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Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:
On Jan. 8, 2021, at about 7:40 p.m., Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the 100 block of Carlson Drive in Manila for a death investigation resulting from a structure fire.
Upon arrival, deputies observed firefighters tending to a travel trailer fire on the property. Deputies learned that while fighting the fire, emergency personnel had located a deceased individual inside the burning trailer.
Due to the condition of the remains, the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office was not able to immediately confirm identification of the deceased.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.
05 Jan 2021by April Hutchinson
Regent Seven Seas Cruises said latest market stimulation is its “largest ever suite upgrade promotion”
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International travel is expected to return within months, as Qantas restarts long-haul flights and pressure builds on the Government to fast-track the rollout of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Two of Australia’s largest travel organisations this week offered new hope to travel-hungry Australians, with Qantas selling seats to the US and UK from July, and Flight Centre ready to follow.
Australia’s national carrier restarted sales of the international flights despite both countries struggling to bring the virus under control.
“We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation,” the airline said.
“Recently we have aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021.”
Flight Centre CEO Graham “Skroo” Turner told The Courier-Mail the Queensland travel giant would closely watch Qantas’ success before deciding whether to restart sales of its own international holiday packages.
Mr Turner said international travel was likely to return from July following Australia’s first COVID-19 vaccinations – which the Government hopes will start in March.
“I think it’s reasonable to accept that vaccinated people will be able to travel reasonably widely by July,” Mr Turner said.
“I would be surprised if a reasonable level of international travel for Australians wasn’t occurring by then.”
Mr Turner, who is locked in hotel quarantine following a business trip to London over Christmas, tipped British residents would be travelling across Europe within months despite the nation being plunged into its third national lockdown this week.
“They’ll be travelling by summer because the vaccine is being rolled out so that’s a positive,” he said.
Mr Turner expected Australia, which has led the world in managing the virus, would bounce back quickly once the vaccine was widely available.
The pace of the rollout, however, has been criticised by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, with more than 2.8 million Americans and 900,000 British people already receiving jabs.
Australia’s Pfizer vaccine is expected to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration this month, however Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said further approvals and stock would be secured before widespread inoculation.
Meanwhile, growing clusters in New South Wales and Victoria has again raised concerns about Queensland’s jittery border.
Tourism leaders are calling for the state government to publicly outline clear triggers that will affect border changes instead of relying on confidential advice from the chief health officer.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said the possibility of snap border closures as interstate clusters grew was “freaking everybody out”.
“Any system that provides greater certainty would certainly be helpful, so we have a bit more predictability on what will happen if a case is identified or a cluster emerges,” he said.
“If we can avoid wholesale border closures, that’s the aim of the game.
“That’s what’s really freaking everybody out and introducing enormous uncertainty into the market and then in consumers’ heads.”
Mr Turner also revealed Flight Centre lawyers are yet to receive a response to a right to information application seeking the medical advice underpinning Queensland’s border closures earlier this year.
The application, lodged on June 9, sought the documents revealing the heath advice relied on by Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young to justify closing the borders to Sydney and Melbourne between July and December.
Acting Health Minister Mark Furner said the Government would continue to make decisions based on expert health advice.
“It’s because of Queensland’s strong health response and our minimal restrictions that so many Queenslanders are enjoying all that Queensland has to offer over the Christmas-New Year period,” he said.
Originally published as Travel baron’s tip on when we’ll be jetting off again
ATLANTA — U.S. health officials say the lack of reported travel history in a Colorado National Guardsman with a more contagious version of the coronavirus suggests the new variant is already spreading in the United States.
Dr. Henry Walke of the CDC says the arrival of the variant known as B.1.1.7 “was expected” given travel patterns between the U.S. and England, where the variant was first seen.
Walke says it’s still unclear how widely the variant has spread in the United States, or whether another concerning variant first seen in South Africa may have arrived.
Dr. Greg Armstrong of the CDC says he’s aware that several states, including California, Massachusetts and Delaware, are analyzing suspicious virus samples to look for the variant. He says the CDC is working with a national lab that gets samples from around the country to broaden that search, with results expected within days.
The U.S. lags behind other nations in performing full genome sequencing on the virus, but CDC officials on Wednesday mentioned several efforts to ramp up that type of complicated lab analysis, which can track and spot genetic changes in the virus that causes COVID-19.
CDC officials called for renewed commitment to wearing masks, avoiding crowds and washing hands.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— A Colorado National Guardsman who has a new variant of the coronavirus that may be more contagious says he had not traveled.
— Internal documents obtained by The AP show that top Chinese officials quietly ordered strict controls on all COVID-19 research in the country, cloaking the search for the origins of the virus in secrecy.
— Newly elected Congressman Luke Letlow dies from COVID-19 complications at age 41, just days before swearing into office.
— Britain approves vaccine by Oxford-AstraZeneca. The UK-based vaccine allows easier storage and the rollout is expected Jan. 4.
— Pan Cluckers: Coronavirus pandemic feeds demand for backyard chickens.
— Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — The Irish government says the country must go back into lockdown for at least a month to curb a resurgent coronavirus outbreak.
Prime Minister Micheal Martin says a new, fast-spreading strain of the virus may make “the numbers will deteriorate further over the coming days” and “we must apply the brakes to movement and physical interaction across the country.”
He says starting Wednesday people should stay at home except for work, education, exercise or “other essential purposes.” Non-essential shops and gyms will close at the end of business on Thursday.
Ireland has extended a ban on air travel from the U.K., where the new variant was first identified, until at least Jan. 6.
Ireland, with a population of almost 5 million, has recorded more than 2,200 coronavirus-related deaths.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom encouraged schools to resume in-person education next year, starting with the youngest students, and promised $2 billion in state aid to promote coronavirus testing, increased ventilation of classrooms and personal protective equipment.
The recommendation was driven by increasing evidence that there are lower risks and increased benefits from in-person instruction particularly for the youngest students, he says.
Newsom called for a phased approach focusing first on those in transitional kindergarten through second grade, as well as children with disabilities, those who have limited access to technology at home and those who he said “have struggled more than most with distance learning.”
Other grades would be phased in during the spring. But remote learning would continue if parents and students wish and for those who have health issues.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Health has announced plans for coronavirus vaccine distribution locations in the state as it moves into phase 2 of vaccinations that will begin with first responders and health care workers who are not in a hospital setting.
The department will establish “PODS,” or Points of Dispensing Sites, at places such as schools, community centers and fairgrounds statewide for those in the second tier, which also includes people 65 and older, according to a statement from the department on Tuesday.
The vaccines are currently being administered to frontline health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and pharmacy staff who administer the vaccine in long-term care facilities.
The health department says 29,725 vaccine doses have been administered as of Saturday.
State health officials reported 3,249 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Wednesday and 48 deaths. That brings the total number of confirmed infections to more than 287,000 and the confirmed death toll to 2,453.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi is reporting more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases. The figures Wednesday are a daily high in the state. State epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers is urging people to avoid large social gatherings for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Byers says Mississippi has distributed about 120,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and about 17,000 vaccinations have been given. The department says it is working with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to open drive-thru sites to give COVID-19 vaccinations to health care workers starting Monday. Appointments are required, and the department’s website shows which counties will have sites open on certain days.
The state Health Department reported Wednesday that Mississippi had 3,023 new confirmed cases. The department also reported 29 deaths, which occurred between Dec. 22 and Tuesday.
Mississippi has reported 213,055 confirmed cases and 4,747 confirmed deaths from it since the start of the pandemic.
DES MOINES, Iowa – The positivity rate of the coronavirus has ticked higher in Iowa.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say the seven-day average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 35% on Dec. 15 to 36% on Monday.
Iowa has the 12th-highest per capita death rate at 120.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
The state reported about 1,600 new cases and 10 deaths on Wednesday. Hospitalizations fell slightly, though the number of people in intensive care was up.
TORONTO — The Canadian government is requiring passengers arriving to Canada to have a negative coronavirus test taken within three days before arriving into the country.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc made the announcement Wednesday. Canada already requires those entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair noted just 2 percent of coronavirus cases in Canada have originated outside Canada.
The announcement comes as the premier of Ontario said he ordered his finance minister to end a Caribbean vacation, saying he is “extremely disappointed” the official went abroad as the government urged people to avoid nonessential travel.
DENVER — A Colorado man in his 20s has been reported as the first in the U.S. with the more contagious variant of the coronavirus.
He’s from a mostly rural expanse outside the Denver area and recovering in isolation, according to state officials. His condition was not disclosed.
The new, mutated version was first identified in Britain and found in several other countries.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says officials will “closely monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely.”
The variant is probably still rare in the U.S., but the lack of travel history in the first case means it is spreading, perhaps seeded by visitors from Britain in November or December, said scientist Trevor Bedford, who studies the spread of COVID-19 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
MILAN — Italy added 575 coronavirus deaths and 16,202 new positives in the last 24 hours.
Italy’s death toll remains high two months into restrictive measures, which included a modified nationwide lockdown during most of the holiday period.
The scientific director of the Spallanzani hospital for infectious diseases in Rome, Giuseppe Ippolito, says the number of coronavirus deaths has been three times higher than seasonal flu deaths, and hospitalizations are at least double. Even with the vaccine campaign getting under way, Ippolito says citizens should expect to live under restrictions through the first quarter of 2022.
A total of 73,604 coronavirus deaths have been confirmed since February, the highest number in Europe.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported more than 5,000 coronavirus cases and 78 deaths on Wednesday, while hospitalizations statewide continued to set records.
The Department of Health Services reported 5,267 cases. The statewide totals reached 512,489 confirmed cases and 8,718 confirmed deaths.
Hospitalizations for the coronavirus reached a record 4,526 on Tuesday, the latest in a string of records set this month and more than 1,000 higher since the summer peak.
The 1,076 COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds also reached a record and occupied 61% of all ICU beds, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.
Some Arizona hospitals with a crush of COVID-19 patients this week resorted to turning down patients through ambulance runs or transfers from other hospitals while accepting walk-in patients needing emergency care
Arizona had the third-highest coronavirus diagnosis rate in the past week, behind California and Tennessee.
LONDON — The British government has extended its highest tier of restrictions to three-quarters of England’s population, saying a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus has reached most of the country.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the top Tier 4 would be extended beyond London and the southeast to large swaths of central, northern and southwest England.
Under the measures, people are advised to stay home, household mixing is banned, nonessential shops are closed and restaurants and bars can only offer takeout.
Hancock says the authorization of a new vaccine for use in the U.K. was good news, but “sharply rising cases and the hospitalizations that follow demonstrate the need to act where the virus is spreading.”
BEIJING — China is encouraging tens of millions of migrant workers not to travel home during February’s Lunar New Year holiday to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
The call issued by the National Health Commission is extraordinary because the Lunar New Year is China’s most important traditional holiday. It’s the only time of the year when many workers can travel home to see their families.
China has limited local transmission of the coronavirus, but authorities remain on high alert about a possible resurgence. Already, schools are scheduled to begin the Lunar New Year vacation a week early and tourists have been told not to visit Beijing during the holiday.
Millions of Chinese use the occasion to take vacations at home and abroad. During the roughly six-week travel period, Chinese can take upward of 3 billion trips. Also, Chinese authorities are carrying out a campaign to vaccinate 50 million people before the Lunar New Year holiday.
China has recorded 4,634 deaths among 87,027 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, a figure considered likely far lower than the actual number.
LONDON — The British regulatory agency that approved the rollout of a second coronavirus vaccine says it and a previously approved vaccine can be given to pregnant and breastfeeding women, in consultation with their doctors, and people with food allergies.
That changes its previous guidance thanks in part to feedback from the growing numbers of people already inoculated. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency had previously recommended against the use of the first vaccine, made by Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It also had said that vaccine should not been given to people who have allergic reactions to food, other vaccines or medicines.
But as it green-lighted a second vaccine, developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, the regulator also indicated that both vaccines are now considered suitable for people with food allergies.
June Raine, who heads the regulatory agency, says people with known allergies to any of the ingredients in the vaccines should not use them.
BERLIN — The head of the World Health Organization says a program to help get coronavirus vaccines to all countries needs $4 billion “urgently” to buy vaccines.
In a video message marking Thursday’s anniversary of the first report of a cluster of cases of “pneumonia of unknown cause” that turned into the coronavirus pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says “we must ensure that all people at risk everywhere, not just in countries who can afford vaccines, are immunized.”
The Geneva-based WHO is co-leading the COVAX initiative. Tedros says in Wednesday’s message “there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will get there by taking the path together.”
LONDON — Britain has authorized use of a second COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first country to greenlight an easy-to-handle shot that its developers hope will become the “vaccine for the world.”
The government says the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has made an emergency authorization for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot says “today is an important day for millions of people in the U.K. who will get access to this new vaccine. It has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit.”
Britain has purchased 100 million doses of the vaccine. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told told Sky News the “rollout will start on Jan. 4” and will “accelerate into the first few weeks of next year.”
Hundreds of thousands in the U.K. have already received the vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German firm BioNTech.
Wearing a mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic does a lot of good to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but it can also cause breakouts —a.k.a. maskne. Luckily, Dr. Pimple Popper star Dr. Sandra Lee has the simple solution we’ve all been searching for!
“We all get breakouts from our masks,” she tells Us while talking about the new season of her TLC show. “So I really like to use this little travel size salicylic acid body spray. And what you’ll do is, you just spray the mask.” You just wave it dry and voila! You’ve got yourself an acne-fighting protective face mask.
She notes that beta hydroxy acid in salicylic works to counteract the buildup of oil and debris that collects when wearing a mask.
“Also it’s better when you’re wearing makeup,” she explains, saying that at times it can feel like you’re trapped inside a microclimate created by the mask. “This is a really great thing because salicylic acid is great to settle down within your pores and help to clear out the dirt and the debris and help prevent blackheads and whiteheads forming that lead to acne.”
While talking with Us, the TLC star also revealed one of her most unexpected celebrity fans: Kim Kardashian!
“I wasn’t actually seeing her [as a patient]. She drove over [to my office] to say ‘hello’ to me and she said she was obsessed with [my show],” Lee told Us. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is crazy.’”
“There’s so many people that are [fans]. It’s amazing for me to see,” she explained. “It’s really special, actually, because obviously everybody knows them. And for them to actually recognize or maybe even tell you that — you know, stop and tell you that they really like what you’re doing — I mean, that’s just a crazy action.”
If you too are a “popaholic” you can watch season 5 of Dr. Pimple Popper on TLC every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.
Given the constantly evolving nature of COVID-19, Us Weekly wants our readers to have access to the most accurate resources. For the most up-to-date coronavirus information, guidance, and support, consult the CDC, WHO, and information from local public health officials. If you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms, call your primary care provider for medical advice.
Listen on Spotify to Get Tressed With Us to get the details of every hair love affair in Hollywood, from the hits and misses on the red carpet to your favorite celebrities’ street style ‘dos (and don’ts!)
THE two UK cases of the coronavirus strain from South Africa are likely to be the “tip of the iceberg”, according to experts.
And banning flights from South Africa, and strict quarantining of recent arrivals, may be “too late” to stop the spread of the new variant in the UK.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
During yesterday’s Downing Street briefing, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the new and “highly concerning” strain, called 501.V2, had entered Britain.
He ordered anyone who has visited South Africa in the past two weeks, or been in contact with someone who has, to quarantine immediately.
All flights from South Africa will be stopped, with people who have been in or transited through South Africa in the last 10 days are no longer allowed into the UK, other than British or Irish nationals who must self isolate.
Mr Hancock claimed the new variant is even more contagious than another new strain detected in Kent and London earlier this month, which scientists say is up to 70 per cent more easily spread.
It has led to millions being plunged into Tier 4 at the “eleventh hour” before Christmas, or on Boxing Day, to manage “out of control” cases.
Professor Lawrence Young, a molecular oncologist, University of Warwick, told The Sun: “If this strain is as transmissible as suggested by the data that has come out of South Africa, then just identifying a few cases recently, it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.
“You can identify it in a couple of people… but they’ll be more, for sure.
“Some cases will be from people spreading it in the UK, and some will be from other introductions from South Africa.”
Prof Young said there is “still a lot we don’t know” about the variant from South Africa, and whether it is more transmissible, or simply been able to grow “in the right place, at the right time”.
Scientists in South Africa say the variant is still being analysed, but the data are consistent with it spreading more quickly. It accounts for around 90 per cent of new cases.
Prof Young said: “If this has become the dominant infection in South Africa, and it’s been there certainly for a couple of months, and how many have travelled between the UK and South Africa in that time now? Quite a lot I would’ve thought.”
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it’s “quite possible” there are undetected cases in the UK, but it will “probably be a number of weeks before we know for certain”.
Speaking of the quarantine measures imposed yesterday, Prof Hunter said: “It might already be too late, but we just don’t know.
“If [these two] are the only infections, yes it might be enough. But if it has already spread elsewhere in the UK and we just don’t know it, the answer is probably no, it won’t be sufficient.”
The new variant is called 501.V2 and it was announced by the South African government on December 18.
At this stage, its symptoms do not appear to be different to that caused by the original Covid strain.
The most common signs of Covid to look out for are a loss of taste and smell, a persistent cough, and a high temperature.
Scientists are investigating whether the new strain causes more severe disease. But it does seem to be infecting more young people than the original strain, according to South African’s health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Dr Andrew Preston, University of Bath, said: “The ‘South African’ variant is distinct from the UK variant, but both contain an unusually high number of mutations compared to other SARS-CoV-2 lineages.”
“Some of these mutations change the S protein, which is cause for concern,” Dr Preston said.
The spike protein is on the outer surface of the viral particle. It is a focus for coronavirus vaccines, and so if it changes, it could affect how vaccines work.
New strains may make vaccines less effective, because the immune system does not recognise the new variant when it infects the body. This is “highly unlikely” to affect the vaccines that are being rolled out in the UK right now.
The mutations in this virus also mean it’s possible it can reinfect a person who has already recovered from Covid-19.
All of these things are being studied closely.
Mutations are normal in any evolution of a virus over time. Already thousands have been found in SARS-CoV-2 within one year.
What makes the latest two from the UK and South Africa so interesting is the speed at which they became “prominent”, causing lots of cases and suddenly.
The two confirmed cases -in London and the North West – were close contacts of people who had recently travelled to South Africa.
Those travellers would have had Covid-19, possibly without showing symptoms.
It is not clear if this was while they were in the UK, and if they have passed it onto other people who have gone undetected.
Infectious diseases expert Dr Susan Hopkins told the Downing Street press conference yesterday that health chiefs were “pretty confident” the measures that have been taken will help to control the spread.
Experts said it’s likely there are more cases of the South Africa variant on the basis that the UK one has already reached several other countries.
Prof Hunter told The Sun: “It wouldn’t surprise me if it was circulating, in the way the English one is circulating already in many European countries.”
Prof Young said: “This so-called UK variant is now in Belgium, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark. It’s all over the place. Today it’s been reported in Israel.
“It’s because of travelling. I know it is difficult, but if you don’t restrict travel, and you’re not strict about quarantining people, this is what you end up with.”
The UK has repeatedly seen introductions of other strains from across the world which have quickly become dominant, and caused cases to soar.
Prof Young said: “One of the things we’ve not been so good at is border control. When you look at countries that have been successful, one of the things they did very early on is shut their borders.
“We were very slow to do that, hence we allowed a lot of introductions of the virus into the UK from overseas.
“That’s what happened in the first wave, and it looks like that also contributed to fuelling this second wave.”
501.V2 accounts for up to 90 percent of South Africa’s new cases.
Daily confirmed infections are reaching 9,500 per day, on average.
It’s the highest it’s been since the peak of the first wave in July, when almost 13,000 cases were being diagnosed a day.
The country saw a dip in cases between September and mid-November before a sudden spike, which the health minister Mr Mkhize said was “being driven by this new variant”.
Latest figures suggest the South African strain was behind a record number of people being hospitalised there.
South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the African continent, approaching the 950,000 mark, with over 25,000 related deaths so far.
A resurgence in positive cases saw the government tighten lockdown restrictions last week, but a lockdown has not been used.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on December 18 it was in touch with the South African researchers who identified the new variant.
“We are working with them with our SARS-CoV-2 Virus evolution working group,” said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.
“They are growing the virus in the country and they’re working with researchers to determine any changes in the behaviour of the virus itself in terms of transmission.”
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United Airlines said Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had requested the passenger manifest of an Orlando-to-Los-Angeles flight that diverted to New Orleans because of a medical emergency earlier in the week.
The man who became ill on the plane was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The passenger had filled out a required checklist before flying, saying he had not tested positive for the novel coronavirus and did not have symptoms. United says now that “it is apparent the passenger wrongly acknowledged this requirement.”
United referred questions about the man’s coronavirus status to the CDC, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some social media users who said they were also on the flight reported that the man’s wife said he had symptoms of the virus, including loss of taste and smell. United said that despite people overhearing that information, no medical professionals confirmed that the man had the coronavirus at the time.
“At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,” United spokesman Charles Hobart said in a statement. “Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.”
United said the airline decided to keep going to Los Angeles after initially believing the man was suffering from “cardiac distress.”
“A change in aircraft was not warranted; instead, passengers were given the option to deplane and take a later flight or continue on to Los Angeles,” the airline said. “All passengers opted to continue.”
It was not clear Friday if any passengers had been contacted by the CDC. In response to questions from The Washington Post over the past few days, representatives for the ambulance service, hospital, airport and city of New Orleans either declined to release information about the man’s condition or said they had no information about a connection to the coronavirus.
In July, a woman died of covid-19 during a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Dallas. Passengers were never notified, The Washington Post found, and the cause of her death wasn’t publicly reported until October.
“We implore passengers not travel if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have COVID-related symptoms,” United said. “If in doubt, the best option is to get tested.”
It’s the question most global companies want an answer for: Can they finally restart their travel programs in 2021?
There’s been a lot of progress over the past few months, with several digital health passport schemes launched and vaccines rolling out. Travel corridors also offer some hope, with different countries relaxing rules or establishing fast lanes.
But at the same time, it means employers are faced with overwhelming amounts of information to process.
Now one technology platform thinks it has the answer. Dataminr said it leverages artificial intelligence to provide the earliest indications of business-critical information about risks to staff.
It claims it can provide real-time insights from on-the-ground happenings, such as new international travel restrictions or reports of overcrowded airport terminals through social media, to help inform travel decisions.
Dataminr also said it first detected the outbreak of Covid-19 from public social media posts at 9:11AM EST on December 30, 2019, so provided clients with the earliest warning — in advance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement seven days later, and the World Health Organization’s announcement 10 days later.
In June, travel managers attempted to figure out their return to travel plans, which proved short-lived. Is data crunching the secret to restoring confidence?
“Data is key to decision making as organizations plan their return to travel, as authorizing managers weigh up the competing risks versus business need,” said Daniel Raine, founder of Unlocked Data. “Third-party data sources can provide a useful bridge to support the pre-tip decision making ensuring the travellers are informed and supported throughout their travel experience.”
Organizations and their travel managers need to receive the most relevant and useful information, and arguably this is best performed with algorithms that filter large and multi-dimensional data sets to support the individual trip decision-making.
The idea of real-time decision making also flips around the notion of booking in advance to save money. With more continuous pricing and dynamic fares around the corner, it’s also becoming a much less relevant practice.
“The speed with which circumstances change means that the final travel decision remains fluid right through until departure,” Raine added. The data used to support these decisions must be similarly dynamic and timely.
Meanwhile, the ability to curate the right kinds of information could fit with other off-the-shelf risk services. “This could sit alongside or even compete with what International SOS, Healix, and Riskline provide with their alerts,” said Gavin Smith, director of Element Technology. “I can see this being a useful early warning system that could help a business prepare to take action.”
American Airlines, Allegiant Air and other travel companies use Dataminr, a spokesperson said, in addition to other corporations who use its alerts to assess risk for their employees who travel. Its website counts Citi, 3M, and McDonald’s as clients, while Baylor University in Waco, Texas uses the platform to assess risk for faculty and students who are traveling abroad.
However, travel decision-making involves more than taking stock of where travel restrictions have been lifted. There’s the personal profile of the traveler and their own circumstances, including health and risk appetite, too.
Dataminr says business face a unique set of new risks and challenges, and the recipients of its alerts vary by organization, depending on how they approach risk management. And some customers choose to provide access to all of their employees, while others restrict access to specific roles within the organization.
Unlocked Data’s Raine argued that although data science can be good at evaluating the objective risk of travel and likelihood of successful outcomes, organisations have rightly steered away from using algorithms to measure the complexity of traveler’s risk profile.
“One of the elephants in the room has to be that no company will ever say something is 100 percent safe,” said Chris Pouney, a former travel manager and associate at GoldSpring Consulting. “Risk managers have long argued that we need to take a more nuanced approach to risk management, considering who is traveling, their demographics and behaviors, as well as where they are going, and who they are seeing. Mitigation can then be developed.”
In the meantime, industry executives across different sectors continue to put their heads together. Travel Again’s Global Travel Recovery Framework is one of the more recent initiatives to offer recommendations on how to rebuild traveler confidence. It brought together executives from companies including Facebook, Hilton, HRS, Southwest Airlines and Air Canada to thrash out a plan.
Employees ultimately have the final say in when they get back on the road, but companies will probably take whatever help they can to make that calculation as easy as possible.
Photo Credit: Organisations have so far tended to steer away from using algorithms to measure the complexity of a traveler’s risk profile. Ismail Mohamed Sovile / Unsplash