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Dr. Fauci Says Early Reports On Omicron Covid-19 Variant Are Encouraging 

US health officials stated this Sunday that while the omicron variant is rapidly spreading throughout the world and country, early reports suggest it may be less dangerous than the delta variant, which is continuing to impact hospitalization rates across America. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told the media that scientists do need more information before drawing any concrete conclusions about omicron and its severity. 

South Africa, where the variant initially emerged, reported that it is becoming the dominant strain for its citizens, but also suggested that their hospitalization rates haven’t increased exponentially like they did with delta initially. 

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“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to omicron, but we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”

Fauci also explained how the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions between the US and noncitizens from several African countries. Initially, the US imposed heavy restrictions once the omicron variant first appeared. 

“Hopefully we’ll be able to lift that travel ban in a quite reasonable period of time. We all feel very badly about the hardship that has been put on not only in South Africa but the other African countries,” Fauci said.

According to reports the omicron variant has been detected in about a third of the US state’s as of this past Sunday. The Northeast, South, Great Plains, and West Coast have all reported omicron cases with Wisconsin, Missouri and Louisiana being the most recent states to confirm cases. 

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Delta continues to remain the dominant variant in the US, as it’s currently driving a surge of hospitalizations in the North, and makes up about 99% of the confirmed Covid cases. The National Guard has been sent out to help overwhelmed hospitals throughout the Northeast, and many hospitals are rescheduling non-urgent surgeries to cope with the increase in Covid patients. 

A majority of these cases are among unvaccinated individuals as well, so US officials are working hard to continue to urge people to get vaccinated, receive their booster shots, and take all the necessary precautions when out in public. 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told the media this week that even if the omicron variant continues to be less dangerous than the delta variant, it’s existence alone is still a major issue. 

“Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of those individuals will need hospitalizations. They will need to go into ICU and some people will die. … We don’t want to see that happen on top of an already difficult situation with delta circulating globally.”

We are now about two years into the pandemic, and during that time about 780,000 Americans have died, and deaths remain at a rate of 860 per day, proving we still have a long way to go before we can consider this pandemic even close to being beaten. With more than 86,000 infections being reported per day, experts are encouraging all Americans to remain safe during the upcoming holiday season, and keep all travel to a minimum. 

Covid-19 Deaths Surpass 5 Million Globally As Pandemic Progresses 

More than 5 million people have now died from Covid-19 during the two year span of this pandemic. The world is continuing to battle this virus, its highly infectious strains, and any new mutations that may appear. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 5,000,425 Covid-19 related deaths around the world. 745,836 of those deaths were in the United States, making it the country with the highest Covid death rate. 

Despite the rise in deaths and infections, particularly among the unvaccinated, many countries are lifting pandemic restrictions and ending lockdowns. The rapid development of Covid vaccinations helped aid these reopenings, as they are clinically proven to reduce severe infection, hospitalization, and death from Covid-19.  

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Unvaccinated individuals are at a much larger risk of contracting the virus and being hospitalized for it. Now that we’re approaching the winter season, healthcare experts are worried for those at more of a risk of infection. 

During the week of Oct. 18-24, “the number of weekly Covid cases and deaths had increased slightly from the previous week, with over 2.9 million new cases and more than 49,000 new deaths, a 4% and 5% increase, respectively,” according to the World Health Organization.

Europe accounted for more than half (57%) of global new weekly cases and was the only region to report a higher number of cases when compared to the week before. 

According to reports, “the highest numbers of new cases were reported in the U.S. (with 512,956 new cases, although this represented a 12% decrease from the previous week), the U.K. (which reported 330,465 new cases; a 16% increase) and Russia, which reported 248,956 new cases; a 15% increase from the previous week.”

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The alpha and delta variants have dominated the globe especially among unvaccinated citizens. The delta-plus variant is also being reported in the US, UK, and Australia. The new mutation of the delta variant is currently being examined to see if it could make Covid-19 even more infectious. 

The World Health Organization announced last week that they would be closely tracking the delta subvariant, which has appeared in 42 countries now. 

“An increase in AY.4.2 sequence submissions has been observed since July. The majority of cases stemming from the AY.4.2 variant have been detected in the U.K., and these are rising in frequency,” the organization said in a report last week. 

“A gradual increase in the proportional contribution of AY.4.2 has been observed [in the U.K.]; accounting for an estimated 5.9% of overall Delta cases reported in the week beginning 3 October 2021. Epidemiological and laboratory studies are ongoing to assess if AY.4.2 makes the virus more transmissible or makes antibodies against the virus less effective.”

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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.

Australia And New Zealand Rethinking ‘Covid Zero Strategy’ Amid Spreading Of Delta Variant 

Australia and New Zealand are rethinking their current Covid-19 strategies due to a surge in new cases caused by the spreading of the Delta variant. Initially both countries had strategies implemented that would bring the total number of cases down to zero before any type of social gatherings would be allowed, however, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently claimed that he believes it’s unlikely his country will ever return to zero cases. 

“Australia’s focus needs to shift to hospitalization rates rather than case numbers. The highly infectious nature of delta raised some pretty big questions about New Zealand’s approach of eliminating the disease,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

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In the beginning of the pandemic both Australia and New Zealand were advocates for the Covid Zero strategy. This meant that both nations closed their borders and implemented local guidelines to focus more on slowing down community-level transmission without having to worry about international visitors. 

This strategy was extremely successful, and prevented massive waves of new infections and deaths, like we saw here in the US. However, the spreading of the new delta variant has challenged this strategy greatly. In fact, Australia recently reported its highest number of daily infections for a second day straight. New Zealand is currently under the strictest lockdown measure that they’ve been in since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“With a virus that can be infectious within 24 hours of someone getting it, that does change the game a bit. With our Level Four lockdown, we are very well placed to be able to run it to ground, but we have to be prepared for the fact that we can’t do that every time there is one of these.”

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Hipkins explained that the Covid Zero strategy had worked wonderfully pre-delta, but now it’s looking like a less adequate way to combat the new variant. The spreading of this variant also has to do with the vaccination rates in both nations. 

In both New Zealand and Australia less than 30% of the population is fully vaccinated. Australia’s Morrison claims vaccination rates need to reach 70-80% of the eligible population before restrictions are lifted again. 

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Morrison said rising cases “need not impact our plan to reopen, and reopen as soon as we can.”

“So while right now our national strategy is necessarily about suppressing the virus and vaccinating as many people as possible, a one-eyed focus on just case numbers overlooks the fact that less people are getting seriously ill, let alone dying.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently laid out a plan that would ease lockdown restrictions as the government speeds up its vaccination rollout. Their goal is to reopen their borders by 2022.

Paralympics Bar All Fans From Attendance Due To Covid-19 Concerns

Just as all fans were recently banned from the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, organizers for the Paralympics this year announced that all spectators will be barred from the event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the Olympics some fans were able to spectate from outlying areas away from Tokyo, however, for the Paralympics organizers are planning on barring all fans with the exception of some children for a couple of events. Organizers are also telling the public not to come out to view any road events. 

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International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa all met last week to finalize these decisions before announcing it to the public. 

The Paralympics begin on August 24th with about 4,400 athletes projected to participate. The Olympics this year had around 11,000 athletes, so the smaller scale should hopefully make it easier for organizers to manage health and safety procedures. 

The announcement also comes as Japan, and Tokyo specifically, sees a rise in Covid-19 case numbers. Parsons spoke at a news conference where he proclaimed that there was no room for complacency in the wake of the Olympics. 

“In light of the current case numbers in Tokyo and wider Japan, everyone attending these games must be vigilant.” 

New Covid-19 infections tripled in Tokyo throughout the 17-day period that the Olympics were occuring, however, local health expert’s haven’t directly linked the rise in cases to the Games themselves. Experts instead believe that the Olympic games caused a lot of the public to get distracted and put them into a false sense of security. 

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas will be extended until September 12th; the current state of emergency has been in place since July 12th and was initially meant to end later this month. 

“The surge in infections is reaching alarming record highs,” Suga said.

This past Friday Tokyo logged around 5,800 new cases, and on Sunday it logged about 4,300 more. This rise in infections has put an extreme strain on Japan’s healthcare system and its workers.

Dr. Haruo Ozaki, president of the Tokyo Medical Association, said in an interview that “a significant number of people are still unvaccinated, and characterized the virus situation for the Paralympics as worse than it was during the Olympics.”

About 37% of the Japanese population is thought to be fully vaccinated at this point. Ozaki said the decision to not have fans at the Paralympics was a “minimum necessity, holding the event in general is a political decision, but the judgement by the medical side is that it will be difficult. 

“The Olympics is a festival and might have affected the people in ways to loosen up and served as an indirect cause of rising cases.”

Demand For Air Travel Dropping Exponentially As Delta Variant Continues To Spread 

The demand for air travel has begun to plummet as the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus continues to spread rapidly. According to reports from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), cancellations have been on the rise this month alongside less passenger loads and lower air fares. 

TSA reported that 1.7 million people were screened nationwide this Tuesday, the lowest number of air travelers in nearly two months. Southwest Airlines also claimed to see an uptick in cancellations according to their recent financial filings. 

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Southwest is predicting that the surge in cancellations will continue into September should the US not get the virus and its variants more under control. Many major US airlines were looking forward to the coming months due to an overall decrease in cases and spreading of the virus, but the delta variant has them all taking on a new attitude. 

Travel booking site Hopper claimed that the domestic demand for travel hasn’t been this low since after the fourth of July. 

“What we saw was that mid-July was one of our best booking weeks ever, so the domestic bookings were really strong in mid July, but on the domestic front we have seen bookings be pretty flat since then,” Hopper economist Adit Damodarn said.

Damodarn explained how international bookings have been hit even harder due to the increase in spreading and lack of proper vaccine rollout in many international countries. 

“I think there’s a lot going on here that’s making people think twice about traveling. One of the big concerns for people going internationally is the chances of even if you’re vaccinated or getting an infection seem to be going up.”

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“It may not be severe, but it does mean that you might not be able to come back into the U.S. for some time just because of the testing requirement. So with that I think you’re scaring some people off. And then, of course, we have the just general concern about getting sick, going to places where there is more virus,” Founder of crankyflier.com Brett Snyder said. 

Hopper also noted that more fliers have been purchasing “cancel-for-any-reason” flight insurance since the variant began spreading more rapidly in July. 

“The rate in which people are purchasing flight insurance is up about 33% when compared to last month. So I think what we’re seeing here is a little bit of hesitancy.”

Average air booking prices are currently down $76 on average as well. 

“We’re seeing a significant drop in domestic and international airfare. It’s a little bit more than the seasonality that we have seen in prior years, and so that would suggest to us that there’s both the seasonal variation coming off the peak summer travel season, as well as the impact of the delta variant,” Damodarn said.

Manila Residents Overcrowd Vaccination Centers Ahead Of Two-Week Lockdown 

Residents in the Philippine capital of Manila are rushing to get their Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the weekend, as the nation announced they would be going under another two-week lockdown starting Friday evening. 

Manila is home to about 13 million residents. The nearby province Laguna, as well as the cities of Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro will also be placed under lockdown. The lockdown measures in general are predicted to cost the economy $4 billion.

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Residents will not be able to leave their homes except for essential shopping. Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in the Philippines since July. A majority of the spreading is due to the highly infectious Delta variant that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned is just as contagious as chickenpox. 

The Delta variant in general has already caused a slew of severe outbreaks across Southeast Asia, especially in countries with poor vaccination rates. So far, about 10% of the Philippines 108 million population is vaccinated. 

Mixed messaging from authorities has now led to crowds rushing vaccination sites this week to get their inoculations before lockdown. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that during the lockdown if an unvaccinated person leaves their home they will be escorted back by the police, but then clarified the next day that this would likely not be enforced. 

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However, that initial threat of police interaction caused many to want to get their vaccines to avoid police interaction when they might just be going to the store for their family. 

Back in June, Duterte threatened jail to individuals who refused to get vaccinated, so it makes sense that residents would want to rush to vaccine centers this week. 

The Department of Health urged the public not to believe in “fake news. Vaccinations will continue even under the hard lockdown in Metro Manila.”

The Philippines reported 8,127 new infections and 196 new deaths this Thursday, bringing the nation’s total to more than 1.6 million infections and 28,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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.”

Former Surgeon General Says Unvaccinated Americans Are Causing Pandemic To ‘Spiral Out Of Control’ 

Former surgeon general Vice Admiral Dr. Jerome Adams recently spoke to the media about how unvaccinated Americans are causing the coronavirus pandemic to “spiral out of control.”

In an interview with CBS, Adams urged all unvaccinated Americans to go get their inoculations as the highly contagious Delta variant is a growing problem in the nation.

“There’s also real harm to you because, guess what? More mitigation is coming, whether it’s masking or whether it’s closures or whether it’s your kids having to return to virtual learning, that is coming.”

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Adams then explained how more legal mitigation would be “coming because this pandemic is spiraling out of control yet again, and it’s spiraling out of control because we don’t have enough people vaccinated. So get vaccinated because it helps your neighbors, but get vaccinated because it’s going to help every single American enjoy the freedoms that we want to return to.”

All 50 states have seen a ride in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and the Delta variant is responsible for around 83% of those new cases. The variant has also proven to be a significant rest among the unvaccinated; currently unvaccinated individuals account for nearly all Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already updated their national guidance and has recommended that all Americans should continue to wear their masks when in public. 

“If you’re out in public, if you’re around people who you don’t know whether they’re vaccinated or not, and especially if you’re in a community where prevalence is going up … it is probably going to be safest for you to mask it whether or not you’re vaccinated or not.”

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“Your public health officials who don’t have a good way of knowing, or your businesses who don’t have a good way of knowing who’s vaccinated or not, they’re going to find that they have no other choice but to call on more people to mask it. And the CDC needs to give those businesses, those health officials, a little bit of cover by clarifying the guidance that they have out there,” Adams explained. 

According to the CDC just under 50% of Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 57.3% of every American over the age of 12 has received their shots. 

Adams said there are many people “who have legitimate questions and who have legitimate barriers that have kept them from getting their vaccines, but also said the lack of full approval of the vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration is also a hurdle.”

“We still have no clear timetable on when we can expect FDA licensure of these vaccines for adults. And a lot of people say that that is still causing their hesitancy, number one,” he said. 

“But number two, I can tell you the quickest way to get people vaccinated is through mandates. And we can’t have mask mandates. We won’t — you’re hearing this from the military and from other businesses until you have full licensure of these vaccines. So if you want to get a bunch of people vaccinated, really quickly, get the vaccines licensed and then you’ll see the military make it mandatory. You’ll see businesses make it mandatory.”

US Will Not Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Amid Spreading Of Delta-Variant

The United States has no plans to lift any of the existing travel restrictions put in place to protect from the spreading of Covid-19 and its much more contagious Delta variant. 

White House Officials told the media this week that this means the long-running travel restrictions that have barred a lot of the world’s populations from coming into the US will not be lifted anytime soon. 

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“Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point. Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here, particularly among unvaccinated citizens.”

US airlines and the tourism industry in general has been hoping that this summer could help rebuild what was lost last year when everyone was forced to stay home. Airlines have been lobbying with the White House for the past few months in order to find new and safe ways to get Americans to travel more this summer. 

Currently the US bars any non-US citizen from coming into the country if they have been to the United Kingdom, 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran or Brazil within the past 14 days. 

Last week, the US Homeland Security Department claimed that US land borders with Canada and Mexico will also remain closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21st. Canada has said that it would begin allowing fully vaccinated Americans into the country after August 9th. 

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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday the “seven-day average of new cases in the United States was up 53% over the previous week. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now comprises more than 80% of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries.”

“The administration understands the importance of international travel and is united in wanting to reopen international travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday said international travel is “something we would all like to see — not just for tourism, but for families to be reunited. However, we rely on public health and medical advice on when we’re going to determine changes to be made.”

The Biden Administration has been in talks with US airlines in recent weeks about how to establish an international contact tracing program for passengers before they lift any restrictions. As of right now the CDC has imposed a mandatory Covid-19 testing rule for nearly all international air travelers.