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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disneyland Sign

Disney’s US Parks To Remove Mask Mandates For Vaccinated Individuals 

Starting this Tuesday, June 15th, both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, are lifting their mask mandates for fully individuals who decide to visit their parks from this point forward. Disney also revealed that they won’t even be asking for proof of vaccination. 

Disneyland’s site posted this week that “while guests will not be required to show proof of vaccination, vaccinated guests with self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.”

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“In addition, all guests will need to attest that they are aware of the state of California’s strong recommendation that guests be fully vaccinated or receive a negative covid-19 test prior to entering the theme parks.” 

The Disneyland page also reads: “Guests (ages 2 and up) who are not fully vaccinated must continue wearing face coverings indoors, except when dining.” 

Disney World, on the other hand, told their guests this week: “While we will not require proof of vaccination, we expect guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, and upon entering and throughout all attractions and transportation. Guests must observe current policies on face coverings until June 15.”

Both parks add that Disney “encourages[s] people to get vaccinated. Physical distancing will also be relaxed or self-determined at both parks, and temperature checks will no longer take place at Disneyland where out-of-state guests will officially be allowed back as well. One thing that’s not changing is the reservations—guests still can’t just show up to the parks unannounced, they must have previous reservations to get in,” according to reports from Gizmodo Magazine. 

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June 15th is the official date that the state of California decided on for removing all restrictions put in place over the past year in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Disney parks themselves have been reopened within the past few months as vaccination efforts have increased in the US as well. 

Germain Lussier is an entertainment writer who recently visited Disneyland this weekend to get one last look at the park before the mask mandates are fully lifted. 

“Having personally been to Disneyland this past weekend, while masks seemed to be monitored well, distancing was only partially enforced, simply because there aren’t enough Disney employees to check every place in the park. Also, no one checked to make sure I was a California resident. So half of this was already self-determined by the guests anyway which is probably not the safest way to operate.”

It’s important to remember that even if you’re vaccinated, you can still carry and spread Covid-19, you’re just much less likely to get sick yourself. So continue to take all the precautions you find necessary in the coming months as the world begins to reopen and we all navigate the rest of this year. 

LGBTQ Flags

HRC Study Reveals LGBT+ People Are Disproportionately Facing Employment Challenges During Pandemic 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently collaborated with PSB Insights on a study that revealed that LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately facing employment challenges as the economy begins to reopen in the US. These challenges are nothing new for the community, however, the pandemic is adding a whole other layer of increased risk. 

LGBTQ+ individuals have already been dealing with an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 due to a systemic lack of access to sufficient medical care. Additionally, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be working in industries heavily affected by the virus, and are more likely to experience homelessness. 

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As a majority of states in the US begin to reopen, citizens in general are noticing a massive increase in pay cuts, and a decrease in available working hours/jobs available. For the LGBTQ+ community, these obstacles are even more prominent, as they existed long before the pandemic began as well. HRC President Alphonso David recently released a statement on this study and its staggering results. 

“As some communities start to go back to work, many times in fear and without choice, we’re seeing that LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, are being left behind.” 

According to the report, LGBTQ+ individuals have been 20% more likely to experience a cut in their work hours, LGBTQ+ people of color have experienced a 44% increase in the likelihood that their hours would get cut, and transgender individuals specifically have experienced a 125% increase. 

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LGBTQ+ people have also been 30% more likely than the general population to lose their jobs; the reported stated that bisexual people have been discriminated against the most in terms of job losses during the pandemic. Bisexual people have been 80% more likely to lose their jobs, and LGBTQ+ people of color are 70% more likely to become unemployed. All of this data was specifically taken from when states began reopening to ensure the numbers were exclusive to the pandemic and its economic impact. 

LGBTQ+ individuals were 50% more likely to receive a pay cut since the economies general reopening, and LGBTQ+ people of color have been 150% more likely to receive a pay cut. A majority of LGBTQ+ people who have the ability to go back to work are going back with the understanding that they would be receiving a cut in their salary; and for many, this is their only option of potential income. 

“We must make sure that elected officials at all levels are ensuring that LGBTQ people, especially the members of the community who are living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, receive the support they need.”

When states began reopening the study also found that 69% of the general population and 80% of the LGBTQ+ population believe prioritizing containing the virus is more important than reopening the economy. For more information on HRC’s study, click here.

Back to School Materials

How Different Countries Are Handling Reopening Schools In The Middle Of A Pandemic 

As schools all over the world gear up to reopen in the fall, many countries are still trying to figure out how to properly implement health and safety procedures while giving kids a sense of normalcy. The whole concept of reopening schools has been controversial to say the least, as many parents are concerned that kids aren’t going to be closely monitored enough, which will likely lead to massive spikes in case numbers.

Many countries around the world have already begun their 2020-21 school year with new safety measures put into place to help avoid a resurgence in cases, here’s what some are doing: 

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In France, there’s recently been a massive resurgence in case numbers already, so when it came to reopening schools the government knew it would have to issue out a heavily detailed list of procedures to be put into place. These procedures include requiring all children in secondary schools to wear face coverings at all times when in school and on the playground. Originally France has a class size restriction for the year, however, they now claim that there are no limits and social distancing in the classroom is advised, but not mandated. 

Poland plans to begin reopening their schools next week after being shut down since March. Late last week, however, the country saw a record high number of single-day new infections. When it comes to school policies, the government seems to be relatively relaxed about what they will be requiring of students. Mask wearing is not being mandated by government officials, but instead will be up to individual principals to decide. 

Belgium currently has one of the world’s highest death rates from Covid-19, and as a result they’ve looked into the best ways to run their schools this fall. Schools will begin reopening on September 1st, and all children aged 12 and up will be required to wear masks; teachers and other staff members will also be required to do so. 

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Germany had many schools in Berlin reopen two weeks ago, which has already led to several dozen of them closing down due to new spikes in infections. Officials have claimed that the transmission of Covid-19 is believed to have occurred outside of the school setting, however, that doesn’t make it any less risky to remain open. The cases so far are more so isolated incidents, but bigger outbreaks are still a major concern. German schools in general are run at a regional level, so it’s up to each individual district to require facial coverings and social distancing procedures. 

In South Korea they struggled to reopen their schools while maintaining proper health measures, so they’ve delayed reopening multiple times. They have begun phasing in different age groups back into the schools, however, a recent resurgence in cases have caused them to shut down indefinitely. 

Denmark surprisingly reopened their schools back in April by separating younger children into “micro-groups” of 12 or less. School starting times have been staggered for different groups, and desks are being kept 6 feet away from each other. In May, kids aged between 12-16 were able to return to school as well, as the country has maintained a relatively low number of cases and new infections. 

Israel is another country that’s been able to manage it’s initial outbreak of the coronavirus. They did such a successful job that they were able to reopen schools in May, sending back kids with limited classes and in small groups, similar to Denmark. Within the past couple of months, the country lifted class size restrictions and informed all students that they could return back to school. However, this led to a resurgence of the virus, and many students have been forced back into virtual learning and a life of quarantine.

Kids in School with Face Mask

New Jersey Will Require Students To Wear Masks In School, New Guidelines State

New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, announced Monday that the state is still planning to reopen all of its schools come the fall. In-person classes will resume, and all students will be required to wear masks in school buildings at all times. 

The announcement came along with a new set of reopening guidelines that states all students are “required to wear face coverings at all times while inside a school building regardless of social distancing.” The only exception would be for students with any kind of medical conditions that would potentially prevent them from wearing a mask, however, those are more so going to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  

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Previously the guidelines stated that students would only be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks and they would only be required to do so in crowded hallways and any other spots on the campus where it’s difficult to avoid crowds. All teachers, staff and visitors of the school will also be required to wear a mask at all times. 

“We know that face coverings work and we will now ensure that everyone in a school building will wear one.”

Governor Murphy continued on to discuss how the updates are safer than the previous recommendations, however, he didn’t discuss ways in which these policies would be enforced to ensure everyone is following the rules. The changes did state that students and teachers would be able to take “face covering breaks” throughout the day in specified areas of campus where social distancing can be maintained; mainly outside or in large classrooms with open windows. 

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All school bus riders and drivers will also be required to wear a mask. The Department of Education in Jersey also claims that they understand “enforcing the use of face coverings may be impractical for young children or individuals with disabilities,” which has raised a lot of red flags for parents and teachers as well. Many believe that if we aren’t able to enforce these policies that are meant to protect all students/staff health and safety, then why are we reopening the schools at all?

School leaders and advocates in Jersey specifically criticized the 104-page set of guidelines for the lack of clarity but abundance of “emphasis on safety,” without any means of execution. The guidelines also were unclear as to who would be paying for facial coverings and other technologies to be implemented into the schools; hand sanitizer/hand washing stations, temperature checks, etc. The updates do, however, state that families will be responsible for supplying the kids masks, but the districts “should strive to provide” additional PPE. 

New Jersey reported 264 new cases of the coronavirus this past Monday, bringing the state total to 182,614, and according to healthcare workers in the state, the virus is now spreading faster than its being contained. The state’s largest teachers union responded to these statistics by calling upon the government to go remote-only in the fall, however, Murphy and his administration are adamant about opening the schools. 

Murphy claims that the state’s Department of Education will be sharing a Frequently Asked Questions document shortly, as well as a checklist of items that state and county offices of education will be using to guarantee their specific districts are adhering to the new set of guidelines.

Bill Gates And Panel Of Over 150 Medical Experts Calls On US To Shut Down Amid Pandemic Concerns

The US has now hit 4 million positive cases of Covid-19, prompting medical experts to call on the government to shut down again. There have been 4,038,748 positive cases of the coronavirus in the US since March with 144,304 deaths; and those numbers are consistently increasing.

Disneyland Sign

Disneyland Will Delay Reopening Amid Rising Covid-19 Numbers

Disneyland is among the many parks and establishments throughout the US that are shutting down again after making plans to reopen by the end of July. Initially Disneyland was projecting to reopen on July 17th, now, California, Florida, and countless other states are seeing major spikes in new Covid-19 cases which is prompting many state governments to reinstate lockdown procedures. 

In a statement posted to Disneyland’s social media platforms, the company announced that the state of California won’t issue any theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4th, however, their priorities lie more in getting the case numbers down before they think about opening up amusement parks or any other major businesses for that matter. 

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 “Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials.”

Disney continued to claim that they would be working with California officials closely in the coming weeks so that they can issue more concrete plans for a potential reopening this summer. Walt Disney World in Florida is still projecting to reopen by the end of July despite Florida being one of the many states with record-breaking single-day case numbers. Florida is especially under close observation, as the state is projected to be the next epicenter for the virus’ second-wave; much like New York City was during the initial wave of infections. 

The Downtown Disney District is still planning on reopening on July 9th, according to the statement. The reopening of this district follows the same guidelines as all other restaurants and retail openings in the state of California. For Disney World in Florida, the company is planning to reopen the first of several major theme park attractions on July 11th, however, they will need to continue to be in contact with Florida’s state government everyday in regards to new case numbers. 

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Both parks have lost millions of dollars in revenue since initially closing back in March, however, as a multi-billion dollar corporation, this hasn’t made a major economic impact for Disney. When the parks reopen, whenever that may be, visitors will also have to be prepared to abide by very strict health and safety/social distancing procedures while in the park. These measures will include wearing a mask at all times, remaining six feet apart from everyone by following markers on the ground, and character meet and greets will likely not be happening. Visitors will also be required to get their temperature checked prior to entering. 

Some attractions and events will remain shut down indefinitely until this pandemic comes to a more concrete close. Most parades and playgrounds will likely remain shutdown for the time being, and visitors will not be able to travel among multiple parks per day. 

Despite all of these health and safety measures, thousands of American citizens have signed a petition urging Disney to remain fully closed until “COVID-19 cases are no longer rising and no longer posing risk of spreading this disease to our working cast/team members, their families, and our theme park guests.” 

Florida is one of the most infected states in America currently with over 103,000 cases total. Union leaders representing around 17,000 Disneyland employees have also written a letter to the Governor arguing that it is unsafe and irresponsible to reopen the park, and more than 40,000 individuals signed a petition that came from them as well which called the companies plan to reopen “greedy.”

Another major point of contention has been the argument that even if Disney does fully reopen with every single health and safety procedure imaginable, are families really going to be willing to spend the money on a Disney ticket if they have to wear a mask and likely wait even longer for the limited rides that are available? Only time will tell if Disney will even be able to follow through with any of these plans, as we know, this virus is unpredictable, so anything can happen between now and July.

Traveling

These International Borders Are Planning To Reopen This Month

The Covid-19 pandemic is still very much a public health crisis, so many individuals are likely not going to be travelling anytime soon. However, many international borders have begun to/are projecting to reopen this month based on how badly they’re country is infected. Here’s an update on some of the international borders that are planning to potentially reopen this month:

The Canada and US border was projecting to reopen on June 21st, however, they’re now extending that date to go into July. Prior to this extension airlines in both the US and Canada began booking select routes to and from both countries. While non-essential travel is still banned between the US and Canada, essential trade is permissible between both countries. Canadians are also allowed to fly into the US but US citizens cannot fly into Canada. 

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The US and Mexico border is gearing up to reopen on June 22nd. Unessential travel has previously been banned, and Canada’s decision to extend their border closure may influence Mexico’s decision on whether or not to extend the date, however, for now they’re still projecting to open on the 22nd. An increase in Covid-19 cases in Arizona and Texas has also worried Mexican government officials. While Mexico isn’t planning on enforcing visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, individuals should expect a personal interview and temperature checks. 

Travelling to the Caribbean is going to be dependent on what specific island you would go to. Each island has different opening dates based on how badly they’ve been impacted by Covid-19, however, a majority of the islands have managed to keep case numbers relatively low. 

The entire continent of South America is still under some of the strictest lockdown conditions in the world. Brazil lifted their internal travel ban in May, however, air travel into Brazil won’t be allowed until June 21st, and potentially later depending on if they extend the date or not. It’s important to note that even if the projected date for reopening is tomorrow, it’ll still be subject to change based on how many new cases continue to appear. Brazil alone has the second-highest recorded coronavirus death count, so the government in Latin America is projecting they won’t be able to fully reopen until September the earliest. 

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The United Kingdom was one of the last nations to ban international air travel in and out of the country when the pandemic began. Starting June 8th the UK began requiring that all visitors must self-quarantine for 14-days and provide housing/contact details to local authorities so they can ensure you’re abiding by the lockdown requirements. If one fails any of the requirements they could be subject to a fine of up to $1200. 

Travel between Europe and the US will likely not begin for a long time. Countries within Europe are gradually reopening the same way that states within America are also loosening their health and safety restrictions. However, as we’ve seen in America this premature reopening has led to a huge spike in cases in over 19 states. Some European nations, such as Germany and Ireland, are projecting to open by July, and Greece has already reopened to international travelers; however visitors are required to quarantine for 14 days and wear a mask in public. 

Australia and New Zealand are planning on waiving travel restrictions between each other, but not internationally. Australia will likely allow international visitors first, but require a 14-day quarantine like most places. 

In general, essential workers, trade, and business events would be the only reason one could travel internationally this summer. Every date is subject to change, and many have multiple times, so for now, if you want to be able to travel to any of these places without any Covid-19 fears we must continue to listen to our healthcare providers and protect ourselves and our loved ones. 

Carribbean

Caribbean Islands Prepare To Reopen For International Travel During Covid-19 Pandemic

I think it’s safe to say we all could use a major break from the world right now, and what better place to take that break than the Caribbean Islands? While Covid-19 is still very much an issue in America, and the entire world, right now, some countries are beginning to reopen their doors as a result of curve flattening. Specifically, many islands within the Caribbean are reopening within the next few months, with some new social distancing measures put into play. 

So far, the island of Anguilla has only had three cases of Covid-19 reported. The British overseas territory closed their airports and shipping ports until at least June 30th; hence the low case numbers. For local islanders, business and other restrictions began lifting on April 30th, allowing gatherings of 25 or less. 

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Antigua and Barbuda opened up their borders on June 1st after only suffering through 26 cases. They have a plan in place to slowly reopen their international airport within the next month or so. Visitors will be required to wear a mask at all times when in public. Visitors will also have to be tested for Covid-19 two days before their arrival, and they must bring proof of a negative result. 

Aruba has just over 100 cases but expects to reopen its borders during the second-half of June. On May 25th the island allowed outdoor restaurants to open up under a strict night curfew. The island has also implemented a new cleaning and hygiene certification program for all tourism-related businesses. This program includes initiatives to sanitize luggage, as well as using protective barriers at concierge desks. 

The Bahamas have had around the same number of cases as Aruba, and they plan to reopen to commercial travel on July 1st. Visitors will only be able to visit islands where the virus has been completely contained. All international airports, resorts, and hotels will remain closed to international travelers until further notice. 

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Not all islands are as optimistic about when they’ll be able to reopen, however. The Cayman Islands have had 150 cases of coronavirus and are planning on remaining closed for all non-essential travel into September. Cuba has had around 3,000 cases and is leaving its airports closed until at least June 30th. The Dominican Republic has collectively had over 17,000 cases and are remaining closed indefinitely. 

Jamaica has had around 600 cases and allowed most of its citizens to return to work on June 1st. Bars and restaurants have also reopened with new capacity restrictions, and they’re hoping to open up their airport to resume flights from Baltimore and Orlando on June 7th. 

Puerto Rico has had more than 3,900 cases but have begun reopening local businesses and public areas like the beach. Restaurants have also been opened, again with new capacity restrictions, and as of right now anyone who visits the island is required to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of how healthy they feel. 

Saint Lucia got lucky and only reported 18 total cases of Covid-19. They begun welcoming back visitors to their island this Thursday, June 4th, as long as they can provide a valid negative test result for the coronavirus taken 48 hours before their flight. They also will be required to wear masks and could be subject to temperature checks upon arrival. 

For further information covering all of the islands in the Caribbean, click here.

Disney Parks

Disney World And Other Major Theme Parks Set Official Reopening Dates

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting the United States in March, all major theme parks have been indefinitely closed. Now, Disney, Universal, and other major theme parks around the country are gearing up to reopen as early as June. In Florida specifically, Disney recently presented a business plan to local government officials that would allow the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom to open on July 11th, and have Hollywood Studios and Epcot open on July 15th. 

The parks won’t be returning to normalcy, however, in fact they have a list of new health and safety measures to ensure that everyone remains as safe as possible while in the park. Things like character meet and greets, parades, and any other event that would attract a large crowd to gather in one area of the park will continue to remain cancelled. 

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Individuals who want to go to the parks also must reserve tickets for when they plan on making their trip, as park capacity will also be limited to ensure physical social distancing practices can still occur. Wearing masks and temperature checks will also be required for park entry. These policies have already been implemented in other locations like Disney Springs, which is a shopping and dining center near the park that began a loose reopening last week. 

“As we all must work together to promote the health and safety of everyone, cast members as well as guests 3 years of age and older will be required to wear appropriate face coverings in theme parks and common areas of resort hotels. All guests will also undergo temperature screenings prior to entering a theme park; cast members will also have temperature checks. Cashless transactions are recommended, and cleaning and disinfection procedures will be increased in high-traffic areas,” Disney Parks’s Thomas Smith wrote Wednesday on the official Disney Parks Blog

Disney’s plans haven’t been fully approved by local and state governments yet, although it’s expected that no one will have an issue with these new measures. There’s no solid opening date for Disneyland in Southern California, however, other major theme park names have also announced they’ll be reopening in the coming months under new Covid-19 safety guidelines. 

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Universal Studio Hollywood has had a “closed at least though May 31st” banner on their website since they initially closed down back in March. Now, the Orlando parks, which includes Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, announced their aiming to reopen on June 5th. Like Disney World, guests will have to abide by new guidelines that include wearing a mask, and temperature checks upon arrival. Everyone will also be asked to follow floor markings as they travel throughout the park to keep everyone six feet apart. 

Legoland also announced this week that they’re aiming to reopen their San Diego location on July 1st. 

“The plan is based on guidance from the CDC and gives details on personal protective equipment, social distancing measures, cleaning and sanitation protocols, work and sick policies, employee screenings, COVID training and customer communication including signage and website messaging. The safety and health of our employees and guests is the top priority for all San Diego attractions and we can’t wait to be back open,” a Legoland representative told a local San Diego paper.

The Florida Legoland resort is planning on reopening their waterpark attractions on June 1st, and will only require guests to wear masks. It will be interesting to see how many individuals actually take the time to go through all of these new measures in the coming months, however, like with every aspect of this pandemic only time will tell how things will change.