Posts tagged with "Delta variant"

illustration by Mina Tocalini for use by 360 Magazine

DELTA VARIANT PUTS NORMAL BACK-TO-SCHOOL SEASON AT RISK

By: Clara Guthrie

There was a period in the late spring and early summer of this past year in which it seemed America’s COVID-19 struggles were nearing some long-awaited conclusion: the last few moments of breathlessness before a collective sigh of relief. At that time, students and their parents looked forward to a seemingly normal back-to-school season. Yet, the recent rise in the Delta variant has introduced a new wave of doubt.

On August 8 alone, The New York Times reported 36,068 new Covid-19 cases and a seven-day average of 110,360 total cases in the United States. Covid-related deaths are also on the rise, with a seven-day average of 516 deaths. This figure has risen from a weekly average of 188 deaths only one month prior, on July 6. Experts attribute these rising numbers to the highly contagious Delta variant overlaid with low vaccination rates in certain areas across the country. When asked about these trends in mid-July, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said, “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.”

Unfortunately, as the Delta variant continues to run rampant throughout unvaccinated communities, people who are fully vaccinated are also being infected. Although, it is far rarer. These “break-through” cases speak mainly to the wild infectiousness of the Delta variant, coupled with the facts that no vaccine is 100% effective and that our knowledge of how long immunity lasts after vaccination is still quite murky. According to CNBC, however, “break-through” cases still represent fewer than 0.08% of those who have been fully vaccinated in the United States since the start of the year.

With that being said, the Delta variant is impacting the hopes of a normal back-to-school season in two distinct ways. The first, perhaps more obvious way, is that parents and teachers are fearing for students’ health. This fear suggests a potential return to online learning and more strict social distancing and mask mandates enforced within schools.

It is important to note that COVID-19 poses a far lesser threat to young children than to adults; the risk of becoming severely ill from the virus increases for those over the age of 50 and only grows with age. According to the CDC, the risk of serious illness or complications from COVID-19 for children is actually lower than that from the flu. However, children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for any form of vaccination. This restriction is raising concerns about how susceptible younger age groups are to becoming sick, even if that sickness does not lead to any serious complications.

Thus, many parents and school districts are pursuing a range COVID-19 precautions to ensure the safety of students. Time Magazine shared a story last week of a school board in Des Moines, Iowa that has already decided to offer a virtual learning option for elementary school students. The ability to transition to in-person learning is available whenever the family feels comfortable enough to do so. This move was, in part, forced by the recent ruling of eight states, including Iowa, to ban schools from being able to require masks – despite the CDC’s recommendation that all students should wear masks inside schools, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated. “Had we been able to follow the CDC recommendations that everyone in school is masked, regardless of their vaccine status—if we were able to mandate that, then I think we’d be having a different conversation here,” Phil Roeder, a spokesperson for Des Moines’ Polk County public schools, said.

Other counties are having similar struggles, even without the imposition from state governments to ban mask mandates within schools. For example, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in May that all online learning would be eliminated come fall, a decision that he has not yet reversed. But many parents are now petitioning for online options for their children as safety concerns continue to rise. One parent, Farah Despeignes, who is the president of the Bronx Parent Leaders Advocacy Group and has two middle-school-aged sons, said, “When you think about the conditions of the schools with old buildings, with not enough ventilation, that are co-located, that are overcrowded—for us, in the Bronx, in underserved communities, it’s not as simple as, ‘Well, let’s just get back to school.’”

In California, options for students are equally limited. According to The Los Angeles Times, the state has done away with “hybrid learning, ”a combination of in-person and online learning. As a result of such, Los Angeles County parents had until August 6 to choose between either solely in-person or online learning for their children. The latter option is expected to take the form of an independent study, rather than the supportive online learning of last school year. On August 6th, L.A. Unified School District reported that only 10,280 of their almost 665,000 students opted for the online option.

The second prominent way in which the Delta variant is affecting back-to-school season is through the shopping behavior of students and their families. Back when the hopes of a normal school year were still high, The National Retail Federation predicted that consumers with children K-12 would spend a record-breaking 37.1 billion dollars this year. Furthermore, it was predicted that back-to-college spending would reach 71 billion dollars. These predictions were due to the excitement associated with a long-awaited return to the classroom after over a year away, when items like lunchboxes and backpacks seemed superfluous.

However, according to a recent poll by First Insight, many consumers are feeling anxious about returning to stores, trying on clothing in dressing rooms and making big purchases due to the risk of the Delta variant. In fact, 56% of respondents said they are actively cutting back their spending at retailers. The CEO of Bath Bed & Beyond, Mark Tritton, told CNBC that their stores have observed people delaying their back-to-school investments, and that peak spending may extend further into September than usual.

As many students return to their classrooms and the Food and Drug Administration continues to work on improving vaccines for individuals under the age of 12, it will become more and more clear how great of a mark Covid-19 has left on the American schooling system and the children within it.

illustration by Alex Bogdan for use by 360 Magazine

LOLLAPALOOZA × DELTA VARIANT

By: Clara Guthrie

Public health experts are warning that the crowded Lollapalooza music festival in downtown Chicago this past weekend may lead to a dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases, especially given the increasing risk of the Delta variant. Festival organizers estimate 100,000 people attended the event each of the four days, and neither social distancing nor mask wearing (for vaccinated attendees) was enforced.

Despite concerns from medical professionals and a steady rise in Delta variant cases leading up the festival, both the Chicago Department of Public Health and Lollapalooza’s health experts approved the production of the festival as planned ahead of time.

Although operating at full capacity, the festival did have certain security measures in place in order to protect its guests; to enter, people had to show either their Covid-19 vaccination card or proof of a negative Covid-19 test from the preceding 72 hours. According to the festival’s website, they also required those who are unvaccinated to wear a mask.

In a statement released Monday by festival organizers, it was revealed that 91% of the attendees showed proof of vaccination, and 8% showed negative Covid-19 tests. The last 1% were denied entry due to a lack of proper documentation.

These statistics are complicated, however, by a claim from a Chicago Tribune photo intern, Vashon Jordan Jr., that fake vaccination cards were being used at the event. On August 1st, he tweeted, “Fake Covid-19 vaccination cards are 100% a thing at Lollapalooza in Chicago. You can get it with a single-day wristband for $50. I have confirmed that it does work.” In a separate tweet he clarified, “And by ‘fake’ I mean it doesn’t belong to the holder.” Jordan Jr. also recorded maskless concert goers dancing in large crowds and boarding public transportation—where masks are explicitly required—after the day’s events.

According to Dr. Tina Tan, a professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine who specializes in infectious diseases, the precautions taken by Lollapalooza were simply insufficient given the prevalence of the Delta variant. Tan said that a safer event would have maintained smaller crowds, enforced social distancing and masks, and only allowed vaccinated individuals to attend. “When you have 100,000 or more people who are in a fairly enclosed space and there’s no social distancing, the vast majority are not wearing masks, you are going to get some transmission of the Covid-19 Delta variant,” she said.

As of August 2nd, Chicago was reporting an average of 206 new cases each day, and many of those who are being hospitalized for Covid-19 are not vaccinated. These data reflect a recent and definite uptick in cases as the Delta variant poses a serious threat across the globe. Given the roughly two to 14 day incubation period for Covid-19, it is currently unclear just how Lollapalooza will affect these numbers in Chicago and its surrounding areas. According to Dr. Robert Citronberg, an infectious disease physician with Advocate Aurora Health, “The next couple of days you could potentially see cases. I think by next weekend we’re probably going to be having a good idea about how much transmission occurred because of Lollapalooza.”

What experts already know with certainty is that any transmission from Lollapalooza will not only affect Chicago and its suburbs but also the areas that people return home to after the festival, seeing as thousands of people travelled to Chicago just for the weekend. “The real problem is not so much that a bunch of young people who come into Chicago getting COVID at this event. The real problem is them taking it back to places that have very low vaccination rates,” Dr. Emily Landon, executive director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said.

According to the New York Times, roughly 70% of American adults have received at least one shot: a goal that President Biden set for the country to hit by July 4th but that took almost an extra month to achieve. And many individual states are struggling to vaccinate their population and thus are grappling with new Covid-19 cases and Covid-related hospitalizations. Alabama and Mississippi have the lowest vaccination rates in the country, at 43.2% and 44% respectively. Illinois falls somewhere in the middle with 59% of its adults being fully vaccinated.

Lollapalooza’s controversy did not stop at Covid-19 concerns. On Sunday, the final day of performances, rapper DaBaby was pulled from his headlining spot after festival organizer caught wind of his previous homophobic comments. While performing at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami on July 25, DaBaby made discriminatory and incorrect comments about gay men and HIV, which he later defended in a series of 19 videos on his Instagram stories. “What I do at a live show is for the audience at the live show,” he said. “It’ll never translate correctly to somebody looking at a little five, six-second clip from their goddamn crib on their phone. […] Me and all my fans at the show, the gay ones and the straight ones, we turned the fuck up.”

Lollapalooza officials tweeted to announce DaBaby’s removal, saying, “Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.” Fellow rappers Young Thug and G Herbo took his place. On Monday, DaBaby took to Instagram to apologize “for my misinformed comments about HIV/AIDS and I know education on this is important.”

Looking beyond the festival’s drama, Rolling Stone took a moment to celebrate the most positive and powerful moments from Lollapalooza, saying, “it was full of life-affirming musical moments.”

Breaking News illustration by Samantha Miduri for use by 360 magazine

This Week’s Top News Stories

  1. LA Country Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate

LA County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis announced Wednesday, that beginning Saturday night masks must be worn inside. Following rising numbers of COVID cases and COVID deaths, LA county decided to reinstate the mask mandate that was recently lifted. This new ordinance is not in compliance with the existing California mask mandate and the mask mandates of many cities in the county, but is in the best interest of all Angelenos.

The previous mask mandate which had been in place for months was recently lifted and many people are not happy about the regression we are making. Many other cities and states are also reinstating their previously abandoned mask mandate while cases rise across the US. With so many still unvaccinated it seems impossible to think we will not be wearing masks anytime soon.

Read more on The LA Times.

  1. Federal Judge Rules Against DACA

A federal judge in Texas ruled today that all new DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applicants will not be accepted. Judge Andrew Hanen only banned new applicants and stated current DACA recipients were safe, although it opens a scary door of these people’s legality in this country. Hanen did state that with hundreds of thousands of participants receiving relief though DACA, you could not stop it immediately but going forward the Obama Era program would not continue to assist immigrants in relief.

Hanen argued that Congress did not give Homeland Security the authority to create DACA and makes it almost impossible for the removal of individuals. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what happens to all DACA members, many of whom have grown up safely and made lives for themselves, and what will be created instead, if anything, to grant relief for those who need it.

Read more on CNN.

  1. COVID Affects Olympic Rosters

With COVID cases and cases involving the more deadly DELTA variant rising at alarming rates many Olympic rosters are in jeopardy. High profile cases are emerging and many athletes are unable to participate due to their positive test results or positive test results of fellow teammates. We even see rosters being impacted by athletes who are choosing not to participate in this year’s Olympics due to COVID. While teams are designed to perform no matter what and most great teams do not rely on one player, it can be hard when an integral member of your team is unable to step on the pitch, court, track, etc.

We may see an upset in many games or brackets this year as teams who are normally very strong perform worse without key members of their squad, and other teams perform better when faced with less tough competition. We may even see a withdrawal of teams or a cancellation of the Olympics as a whole as we profess into the summer and the games begin.

Read more on WAMU.

  1. Florida Company Suspected in Haitian President Assassination

The President of Haiti was assassinated in his home last week and as the investigation developed it has been discovered a Florida company may be involved. CTU Security is a small security company located in the Miami suburb of Doral offering security to high level personnel, self- defense classes, and the selling of security equipment. It was uncovered that the founder of CTU Security, Antonio Intriago supposedly paid Colombian nationals to assassinate the Haitian President. Former members of CTU were surprised to hear of the company’s involvement in an international assassination plot as the company is relatively small and focuses mostly on teaching self defense and selling equipment, less on actually providing protection services. The company was having some serious financial issues but more is still being uncovered as to what CTU was doing orchestrating an assassination, Intriago has remained silent on this issue.

Read more on NPR.

  1. Texas Democrats Walk Out

Earlier this week Texas Democrats got on a plane headed for D.C. in hopes of stopping the GOP from passing voter restriction laws. Democrats left with the intention of breaking a quorum, the minimum number of people needed to vote. Knowing they would most likely lose and the ability to register to vote and vote within 24 hours, drive through voting and other voting laws would be taken away from Texas residents, Texas Democrats left Austin and are hoping they can generate awareness, national attention, and push forward a pair of federal voting bills.

The members who left, left behind family, friends, sick loved ones, one even her wedding in order to help their constituents. It was not an easy decision to make and not one made lightly, while GOP members are hoping to easily draw democrats back to Austin and start conducting business as usual, Democrats hope their efforts were not made in vain. This is just another example of the way the political divide in deepening in our country. The coming weeks will show how easily Democrats can be swayed to return and how this issue will be fixed in Texas.

Read more on The Texas Tribune.

image for use by 360 Magazine

SAFELYTHRIVE × CITYZENITH — POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO DELTA VARIANT

As the world reels from the threat of COVID-19’s new and highly contagious Delta variant, two US companies say their new alliance offers real hope of safe co-existence with the virus and potential future infectious diseases.

SafelyThrive offers an all-in-one health and safety infrastructure solution for businesses and schools during the ‘COVID era.’ As the pandemic evolves, SafelyThrive identifies capabilities that reduce the ‘time to action,’ getting information to leaders in a format that makes it easier to react with appropriate risk mitigation strategies.

Cityzenith, the global leader in Digital Twin visualization technology, digitally replicates a building or community and enables real-time visualization of risks as well as recovery paths. The companies have partnered to introduce Cityzenith’s SmartWorldOS™ into the existing SafelyThrive health and safety response service platform.

Together, they offer public and private sector entities increased confidence in the identification and mitigation of not just COVID risks, but a broader set of risks to businesses, communities and governance presented as a single integrated solution.

“Our company name says everything about our customer objectives in education, government, entertainment and travel,” said SafelyThrive CEO Kevin Murdock.

“Enterprise customers thrive when they restore service and revenue faster. Their employees thrive as they return to their offices and restore income in a lower risk environment.

“Community members, students and clients thrive with increased interaction, recreation and education. The Cityzenith technology speeds decisions that help communities thrive sooner.

“The emergence, and now global acceleration of the Delta variant confirms the ongoing COVID threat and continuously changing face of the disease. Further, reports indicate reduced vaccine efficacy over time and evolution in COVID may drive the need for boosters and frequent vaccine formulation changes to dampen its ongoing effects.

“The Digital Twin partnership between SafelyThrive and Cityzenith enhances our offering for the near-term COVID threat and provides a proactive health-safety critical infrastructure response that can support a broader set of threats by expanding all-in-one screening, testing and tracking with faster and more informed response.”

Jeff Hrush, Vice President of Sales at SafelyThrive, also commented: “The SmartWorldOS™ Digital Twin platform enhances SafelyThrive offerings beyond pandemic response. Cityzenith’s rich user interface preserves the value of the risk management investment. Visualization of viral positivity, strain identification, on-site proximity monitoring and protective best practices expands into disaster recover, mass casualty and workplace violence risk reduction.”

Cityzenith CEO Michael Jansen responded: “We are proud to be part of such an important public health initiative as SafelyThrive. SmartWorldOS™ enhances SafelyThrive’s managed service platform using detailed community and event data to optimize health, safety, security and environment. The trust we established with global real estate, energy and infrastructure leaders will accelerate our combined efforts to improve health and safety.”

Unvaccinated Americans at Risk of New Variant for use by 360 Magazine

UNVACCINATED AMERICANS AT RISK OF NEW VARIANT

By: Clara Guthrie

In December of 2020, the beginning of the end of the pandemic was set into motion as the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States to frontline workers. Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse from the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, was the very first individual to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The momentous occasion was filmed and live streamed on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Twitter feed. At the time, Lindsay proudly stated, “I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We’re in a pandemic and so we all need to do our part.”

Yet, in the six months following Lindsay’s statement of comfort and inspiration, it can be argued that the totality of the American people has not, in fact, done their part. According to data collected by the CDC, 45.1% of the total US population have been fully vaccinated, a number that only increases across age demographics: 77.2% of the population that is 65 years and older have been vaccinated. Additionally, 53.3% of the total population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. However, the rate of vaccination wildly varies when broken down state by state. According to CNN, states like Vermont and Connecticut have vaccination rates that exceed 80%. Meanwhile, other states—a majority of which are in the South—have vaccination rates below 35%.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, Mississippi currently has the lowest vaccination rate in the country with only 28.86% of their population being fully vaccinated. The CDC reports that fewer than one million residents have received both doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, making them fully vaccinated. For reference, their total population is approximately three million people, based on data from the United States Census Bureau in 2019. Following Mississippi for the lowest vaccination rates are Alabama and Arkansas, with 31.86% and 33.3% of their respective populations being fully vaccinated. (As an interesting side note, these three states were also among the first to lift their mask mandates; Mississippi on March 2, Alabama on April 9 and Arkansas on March 30.)

These stark discrepancies in vaccination rates pose legitimate and pressing problems for states and counties that are struggling to vaccinate their citizens. Most concerning in these areas is the increased spread of more contagious strains of COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant. As the World Health Organization explains, the more a virus spreads, “the more opportunities it has to undergo changes.” These changes can directly alter both spreadability and severity of the virus. Earlier this year, the UK variant (or the Alpha variant) gained international attention because it was more transmissible than earlier COVID-19 strains. The Delta variant—which experts are now predicting will become the dominant strain in the United States—is even easier to spread between individuals. Moreover, the Delta variant is more unpredictable in how it affects individuals, in comparison to other strains. Steve Edwards, the CEO of CoxHealth, spoke on the variant and said, “We can’t tell why one patient is doing poorly and one is doing well. There’s just something different about how this variant is affecting the immune system of our patients.”

Due to this new Delta strain, doctors are doubling down on their insistence that citizens must get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said, “After two doses—reminding you, get your second dose—after two doses, you are protected from that Delta variant.” Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases and vaccines, added, “Unless we vaccinate a significant percentage of the population before winter hits, you’re going to see more spread and the creation of more variants, which will only make this task [of ending the pandemic] more difficult.” These claims are backed by a recent study conducted by Public Health England that found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization caused by the Delta variant after two doses.

Therefore, in states like Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, there have been significant upsurges in cases of this new Delta variant, according to the aforementioned CNN article. Like what the country experienced when COVID-19 cases swelled during the winter months of late 2020 and early 2021, hospitals are again filling up in these lesser vaccinated states. According to the CDC, as of June 17, 2021, Mississippi was averaging 119 new cases of COVID-19 every seven days. Similarly, Alabama was averaging 190 new cases, and Arkansas was averaging 247 new cases every seven days. Meanwhile, Vermont was averaging only six new cases each week. It is important to note that, although slow and incomplete, some progress has been made in these southern states; Mississippi’s average weekly cases peaked in early January at around 2,324 new cases. But this progress is far from over and not yet something to celebrate.

Doctors and legislators now need to turn their attention towards pushing the vaccine into communities that are currently resistant to its presence or that are being faced with systemic barriers blocking them from receiving it. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA, said, “Now we need to think about trying to push out the vaccine into community sites where people could get it delivered to them through a trusted intermediary, that’s going to mean doctors’ offices, schools, places of employment.”

This continued effort to vaccinate American citizens becomes increasingly important when one considers that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities. America has continually fallen short of health equity, the concept that all citizens have equal opportunity for fair treatment and being healthy, and it has been brought to the forefront during the pandemic. Factors including discrimination, access to healthcare, employment as essential workers and housing conditions all pose challenges to achieving health equity. Thus, American Indian citizens and Alaska Natives represented 1,216.1 COVID-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people in America from March 1, 2020 to June 5, 2021. Black citizens represented 997.8 COVID-related hospitalizations, and Hispanic and Latinx citizens represented 993.5 hospitalizations. White Americans represented only 354.7 COVID-related hospitalizations across that same timespan.

Moreover, vaccination rates sorted by race also point towards immense health inequity. Only 1.0% of the American Indian and Alaska Native population, 9.1% of the Black population, and 15.1% of the Hispanic and Latinx population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In stark contrast, 60.2% of the white population have received their first dose.

To stop the spread of the Delta variant, reduce the further mutation of the COVID-19 virus and protect the American population, vaccinations remain of the utmost importance, per the repeated recommendations of the CDC and other medical professionals.

COVID 19 by Symara Wilson for 360 Magazine, Covid Travel restriction

Coronavirus Mutations × U.S. Travel Restrictions

By: Emily Bunn

A breaking news article featured in The New York Times announced that the United States will be imposing a mandatory requirement for negative COVID-19 test results from all incoming, international travelers. The requirement for proof of a negative test in order to fly will begin Tuesday, January 25th.

The CDC has ordered for all travelers to provide proof of a negative test taken no more than 3 days before their travels. Without documentation of a negative test or documentation of recovery supplemented with a letter from a health care provider or public health official, passengers will be prohibited to fly.

The United States is not the only country to be putting in place tighter travel regulations. Due to new mutations of the virus, many countries are adopting stricter border protocol. The New York Times reports:

“Even as the United States moved to impose travel restrictions, citing the danger of the fast-moving variants, a case of the variant spreading in Brazil was identified in Minnesota.”

Variations of the virus in Brazil and South Africa, due to international travel, both pose the threat of COVID-19 mutating. If the virus does mutate, it is potential that the new strain of such will be unreactive to current vaccination efforts.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to President Biden, has commented: “With the world travel that you have, and the degree of transmissibility efficiency, it’s not surprising.” Further, President Biden has broadcasted a ban on travel by all non-citizens into the United States from South Africa, the U.K., Ireland, and 26 other European countries.

An article published today on AP News reported that in attempts to increase vaccination efforts, President Biden announced that his administration is planning to purchase 100 million doses of each of the approved coronavirus vaccines–Pfizer and Moderna. Vaccination deliveries to states will be surged for the next three weeks. The Biden administration has announced that they plan to vaccinate 300 million citizens by the end of summer, as reported by The New York Times.

The President, in a White House briefing on January 26th, commented on importance of increasing vaccination supplies to help Americans:

“And to a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way.  We can do this if we come together, if we listen to the scientists.”

These efforts come at an especially critical time, as the global number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 100 million, reports The Wall Street Journal. However, that has been recent speculation regarding the accuracy of that number. In New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration has been accused of undercounting the amount of coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes. A report released by Letitia James, the Attorney General of New York, shows that the coronavirus death count appears to have been cut by approximately 50 percent. The report compares the number of facility deaths publicized by the Department of Health–1,229 deaths, versus the number of facility deaths reported the Office of Attorney General–1,914 deaths. This staggering discrepancy between reported deaths has spurred suspicion against Cuomo, and the Office of Attorney General (OAG) is conducting an on-going investigation concerning the cause of these variances.

However, there is still hope. In Los Angeles, Governor Gavin Newsom rescinded the county’s stay-at-home order this past Monday, reports The Los Angeles Times. This new jurisdiction will allow for all counties in California to return to the four-tier, colored-coded system of assessing coronavirus risk. Lifting the imposed stay-at-home order could allow for the reopening of personal care services and outdoor dining. While LA has been particularly hard hit by coronavirus, the city actually has a higher vaccination rate than most other comparable cities in the U.S. The New York Times reports that “83 percent of the doses the city has received have been administered, compared with 74 percent in New York City; 52 percent in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio; and 58 percent of the doses ordered in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.”

While the coronavirus situation is still being closely tracked and monitored, hospitalizations and the number of patients in ICUs have been steadily declining. With hospitalizations at their national lowest since December 13th and an increase in vaccination efforts, there is progress to be recognized, despite current setbacks and uncertainties.

Despite progress in vaccination efforts and decreasing corona virus cases, new virus mutations pose critical cause for concern. In countries across the Asia-Pacific region, a new, more infectious variant–the Delta variant–is causing stay-at-home orders to be again put into place. This new variant was first identified in India, and has quickly been spreading. As restrictions begin yet again, countries across the globe are grappling with the harrowing fate that the pandemic is far from over.

In some major Australian cities, such as Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Darwin, residents have been forced into strict lockdowns. Flights are even being banned due to the new threat, with Hong Kong barring British entry. Indefinite stay-at-home orders were extended by the Malaysian government on Monday. In Malaysia, the new variant is especially threatening, as only 6% of the country’s residents are fully vaccinated, reports the New York Times.

India has faced a devastating, major second wave of coronavirus due to the Delta Plus variant, a sub-lineage of the Delta variant. This past spring, the dangerous variant caused thousands of deaths per day, and forced residents into partial stay-at-home orders, yet again. Much like in Malaysia, in India only 5% of the population is fully vaccinated. In fear of a third wave of the virus, Maharashtra’s chief minister, Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, has authorized the use of a fourth vaccine in an attempt to increase vaccination supplies.

In good news, the Covid-19 vaccination is largely effective against the new Delta variant. However, this Delta variant is 50 percent more contagious than several of the other variants of concern, such as the Alpha variant.

As countries continue reopening, people look toward high vaccination rates to change the coronavirus game. In the U.S. and Britain, officials are planning to, or already have, lift most pandemic restrictions. White House secretary, Jen Psaki, recently announced that the United States would send two million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Peru. Additionally, the U.S. looks to send 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan. A third shipment of 1.5 million Moderna vaccination doses will be sent to Honduras from the United States.

Looking ahead to this weekend, July 30-Aug 1, 2021, the return of  a major musical festival threatens a super-spreader event. The highly infectious variant of COVID-19 has again created a surge in the number of recent coronavirus cases. As festival fans migrate to Chicago for Lollapalooza – the first of which held since 2019 – the Windy City braces for the potentially devastating impact.

Fortunately, the festival is taking several precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. All attendees must be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of event entry. However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that not all guests will be honest about meeting these requirements.

The head of the BBB, Steve Bernas, warns of the potential for festival scammers who fabricate fake vaccine cards and negative test results. “We anticipate a double whammy this year not only the tickets but also the vaccine cards,” Bernas said in a statement. “The scammers will be out in full force.” He continues, cautioning ticket buyers to be on high-alert: “Just like finding tickets, there are countless ways for consumers to find vaccinations cards online, with online marketplaces, ticket sellers, resellers and the like…and unfortunately, some of them are rip-offs”

One of Chicago’s top coronavirus experts, Dr. Emily Landon, also weighed in on the weekend’s festivities. She argues that Lollapalooza’s 72-hour testing window is too lenient, and that the city is inviting in a massive spike of cases by holding the concert. NBC Chicago reports that Dr. Emily Landon commented, “Lolla has let us down with respect to how vigorously they’re restricting people based on the things that they sort of initially told us (about how) ‘we’re going to be really strict’ and now it’s like they’ve lightened up quite considerably on checking vaccines and negative tests.”

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady expressed concerns similar to Dr. Emily Landon’s. Recognizing the importance of getting vaccinated, she commented the following in a coronavirus update last week: “We want people to have a good time and we want this to be as safe as it can be…And so certainly we’ll be watching that just as we do any other gathering, but I am more concerned about the many people who have not chosen the COVID vaccine.”

Still, Chicago’s mayor and top doctor still haven’t wavered their support for the much-loved music festival. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed her desire the event to occur as safely as possible, though she didn’t comment on the recent uptick in case numbers and coronavirus hospitalizations. NBC 5 Chicago reports on the current coronavirus statistics in the city:

“Chicago’s average daily number of new cases rose to 130 per day early Monday – a 76% jump compared to last week. The city’s average daily case rate was at 90 per day last week and 41 per day the week before that, meaning it’s more than tripled in roughly three weeks. However, it is still significantly lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing earlier this year and last, before vaccines were widely available.”

Additional safety measures, including mandatory mask-wearing on public transport, will also be enforced. The Chicago Transit Authority is offering reduced ticket rates this weekend for Lollapalooza travelers.

As Summer winds down, COVID-19 cases are beginning to rise yet again. Several virus variants, including the new Lambda variant, are causing major concern among Americans. In an attempt to quell concern, several cities have launched vaccine passport programs.

Across the United States, metropolitan hubs including New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans are requiring residents to show proof of vaccination before entering indoor spaces. That means that visiting gyms, concerts, restaurants, and more will require citizens to have both of their required vaccination shots. Vaccine passports are not being put in place to stop public gatherings, but are intended to creater safer enviroments outside of one’s home.

However, many Americans are opting to stay indoors yet again, thanks to new variant threats. The Lambda variant, which was first detected in Peru and is quckly spreading through South America, is causing concern among citizens. The New York Times reports that “On June 14, the World Health Organization designated it as a “variant of interest,” meaning, essentially, that experts suspect it could be more dangerous than the original strain.

However, it has been reported that the Lambda variant is likely not as contagious as other deadly virus mutuations, like the Delta variant. And fortunately, the Lambda variant is able to be combatted by the vaccines that have currently rolled out across the U.S. The New York Times records the climbing numbers of the Lambda variant, “As of mid-June, Lambda had been reported in 29 countries, territories or areas, according to a June 15 update from the W.H.O. The variant had been detected in 81 percent of coronavirus samples sequenced in Peru since April, and 31 percent of those in Chile to date, the agency said.” However, assessing the virus has been difficult due to Latin America’s limited ability to conduct geonomic surveillance and follow-up laboratory studies, reports the NYT. Scientists and medical professionals around the world are currently conducting research to better understand this new variant and its implications.

HotelPlanner’s Delta Variant Coverage:

America’s comeback is in jeopardy. The Delta variant is surging, prompting concerns that we need another lockdown. Travel executives are already huddling, discussing potential next steps to both protect guests and their businesses’ bottom lines. Americans were traveling in record numbers, and people are wondering if this could slow down the sector. How could the Delta variant, and other emerging variants, impact travel?

“We are watching the rapid uptick in Delta variant case infections closely, says Tim Hentschel, Co-Founder and CEO of HotelPlanner. “Although some families may choose to curtail their summer travel plans, we remain confident that the vast majority of Americans who were planning to travel this summer will keep their plans, while exercising more caution with crowds and destination selection. For those who are already vaccinated, the Delta variant shouldn’t be a deterrent to summer travel because they should be protected.”

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HotelPlanner is a leading travel technology company that combines proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, and a 24/7 global gig-based reservations and customer service network, to quickly and seamlessly serve all traveler hotel & accommodation needs from a single platform.

HotelPlanner is one of the world’s top providers of individual, group, and corporate travel bookings, specializing in unique “Closed User Group” discount rates.

Founded in 2004, HotelPlanner has enduring partnerships with the world’s largest Online Travel Agencies, well-known hotel chains, individual hotels, online wedding providers, ancillary lodging providers, corporations, sports franchises, universities, and government agencies.