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business travel

Is Omicron impacting business travel because of corporate and government restrictions?

Are you a business traveler? Omicron travel restrictions have put a damper on global business travel. New policies and ongoing developments are currently hindering a return to travel as we know it. 

However, the travel industry continues to reflect progress and optimism in its long-term outlook for 2022, according to the latest poll from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s largest business travel association and leader in education, research, networking, and advocacy.

“Here, at the start of a new year, the business travel industry and business travelers continue to face a dynamically changing landscape due to Omicron. One comment received from a poll respondent readily sums it up: ‘Uncertainty is a huge wet blanket on [business] travel,’” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA. 

“Despite the wave of Omicron and the ripple of challenges it has created, there are positive signs, and industry professionals continue to be optimistic for the long–term outlook of global business travel.”  

This most recent poll is the 25th in GBTA’s COVID-19 Recovery series, tracking the pulse of the global business travel industry during the pandemic. Below are a few highlights from the January poll

Omicron business travel poll highlights:

Optimism for the long haul – Three in four travel managers expect business travel volume at their company will be much (17%) or somewhat (58%) higher in 2022 than in 2021. Another one in ten (12%) expect business travel to remain about the same as 2021, but few (5%) expect it to be lower.  

Company travel cancellation decreases – Poll results show a decline in the percentage of companies that continue to suspend or cancel business travel. Sixty-eight percent of GBTA member companies have not yet opened international travel, compared to 79% in the October 2021 GBTA poll, and 29% have not opened domestic business travel versus 38% in October. 

Current business impacts – Six in ten (60%) suppliers/TMCs report their bookings from corporate clients decreased from the month prior. One in five (21%) characterize their bookings from corporate customers as having increased.

Comparing variants – When asked to compare Omicron and Delta variant concerns, 43% report they are either less worried about Omicron compared to Delta, and 45% are equally concerned.

Most significant barriers – When asked to name the single greatest barrier to business travel, 43% of survey respondents cited government policies that restrict travel or make it difficult (such as entry restrictions or mandatory quarantines). Travel managers based in the UK (66%) and Europe (62%) were more likely than those in North America (33%) to cite government policies as being the single greatest barrier to business travel. Conversely, North American travel managers (27%) were more likely than those in Europe (15%) to say company policies restricting employees from traveling are the biggest barrier. 

Getting back out there – Despite Omicron, most travel managers feel employees are willing to travel. Two in three (64%) feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment. However, this number was down from 78% in the October GBTA poll. A majority of seven in ten (72%) GBTA members and stakeholders report they would definitely or probably travel for business. However, respondents based in Europe (49%) are more likely than those based in North America (35%) to report that their company has canceled all or most business trips.   

You might be interested: 6 Tips to spot counterfeit N95, KN95, and KN94

masks when shopping online

While we still have a long way to go before global business travel returns to its pre-COVID norms, this recent poll shows that many remain optimistic for the future of travel despite the challenges. 

6 Tips to spot counterfeit N95, KN95, and KF94 masks when shopping online

With the more contagious COVID-19 omicron variant on the rise, mask mandates are returning, especially indoors and while traveling. Even if your state has not reinstated a mask mandate, health officials recommend mask usage to prevent the spread of omicron. 

For the past two years, masks have become commonplace and easy to buy, both instores and online. However, with the rise of mask retailers, many fakes and counterfeit COVID-19 masks have also emerged from third party marketplaces. 

Currently, the top recommended masks for the best protection against omicron and other COVID-19 variants are the N95, KN95, and KF94. 

As you shop for your next mask to combat the omicron surge, these tips will help you steer clear of counterfeit COVID-19 masks and fakes sellers online. 

6 Tips to spot a counterfeit COVID-19 mask and find reliable sellers 

1. Listing claims to be “legitimate” and “genuine”

According to the CDC, listings that claim to be “legitimate” and “genuine” in their product descriptions often are not. Product listings that appear to be overselling the fact that they are legitimate are likely fakes, especially on third party marketplaces. If the product overly boasts it’s reputability, it might be worth doing some further digging into the seller and the product quality through other methods listed below. 

2. It’s too good to be true

Like the previous tip, this is another way to weed out the fakes. Are there price changes or swings? Is the mask priced at a significantly lower amount compared to other retailers and competition? Does the seller boast an “unlimited stock”, even during times of global mask shortage, especially for highly sought respirator masks such as the N95? If so, these are signs that the product is likely not legitimate. 

Take the time to read through customer reviews. (Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash)

3. Read customer reviews 

Another method to ensure you receive a legitimate mask, is to read what other buyers have said about the product. Be sure to read not only the positive reviews but the negative as well. The negative reviews will tell you what issues to look out for and can alert you to the possibility of counterfeit products. The amount of reviews a product has also can give you a sense of the seller’s sales record. Products with more reviews likely have made more sales and, if the reviews are good, then the product is more likely to be legitimate. Still, be on the lookout for reviews that seem automated or generic. Some untrustworthy retailers may plant fake positive reviews to sway buyers. 

4. Check the packaging 

Legitimate COVID-19 masks and respirators should come in sealed packaging. You should be the first to open it. If the packaging is flimsy or looks to have been tampered with or there is no appropriate packing at all, then this is a red flag. 

Additionally, respirator masks require an expiration date because the particle-repelling electrostatic charge on these masks degrades over time. If there is no expiration date on your respirator mask, that is also a red flag. 

5. Inconsistencies on seller’s website and contact information 

Another guideline from the CDC is to check the seller’s site for inconsistencies and errors. They advise to: 

  • Look for bad grammar, typos, and other errors.
  • Watch for cookie-cutter websites, where the sellers interchange several websites, making mistakes.
  • Mixing up names/logos
  • Leaving the site partially undone with dummy text
  • Blank pages
  • An odd privacy policy page and/or broken links.
  • Domain squatting type activity (misspell the domain).

The seller should also provide contact information that is legitimate. Most third party marketplaces require the seller and buyer to interact within an on-site messaging system. Sellers should not try to bypass this system to display personal contact information, says CDC guidelines

You might be interested: What to expect from Omicron flight cancellations and new travel requirements

Legit masks will have approval numbers and proper logo and spelling. (Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash)

6. There’s no branding, incorrect logo and spelling, and missing approval number

Lastly, a big red flag is if your mask or respirator lacks proper branding, logo, or approval number. Counterfeit COVID-19 masks may look like a legitimate brand, but the logo may be wrong or the brand name has been misspelled. 

On respirator masks such as N95, NIOSH—spelled correctly—should be in block letters. Additionally, legitimate N95 masks have approval numbers that start with the letters “TC-84A,” followed by four additional digits. This number can be found on the mask or the bands. You can check the number on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List.

omicron travel

What to expect from Omicron flight cancellations and new travel requirements

This holiday season, thousands of flight cancellations left travelers stranded in airports across the United States. While many cancellations were due to severe weather across various states, the spike in Omicron infections also played a part in disrupting holiday travel plans for thousands. 

Were you one of the many whose travel plans were impacted by omicron this holiday season?  

How the virus affected airline travel  

The Omicron variant began spreading rampantly over the Thanksgiving travel period and has since continued to spread rapidly. Omicron is reportedly more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants. 

In an article by Bloomberg, David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association, estimated that “aircraft passengers are two to three times more likely to catch the virus during a flight since the emergence of Omicron.”

The higher chance of infection and rapid spread has led to new travel guidelines and unexpected flight cancellations. 

Since December 24, more than 15,000 U.S. flights have been canceled, The Washington Post reported. Additionally, some airlines have already preemptively canceled flights for the month of January. Last week, JetBlue announced it would cancel 1,280 flights through January 13. 

The rising infection rate does not only affect travelers but also airline workers, including air traffic controllers. Derek Dombrowski, a JetBlue spokesman, said the airline has seen a surge in sick calls because of the omicron variant. 

Additionally, Henry Harteveldt, an aviation analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, said in the same article, if Omicron infections continue to rage on, airlines may announce further cancellations for the remainder of January and possibly into February. 

omicron travel

Travel cancellations may continue throughout January and into February. (Travel photo created by freepik) 

Current Omicron travel restrictions and guidelines 

While many airlines continue to cancel flights, travel is still possible. If you’re planning to travel, here are the newest guidelines to follow to reduce your risk of infection. 

According to the CDC’s newest requirements

  • If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
  • Unvaccinated Americans and legal permanent residents are allowed to enter the country with a test taken within one day of departing for the United States. 
  • If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19

In addition to these requirements, foreign travelers arriving in the United States to be fully vaccinated. All children over the age of 2 flying into the United States must also show negative test results before traveling. 

Currently, there is no post-arrival testing or quarantine requirement. 

You might be interested: Why reaching “herd immunity” transcends the end of a pandemic 

Federal mask mandate is still in effect and has been extended through March 18. This mandate requires all travelers to wear masks in airports, on planes, and on other forms of public transportation including buses and trains. 

Travelers should continue to practice general COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as keeping adequate distance from others, avoiding tight crowds, keeping masks on indoors, and washing and sanitizing hands.

Fatigue, brain fog, joint pain? You may be suffering from long-Covid

Asymptomatic Covid-19 and “long-Covid” are becoming a greater concern as many may be suffering from the virus without even knowing. 

Asymptomatic Covid and long-Covid have been flying under the radar however, the affects of both should not be overlooked. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people who have Covid-19 are asymptomatic. Asymptomatic Covid is more likely to occur in healthy and younger age groups, including children and in households where another member has contracted Covid. Individuals who have been in contact with others who have tested positive for the virus but do not display symptoms after contact could be asymptomatic. 

Additionally, about a fifth of asymptomatic individuals went on to develop what has been termed “long-Covid,” according to an analysis by FAIR Health. Current research suggests older individuals are more likely to contract long Covid, but it has been found in many younger individuals as well. Data from a study conducted by King’s College London found that 1-2% of people in their 20s who had the virus would develop long Covid. For people in their 60s that number increased to about 5%. Long-Covid has also been found to be twice as common among women according to the BBC. 

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

What is long-Covid and how does it affect the body? 

Long-Covid is characterized by symptoms continuing for more than 12 weeks after infection which cannot be explained by another cause. Those who contracted Covid and were asymptomatic may not even know they are suffering from long-Covid afterwards. 

“There’s a myth out there that it only occurs with severe COVID, and obviously it occurs far more frequently in mild COVID,” said Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, in an article with National Geographic

Many symptoms of long-Covid are often overlooked or written off as unrelated making the syndrome hard to pin down. Long-Covid can include a large range of symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, sleep disturbance, and hypertension.

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can impact your daily life, making ordinary tasks more difficult, and in extreme cases can lead to debilitating effects such as hallucinations, skin conditions, short-term memory loss, insomnia, hearing and vision changes, and gastro-intestinal problems.

Other symptoms according to the CDC, include: 

  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Memory, concentration or sleep problems
  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities

The potential debilitating effects of long-Covid is cause for concern and individuals should keep an eye out for any changes to their health, even if they do not believe they have contracted Covid-19.

You might be interested: Brain fog can be alerting you about these medical conditions

Diagnosing and treating long-Covid 

While the cause of long-Covid is not yet known, experts theorize that the infection may make some people’s immune systems “go into overdrive,” attacking other parts of the body while combating the virus. 

Another theory presented in a BBC article stated that “fragments of the virus could remain in the body, possibly lying dormant and then becoming reactivated.” However, there is little evidence to support this theory at the moment.

The range of long-Covid’s symptoms has made it difficult to detect and treat. BBC reported that a study conducted by University College London found “200 symptoms affecting 10 organ systems in people with long Covid.”

According to Melissa Pinto, associate professor in the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing at University of California Irvine, researchers found that some people who tested positive for Covid-19 but hadn’t reported symptoms at the time of infection  later came in with symptoms associated with long-Covid. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

In diagnosing long-Covid, researchers and medical professionals must first test for any other underlying or preexisting conditions that may be causing symptoms.

Ann Parker, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and a specialist in post-acute COVID-19 care, said, “When a patient comes to see us, we do a very thorough evaluation because we still don’t know exactly what to attribute to COVID and what might be a pre-existing underlying syndrome. The last thing I want to have happen is to say to a patient, yes, this is because you had COVID and miss something else that we could have addressed.”

We are only just beginning to understand the effects of long-Covid and how to detect and treat it. With so much still unknown, it is important for individuals who have contracted Covid-19 to continue monitoring their health even after recovery. For those who may have been asymptomatic, you may not even know you had Covid or have long-Covid. In this case, individuals who have been in contact with people who tested positive for the virus should consider getting tested even if no symptoms are present. 

Why Hispanics are spending more than usual

The pandemic convinced Hispanic-Americans to take their safety seriously – along with financial preparedness.

According to a recent survey conducted by Debt.com en Español, US Latinos and Hispanics are spending more preparing for natural disasters in 2021 than they did in 2020. The reason for the change in financial habits: COVID-19.

The pandemic took everyone by surprise, revealing just how scary life can be when you are not prepared. Now, data finds that Hispanics are spending more than usual to prepare for the unexpected. 

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Financial preparedness post-COVID

As hurricane season continues and wildfires spread throughout the western US, climate change and natural disasters are on everyone’s minds. Like a global pandemic, natural disasters can be devastating and unpredictable.

Even with warnings, one can never know how bad a disaster might be. This is why preparing and planning ahead is crucial. Both businesses and families should have a plan in place for dealing with natural disasters and the aftermath. 

US Hispanics and Latinos seem to have learned this lesson post-COVID. When Debt.com en Español polled more than 1,000 Hispanic and Latino Americans, 3 in 4 said they were either “spending a little more than usual” or “spending at least double” getting ready for hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, blizzards, and earthquakes. Only 1 in 4 said they were spending less than before and all said COVID-19 was directly responsible for their extra spending.

financial preparedness

Natural Disaster Survey 2021. (Image source)

“Even during the pandemic, we saw how Americans were changing their spending and saving habits, often for the better,” says Debt.com chairman Howard Dvorkin, CPA. “Now we’re seeing how long that will last. At least in this one area, for this one year, it’s obvious: COVID-19 took such a terrible and sudden toll, no one wants to be caught unprepared again – for anything.”

Additionally, Debt.com en Espanol’s Natural Disaster Survey revealed that most Hispanic-Americans will also be paying more attention to government warnings. The survey showed that 85% said they will take government warnings more seriously and will prepare much better than they have in the past. 

You might be interested: Damaris Diaz shares pandemic stories and how COVID has impacted the Latino community

Decrease in credit card spending

Survey data from Debt.com also revealed another interesting change in the past year: a decrease in credit card spending post-COVID. The pandemic has made people more aware of their spending and more concerned over accumulating debt.

Now, data shows Americans are charging less to their credit cards, and many believe the decrease in credit card spending will continue post-COVID, especially when it comes to approaching natural disasters. 

financial preparedness

Debt.com post-Covid credit card spending survey results. (Image source)

Financial counselor Howard Dvorkin was particularly intrigued by two survey results. First, for those who have been through a natural disaster before, less than 26% needed to use their credit card to pay for their recovery efforts. Yet those who did need their credit card for recovery efforts spent a significant amount: More than 4 in 10 charged over $500 to a credit card. 

“On the one hand, I’m encouraged that many people could get their lives back to normal without charging extra on their credit cards – because it’s a very expensive form of debt,” Dvorkin said. “On the other hand, I worry about those who charged $500 or more. I suspect some of them are still paying that off, since their interest rate could easily top 20 percent.”

As we move forward, post-pandemic it is important to remember the lessons learned. Financial preparedness will ensure families and businesses have the resources needed to recover whenever a disaster may strike. 

ABOUT: Debt.com is the consumer website where people can find help with credit card debt, student loan debt, tax debt, credit repair, bankruptcy, and more. Debt.com works with vetted and certified providers that give the best advice and solutions for consumers ‘when life happens.’

schools reopen

Schools reopen this fall: Is it safe? 

New Jersey announces students will be back for full-time, in-person for the 2021-2022 school year as schools reopen statewide. 

It’s time to say goodbye to virtual learning as schools reopen this fall. According to the official site of the state of New Jersey, schools will be reopening full-time and in-person for the upcoming school year. Schools first closed back in March 2020, when the pandemic began and instruction moved online. Throughout the 2020 – 2021 school year, the majority of NJ schools remained virtual or offered hybrid learning options, with a mix of in-person and virtual students. Now, officials say parents or guardians will not be able to opt children out of in-person instruction for this upcoming school year. 

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

The closing of schools last year led to mixed responses from parents and families. Some welcomed the opportunity to spend more time with their children. Others worried about the quality of their children’s education and wondered if virtual learning would be enough to keep children on track. Many working parents also struggled, juggling homeschooling and working from home. And parents who did not have the luxury to work from home faced the challenge of finding childcare for their children amid the pandemic. 

Now, schools are reopening, and feelings are once again mixed. Some worry that it’s not safe, especially with new, stronger COVID-19 variants spreading quickly across the globe, such as the more contagious Delta variant that has been particularly infectious among the young and unvaccinated–aka the prime population of students. Other parents are glad to see a sense of normalcy return to their children’s lives and routines. 

Regardless of where you stand in the debate, without the option to opt out of in-person learning this year, it is important for NJ parents to familiarize themselves with the new rules, guidelines, and safety precautions that will be in place for students this fall. 

Safety precautions for returning students 

According to NJ.gov, all students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks inside of school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.  Effective Monday, August 9, 2021, masks are required in the indoor premises of all public, private, and parochial preschool, elementary, and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions.

Exceptions to the mask requirement include:

  • When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;
  • When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
  • When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face covering;
  • When the individual is under two (2) years of age;
  • When an individual is engaged in an activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating and drinking or playing an instrument that would be obstructed by the face covering;
  • When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anerobic activity;
  • When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or
  • When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.

Additionally, the Department of Education, in partnership with the Department of Health, has produced a health and safety guidance document detailing recommendations designed to provide a healthy and safe environment for students and staff during the 2021-2022 school year.

These strategies are recommendations, not mandatory standards. The absence of one or more of these strategies should not prevent school facilities from opening for full-day, in-person operation.

You might be interested: Reopening schools during Covid-19? Educator and activist Maria Santiago-Valentin weighs in

Vaccinations, social distancing, and more: Will it be enough? 

Alongside the mask mandate, schools will also be enforcing social distancing, promoting vaccinations and testing, and encouraging parents and caregivers to monitor their children for symptoms. 

Vaccinations are currently not required, however strongly encouraged for students and staff who are eligible to be vaccinated. Since most K-12 schools will have a mixed population of fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated individuals at any given time, schools will require the layering of preventive measures to protect individuals who are not fully vaccinated. This will include social distancing within the classroom and an effort to screen and report when children are displaying symptoms. Caregivers are encouraged to actively keep watch of their child’s health and report symptoms to the school. Students who are sick should not attend school until symptoms subside. 

All these precautions are crucial to ensuring the safety of students as they return to full-time, in-person instruction. It is unclear if schools will remain fully open throughout this upcoming school year, however, for now, we can say goodbye to virtual learning as schools reopen for this fall. 

For information on the status of school reopenings in other states, be sure to visit your state’s official website. To check for your state’s mask mandate, see here

How to stay protected from quick-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant 

The Delta coronavirus variant, which was first identified in India in December 2020, is a variant of the original coronavirus that swept the globe last year, only now it has evolved to become more infectious. Currently, the Delta variant has only been labeled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC due to it’s high rate of infection and potential to evade vaccines. Since its discovery in late 2020, the Delta variant has spread globally and is now reported in 104 countries

As of early July, the Delta variant has become the dominant form of the COVID-19 in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and other countries. In the U.K., the variant now makes up more than 97% of new COVID-19 cases and in the U.S. it is present in all 50 states and now accounts for 52% of new infections. 

Source: @fusion_medical_animation on Unsplash.

Quick-spreading variant of concern 

The CDC and WHO monitor all variants of the virus to find out if transmission could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as whether current vaccines can provide protection. 

In the U.S. variants are classified as either a “variant of interest,” a “variant of concern,” or a “variant of high consequence.” Currently no variants are classified as variants of high consequence, though Delta and others have been classified as variants of concern

The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, has been classified as such due to its increased rate of transmissibility. It can spread more easily, according to the CDC and the strain contains mutations on the spike protein that make it easier to infect human cells. This means that infected individuals may be more contagious and can spread the virus more easily to others. It is believed that those infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to three or four people at a time, compared to the original virus which spread to one or two people at a time according to Yale Medicine

Researchers now have found that the Delta variant is about 50% more contagious than the variant that preceded it, Alpha B.1.1.7. The Alpha variant was already 50% more contagious than the original coronavirus that began spreading in China in 2019. 

Additionally, many are concerned that the Delta virus may be harder to treat as it may be able to escape some protection from vaccines and treatment. Still, experts urge the unvaccinated to get their two doses, as the vaccine is still the main safeguard against the virus. 

Delta Plus 

An off-shoot of the Delta variant now gaining traction is Delta Plus. Known as B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1, Delta Plus is considered a “subvariant” of the Delta variant. The key difference between the two is that Delta Plus contains a mutation that allows the virus to better attack lung cells and potentially escape vaccines.

The coronavirus works by attacking the respiratory tract, traveling down your airways and getting into the lungs, irritating and inflaming the lining and using healthy cells to make new virus parts and spread the infection. 

Delta Plus’ ability to better attack lung cells is concerning as the variant could potentially lead to more severe symptoms and cases. However, so far only India has labeled Delta Plus a variant of concern. 

New symptoms and steps to protect yourself 

post-Covid stress

Coping with post-Covid stress. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Unlike the original strand of the COVID-19 virus, the Delta variant is exhibiting some different, milder symptoms which may go unnoticed. Instead of the hallmarks of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell, the most common symptoms of the new Delta strain are headaches, a runny nose, and sore throat—symptoms that could be easily confused with the common cold. 

Still, the original COVID-19 symptoms may also be present so it is important for individuals to stay vigilant and not dismiss any symptoms, even if they have already been vaccinated. 

Get fully vaccinated

Currently, vaccination is the best safeguard against all strains of the virus and people who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at the most risk. The Delta strain also appears to be impacting children and young people at a greater rate than previous variants. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

A recent study from the U.K. showed that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with the Delta variant. Mutations in the Delta variant allow it to evade some of the protections vaccines offer, however, even still, those vaccinated are more protected than unvaccinated individuals. 

The key to full protection is to get both doses of the vaccine. Those who have only been partially vaccinated are at an increased risk of infection as one dose has been found to be only 33% effective.

Wear masks and use your better judgement 

While the CDC’s updated guidelines no longer require fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask in most situations, experts advise to continue using them indoors or in crowds of unfamiliar people. 

source: https://unsplash.com/@unitednations

If you’re not sure if the people you are around are fully vaccinated, it’s best to use your better judgement and wear a mask to keep both yourself and others safe. Since the Delta variant can potentially evade some of the protections from the vaccine and vaccines themselves are not 100% effective in preventing the virus, extra caution is the prudent approach. Additionally, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should continue to wash their hands thoroughly after outings and contact with individuals and stay home if they are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms of the virus. 

We will continue to see how the Delta variant progresses in the coming weeks. 

You may be interested: Is business travel as we know it dead? 

covid 19 variant

What to know about COVID-19 Delta-variant infecting the young and partially vaccinated   

The Delta coronavirus variant, which was first identified in India, is a variant of the original virus that swept the globe last year, only now it has evolved to become more infectious. Currently, the Delta variant has not been found to be more dangerous or deadly, however it’s high rate of infection among young and partially vaccinated people is concerning. 

According to an article by Business Insider, the Delta variant has taken over the UK, accounting for 95% of infections. In the U.S. the variant currently accounts for more than 20% of cases and this number is likely to grow. 

New Delta-variant symptoms to watch for 

Unlike the original strand of the COVID-19 virus, the Delta-variant is exhibiting different, milder symptoms which may go unnoticed. Instead of the hallmarks of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell, the most common symptoms of the new Delta strain are headaches, a runny nose, and sore throat—symptoms that could be easily confused with the common cold. 

It is unclear, however, if these milder symptoms mean the disease itself is growing milder, or if this is simply how the new variant presents in young, healthy people or people who have been partially vaccinated. 

The biggest issue right now is the rate of infection. According to data collected by epidemiologist Tim Spector, approximately 19,000 people in the UK catch COVID-19 every day, most of which are young, and not fully vaccinated. 

The new Delta-variant is reportedly twice as infectious as the original virus, with each infected person transmitting it to 6 others or more. 

Even more worrying is that another strain, known as Delta-Plus, has emerged as well. 

“Delta Plus has an extra mutation called K417N, which distinguishes it from the regular Delta variant. This mutation affects the spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches to the cells it infects,” CNN reports

This mutation brings not only the increase in transmissibility that comes with the standard Delta-variant, but also stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and a potential reduction in antibody response. 

So far, Delta-Plus has been reported in 11 countries, with the U.S. reporting the highest number of cases so far, with 83 cases as of last week, followed by the UK which reported 40 cases. Other affected countries include Canada, India, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey.

covid-19 vaccine

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

Will the vaccine ward off this new strain? 

While the Delta-variant has been reported in partially vaccinated people, fully vaccinated individuals are still largely protected. Currently, the U.S. is using data from the UK to predict how the Delta-variant might spread. 

In the UK, where about 94% of individuals over the age of 70 are fully vaccinated, death-rates and infection-rates were low. However, the Delta strain is spreading quickly among younger populations and kids. 

The biggest concern is low-vax communities. Many communities, particularly lower class and ethnic communities, have disproportionately been affected by the virus and had greater trouble accessing vaccines. Due to language barriers and digital divides, many have not been able to schedule appointments or access critical resources. 

On Twitter, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean at the Brown School of Public Health, shared a thread with data showing the past month’s surge of infection in the UK and how the U.S. is likely to follow in the coming weeks. 

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“In the UK, Delta became dominant and: Cases spiked 5X, Hospitalizations up 90%, Deaths rising albeit slowly so far, Despite having vaccinated more folks than US,” Dr. Ashish Jha wrote. “The UK experience suggests US vaccination level will not be enough to ward off Delta spike. Infection rises likely to become apparent over next few weeks as Delta becomes dominant. The spike won’t be uniform across the nation. Indeed, low vax communities are particularly at risk.” 

The coming weeks will show how the Delta-variant will affect the U.S. and countries around the globe. 

covid-19 restrictions, mask rule

Is the end in sight? Mask rule lifts for the fully-vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions ease 

CDC announces lift on mask rules for vaccinated individuals and states being easing COVID-19 restrictions. 

Is the end in sight? 

In the past week, new developments regarding COVID-19 restrictions have had many thinking the end might be in sight. Will we really be back to “normal” this summer? 

Following Thursday’s announcement from the CDC which deemed that fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors, retailers across the country were quick to update their policies as the mask rule lifts. Companies such as Walmart, Target, Costco, and Starbucks now allow fully vaccinated customers to go mask-free. 

While these new guidelines bring us one step closer to the end of this pandemic, don’t go getting rid of your masks just yet. As per the guidelines, masks may still be required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance and are still required for all forms of transportation. 

Easing COVID-19 restrictions in NJ 

In addition to the easing mask rule, many states are now in the process of phasing out other COVID-19 restrictions. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order No. 239 which will implement the second phase of COVID-19 restriction easing. 

The easing includes the complete removal of the outdoor gathering limit; an increased indoor gathering limit; the complete removal of all percentage-based capacity limits for indoor businesses, outdoor businesses, and houses of worship; and an increased indoor large venue capacity. Additionally, the prohibition on indoor interstate youth sports competitions is being lifted.

These changes are set to take effect on Wednesday, May 19th. Additional details can be viewed at nj.gov

What can travelers expect?

As summer is on the horizon, more people are hoping to travel this year. With the newest guidelines, travel will certainly be possible for fully-vaccinated individuals as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift. 

The updated CDC guidelines for travelers now states that fully vaccinated domestic travelers need not get tested or self-quarantine before traveling. For fully vaccinated international travelers, COVID-19 testing is not necessary before leaving the U.S. unless required by the destination. Fully vaccinated travelers also do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel, though international travelers arriving in the U.S. are still recommended to get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after travel regardless of vaccination status. 

However, you should still pack a mask! Because, while the CDC guidelines have lifted the mask rule for fully vaccinated individuals in many outdoor and indoor settings, masks are still required at all hubs of transportation including airports, buses, and train stations and may still be required depending on individuals local and state laws and private businesses. 

Parks and resorts like Disney and Universal are easing their mask restrictions for guests. Disney has announced that masks in outdoor areas will be optional, a relief for many travelers who struggle in the sweltering Florida heat while wearing a mask. Still, masks will be required for all indoor areas at the park, including theaters, attractions, and transportation. 

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It is expected that many other vacation resorts, hotels, and tourist attractions will be updating their policies and guidelines in the coming weeks, so travelers should keep an eye out for updates as they prepare for their summer getaways!