• Sat. May 8th, 2021


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Coronavirus Briefing: Vacation stigma

Credit…The New York Times

Vacations have become a serious point of contention among families, friends and strangers on social media, who say travelers may be unnecessarily putting their health in jeopardy, or unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

The range of what’s acceptable in the Covid-19 era varies greatly. At one end of the spectrum are those who believe only essential travel is permissible. At the other end are people who think traveling is fine as long as travelers follow virus safety measures. The vast gray zone in between includes those who think trips within driving distance or to reunite with family are OK.

One thing is certain: Tourism has taken a huge hit during the pandemic. The U.S. travel industry has sustained $341 billion in losses since the beginning of March, according to a recent report from an American trade group.For many would-be travelers, cleanliness has become the most important factor when considering accommodations. To regain customers’ confidence, major hotel companies have heralded their new hygiene initiatives, like extra attention to high-touch areas and seals on room doors indicating that no one has entered since cleaning. But some guests say hotels are not living up to their promises.

Some in the travel industry have started planning for the post-vaccine frontier of tourism. The kind of travel they envision has been called “regenerative travel” — leaving a place better than how it was found. It is meant to be a greener approach that doesn’t solely measure success by number of visitors or profits generated.

Burst bubbles: Some neighboring nations with low infection rates formed travel alliance “bubbles” early in the pandemic that would allow tourists to cross borders freely. With summer winding down, it’s clear that the experiment hasn’t been a universal success. New outbreaks prompted some countries like Australia and New Zealand to put plans on hold, while countries such as Britain quickly rolled back the welcome mat.


India now has the fastest-growing coronavirus caseload of any country in the world, with more than 75,000 new infections per day. In the past week, India has reported nearly half a million cases.

Health experts say the virus reproduction rate is ticking up because more state governments, desperate to stimulate their economies, are loosening lockdown restrictions. Crowded cities, lockdown fatigue and a lack of contact tracing have also hurt efforts to contain the virus.

India has recorded 3.3 million cases and at least 61,000 deaths. With around 1,000 virus deaths every day, it will soon have the third-largest death toll, after the United States and Brazil.

Deaths per capita in India, however, are far fewer than those two countries, perhaps because India has a younger and less obese population. But some health experts wonder if the government also may be undercounting many Covid-19 deaths, or if it is intentionally underreporting them to keep the public from panicking.

Every month, new clusters of infection emerge in America. Many of these outbreaks have appeared in places that have become familiar headlines: cruise ships, prisons, nursing homes, meatpacking plants. But thousands of other cases have gone unnoticed, emerging with little fanfare in other corners of American life.

The New York Times collected data on more than 500,000 cases of the coronavirus and told the story of some of these lesser-known clusters.

Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times
Credit…Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat, via USA TODAY NETWORK
Credit…Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer, via Associated Press
  • New Jersey planned to reopen all its schools for in-person teaching, but many districts are going remote, citing teacher shortages, ventilation issues and late guidance from the state.

  • Ukraine has closed its borders a second time, amid rising cases and concerns that an annual influx of Hasidic Jews traveling to pilgrimage sites risked spreading the virus.

  • An uptick in cases in Ireland has prompted health authorities to recommend keeping pubs closed, reversing plans to allow them to open next week.

  • Cuba, which had kept cases low, announced its first virus-related curfew, in Havana, as confirmed infections spike.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

We have been lucky enough to travel (on a budget) frequently over the years, and my wife has diligently kept journals of our trip highlights — sights, people, restaurants, quirky happenings. So every night after dinner we revisit a trip and linger over our memories.

— Bob Kenney, New York City

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