Home COVID tests during Thanksgiving raise challenges for officials


Thousands of people traveling for the holidays this week will first test themselves for COVID-19 without a doctor, lab or any medical oversight.

While quick home tests are hailed as a major convenience and a smart way to protect loved ones, they’ve also raised a significant challenge for public health officials. How can agencies comprehensively track cases and trends when many consumers don’t report home test results?

Federal and state health officials have worked since March 2020 to build capacity to test, report and keep tabs on COVID-19 cases. Public health officials say reporting cases is critical for spotting trends and detecting surges so hotspot communities can lessen risk and prepare hospitals for a rush of people seeking care.

But it’s unclear how often customers report results from the dozen authorized home coronavirus tests that typically deliver results in 15 minutes outside a lab or doctor’s office. And public health’s data blind spot is poised to grow larger.

Private test manufacturers already make more home antigen tests than standard laboratory tests — and the gap could nearly double next month as new home tests flood the market.

— Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY

Also in the news:

►Beginning Monday, Massachusetts hospitals will have to cut back on non-urgent scheduled procedures due to staffing shortages and longer patient stays, according to the state’s health authorities.

►The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, and auto club AAA predicts48.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday period.

►More than 100 children at a vaccination event in Iowa on Saturday were given the incorrect dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, according to a statement from the hospital. A MercyOne spokesperson said there are no significant health risks associated with the larger dose, just a likelihood the children will have more severe versions of the common vaccine side effects

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 775,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 259 million cases and 5.1 million deaths. More than 196 million Americans — 59.1% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: During COVID-19, they believed home was safer than school. Now some NYC parents are accused of neglect.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Just over nine out of ten federal employees have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the required deadline, the Biden administration announced Wednesday when releasing agency-by-agency vaccination rates.

Those rates were as high as 97.8% at the Agency for International Development. Workers at the Agriculture Department had the lowest rate: 86.1%.

Federal employees had until the end of Monday to get vaccinated or request a medical or religious exemption. Unlike a rule the Biden administration wants to impose on private employers, federal workers are not allowed to opt out of the vaccine requirement if they agree to weekly testing.

Workers who are not in the process of getting vaccinated or seeking an exemption will begin a “period of education and counseling, followed by additional enforcement steps,” according to the White House.

— Maureen Groppe and Michael Collins, USA TODAY

European Unions’ drug regulator approves Pfizer vaccine for young children

The European Union’s drug regulator cleared the way for children ages 5 to 11 to begin receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Thursday amid a new wave of infections across the continent.

The European Medicines Agency’s human medicines committee, an EU agency in charge of the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products, concluded that the benefits of vaccinating children outweigh the risks. The European committee will send its recommendation to the European Commission next, which will issue a final decision.

Germany has been facing its worst surge of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, reporting more than 333,000 cases the week of Nov. 15, according to the World Health Organization. That’s nearly double the weekly rate reported during a prior surge in December 2020.

— Celina Tebor, USA TODAY

German Chancellor Angela Merkel labeled Thursday “a very sad day” and backed calls for more restrictions, as her country became the latest to surpass 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The national disease control agency said it recorded 351 deaths in connection with the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, taking the total toll to 100,119. In Europe, Germany is the fifth country to pass that mark, after Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.

The longtime German leader, who is currently in office as caretaker until her successor is sworn in, warned that hundreds more deaths were already looming.

“(The deaths) correlate very clearly with the number of infections that are occurring,” she said. “We know how many people on average do not survive this disease.”

The Robert Koch Institute, a federal agency that collects data from some 400 regional health offices, said Germany set a record for daily confirmed cases — 75,961 — in the past 24-hour period. Since the start of the outbreak, Germany has had more than 5.57 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

— Associated Press

Despite early signs that suggested the U.S. may have avoided another winter surge, COVID-19 cases are rising again.

The country reported 665,420 cases in the week ending Monday, more than a 30% increase from the pace of cases reported about a month ago, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data.

As cases rise in 39 states, U.S. Health and Human Services data show hospitals in 32 states admitted more patients in the latest week than the week before.

“Quite frankly, I’m really concerned,” said Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. “I would say we are better off than we were last year, but cases are starting to tick up and that is something that we really need to keep an eye on.”

After nearly two years of combating COVID-19, health experts thought the U.S. would have been in a better position to control the pandemic. Instead, many people remain unvaccinated and ignore mitigation measures, slowing the pace of progress and burning out health care professionals. 

— Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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business trip

Serko to Raise Capital for International Growth, Acquisitions

New Zealand-based travel and expense management provider Serko plans to raise NZ$85 million—about US$58.4 million—to grow its business, particularly in the unmanaged travel segment, and “pursue opportunities for inorganic global expansion,” the company said Wednesday in its half-year financial results announcement.

The capital will come from issuing NZ$75 million in ordinary shares to new investors as well as a NZ$10 million retail offer to existing shareholders letting them subscribe to up to NZ$50,000 in new shares. Serko has halted trading on the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges and plans to complete its capital raise before the end of the year.

About 40 percent of the new capital is earmarked for developing Serko’s “global marketplace strategy,” especially driving growth in North America. Serko reported an average monthly growth of more than 10 percent in transaction volumes from May through September in North America and reports an increase in inquiries for its Zeno tool in the region, including “multiple requests to participate in [requests for proposals] by Fortune 500 companies.”

Serko plans to invest to grow its Booking.com business, targeting unmanaged business travel, with about 35 percent of the raised capital. Serko has moved more than 300,000 Booking.com for Business customers onto the Zeno platform and reported more than 30,000 new sign-ups for the platform since its launch. It also is “progressively” adding flight and rail content to the platform.

About a quarter of the raised capital will go toward “potential acquisition opportunities, if and when they arise,” according to Serko.

“We are poised for growth out of this pandemic, and the investment to date has proven our ability to grow from a regional leader to a truly global player,” Serko chief executive and co-founder Darrin Grafton said in a statement. “Our focus is now on scaling the business to activate the opportunities we have ahead of us.”

For the first half of its fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, Serko reported NZ$9.2 million in total operating revenue, an 81 percent increase compared with the first half of the previous fiscal year. Total bookings on Serko’s platforms were up 157 percent to 1.3 million over that period, as the strict lockdowns in Australia and New Zealand became more limited and the Booking.com for Business transactions came online. The average revenue per booking for managed business travel declined to $7.38 from $8.76 compared with the previous fiscal year, which Serko said was a result of increased travel that changed its revenue mix.

Within the Australasia region, the number of active corporate customers on the platform ranged from a high of 5,249 in May to a low of 3,443 in September. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Serko had more than 6,800 active corporate customers on the platform.

For the full fiscal year, Serko expects revenue to range between NZ$21 million and NZ$25 million, which “assumes a general reduction of domestic travel restrictions within Australia and New Zealand and no significant lockdowns in Europe or North America.” Serko reported a net loss of NZ$15.2 million for the first half of the fiscal year, a broader loss than the NZ$10.1 million from the first half of the previous fiscal year due to a “planned increase in expenditure to capitalize on the significant opportunities for Serko’s expansion into international markets,” according to Serko.

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Travel news: Get engaged at an iconic landmark, find Canada’s best restaurants, raise a glass at Toronto’s historic hotel bar – GuelphMercury.com

Travel news: Get engaged at an iconic landmark, find Canada’s best restaurants, raise a glass at Toronto’s historic hotel bar  GuelphMercury.com

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Airline meltdowns raise specter of holiday travel woes

Airline meltdowns raise specter of holiday travel woes

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A Cabinetmaking Shop at Old Sturbridge Village, a pet-friendly hotel package, and how to raise your tent game


A new display at Old Sturbridge Village

See the new Cabinetmaking Shop at Old Sturbridge Village, which celebrates the region’s 19th-century woodworkers. The shop, created by local craftspeople and the village’s interpretive staff, includes a wood-burning stove, a small external woodshed, and period tools, doors, and shelves. The village used historic and modern building methods to construct the shop and milled the large timbers for the project on its sawmill. Old Sturbridge Village is one of the country’s oldest and largest living history museums. It celebrates its 75th anniversary this year with commemorative items for sale, a gala event next June, and an exhibition on the history of parades in New England, which runs through July 2023. Admission: free for age 3 and under to $28 for age 18 and older. 800-733-1830, www.osv.org

A new Cabinetmaking Shop at Old Sturbridge Village celebrates the region’s 19th-century woodworkers.
A new Cabinetmaking Shop at Old Sturbridge Village celebrates the region’s 19th-century woodworkers.

Hotel pampers visiting dogs

Tempted to take your pooch on your travels? You’re not alone. Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza has seen a 62 percent increase in the number of guests traveling with their dogs over the past two years. In response, the hotel has launched its Fairmont Furiend room package, in partnership with the Boston Barkery, which creates all-natural doggy biscuits at its new Copley Place location. The hotel will treat your dog as a VIP (Very Important Pup) from the minute you walk through the door. All visitors with dogs receive a 20 percent discount card for Boston Barkery, a printed dog-friendly guide to Boston, and access to a biscuit bar with yummy treats. Book the package and get a Fairmont bandana, a biscuit box from Boston Barkery, and in-room amenities such as a dog bed, water bowl, and mat. Package rates start at $349; regular rates for pet-traveling guests start at $319. 617-267-5300, www.fairmont-copley-plaza.com

Hawaii welcomes travelers again starting Nov. 8, just in time for kohola (“whale”) season.
Hawaii welcomes travelers again starting Nov. 8, just in time for kohola (“whale”) season.


Say aloha to Hawaii and the whales

Hawaii welcomes travelers again starting Nov. 8, just in time for kohola (“whale”) season. More than 10,000 humpbacks visit the islands to breed and nurse their young from November through April. Heading to Maui? The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa on the island’s west side has launched its new Kohola in Kaanapali whale season package, valid Dec. 1 through April 15. It includes two complimentary cocktails and top whale watching views from its new open-air lobby restaurant The Sandbar (try the tuna poke cones and garlic-parmesan fries), a s’mores kit, and access to beachside firepits for roasting marshmallows, reef-friendly sunscreen, and fish ID cards. The Sheraton sits in a protected bay with some of the area’s best snorkeling (look for the giant sea turtles), and offers a lagoon pool with cabanas for rent, spacious rooms that include a private lanai or patio, and easy access to town. As a highlight each night, the resort’s cliff diver leaps off the 16-foot-high Pu’u Keka’a (“Black Rock”), believed to be one of the island’s three portals to the afterworld. Packages start at $709 per night with a minimum three-night stay. 866-716-8140, www.sheratonmaui.com

CityPASS has just launched its new San Diego CityPASS program.
CityPASS has just launched its new San Diego CityPASS program.

See San Diego with CityPASS

Get close to orcas and beluga whales, stand on the bridge of a US warship, and take a trolley ride to one of the country’s top zoos. CityPASS has just launched its new San Diego CityPASS program, which offers access to SeaWorld San Diego and/or LEGOLAND California in addition to three of the following attractions: the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park (pick one), the USS Midway Museum, a one-hour harbor cruise with City Cruises, and a Silver Pass tour with Old Town Trolley Tours, which lets you hop on and off at 11 different sites, offers a full day of unlimited re-boarding, and includes many perks and discounts. Take nine days to visit these sites after activating your pass. If your plans change, you have 365 days post-purchase to return your unactivated CityPASS ticket for a full refund. Insider tip: Book advance reservations even if they aren’t required, since capacity restrictions at some sites still apply. Passes start at $129 ages 3-12, $149 for age 13 and older. www.citypass.com/san-diego


An ultra-compact tripod

Vanguard’s new VEO 3T camera tripods are packed with features, and compact and light enough for travel. The VEO 3T 265HCBP carbon fiber tripod weighs just 4.2 pounds, including the Arca-compatible ball head, the QS-72T quick-shoe plate that lets you attach a DSLR camera or a smartphone (the plate has a built-in phone mount), a Bluetooth remote control for hands-free shooting, and a lightly padded shoulder bag. The legs have five adjustable sections that extend the tripod height to 65.4 inches; one removable leg attaches to the ball head to turn the tripod into a 67-inch-tall monopod. The tripod supports up to 26.5 pounds and has two built-in bubble levels to ensure accuracy. It also comes with removable spiked feet and a removable hook (just hang a bag or other weighted object for support) that help secure the tripod when shooting outdoors. The easy-to-adjust legs quickly fold up, with the tripod measuring just 17.3 inches long when packed. $299.99. www.vanguardworld.com

Extend your outdoor living space or take your glamping adventures to a new level with Life inTents’ canvas bell tents.
Extend your outdoor living space or take your glamping adventures to a new level with Life inTents’ canvas bell tents.

Plush and palatial glamping tents

Extend your outdoor living space or take your glamping adventures to a new level with Life inTents’ canvas bell tents. Choose from the Fernwah or the Stella Stargazer, which has clear roof panels. The 16-foot versions of both tents offer 212 square feet of floor space — enough to fit two queen-size beds or eight sleeping bags — and 9 feet 8 inches of overhead space at the center pole. Take a tent adventuring or pitch it in your backyard to serve as a bug-free hangout zone or a home base for visitors. Each tent sets up in about 30 minutes — faster once you get the hang of it. Zip open the half-moon-shaped windows or roll up the entire lower half of the tent for ventilation; mesh netting keeps bugs and critters out. The tent, which is made of military-grade waterproof cotton canvas, shrugs off driving rain and stands up to 50 m.p.h. wind gusts. If you leave it up longer than a couple of weeks or in drippy weather, make sure you treat it with fabric guard to prevent mildew, as with any canvas. $1,590-$1,690. www.lifeintents.com


Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at travelwriter@karib.us.

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TUI Group to raise €1.1bn in fresh capital | News

Tui Group has confirmed plans to issue new share capital valued at €1.1 billion as the battle to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Some 523 million new shares will be used, a total of ten new shares for every 21 existing shares.

“Following transformation and restructuring of business areas and the relaunch of tourism in recent months, our focus is now on refinancing and reducing the utilisation of government loans.

“We want to, we can and we will find our way back to economic strength.

“We are working on this relentlessly.

“The new TUI will be leaner, more digital and more efficient.

“But it will continue to set standards in tourism, in quality, innovation and sustainability,” said Tui chief executive, Fritz Joussen.

Unifirm of the Mordashov family supports the strategy and, as the largest shareholder of Tui, has undertaken to exercise all subscription rights attributable to its shareholding of 32 per cent and to subscribe to the new shares accordingly.

The remainder of the capital increase is fully underwritten with Barclays Bank Ireland, BofA Securities, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and HSBC acting as joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners.

Commerzbank, Landesbank Baden-Württemberg and Natixis will act as joint bookrunners.

TUI intends to use the net proceeds of the capital increase to reduce interest costs and net debt by reducing current drawings under the KFW facilities.

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EasyJet to raise about $1.4 bln to tap travel rebound – Bloomberg News

Sept 8 (Reuters)EasyJet Plc EZJ.L is planning to raise more than 1 billion pounds ($1.38 billion) through a share sale, as the British airline prepares to compete for customers amid a tentative return of leisure travel, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.

The budget airline’s plan to raise fresh funding by selling equity as well as debt could be announced as soon as this week, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

EasyJet declined to comment on the report.

No final decisions have been made, the report said, adding that the size, structure and timing of any transaction will depend on investor appetite and market conditions.

Earlier this year, the company had raised 1.2 billion euros from a seven-year bond sale.

In July, EasyJet said it planned to fly at 60% of its pre-pandemic capacity between July and September, compared with 17% of 2019 levels in the previous quarter, after it shed staff, cut its fleet and took on new debt to survive the crisis.

($1 = 0.7256 pounds)

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair and Vishal Vivek in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

((Aishwarya.Nair@thomsonreuters.com; +91-8067494421;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Lurgan Beach Teen To Cycle From Kincardine To Tobermory To Raise Environmental Awareness

Lurgan Beach Teen To Cycle From Kincardine To Tobermory To Raise Environmental Awareness | Bayshore Broadcasting News Centre


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Prints For Wildlife Aims To Raise Money For African Parks And Animals

At the beginning of 2020, Africa’s tourism industry looked set for another successful year. The continent had the world’s second-fastest-growing tourism industry and was projected to rake in billions of dollars. But when COVID-19 struck, tourists stopped coming and the industry ground to a halt. The hidden side to the lack of tourists was the direct effect their absence had on wildlife and conservation across the continent. Money from safari bookings and national park fees suddenly dried up, and without tourist dollars coming in, money to fund anti-poaching patrols and other conservation activities were in short supply.

Lions Masai Mara, Kenya
Vic Jauron

Watching all this unfold, two photographers from Austria and the Netherlands decided to get involved. Marion Payr and Pie Aerts joined forces and launched Prints for Wildlife, a fundraiser to support people and wildlife in parks managed by the non-profit organization African Parks, which works in partnership with various African governments.

Rhinos Kariega Game Reserve, South Africa
Brendon Jennings

African Parks was founded in 2000 in response to poor management and lack of funding for protected wildlife areas throughout the continent. African Parks currently manages 19 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries. They protect and manage over 36 million acres in Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It’s the largest area under conservation by any one NGO in Africa, and African Parks’ goal is to manage 30 parks by 2030.

Orangutan Sumatra, Indonesia
Maxime Aliaga

According to Aerts, photographer and co-founder of Prints for Wildlife, “The key to conservation is putting people at the heart of the solution. This is done through community programs supporting health, education, job security, and sustainable livelihoods. African Parks and their community-first approach to conservation is ensuring that the protected areas under their management are safe places where wildlife and people can flourish. And in safe places, magical things can happen. Therefore, choosing African Parks as our partner for this campaign was a no-brainer.”

Lions Masai Mara, Kenya
Will Burrard-Lucas

Last year, in the inaugural edition of Prints for Wildlife, 100 acclaimed international wildlife photographers from around the world came together, offering their art for sale in an unprecedented fundraiser that supported local communities and wildlife in some of Africa’s most special protected areas. The sale raised over $660,200 USD; selling over 6,500 unique wildlife prints in just 30 days. One hundred percent of the proceeds (after printing and handling) were donated to African Parks, and these critical funds went to support a myriad of projects.

Elephants Amboseli, Kenya / Masai Mara, Kenya
Mark Drury
  • 108,579 people gained access to healthcare initiatives
  • 105 schools were built
  • 752 scholarships were funded
  • 3,219 full-time staff and 1,064 rangers were employed
Penguin Antarctica
Graeme Green

And, more specifically, in response to COVID-19, 135,800 people were given access to health awareness campaigns, 65,000 masks were donated, 5,000 liters of soap were distributed, and 630 handwashing stations were installed.

Shark Shark at Seal Island, False Bay, South Africa, Whale image Cape Town, South Africa
Chris Fallows

Prints for Wildlife co-founder and photographer Payr said, “Last year’s incredible success of Prints for Wildlife came as a much-needed reminder, that — even in times of crisis — humanity can come together to spread hope and do good for our planet. Wildlife conservation has now found a place in the hearts of people and with the stunning art of all the generous photographers at the walls of thousands of homes across the globe. That’s why we decided it’s time to come back and create even more awareness and joy, while COVID-19 is still putting a lot of pressure on Africa’s conservation efforts.”

Cheetah Mara North
Tom Way

While the world is opening up for some, Africa’s tourism industry is still floundering and the revenue it generates remains limited. After the incredible success of last year’s efforts, this year, over 170 wildlife photographers have joined forces with Prints for Wildlife and donated a stunning selection of outstanding prints for sale.

Polar Bears Kaktovik, Alaska
Daryl Balfour

Andrea Heydlauff, African Parks’ chief marketing and communications officer, shared that the organization is “beyond excited to be entering into a second Prints for Wildlife print sale to benefit our work at African Parks.” 

Giraffes Masai Mara, Kenya
David Lloyd

“Prints for Wildlife is a unique endeavor, that sees some of the world’s leading wildlife photographers come together in an inspiring and energetic fashion. They are able to mobilize their own networks and give people the chance to really make a difference by purchasing extraordinary prints while raising significant funds for people and wildlife across Africa,” she said.

Giraffe Mara Triangle, Masai Mara, Kenya
Marion Payr

Prints for Wildlife is a unique print sale. Only 100 prints of each image will be available to purchase. Each image is just $100 (excluding shipping), and 100 percent of the proceeds (after printing and handling) goes directly to African Parks. Currently, 150 images are available, and new works will be added weekly until the sale closes on August 11.

Lions Masai Mara, Kenya
Pie Aerts

You can view the print gallery here. We hope you’ll browse the prints for sale and find something you fall in love with, knowing all purchases will help an incredible cause. For more information, visit African Parks’ homepage and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Two white rhinoceroses, Ceratotherium simum, walking in a cloud of dust at sunset.
Sergio Pitamitz

Inspired by these beautiful animals and their African homes? Consider all our safari coverage here.

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