North American borders to remain closed through July; delta variant poised to surge among American unvaccinated: Live COVID-19 updates

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, warned President Joe Biden and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

“People getting seriously ill and being hospitalized due to COVID-19 are those who have not been fully vaccinated,” Biden said. “The new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable than they were a month ago.”

The delta variant, first identified in India, now accounts for six to 10 percent of cases in the United States.

But the 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 on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program Sunday.

Also in the news:

►Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Sunday that the state reported zero COVID deaths, under 50 new cases for the first time since March 2020, and 150 hospitalizations statewide.

►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.

►California launched an online COVID-19 vaccine “card” Friday, a site that provides digital replicas of the traditional wallet-size paper cards.

►French police clashed with party-goers as they tried to break up an unauthorized rave in western France, authorities said Saturday. 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. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Copa America records more cases; Chile reports violation

Brazil’s government said Friday that 82 people connected with the Copa America soccer tournament had contracted COVID-19, an increase of 16 infections from the previous day.

And Sunday, the Football Federation of Chile released a statement saying that the team violated protocols by admitting a barber, who tested negative for the virus. All players involved also tested negative. 

“[The barber] should not have come into contact with the players,” the Chilean federation said in a statement. ”Those involved will be financially sanctioned.”

Brazil stepped in as an emergency host despite the country having hundreds of thousands of coronavirus deaths.

Half of the teams playing in Copa America have reported COVID-19 cases — Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Chile, respectively.

Afghanistan battling deadly third surge 

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 in an interview Saturday.

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 Barbados resort offers guests and locals with onsite COVID-19 testing

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

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