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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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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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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Hat tip to a politician who took on thankless task in New Mexico | Coronavirus


Bill McCamley just quit one of the most difficult, demanding and depressing jobs in state government.

He headed the agency that for a year has tried to manage the claims of more than 100,000 unemployed people at a time.

McCamley stuck to canned statements regarding his departure, but he was definitive about one part of his future.

I asked him if he would make another run for Congress.

“No sir,” McCamley wrote in a text message.

What are you running for, if anything?

“Nothing,” McCamley replied.

He probably expected those questions. McCamley, 43, has been running for public offices for more than a third of his life.

At 26, he was elected as a Doña Ana County commissioner. By 29, McCamley was running for Congress in the 2nd District, which sprawls across the southern half of the state. He lost to an oilman in the Democratic primary election.

At 32, McCamley lost again, this time to a Republican for a seat on the state Public Regulation Commission. He rebounded at 34, winning the first of three terms as a state representative.

McCamley had higher ambitions than the Legislature. He gave up his seat to run for state auditor in 2018.

It was the job he coveted. McCamley holds a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The thought of becoming state auditor fit his interests and energized him.

As a legislator, McCamley wouldn’t accept so much as a cup of coffee or lunch from lobbyists. He would talk to any constituent or advocate. But he didn’t want their gifts or the appearance of being unduly influenced.

Being state auditor would have authorized him to double-check the spending practices of other politicians and their governments.

But McCamley lost by a landslide in the Democratic primary. Fortunately for him, he had a politician’s connections.

A fellow Democrat, Michelle Lujan Grisham, was elected governor. She hired McCamley as Cabinet secretary of the Department of Workforce Solutions.

In another era, the agency was called the Labor Department. Somehow, labor became a politically loaded word instead of something to take pride in.

More important than the department’s name are the drawbacks of the system.

Cabinet positions are political appointments. And the jobs often go to politicians instead of proven administrators.

Aside from the prison system or the mammoth state Department of Health, no agency is as difficult to run as Workforce Solutions. Its leader must learn to navigate the Byzantine federal laws the state has to follow in deciding if someone qualifies for unemployment benefits.

Workforce Solutions had 9,600 unemployment claims on March 9, 2020, the beginning stage of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of claims soared to 150,000 in June. It dipped after that, but still remained above 100,000.

Each week I received calls or emails from people who were desperate. Their unemployment benefits had stalled or been denied. They complained about a heartless bureaucracy.

After checking as far as I could on the more outrageous complaints of government inefficiency, I would call McCamley. He always responded, though he said privacy laws prohibited him from discussing the specifics of any case.

I would provide him with details anyway, and he would listen.

A drug counselor who no longer could work in a county jail because of COVID-19 had stopped receiving his unemployment checks. He didn’t have a computer, and he couldn’t get anyone from Workforce Solutions on the phone.

McCamley looked into the snag. Soon after, the drug counselor was told he needed to submit another form for his benefits to resume. Someone who’d been worried about surviving got the help he needed.

A retail store worker who’d been grievously injured on the job, then fired, wasn’t receiving unemployment benefits. He couldn’t understand why.

It took a few weeks, but McCamley’s department removed the roadblock. The ousted retail worker began receiving benefits.

In another case, management ordered a worker at a national pizza chain to transfer to another store. The new assignment required many miles of travel, but the worker didn’t have a car or other means of transportation. He was out of work because he couldn’t get to the new restaurant.

The pizza company fought the worker’s claim for unemployment compensation. McCamley ruled for the former employee. He had wanted to work but was thrust into an impossible assignment — during a pandemic, no less.

McCamley and his crew made mistakes, I’m sure. No one — not a CEO or a school principal or a Cabinet secretary — can make thousands of decisions without getting some wrong.

McCamley worried about errors, knowing every decision had human consequences. He also balanced emotion with the law.

Many times people quit jobs to look for something better, then applied for unemployment benefits. They didn’t qualify. McCamley’s agency had to deny money to people who’d made an uninformed decision.

“The job is heartbreaking,” he once told me.

On that day, he had been investigating the unemployment claim of a man living in his truck.

McCamley understands the dignity of work. And he learned that losing elections isn’t the worst setback, not by a long shot.



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Member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination task force resigns after travel outside country


A member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force has resigned after she travelled outside of Canada in December, the premier’s office says.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford accepted the resignation of Linda Hasenfratz on Tuesday.

Ivana Yelich, spokesperson for the premier, said in a statement on Tuesday that  Hasenfratz has apologized for her decision to travel.

“Thanks to the efforts of all Ontarians, we are starting to see early signs of progress in bending the curve,” Yelich added.

“Now is not the time to let up. We continue to urge everyone to stay home.”

Hasenfratz is the CEO of Linamar Corporation, a Canadian company that manufactures and supplies products to automotive and industrial markets. It is the country’s second-largest automobile parts manufacturer.

In a description after Hasenfratz was named, the Ontario government said: “Leading the global advanced manufacturing company for almost 20 years, she has significant lean manufacturing, process development and logistics expertise in creating solutions for the automotive and industrial sectors.” 

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier is chair of the task force, which had nine members until Hasenfratz resigned.

The government said the task force provides advice and recommendations on the rollout of Ontario’s COVID-19 immunization program. 

It is focusing on delivery, logistics and administration, clinical guidance as well as public education and outreach, the government said. Members of the task force include experts in logistics and distribution, bioethics, behavioural science, vaccines, vulnerable populations and IT infrastructure: 



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