Canadians travel to Buffalo for Sabres and Maple Leafs game at KeyBank following border reopening


BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – This weekend is the first time in almost 20 months Canadians could attend a hockey game at the KeyBank Center. The Sabres are taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night and fans from both teams are excited about the reunion.

“It just adds to the game I think and the atmosphere,” said Madison Burns who’s from Buffalo. “It’ll be nice to have at least a bigger crowd in there, with a little more energy for the Sabres.”

“I’m very excited. Even though they’re competition, they’re welcome here so I’m really excited just seeing all the people,” Sabres fan Julia Burns said.

Canadians are back in Buffalo and back to attending hockey games at the KeyBank Center.

“Just being here, in a new city, as a fan of the opposing team, it’s a great feeling,” said Rob Jot-Kandola, who traveled to Buffalo from Toronto with a group of friends.

“It’s the Leafs. The Leafs are playing in Buffalo. We always come every year whenever they play and the borders been closed for about a year almost and when they opened up the first thing we did was look for tickets,” said Hargit Singh, who’s from Toronto.

The border opened for Canadians this week, allowing them to once again visit Buffalo, and Toronto Maple Leaf fans made a weekend out of it.

“It was amazing . I actually enjoyed driving over the bridge. I haven’t been to Buffalo in years. So it was great, it was a great journey. I loved it,” Jot-Kandola said.

“I think just seeing the Leafs play in a different city, because we always see them in Toronto so going somewhere else to watch them,” said Toronto resident Alexa Starr.

“It was exciting. We’ve been here before and it was exciting to be able to get back to watching games in Buffalo. It’s kind of surreal,” said Connor Koster, who visited from Canada.

To get back into Canada, people need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, which could cost more than a hundred dollars in some places. Canadians News 4 caught up with say it’s worth it.

“The Leafs are worth it. So we paid for the PCR test,” Andrea Starr said.

“It’s just an extra step you’ve got to take every time, but if you’re a true Leafs fan that extra step is not a big deal,” said Jason Gill, who traveled from Toronto.

“We thought about it. Is it worth going down to Buffalo? We checked all the finances, all the prices but we’re just like it’s ok. It’s been such a long year in 2020 so we’re like hey why not just go to Buffalo, it’s ok,” Jot-Kandola said.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.



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Migrants Say Belarusians Took Them to E.U. Border and Supplied Wire Cutters


SULAIMANIYA, Iraq — The sudden surge of migrants to Belarus from the Middle East that is now the focus of a political crisis in Europe was hardly an accident.

The government of Belarus loosened its visa rules in August, Iraqi travel agents said, making a flight to the country a more palatable journey to Europe than the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece.

It increased flights by the state-owned airline, and then actively helped funnel migrants from the capital, Minsk, to the frontiers with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

And Belarusian security forces gave them directions on how to cross into the European Union countries, even handing out wire cutters and axes to cut through border fences.

These moves, which European leaders have characterized as a cynical ploy to “weaponize” migrants in an effort to punish Europe, opened the gates to people desperate to flee a region plagued by instability and high unemployment.

Now, thousands of people are stranded or hiding along the border in freezing conditions, not wanted by the European Union countries or, circumstances are making clear, by the country that lured them there in the first place.

The human tide has turned cities like Sulaimaniya, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, into bustling ports of departure for migrants eager to take an expensive and risky journey for the chance of a better life in Europe.

As word went viral on social media that Belarus offered a route into Europe, the number of migrants snowballed.

Mala Rawaz, a travel agent in Sulaimaniya, said he had been selling about 100 packages a week for trips to Belarus. The packages included airfare through a third country, transit accommodation and a Belarusian visa.

At the city’s bazaar, Bryar Muhammad, 25, was doing a brisk business on Thursday selling warm clothes.

“Good clothes for Belarus!” he shouted, holding up thick acrylic sweaters and winter jackets pulled from a cardboard box. “For the snow of Belarus!”

Even as young families in Iraq were putting up their homes as collateral to raise money for the journey, evidence mounted that Belarus’s autocratic leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, was orchestrating the migration to manufacture a crisis for the European Union.

The Belarusian state-owned airline, Belavia, had increased flights from the Middle East to Minsk, European officials said. The Belarusian authorities eased the issuance of visas through the state-owned travel agency Tsentrkurort, according to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

Migrants who reached Minsk were put up in at least three government-owned hotels, according to Latvia’s defense minister, Artis Pabriks, and Franak Viacorka, a senior adviser to a Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Mr. Pabriks said that Belarusian intelligence agents had been involved in transferring migrants to the borders, and that military buses were used.

Several Iraqi migrants said that the Belarusian security forces provided them with tools to break through the Polish border fence.

Bayar Awat, an Iraqi Kurd stranded on the Belarusian side of the Polish border, said that Belarusian guards had helped his group reach the border by pointing out a route that bypassed the official border crossing and emerged near a gap cut in the border fence.

“The Belarus police guided us to the forest, then pointed directions to lead us inside the forest to keep us away from the official border crossing,” he said.

On Thursday, a Belarusian soldier was overheard on the phone ordering an Iraqi Kurd to direct a group of 400 to 500 migrants from the Lithuanian border toward the Polish border.

“All the people who move here go to Brest,” the soldier told him in broken English, referring to the Belarusian city on the Polish border, because there were too many migrants on the Lithuanian border.

When some migrants have tried to leave the frigid forest to return to Minsk, many have been pushed back by Belarusian guards, leaving the migrants stuck at the border, they said.

European officials say that these measures are part of Mr. Lukashenko’s effort to retaliate against the European Union for imposing sanctions after he claimed victory in a disputed 2020 election.

“Lukashenko’s rhetoric, the visa policy and the sudden influx of migrants this summer all point to the involvement of the Belarusian state and travel agencies,” said Gustav Gressel, a Berlin-based senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

On Friday, in an effort to stem the crisis, several airlines took steps to limit the number of people flying to Belarus from the Middle East. Travel agents in Iraq said that Turkey and Iran had begun canceling tickets to Minsk for Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni passengers on Thursday, and that the government had stopped travel agents from selling even transit tickets to Belarus earlier in the week.

But that mattered little to desperate Iraqis, who were already finding alternate routes through Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“I have heard that the situation is not good in Belarus, but I have to go because there is no life here, no job opportunities, no human rights, no equality and justice, no joy at all,” said Amer Karwan, a carpenter who went with three friends to a travel agency in Sulaimaniya on Thursday to pick up tickets they hoped would get them to Belarus.

Mr. Karwan, who turned 20 on Thursday, had borrowed $3,500 from a relative for the trip. He said the group was undeterred by the travel agent’s warning that the tickets through Iran and Turkey were nonrefundable and that there was no guarantee they would make it to Belarus.

Ironically, the biggest source of migrants, the semiautonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, is considered the most stable and secure region of the country.

Unlike many of their parents who became refugees during Saddam Hussein’s era, this time the Iraqi Kurds are not fleeing war or genocide. They are seeking a future that even the country’s relative peace has not provided them.

Despite Iraqi Kurdistan’s outward prosperity, young people especially despair over the lack of jobs, and over the corruption, repression and tribal conflicts that often override the legal system.

They are taking out loans and borrowing from family members to make the trip.

The crisis has raised the price of visas to Belarus, which used to cost about $90 and now cost about $1,200. Most migrants said they were paying about $3,000 for packages including the visa, airfare and a few days’ accommodation.

Many migrants also leave thousands of dollars on deposit with currency transfer shops to send to smugglers who promise to get them to the border. Several said the smuggling fee was about $3,000. But often, the migrants said, the smugglers do nothing more than point out which direction to walk through the dense forest.

That is to say nothing of the emotional costs a migrant faces leaving home and family behind.

On Friday, Mr. Karwan, dressed in a new olive-green winter jacket and gloves, left home to take a taxi to the airport in Erbil, four hours away.

Seeing him off in Sulaimaniya, Mr. Karwan’s mother and two sisters stood at the gate sobbing. His father thrust Iraqi dinars into his hand and waited until the taxi door closed before wiping away tears.

“I feel terrible,” said his mother, Bayan Omar. “He is my only son. If I stop him from leaving, what would he do? He tells me, ‘Can you guarantee me a house, a car, a life, the chance to get married?’ I cannot stop him.”

Later that day, Mr. Karwan’s flights through Tehran and Istanbul were canceled. He was waiting in Erbil to be rebooked through Dubai.

For those who have already made it to Belarus, the situation is grim. At the border with Lithuania, several thousand migrants were pushed up against razor-wire fences, prevented from moving forward or going back.

Young men and families with small children who had walked for days through the deep forest were huddled around makeshift camps, burning wood to try to keep warm, according to videos sent by the migrants. Some had small pop-up tents, others buried themselves in sleeping bags on the freezing ground.

On Saturday, Polish authorities accused Belarusian soldiers of destroying part of a border fence near the village of Czeremcha and of trying to distract Polish frontier guards with laser beams and strobe lights, so as to help migrants cross into the European Union. The Polish account of events, however, could not be confirmed because the government in Warsaw has barred all nonresidents, including journalists and doctors, from entering the border area.

At least nine migrants have died in Poland over the past two weeks, most from exposure, according to Polish officials. Belarus has not said how many have died on its side of the frontier. Polish media reported on Thursday that a 14-year-old Iraqi boy had frozen to death near the border in Belarus.

“We have food and water but not enough,” said one Iraqi Kurd, who asked to be called by his nickname, Bahadino. He sent videos showing pregnant women and small children, some of them disabled.

He also sent a video of himself and a small group of migrants politely holding a cardboard sign reading, “Poland — Sorry.”

“Today we apologized to the European Union and to Poland,” he said. “You know because we came to the border and we broke the fence at the border. We apologize for that.”

But he had no apologies about trying to get into Europe. He said he had no plans to return to Iraq.

Jane Arraf reported from Sulaimaniya, Iraq, and Elian Peltier from Brussels. Sangar Khaleel and Barzan Jabar contributed reporting from Sulaimaniya, and Andrew Higgins from Warsaw.



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Covid News: U.S.-Mexico Border Reopens to Vaccinated Tourists


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Vaccinated visitors from Mexico lined up to enter the U.S. after the pandemic travel ban was lifted. For the past 18 months, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been able to cross the border.CreditCredit…Guillermo Arias/AFP — Getty Images

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. — After months in which the lines at the crossing were hours long, travelers moved swiftly northward into California from Tijuana, Mexico, in the predawn hours on Monday, as tourists with proof of coronavirus vaccination joined the mix of students, essential workers and returning Americans entering the United States.

At the San Ysidro Port of Entry, every available booth was staffed with Customs and Border Protection agents, who checked some people for proof of vaccination before waving most of them through. Only a few booths had been open during the previous 18 months, when a pandemic travel ban kept out most travelers other than American citizens and permanent residents or people with “essential needs.”

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

Yadira Perdomo, who is Colombian, had received experimental medical treatment in Los Angeles but had not been able to see her doctor there for a follow-up. She crossed the border early on Monday in a wheelchair pushed by her sister Hannah Perdomo.

Some noncitizens were able to receive medical exemptions to enter the United States during the travel ban, but the sisters wanted to cross together. They moved to Baja California two months ago to await the day when the border would open to fully vaccinated visitors. They got in line at the crossing at 3 a.m. Monday.

“I feel very happy to be able to move forward with my life,” Yadira Perdomo said.

In the days before the reopening, there was some confusion among Mexicans over which vaccines would be accepted and what proof would be required.

Maria, who was on her way to see her granddaughter in Los Angeles and declined to give her last name, said she had received the Sinovac vaccine from China. Though the United States hasn’t authorized its use, the World Health Organization has, so it is being accepted at the border.

“I’m going right now because I don’t need permission to, because I can,” she said. “It’s been very sad to be apart.”

People hoping to visit the United States waited for hours last week to apply for vaccination certificates at Health Ministry offices in Tijuana. Mexican officials encouraged people to get the certificates and be included in a national database, even though the vaccination slips given out by doctors when shots are administered would be equally valid for crossing the border.

Carlos Gutiérrez, a dentist, didn’t want to take any chances. He waited in line for a certificate, just in case it would make a difference. “I have a lot of shopping to do — video games, clothes, things you can’t get in Mexico,” he said.

Though all the car lanes at San Ysidro were in use on Monday, only one pedestrian entrance was open. Another, closed throughout the travel ban, is blocked by an encampment of asylum seekers, who still cannot cross freely.

At a news conference, local officials and business leaders in San Ysidro, a section of the city of San Diego, said the reopening was badly needed on both sides of the border.

Jason Wells, executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, said that local businesses had suffered $1.3 billion in lost sales because of border restrictions that he called “discrimination against tourism.”

“We are all truly essential,” he said.

The United States reopened its borders for vaccinated foreign travelers on Monday, ending more than 18 months of restrictions on international travel that separated families and cost the global travel industry hundreds of billions of dollars.

Before dawn on Monday, thousands of passengers flocked into Heathrow Airport for the first flights to the United States out of London. They were welcomed by dozens of airline staff who beamed and waved American flags.

The policy shift has come in time for the holiday season, when the beleaguered tourism industry is eagerly awaiting an influx of international visitors, especially in popular big-city destinations. Eager to make up for lost time, tourists traveling on Monday had packed itineraries, from Broadway shows in New York and family days at Disney World in Florida to bingo nights in Arizona.

In New York alone, the absence of tourists in 2020 resulted in a loss of $60 billion in revenue and wiped out 89,000 jobs across retail, arts, culture, hotels and transportation, the state comptroller found. Though travelers from abroad account for just one-fifth of the city’s visitors, they generate 50 percent of the city’s tourism spending, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency.

Towns along the borders with Mexico and Canada also suffered under the restrictions, which shut down land crossings to “nonessential” traffic and cost businesses millions of dollars.

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to enter the United States if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three days before departure. Unvaccinated Americans and children under 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a coronavirus test within 24 hours of travel.

While the new entry requirements ease travel for vaccinated travelers, they restrict people who were previously permitted to visit the United States, including unvaccinated travelers from Japan, Singapore, Mexico and other countries. Those who have received vaccines that have not been approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use, like the Russian Sputnik V, will also not be permitted to enter.

The extended ban on travel from 33 countries resulted in losses of nearly $300 billion in visitor spending and more than one million American jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association, an industry group.

Many of the airplanes arriving in the United States on Monday were full of travelers reuniting with family and friends after a span of almost 600 days.

American Airlines said bookings over the three days after the announcement were up 66 percent for flights between Britain and the United States, 40 percent for those from Europe and 74 percent for Brazil, compared with a similar period a week earlier. United Airlines said that it sold more tickets for trans-Atlantic flights in the days after the announcement than during a similar period in 2019, a first since the pandemic began. Delta Air Lines said many of its international flights on Monday were fully booked.

Hotels across the United States, particularly those in cities, also felt the impact of the reopening. Hyatt, the hotel group, said that approximately 50 percent of its bookings by international travelers to the U.S. for the week of Nov. 8 came after the opening date was announced in mid-October.

Correction: 

A previous version of this item incorrectly described how Belinda Calva, Dayanna Patino Calva and Anabel Patino Calva are related. Dayanna Patino Calva and Anabel Patino Calva are sisters and Belinda Calva is their mother.

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Families Reunite as the U.S. Reopens to Vaccinated Travelers

Families who had been separated from loved ones for more than 18 months were finally able to see them again, after the U.S. lifted its travel ban for vaccinated foreigners.

“So, we’re really happy, really happy that U.S. Customs is opening, and really happy that we can be together and build our lives together.” “Because of travel restrictions, I could not see her. But finally, she made it here and we’ll have a good time.” “This is your grandma.” “Just elated, you know, there is no words. I don’t have any words.” “That’s the thing that I’ve missed the most is them not being able to be together, just because I know how much it means to me to be able to hold him, and having them not be able to do that, it’s been really painful. So, I’m so glad it happened. I’m so glad it’s real. It’s just, it’s amazing. It’s yeah, it feels really, really, really good.”

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Families who had been separated from loved ones for more than 18 months were finally able to see them again, after the U.S. lifted its travel ban for vaccinated foreigners.CreditCredit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

As the United States reopened to fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries on Monday, it was a morning of joyous reunions, some hard-earned.

Jolly Dave’s odyssey started last weekend, with a seven-hour bus ride from the Indian state of Gujarat to Mumbai. There she took a three-hour flight to New Delhi, then boarded a 16-hour flight to Newark.

Ms. Dave, 30, was traveling to meet her boyfriend, Nirmit Shelat, 31, whom she had not seen since last winter, when she had returned to their home state of Gujarat, expecting to stay for a few months. But then India experienced a devastating coronavirus surge, and her travel was restricted.

Mr. Nirmit, a project manager at Bank of America, had stayed in the United States. When the United States finally lifted its restrictions on travelers from India, Mr. Nirmit went online, booked an Air India flight for Ms. Dave and paid $1,700 for the one-way ticket from New Delhi to Newark’s Liberty International Airport.

On Sunday night, Mr. Nirmit drove 600 miles north to New Jersey from their home in Charlotte, N.C., checked into an Airbnb in Freehold, N.J., at 6:30 a.m. and then headed to Newark’s Terminal B to greet Ms. Dave.

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“My Lady Luck is back,” he said as he waited. “You can make daily calls, stay connected by FaceTime, but you want to experience her fingers, her touch, her kiss. She told me she wants to break the Apple wall.”

They saw each other from down a hallway, and embraced upon reuniting. She kept her mask on as they kissed. He grew emotional. She was carrying three roller suitcases and four bags.

“The Apple wall is broken,” she said.

At Miami International Airport, Natalia Vitorini, a 28-year-old student living in Miami, met her parents on Concourse D after they got off the morning’s first flight from São Paulo, Brazil. She had her 3-week-old son in a stroller.

Her mother, Débora Vitorini, 56, who works in the biomedical industry in São Paulo, bought her ticket within hours of the announcement of the reopening date. She and her husband, Sergio, arrived a little after 6 a.m.

The last time they had seen each other was in March 2020. Natalia Vitorini got pregnant earlier this year, and gave birth to her son a few weeks ago. “I was waiting for the border to open so my mom can come to see my baby,” she said.

When Natalia Abrahao, 40, saw her fiancé, Mark Ogertschnig, 45, emerge into Terminal B at Newark off a flight from Amsterdam at about noon, she leapt into his arms. He spun her around as she kicked up her heels.

“Finally!” she said. “Finally!”

The couple had gotten engaged on March 13 last year at Gianni’s, a restaurant in the Versace mansion in Miami, just days before international travel shut down.

Mr. Ogertschnig, who is from the Netherlands, had been living in the United States, and they lived together for the first five months of the pandemic, but his visa expired and he had to return home. Twice they had taken advantage of a loophole in the travel rules that let travelers from a banned country spend two weeks in a country that was not on the list, such as Canada or Mexico, and then enter the United States.

In August, they reunited in Cancún for a week to celebrate her 40th birthday. “I never loved Mexico so much!” she said.

When the United States announced its reopening plans, he promised to be on the first flight. He booked a flight for Nov. 1. He then moved it when he found out Nov. 8 was the official reopening.

“I was almost like, if you’re not there the first day, I’m done,” she said, laughing, as she waited for him to emerge from screening.

In the early afternoon, the arrivals area at Kennedy Airport’s Terminal 1 began to fill up with people waiting for loved ones, many with balloons in hand. By the time her mother arrived, Svenja Ostwald’s two daughters had accidentally released the M and I balloons they were holding to spell out “Omi,” a German term of endearment for grandmother.

The two massive silver letters glittered near the ceiling, giving the arrivals area a more festive feeling. Ms. Ostwald, 37, who lives in Manhattan, had picked up the girls early from day care in order to greet her mother, Christiane Ecklemann, who was flying in from Frankfurt at 2:04 p.m. She estimated that if it were not for the travel restrictions, the girls, who are 5 and 3, would have seen their grandmother at least six times.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Ms. Ostwald after she and her daughters hugged Ms. Ecklemann, 70, shortly after 3 p.m.

The distance had been difficult not only for Ms. Ostwald, who would have welcomed her mother’s help with the girls, but also, she said, for Ms. Ecklemann, who lives alone. “She was isolated, and not being able to share things was hard,” she said.

Soon after the Ostwalds reunited with Ms. Ecklemann, a small dog named Whiskey yipped beneath the escaped balloons in Terminal 1. Ye Jin, 36, had brought the dog with her to pick up her mother, Ni Fu Ying, 64, who was flying in from Berlin and who had not visited since the start of the pandemic.

Seeing her mother at last made her grateful that the United States was accepting visitors from abroad again, she said, adding that the vaccine rules did not bother her.

“It makes me feel better about her flying,” she said, gesturing to her mother. “I just wish it could have happened much sooner.”

Correction: 

An earlier version of this item referred incorrectly to Gujarat. It is a state in India, not a city. 

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White House to Defend Vaccination Rules for Large Companies

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, recommended businesses move forward with plans to implement the administration’s Covid-19 vaccination or weekly testing requirements after a federal appeals court put a temporary block on them.

“Defending a policy is not a new thing from an administration, regardless, if it’s a Republican or a Democrat administration, this is something that happens all the time. The administration, the administration clearly has the authority to protect workers, and actions announced by the president are designed to save lives and stop the spread of Covid-19. And as D.O.J. said, they will be defending these lawsuits. But I also want to step back for a second because there is precedence here. The Department of Labor has a responsibility to keep workers safe, and the legal authority to do so. The secretary determines — the secretary of Department of Labor — determines workers at risk or what is called the grave danger. And if you look around, and if we really zero in this past year, more than 750,000 people have died of Covid. You have more — about, approximately 1,300 people a day who continue to die a day, as I said, from Covid. If that’s not a grave danger, I don’t know what else is.” Reporter: “Should they prepare their employees now to get vaccinated or should they wait months more?” “No, that’s a great question. I appreciate the question. We think people should not wait. We say do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe. It is important and critical to do, and waiting to get more people vaccinated will lead to more outbreaks and sickness.”

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Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, recommended businesses move forward with plans to implement the administration’s Covid-19 vaccination or weekly testing requirements after a federal appeals court put a temporary block on them.CreditCredit…Sarah Silbiger for The New York Times

The Biden administration on Monday argued that the federal government had all the power it needed to require large employers to mandate vaccination of their workers against the Covid-19 virus — or to require those who refuse the shots to wear masks and submit to weekly testing.

In a 28-page filing before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked the mandate with a nationwide stay last week, the Justice Department argued that the rule was necessarily to protect workers from the pandemic and was well grounded in law.

Keeping the mandate from coming into effect “would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations, other serious health effects, and tremendous costs,” the Justice Department said in its filing. “That is a confluence of harms of the highest order.”

One coalition of businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations and several states filed a petition on Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana, arguing that the administration overstepped its authority.

On Saturday, a panel of the court temporarily blocked the new mandate, writing that “the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, said at a news conference on Monday that the administration was recommending that businesses move forward with vaccination and testing plans, regardless of any possible delays in federal enforcement stemming from the court’s action.

“Do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

The stay does not have any immediate impact, because the first major deadline for complying with the mandate does not arrive until Dec. 5, when companies with at least 100 employees would have to require unvaccinated employees to wear masks indoors.

Asked why the broad requirements of the mandate were necessary now, Ms. Jean-Pierre cited the number of people who have been dying from the coronavirus recently — an average of 1,217 deaths a day as of Sunday, according to a New York Times database.

“That should not be the number that we’re looking at,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “We believe that in order to get this pandemic behind us, we need to get more people vaccinated.”

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Paul LaCorte, the parent of a 5- and a 7-year-old at P.S. 40 in Manhattan, arrived early, hoping to get his children vaccinated against the coronavirus at a clinic the city was hosting there.

He stood in line with dozens of other frustrated and angry parents for more than four hours — more time than it took him to run the New York City Marathon on Sunday. He was still so stiff that he refused a plastic chair the school administrators offered him.

P.S. 40, in the Gramercy neighborhood, was one of a dozen New York City schools swamped with demand Monday morning as the city rolled out its weeklong effort to bring a half-day vaccine clinic to each of its more than 1,000 schools that serve elementary aged students.

City officials acknowledged that they were caught off-guard by the demand at those schools, which far exceeded the interest last spring at school-based vaccine clinics for teenagers. They pledged to return to any school where children were turned away for lack of supply.

“We laid in supply and staffing for the amount of demand we expected,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a morning news briefing. “If we’re seeing more demand, well, that’s a good thing, but we got to catch up with it quickly.”

Officials said that most of the clinics, which took place at over 200 schools on Monday, went smoothly. Mr. de Blasio noted that the clinics with overwhelming demand were in Districts 1 and 2 in Manhattan and District 15 in Brooklyn: among the city’s wealthiest districts, in areas that have high vaccination rates among adults.

Four clinics also had delays in getting their supplies Monday morning, Mr. de Blasio said. The P.S. 40 clinic finally opened at 11:24 a.m. to a round of relieved cheers, instead of at 7 a.m. as scheduled. Most children had elected to wait in class, rather than stand outside with their parents.

At P.S. 19 in the East Village, the city invited the media to watch as five students got vaccinated. Ranging from 5 to 10 years old, the children were mostly calm as the needles slid into their arms. One student, Mason Lawrence, 9, turned his head away and leaned into his father. But as soon as it was over, he flashed two thumbs up high in the air.

“I got the shot!” cheered Indiana Chang, age 5. The needle only hurt a little, she added. “That wasn’t so bad.”

Mr. de Blasio was supposed to turn up at P.S. 19, so some of the children had written handmade cards for him. He didn’t come in the end. A spokeswoman said there was a “scheduling conflict” and that the cards would be hand delivered to him. The schools chancellor and health commissioner were there.

Other schools saw far less demand. At P.S. 21 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, parents leaving the clinic reported smooth operations, with about eight children waiting inside about two hours into the afternoon clinic. There were no lines on the street.

And at nearby P.S. 5, also in Bedford-Stuyvesant, all was quiet when Candace Floyd, 36, brought her son Jeremiah Augustine, 10, to get vaccinated on Monday afternoon. There were about four other children inside when they arrived, she said, but when they left only two remained. She and her son were “in and out,” she said.

In the Brooklyn ZIP code where P.S. 21 and P.S. 5 are located, only 50 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 78 percent in the Manhattan neighborhood around P.S. 40. The schools also differ in economic need: More than 80 percent of children at P.S. 21 and P.S. 5 are considered in need, according to city statistics, compared with 12 percent at P.S. 40.

Ms. Floyd said that Jeremiah and his classmates have already had to quarantine twice since the beginning of the school year because of exposure to the virus. Her son is likely the first in his class to get the vaccine, she said, but she thinks other parents will follow suit.

Jeremiah was in good spirits as he requested some Gatorade from his mother. “It’s a relief,” she said.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article described incorrectly the amount of time Paul LaCorte waited in line to get his children vaccinated. He waited four hours, which was more time than it took him to run the New York City Marathon, not less.

Credit…Getty Images

Franklin Sherman Elementary School made medical history in 1954, when 114 of its students became the first healthy American children to be vaccinated against polio as part of a nationwide clinical trial. They called themselves “polio pioneers.”

On Monday the school again earned a place in the spotlight, by running a coronavirus vaccine clinic for its students that the first lady, Jill Biden, visited with the surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dozens of young children, accompanied by their parents, trooped through its brightly colored gymnasium to get their shots.

The visit kicked off what White House officials said would be a national push, led by Dr. Biden, to persuade parents and guardians to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds now that the shots are available to them. The administration has already shipped 15 million pediatric doses across the country to doctors’ offices, children’s hospitals, community health centers, pharmacies and schools, with the goal of vaccinating all 28 million children in the age group.

Public health experts view vaccinating young children as a critical step toward bringing the pandemic under control. The Food and Drug Administration Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11 at the end of October, and last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed it.

It is too soon to tell how the rollout is going. The C.D.C. will not release data on how many young children have been vaccinated until Wednesday, officials said.

But at Franklin Sherman Elementary in the suburbs of Washington, demand was high. The school has 355 students and quickly filled all 260 appointments at Monday’s clinic, run by the Fairfax County Health Department. Dr. Biden and Dr. Murthy, who said he was eager to get his 5-year-old vaccinated, handed out stickers to students who had just gotten their shots.

Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

When the U.S. travel ban on many international visitors was lifted at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, the situation may have seemed straightforward.

“If you’re departing before that, the new rules don’t apply. If you’re departing at the time or later, you’re under the new construct,” said Sharon Pinkerton, the senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy for Airlines for America, an industry trade group.

But it caused considerable confusion for some eager travelers who booked overnight flights, and frustration for some who are being tripped up by the new rules.

Caroline Prado and Diego Paradella, a couple from Brazil, are in the first category. They had planned to celebrate their second wedding anniversary with a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., but had to put it off it because of the pandemic. When the reopening was announced, they rescheduled their departure as soon as they could.

They booked seats on an American Airlines flight leaving São Paulo for Miami at five minutes after midnight local time on Nov. 8.

But when Ms. Prado, 29, called the airline to double check what documentation they needed, she learned, by chance, that they would not be allowed to board: São Paulo is two hours ahead of Miami, so the flight was technically leaving before the presidential proclamation on the travel ban took effect.

The couple had already paid for a hotel, rental car and tickets to Disney World, so they decided to take a chance and go to the airport anyway. They boarded the flight without issue.

“Everything went perfectly well,” Ms. Prado said.

An American Airlines spokesman said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave the airline permission to allow two flights from Brazil to enter under the new framework, even though they departed before midnight. So Ms. Prado and Mr. Paradella, whose flight arrived in Miami around 7:40 a.m. on Monday, were among the first tourists from Brazil or 32 other previously banned countries to enter the United States in at least 18 months.

The new rules loosened travel restrictions for people from the previously banned countries. But for people from some other countries, they mean that entering the United States will now be more difficult.

At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Sunday night, the pickup area at Terminal 1 was filled with people who had arrived on the last flight from Moscow before the new rules took effect. Russia was not one of the 33 countries under the old ban, but the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine is not on the list of coronavirus vaccines that are now being accepted for entry to the United States. So the door to the United States shut for many Russians at one minute after midnight Eastern time on Monday.

A woman traveling from Russia with two young children acknowledged that the vaccine rules had affected the timing of their trip, before declining to be interviewed.

Another arriving traveler, Vyacheslav Alexov, waited for a car to collect him and his carefully plastic-wrapped luggage. He had cut short a trip to see relatives in Kazakhstan in order to make sure he was back in the United States before the new rules took effect on Monday.

As a permanent U.S. resident, he is allowed to travel in and out of the country just as American citizens can, by showing a current negative coronavirus test. But Mr. Alexov, who said he was not vaccinated, was worried that he might be blocked anyway.

“It’s political,” he said of the new policy to require foreign travelers to show proof of vaccination, but not accept the Russian vaccine.

Travelers from Colombia had not faced restrictions before Monday, but now they too must be fully vaccinated. Juan David Peláez, 43, who owns an insurance company in Bogotá, has been planning a family trip to the United States since February. Mr. Peláez, his wife and son, his parents, and his brother and sister-in-law had been set to arrive on Monday.

But Mr. Peláez said that though he is vaccinated with Moderna, he has not yet received an official vaccine certificate from the government and worried about being able to provide proof. He switched his own ticket, as well as that of his wife, who is also vaccinated, and that of his young son, to arrive on Nov. 7, a day before the rest of the group.

The changed rules “affect a lot of people who would not have been affected in the past,” said Mr. Peláez, while waiting for his family in an arrivals hall at Miami International Airport on Monday. “I would have missed out on the trip.”

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

Credit…Alex Ingram for The New York Times

Thousands of excited passengers flocked to Heathrow Airport on Monday for the first flights to the United States out of London since the Biden administration lifted a travel ban on many international visitors.

As of Monday, foreign travelers can enter the United States if they show proof of full vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of departure. Unvaccinated Americans and children under the age of 18 are exempt from the requirement, but they must take a test within one day of travel.

“New York, baby, here we come,” shouted one passenger as he high-fived a Virgin Atlantic staff member who was dressed as Elvis Presley.

“God bless America,” yelled another.

It wasn’t just Europe. In Canada, too, people who had been unable to cross the U.S. border for much of the pandemic were excited to finally make the trip. Thousands of “snowbirds,” mainly retirees, are already on their way to Florida, Arizona, California and other warm places for the winter.

“For the Canadians coming across the border now, they are so excited, they have called ahead to let us know,” said Pat Tuckwell, president of the board of Country Roads RV Village, an upscale park in Yuma, Ariz. “Everyone is saying, it’ll be so wonderful to see each other, talk to each other again, like when their grandkids tell them they can’t wait to go back to school to see their friends.”

Here’s a look at other virus-related developments around the world on Monday:

  • Romania has reported the world’s highest per capita death rate from Covid-19 in recent weeks, a rate almost seven times as high as the United States’ and almost 17 times as high as Germany’s. This is in large part because of a surge of disinformation that has left Romania with Europe’s second-lowest vaccination rate: Around 44 percent of adults have had at least one dose, compared with 81 percent in the European Union over all.

  • New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, eased lockdown restrictions even though the country reported a record 206 cases on Saturday. Nonessential retail outlets and public facilities like libraries, museums and zoos can reopen with mask and distancing requirements. Up to 25 people will be allowed to gather outdoors, at funerals and at weddings. The city expects to reach a 90 percent vaccination rate for people aged 12 and up this month, which will trigger vaccination requirements for most businesses, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

  • Shares of several drug makers in Asia fell sharply on Monday in response to Pfizer’s announcement that its antiviral drug was highly effective in treating Covid-19. CanSino Biologics, the Chinese maker of a Covid-19 vaccine, dropped by 17 percent during trading in Hong Kong. Shanghai Fosun saw its Hong Kong shares drop by 7 percent before rebounding somewhat to end 2 percent lower.

Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times

On Monday, the United States lifted travel restrictions for international visitors from 33 countries who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, ending an 18-month ban that has separated families and loved ones worldwide and taken a toll on the tourism industry. The reopening comes just ahead of the holiday season, and airlines are anticipating some chaos.

The complicated set of regulations may shift if new waves or variants of the virus emerge, but here is what we know right now about the long-awaited reopening.

Who is eligible to travel to the United States?

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the United States if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a coronavirus test within 24 hours of travel.

What vaccines are accepted?

The three available in the United States — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are accepted, as well as any of those cleared for emergency use by the World Health Organization: AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac.

Who is considered “fully vaccinated”?

Anyone who has received either the first dose of a single-dose vaccine or the second dose of a two-dose vaccine a full 14 days before the day they board a flight to the United States is considered fully vaccinated.

It does not matter if you received these doses in a clinical trial, as long as you did not receive the placebo. People who received their second shot of the Novavax vaccine in a Phase 3 clinical trial are also fully vaccinated.

Lastly, the C.D.C. considers anyone fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of an accepted “mix-and-match” vaccine, with the doses given at least 17 days apart. The agency notes it does not recommend mixing and matching during the first series of vaccination (for example, the first two shots of an mRNA vaccine), but acknowledges this strategy is more common internationally.

What do I need to pack as proof of my vaccination?

Both paper and digital records of vaccination will be accepted. If you do not have your original record, such as a vaccination card, a copy or photo will also work. Any proof of vaccination must include your full name and at least one more identifier, such as date of birth and the name of the agency or provider issuing the vaccine. It must also include the vaccine manufacturer and dates of vaccination.

Are the rules different at land border crossings?

As of Nov. 8, the U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico reopened for fully vaccinated foreign nationals. While visitors will need to show proof of vaccination, there is no testing requirement for land-border crossings. Children under 18 are allowed entry if accompanied by a vaccinated adult.

Will I have to show proof of vaccination to fly domestically?

No. Only those entering the United States from abroad will have to show a vaccination certificate and proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure. Unvaccinated U.S. travelers are permitted to travel, but upon returning must present a coronavirus test taken within 24 hours of departure.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s deputy press secretary, said on Monday the administration did not “have any announcement to preview right now” regarding any potential new vaccine or testing rules for domestic travelers.

Masks continue to be required for domestic air travel.

What about children?

Unvaccinated children under 18 are permitted to enter the United States if they are over 2 years old, are traveling with a vaccinated adult and have taken a coronavirus test with negative results within three days of departure. If a child is traveling alone or with an unvaccinated adult, he or she will have to test within 24 hours of travel.

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul, proposed a $450 million package of state spending on Monday to help the state’s struggling tourism industry, including one-time grants to laid-off workers and their employers.

Ms. Hochul said the state would make payments of $2,750 to as many as 36,000 workers in the tourism industry who lost their jobs because of the pandemic, promising “that’s going to happen very soon.” She said the state also would offer grants of $5,000 to companies in the industry that rehire workers and employ them for six months.

Those grant programs, which would add up to $200 million, would help revive tourism, which is the state’s third-largest industry and employs about 10 percent of its workers, Ms. Hochul said.

“There are so many jobs that are still not back yet,” she said at a presentation at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. “People have been holding on a long time since they lost their extended unemployment benefits back in September.”

The event was staged to highlight the depressed condition of the state’s tourism industry on the day the federal government allowed vaccinated foreign tourists from many countries to enter the country for the first time in 20 months.

Aides to the governor said $250 million of the money would come from a combination of federal Covid-relief funds and existing state budget allocations. The rest would require legislative approval.

Before the lockdown spurred by the pandemic in March 2020, tourists spent more than $73 billion annually in New York state, $47 billion of it in New York City. Visitors from outside the country made up just 20 percent of the city’s tourists but they accounted for half of that spending, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency.

Ms. Hochul also pledged to add $25 million to the budget for the state’s “I Love NY” tourism promotions, much of which will be spent on advertising in countries in Europe and other regions. The state will offer an additional $25 million in grants to lure conventions and other large gatherings to the state, she said.

Beyond those immediate infusions, Ms. Hochul said that in January she would propose legislation to provide $200 million in relief for small businesses started just before or during the pandemic.

Standing behind a sign that read “Bring back tourism. Bring back jobs,” Ms. Hochul said, “We want to put incentives on the table so no one has an excuse not to get back to work.”

Correction: 

An earlier caption on a photograph of Times Square that appeared with this article misstated when the photograph was taken.  It was taken in October 2020, not last month.  

Credit…Lindsay Dedario/Reuters

Throughout the pandemic, Canadians have been able to travel to the United States for nonessential reasons like visiting family and friends, but there was a catch: They had to fly.

That’s because the United States would let Canadian citizens cross the land border only for a limited number of business-related reasons, like having a health care job on the American side. Now the land border has reopened for all fully vaccinated travelers, but Canadians still face a catch that may deter quick trips, and this time it’s one introduced by their own government.

Canada, which reopened its border to travelers from the United States in August, requires that anyone entering the country present a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours, and it will not accept relatively low-cost rapid tests. Instead, the result must come from a more reliable polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., test, which can cost well over $100 and take one to two days.

Canadians crossing for just a few hours can take the test in Canada before they leave. But some groups and politicians on both sides of the border have said recently that the cost and inconvenience associated with P.C.R. testing will be a powerful deterrent to travel.

Air travelers have already raised concerns about the cost. Angus Reid, the chairman of a nonprofit polling group that bears his name, said his son, daughter-in-law and two children had paid $1,200 for tests to return from Palm Springs, Calif.

“Plus finding test centers in US is increasingly difficult,” he wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “This needs to change. Now!”

In Blaine, Wash., a small border city south of Vancouver, gas stations and shipping stores remained quiet Monday morning. Apart from a handful of Canadian license plates, the city showed little sign that the border had just reopened.

Doug Hornsby, the owner of Border Mailbox and Parcel, said only one Canadian customer had picked up packages that morning. The man, from Alberta, had 17 packages waiting for him, the oldest of which had been there since March 2020.

Because of the testing requirement, Mr. Hornsby said he didn’t expect many more customers.

Skye Hill, the owner of a Chevron in Blaine, said her store had just finished $1 million in renovations before the border closed. Since then, revenue has plummeted 90 percent.

Ms. Hill described Monday’s reopening as “anticlimactic.”

“Everyone’s so excited. You know, ‘The border’s finally opened after two years,’” she said. “But really, our business depends on those day trips.”

“We aren’t going to see those people, I don’t think, until they lift that Covid test,” she added.

Closing the land border to most people had a drastic effect. In August 2019, slightly more than three million private vehicles entered the United States from Canada at land crossings. This August, there were only 449,004 such crossings.

The testing policy may soon change. On Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the P.C.R. test requirement was being “actively looked at.”

Credit…Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Northern Ireland’s health minister has sued Van Morrison, who has said the minister’s handling of Covid-19 restrictions was “very dangerous.”

Paul Tweed, the lawyer for the health minister, Robin Swann, confirmed on Monday that a lawsuit had been filed.

“Legal proceedings are now at an advanced stage, with an anticipated hearing date early in 2022,” Mr. Tweed said in an email, adding that he could not comment “any further at this stage.” The Belfast Telegraph reported the lawsuit on Sunday.

Joe Rice, a lawyer for Mr. Morrison, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. He told The Associated Press that Mr. Morrison would contest the claim, arguing “that the words used by him related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.”

In June, Mr. Morrison denounced Mr. Swann from the stage at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after several other concerts were canceled because of virus restrictions.

Mr. Morrison, 76, who was born in Belfast and was knighted in 2016, has dismissed the coronavirus pandemic — the death toll for which surpassed five million people last week — as media hype and has criticized Covid-19 restrictions though his music.

In the fall of 2020, as another wave of the pandemic raged, Mr. Morrison released three protest songs that criticized the measures that Northern Ireland’s government had taken to slow the spread of the virus. One song, “No More Lockdown,” claimed that scientists were “making up crooked facts” about the virus.

At the time, Mr. Swann called the songs “dangerous” in an interview with BBC Radio Ulster.

“I don’t know where he gets his facts,” Mr. Swann said of the songs. “I know where the emotions are on this, but I will say that sort of messaging is dangerous.”

The songs also prompted Mr. Swann to write an opinion article for Rolling Stone in which he said that Mr. Morrison’s “words will give great comfort to the conspiracy theorists.”

In August, Mr. Morrison dropped a legal challenge against a “blanket ban” on live music in licensed venues in Northern Island, according to the BBC. As Northern Ireland eased Covid-19 restrictions, live music was allowed to resume.

Mr. Morrison welcomed the news at the time but also said he was disappointed that he had to cancel some concerts in Belfast over the summer.

In May, Mr. Morrison, who is known for hits like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance,” released a double album, “Latest Record Project, Vol. 1.” The album, including the songs “Why Are You on Facebook?” and “They Control the Media,” has been assailed by critics who have accused Mr. Morrison of antisemitism and embracing conspiracy theories.

Credit…Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA, via Shutterstock

For months, Europeans and their leaders seethed about what they considered unfair treatment from the United States, which kept a Covid-related travel ban in place for much longer than Europe did.

Even now, as the United States is opening up again to travelers, many remain wary. Some were planning to jump on planes as fast as possible — just in case the welcome mat is suddenly pulled away again.

Laurence Tesson was one of them.

The fear that something could still go wrong haunted her, she said, as she prepared to see her son in Los Angeles for the first time in three years.

“Only when I set a foot at the Los Angeles airport will I be relieved,” Ms. Tesson, 54, said this weekend.

Her flight was scheduled to depart at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, one of the first planes heading to the United States from Europe after the lifting of an 18-month ban on travelers without American passports. Now, travelers from 33 countries, among them Britain, Brazil, India, China and European Union states, can enter the United States with proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test no more than 72 hours old.

The travel ban did not just separate couples and families. It also left a gaping hole in the U.S. tourism industry. And it frustrated European leaders, who struggled to understand why it was still in place.

The lifting of the travel ban also signals the end of a diplomatic tussle between European leaders and the Biden administration, which has tried to ease strained relations with leaders on the continent.

Credit…Lisa Rathke/Associated Press

Officials at a college in Colchester, Vt., are blaming Halloween parties for a Covid outbreak, which comes as the state of Vermont has reported a record number of coronavirus cases over the past week.

The virus is surging in Vermont as more people gather inside to avoid the cold weather. Experts warn that holiday gatherings could lead to more cases this winter.

New daily cases have increased by 51 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations are also trending up, fueling anxiety about the state’s hospital capacity as winter approaches.

Vermont is testing for Covid more than most states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Last week, its Republican governor, Phil Scott, said in a statement that while testing had increased and the state’s positivity rate had stayed roughly the same, Vermonters needed to take all precautions they could. And he warned that if cases remain as high as they are it “would be a significant strain” on the state’s hospitals.

At Saint Michael’s College, a liberal arts school north of Burlington, 77 students tested positive for the virus this week and last week, according to the college’s Covid-19 dashboard. In letters to the school, Lorraine Sterritt, the college president, said that Halloween parties fueled the outbreak.

“We were doing really well as a community up to the point where there were numerous Halloween parties where students were unmasked and in close contact,” she said in the letter on Sunday.

Before the post-Halloween surge, the college had reported 11 cases from Aug. 27 to Oct. 22, according to the dashboard. Saint Michael’s has around 1,700 students.

“To be in this situation after such a well-managed semester is heartbreaking,” Ms. Sterritt said in a letter on Friday. “It is imperative that everyone make wise choices.”

The college on Sunday suspended “in-person student social gatherings” through Thanksgiving and asked that students limit off-campus travel. The school moved its classes online on Friday amid the outbreak, but Ms. Sterritt said in-person classes would continue this week.

The outbreak at Saint Michael’s comes as Vermont grapples with its highest number of new cases since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times database. Though Vermont has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, cases have risen steadily since the vaccines became widely available.





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U.S. merchants happy to see Mexican shoppers return as border travel restrictions rolled back


Juarez residents emotional about restoring family ties, being able to cross border for first time in 20 monhts

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – It was barely 9:30 a.m. and Luz Gallardo was already heading back to Mexico with a cart full of items purchased at South El Paso discount stores.

“It’s better to buy in bulk so we can resell it at affordable prices over there. […] Wrapping paper, dollar items, the inexpensive stuff,” she said.

Monday marked the first time in 20 months that Juarez residents like Gallardo were able to cross into the United States by land for non-essential reasons like shopping and seeing family members as long as they’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19. It was an estrangement that cost border merchants dearly and temporarily severed ties between families with members on both sides of the Rio Grande.

“My niece is hospitalized. I came to see her,” said Cynthia Torres, also a Juarez resident who crossed into El Paso early Monday morning with her mother and child. “I wasn’t planning to come but I’m taking advantage (of the rollback of travel restrictions) to see her. I think (the reopening) is good because I have family on this side of the border, and also to shop.”

The rollback of travel restrictions went smoothly and without the feared hours-long lines for visitors to come across the ports of entry, border crossers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

Average wait times for pedestrians were 20 to 30 minutes on Monday morning, even less for those who came across in vehicles.

A CBP spokesman said foreigners coming across for the first time since non-essential travel restrictions were put in place in March 2020 were quick to present their documents and state vaccination status. That helped speed up fully staffed international bridges in the El Paso Sector, the spokesman said.

Exact border crossing figures were not immediately available.

Mexican shoppers account for between 8% and 14% of El Paso’s $13 billion a year retail economy, according to studies by the University of Texas at El Paso. Local malls, outlet shops, hotels and restaurants benefit from these shoppers, as do stores in South El Paso near the international bridges.

“It’s nice to have our neighbors back,” said David Jerome, president and CEO of the El Paso Chamber. “Our economy is doing reasonably well, it’s coming back (from the COVID-19 pandemic). We have more jobs than people so it’s nice to see the border reopening from that perspective. The other thing is sectors like restaurants and hotels and retail, a large percentage of their business is from our neighbors to the south, so it’s nice to have them able to take care of those customers again.”

Danny, the manager at Casa Victoria on South El Paso Street, said the rollback of restrictions comes just in time – with the holiday shopping season looming. On Monday, he said it was too early to tell how much his sales would pick up, but he’s hopeful they will.

Phil, a cab driver based in El Paso’s Sixth Street, also said he was hopeful the El Paso economy will get a boost from the rollback of border travel restrictions.

“Everyone is happy. The businesses have suffered greatly during the pandemic, some have even closed,” he said. “As for us, we don’t know if there’s going to be an increase or not, but I’m happy people are free to come over and shop. The economies of both cities (Juarez and El Paso) depend on one another. I think it’s going to work out well for anyone concerned.”



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Border crossings brace for long lines when travel ban lifts


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are preparing for heavy traffic and long waits at ports of entry on Monday when the U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel after almost 20 months of COVID-19 restrictions.

Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. New rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason.

U.S. officials urged travelers to have their travel and vaccine documents readily available for border authorities to inspect in anticipation of longer-than-usual wait times at ports of entry.

Unvaccinated children will be allowed to enter the U.S. if they are traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, according to a San Diego Union Tribune report.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection also urged people traveling for non-essential reasons to avoid crossing at peak times.



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Border reopenings, new flights, trains and hotels: this week’s travel news


Border reopenings

Argentina has reopened to international visitors, offering quarantine-free stays to fully vaccinated arrivals who can provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to travel (argentina.travel).

Fully vaccinated arrivals can now also visit Thailand without the need to self-isolate (tourismthailand.org).

And the US opens its international borders on Monday (visittheusa.co.uk).

Responsible tourism winners

Indian destinations and businesses led the way at the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards, winning four out of six categories. They included the zero emissions Govardhan Eco Village in Maharashtra (ecovillage.org.in), a model farm that hosts study programmes, and the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board (tourism.mp.gov.in), which supports its communities through initiatives such as homestays. Mumbai-based tour operator No Footprints won for its immersive city tours that introduce visitors to niche experiences (nfpexplore.com).

New routes

No-frills airline Vueling has launched a twice-weekly route from Newcastle to Paris Orly (vueling.com).

SkyAlps, meanwhile, is preparing a new route between London Gatwick and Bolzano in Italy’s South Tyrol on 15 December (skyalps.com).

Early next year, Bamboo Airways will launch Heathrow to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh services in Vietnam on Boeing 787 Dreamliners (bambooairways.com).

On the rails, two new sleeper services will launch in Europe, with connections to Eurostar trains. Nightjet will offer a Paris-Munich-Vienna service, alongside Amsterdam-Cologne-Zurich from 13 December (nightjet.com).

London’s new net zero hotel

A new “hometel” will open in Chiswick, west London, on 1 December. Claiming to be “the first hotel in the world to account fully for its entire carbon footprint”, room2 has renewable energy sources, as well as two on-site “lab rooms” to analyse energy and water use, interiors by local artists and designers, plus a laundry room, gym, café and cocktail bar. Doubles from £129, room2.com/chiswick.



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Border agency gives update on reopening land border ports to nonessential travel


SAN ANTONIO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection will give an update Friday on the plans to reopen the border to nonessential travel.

The media briefing will be held at 10:30 am. Friday at the Juarez- Lincoln International Bridge in Laredo, Texas. Leaders will discuss reopening the land border ports to nonessential travel by fully vaccinated Canada, Mexico residents.

The press conference will be streamed within this article. Delays are possible.



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Traffic Expected to Increase as Non-Essential Land Border Travel Resumes Monday – NBC 7 San Diego


Traffic at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, border crossings and ferry terminals will likely increase beginning next week.

Officials with the Port of Entry announced their expectations of increased traffic and wait times for Nov. 8 when the U.S.-Mexico border is expected to reopen to fully vaccinated non-essential travelers.

More travelers mean more vehicles and more documents for Customs and Border Protection officers to check.

Moises Castillo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer in charge of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, said staffing will be ramped up.

“We are reassigning officers from different areas and putting them in our primary and secondary areas to speed up the process. We are expecting heavy travel on that day. Actually, for the next few weeks,” Castillo said.

Castillo told NBC 7 that staffing is near levels prior to the pandemic.

For those who rely on the border, the announcement is welcomed news. Others may dread the possibility that those long waits will suddenly get much longer.

Currently, wait times hover around an hour to an hour and a half, according to Castillo.

Castillo is asking the public to be patient with CBP officers and to prepare using the CBP One mobile app to fill out necessary paperwork prior to arriving at the border crossing.

As the current process, officers will randomly choose travelers to show proof of vaccination. All are required to have it when they cross the border.

A CBP spokesperson told NBC 7 that a picture on a mobile device, of your vaccine proof, is accepted. Also, officers are trained to recognize fraudulent vaccine documents.

As for the federal vaccine mandate among CBP officers, it’s unclear if it will have any effect on staffing at the border.

In January 2022, essential travelers will also be required to be vaccinated.



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Who can and can’t cross the border, according to CBP


SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — In less than a week, new guidelines will be in effect for travelers entering the United States through ports of entry and ferry terminals.

Starting Nov. 8, people crossing the border with tourist visas will be given access to the U.S. if they can prove they are fully vaccinated.

The new policy eliminates most restrictions on non-essential travel that were put in place back in March 2020.

“We are pleased to take another step toward easing travel restrictions at our borders in a manner that strengthens our economy and protects the health and safety of the American public,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We continue working closely with our international partners to sustainably implement new rules for resuming travel.”

According to DHS, those who aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents arriving at a port of entry or ferry terminal, should be “prepared to:

  • Provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, as outlined on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website;
  • Verbally attest to their reason for travel and COVID-19 vaccination status during a border inspection.”

If requested by a CBP officer, people must provide vaccine documentation either on paper or in digital form.

Those who are 17 and younger don’t have to show proof if traveling with a fully-vaccinated adult.

CBP also stated any non-citizen attempting to enter the United States through illegal means or without appropriate documentation may be subject to expulsion or removal. 

The essential travel restrictions were instituted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and limited travel along the U.S. northern and southern borders to essential travel, including travel for lawful trade, emergency response, and public health purposes.

CBP is warning that as travel resumes, wait times at pedestrian and vehicle crossings are expected to increase and visitors should plan for longer than normal wait times.

Patience is stressed.

As a way to help reduce wait times and long lines, CBP suggests travelers take advantage of innovative technology, such as facial biometrics and the CBP One™ mobile application, which serves as a single portal for individuals to access CBP mobile applications and services.

Starting in January 2022, all inbound foreign national travelers seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.



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What the border reopening for nonessential travel Nov. 8 means for South Bay businesses


More than 200 businesses in the San Ysidro area have closed since the start of the pandemic

SAN DIEGO — Starting on Nov. 8, fully vaccinated people can cross the Mexico and Canada borders into the United States for nonessential travel. This loosening of restrictions comes just in time for the holiday shopping season.

“I really hope it picks up business,” said Melanie Alvarado. “It’s a family-owned restaurant.”

Melanie Alvadro and her husband own Fish Mart Pescaderia & Algo Mas in San Ysidro. On Monday, she said she hopes these upcoming relaxed restrictions at the border mean more customers.

”It’s still not back to normal,” said Alvarado. “So we’re hoping in the next few months hopefully we’ll get back to normal, but it’s been challenging so far.”

But, Alvarado said she is still bracing for challenges. She said many of her employees cross the border from Baja California into the U.S. to come to work, and she worries an influx of travelers could mean more traffic at the already backed-up border.

“They do arrive late all the time. So now that I think everybody’s going to be crossing the border, it’s going to be even more challenging for people to come to work,” said Alvarado.

Earlier this month, the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce reported $1.25 billion in lost sales, all attributed to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Even closer to the border is Achiote Family Restaurant. Assistant Manager Sofi Arellanes said more than half of its customers come from south of the border. 

”People visit us by plane, by car,” she said. “They usually come to visit us.”

She’s also concerned about traffic, but overall thinks it’s another step toward normalcy.

”Most of the time, it’s going to be good, because they’re going to start their lives again,” said Arellanes. “With the pandemic and the other restrictions that maybe they had, I think it’s going to be good.”

According to SANDAG, tourism was one of the most hard-hit industries within the first year of the pandemic. Travelers will be asked to provide proof of vaccination when crossing into the United States for nonessential travel.

WATCH RELATED: Supervisor Vargas writes letter in hopes to help border businesses impacted by shutdown 



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