TAIPEI, Taiwan — As the coronavirus has upended lives and economies around the world, Taiwan has been an oasis.
Every day, droplets fly with abandon in packed restaurants, bars and cafes. Office buildings hum, and schools resound with the shrieks and laughter of maskless children. In October, a Pride parade drew an estimated 130,000 people to the streets of Taipei, the capital. Rainbow masks were abundant; social distancing, not so much.
This island of 24 million, which has seen just 10 Covid-19 deaths and fewer than 1,000 cases, has used its success to sell something in short supply: living without fear of the coronavirus. The relatively few people who are allowed to enter Taiwan have been coming in droves, and they’ve helped to fuel an economic boom.
“For a while, Taiwan felt a little empty. A lot of people moved abroad and only came back once in a while,” said Justine Li, the head chef at Fleur de Sel, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the city of Taichung, which she said had been booked up for a month in advance since the fall. “Now, some of those once-in-a-while guests have moved back.”
Eddie Huang, the Taiwanese-American restaurateur and author. About 270,000 more Taiwanese entered the island than left it in 2020, according to the immigration authorities — about four times the net inflow of the previous year.
expects 4.6percent growth in 2021, which would be the fastest pace in seven years.
Steve Chen, 42, a Taiwanese-American entrepreneur who co-founded YouTube, was the first to sign up for the gold card program. He moved to the island from San Francisco with his wife and two children in 2019. Then, after the pandemic hit, many of his friends in Silicon Valley, particularly those with Taiwanese heritage, began to join him — a reverse brain drain, of sorts.
started a campaign encouraging them to take two pounds of trash with them when they left.
Some aspects of pandemic life have permeated Taiwan’s borders. Temperature checks and hand sanitizing are common, and masks are required in many public places (though not schools).
But for the most part, the virus has been out of sight and out of mind, thanks to rigorous contact tracing and strict quarantines for incoming travelers.
Some returnees, like Robin Wei, 35, are dreading their eventual departure.
“We just feel very lucky and definitely a little guilty,” said Mr. Wei, a product manager for a Bay Area tech company who returned to Taipei with his wife and young son last May. “We feel like we are the ones who benefited from the pandemic.”
received its first batch, to be given to medical workers.
Some people, like Tai Ling Sun, 72, are already making plans to leave the bubble.
In January, Ms. Sun and her husband came from California to the city of Kaohsiung, where she grew up, at the urging of friends and family in Taiwan. They were concerned about her safety in Orange County, where coronavirus cases had been on the rise.
After two weeks in quarantine, Ms. Sun stepped out into a Taiwan that — aside from the masks — looked and felt almost exactly as it had on previous visits. She has since been making the most of her stay with a series of routine medical checkups, something that many in the United States have been delaying since the pandemic started.
But a virus-free paradise doesn’t provide immunity to all ailments. Ms. Sun said she had begun to feel homesick. She longed to see her five children and breathe pristine suburban air. And, she added, she wanted a vaccine.
“It’s been great to be here,” Ms. Sun said. “But it’s time to go home.”
More and more of the United States has relaxed restrictions on indoor dining, but the number of states allowing workers in the restaurant industry to get a Covid-19 vaccine has been slow to rise.
Almost every state is vaccinating some subset of essential workers, following a recommendation by a committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the rollout of the vaccine to workers in the restaurant industry has been inconsistent.
Only about a third of states — at least 16 — have allowed some restaurant workers to get shots, according to a New York Times survey, though some workers are only eligible in certain counties. In comparison, at least 26 states and Washington, D.C., have begun allowing grocery store workers to be vaccinated.
Texas this week allowed all businesses to fully open,and places like New York City and New Jersey announced a loosening of indoor dining limits. How soon states give shots to restaurant workers has become an urgent question for workers in an industry that has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.
decimated” the industry and that vaccinating themwould prevent further job loss.
“There is no more important step the governor can take to get Michigan’s economy back on track,”Justin Winslow, president of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in a statement.
A bartender in Austin, Texas, Jeannette Gregor, said in a phone interview that she and her coworkers responded with “anger, frustration and fear” after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted all limits on indoor dining along with other coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday. Texas has not made restaurant workers eligible for shots.
Ms. Gregor said she has helped organize rallies in support of prioritizing restaurant workers for the vaccines with advocacy groups like the Restaurant Organizing Project.
petition. “These vaccinations can no longer wait.”
That means someone who was philanthropically minded could donate enough this year to “wipe out their entire tax bill,” said Cari Weston, director for tax practice and ethics at the American Association of Certified Public Accountants.
Medical deductions. The December law made permanent — again — a lower threshold for deducting medical expenses. Taxpayers can continue to deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their income, instead of 10 percent. To take the deduction, filers must itemize.
The floor had been 7.5 percent before the 2017 tax law raised it temporarily to 10 percent, Ms. Weston said. The latest change reverts to the earlier rule. Still, she said, the deduction is of limited help for most people.
For instance, if you have adjusted gross income of $100,000, you can now take a deduction for medical expenses that exceed $7,500 ($100,000 multiplied by 0.075). If you had expenses of $10,000 in 2021, your deduction would be $2,500 ($10,000 minus $7,500). Under the prior rule, your expenses wouldn’t have exceeded the $10,000 cutoff, so you wouldn’t have qualified for a deduction.
Deductions for business meals. This one is more helpful to businesses, but it could apply if you’re self-employed and take clients to lunch or dinner. Businesses can deduct 100 percent of business meals for 2021 and 2022 (but not for 2020), instead of the usual 50 percent. This is aimed at helping out beleaguered restaurants that have suffered from restrictions during the pandemic. The deduction applies to client meals as well as to employees on business travel and must be for food and drinks provided by a restaurant.
How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?
Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.
Mostly. Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.
Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.
Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.
Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.
“It helps boost the restaurant economy,” Ms. Weston said.
Changes to tax breaks for educational expenses. The December law also did away with the on-again, off-again deduction for tuition and related expenses, but expanded the income limits for the lifetime learning credit, a credit that covers many of the same costs, starting in 2021. The credit is worth up to $2,000 per tax return.
“This is a net positive for families,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Savingforcollege.com.
Often, he said, families were confused and took the deduction when they might have been better off taking educational credits. Tax credits are generally considered better than deductions because credits directly reduce the amount of tax owed.
“Many of our guests came here reluctantly at first,” said Jason Kycek, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Casa de Campo. “Many were borderline ready to cancel.”
Mr. Malbon said his family had felt safe during the vacation. “There were five other families at the entire water park,” he said. “You could ride the rides as many times as you wanted.”
Of course, the lengths that people go to stay safe can still backfire. My doctor in Greenwich, Conn., told me about three couples who had flown back on a private plane from Aspen, Colo., after a ski trip, and all six of them subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus. It turned out that they had been infected by the person who owned the plane.
Choosing a hotel is even more complicated. Hotels of the same brand may have different owners or management companies. So Covid-19 protocols at two resorts that share the same brand may be vastly different.
Sarah Eustis is the chief executive of Main Street Hospitality, which owns or manages nine hotels in the Northeast, including the historic Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass., and Hammetts Hotel in Newport, R.I. She traveled to Boca Grande, Fla., with her husband this past week to get away from the gloomy Massachusetts winter.
“We’re in the hospitality business, and we realize that the protocols do work,” Ms. Eustis said. “You can go to restaurants and be safe. But friendship and family lines are being drawn on this issue.”
She said she was only moderately concerned about Covid-19 while traveling. But, she said, there is something that many people on both sides of this issue are not acknowledging.
“People with means can fly above the fray,” Ms. Eustis said. “I just had a massage, and I felt completely safe. I had my mask, on and so did the masseuse. To have the opportunity to decompress after a very stressful year, it’s a real privilege.”
The early coronavirus mistakes were mostly mistakes of excessive optimism. Many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, did not immediately grasp the threat. Neither did we in the media. President Donald Trump made the extreme version of this mistake, with a series of false statements minimizing the problem. Some politicians continue to show undue optimism, ending mask mandates and allowing full restaurants.
But overoptimism isn’t the only type of error in public health. Pessimism can also do damage. And at our current stage in the pandemic — as the United States finishes its first year of life dominated by Covid-19 — pessimism has become as much of a problem as optimism.
Thousands of schools remain closed, to children’s detriment, even though epidemiologists say that many can safely open. Irrationally negative talk about the vaccines has fed hesitation about getting them. The widespread notion that normal life won’t return anytime this year — if ever — has caused some people to give up on social distancing and mask wearing. They seem to be saying: What’s the point?
Difficult truths can sometimes be a vital public-health tool. But so can optimism. Optimism can help people to get through tough times and make sacrifices, in the belief that better days are ahead.
In a White House address last night, President Biden tried to balance realism and hope. He began with a somber recitation of Covid’s costs, including job loss, loneliness, canceled gatherings, missed time in school and, most of all, death. At one point, he reached into his jacket pocket and removed a card — which he always carries, he said — with the current American death toll printed on it. The past year, he said, had been one “filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us.”
Yet when it came time for Biden to tell Americans what he wanted them to do — to wear masks, maintain social distancing and get vaccinated — he did not use darkness as motivation. He used July 4.
“If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” he said, standing alone at a podium in the White House’s East Room. “Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do.”
The speech included plenty of caveats, about virus variants, uncertainty and more. Biden’s political strategy on the virus is clearly to underpromise so he can overdeliver. But that’s part of what made the July 4 vision memorable. Even Biden, with all of his caution, seems to grasp the power of hopefulness at this moment.
After 12 months of a pandemic, it’s hard to inspire people to action with only grim warnings of all that could still go wrong. People need to know the full picture, both bad and good. They need a source of motivation beyond fear.
all adult Americans eligible to receive a Covid vaccine by May 1.
He announced several new actions to speed up vaccinations, including the use of dentists, veterinarians, medical students and others to give the shots.
He condemned hate crimes against Asian-Americans, who he said have been “attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated” during the pandemic. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”
Go deeper: On his Times Opinion podcast, Ezra Klein talks with Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University about the tensions between pandemic optimism and pessimism. Ezra suggests that some politicians, especially in liberal parts of the country, are undermining their own pandemic response by being so negative: “They’re not giving people a way out of this they can hold on to.”
Follow-up: A Covid mystery
In response to Monday’s newsletter about the mystery of the relatively low Covid death tolls in Africa and Asia, several researchers wrote to me to add a potential explanation that had not been on my list: obesity.
Countries with higher obesity rates have suffered more Covid deaths on average, as you can see in this chart that my colleague Lalena Fisher and I put together:
Dr. David L. Katz told me, and oxygen deprivation has been a common Covid symptom. A paper by Dr. Jennifer Lighter of New York University and other researchers found that obesity increased the risk of hospitalization among Covid patients.
It’s a particularly intriguing possibility because it could help explain why Africa and Asia have suffered fewer deaths than not only high-income countries but also Latin American countries. Latin Americans, like Europeans and U.S. residents, are heavier on average than Africans or Asians.
an evangelical phenomenon.
Modern Love: A woman takes a vow of celibacy.
From Opinion: American pop culture used to celebrate the natural world. Taylor Swift is reviving the tradition.
Lives Lived: Lou Ottens and his team at Philips, the Dutch electronics company, introduced the cassette tape in 1963 as a way to play music in a portable fashion. The invention revolutionized the music business. He died at 94.
ARTS AND IDEAS
What happened at ‘Reply All’?
The four-part series “The Test Kitchen” — a production of the popular Gimlet Media podcast “Reply All” — was supposed to tell the story about workplace racism at the food magazine Bon Appétit.
Halfway through the series, it was overshadowed by a story about Gimlet’s own culture. Former Gimlet employees accused the show of hypocrisy, saying its host, Sruthi Pinnamaneni, and her editor, P.J. Vogt, contributed to the kinds of workplace conditions that they aimed to expose.
wrote on Twitter about a “toxic dynamic” at the company. Both Pinnamaneni and Vogt, along with some other Gimlet executives, had been critical of unionization efforts at Gimlet. Among other things, the union sought to address accusations of racial inequity at the company, Katherine Rosman and Reggie Ugwu write in The Times. (Gimlet executives declined to comment for the Times article.)
Gimlet’s story isn’t unique, Nicholas Quah writes in Vulture. “There were very few Black employees at the company,” Quah writes, “and the ones who were there had the kind of experiences that made them feel their perspectives were trivialized.”
Pinnamaneni and Vogt went on leave and Gimlet canceled “Test Kitchen.”
Across Maryland on Wednesday, mayors, county executives, business owners and public health officials were parsing Gov. Larry Hogan’s surprise Tuesday announcement that he was loosening statewide Covid restrictions.
The order allows bars, restaurants, churches and gyms to open back up to full capacity starting Friday evening, though with certain social distancing regulations still in place. It also allows larger venues like banquet halls, theaters and sports stadiums to open to the public at 50 percent of capacity. The statewide mask mandate remains in effect.
“With the pace of vaccinations rapidly rising and our health metrics steadily improving, the lifting of these restrictions is a prudent, positive step in the right direction and an important part of our economic recovery,” Mr. Hogan said. He was joined at his announcement by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, a former director the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is now a senior adviser to the governor.
Some business owners applauded the announcement as a sign that they may be able to begin crawling out of an economically punishing year. Public health experts were less welcoming.
said in a tweet that county “emergency powers and authorities” established during the pandemic were unaffected.
County and city officials spent Wednesday reading their local charters and talking with their lawyers about the situation.
In an emailed statement, Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski, Jr., said, “leaders across Maryland have been forced to scramble to meet with our legal teams, health officials, and neighboring jurisdictions to understand how this impacts our own executive orders and to determine if and how to use our own local authority moving forward.”
New York Times database, and somewhat above average in the number of new cases it has been reporting lately relative to its population — 13 per 100,000 residents. All three of the variants of the virus that are being tracked by the C.D.C. have been reported there, but only one in significant numbers: B.1.1.7, which was first identified in Britain and is more transmissible and possibly more lethal than earlier versions of the virus.
In the early days of the pandemic, Governor Hogan drew bipartisan praise for his aggressive response. He was among the first governors in the country to order schools closed, and he publicly criticized President Trump, a fellow Republican, for leaving states unprepared to deal with the pandemic. “I think a lot of us locally and around the country would have rated him very highly,” Dr. Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner, said.
Her estimation has fallen considerably since then. While she said she was pleased that Mr. Hogan did not lift his statewide mask order, as fellow Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi did last week, she called the broad lifting of capacity restrictions a dangerous gamble.
“It’s really disappointing, because we’ve come so far,” she said. “Why are we letting down our guard down when we’re so close?”
Restaurants in New York City and New Jersey will be able to increase indoor dining to 50 percent of capacity starting March 19, the governors of New York and New Jersey said on Wednesday.
The change brings both places into line with current dining limits in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
The new half-capacity limit in New Jersey also applies to casinos, salons and gyms.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said that the maximum number of people permitted at private indoor gatherings would increase to 25 people from 10. Outdoor gatherings can include 50 people, up from 25.
The relaxed rules go into effect two days after St. Patrick’s Day, traditionally a busy day for restaurants and bars.
LONDON — A London police officer was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the disappearance of a woman who went missing last week as she was on her way home in the southern part of the city.
Sarah Everard, 33, left a friend’s house on the evening of March 3 and was last spotted on CCTV in the Clapham neighborhood, according to the Metropolitan Police.
In the week since she was last seen, officers have searched more than 750 houses in South London, extended patrols in the area and urged witnesses to come forward, but the arrest was the most significant development in the case, the police said.
The officer was arrested in Kent, in southeastern England. He was taken into custody along with a woman who was arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender, the police said, without providing further details about the suspect’s alleged involvement in the case.
have acknowledged that “too many women feel unsafe when traveling, working or going out at night,” little has been done to make the streets safer during the lockdown, when walking is one of the few activities that residents are allowed to do in public.
“Sarah’s disappearance feels so close to the bone because every time women walk alone after dark, however subconsciously, we carry the fear that something awful might happen,” Marisa Bate, a freelance writer, said on Twitter.
said, “When people are no longer safe walking home through residential streets of South London isn’t it time for lockdown to end??”
This week, officers searched ponds in Clapham Common and cordoned off a block of apartment buildings near where Ms. Everard disappeared, British news outlets reported. The police were also searching several woodland areas and places in Kent, around 70 miles southeast of London.
London has nearly 700,000 CCTV cameras, according to one estimate, and throughout the week the Metropolitan Police have urged residents to check their private security systems.
“We have seized a number of CCTV recordings, but we know that there are likely to be many more out there,” Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin said in a statement. “Please, even if you’re not sure, check your doorbell or CCTV footage just in case it holds a clue.”
Pictures released by the Metropolitan Police show Ms. Everard on the night of her disappearance, wearing a green coat and white and blue pants. She also seemed to have been wearing green earphones and a white hat, the police said.
Detective Goodwin said on Tuesday that the case was still being treated as a missing person investigation.
“I want to remain clear that at this time we have no information to suggest that Sarah has come to any harm,” she said. “And we retain an open mind as to the circumstances.”
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Good morning. Our colleague Vivian Wang helps you make sense of China’s crackdown on Hong Kong.
asserted its authority over a global financial capital, through a harsh national security law enacted last summer.
It’s one of the world’s most consequential stories, yet one often overshadowed by the pandemic. This morning, I’m focusing on Hong Kong, with help from my colleague Vivian Wang, who’s based there. Our exchange follows.
David: Britain handed over control of Hong Kong to China almost 25 years ago, and there has long been a pro-democracy movement there. Why did Xi Jinping and the rest of China’s leadership decide to act now?
Vivian: The short answer is the enormous antigovernment protest movement in 2019, in response to a government proposal that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
previous protest movements had lasted a few months, at most. This time, there was huge support, and it wasn’t dying down on its own.
Officials in Beijing also hated that foreign politicians, like those in the U.S., were so vocal in support of the protesters. Beijing is really worried that Hong Kong could be a base for foreign powers to try to topple the Chinese government.
From Beijing’s perspective, has the crackdown worked? And has it created any problems for the central government?
In many ways, it has absolutely worked. There are no more street protests. There’s extensive self-censorship. Virtually every prominent pro-democracy activist is in exile, in jail, awaiting trial or has disappeared from public life.
But there’s a lot of simmering anger among Hong Kongers, even if they don’t dare express it publicly anymore. They still shop at stores and restaurants they think support the democracy movement. That’s why we see Beijing continuing to apply pressure. It clearly, and I think rightly, doesn’t think the threat is past.
imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials. The question is how much China cares. At the moment, it seems to think that it is ascendant enough to weather this.
to become just another mainland metropolis eventually.
I have a hard time seeing how this story ends with anything other than victory for China’s leaders and defeat for the pro-democracy movement. Do people within the movement see any reason for optimism?
Ever since the security law was enacted, the mood within the pro-democracy movement has been bleak. I expected at least some people to offer fiery defiance and remind people that there is still hope — if only just as a rallying cry, whether they believed it or not. But pretty consistently across people I talk to, the consensus is that there’s not much they can do to change the situation, at least for now.
to go abroad. And not just wealthy Hong Kongers with dual citizenships — people with no experience outside Hong Kong or who don’t speak much English are doing so, too.
China’s leaders also consider Taiwan to be part of their country. But Taiwan, unlike Hong Kong, has an independent government. How do you think Hong Kong affects Taiwan?
Many people see Beijing’s actions on Hong Kong as a harbinger of, or a laboratory for, more aggressive actions on Taiwan. It’s all part of an increasingly confident Chinese government that feels it can take these risks.
At the same time, the crackdown is likely driving public opinion in Taiwan further from Beijing. In the past, Beijing has also proposed reunification with Taiwan under a model of “one country, two systems.” Many Taiwan residents can look at Hong Kong and see how that has turned out.
For more: Edward Wong, a Times correspondent who spent nine years reporting on China and has covered Hong Kong protests, recommends two episodes of “This American Life” — “Umbrellas Up” from 2019 and “Umbrellas Down” from 2020.
THE LATEST NEWS
died at 91.
The news anchor Roger Mudd was best known for his interview with Senator Edward Kennedy in 1979, when he asked a simple question: “Why do you want to be president?” Mudd died at 93.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The music that got us through the pandemic
Go through the list to discover some new music, as well as revisit a few hits.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pinocchio’s problem (five letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
P.S. What will your life look like after Covid? The Times wants to hear about your hopes, fears, predictions and more. Share them here.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new freedoms for the fully-vaccinated members of the population, questions about traveling to visit grandchildren, for example, were immediate.
The answer, the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said was yes, as long as the vaccinated grandparents lived nearby. But the agency continues to warn Americans against traveling in general.
“We know that after mass travel, after vacations, after holidays, we tend to see a surge in cases,” Dr. Walensky said Monday night on MSNBC. “And so, we really want to make sure — again with just 10 percent of people vaccinated — that we are limiting travel.”
To the frustration of airlines and others in the travel industry, the latest guidance comes as students and families are considering spring break plans almost a year after wide swaths of the United States first shut down, and a growing share of Americans tentatively book travel for later in the year.
scientists do not yet understand whether and how often immunized people may still transmit the virus. If they can, then masking and other precautions are still needed in certain settings to contain the virus, researchers have said.
“We know that the travel corridor is a place where people are mixing a lot,” Dr. Walensky said during a White House briefing on Monday. “We’re hopeful that our next set of guidance will have more science around what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel being among them.”
Airlines for America, an industry organization, has argued that airplanes have a very low risk for virus transmission because of high-end cabin ventilation systems, strong disinfection practices and strict rules requiring that passengers wear masks. The industry has also argued that it plays a vital economic role and that further restrictions to travel could hinder the recovery.
“We remain confident that this layered approach significantly reduces risk and are encouraged that science continues to confirm there is a very low risk of virus transmission onboard aircraft,” the group said.
included $50 billion in grants and loans to prop up the airline industry, which was hobbled by the pandemic. In December, Congress approved another $15 billion in grants to keep airline workers employed. The relief bill passed by the Senate on Saturday, includes $14 billion more for airlines, a measure applauded by the industry.
In a Monday letter to President Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, Jeffrey D. Zients, a coalition of travel and tourism trade groups asked to work with the White House on federal guidance for temporary virus “health credentials,” which could be used to securely and uniformly verify test results or vaccination status. Such guidance could also yield benefits beyond aviation, they argued.
“It could encourage more widespread adoption of processes to verify testing and vaccination records, from sports arenas to restaurants, business meetings, theme parks, and more,” the group wrote.
Currently, the Biden administration requires people traveling to the United States from another country to present a negative virus test. At one point this year, administration officials were considering a similar requirement for domestic travel, a move the airline industry pushed back against, saying it was needlessly restrictive and would hurt an already struggling sector. The C.D.C. in February said it was not recommending testing for domestic travel “at this time.”
“We remain in the midst of a serious pandemic,” Dr. Walensky said Monday at the news conference. “Therefore, everyone, whether vaccinated or not, should continue to avoid medium- and large-sized gatherings, as well as nonessential travel.”