U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed "to reduce the spread" of COVID-19 through the end of July, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Twitter Sunday.
The agency, in conjunction with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts, originally closed the United States' northern and southern borders to leisure travelers in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have been extended on a monthly basis ever since, and were previously extended to July 21.
"Access for essential trade & travel" is still allowed, according to the DHS.
The border restriction extension comes as about 45% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases are declining in a majority of states. But the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated could pose a new public health threat, public health officials warn. The delta variant, first identified in India, now accounts up to 10% of cases in the United States.
The delta variant could trigger a surge in the fall if only 75% of the country's population is vaccinated, former Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation."
Also in the news:
►Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Sunday that the state reported zero COVID deaths and under 50 new cases for the first time since March 2020.
►Los Angeles County reported about two COVID-19 deaths a day last week, down from a peak of 241 in January, reported The Los Angeles Times. 57% of residents of all ages are at least partially inoculated.
►French police clashed with party-goers as they tried to break up an unauthorized rave in western France. A 22-year-old man lost his hand and several others were injured amid the violence.
►A member of Uganda's Olympic team was barred from entering Japan after testing positive for COVID-19. It's the first infection reported among the arriving athletes for the Tokyo Games, which start in five weeks.
? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.54 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 601,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 178.42 million cases and more than 3.86 million deaths. More than 149.6 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — nearly 45.1% of the population, according to the CDC.
? What we're reading: Companies like Moderna and Pfizer's partner BioNTech, whose names are familiar from COVID-19 vaccines, are using mRNA to spur cancer patients' bodies to make vaccines that will — they hope — prevent recurrences and treatments designed to fight off advanced tumors. Read the full story.
Afghanistan is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of COVID-19 worsens, a senior health official told The Associated Press. The government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where up to 65% of those tested in some areas are positive, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigir Nazari said. By World Health Organization recommendations, anything higher than 5% shows officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked. Afghanistan carries out barely 4,000 tests a day and often much less.
Afghanistan’s 24-hour infection count has also continued its upward climb from 1,500 at the end of May when the health ministry was already calling the surge “a crisis,” to more than 2,300 this week.
A resort in Barbados created a first-ever COVID-19 lab within a hotel in the Caribbean. Paul Doyle, the owner of The Crane Resort, worked with Barbados Public Health Laboratory and the World Health Organization to receive guidance and acquire the equipment for onsite testing.
For some guests traveling internationally, returning home requires a negative COVID-19 test. There are some hotels and properties that offer testing at the location, but rely on offsite lab processes, resulting in a longer wait to receive results. The resort's lab conducts tests onsite so tests can come back within hours.
The hotel currently has both PCR COVID testing and rapid antigen testing, which provides results within 15 minutes. Depending on what test is required, the lab can provide guests with fast and convenient COVID-19 testing required for traveling. The lab is also open to locals, ex-pats, and guests from other hotels.
“We know that visitors who have been in lockdown and have waited a long time for their vacations will appreciate a hassle-free airport experience and speedy test results,” Doyle told Forbes.
- Steven Vargas
Contributing: The Associated Press.