Expect a treacherous travel Monday morning


CLEVELAND — An overnight winter storm dumped heavy snow across most of Northeast Ohio Monday. Most of Northeast Ohio, especially the eastern half, received between 6 to 9 inches of snow. The wet heavy snow that was falling last night has transitioned to a light, fluffy snow Monday morning. Wind gusts as high as 25 to 34 mph could create additional hazards in the form of blowing snow and drifting.

Watch the latest weather coverage from Good Morning Cleveland in the media player below:

Live winter weather updates on Monday

Expect additional snowfall through Monday evening through Tuesday morning with lake effect snow showers.

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Here are the latest snow totals from the National Weather Service.

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News 5 Cleveland.

Road conditions

If you don’t have to travel outside Monday, don’t. Our photojournalists witnessed multiple cars stranded in Downtown Cleveland.

The RTA said all rail line services have been suspended until further notice due to severe weather conditions.
An RTA bus was stuck near Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street.

RTA bus stuck on east 9th and Euclid

News 5 Traffic Map is littered with crashes due to heavy snow closing ramps and causing cars to get stuck.

Emergency parking bans

Cities across Northeast Ohio have issued snow emergency parking bans Sunday for heavy snowfall Monday. Click here to see the full list.

Warnings and Advisories

Many winter weather alerts have been issued across NE Ohio.

Winter Storm Warning is now in effect for Ashtabula county from 7pm Sunday – 1 am Tuesday. 10-12+” of snow could fall with winter storm Sunday night and additional lake effect snow Monday.
Winter Storm Warning in effect for Lake and Geauga counties from 7 pm Sunday – 1 am Tuesday. 6-10” of snow could fall in that area.
Winter Storm Warning in effect for Portage and Stark counties from 7 pm Sunday – 10 am Monday. 6-10” of snow is also possible is this area.
Winter Storm Warning for Trumbull & Mahoning counties from Sunday 7pm until Monday 1 pm where 8-12″ of snow could come down during that time.
Winter Storm Warning for Tuscarawas, Carrol, Coshocton counties from 1pm Sunday until 1pm Monday. 6-10″ of snow is possible in these counties which will create difficult, hazardous travel.

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What to expect: Nebraska – Inside the Hall


Indiana is still seeking its first road win and the Hoosiers will travel to Nebraska for a Monday evening contest with the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is 6-12 overall and has lost 10 of its last 11 games.

Monday’s game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. ET tip on BTN with Jeff Levering and Raphael Davis on the call:

Indiana will look to reverse its woes away from Bloomington as it attempts to get a road win against a struggling Nebraska team.

The Cornhuskers, who lost to the Hoosiers 68-55 on Dec. 4 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, are hoping to get a boost soon with the return of Trey McGowens.

The 6-foot-4 McGowens is the team’s best perimeter defender and hasn’t played since suffering a broken foot in a 77-69 loss to Creighton on Nov. 16.

McGowens has been cleared to return and based on recent comments by Fred Hoiberg, his return to the floor sounds imminent.

Indiana, meanwhile, remains winless in true road games after an 83-74 loss at Iowa on Thursday. The Hoosiers are 0-4 overall in road games and 0-3 in Big Ten games away from Bloomington. If the program’s NCAA tournament drought – which dates back to 2016 – is going to be broken, Indiana is going to need to figure out a way to win a few road games.

THE FIRST MEETING

The first meeting, which was the Big Ten opener for both teams, was a game the Hoosiers controlled throughout the second half.

After only scoring six points in the first 10:12 of the game, Indiana outscored Nebraska 62-39 over the final 29:48 of the contest.

A major reason for the comfortable win was Indiana’s defense, which held the Huskers to just .76 points per possession. Nebraska shot just 46.2 percent on 2s and 22.7 percent on 3s (22 attempts).

Nebraska’s star freshman – Bryce McGowens – was held to just eight points and 3-of-14 shooting from the field in 33 minutes. McGowens has scored in double figures in seven of Nebraska’s last eight games.

Indiana’s 3-point shooting, which has been trending in the wrong direction recently, was a key in the win in the early December victory in Bloomington. The Hoosiers made eight 3s and shot 36.4 percent from distance in the win. Through six Big Ten games, the Hoosiers are now just 10th in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage at 31.

One other key from the first game was Indiana’s ability to turn Nebraska’s 14 turnovers into 21 points. The Hoosiers won the points off of turnovers battle 21-11, a significant advantage in a 13-point win.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

(Stats are now for conference games only. Numbers are through Saturday’s games.)

Nebraska is the Big Ten’s worst team by a significant margin. The Cornhuskers rank last in the conference in points per possession and points per possession allowed. Only one of its Big Ten losses has come by fewer than 10 points.

Rebounding will be a major key for Indiana if it hopes to capture its first road win of the season. Nebraska ranks 13th in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers also don’t do a great job of getting to the foul line, ranking 10th in the league in free throw rate (FTA/FGA).

Both teams have struggled with turnovers at times, but taking care of the ball will be top of mind for IU following the Iowa game. The Hawkeyes turned 23 Hoosier turnovers to 34 points in Iowa City. Indiana has to be much better in Lincoln at taking care of the ball.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

The KenPom projection is Indiana by 10 with an 81 percent chance of a Hoosier victory. The Sagarin ratings like Indiana by 8.5 points.

While Indiana’s resume doesn’t have many high quality wins, the Hoosiers have done a good job avoiding losses against bad teams. Monday’s game won’t move the needle much in terms of a quality win, but avoiding a loss against a team that has some horrific computer numbers is important.

The Cornhuskers are 202 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, 160th in KenPom and 138th in the Sagarin ratings as of Sunday afternoon.

Even though the return of Trey McGowens is imminent, it’s fair to wonder where Nebraska stands in terms of its confidence after its recent performances. The Cornhuskers lost by 28 at Rutgers on Jan. 8, by 10 at home to Illinois on Jan. 11 and most recently, by 27 at Purdue on Jan. 14.

In recent weeks, Mike Woodson has spoken regularly about “breaking the ice” on the road and this contest against the league’s worst team marks the best opportunity yet. Will the Hoosiers finally get over the hump?

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Looking to travel interstate? Here’s what restrictions you can expect in each state or territory


This week Queensland and Tasmania will ease their border restrictions, opening up to parts of the country where COVID-19 has been spreading in the community.

However, while domestic travel is becoming more possible, each state and territory’s rules and restrictions differ. 

Below is a guide on what restrictions you may currently face as a domestic traveller:

New South Wales 

There are currently no restrictions on entry to NSW, unless you have been been to these places of high concern in the ACT or Queensland

If you are a non-resident of NSW and a close contact in one of these places, you must not enter NSW until 14 days have passed or seven days if you are fully vaccinated.

Should you already be in NSW and a close contact, you must self isolate for seven days if fully vaccinated, and 14 days if you are not.

If you are a non-resident and have been a casual contact in one of these places you cannot enter NSW unless you have received a negative COVID-19 PCR test.

Should you already be in NSW and a casual contact, you must isolate until you receive a negative PCR test. 

NSW residents who are a close contact of places of high concern must isolate at home or a suitable location until it has been 14 days since you visited the place of concern. If you are fully vaccinated, you only need to self isolate for seven days from the time visited.

And NSW residents returning home who are casual contacts are required to get tested immediately and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Victoria

Domestic travellers no longer require a permit to enter Victoria.

Domestic travellers can enter the state without needing to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status, as long as they have not been overseas in the previous 14 days.

Australian Capital Territory

Travellers who have not been in a high-risk geographical area or a close contact exposure location in the past 14 days can enter the ACT without restrictions.

That means people from NSW and Victoria must apply for and complete an exemption form within 72 hours of their intended arrival in the ACT.

Further restrictions also apply for travellers from close contact locations in Queensland and South Australia. 

Tasmania

Until Wednesday, fully vaccinated travellers to Tasmania must register with the e-Travel system and have evidence of a vaccination certificate. 

Travellers with medical exemptions, or who are under 12 years and two months of age are considered vaccinated. 

People from high-risk areas — which currently include parts of NSW, the ACT and Victoria — are not able to enter Tasmania unless approved as an Essential Traveller

From Wednesday, Tasmania’s borders will open to all fully vaccinated travellers.

Anyone who is coming to Tasmania from Wednesday, regardless of whether they are a resident or not, needs to test negative to COVID-19 in the 72 hours before arrival.

South Australia

South Australia has opened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers. Travellers and returning South Australian residents must complete an EntryCheck SA application 14 days prior to arrival in the state. 

If you are unvaccinated and do not have an approved exemption, you cannot travel to South Australia.

Travellers from the ACT, NSW and Victoria are subject to further restrictions, including: 

  • negative PCR test result received within 72 hours before arrival
  • test upon arrival and quarantine until this test is taken
  • test on day 6 after arrival
  • symptom checking for 14 days after arrival.

Travellers from Katherine in the Northern Territory are also subject to the restrictions above, as well as:

  • quarantine, as directed, for seven days after arrival
  • COVID-19 PCR test within 24 hours of arrival in South Australia
  • PCR test again on days 6 and 13.

Northern Territory

Currently, vaccinated travellers from “green zones” with minimal COVID-19 risk can enter the Northern Territory without any testing or quarantine requirements.

Unvaccinated Northern Territory residents can travel into the territory from a green zone, but they are required to quarantine until they receive a negative test.  

Double-vaccinated arrivals from “red zones” must home quarantine for seven days and be tested.

Everyone travelling to the Northern Territory is required to complete an online Border Entry Form

From December 20, these rules will change, and there will be no distinctions between hotspots.

But PCR tests will be required for vaccinated travellers and arrivals will be required to stay within Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs for their first 14 days in the territory.

Queensland

From 1am AEST on Monday, Queensland’s travel rules will change, with people from hotspots (as declared by Queensland authorities) allowed to travel into the state without quarantining as long as they:

  • are fully vaccinated
  • have a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to arriving in the state
  • have a PCR test on day five after their arrival.

If you don’t meet these requirements, you need to arrive by air and will be required to complete 14 days’ quarantine.

Should you not be travelling from a hotspot, there are no restrictions on your entry and no quarantine is required.

Western Australia

Tomorrow, the West Australian government is expected to announce when the state will reopen its border to the eastern states and to overseas travellers.

Until then, Western Australia restricts travel into the state based on the level of COVID-19 spread in states or territories where you have been for 14 days prior to entry.  

Very low risk

People travelling from Tasmania — and Queensland today only — can enter Western Australia as long as they complete a registration and declaration before travelling and complete a health screening at Perth Airport.

Low risk 

People travelling from the Northern Territory — and Queensland from Monday — must be fully vaccinated, except those aged under 12 years and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. These travellers then must self-quarantine for 14 days and get a COVID-19 PCR test within 48 hours of arrival and on day 12 of their quarantine.

Medium risk

People travelling from ACT and South Australia cannot enter Western Australia without prior approval through a GTG Pass and must show proof of vaccination. Approved travellers must get a PCR test 72 hours prior to departure and are also subject to quarantine and testing restrictions as outlined for low-risk travellers.

High risk

Travellers from New South Wales also need approval to enter Western Australia and are subject to the same restrictions as travellers from medium-risk jurisdictions but they also must get a PCR test if symptoms develop during their quarantine. The use of the G2G Now app is mandatory in quarantine for these travellers.

Extreme risk

Travellers from Victoria need Western Australia government approval to enter the state, and are subject to the same restrictions as travellers from high-risk areas, but must quarantine at a government-approved hotel quarantine facility and also must get a COVID-19 PCR test on days 1, 5 and 12 of quarantine. 

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Fauci says he doesn’t expect more travel restrictions even if Omicron variant proves more contagious and deadly


President Joe Biden announced last week that the US would restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in response to the new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant first identified by South African scientists. Several other nations have followed suit in restricting travel from southern Africa nations.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday whether he expects more travel restrictions should Omicron prove to be more contagious and deadly, Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, replied, “I don’t think so, Jake.”

“I think what was done about the restrictions from South Africa and neighboring countries was merely because when the information came out about the molecular makeup of this virus with all of the mutations that were of concern, we felt that we needed to do something right away,” Fauci, the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Tapper on “The Lead.”

“Hopefully those restrictions are not going to be a very long duration until we get a handle as to what’s going on. But we do not anticipate any further restrictions,” he added.

Fauci also said that the travel restrictions are not going to have much of an impact “in the big picture of whether (the Omicron variant) gets here or not.”

“But … it will provide us maybe a couple of weeks of getting better prepared,” he added.

Fauci said US health officials should know the severity of Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant in about a week or two and that they are getting their information from counterparts in South Africa, whom the officials have been in near constant contact with.

“They have a number of patients that they’re following in the medical facilities, and they assured us that they would know probably in a matter of a week, a week and a half, as to whether or not we’re dealing with something that, for the most part is more severe, equally as severe or less severe. It could be either of them,” Fauci said. “Right now, it does not look like there’s a big signal of a high degree of severity, but it’s too early to tell.”

It’s unclear if Omicron will become the dominant strain in the US, but that’s another reason officials are watching cases in South Africa closely.
Pfizer expected to seek FDA authorization for boosters for those ages 16 and 17

“You know, it’s unfortunate that South Africa has been sort of the epicenter, or at least a recognition of it, but the good news is they are as good as it gets when it comes to scientists and public health people, so they’ll be able to give us some very important information, hopefully within the next week or two,” Fauci said.

In the meantime, he told Tapper, “the unvaccinated need to get vaccinated and those who are eligible to get boosted should get boosted because we know from experience … that even with variants that are not specifically directed at by the vaccine, such as the Delta variant, if you get the level of antibody high enough, the protection spills over to those other variants.”

Earlier Monday, Biden urged American not to panic over the new variant and encouraged those who have not yet gotten a booster but are eligible to do so.

“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day. And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed — not chaos and confusion,” the President said.



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Fauci says he doesn’t expect more travel restrictions even if Omicron variant proves more contagious and deadly – KION546


By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Monday that he doesn’t anticipate the United States will implement additional travel restrictions even if the Omicron variant proves worse than previous strains of Covid-19.

President Joe Biden announced last week that the US would restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in response to the new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant first identified by South African scientists. Several other nations have followed suit in restricting travel from southern Africa nations.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday whether he expects more travel restrictions should Omicron prove to be more contagious and deadly, Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, replied, “I don’t think so, Jake.”

“I think what was done about the restrictions from South Africa and neighboring countries was merely because when the information came out about the molecular makeup of this virus with all of the mutations that were of concern, we felt that we needed to do something right away,” Fauci, the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Tapper on “The Lead.”

“Hopefully those restrictions are not going to be a very long duration until we get a handle as to what’s going on. But we do not anticipate any further restrictions,” he added.

Fauci also said that the travel restrictions are not going to have much of an impact “in the big picture of whether (the Omicron variant) gets here or not.”

“But … it will provide us maybe a couple of weeks of getting better prepared,” he added.

Fauci said US health officials should know the severity of Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant in about a week or two and that they are getting their information from counterparts in South Africa, whom the officials have been in near constant contact with.

“They have a number of patients that they’re following in the medical facilities, and they assured us that they would know probably in a matter of a week, a week and a half, as to whether or not we’re dealing with something that, for the most part is more severe, equally as severe or less severe. It could be either of them,” Fauci said. “Right now, it does not look like there’s a big signal of a high degree of severity, but it’s too early to tell.”

It’s unclear if Omicron will become the dominant strain in the US, but that’s another reason officials are watching cases in South Africa closely.

“You know, it’s unfortunate that South Africa has been sort of the epicenter, or at least a recognition of it, but the good news is they are as good as it gets when it comes to scientists and public health people, so they’ll be able to give us some very important information, hopefully within the next week or two,” Fauci said.

In the meantime, he told Tapper, “the unvaccinated need to get vaccinated and those who are eligible to get boosted should get boosted because we know from experience … that even with variants that are not specifically directed at by the vaccine, such as the Delta variant, if you get the level of antibody high enough, the protection spills over to those other variants.”

Earlier Monday, Biden urged American not to panic over the new variant and encouraged those who have not yet gotten a booster but are eligible to do so.

“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day. And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed — not chaos and confusion,” the President said.

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Riders can expect higher fares over the holidays


play

  • As travel picks back up, riders across the country have noticed higher costs from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.
  • RideGuru’s CEO said travelers can also expect longer wait times and “possibly many cancellations” over the holiday season.
  • Analyst Mark Mahaney said rising fares mean drivers are able to make “materially more” than they did before the pandemic.

As a woman in New York City, Shweta Garg used to prefer using Ubers or Lyfts to get around town.

“I felt safer, especially at night or going to the airport with my stuff,” she told USA TODAY. “I was always the Uber Pool person.”

But now, Garg said rides are far too expensive for ride-hailing services to be an option. During a July trip from her home in the financial district to John F. Kennedy International Airport (about 20 miles), Garg was stunned to find Lyft asking for more than $250 for the 45-minute trip that used to cost her less than $70. Uber wasn’t much better, pricing out the trip at over $100.

She opted to take the AirTrain tram to the airport (which cost her less than $15) and a taxi ride back home when she returned (which cost about $90 including tip). Garg said Uber and Lyft fares have gotten bad enough that she can’t remember the last time she used their apps.

“It’s a joke between (my friends) now. If someone’s like, ‘I’m going to come in an Uber or Lyft,’ it’s like, ‘OK, you’re boujee,’ ” she said. “It’s really frustrating because it’s something I felt safer doing, but it’s also something I can’t afford, and I’m sure a lot of other women can’t afford. It’s really just a shame.” 

Garg isn’t alone. As travel picks back up, riders across the country have noticed higher costs from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. While company heads say they expect prices to drop as the pandemic ebbs, industry experts say costs will remain elevated throughout the holiday travel season.

Fares could ‘get worse’ over the holidays

Mark Mahaney, an analyst with investment banking advisory firm Evercore ISI, said there’s “no question” ride-hailing prices have spiked over the past year, with costs double pre-pandemic rates in some areas.

“Riders should be prepared for elevated pricing,” he told USA TODAY. 

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said earlier this month that average U.S. Uber prices were up 20% year-over-year, with the price hike largely driven by a shortage of drivers.

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► Thanksgiving travel 2021: Americans take to the road, rails and skies

“This has been, to some extent, a giant pricing experiment that no one wanted to get into,” Khosrowshahi told investors during a Nov. 4 earnings call. 

Ippei Takahashi, CEO of travel search engine RideGuru, said ride hailing is a “driver’s market” these days, with travel demand outpacing the supply of available drivers. Along with higher fares, he said travelers can expect longer wait times and “possibly many cancellations” over the holiday season. 

“It might even get worse over the holiday season as the travel demand explodes,” Takahashi said. At busy locations like airports, “it’s not uncommon to see 2x, 3x or 4x prices. … We’re talking about a ride that usually costs $50 costing $200. So those definitely hit consumers’ pockets directly.”  

When will Uber and Lyft prices drop?

Khosrowshahi of Uber believes “pricing will ease a bit” now that more drivers are signing on to work. He said the number of active drivers at Uber is up more than 65% since January, allowing both wait times and surge pricing incidents to drop. 

Lyft CEO Logan Green said earlier this month that the company has also seen a “material improvement” in driver supply, with the number of active drivers in the third quarter up 45% compared to the same period the year prior. 

But the ratio between travelers and drivers is still too wide, according to Takahashi of RideGuru. He said many gig workers he’s spoken with switched to food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash during lockdowns when travel was low and have yet to return.  

► Taking a road trip for Thanksgiving?: Here are the worst times to hit the road

With Uber and Lyft, “you’re locked up in a small vehicle literally all day with multiple people. So their level of contact is much, much higher, and these are people who may or may not be vaccinated,” Takahashi said. “They consider (food delivery) to be safer, more reliable.”

Not all have steered clear of ride-hailing gigs. Mahaney said rising fares mean drivers are able to make “materially more” than they did before the pandemic, which is helping boost the number of drivers and lower rates. 

But riders shouldn’t hold out hope that they’ll see pre-pandemic rates return any time soon. Lyft Chief Financial officer Brian Roberts said he expects Lyft prices will drop as “we fully emerge (from) the pandemic.”

“I think the marketplace will rebalance itself,” Mahaney told USA TODAY. “(But) that level of elevation will continue to moderate as we go over the next three to six months.”  

Tips for keeping costs down

Uber and Lyft prices and wait times can vary, especially during busy travel periods. Here are some tips ahead of the holiday travel season that can help riders get to destinations quickly and without breaking the bank.

► Share a ride: Uber relaunched a revamped Uber Pool – now called UberX Share – earlier this month. The ride sharing feature, which was suspended during the pandemic, lets riders save 5% on their fare and get Uber Cash if they’re paired with a co-rider. The updated riding option asks riders to take a selfie to verify that they’re wearing a mask when requesting a shared ride and limits two co-riders per trip.

Lyft’s lowest-priced option, shared rides, is back in a single market, Philadelphia, and “coming soon” to Chicago and Denver, according to a company spokesperson.  

► Wait and save: Uber says riders who aren’t in a rush can save money by waiting a few minutes to request a ride to see if prices go down.

Lyft riders also have the option to use the “wait & save” feature, which lets riders opt for a longer wait time with a lower fare.

► Compare options: Takahashi said now more than ever, travelers should do their research and compare options before booking a ride. That means not only comparing Uber and Lyft, he said, but factoring in public transportation or taxi prices, which can be cheaper at times in certain markets since their prices are regulated and don’t surge.

“Taxi is definitely making a comeback,” Takahashi said.  

► Book in advance: Uber riders can book their ride in advance through Uber Reserve. Reservations made at least two hours in advance are backed by an on-time pickup guarantee; if a ride is more than five minutes past the scheduled pick up time, riders will get up to $50 in Uber Cash. The feature is also available at airports and lets users have a ride ready upon arrival, even if their flight is early or delayed. 

Lyft riders in select regions can also schedule their rides up to seven days in advance. The company does not guarantee a driver will be available in the area at the requested pickup time.   

Takahashi said scheduling a ride in advance is “very smart,” but warned that it doesn’t let riders to avoid surge pricing during busy travel times. 

► Split the fare: Uber riders can automatically split the fare equally with a friend who is sharing the ride. Lyft also lets riders split costs through Venmo. 

► Use priority pickup: Lyft riders worried about running late can pay extra for priority pickup in select areas. Uber also lets platinum and diamond members access faster pickups at select locations based on driver availability. 

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz





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Survey: Most Planners Expect to Equal or Surpass 2019 Mtg. Level Next Year


About 65 percent of meeting planner respondents have events on the books for the fourth quarter of 2021, and 62 percent expect to plan at least the same number of meetings and events of all types in 2022 than they did in 2019, according to a new report from meetings data provider Knowland and global meetings company ConferenceDirect.

The companies between Oct. 1-25 surveyed more than 450 ConferenceDirect meeting planners for the report, titled “The State of the Meetings Industry.”

About 16 percent of respondents said at least three-quarters of registrants to their current hybrid meetings are in-person attendees, while 22 percent said it was between half and three-quarters. About 33 percent reported less than 10 percent of registrants were for the in-person portion of their events. 

Half of respondents said they have a hybrid or virtual technology vendor, while more than one-quarter (26 percent) handle the requirements in-house. 

When it comes to sourcing venues, 32 percent of respondents said they are “very satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the responsiveness to their requests. Nearly half (47 percent) said they were “moderately satisfied.” Further, nearly 52 percent said that responding in a timely manner to requests was the most important action hotels and venues could take to increase planner satisfaction. About 43 percent said the most important action from suppliers would be to offer terms that are flexible with pandemic changes.

The top three concerns related to returning to in-person meetings were budget availability (35 percent), hotels and venues staffed to pre-Covid-19 service levels (30 percent) and the method for proof of Covid-19 vaccination (27 percent).

More than half of respondents (54 percent) expect to see higher meeting-space fees, while about 29 percent anticipate amenity-based pricing.



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Travel experts say ‘Expect traffic this Thanksgiving holiday’


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with gas prices on the rise, many might think that more people will opt to stay closer to home than drive to their destination. But, travel experts say otherwise.

Clay Ingram, with AAA of Alabama, says families should prepare to brave the roads and the skies to get to their holiday plans.

“We’re expecting 53.4 million people traveling a distance of 50 miles or more this year for Thanksgiving,” Ingram told News 19.

Comparing travel this year to 2020 there is going to be an obvious increase because of the pandemic, “Of course we’re going to see more travel, but what we’re really comparing it to is 2019,” adding that driving traffic is expected to go up by 13% since last year.

“It’s going to feel like a Thanksgiving holiday weekend out there traffic-wise, where ever you’re headed if you’re going to visit friends or family or the Auburn vs Alabama football game, whatever it might be it’s going to be really busy out there.”

That’s not an overall increase. With travel down just 5% from 2019, Ingram says this drop could be a result of travel hesitancy. According to the popular gas company, Gas Buddy, the national gas price average is set to decline to $3.35 a gallon on Thanksgiving day, which is still one of the highest gas prices seen on the holiday in over 7 years.

But, AAA says gas prices are rarely ever the reason as to why people don’t travel, “You may add extra money to your gas budget, but people normally don’t tell their family member they can’t see them because of an extra $10-$20,” Ingram said.

Factors as to why people don’t travel can range from a variety of other different things, Ingram said, “Yeah, usually gas prices don’t affect travel much at all especially around the holidays like this. You know this year the reason we’re seeing decreased travel, down compared to 2019, is simply COVID.”

Still, planning ahead and having a travel plan is always smart, “Have your passenger as your teammate, have them reading you your maps, helping you plan stops,” and always plan for traffic, “Be a conservative driver, I know it’s hard to be patient when you’re trying to get somewhere during slow-moving traffic.”

He says leaving with hours of cushion for traffic will relieve stress and allow you to go with the flow.

“Typically the busiest travel days are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, so any of the days other than those days are usually pretty good days to travel,” Ingram said.

If you can, Ingram suggests leaving the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving and leaving the Monday after.



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What can Virginians expect for holiday travel amid COVID?


RICHMOND, Va. — Holiday trees and flickering lights dot storefronts through Carytown as the changing colors of the seasons also bring along colder weather that experts say will likely bring higher levels of COVID-19 infections. Still, the context this winter compared to last is critical.

The context of the season dictates Joseph Courtney’s relationship with the forecast he sees on the news each morning.

“It’s going to be 71 degrees today!’ I’m like, babe, bring your hoodie,” he said with a grin.

Courtney has a medical condition that makes him more susceptible to infection, so he pays close attention to the local COVID-19 numbers and where they are heading.

“The more people that we have gathering together, the more susceptible you are to obtaining COVID. That’s just logic,” he said.

Logic is backed up by data, according to health experts. Currently, the Upper Midwest and Northeast portions of the U.S. are seeing spikes in new COVID cases and upticks in hospitalizations, partially because it gets colder there earlier.

Currently, Virginia is seeing an overall trend of decreasing new case counts and percent of positivity. Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s Vaccination Coordinator, said he expects case counts in the Commonwealth will tick up soon, especially with holiday gatherings around the corner.

“I think it’s pretty clear that as we head toward our winter here in Virginia, we’re going to see an upturn of disease here as well. We’re already seeing the decreasing trend flatten out,” Dr. Avula said.

Still, Dr. Avula said the context of this winter compared to last is critical, and he does not expect to see a surge in hospitalization and death, like last January and February. This year, Virginia’s high vaccination rate, expansion of treatment options for COVID-positive patients (like monoclonal antibodies and a pending COVID anti-viral pill), and greater access to testing all contribute to a safer outlook, he said.

“Very different scenario now, not only we have extremely high vaccination rates, top ten in the country, but we’re kind of on the backside of the delta surge where a lot of people got infected and have some degree of protection through natural immunity,” Dr. Avula said.

Booster shots for those who are eligible will also play a role. Although it could change soon, booster shots for Pfizer and Moderna recipients are recommended six months after a person’s second dose, if they are older than 65, have an underlying medical condition, or live/work in a high-risk setting. Still, Avula called those requirements pretty “all-encompassing” and encourages anyone who is eligible to get the booster dose.

“When you look at the eligible numbers in Virginia, that’s almost three million people. If we were to move to wide open eligibility that only adds another 400,000 or so,” he said.

Johnson and Johnson booster doses are recommended for those 18 and older, at least two months after the first shot.

As holiday gatherings begin, Dr. Avula said it is important to “remain vigilant” by masking in public spaces, getting testing if you feel symptoms, and isolating if you test positive.

“The combination of vaccination, better testing, and better access to treatment is going to mean this winter is not going to look anything like last winter did,” Dr. Avual said. “This is moving from the pandemic phase to the endemic phase. What that means is this is a virus that will be part of the mix for us moving forward. It’s not going to disappear, go away, overnight. We’ve got to learn how to adapt our lives.”

As for how long pandemic adjustments will continue, Dr. Avula said he anticipates Virginia will be a much different place with the virus 3-6 months from now, likely beginning in spring 2022.





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