US coronavirus: Omicron concerns should spur millions of unvaccinated Americans to get their Covid shots, experts say


“I would hope that within the next week or two weeks, so many of those people will take advantage of the vaccine,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Friday. “That will help us in the immediate term. And I would anticipate that, as bad as Omicron might be, our vaccine still will be partially effective.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed Schaffner’s stance on vaccination and boosters as mitigation tools.

“I’m saying this absolutely clearly that if ever there was a reason for unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and for those who have been vaccinated when your time comes up to go and get a booster shot,” Fauci told NBC News’ Lester Holt on Friday.

“The booster shots give you a very, very important edge,” he said, noting that boosters increase the level of antibodies that protect against the virus.

Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 196 million Americans, or 59% of the US population, was fully vaccinated as of Friday. An additional 37.5 million have received booster shots, the data shows.
On Friday, the US moved to restrict travel from eight mostly southern African countries starting Monday as the World Health Organization deemed Omicron a variant of concern after it was first detected in South Africa. Travel into the US is restricted for those entering from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa.
What we know about the Omicron variant

Omicron has raised concerns for health officials because there’s a possibility that it could be more contagious than the original coronavirus strain, and it also has a significant number of mutations, the WHO said.

There have been no indications so far that the variant has made its way into the US, Fauci told CNN on Friday.

The CDC said the US variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in the past.

“We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.,” the agency said in a statement.

After a pandemic that has lasted nearly two years, experts and global leaders are anxious about the impact of Omicron and many nations issued travel bans. Besides South Africa, the newly identified variant has been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Belgium.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Friday there was a “high to very high” risk the variant would spread to the Continent.

Vaccine makers are working to determine effectiveness against Omicron

Meanwhile, vaccine makers have disclosed they are taking action to address Omicron’s elevated risk.

Moderna said Friday that it’s working quickly to test the ability of its vaccine to neutralize Omicron, and data is expected in the coming weeks.

The strain includes mutations “seen in the Delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape,” Moderna said in a news release.

“The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.”

Moderna explained that if its current vaccine and booster are insufficient against the variant, one possible solution is boosting people with a larger dose, which is undergoing testing.

Newly discovered Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 is 'red flag' but US needs to learn more, Fauci says

The company is also evaluating two multivalent booster candidates to see if they provide better protection against Omicron — both of which include some of the viral mutations present in the variant.

Moderna said it is also testing an Omicron-specific booster.

“For several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in the news release.

Scientists at BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer to make its Covid-19 vaccine, are also investigating the impact of the variant on their shot, with data expected within the upcoming weeks.

A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson told CNN in a statement the company was also testing the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron.

Scientists work on the Covid-19 at the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Covid-19 travel restrictions aren’t all that effective, experts say

The Biden administration’s decision to curtail travel from eight countries is a precautionary measure as the US government learns more about the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

But some experts say travel restrictions aren’t as effective as they may seem.

“Travel bans are modestly effective. They can obviously influence travel directly from that country to the United States,” said Schaffner, the doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Travel doors slam shut as new Covid variant triggers alarm, stranding hundreds of passengers

“But obviously US citizens will be permitted to come back. They could bring the virus. And people could go from the country of interest, South Africa for example, and go to other countries that are not on the travel ban, and enter, if you will, by the side door. So travel bans are somewhat effective, but let’s not expect a miracle,” he said.

US citizens, lawful permanent residents and noncitizens who are the spouses of citizens or permanent residents are exempted from the new restrictions.

Dr. Megan Ranney, a professor of emergency medicine and Associate Dean of Public Health at Brown University, said universal vaccination requirements for all air travel would be more effective.

“Or having quarantines when people arrive in the U.S. from other countries. Neither of those are particularly politically palatable right now, but they would make a much bigger difference in the spread of this variant,” Ranney told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Friday.

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Virginia Langmaid, Michael Nedelman, Frederik Pleitgen and Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.



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New Jersey COVID Update: School district requires unvaccinated students to quarantine after Thanksgiving holiday travel


NEW JERSEY (WABC) — The South Orange-Maplewood School District is requiring students who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine after traveling for Thanksgiving.

In a message sent to parents, the district said unvaccinated students who travel outside of the northeast corridor or internationally will need to quarantine before returning to school.

Students who test negative on days three, four, or five after returning from travel can return after seven days, but anyone who chooses not to test will remain out of school for 10 days.

Students who have received their second dose of the vaccine less than two weeks prior to the return to class on November 29 will also be required to quarantine.

Virtual learning will be made available for any affected students.

The district said it’s a precautionary measure developed from guidance from local, state, and national health agencies.

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Unvaccinated NBA players won’t be able to travel to Toronto to play Raptors starting in January


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NBA players who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t be able to travel to Toronto to play in games against the Raptors beginning on Jan. 15, as Canada’s government is set to end vaccine exemption for athletes. Minister of public safety Marco Mendicino made this announcement on Friday. Here are some details, via CBC News

Unvaccinated professional and amateur athletes will no longer be able to travel to Canada as of January 15, minister of public safety Marco Mendicino said on Friday. Currently, NBA and NHL players who have yet to receive one of Canada’s approved COVID-19 vaccines are able to enter the country under a national interest exemption. But Mendicino said that is changing due to the wide availability of vaccines.

“As of January 15th, there will no longer be an exemption in place for professional and amateur athletes,” he said… Those who remain unvaccinated will soon be unable to play games in Toronto against the Raptors or in any of the seven Canadian NHL teams’ home arenas.

It is unclear whether unvaccinated Canadian athletes who play for American teams would be able re-enter the country with their teams. However, beginning November 30, vaccination will be required for travel within and out of Canada.  

Luckily, this change shouldn’t be an issue for too many NBA players, as around 95 percent of the league’s players are reportedly vaccinated. Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving is the most well-known player to refuse the vaccine, but he hasn’t been playing in games for the Nets this season, so the change won’t impact him anyway. 

The NBA isn’t enforcing any sort of a vaccine mandate for its players, but the league has strongly encouraged all players to get inoculated. Earlier this month, the league encouraged all players and coaches to get a booster shot in order to try to continue to curb any potential outbreaks. Several players from across the league’s landscape have had to miss time due to COVID-19 this season, but no games have been postponed due to extreme team-wide outbreaks, which is an improvement over last season. 





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France Imposes Stricter Travel Restrictions for Unvaccinated Arrivals From 16 EU Countries


Travellers from 16 European Union Member States who haven’t been vaccinated against the Coronavirus yet are now subject to stricter entry restrictions when travelling to France.

Updating the rules of entry from the EU and abroad, the French Government has clarified that unvaccinated travellers from the following countries now need to test for COVID-19 within the prior 24 hours before reaching France, after these countries “have been placed under surveillance”:

  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • the Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • the Netherlands
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

Before November 12, travellers from the majority of these countries could present the results of a PCR or antigen test certificate taken within the last 72 hours. The rule has not changed for unvaccinated travellers from the rest of the EU and Schengen Area countries that are not listed above.

>> Travelling to France Amid COVID-19 – Everything You Need to Know

Those who aren’t vaccinated, but have recovered from COVID-19 recently, are exempt from the requirement to submit a test result, no matter from which EU or Schengen Area country they travel to France.

Minors under the age of 12 are also exempt from the requirement to be tested before reaching France.

The decision comes at a time when the majority of EU countries are facing a spike up in the number of COVID-19 cases in their territory, in spite of the high vaccination rates throughout the block. Even the EU health agency, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (EDCD), had recommended less travel to these countries.

On November 12, France has also removed Ukraine from its green list and added it to the red list of countries.

This means that non-vaccinated travellers, and those who haven’t recently recovered from COVID-19, can travel from Ukraine to France only for absolutely essential purposes. The same are obliged to present test results of a PCR or antigen test taken within the last 48 hours before reaching the country. Upon arrival, the same are also subject to a ten-day quarantine period.

However, vaccinated travellers and those who have recently been ill with COVID-19 can enter by only proving their status, including for non-essential purposes like tourism, and without being subject to quarantine obligation.

>> France Recognises 5 COVID-19 Vaccines for Travel

The decision to add Ukraine to the red list follows a recommendation of the EU Council to the Member States to impose more restrictions on Ukrainian travellers upon an increase in the number of COVID-9 cases in this country.



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Unvaccinated Americans Can Travel to Germany Under Facilitated Entry Rules Starting From Nov.14


American nationals who haven’t been vaccinated yet, as well as those who haven’t recently recovered from the Coronavirus, can travel to Germany under facilitated rules starting from the upcoming Sunday, November 14.

Among others, they will be able to skip quarantine and multiple testing for COVID-19.

Such a thing will be possible after the United States has been removed from the high-risk list of Germany, upon a review of the list by the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community.

The decision has been announced by the Robert Koch Institute, which is Germany’s agency for disease prevention and control. The same has, on the other hand, added to the high-risk list the following:

  • Austria (with the exception of the municipality of Mittelberg and Jungholz and Rißtal in the municipal area of Vomp and Eben am Achensee)
  • the Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Lao People’s Democratic Republic

For Americans, being removed from the high-risk list means that they can now travel to Germany without having to undergo quarantine upon arrival into the country. They will, however, need to get tested for COVID-19 if they have not been vaccinated against the virus, nor recovered from it recently.

All immigrants – regardless of whether they have been in a high-risk area or virus variant area or not – are obliged to have proof of the absence of an infection with the SARS – CoV -2 coronavirus ( proof of vaccination, test, recovery) upon entry,” the German Ministry of Health explains in its ordinance of November 8, which lays out the new COVID-19 entry rules.

Only children under the age of 12 are exempt from this requirement.

For travellers over 12 who are not vaccinated, the test must be taken within the last 72 hours before they arrive in Germany, if it is a PCR test, whereas antigen tests should be taken within the prior 24 hours only.

Previously, American travellers who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as those who haven’t recovered from the virus recently, had to go through several more entry procedures, including registration and quarantine.

The quarantine obligation for travellers from high-risk rea lasts ten days, though it can be ended prematurely on the fifth day of isolation.

Last week, on November 5, the RKI had removed Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Jamaica, Cuba, Myanmar, and St. Lucia from the high-risk list.

Whereas since November 8, German nationals who are vaccinated against the virus have finally been able to travel to the US, after about 20 months of being banned from travelling to this country.

>> Who Can Travel to Germany Amid COVID-19 & What Are the Rules



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Unvaccinated US visitors under 18 will not need to quarantine, per CDC


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Unvaccinated children visiting the United States will not need to quarantine upon arrival under the country’s new travel rules, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday.

The new U.S. air travel system, which goes into effect Nov. 8, requires vaccinations among most foreign tourists. Some travelers – such as children under 18 and people with a history of negative reactions to COVID-19 vaccines – are exempt from the vaccination requirement. 

According to an amended document signed by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, noncitizens under 18 years old who are not immigrating to the U.S. will still need to fill out an attestation form that says they will arrange to get tested for the coronavirus three to five days after arrival, but they will not need to promise to arrange a seven-day quarantine period after arrival. 

“Based on the potential difficulty that self-quarantine may pose to children under 18 years of age especially when accompanied by a vaccinated parent or guardian who is not required to self-quarantine, CDC has determined that self-quarantine should not be required,” the order reads. 

► Vaccines for kids: FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids 5-11

Foreign travelers under 18 years old also do not have to agree to receive a vaccination after arrival “given the still evolving circumstances of vaccination for children,” according to the document. They will still need to quarantine if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or their post-arrival test is positive.

CDC documents released Monday said all foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. who are exempt from the vaccine mandate would need to quarantine seven days upon arrival or potentially face fines or penalties.

Parents planning to visit the U.S. took to social media, questioning whether the quarantine mandate applied to children, many of whom are too young to get inoculated. Others worried they would have to cancel planned family trips to the country. 

► Who is exempt?: These select groups of unvaccinated foreign travelers can enter the US 

The updated guidance differs slightly from statements made earlier this week by Cindy Friedman, the CDC’s chief of the traveler’s health branch, who said unvaccinated children would only be exempt from quarantine if they were traveling with vaccinated adults. 

“CDC believes that this approach fairly balances the interests of families traveling to the United States with protecting the public health,” the updated CDC document says. “CDC guidance strongly recommends vaccination for all eligible children under 18.”

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz





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Bans on Unvaccinated Employee Travel Are Here. Now What?


U.S. companies of all sizes in recent months have wrestled with developing policies governing their employees’ return to their offices and normal work procedures. Senior executives and corporate boards have debated mandating Covid-19 vaccines for all employees, requiring regular tests for the unvaccinated, and limiting in-person office attendance to the vaccinated.

Some U.S. companies, apparently including JP Morgan Chase & Co., have hit on another option: allowing only vaccinated employees to travel for business. The financial services company, one of the largest U.S. spenders on corporate travel, also has restricted meeting attendance to the vaccinated, according to Reuters. 

JP Morgan isn’t alone. About 18 percent of respondents to a July of Global Business Travel Association poll of member travel buyers and procurement executives indicated their companies would require a vaccine before traveling for company business, and 40 percent of such respondents to another GBTA poll this month indicated their companies would limit business travel “and/or” meeting clients face to face to the vaccinated. 

The decision of how to approach the vaccines, travel and return to work often are being discussed and made at the highest levels of an organization, and not always with the travel manager’s input. Still, any corporation that implements a business travel ban for the unvaccinated will need procedures and mechanisms to deploy and enforce that mandate, and that’s where the travel manager comes in.


Those things can be done. You just have to get with the right group to make sure that they’re pulling that field in, and it’s up to HR to help the travel group solve that problem.”

Partnership Travel Consulting’s Jim Wilkins


Developing and executing a strategy to limit business travel to vaccinated employees could be a complicated endeavor, and several travel executives suggested staying in close contact with senior management to fully grasp the aims of such a mandate. Pre-trip authorization technology and travel profile management strategy also could be valuable tools in bolstering a travel mandate. 

TMCs: Maybe Not Us

Travel management company partners, however, might not be eager to help design and enforce business travel bans. Several TMCs declined comment for this report, and sources indicated reluctance on TMCs’ part to serve in any sort of enforcement capacity for a vaccine-related travel ban. 

“Most TMCs aren’t touching Covid-related travel policies, or travel enforcements as it relates to Covid within an organization, with a 10-foot pole, just because they view it as an HR issue,” said Brandon Strauss, co-founder and partner of business travel consultancy KesselRun Corporate Travel Solutions. 

“It’s not the TMC’s job to police the policy. That’s the travel manager’s job,” said Jim Wilkins, SVP of corporate buyer solutions at business travel consultancy Partnership Travel Consulting and formerly senior director of global travel at WarnerMedia.

Still, there are steps travel managers can take to enact measures to keep unvaccinated employees from traveling, of varying degrees of complexity. Among the blunter methods they could use would be to simply remove from travel platforms the profiles of travelers who wouldn’t demonstrate their vaccinated status, Strauss said. 

“If he tries to travel, there’s no login, and there’s no recognition of him when he calls into a travel counselor,” Strauss said. 

Profiling the Situation

Travel profiles could be used in other ways to enforce such a mandate. Tammy Krings, founder and CEO of travel management company ATG, said the ATG profile management system includes a field for travelers’ health information that could be used to log vaccination status with supporting information. 

“When we created ours, we had had many, many instances where people had gotten sick on the road or something had happened while they were traveling, and we needed to know more about them,” Krings said. “We’re treating Covid the exact same way that we treated the other illnesses, except for the fact that in some cases it’s mandated. We are seeing a significant increase in people putting their vaccination information in their profile, even if their company doesn’t mandate that they’re vaccinated.”


They’re going to find that travel is going to be almost impossible if they’re not vaccinated.”

ATG’s Tammy Krings


For those that do, bookings are only allowed to go forward online or via a live agent if that profile field includes vaccination information, she said. “We treat it as if it’s a normal policy. So if anybody’s breaking any other policy, it’s the same level of treatment,” she said.

Watkins suggested that human resources management software also could be adapted to include vaccination information on employee profiles, which then could integrate with travel technology. 

“One thing that we’ve been talking about is some type of mechanism that is incorporated into the HR feed that can populate a profile,” Watkins said, noting that at WarnerMedia, “I worked with our programmers constantly to make sure I could identify traveler levels—from executives, what their entitlements were, versus the rank-and-file employee. Those things can be done. You just have to get with the right group to make sure that they’re pulling that field in, and it’s up to HR to help the travel group solve that problem.”

Pre-Trip Tactics

Beyond profile management, travel managers could lean on pre-trip authorization processes and technology to help flag would-be unvaccinated travelers. 

“There could be a pre-trip authorization component of it, but this is under the assumption that the company has pre-trip technology, which most don’t,” Strauss said. “Or, they don’t in any hard-stop automation kind of way.”

Krings said one ATG client requires two levels of managerial approval for an unvaccinated employee to travel for business, with the approval request automatically routed to one manager, then the second if approved by the first.

“A lot of them do get denied,” Krings said. “Unlike a lot of other approval processes, these aren’t getting approved. My guess is it’s right around 60 percent getting approved and 40 percent getting declined.”

Things Change, Sometimes Quickly

The late-summer spread of the delta variant of Covid-19, and the sharp rise in case counts, pushed many companies to quickly and drastically change the return-to-office plans developed weeks earlier. Office reunions were delayed, travel plans postponed, and in some cases, new regulations for unvaccinated employees were developed. Will those plans change again, now that new Covid-19 case counts are on the decline, at least in the United States? It’s possible that some companies that have adopted travel bans for unvaccinated employees could have a change of heart. (Southwest Airlines, for one, has backtracked on similar plans.) 

Even if those bans are permanent, that doesn’t mean companies won’t find cause for exceptions, Strauss noted. 

“If you have an employee who is marginally important and they don’t want to get vaccinated and they need to travel, they probably won’t be working there very long,” Strauss said. “But I think the bigger problem is, what do you do in the event where you’ve got a highly productive employee who needs to travel, and the employee says, ‘I’m not getting vaccinated?’ “

Strauss suggested some companies would bend their own rule in that situation. “As a practical matter, if you’ve got an unvaccinated employee who is an important employee and the business unit has a goal, they’re going to tell that employee, ‘just go do what you need to do.’ “

On the other hand, Krings suggested the difficulties of unvaccinated travel could spur companies’ interest in ensuring travelers’ vaccination. 

“They’re going to find that travel is going to be almost impossible if they’re not vaccinated,” Krings said. I’ve been to Romania, the Netherlands and Germany, and every single restaurant has asked for my vaccination card, and every single hotel I’ve stayed in has asked for my vaccination card. [These companies] are looking at setting their people up for success while they travel and not to have to subject [them] to constant PCR testing.”



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PM: Unvaccinated players can travel for Australian Open


FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2021, file photo, Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns a shot to Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, during the men's singles final of the US Open tennis championships in New York. A potential backflip on border entry requirements for the Australian Open may allow unvaccinated players to compete at the first tennis major of 2022 after undergoing 14 days in quarantine. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 12, 2021, file photo, Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns a shot to Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, during the men’s singles final of the US Open tennis championships in New York. A potential backflip on border entry requirements for the Australian Open may allow unvaccinated players to compete at the first tennis major of 2022 after undergoing 14 days in quarantine. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

AP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated that unvaccinated tennis players will be allowed to enter the country for the Australian Open provided they undergo two weeks in hotel quarantine.

Morrison on Wednesday moved to clarify the border situation a week after his immigration minister suggested there’d be a no jab, no visa policy for the tournament next January.

Morrison told Australian television networks there are exemptions to the strict COVID-19 pandemic international border protection rules for those who qualify under skilled worker or economic benefit criteria.

“If there is a special exemption that is warranted for an economic reason, well, that can happen,” he said. “But you’ve got to follow the health rules in that state — and two weeks quarantine for unvaccinated people, well, that’s sensible,” Morrison told Australia’s Nine network.

He said the ultimate decision was for the state of Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. Victoria has a mandatory vaccination policy in place for athletes competing in domestic leagues.

Australia is preparing to re-open its international borders next month for the first time since the global pandemic started last year, but it’ll be a gradual, state-by-state process and will depend on vaccination rates across the country. Fully vaccinated people will have fewer restrictions in Australia than those who are not.

Tennis stars who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are set to be allowed to travel to Australia from Dec. 1 and, after testing negative to the coronavirus, will not have to quarantine ahead of the Jan. 17-30 Grand Slam event.

Unvaccinated players will face similar restrictions to those in place for the 2021 edition, which included a 14-day hotel quarantine for all players, coaches and officials who arrived from overseas.

Morrison said there needed to be some flexibility to the strict rules in order for major events to go ahead in Australia.

“We’re going to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world … one of the lowest fatality rates from COVID in the world and the strongest economy coming through COVID in the world,” he said. “We want major events in this country. A lot of jobs depend on it. We want Australia to show to the world that we’re open, we’re getting on with it.”

Morrison’s comments followed a leaked email this week from the WTA to its Players’ Council which suggested unvaccinated players would likely be granted a visa but must do two weeks in isolation.

The email said Tennis Australia was still working with the government on the details but because Victoria state was expected to hit a vaccination target of 90% of the adult population by next month, “it has been confirmed that conditions for the players at the Australian Open will improve significantly.”

Tennis Australia later said “We are optimistic that we can hold the Australian Open as close to pre-pandemic conditions as possible.”

The vaccination debate has been ongoing in tennis since international competition started re-emerging following a global shutdown last year.

Some players, including nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, have advocated that the decision to get the vaccine should be a personal choice. Others, including Andy Murray, have said it should be mandated for the good of the majority.

At the U.S. Open, which ended Sept. 12, spectators had to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend matches, although players weren’t required to get a shot.

Both the men’s and the women’s tours are recommending all players get vaccinated but so far have not enforced it.





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Unvaccinated Montclair students who travel must quarantine


Unvaccinated Montclair public schools students who travel during the upcoming holiday season will be automatically set up with virtual learning during a quarantine period of at least seven days, Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said in an Oct. 21 message to the community. Ponds seen here at the Oct. 18 Board of Education meeting. (TALIA WIENER/STAFF)

By TALIA WIENER
[email protected]

Unvaccinated Montclair public schools staff and students who travel during the upcoming holiday season will be required to undergo at least seven days of quarantine, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

Unvaccinated students who travel domestically or internationally will “automatically be set up with virtual learning due to their need to quarantine,” schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said in an Oct. 21 message to the community.

“We value you as a partner and ask that you provide your children’s teachers/principals your travel plans a week in advance, which will assist us in preparing virtual learning upon your return, allowing us to best serve your children,” Ponds said in the message. 

“The Road Forward,” the state’s guidance for schools during the coronavirus pandemic, defines domestic travel as lasting 24 hours or longer to states “other than those connected to New Jersey, such as Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware.”

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“While there is no statewide travel advisory or mandate in place at this time, schools are encouraged to have a policy for exclusion for students and staff that is consistent with CDC COVID-19 travel recommendations,” the document states.

The CDC recommends travel be delayed for those who are unvaccinated, but also recommends 10 days of quarantine after travel without testing or seven days of quarantine, with a negative test taken three to five days after travel.

“The holidays are right around the corner, and we wanted you to have travel guidance with enough time to plan for the Thanksgiving and December holiday breaks,” Ponds said in the message. “We understand this is often a time when families visit relatives and gather together.”

Ponds has not yet responded to an email sent to his district address Monday with questions about the vacation policy.

Fully vaccinated students and staff are not required to quarantine, but are recommended to test three to five days after travel and monitor for symptoms. 

The district’s plan seems “a little arbitrary” parent Danielle Neff said in a Facebook comment responding to a post by Montclair Local. 

“I think it’s great and appropriate that they are offering a virtual option,” parent Danielle Neff said. “My question is this: What about those who host family/visitors from other states?”

More than 90% of Montclair school district staff have received coronavirus vaccinations, Ponds said at the Oct. 18 school board meeting. According to the district’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, there are approximately 1,100 staff members in the district, and as of Tuesday there had been eight known cases of coronavirus among staff this school year. There had also been 16 known student cases.

Voluntary pooled testing began in Montclair schools Monday, but staffing issues with provider Concentric by Gingko, a service provided by Ginkgo Bioworks, meant only three schools — Glenfield Middle School, Nishuane School and Bradford School — underwent testing, according to an update on pooled testing on the district’s website.

“Schools that did not test [Monday], will begin their testing next week, aligned with the schedule,” the district’s update said. “As with any new program, ‘glitches’ can occur, and we are confident, moving forward, that the process will be streamlined.”





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Unvaccinated Americans will face stricter testing under Biden's international travel rules – The Washington Post



Unvaccinated Americans will face stricter testing under Biden’s international travel rules  The Washington Post



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