Chinese company Sinovac. 

“The data shows they have the Delta variant in Kudus, so it is no surprise that the breakthrough infection is higher than before, because, as we know, the majority of healthcare workers in Indonesia got Sinovac, and we still don’t know yet how effective it is in the real world against the Delta variant,” said Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Australia’s Griffith University.

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The World Health Organization approved of the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use this month, claiming the trial data results showed it prevented symptomatic Covid-19 in 51% of all recipients. Indonesia has endured some of the toughest Covid outbreaks in all of Asia, with over 1.9 million cases and 53,000 deaths. 

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, said there had been “no deaths in Kudus since a new outbreak began in the past several weeks among medical workers and those who contracted Covid-19 have had mild symptoms.”

“It is alarming for us because we cannot rely on vaccinations only. I know of at least half a dozen doctors hospitalized with Covid-19 in the past month despite being vaccinated, with one now being treated in an ICU,” said radiologist Dr Prijo Sidipratomo.

Daily new cases in Indonesia have been reaching 10,000 as of this week, with an overall positivity rate exceeding 23% for the country. 

The WHO has recommended that Indonesia tighten their lockdown restrictions and increase certain protocols until infection rates decrease drastically and more of the average population receives their vaccinations.

CDC To Hold Emergency Meeting Over Rare Heart Inflammation Side Effect In Covid Vaccines 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that they will be holding an emergency meeting on June 18th to discuss reports of heart inflammation following doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. While the CDC claims that these reports have been rare, they’re still higher than initially expected, hence the meeting. 

The CDC has identified 226 cases that could meet the agency’s definition of myocarditis and pericarditis following the injections. A majority of those who experienced inflammation have recovered while 41 experienced ongoing symptoms, 15 are still currently hospitalized, and 3 are in the intensive care unit.

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“It’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison because, again, these are preliminary reports. Not all these will turn out to be true myocarditis or pericarditis reports.”

Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, a CDC vaccine safety official, stated that so far their findings were mostly “consistent with reports of rare cases of heart inflammation that had been studied in Israel and reported from the US Department of Defense earlier this year.” 

A panel of independent advisers for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA0 will be meeting this upcoming Thursday to review the new details regarding myocarditis and pericarditis. The meeting will also serve to discuss how the FDA should approach giving an emergency use authorization for using these vaccines in younger children; the next phase of reaching herd immunity in America. 

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Pfizer already received an emergency use authorization for their vaccine in Americans 12 and up last month, and announced that they were already going through trials to make sure it’s safe for children as young as 6 months old. Moderna is also in the process of seeking a EUA for their vaccine in adolescents. 

Pfizer believes they can finish their children’s trials by the beginning of September, while FDA officials have warned that authorizing vaccines for younger age groups, especially babies and toddlers, could take longer due to how much their bodies are still developing. The FDA believes children will likely be able to receive their vaccines by mid to late fall at the earliest. 

“We recognize that some adverse reactions, for example myocarditis or pericarditis as discussed earlier today, may be too infrequent to detect in a safety database of typical size for pre-licensure clinical trials,” said Dr. Doran Fink, a top official in the FDA’s vaccine office.

“Risk-benefit considerations to determine whether to issue an emergency use authorization for use of a COVID-19 vaccine into healthy pediatric individuals will need to account for this information, and risk-benefit consideration will likely be different, not only compared to those for adults, but also they may be different for younger versus older pediatric groups,” Dr. Marion Gruber, director of the FDA’s vaccine office, said at the meeting.

Red Coronavirus Virus

India Reports More Than 343,000 Covid-19 Cases In A Single Day 

India’s total number of Covid-19 cases has surpassed 24 million this week as the country continues to fight off a devastating second wave of infections that has overwhelmed and overrun its healthcare system. 

Government data shows that there were 343,144 new cases reported over a 24-hour period this week, where at least 4,000 people died. This marks the third consecutive day where the death toll surpassed 4,000. 

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India’s record was 414,188 new cases on May 7th, and so far has been able to stay under that, however, they’ve been surpassing 300,000 cases almost every day. Reports currently suggest that the virus is making its way through rural areas of India where experts believe the healthcare system is under equipped to handle such a surge. 

“According to our model, the number of new cases coming every day has already crossed the peak and we are on the way down. India’s number of active cases is also very close to the peak and it could happen in the next few days, after which things are likely to improve,” said Manindra Agrawal, a professor in the computer science and engineering department.

Agrawal co-authored a mathematical model for pandemics called SUTRA (Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (positive), and Removed Approach) to predict the spread of the coronavirus. “Previously, the model predicted India’s second wave would peak by the third week of April and that daily cases would likely stay around 100,000. April was India’s worst month so far with nearly 7 million cases officially reported, while more than 48,000 people died, but the tally is probably much larger.”

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According to the World Health Organization, “several mutant variants, including the B.1.617, which was first detected in India, could partially be responsible for the surge. Mass gatherings and reduced adherence to public health and social measures likely contributed to the acceleration in cases also.”

Agrawal told CNBC that the SUTRA model “had predicted the second wave would have a similar intensity as the first wave and would peak towards the end of April. This is the feedback we gave to the government. While we got the location or the timing more or less right, of the peak, but we didn’t get the intensity right. Nobody could really gauge the intensity of the wave and that took us all by surprise.”

Indian officials are already gearing up for a third wave of infections as the government attempts to step up its massive inoculation program that is meant to increase the production of vaccines.

The White House

President Biden Eyeing Gene Sperling To Be Covid Rescue Plan Leader

President Joe Biden is likely to choose Gene Sperling to oversee the implementation of the administration’s Covid-19 relief plan. Two sources working closely within the White House claim that the president will likely make the announcement this week. 

Sperling has served under former president’s Barack Obama and Bill Clinton’s economic teams and was initially under consideration to be Biden’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. Instead of that position Sperling is now the top choice to help the White House oversee the enactment of the $1.9 trillion relief bill recently passed by the government. 

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Sperling has a ton of experience with US economic policy issues, including working as the head of the National Economic Council under Clinton and Obama as well. He also was the top adviser of the Treasury Department under the Obama administration. 

Sperling has advocated for expanding how much the US has spent on the pandemic in its initial months, as well as assisted in helping the economy rebuild the tens of millions of jobs that were lost since the start of the pandemic. He even publicly claimed that he believed the stimulus payments weren’t “too large” after responding to an op-ed question by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

He also has deep connections across Capitol Hill that would work to his advantage as a leader of the Covid-19 relief plan. However, there’s also a major pushback on choosing Sperling for the role due to the fact that many government members think Shalanda Young will be Biden’s final pick. Young is currently Biden’s nominee to be deputy budget director and is also a congressional budget aide. According to sources she has received the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, the top three Democratic leaders of the House, members of the Hispanic Caucus, and some Republicans. 

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Young is a Black woman, and many House members indicated it wouldn’t look good for the administration to pass over Young to give the position to a white man. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Senate Budget Committee both advanced the nomination for Young to take the position which will send her nomination to the floor for a final vote. 

Representative Emanuel Cleaver recently claimed that Biden would “certainly not make a mistake in naming Young because she is brilliant.” Another House Democrat anonymously told the press that “if the White House didn’t choose Young, it would be an affront to the Congressional Black Caucus and to leadership in the House.” 

Many Democratic members view Young to be the inevitable choice and claimed that “nominating her to the role would represent a commitment by the White House to Black Caucus members, who have repeatedly made clear that Black voters were instrumental in Biden’t victory.” 

“When I think of opportunities to make sure that we’re talking about diversity here is another one of those chances — Shalanda would be the first woman of color to serve in that position. So it’s a chance to again break another ceiling. And I think that when you have chances of breaking ceilings, you do it,” said Representative Gregory Meeks.