UNITED STATES NEWS

With virus surge, US to keep travel restrictions for now

Jul 26, 2021, 6:00 PM | Updated: Jul 27, 2021, 6:33 pm
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washin...

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, July 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States served notice Monday that it will keep existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant.

It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the U.S. and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.

It was also a reversal from the sentiment President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now.

“Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

The rising cases also are causing the administration to take a closer look at policies on wearing masks.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first first major federal agency to require its health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. And over the weekend, U.S. health officials acknowledged they’re considering changing the federal government’s recommendations on wearing masks.

The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world. Last week, U.S. health officials said the variant accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, and noted a 32% increase in COVID hospitalizations from the previous week.

The rise in cases has prompted some state and local officials to reinstate masking guidance, even for vaccinated Americans.

The White House follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance released in May, which states those who are vaccinated don’t have to wear masks indoors. They’ve thus far made no changes to Biden’s public events, and the president is still traveling the country and participating in events unmasked.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” this Sunday that recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, describing himself as “very frustrated.”

The surge in the delta variant poses a major political challenge for Biden, who called it a “great day” for Americans when the CDC released its relaxed masking guidance in May and on July 4 declared that “the virus is on the run and America is coming back.” He’s spent the past few months shifting his focus from dire warnings to Americans to get vaccinated to public events pitching his infrastructure, education and jobs proposals, which are currently in the middle of fevered negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The administration has touted strong economic growth as fears about the pandemic waned, states relaxed their coronavirus restrictions and their economies opened back up. But the surging delta variant risks undermining that economic progress and drawing Biden’s attention away from his domestic agenda and Democratic Party priorities like gun, voting and policing reforms, back to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

It could also highlight one of the administration’s greatest struggles thus far: The sluggish vaccination rate nationwide. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received one vaccination shot, according to the CDC — still slightly below the 70% goal Biden had set for July 4. Sixty percent of American adults have been fully vaccinated.

When asked Monday if he had confidence he could get unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, Biden said, “we have to,” but ignored a follow-up question on how. And prior to the VA’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki skirted questions from reporters on why the administration hadn’t yet issued its own vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, deferring to the CDC for guidance and hospitals and healthcare associations on the ultimate decision.

Psaki acknowledged that the administration runs the risk of undermining its vaccination goals by further politicizing an already fraught issue if the president becomes the face of vaccine mandates.

“The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice to every community about the benefits of getting vaccinated, which is why we have invested as much as we have in local voices and empowering local trusted voices,” she said.

Still, it’s clear the administration is taking steps to address the continued impact of the pandemic.

Biden announced Monday that those Americans dealing with so-called “long COVID” — sometimes debilitating side effects caused by the illness that last for months after the initial infection — would have access to disability protections under federal law.

“These conditions can sometimes, sometimes, rise to the level of a disability,” he said, adding they’d have accommodations in schools and workplaces “so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need.”

And the CDC advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday given a surge in cases there.

Most of continental Europe has relaxed restrictions on Americans who are fully vaccinated, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantines for most visitors arriving from the U.S. Airlines say, however, that the lack of two-way travel is limiting the number of flights they can offer and seats they can sell.

But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially the delta mutation, has caused the Biden administration to tread slowly about increasing transatlantic travel.

___

This story was first published on July 26, 2021. It was updated on July 27, 2021 to correct that CDC guidance said those vaccinated don’t have to wear masks indoors, not those unvaccinated.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

Washington State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jake Dickert, center, stands on the fi...
Associated Press

No jab, no job: Ex-coach Rolovich gets pink-slipped at WSU

You’re never going to convince guys like ex-Washington State coach Nick Rolovich to get the shot. It’s a waste of breath. The best scientists and all the evidence in the world couldn’t. Losing a $3 million-a-year job didn’t. Even public pleas from the likes of Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Georgia’s Kirby Smart […]
2 hours ago
Associated Press

Lapchick family felt backlash due to Knicks coach’s views

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Richard E. Lapchick shares some of the backlash his family felt that was directed at his father, former Knicks coach Joe Lapchick, for signing the first Black player to an NBA contract in 1950. The experience led him to his work today; Richard directs the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at […]
1 day ago
A woman walks past a bank's electronic board showing Hong Kong's Hang Seng share index in Hong Kong...
Associated Press

Asian stocks higher as investors watch corporate earnings

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets followed Wall Street higher as investors waited for U.S. corporate results Tuesday to see how companies are coping with supply disruptions and the past quarter’s surge in coronavirus infections. Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney advanced. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.3%, propelled by tech and consumer […]
1 day ago
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Washin...
Associated Press

Biden’s dilemma: Satisfying Manchin risks losing other Dems

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s Washington’s enduring question: What does Joe Manchin want? But increasingly the answer is crystal clear. The conservative West Virginia Democrat wants to dismantle President Joe Biden’s proposed climate change strategies and social services expansion in ways that are simply unacceptable for most in his party. So the question becomes less about […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2021, file photo, Rep. Bennie Thompson D-Miss., chairman of the House Sele...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: How lawmakers are investigating the Jan. 6 riot

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee tasked with investigating the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has been ramping up its efforts in recent weeks, issuing subpoenas to nearly 20 individuals, including four of former President Donald Trump’s advisers and associates. Lawmakers on the committee have made clear that they want to move […]
1 day ago
Ahmaud Arbery's father Marcus Arbery, left, heads into the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga...
Associated Press

Jury selection moving slow in Ahmaud Arbery slaying trial

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Attorneys planned to resume questioning potential jurors Tuesday in the trial of three white men charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery following a slow start and some admonishment from the judge to speed things along. The fatal shooting of Arbery on a residential street outside the port city of Brunswick […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
...
PNC Bank

3 cool tips to turn everyday moments into learning experiences for your child

Early brain development has a crucial impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. Research has shown that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age five.
...
Chris Kennedy

My Special Aflac Duck® taking flight in Arizona

For more than 65 years, Aflac has had the extraordinary opportunity and privilege to help provide peace of mind to individuals who have our supplemental insurance policies.
With virus surge, US to keep travel restrictions for now