As an alarming new COVID-19 variant emerges, Canada moves to limit travel from southern Africa


Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced today that Canada will limit travel from seven countries in southern Africa, a region that has reported cases of a new — and possibly more infectious — COVID-19 variant.

Starting today, all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini or Mozambique in the last 14 days will be barred from entering Canada.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to return home — but they’ll face a new requirement that could make travel awkward.

Because there are no direct flights between the region and Canada, most travellers transit through airports in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S.

Starting today, travellers must get a molecular test in the country they connect through on their way to Canada.

Then, after landing in Canada, inbound travellers must also get an arrival test and wait for the results of that test at a designated hotel. If the test is negative, those returning travellers would be released to quarantine for a mandatory 14 days at home. They also would be required to go through a so-called “day eight” test on the eighth day of quarantine.

And anyone who has arrived in Canada from southern Africa in the last 14 days must immediately get a COVID-19 test — even if they are asymptomatic. They’re required to go home and quarantine while they wait for those results. 

Countries around the world already have restricted travel from some areas of the African continent in an effort to keep the newly identified coronavirus variant — dubbed the “omicron” variant by the World Health Organization — from crossing their borders.

While many questions remain about how transmissible or virulent this new variant is, the U.K. Health Security Agency warned Friday that the new strain found in southern Africa is the “most complex” and the “most worrying we’ve seen.”

Britain, Israel and Singapore, among others, have restricted travel from South Africa and some neighbouring countries. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is proposing member states pull the “emergency brake” on travel from some countries in Africa to limit the spread of the variant.

In question period Friday, Conservative MP Luc Berthold, the party’s health critic, called for swift action to prevent the new variant from derailing Canada’s progress in the fight against COVID-19.

“Canadians are worried,” Berthold said. “The Liberal government has been slow, slow to warn Canadians, slow to close the borders, slow to provide vaccines. There’s still time to protect Canadians who are fed up with lockdowns.”

Associate Health Minister Carolyn Bennett said pre-departure PCR testing is in place and those tests “are capable of detecting this variant.”

“The COVID-19 situation around the world continues to be volatile and unpredictable and we continue to monitor the situation very closely,” she said.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government wouldn’t take lessons from the Conservatives on pandemic management when the party’s leader, Erin O’Toole, refuses to require that all Conservative MPs get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Just last week, Alghabra said, the Conservatives were also calling for an end to pre-departure PCR testing and fewer travel restrictions.

“Forgive me for not taking advice from the Conservative Party,” he said.

Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease official, said banning flights to the United States from southern Africa is a “possibility” but that a decision has not been made yet.

“There is always the possibility of doing what the U.K. has done, namely block travel from South Africa and related countries,” Fauci said Friday morning in an interview on CNN.

“That’s certainly something you think about and get prepared to do … But you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that.”





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World’s largest country moves to CDC’s highest risk travel category – Erie News Now


On Monday afternoon, the world’s largest country by area (covering more than 17 million square kilometers or 6.6 million square miles), moved up to Level 4, the agency’s highest risk category. It was previously listed as Level 3, or “high” risk for Covid-19.



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CDC moves Ukraine to its highest level of Covid-19 travel risk


On Monday afternoon, architecturally rich Ukraine, the second-largest nation in Europe in land area, was moved up from Level 3, or “high” risk for Covid-19, to Level 4, the agency’s highest risk category.

These last two updates in October are a far cry from the situation in early August, when the CDC added 16 destinations in one week to Level 4, and Delta variant cases were rising rapidly across much of the planet.

Destinations that fall into the “Covid-19 Very High” Level 4 category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC criteria.

Popular favorites remaining on Level 4

 A view of Bonis Windmill and the Old Port of Mykonos, Greece. This popular vacation nation remains at the CDC's Level 4.

A view of Bonis Windmill and the Old Port of Mykonos, Greece. This popular vacation nation remains at the CDC’s Level 4.

Byron Smith/Getty Images

Popular international vacation spots remained lodged at this highest level of alert, evidence of Covid-19’s continuing grip. The current list of Level 4 destinations includes:

• Austria
• Bahamas
• Botswana
• Croatia
• Greece
• Ireland
• Jamaica
• Maldives
• Switzerland
• Thailand
• Turkey
• United Kingdom

In the case of the UK, it’s been lodged at Level 4 since July 19. Greece has been there since August 2. Thailand has been there since August 9.

In total, there were 77 destinations worldwide still at Level 4 on October 25.

Lots of new entries on Level 3

The Level 3 category — which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days — saw more action this week.

Being placed in Level 3 was a sign of progress in these seven destinations, all moving down from Level 4:

• Guatemala
• Lebanon
• Libya
• Mauritius
• Puerto Rico
• Saint Martin
• Sri Lanka

For three destinations, the move to Level 3 was a sign of worsening conditions. Egypt and the Dominican Republic had been at Level 2 (“moderate” risk), and Cayman Islands had been at an enviable Level 1 (“low” risk).

Cruising on Level 3

The CDC has updated guidance on cruising on ships such as the Norwegian Gem.

The CDC has updated guidance on cruising on ships such as the Norwegian Gem.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The CDC also added cruise ships, including river vessels, to its Level 3 warning this week and advised that only fully vaccinated people cruise. The CDC said Covid-19 “spreads easily between people in close quarters aboard ships, and the chance of getting [it] on cruise ships is high.”

Some options in Level 2

Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation have seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

Popular destinations in this less risky category on October 25 included the following:

• Colombia
• Peru
• Poland

Just keep in mind the CDC list updates weekly, and your lower-risk destination of choice might move up after you begin making plans.

Level 1 and no ratings

In the category of “Level 1: Covid-19 Low” destinations, fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents have been logged over the past 28 days. New Zealand is in this category, but it has yet to open its doors to leisure travelers yet.

Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk because of a lack of information. As of October 25, that included Monaco, the Azores and Tanzania.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency said.

Top image: A view of the left bank of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)



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Mom moves family into an RV to help pay debt, travel full time: ‘Life is too short’


After two years of “barely scraping by,” and living in debt, Karen Akpan and her husband Sylvester decided it was time to move their family into an RV to travel full time

Akpan, 32, told Fox News that they sold their California home in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit the U.S. Akpan, Sylvester, 43, and their 8-year-old son Aiden moved into their renovated RV by May of that year. 

“We were just sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the bills and living in California and barely scraping by,” Akpan told Fox. “We decided we just wanted to do something different for our son.”

Karen Akpan and her husband Sylvester decided it was time to move into an RV to travel full-time in February 2020.

Karen Akpan and her husband Sylvester decided it was time to move into an RV to travel full-time in February 2020.
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan)

She said she and her husband had several goals in mind when they made the move. 

“First of all, to pay off all our debt and then to create generational wealth,” Akpan said. “And then just spend more time together, which is so important to us because I feel like life is too short. And what matters the most is just you being around people that you love.”

COUPLE SELLS THEIR DREAM HOME TO TRAVEL AROUND SCOTLAND IN A VAN

Now that it’s been about a year and a half, Akpan said her family has been able to pay off $200,000 in debt, about half of which was student loan debt. 

“It sounds scary when you say that because, to be honest, we shouldn’t have been in that much debt in the first place,” Akpan said. “It was absolutely nuts.”

The Akpans travel full-time, both around the U.S. and internationally with their 8-year-old son Aiden. 

The Akpans travel full-time, both around the U.S. and internationally with their 8-year-old son Aiden. 
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan )

Though they still have a little more credit card debt they’re working to pay off, Akpan said they’re almost done. 

“Right now we’re at the tail end of it,” Akpan said. “We have very, very little left.”

HOW TO ROAD TRIP WITH KIDS, FROM PARENTS WHO LIVE IN A BUS YEAR-ROUND

Through their journey of paying off their debts, Akpan said she’s become something of an advocate for financial literacy, encouraging her friends and family to start their own Roth IRAs and learn more about ways to save for their future and avoid going into debt. 

“People don’t know these basic things that they could have that could help them, help their families, help them save,” Akpan said, adding: “So it makes it hard for you not to get into debt and make these silly mistakes when you literally don’t know.”

“To be honest, we shouldn’t have been in that much debt in the first place. It was absolutely nuts.”

— Karen Akpan

She added: “It is a mission of mine, especially this year, to talk about it and make people aware … especially with my friends. Just starting with my friends and my family who don’t know these things.”

THESE FOLKS LIVE IN VANS — HERE’S THEIR LIST OF ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS

Akpan added that she and her husband have been educating Aiden along the way, while also starting to invest in his future through his own accounts, including a Roth IRA and a 529 plan.

“We have set up our lives in a way that we are not just pouring into ourselves and our future, but we’re already pouring into him right now,” Akpan said. 

The Akpans have been able to pay off about $200,000 in debt since they moved into their RV. 

The Akpans have been able to pay off about $200,000 in debt since they moved into their RV. 
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan)

Akpan talks about financial literacy and financial planning for kids on her blog, The Mom Trotter. She also runs a nonprofit called Black Kids Do Travel, where she encourages families of color to explore the world. 

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Aside from being taught financial literacy, Aiden is also homeschooled, which makes it possible for the family to travel full time, both around the country and internationally. 

“His learning has always been on the road,” Akpan said. “Everything is a learning experience for him. And the difference is that he gets to not only watch videos and read about it, he gets to see it. He gets to be there.”

"We were just sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the bills and living in California and barely scraping by," Karen Akpan told Fox. "We decided we just wanted to do something different for our son."

“We were just sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the bills and living in California and barely scraping by,” Karen Akpan told Fox. “We decided we just wanted to do something different for our son.”
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan)

Aside from getting to experience places first-hand, international travel also allows Aiden to learn about other cultures. 

“It’s really been very important to me to expose my son to different cultures and different people and everything and being able to travel internationally gives us that opportunity for him to appreciate and be respectful,” Akpan said. “I want to explain to my son: ‘Everybody will not do things the way you do it. And the fact that they don’t doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them.’”

“Being able to travel internationally puts us in a place where he’s right front and center of all of it, so he’s really learning to be a global citizen, which has really been a goal of mine.”

— Karen Akpan

“So I want him to actually see other people’s cultures, see how they live, appreciate it, ask questions and be respectful of it,” she added. “And being able to travel internationally puts us in a place where he’s right front and center of all of it, so he’s really learning to be a global citizen, which has really been a goal of mine.”

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Akpan told Fox that after the last year-and-a-half of full-time traveling, she’s still not ready to go back to living in a house.

“I’m not going back to that monthly mortgage,” Akpan said.”If we ever do live in a house, I always say this, we would have to buy in cash, to be honest. I cannot go back to monthly payments… I just can’t. Not with the lifestyle I’m living now.”

She added: “I can afford more vacations that are not strictly budget, where I’m counting pennies everywhere we go. So, living in a house would take that away from us again.”



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Scandinavian country moves into ‘very high’ risk category for travel


By Marnie Hunter, CNN

Norway on Monday moved into the highest-risk category on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of travel advisories for destinations around the world.

The Scandinavian country moved up to “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” just as the country relaxed most of its domestic Covid-related restrictions over the weekend. Neighbors Sweden and Denmark are currently listed in the CDC’s Level 3 category.

In Eastern Europe, Bulgaria also moved into the Level 4 category on Monday.

Destinations that fall into the “Covid-19 Very High” Level 4 category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC criteria.

People should avoid traveling to locations designated with a “Level 4” notice, the CDC recommends. Anyone who must travel should be fully vaccinated first, the agency advises. Nearly 90 destinations are now listed as Level 4.

Both Norway and Bulgaria were previously listed as “Level 3: Covid-19 High.” The Level 3 category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

The CDC’s travel notices range from Level 1 (“low”) to Level 4 (“very high”). The CDC does not list the United States in its travel advisories.

The two new destinations added to Level 4 on September 27 are:

• Bulgaria
• Norway

New Level 3 destinations

Six destinations moved to Level 3 on September 27:

• Bangladesh
• Equatorial Guinea
• Panama
• Saint Barthelemy
• Singapore
• Slovakia

Three places moved down from Level 4: Bangladesh, Panama and Saint Barthelemy (St. Barts).

The other three moved up into the higher-risk Level 3 category. Equatorial Guinea moved up from a previous Level 1 designation, and Singapore and Slovakia moved up from Level 2.

Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation have seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

You can view the CDC’s risk levels for global destinations on its travel recommendations page.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency said.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Top image: Tangstad fjord, Norway. (Photo by Olivier Morin/ AFP via Getty Images)



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Covid-19 live updates: Europe moves to jump-start travel; variant danger looms over Britain


Earlier this month, the British Medical Journal cited a study that indicated Britain’s death toll could be as high as 209,000 — official figures put it at 127,000 — and that the figure in the United States could be more than 905,000, significantly higher than the 588,000 cited by coronavirus resource centers and officials.



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Farmer Accidentally Moves France-Belgium Border By 7.5 Feet


A Belgian farmer, annoyed by a stone blocking the path of his tractor along the edge of his property, moved the marker, and he inadvertently set off an international border dispute in the process.

Actually, it’s more of an international border chuckle, as long as the marker is returned to its original location. The stone he moved represents the border between Belgium and France, and it’s been in place for about 200 years. The farmer’s actions added about 7.5 feet to the Belgian side — for those going by the stone, that is.

“We have no interest in expanding the town, or the country,” David Lavaux, mayor of the Belgian town of Erquelinnes, told French TV channel TF1. “He made Belgium bigger and France smaller. It’s not a good idea. I was happy my town was bigger, but the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn’t agree.”

“We should be able to avoid a new border war,” Aurelie Welonek, the mayor of the neighboring French village, told La Voix du Nord.

The altered border was discovered two weeks ago by an amateur historian taking a walk in the forest. He was able to see the marker in a new position, moved from the location where it had been placed in 1819 following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo five years earlier.

Officials plan to contact the farmer and ask him to return the marker to its original position. Failure to do so could force the Belgian government to convene a Franco-Belgian border commission, something that hasn’t happened in 91 years.

The farmer could face criminal charges if the dispute gets heated. But neither French nor Belgian officials see any of that happening. 

“If he shows goodwill, he won’t have a problem. We will settle this issue amicably,” Lavaux said.

The border between the countries stretches about 390 miles and was formally established in 1820 under the Treaty of Kortrijk.

Officials know exactly where the marker should be placed. As part of the 200th anniversary of their placing, all of the border markers were precisely geo-localized, Lavaux said.

He has no concerns that the incident will become anything more than an amusing story. “It would be best not to create an international incident,” Lavaux said.

Captivated by French and Belgian history? Read up on



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North Carolina moves to limit out-of-state access to vaccine – Washington Daily News


RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina is shifting its vaccine distribution guidance to dissuade people from traveling long distances to receive a COVID-19 shot in the state.

Under updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarifying travel policies, North Carolina has enacted stricter vaccination policies to improve North Carolinians’ access to the vaccine.

“To promote the public health goals for North Carolina, it is permissible to not offer vaccine to temporary travelers who do not reside, work, or spend significant time in the North Carolina,” the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

The move aims to give greater preference to in-state residents who have struggled to book appointments and come in for shots due to the high demand, but loopholes still allow for people to travel into the state without having to provide ID, proof of residency or proof of employment. People living out of state could also explain to vaccine administrators that they are eligible for shots because they work or spend a significant time in North Carolina or continue to receive ongoing health care in the state.

More than 27,000 people from other states have received their vaccine in North Carolina, as of last week, according to state health officials. The new guidance was first reported by WRAL and confirmed by The Associated Press.

Emails obtained by the AP show communications between the state health department and CDC. In a Feb. 9 message, the CDC informed North Carolina officials that “a state may decide that protecting the public health of its residents requires limiting vaccinations to state residents and not temporary travelers who do not reside in the state.”

South Carolina’s health department director, Edward Simmer, told state lawmakers Tuesday morning that the state was not requiring proof of residency for the shots and that the majority of people getting them did live in South Carolina.

Many people have turned to North Carolina amid frustration in their home states.

The appointment making process was difficult for 68-year-old Lance Garrett. He made calls, navigated an online system he considers “stupid” and learned it would not be until mid-April when he could come in for a vaccine. Frustrated with the process, the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, resident acted on a neighbor’s tip about a mass vaccination clinic in Charlotte allowing vaccinations for elderly out-of-state residents.

Late one Saturday night in January, Garrett returned to his computer to refresh a webpage before going to bed. To his surprise, a string of openings emerged. The following morning, he got in the car and made the three-hour trip to the Carolina Panthers football stadium in North Carolina.

Despite the long walk from a parking lot, the process at the site could not have gone any smoother. He’s since booked multiple second dose appointments but now plans to get the second Moderna shot at a nearby Charleston, South Carolina, pharmacy. He did not violate any rules in crossing state borders, but he did question the ethics of his decision before ultimately making the trip.

His advice to others struggling to get vaccinated: “Don’t pay attention to the rules. If you can make three appointments, make three appointments and then cancel them if you’re not eligible yet.”



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North Carolina moves to limit out-of-state access to vaccine


Bryan Anderson
 |  Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina is shifting its vaccine distribution guidance to dissuade people from traveling long distances to receive a COVID-19 shot in the state.

Under updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarifying travel policies, North Carolina has enacted stricter vaccination policies to improve North Carolinians’ access to the vaccine.

“To promote the public health goals for North Carolina, it is permissible to not offer vaccine to temporary travelers who do not reside, work, or spend significant time in the North Carolina,” the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

The move aims to give greater preference to in-state residents who have struggled to book appointments and come in for shots due to the high demand, but loopholes still allow for people to travel into the state without having to provide ID, proof of residency or proof of employment. People living out of state could also explain to vaccine administrators that they are eligible for shots because they work or spend a significant time in North Carolina or continue to receive ongoing health care in the state.

More than 27,000 people from other states have received their vaccine in North Carolina, as of last week, according to state health officials. The new guidance was first reported by WRAL and confirmed by The Associated Press.

Emails obtained by the AP show communications between the state health department and CDC. In a Feb. 9 message, the CDC informed North Carolina officials that “a state may decide that protecting the public health of its residents requires limiting vaccinations to state residents and not temporary travelers who do not reside in the state.”

South Carolina’s health department director, Edward Simmer, told state lawmakers Tuesday morning that the state was not requiring proof of residency for the shots and that the majority of people getting them did live in South Carolina.

Many people have turned to North Carolina amid frustration in their home states.

The appointment making process was difficult for 68-year-old Lance Garrett. He made calls, navigated an online system he considers “stupid” and learned it would not be until mid-April when he could come in for a vaccine. Frustrated with the process, the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, resident acted on a neighbor’s tip about a mass vaccination clinic in Charlotte allowing vaccinations for elderly out-of-state residents.

Late one Saturday night in January, Garrett returned to his computer to refresh a webpage before going to bed. To his surprise, a string of openings emerged. The following morning, he got in the car and made the three-hour trip to the Carolina Panthers football stadium in North Carolina.

Despite the long walk from a parking lot, the process at the site could not have gone any smoother. He’s since booked multiple second dose appointments but now plans to get the second Moderna shot at a nearby Charleston, South Carolina, pharmacy. He did not violate any rules in crossing state borders, but he did question the ethics of his decision before ultimately making the trip.

His advice to others struggling to get vaccinated: “Don’t pay attention to the rules. If you can make three appointments, make three appointments and then cancel them if you’re not eligible yet.”



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North Carolina moves to limit out-of-state access to vaccine


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina is shifting its vaccine distribution guidance to dissuade people from traveling long distances to receive a COVID-19 shot in the state.

Under updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarifying travel policies, North Carolina has enacted stricter vaccination policies to improve North Carolinians’ access to the vaccine.

“To promote the public health goals for North Carolina, it is permissible to not offer vaccine to temporary travelers who do not reside, work, or spend significant time in the North Carolina,” the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

The move aims to give greater preference to in-state residents who have struggled to book appointments and come in for shots due to the high demand, but loopholes still allow for people to travel into the state without having to provide ID, proof of residency or proof of employment. People living out of state could also explain to vaccine administrators that they are eligible for shots because they work or spend a significant time in North Carolina or continue to receive ongoing health care in the state.

More than 27,000 people from other states have received their vaccine in North Carolina, as of last week, according to state health officials. The new guidance was first reported by WRAL and confirmed by The Associated Press.

Emails obtained by the AP show communications between the state health department and CDC. In a Feb. 9 message, the CDC informed North Carolina officials that “a state may decide that protecting the public health of its residents requires limiting vaccinations to state residents and not temporary travelers who do not reside in the state.”

South Carolina’s health department director, Edward Simmer, told state lawmakers Tuesday morning that the state was not requiring proof of residency for the shots and that the majority of people getting them did live in South Carolina.

Many people have turned to North Carolina amid frustration in their home states.

The appointment making process was difficult for 68-year-old Lance Garrett. He made calls, navigated an online system he considers “stupid” and learned it would not be until mid-April when he could come in for a vaccine. Frustrated with the process, the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, resident acted on a neighbor’s tip about a mass vaccination clinic in Charlotte allowing vaccinations for elderly out-of-state residents.

Late one Saturday night in January, Garrett returned to his computer to refresh a webpage before going to bed. To his surprise, a string of openings emerged. The following morning, he got in the car and made the three-hour trip to the Carolina Panthers football stadium in North Carolina.

Despite the long walk from a parking lot, the process at the site could not have gone any smoother. He’s since booked multiple second dose appointments but now plans to get the second Moderna shot at a nearby Charleston, South Carolina, pharmacy. He did not violate any rules in crossing state borders, but he did question the ethics of his decision before ultimately making the trip.

His advice to others struggling to get vaccinated: “Don’t pay attention to the rules. If you can make three appointments, make three appointments and then cancel them if you’re not eligible yet.”



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