COVID-19 Task Force Hasn’t Ruled Out US Domestic Vaccine Passports


Dr. Anthony Fauci today stated that the possibility of the federal government requiring vaccine passports for domestic air travel within the U.S. is “still on the table”, among other policies under consideration.

As the White House’s Chief Medical Advisor, Fauci appeared earlier today on NBC News’ ‘Meet the Press’ to answer some of reporter Chuck Todd’s questions about the Biden administration’s continuing response to COVID-19.

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When asked whether a vaccine mandate for domestic flyers was still under consideration by the COVID-19 task force, Fauci said: “The team has a lot of things on the table, nothing has been taken off the table. That decision has not been made.”

His response echoes a remark made on September 10 by Jeff Zients—the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator—who, when questioned about the Biden administration’s stance on requiring vaccinations for domestic air travel, said: “I think we have a very strong track record that shows we’re pulling available levers to acquire vaccinations and we’re not taking any measures off the table.”

But, everyone seems to be on board as far as mandating vaccinations for inbound foreign travelers. Last Wednesday, a senior White House official let slip that the government is developing a “new system for international travel”, which would replace the U.S.’ current blanket restrictions on travelers from many foreign countries.

Based on Zients’ comments, Reuters reported that the scheme will likely include both vaccination requirements and compulsory pre-travel testing, and involve a comprehensive new contact-tracing system in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Because the new system would mean lifting current catch-all bans on travelers from certain countries, existing international travel restrictions won’t be relaxed while the Delta variant-driven fourth COVID-19 surge continues.

Separately, Fauci stated last week that he would personally support the implementation of a vaccine passport program for domestic flyers. “I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people that you should be vaccinated,” Fauci said during a September 12 interview, according to Newsweek.

The U.S. Travel Association immediately railed against Fauci’s stance, saying that the existing precautionary measures in use by airlines and airports, such as mask-wearing, provide sufficient protection from COVID-19, even amid Delta and any other potential variants of concern.

It’s no surprise that travel sector players would collectively refuse to support any policy that threatens to diminish consumer demand after the devastation the pandemic inflicted on the industry last year.





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COVID Vaccines, Travel Screenings, States Support Families > U.S. Air Force > Article Display


FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) —

This week’s look Around the Air Force includes the Department of the Air Force establishing deadlines for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for Airmen and Guardians, the screening process for family members scheduled for permanent change of station becomes automated, and the annual report on states’ support of military families is released. (Hosted by Tech. Sgt. Eric Mann)


For previous episodes, click here for the Air Force TV page.

Related links:

DAF announces mandatory COVID vaccine implementation guidelines for Airmen, Guardians

Family member travel screenings now automated for Airmen, Guardians

Department of the Air Force releases 2021 assessment of states’ support of military families





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Passport backlog, mailing delays force many to cancel summer travel plans – WPXI


The flights and hotel were booked in January, and excitement was mounting for the Smigliani family from Malden. That long-awaited family trip to Aruba was finally going to happen. But just a couple of months later, their excitement turned into stress when they realized their passports had expired.

“We haven’t taken a trip since 2010. For us, trips don’t happen like this that often,” said Alex Smigliani, who immediately sought to renew his wife’s and kids’ passports.

Alex and his wife Erin got an early April appointment at their local post office, where, they said, an employee reviewed their documents and passport renewal applications.

“We went there anticipating paying extra money to make sure we got it [in time] and were told that it wasn’t necessary to pay that fee,” Erin said.

In fact, she recalled, the employee said they were within the “10-to-12 weeks” window and should receive their passports before their July 11 trip. 25 Investigates reviewed a copy of the Smiglianis’ applications and saw “10-12 weeks” on the upper right-hand corner, which, according to Erin, was handwritten by the postal employee.

More than three months after submitting their applications and 10 days after their scheduled departure date, Erin and Alex Smigliani are still in Malden and still waiting for their passports to arrive. Their son and daughter did get their passports in time, and their son was able to make the trip to Aruba with family friends.

“I had to often step back and say, ‘This isn’t something tragic.’ But it was literally the back and forth of ‘We’re going; we’re not going.’ It was mentally wearing us down,” Erin said.

The Smiglianis said they called the national passport information center on multiple occasions for updates on their applications and also checked for a status online. They said they spent more than six hours collectively on hold waiting to get a customer service agent on the phone.

Each time they got a busy signal or were disconnected, and their online status never changed from “Not Available,” they said.

After weeks of trying by phone and online, Erin was finally able to speak to an agent in June who told her their applications were being processed. At that point, the Smiglianis said they still had hope that their trip was still on. They held out hope until the night before their scheduled flight out of Boston’s Logan Airport.

The Malden family ended up canceling their trip and, in the process, lost $1,000 in flight and tour cancellation fees. They are not alone. Across Massachusetts and the country, would-be travelers are facing passport processing delays.

Outside Boston’s Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Federal Building, 25 Investigates spoke to frustrated residents seeking to get new or renewed passports for imminent travel.

“I cannot get a hold of anybody [at the call center] to find the status,” said Jennifer Lasher of Hopkinton, who was trying to get an in-person appointment at the passport agency. “I got up at six in the morning. I drove in to be here when they opened, and I was told that they won’t even talk to me.”

In-person appointments at U.S. passport agencies are typically limited and reserved for emergency travel within 72 hours. But getting one of those is nearly impossible these days, as people are willing to drive or fly to other states where a handful of appointments are still available.

We found numerous Facebook sites where people are sharing advice and even selling passport appointments. The State Department warns against paying a fee as appointments are free and it could be a scam.

25 Investigates wanted to find out how things got so bad. We contacted the State Department, the U.S. Postal Service and a Congress member and found a number of issues at play.

The problem began when the secure facilities where passports are processed were closed for several months last year due to the pandemic. And even when they reopened, many offices were not fully staffed. The employees who have returned are contending with a massive backlog.

The State Department said there are currently 2 million applications it must process, and it is working to bring back more staff and increase hiring to meet the demand. The agency also said part of the problem involves “mailing delays.”

We contacted the U.S. Postal Service seeking an explanation. It sent us a press release that, in part, reads: “The Post Service continues its efforts to improve service performance and reliability with the goal of meeting or exceeding 95% of on-time delivery.”

Meanwhile, phones at the offices of U.S. representatives and senators have been ringing off the hook.

“The amount of calls to our office regarding passports has been so intense,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester). “People are calling that they have a sick relative in another country, that they’re going to a funeral or a wedding.”

Rep. McGovern told 25 Investigates he’s even had to reassign staff to help with all the passport calls.

“People shouldn’t have to call their member of Congress to be able to get answers and be able to get their passport delivered to them,” he said.

McGovern is among a group of more than 50 members of Congress who are pushing the State Department to clear the passport backlog. They wrote a letter to the State Department demanding a timeline for reducing the “outrageous backlog.”

25 Investigates obtained a copy of the letter which, in part, reads: “When the pandemic forced a nationwide shut down in mid-March of last year, a large backlog of passport applications formed as Bureau of Consular Affairs staff transitioned to remote work. Additionally, as a result of travel restrictions and economic hardship, many postponed the renewal of their passport and the associated cost until a time when they would be able to use it. Given this foreseeable trend, it is unclear why more than a year later there was not more forethought put into the inevitable wave of passport applications as travel restrictions eased and the world opened back up.”

If you are a new applicant or your current passport is set to expire with a year, keep these things in mind:

  • Adult passports expire every 10 years. Children expire every five years.
  • Start the process as early as possible; allow at least six months.
  • Pay the expediting fee. An extra $60 will reduce your waiting time by at least six weeks.
  • Send you application via trackable mail so that you can keep tabs on its progress.
  • If you have to travel for a life-or-death emergency, see it your local senator or member of Congress will intervene.

As for the Smiglianis, the Malden family who had to cancel their trip to Aruba and in the process lost money and a chance to make new memories with friends and family, they just want their faith in government restored.

“After what happened for the past 18 months during COVID, seems that they would find a way to staff this properly to take care of the people that wanted to travel. And unfortunately, they didn’t,” Alex Smigliani said.





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business trip

IATA Task Force Aims to Improve Mobility Aid Handling


The International Air Transport Association is putting together a task force to improve the transport and handling of travelers’ mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, during air travel, the organization announced.

The Mobility Aids Action Group will consist of both accessibility organizations that represent travelers with disabilities and companies that manufactures mobility aids, in addition to airlines, airports and ground service providers. It will be the first time mobility aid manufacturers have participated in an IATA task force, according to IATA director general Willie Walsh.

The World Health Organization reports more than a billion people living around the world with disabilities, and they will be a growing segment of the traveling population as some countries have aging populations, Walsh said. The aviation industry moves thousands of wheelchairs every year, but occasionally they are still damaged during their journey, he said.

“When it does, it is devastating to the passenger as these devices are more than equipment—they are extensions of their body and essential to their independence,” Walsh said in a statement. “We acknowledge that we are not where we want to be on this as an industry. This is why we want to do something about it on a global level … by bringing the key groups together to take practical action.”



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business trip

U.S., U.K. Commit to Task Force on Restarting Travel


The United States and United Kingdom have agreed to establish a working group of experts to develop recommendations for restarting international travel, according to a joint statement from President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

The statement, issued after Biden and Johnson met before this week’s G7 Summit in the U.K., is part of a wide-ranging document on U.S.-U.K. relations, and commits the countries to “establish a joint U.K.-U.S. Experts’ Working Group, which will share expertise and provide recommendations to leaders on the return of safe and sustainable international travel.”

The U.S. plans to develop with Canada, the European Union and the U.K. working groups of experts on restarting international travel, Reuters reported this week. 

The business travel industry in recent weeks has pushed the U.S. and U.K. governments to address restarting travel, as Covid-19 cases in both countries drop and vaccinations rise. The announcement of the working groups, however, did not immediately include any indication of a deadline for recommendations, much less a date for Covid-19 restrictions on travel to be dropped or eased. 

“We welcome the U.K. and U.S. governments’ shared commitment to reopening U.K.-U.S. travel as soon as possible. Progress to date has been too slow,” said American Express Global Business Travel chief commercial officer Drew Crawley in a Thursday statement. “We must also hope that the formation of yet another travel taskforce finally produces rapid and meaningful results.”

Pointing to the success of the vaccine rollout in both countries, Crawley called on the U.S. and U.K. to implement “consistent testing regimens with the mutual recognition of Covid health certificates in lieu of any quarantine restrictions.”

The U.S. Travel Association in a Wednesday statement said it hoped to see a bilateral travel corridor formed between the two countries “in early July.”

“Opening a U.S.-U.K. travel corridor is a smart, science-based step to take for both countries’ economic recoveries, and now is the critical time to take it,” U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow said in the statement. “With abundant evidence that travel is safe with layered health measures in place—and a clear economic need to reopen international travel—moving to reduce travel restrictions between the two countries is the perfect place to start.”



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Travel between the US and UK hopefully imminent after Biden, Johnson joint task force announcement






BREAKING: Travel between the US and UK hopefully imminent after Biden, Johnson joint task force announcement





















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Fights Force Ohio Theme Park To Close Early


An amusement park in Mason, Ohio, recently closed early because police were called to break up large groups of teens who were fighting.

Just how bad was it? One witness told WLWT 5 (Cincinnati) that he saw park security, Mason police, County Sheriff’s deputies, and Ohio state troopers on the scene to break up the fighting.

A witness named Shan Powell told reporters, “It became a mob.” What’s more, “a police officer was assaulted while trying to help someone else who was assaulted,” WLWT 5 reports. Mason police said the officer was attacked with a “chemical spray.”

From Bad To Worse

Kings Island amusement park is located in Mason, Ohio — a little more than 20 miles outside Cincinnati. It opened for the season on May 15.

Last Saturday, guests reported 30- to 45-minute lines at food stands and restaurants, a Cincinnati Enquirer article reports.

“It was insanely crowded,” Ryan Smith says in the article. “Not surprising, I guess, as it was a Saturday and the weather was nice.”

In the WLWT 5 article, Powell says groups were “terrorizing that park.”

“The whole day, there had been quite a bit of people living without consequences, line-jumping, stealing Coke products, and it was just a really weird feeling throughout the whole day,” Powell said.

Fighting Broke Out

Eventually, due to several fights inside the park, Kings Island closed. Fights then broke out in the parking lot and police were called.

Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported there were several fights in the afternoon, and a large fight just before 10 p.m., the Cincinnati Enquirer article reports. “A sergeant from the highway patrol said the Mason Police Department asked for backup to respond to several large fights at Kings Island and troopers responded,” the article continues.

Even then, there were problems dispersing the crowd.

“There was a lot of yelling,” Powell says in the WLWT 5 article. “Ice and sodas were thrown at the officers, and at each other. It was just pretty much chaos.”

The Park’s Response

When Kings Island closed, it quickly released a statement.

“The safety of our guests and associates is always our top priority,” explained the statement. “On Saturday, the decision was made to close the park 30 minutes early due to unruly behavior and altercations involving a number of teenagers. This behavior did not align with our park’s values, and was not the experience we want any guest to have while visiting Kings Island.”

WLWT later asked a park spokesperson what will happen if passholders have concerns about dropping their memberships, should the fighting continue.

“Yesterday’s event was not a normal occurrence at Kings Island. Unruly behavior has no place at our park,” the spokesperson told WLWT in a statement. “We are taking immediate steps to address the situation so that our guests enjoy their future visits.”

Know Before You Go

Kings Island has more than 80 different rides and attractions — including 36 water slides and two wave pools. Its Diamondback roller coaster is 230 feet tall, with a 215-foot drop. Hours of operation and ticket information may be found here.

For more Ohio inspiration, consider



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Saint Lucia Is Making a Name for Itself as a Caribbean Force in Real Estate (and Golf)


Nestled within a triangle that connects Martinique, Saint Vincent, and Barbados, Saint Lucia is a small mountainous island that faces the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. But that’s just Saint Lucia’s geography. To understand what it feels like to be on the island—to watch a black frigate bird cut through turquoise sky beneath puffy white clouds, to sip on Piton (the native pilsner beer), to witness what Nobel laureate Derek Walcott poetically called “the theater of the sea”—one must experience Saint Lucia. And while tourists have traditionally flocked to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, or the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia has remained overlooked. But that may not be the case for much longer.

Much of the recent optimism for Saint Lucia is a new development on the island’s northern tip. It’s there that a world-class golf course will be bordered by some 300 homes designed by award-winning architect Richard Evans of Studio RHE. The team responsible for this project is Cabot—a brand that, in the short span of 17 years, has produced some of the world’s best golf resorts in the world’s most dramatic settings. “I can’t think of one place on Earth quite like this,” says Ben Cowan-Dewar, cofounder and CEO of Cabot. “And while people say that about most places they go, I truly do mean it.” 

It’s hard to argue with Cowan-Dewar when you consider that Saint Lucia has rows of cactus on the shoreline with a rainforest in the near distance; a holocene within a holocene. Cowan-Dewar and his team have a track record of searching for destinations that are as remote as they are stunningly beautiful, and then building the best golf course within a plane ride of the competition. But it’s not just about hitting the links, Cabot understands the importance of serving the local communities in which they operate. Along with philanthropic efforts, the increased employment and tourism opportunities created by Cabot help grow the surrounding economy. As was the case with their Cabot Cape Breton resort in Inverness, Nova Scotia, an area that was hard hit after its coal mines closed.

Investors have flocked to Cabot Saint Lucia in the midst of COVID-19, as buyers are bullish on remote real estate locations. 

All images are courtesy of Cabot Saint Lucia

But that was in the past; Cowan-Dewar’s team is thinking of the future. And with this project, the future is looking bright. “Unlike almost every other island in the area, there’s been no significant development in Saint Lucia,” says Kristine Thompson, a native of Trinidad and CEO of Cabot Saint Lucia. “And when you build something like we’re working on here, the whole country takes off. It’s one of those special moments that can transform the whole island and its people. And for someone from the Caribbean, that is exciting, being a part of that.” 



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Air Force veterans open travel agency | News


Air Force veterans Karen Esaias and Richard Von Schlichten have, throughout the decades, gone to locations all across the world for both professional work and personal enjoyment – Europe, Asia, South America, the Caribbean.

So, when looking for a retirement business to start, becoming travel agents felt like a natural fit. That led to the Cambria County couple recently completing training and opening a local Dream Vacations franchise.

“I think, over the years, I’ve often thought, ‘Oh man, it would be cool to be a travel agent,’ because we like to travel, and then you kind of live vicariously when you’re planning travel for other people, too,” Von Schlichten said. “So that’s fun.”

Dream Vacations encourages veteran ownership, so Esaias and Von Schlichten talked to several franchise owners who spent time in the military before making their decision.

“To a person, they were really pleased with the company itself and the support that they got,” Esaias said. “They loved it.”

Their training took place during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now’s a good time,” Von Schlichten said.

“While nobody’s really traveling, we can get all this learning done, we can attend all these webinars and videos with different cruise lines and the different suppliers around the world, and then, when people are ready to start traveling, we will have learned a lot.”

Von Schlichten and Esaias can book trips and cruises at locations all across the world.

But, along with helping clients go to far-off destinations, they also want to use their business to support the local community. Twenty percent of their earnings will go to nonprofits.

Clients will be able to direct the donation to St. Clement Food Pantry, Johnstown Free Medical Clinic or Veteran Community Initiatives.

“We’re doing what we love, and we’re happy to give some of that money back to the community,” Von Schlichten said.

More information about the business is available at OnVacationToday.com or by calling 814-961-2075. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.





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Travel news latest: Foreign holiday ban comes into force ahead of ‘red list’ review – The Telegraph



Travel news latest: Foreign holiday ban comes into force ahead of ‘red list’ review  The Telegraph



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