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  • NOIR BLANC 21 Photography Competition (658 characters)

    Sat, 17 Oct 2020 01:28:00 -0400NOIR BLANC 21 Photography Competition

    Prizes:

    • OVERALL BEST PORTRAIT: $2,000 USD cash prize
    • MAIN GALLERY BEST PORTRAIT : $1000 USD cash prize
    • ABSTRACT GALLERY BEST PORTRAIT: $1000 USD cash prize
    • ART NUDE GALLERY BEST PORTRAIT: $1000 USD cash prize
    • SPECIAL DISTINCTIONS: $2500 USD in sponsor prizes
    • PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS: $500 USD in sponsor prizes x 5

    Finalists and winners will be announced in June 2021, ahead of each entrant?s work being exhibited in Paris, Milan, London, New York, Los Angeles and Melbourne

    HOW TO ENTER THIS PHOTO CONTEST

    The post NOIR BLANC 21 Photography Competition appeared first on Photocompete.

    Original article: NOIR BLANC 21 Photography Competition.

  • NES Health Launches New Worldwide Bioenergetics Practitioner Locator (540 characters)

    Sat, 17 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0400NES Health Launches New Worldwide Bioenergetics Practitioner LocatorBusiness: Web sites / Internet

    <p>World leader in bioenergetics, NES Health, releases advanced practitioner locator for anyone to find a bioenergetics practitioner near them.</p><p>(PRWeb October 17, 2020)</p><p>Read the full story at <a href="https://www.prweb.com/releases/nes_health_launches_new_worldwide_bioenergetics_practitioner_locator/prweb17476130.htm" rel="nofollow">https://www.prweb.com/releases/nes_health_launches_new_worldwide_bioenergetics_practitioner_locator/prweb17476130.htm</a></p>

  • US Surpasses 8 Million Coronavirus Cases (798 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 23:30:00 -0400US Surpasses 8 Million Coronavirus CasesSlashdot

    An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: America surpassed 8 million cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The grim milestone that puts the U.S. ahead of every other country in terms of total cases. Over 218,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported in the U.S. as well, again setting a record that represents about 20% of total deaths worldwide. COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe, infecting nearly 40 million and killing over 1.1 million. Beside the U.S., India has the highest number of cases, at almost 7.4 million, while some countries like New Zealand have all but eliminated COVID-19 with the number of active infections now at zero.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The Winners of Nikon?s ?Small World? Contest Reveal Tiny Technicolor Worlds (4681 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 21:56:00 -0400The Winners of Nikon?s ?Small World? Contest Reveal Tiny Technicolor WorldsPetaPixel

    Nikon has unveiled the winners of the 2020 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition: our annual opportunity to witness the most beautiful images that straddle the intersection of stunning photography and groundbreaking science.

    Top prize this year went to Daniel Castranova, assisted by Bakary Samasa, who were working in Dr. Brant Weinstein’s lab at the National Institutes of Health. Castranova captured what is described as an “artfully rendered and technically immaculate photo” of a young zebrafish with a fluorescent tags for the skeleton, scales, and lymphatic system.

    The image was created by stacking and stitching over 350 individual images that were captured with a spinning disc confocal microscope, and it actually represents a scientific discovery. The image reveals lymphatic vessels in the fish’s skull?a feature that was previously thought to occur only in mammals.

    Of course, you don’t have to know any of that to see that it’s also gorgeous:

    ?For 46 years, the goal of the Nikon Small World competition has been to share microscopic imagery that visually blends art and science for the general public,? said Nikon Instruments Communications Manager Eric Flem. ?As imaging techniques and technologies become more advanced, we are proud to showcase imagery that this blend of research, creativity, imaging technology and expertise can bring to scientific discovery. This year?s first place winner is a stunning example.?

    Second place went to Daniel Knop for an image of the embryonic development of a clownfish.

    This 5 image side-by-side composite was created by lining up stacked photos that were taken on days 1, 3 (morning and evening), 5, and 9 of the fish embryo’s development?an impressive achievement given that his subject was alive, and refused to sit still no matter how nicely Knop asked.

    Third place was awarded to Dr. Igor Siwanowicz, who has actually placed in the Nikon Small World competition 17 times, including 1st place in 2011 and 2nd place in 2019. His photo of the tongue of a freshwater snail is another technicolor marvel made possible by confocal microscopy:

    Nikon recognized a total of 88 images this year?split into a Top 20, honorable mentions, and images of distinction. Scroll down to see the remaining images that made it into this year’s top 20, and then head over to the Nikon Small World competition website to explore the whole batch.

    4th Place

    Multi-nucleate spores and hyphae of a soil fungus (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus)

    5th Place

    Bogong moth

    6th Place

    Hebe plant anther with pollen

    7th Place

    Microtubules (orange) inside a cell. Nucleus is shown in cyan.

    8th Place

    Chameleon embryo (autofluorescence)

    9th Place

    Connections between hippocampal neurons (brain cells)

    10th Place

    Daphnia magna (Phyllopoda)

    11th Place

    Red algae

    12th Place

    Human hair

    13th Place

    Crystals formed after heating an ethanol and water solution containing L-glutamine and beta-alanine

    14th Place

    Leaf roller weevil (Byctiscus betulae) lateral view

    15th Place

    Chain of daughter individuals from the asexually reproducing annelid species Chaetogaster diaphanus

    16th Place

    Nylon stockings

    17th Place

    Ventral view of an immature water boatman

    18th Place

    Atlas moth wing

    19th Place

    Silica cell wall of the marine diatom Arachnoidiscus sp.

    20th Place

    Skeleton preparation of a short-tailed fruit bat embryo (Carollia perspicillata)

    Image credits: All photos credited individually, used courtesy of the Nikon Small World Photomicroscopy Competition.

  • Xbox's Phil Spencer Hints At Exclusivity Potential For Bethesda Games (1625 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 21:30:00 -0400Xbox's Phil Spencer Hints At Exclusivity Potential For Bethesda GamesSlashdot

    In an interview with Kotaku, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that Microsoft doesn't need to ship future Bethesda games on PlayStation in order to recoup the $7.5 billion it spent acquiring Bethesda's parent company, Zenimax Media, last month. Spencer also explained that the deal wasn't specifically signed to take games away from the platform. Pure Xbox reports: "This deal was not done to take games away from another player base like that. Nowhere in the documentation that we put together was: 'How do we keep other players from playing these games?' We want more people to be able to play games, not fewer people to be able to go play games. But I'll also say in the model -- I'm just answering directly the question that you had -- when I think about where people are going to be playing and the number of devices that we had, and we have xCloud and PC and Game Pass and our console base, I don't have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support in order to kind of make the deal work for us. Whatever that means." Previously, Spencer noted to Yahoo Finance that the Xbox community should feel the Bethesda acquisition is a "huge investment in the experiences they are going to have in the Xbox ecosystem," and he wants that ecosystem to "absolutely be the best place to play, and we think game availability is absolutely part of that." However, the Xbox boss has also confirmed that decisions on whether games will be exclusive to Xbox will ultimately be made on a "case-by-case basis", so it might still be a while before we know more.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Billionaire CEO of Software Company Indicted For Alleged $2 Billion Tax Evasion Schemes (1852 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 20:50:00 -0400Billionaire CEO of Software Company Indicted For Alleged $2 Billion Tax Evasion SchemesSlashdot

    The billionaire chief executive of Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds Co, Robert Brockman, has been indicted on charges of tax evasion and wire fraud conducted over "decades." ZDNet reports: The scheme, in which roughly $2 billion was hidden away in offshore accounts and through money laundering, took place between 1999 and 2019, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said on Thursday. According to the indictment (.PDF), the resident of both Houston, Texas, and Pitkin County, Colorado allegedly used a "web" of offshore organizations in Bermuda and Nevis to hide the profits he made from investments in private equity funds. Brockman squirreled away his capital gains and also tampered with the evidence of his alleged activities, prosecutors say, by methods including backdating records and using "encrypted communications and code words" to communicate with co-conspirators, including the phrases "Permit," "King," and "Redfish." A ranch, luxury home, and yacht were among the purchases apparently made with non-taxed income. US prosecutors also say that between 2008 and 2010, Brockman used a third-party entity to purchase $67.8 million in debt securities from the software company. As CEO, the executive is not permitted to do so without full disclosure as it can have an impact on share prices and trading; however, Brockman allegedly did so without informing sellers. As a result, approximately $2 billion in income was kept hidden from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In addition, US prosecutors allege that investors in the software firm's debt securities were also defrauded. A federal grand jury in San Francisco, California has issued a 39-count indictment, including seven counts of tax evasion, 20 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, evidence tampering, and destruction of evidence.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The Best Gear for Storm Photography (12310 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 20:42:00 -0400The Best Gear for Storm PhotographyPetaPixel

    I first became interested in storms when I was a boy growing up in Texas, the only state in the US that experiences tornadoes, hurricane and blizzards on a regular basis. I built a scale model of a supercell thunderstorm inside a clear plexiglass box using cotton and a light bulb for lightning, and won first place in the weather category at our local science fair. Then I got permission from my mother to climb onto our roof and build a weather station.

    When I was 12, I took my first storm photo: a big, fat bolt of lightning shot on a Kodak rangefinder through the window in our kitchen. In 1993, I founded StormStock, a collection of premium storm imagery including lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes and other beautiful and dramatic weather. You can see some of my work in a short film I made titled “Wakinyan” (Thunder Spirit).

    Over the years, people have often asked me what kind of gear is best for storm photography. Although I spend most of my time capturing weather imagery on motion picture formats for use in movies and TV commercials, I do also take stills. That is the medium I will focus on here.

    A lot of folks ask me to suggest a ?best? camera or lens for photography. My first question is always, ?What are you shooting?? That?s because different subjects require different gear. The more unique your subject, the more you may need to specialize. For example, one of the most demanding types of photography is fast action sports. It typically requires long and fast lenses. Long and fast. Those two things don?t go together easily and require large, heavy, expensive lenses – which is pretty specialized.

    The good news is storm photography is only somewhat demanding. The most unique things about it are relatively low light and lightning. Lightning is an unusual thing to photograph because it exists only for a fraction of a second. Plus, you’re pointing your camera at something that doesn?t yet exist.

    The best way to discuss this topic is to divide storm photography into two categories. General storm photography and lightning photography.

    General Storm Photography

    Subjects: Storm clouds, rain, blowing dust, sunsets, tornadoes.

    Storm subjects tend to be dark rather than bright. This may sound obvious, but know that storms can sometimes be exceptionally bright when sunlit. Given the fact that low light is more common, a camera and lens that performs well in that environment is generally preferred.

    Lens focal lengths that I like tend to fall in the 24-105mm (full-frame) range. That is why I like the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L so much. The newer version of this lens is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II.

    If a storm is very close, then I?ll go wide with something like a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 on a full-frame sensor.

    For a camera, I would suggest a full-frame or APS-C sensor camera. That?s because they tend to produce less noise in low light than smaller sensors. Although?an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7 can take some very nice storm shots. I use my iPhone often because it?s always in my pocket, and storm light can be quite fleeting.

    Naturally, in low light a tripod can be helpful. However, I rarely use a tripod for general storm photography because they are bulky and slow, and tend to shake in the wind. Instead, I use a fast lens/camera combination handheld.

    Lightning

    Subjects: Day and night lightning.

    I separate lightning into day and night because they require somewhat different techniques. Day lightning allows for only short exposures while night lightning offers the chance to capture several strikes during a long exposure.

    One thing is certain, a tripod is mandatory for lightning photography (and astrophotography). That’s because the camera must remain steady for long exposures or images will be blurred.

    Another device you will need is something to activate your shutter remotely so the camera continues to remain steady. You can use a smart phone remote app or a dedicated remote trigger for this. Use the one you trust most.

    For day lightning, you might be able to get away with a ¼ to 1 second exposure by lowering your ISO, decreasing your aperture size, and employing a neutral density (ND) filter. You want your exposure to be long enough to ?catch? a lightning strike, like using a bigger net to catch fish. But, not so long that you overexpose. You can also employ a nifty piece of technology called a lightning trigger which senses the strike and opens the camera shutter just in time to record it.

    I suggest an aperture setting of about f/5.6 for “dim” lightning, and about f/11 for “bright” lightning. Always use the lowest ISO hone you can. Exposure duration and your aperture will compensate for low light.

    At night, you can use the bulb setting on your camera and wait for a strike, or set your camera to take a series of 20 or 30 second long exposures. Whatever the case, I wouldn?t exceed 30 seconds because this is when a lot of cameras begin to introduce noise into the image.

    Finally, be safe when you photograph lightning. It can kill and injure. Avoid tall objects, fences and water. The safest place to be during lightning is inside a hard top car, or inside a well constructed building with wiring and plumbing. The rubber tires on a car don?t make it safe from lightning. It?s the metal that protects you. The metal? Yes. It works only if you are surrounded by the metal with some space in between, aka the ?Faraday cage,? named after the English scientist Michael Faraday who invented it in 1836. More on storm safety below.

    Best Camera and Lens Pairings

    Sony a6000 on up to the a6600. Lightweight APS-C cameras with good noise control.

    Pair with: The Sony 16-50mm ?kit? lens (24mm-75mm FF equivalent), Sony Vario-Tessar E 16-70mm f/4.0 (24mm-105mm FF equivalent), Rokinon 21mm f/1.4 (31.5mm FF equivalent), or a Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 (18mm FF equivalent).

    Canon 6D, Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 5D Mk IV. All around good performing full-frame sensor cameras.

    Pair with: Canon 24-105mm f/4 L, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 EF, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 EF.

    Sony A7s Mk II. This is a ?see in the dark? full-frame camera. Nothing touches it for low-light performance.

    Pair with: Sony 24-70mm f/4.0, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 for Sony E, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 for Sony E.

    Nikon D5300, Nikon D5500 and Nikon D5600. These are fairly inexpensive APS-C cameras that shoot beautiful pictures. The Nikon D5300 can be purchased new for a little more than $400, or for less used.

    Pair with: Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED (25.5mm-82.5mm FF equivalent), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (27mm-157.5mm FF equivalent), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G (52.5mm FF equivalent), Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS for Nikon F Mount (24mm FF equivalent), or a vintage NIKKOR AI-s 28mm f/2.0 (42mm FF equivalent), one of my favorite lenses.

    An iPhone. Smartphones are good all around storm photography options. The only thing they don?t do well is lightning. Consider pairing them with an app like ProCam 7, which allows you to control ISO, shutter speed, etc. Shooting with a smartphone is a pure and simple type of photography. It?s easy and liberating. If this is all you use, then focus on content and composition, and you?ll have some beautiful pictures.

    Simplicity

    If you want something simple, but more potent than an iPhone, consider a Nikon D3300 with a Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF lens (36mm FF equivalent). The combo is lightweight, easy to use, and fairly inexpensive considering the great pictures you can take with it. You won?t need to zoom, and the focal length is pretty universal. It?s basically a very nice ?point and shoot.?

    Note: When using an autofocus lens with no marked, manual focus option, you should become familiar with how to set the lens to infinity, especially for night lightning. I prefer manual focus for storm photographer, but autofocus is okay as long as you know how to control it.

    Tripods

    Lightweight, sturdy tripods are best. Consider the Prima Photo Big Travel Tripod, Davis & Sanford TR654C-36 Traverse Carbon Fiber Grounder Tripod with Ball Head, or the Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod with 054 Magnesium Ball Head Kit. You want something with fast deploy legs and an easy to adjust head. Frankly, you can use any tripod that is steady as long as you practice setting it up and taking it down beforehand.

    Lightning Trigger

    Hahnel Captur Pro Module

    Filters

    At the very least, you should have a UV filter attached to the front of your lens simply to protect it. Shooting outdoors without a protective filter is like running around naked. Since that?s not a pretty sight, I always buy a UV filter with every lens purchase.

    Consider adding a neutral density filter to your kit for exposure control as well as a circular polarizer and gray graduated filter to bring down those overly bright skies. I especially like Formatt-Hitech filters. They are well made, arrive clean, and are hand signed by their QC technician.

    Batteries

    Always get extra batteries. My experience is the camera brand batteries are the best.

    Cleaning

    At this point, I?m assuming you ARE going to get a protective filter for all your lenses. Good. When you are shooting harsh weather, you?ll notice your gear getting quite dirty, mostly with dust.

    Do NOT use canned air to clean your filters, lenses, viewfinder or LCD screen. That?s because that stuff shoots an oily substance. Instead, use a bulb blower like the amazing Giottos Rocket Blaster to remove dust and then a very clean cloth like a Zeiss Microfiber Cleaning Cloth. Check carefully before using a cloth to make sure that all grains of dust are gone to avoid scratching those precious surfaces.

    We spend a lot of time cleaning gear after a storm shoot. It?s a ritual.

    Bags

    The Tenba Messenger. I use the small, olive green model. It?s tough and well thought out.

    Being Safe

    Before you try your hand at storm photography, I must make a statement about safety. I do not encourage anyone to film anything that is potentially dangerous. I am not telling you to go shoot storms. I?m detailing photographic principles as they relate to storm photography. You can apply my suggestions to other subjects such as astrophotography which is much safer.

    Please understand that storm photography requires not only knowledge of photographic technique, but more importantly, a thorough understanding of severe weather, how it evolves and how to stay safe. I wrote a book about severe weather safety titled ?The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide.? Reading the book will help, but it takes much more than a book to actively pursue storms in a safe manner. You can see people on YouTube doing it and think it?s safe to just jump in your car and try and ?chase? a storm. It isn?t.

    My recommendation is you go with an expert if you want to photograph storms. Take time to select a genuine expert because some who call themselves ?experts? are the same people on YouTube who are driving into tornadoes and large, dangerous hail while yelling and laughing. Would you get on an airplane with a pilot who exhibited these characteristics? I didn?t think so.

    Finally, whether you go outside to shoot storm photos, or stay safely inside, you should be weather aware when storms are nearby. Get a NOAA Weather Alert Radio or a good weather alert app for your smart phone. If you live in an area where tornadoes are frequent, consider purchasing a manufactured EF5-rated storm shelter or build your own using free FEMA shelter design plans.

    Conclusion

    Storm photography can be fun. Just do it safely with experts, use the right tools, and practice.

    About the author: Martin Lisius is an award-winning Texas-based photographer and cinematographer. His work can be seen in feature films, TV commercials and in documentaries such as the Academy Award-winning ?An Inconvenient Truth.? He licenses his work through his StormStock collection, and offers storm chasing expeditions to photographers through Tempest Tours, which he founded in 2000. He recently created a fine art retail print collection specializing in storms called StormShots. You can follow him on Facebook. This post was also published here.

  • Google Is Beginning the Forced Migration From Hangouts To Chat Next Year (1724 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 20:10:00 -0400Google Is Beginning the Forced Migration From Hangouts To Chat Next YearSlashdot

    Google will officially transition users from Google Hangouts to Google Chat starting next year. The Verge reports: As part of the change, Chat, a messaging service previously only available to customers who pay for Google Workspace (the recent rebranding of G Suite), will become a free service that's available inside of Gmail and in a standalone app. And some Hangouts features will be going away ahead of its disappearance. The transition from Hangouts to Chat will begin sometime in the first half of 2021, when Google will offer tools to help automatically bring your Hangouts conversations, contacts, and chat history to Chat, according to a blog post. It's unclear what steps will be required for that migration, but Google says it will share guidance at some point. The switch from Hangouts to Chat will take place gradually, and there will be a period of time when both messaging services are still available. Eventually, all free users and Workspace customers will be moved over to Chat. Once that's done, then Chat will fully replace Hangouts. As for why you'd want to upgrade from Hangouts to Chat before you're forced to, there are both carrots and sticks. On the plus side, Google says Chat not only offers features like direct and group conversations you might be familiar with from Hangouts, but it can also let you more easily plan and collaborate with others. Google also announced that it is planning to remove some specific Hangouts features, such as the ability to manage texts and phone calls from Hangouts. They're also planning to remove Google Voice support from Hangouts early next year, as well as no longer letting you call phone numbers from Hangouts.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II additional coverage (966 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 19:32:00 -0400Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II additional coverageNikon Rumors


    Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II additional coverage:

    • Nikon Australia a nice Z6 II  Z7 II intro offers with free adapter, battery or flash (check also CameraPro)
    • Dpreview initial reviews: Nikon Z6 II | Nikon Z7 II with comparison to Canon, Sony, and Panasonic cameras (click for larger view):

    • Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II hands-on photos from Optyczne:


    Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II pre-order links:

    The post Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II additional coverage appeared first on Nikon Rumors.

    Related
    Watch it live here: “Special Nikon Z 6II and Z 7II launch event live panel” will start in 15 minutes [Nikon Rumors]
    Atomos announced ProRes RAW support for Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II cameras [Nikon Rumors]
  • Nikola Stock Falls 14 Percent After CEO Downplays Badger Truck Plans (1726 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 19:30:00 -0400Nikola Stock Falls 14 Percent After CEO Downplays Badger Truck PlansSlashdot

    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nikola CEO Mark Russell downplayed the company's Badger pickup truck in comments to the Financial Times on Thursday. "The Badger was an interesting and exciting project to some shareholders, but our institutional shareholders are mostly focused on the business plan," Russell said. "Our core business plan since before we became publicly listed always focused on heavy trucks and hydrogen infrastructure." Russell's comments were published after markets closed on Thursday. Nikola's stock price plunged on Friday morning and is currently down about 14 percent for the day. Negotiations with General Motors to design and build the truck have dragged on weeks longer than expected. Nikola and GM announced a wide-ranging partnership on September 8. It envisioned GM not only building the Badger but also supplying the batteries and fuel cells that power the trucks. Under the deal, GM would also supply hydrogen fuel-cell technology for Nikola's semi trucks outside the European market. Nikola was supposed to give GM $2 billion worth of stock to license GM's technology, reimburse GM to build out a Badger factory, and then pay GM on a cost-plus basis to assemble the Badger. The value of Nikola's stock soared immediately after the September 8 announcement, but it then tanked after a short-selling firm revealed that Nikola CEO Trevor Milton had lied when he said Nikola's first truck, the Nikola One, was fully functional. Nikola has admitted that a promotional video showed the truck rolling down a hill, not traveling under its own power. The price decline has made GM's expected $2 billion stake in Nikola worth much less.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • 4 coronavirus tests and only 40 passengers: A firsthand account of cruising during the pandemic (6418 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 19:00:00 -04004 coronavirus tests and only 40 passengers: A firsthand account of cruising during the pandemicMommy Points

    Though the cruise industry is still shut down in North America, cruise lines have resumed sailings in many parts of the globe, including the far-flung South Pacific, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    Returning to the open seas hasn’t been without its setbacks, of course. Just three days into its first sailing in July with international passengers since cruise operations halted, Tahiti-based Paul Gauguin Cruises had a COVID-19 scare, resulting in the sailing being canceled.

    But in the months that followed, Paul Gauguin ? and many other cruise lines ? seems to have refined the formula for getting back to business.

    For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG?s new cruise newsletter.

    Anders Lindström, director of communications for Norwegian Air in North America, is among the intrepid travelers who have already returned to cruising. On Sept. 12, Lindström flew to Papeete, Tahiti to embark on a six-day cruise of the Society Islands.

    “We booked fairly last minute, especially for this kind of cruise,” Lindström told TPG. He was joining a birthday celebration for a friend who, because of the coronavirus, had been forced to “change plans and destinations multiple times.”

    Finally, French Polynesia reopened to Americans, Lindström said, and they were able to get a “really great deal” on the sailing.

    Testing, testing

    Lindström booked his cruise just three weeks before Paul Gauguin set sail, and needed to have a negative PCR test from 72 hours prior to departure. Tahiti Tourism provided a long list of exactly which tests would be accepted, so Lindström said finding the right one wasn’t an issue. “We [took] at least two tests each to ensure we had at least one back in time, as there could be [a] potential delay with results.”

    And the testing didn’t stop there.

    The day before the sailing, Lindström says he and his friends were required to do another test in Tahiti at their own expense. And to comply with Tahiti’s tourism regulations, they had to take a self-administered test four days after arriving, which was submitted to the cruise reception.

    “All in all we had at least two tests before leaving the U.S. and two within the first days of our trip,” Lindström said. “But that was an easy and small price to pay to be able to travel.”

    As expected, Paul Gauguin has taken many precautions to keep cruisers safe. Lindström said the staff was checking temperatures every time cruisers returned to the ship, and face mask regulations were strictly enforced. You could only take your mask off if you were lounging poolside or seated at a bar or restaurant ? and seats and tables at restaurants were spaced out. Hand sanitizer stations were also prevalent across the ship.

    And though Paul Gauguin operates just a single, small luxury vessel, the line has significantly reduced capacity. Lindström said during his sailing, there were only about 40 guests on a ship designed to accommodate 332 passengers. As a result, Lindström said it was easy to maintain a safe physical distance from other cruisers. “We were … occupying the only cabin in use in our corridor,” Lindström added.

    Related: When will cruise ships resume sailing? A line-by-line guide

    Prepared for anything

    Even the most seasoned road warriors know that travel these days is anything but familiar. And though Lindström described a pretty seamless cruise experience, the one real hiccup came while still transiting through the U.S.

    Things went smoothly enough for Lindström and his friends at New York-Newark (EWR), Denver (DEN) and even the lounge at San Francisco International (SFO). Lindström said he could simply flash the results of his COVID-19 test on a medical app for entry. But at the gate at SFO, he and his friends were refused boarding and told the coronavirus test results needed to be printed, though United never communicated that detail.

    “We managed to rush out and print screenshots of the exact same thing we had showed [on our phones], then rush back through security,” Lindström said, adding that, as a result, they were the last to board. Lindström said that anyone who has travel plans should print any relevant documents to be “on the extra-safe side,” even if hard copies aren’t supposed to be required.

    Related: Bora Bora for the day: What to do while your cruise is in port

    Lindström also said some of the shore excursions they booked were canceled because so few people signed up ? but that didn’t stop them from having a spectacular trip. “The most amazing [shore excursion] was snorkeling with humpback whales in Moorea on our last full day of the cruise,”  Lindström said, describing how they snorkeled just 30 or 40 feet from a family of three whales, including a baby. It was “a phenomenal experience,” he said. They were also able to organize their own adventures when tours were canceled.

    Bottom line

    With the industry eyeing a near-term return to cruising in North America, travelers can look to Lindström’s experience for a sense of what it might be like to set sail during the ongoing pandemic.

    “While there were obvious restrictions … the service was [absolutely] first-rate and all the staff on board did their utmost to ensure everything felt as normal as … possible,” Lindström said. Of course, sailing with an intimate, luxury line like Paul Gauguin probably helps.

    Lindström says the coronavirus wouldn’t stop him from cruising again (he is, in fact, already thinking about taking another cruise in 2021) and he’d even recommend it to other travelers. But there are exceptions.

    “Do your research, and make sure you really feel confident about your choice,” Lindström advises. “If you are [the slightest] unsure and concerned about access to healthcare or hospital[s], then just [wait].”

    And for travelers who need a bit more of an incentive, Lindström says to watch for close-in deals, so you can monitor the destination and wait until you’re absolutely ready to embark. Plus, by using his stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Lindström was able to get an even better deal on his trip to French Polynesia.

    Featured photo by Julie Zoney/Getty Images.

    Related
    Should cruise ships require masks, social distancing? Cruiser views are changing [The Points Guy]
    3 more major cruise lines cancel sailings until at least December [Mommy Points]
    Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industry [Mommy Points]
    Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industry [The Points Guy]
  • 4 coronavirus tests and only 40 passengers: A firsthand account of cruising during the pandemic (6388 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 19:00:00 -04004 coronavirus tests and only 40 passengers: A firsthand account of cruising during the pandemicThe Points Guy

    Though the cruise industry is still shut down in North America, cruise lines have resumed sailings in many parts of the globe, including the far-flung South Pacific, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    Returning to the open seas hasn’t been without its setbacks, of course. Just three days into its first sailing in July with international passengers since cruise operations halted, Tahiti-based Paul Gauguin Cruises had a COVID-19 scare, resulting in the sailing being canceled.

    But in the months that followed, Paul Gauguin ? and many other cruise lines ? seem to have refined the formula for getting back to business.

    For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG?s new cruise newsletter.

    Anders Lindström, director of communications for Norwegian Air in North America, is among the intrepid travelers who have already returned to cruising. On Sept. 12, Lindström flew to Papeete, Tahiti to embark on a six-day cruise of the Society Islands.

    “We booked fairly last minute, especially for this kind of cruise,” Lindström told TPG. He was joining a birthday celebration for a friend who, because of the coronavirus, had been forced to “change plans and destinations multiple times.”

    Finally, French Polynesia reopened to Americans, Lindström said, and they were able to get a “really great deal” on the sailing.

    Testing, testing

    Lindström booked his cruise just three weeks before Paul Gauguin set sail, and needed to have a negative PCR test from 72 hours prior to departure. Tahiti Tourism provided a long list of exactly which tests would be accepted, so Lindström said finding the right one wasn’t an issue. “We had taken at least two tests each to ensure we had at least one back in time, as there could be [a] potential delay with results.”

    And the testing didn’t stop there.

    The day before the sailing, Lindström says he and his friends were required to do another test in Tahiti at their own expense. And to comply with Tahiti’s tourism regulations, they had to take a self-administered test four days after arriving, which was submitted to the cruise reception.

    “All in all we had at least two tests before leaving the U.S. and two within the first days of our trip,” Lindström said. “But that was an easy and small price to pay to be able to travel.”

    As expected, Paul Gauguin has taken many precautions to keep cruisers safe. Lindström said staff was checking temperatures every time cruisers returned to the ship, and face mask regulations were strictly enforced. You could only take your mask off if you were lying by the pool or seated at a bar or restaurant ? and seats and tables at restaurants were spaced out.  Hand sanitizer stations were also prevalent across the ship.

    And though Paul Gauguin operates just a single, small luxury vessel, the line has significantly reduced capacity. Lindström said during his sailing, there were only about 40 guests on a ship designed to accommodate 332 passengers. As a result, Lindström said it was easy to maintain a safe physical distance from other cruisers. “We were … occupying the only cabin in use in our corridor,” Lindström added.

    Related: When will cruise ships resume sailing? A line-by-line guide

    Prepared for anything

    Even the most seasoned road warriors know that travel these days is anything but familiar. And though Lindström described a pretty seamless cruise experience, the one real hiccup came while still transiting through the U.S.

    Things went smoothly enough from New York-Newark (EWR), Denver (DEN) and even the lounge at San Francisco International (SFO). Lindström said he could simply flash the results of his COVID-19 test on a medical app for entry. But at the gate at SFO, he and his friends were refused boarding, as the coronavirus test results needed to be printed, though United never communicated that detail.

    “We managed to rush out and print screenshots of the exact same thing we had showed [on our phones], then rush back through security,” Lindström said, adding that, as a result, they were the last to board. Lindström said that anyone who has travel plans should print any relevant documents to be “on the extra-safe side,” even if hard copies aren’t supposed to be required.

    Related: Bora Bora for the day: What to do while your cruise is in port

    Lindström also said some of the shore excursions they booked were canceled because so few people signed up ? but that didn’t stop them from having a spectacular trip. “The most amazing [shore excursion] was snorkeling with humpback whales in Moorea on our last full day of the cruise,”  Lindström said, describing how they snorkeled just 30 or 40 feet from a family of three humpbacks, including a baby. It was “a phenomenal experience,” he said. They were also able to organize their own adventures when tours were canceled.

    Bottom line

    With the industry eyeing a near-term return to cruising in North America, travelers can look to Lindström’s experience for a sense of what it might be like to set sail during the ongoing pandemic.

    “While there were obvious restrictions … the service was [absolutely] first-rate and all the staff on board did their utmost to ensure everything felt as normal as … possible,” Lindström said. Of course, sailing with an intimate, luxury line like Paul Gauguin probably helps.

    Lindström says the coronavirus wouldn’t stop him from cruising again ? and is, in fact, already thinking about taking another cruise in 2021 ? and would even recommend it to other travelers. But there are exceptions.

    “Do your research, and make sure you really feel confident about your choice,” Lindström advises. “If you are [the slightest] unsure and concerned about access to healthcare or [hospitals], then just wait …”

    And for travelers who need a bit more of an incentive, Lindström says to watch for close-in deals, so you can monitor the destination and wait until you’re absolutely ready to embark. By using his stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Lindström was able to get an even better deal on his trip to French Polynesia.

    Featured photo by Julie Zoney/Getty Images.

  • San Francisco Apartment Rents Crater Up To 31%, Most in US (1163 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 18:50:00 -0400San Francisco Apartment Rents Crater Up To 31%, Most in USSlashdot

    San Francisco's sky-high apartment rents are falling fast. From a report: The median monthly rate for a studio in the city tumbled 31% in September from a year earlier to $2,285, compared with a 0.5% decline nationally, according to data released Tuesday by Realtor.com. One-bedroom rents in San Francisco fell 24% and two-bedrooms were down 21%, to $2,873 and $3,931 a month, respectively. The figures underscore how the pandemic has roiled property markets and changed renter preferences. With companies allowing employees to work from home, people have fled cramped and costly urban areas in droves, seeking extra room in the suburbs or cheaper cities. Tech firms, in particular, have told staff they should expect to work remotely well into next year -- and may be able to do so permanently. "Renters are likely heading to more-affordable areas where they can get more space at a cheaper price," Danielle Hale, Realtor.com's chief economist, said in a statement. "The future of rents in many of these cities will depend on whether companies require employees to work from the office or continue to allow remote work."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Elon Musk's Las Vegas Loop Might Only Carry a Fraction of the Passengers It Promised (2255 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 18:10:00 -0400Elon Musk's Las Vegas Loop Might Only Carry a Fraction of the Passengers It PromisedSlashdot

    The Boring Company's Las Vegas Convention Center loop "will not be able to move anywhere near the number of people LVCC wants, and that TBC agreed to," reports TechCrunch. The LVCC wanted transit that could move up to 4,400 people every hour between exhibition halls and parking lots on the Los Vegas Strip. According to planning files reviewed by TechCrunch, "the system might only be able to transport 1,200 people an hour -- around a quarter of its promised capacity." From the report: Fire regulations peg the occupant capacity in the load and unload zones of one of the Loop's three stations at just 800 passengers an hour. If the other stations have similar limitations, the system might only be able to transport 1,200 people an hour -- around a quarter of its promised capacity. If TBC misses its performance target by such a margin, Musk's company will not receive more than $13 million of its construction budget -- and will face millions more in penalty charges once the system becomes operational. So what is stopping TBC from transporting as many people as both it and the LVCC wants? There are national fire safety rules for underground transit systems that specify alarms, sprinklers, emergency exits and a maximum occupant load, to avoid overcrowding in the event of a fire. Building plans submitted by The Boring Company include a fire code analysis for one of the Loop's above-ground stations. The above screenshot from the plans notes that the area where passengers get into and out of the Tesla cars has a peak occupancy load of 100 people every 7.5 minutes, equivalent to 800 passengers an hour. Even if the other stations had higher limits, this would limit the system's hourly capacity to about 1,200 people. The plans do not show any turnstiles or barriers to limit entry. Even without the safety restrictions, the Loop may struggle to hit its capacity goals. Each of the 10 bays at the Loop's stations must handle hundreds of passengers an hour, corresponding to perhaps 100 or more arrivals and departures, depending on how many people each car is carrying. That leaves little time to load and unload people and luggage, let alone make the 0.8-mile journey and occasionally recharge.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industry (18384 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 18:00:00 -0400Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industryMommy Points

    In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. presidential election is less than three weeks away, and travel is a very real campaign issue. Let’s take a closer look at the travel policies of both presidential candidates.

    Many of President Donald Trump’s views on travel and borders are likely familiar to you. They’ve become part of the news cycle throughout his presidency. Some of the most high-profile policies are temporary measures put in place by the Trump White House due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they especially impact international travel.

    Here’s a comparison of what a Joe Biden White House would look like versus a second Donald Trump term.

    Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more travel news

    TPG reached out to both campaigns with a list of questions, but did not hear back by press time.

    Support for the travel industry

    CBS News Transportation Correspondent Kris van Cleave told TPG that, “Regardless of who wins in November, the travel sector seems likely to have a supporter in the White House, it is too vital to the overall economy to be left to perpetually wither.”

    Fin Gomez echoed that sentiment. He is a White House producer for CBS News. He said it was hard to forecast a travel rebound because of the lack of visibility into when a vaccine might be available, but he also said each side knows how important travel is to the overall economy. Gomez said, “Both campaigns are aware of this massively important industry. As we can tell from the White House’s renewed interest in (a possible 2nd) bailout. People like to travel. Regardless of who wins, both know it’s good for business.”

    Kris van Cleave points out that President Trump is a big supporter of the travel industry as a whole:

    “A President Trump win would likely continue the status quo which includes the President?s shoot from the hip style which brings with it some uncertainty and unpredictability. That said Mr. Trump has remained sympathetic to the plight of the travel industry as it is one of the few singled out specifically as need(ing) additional aid.  It is also a sector he that is near and dear to him given his business holdings.”

    Another airline bailout?

     

    Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden have expressed support for a new, second bailout for the travel industry. Some 40,000 airline workers began to get furloughed beginning Oct. 1, 2020 as the $25 billion from the CARES Act ran out.

    Related: Is it a good idea for a CARES Act #2?

    Democrats in Congress passed a second bailout back in May that included money for the airlines (the HEROES Act), but it was never passed by the Senate. A second HEROES Act is under consideration, but without Senate cooperation it, too, is probably doomed. The Trump administration has pushed a so-called “skinny” bailout that would provide direct relief to the airlines.

    According to Politico, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters, “We’ve made very clear we want a skinny package. We’re for direct payments, we’re for extension of PPP, and we’d like to see an airline bailout, but not part of a larger package.”

    So far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ruled that out. She wants a bigger relief bill.

    A Biden administration would likely fast-track another major relief package that could include a second bailout for the airline industry.

    Travel bans

    Gio Benitez is ABC’s News Transportation Correspondent. He told TPG, ?In late January, President Trump restricted some travelers who had visited China from entering the U.S. (American citizens, green card holders, their families, and health care workers were exempt). Vice President Biden hasn?t specifically said what he would?ve done, but his campaign has said he supports travel bans guided by medical experts and public health officials.?

    Back in January, the Trump administration banned many visitors from China. On March 13, the White House expanded that ban to Europeans. Later, the U.K. was added to the list and eventually Brazil.

    Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told CNN in April that Biden supported some bans on foreign visitors. “Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy,” but it’s unclear if the bans currently in place would be kept in place under a Biden administration.

    We are trying to get both campaigns to explain their views on continued bans on international visitors, but have so far been unsuccessful.

    New safety protocols

    Tim Jue is a San Francisco-based reporter covering airlines and travel. He said, “Under a Biden administration, I expect the federal government to finally jump in and mandate a lot of the safety protocols we already see when traveling like mandatory masks on planes, trains, and buses. So far, it’s been a hodge-podge of rules devised by individual airlines, airports, train operators, and bus companies. The enforcement is inconsistent, and I expect a Biden Department of Transportation to step in with a sweeping set of guidelines for all U.S. operators.”

    The Trump Administration has rejected nationwide mandates of any kind on masks or other safety measures.

    Masks on planes and in airports

     

    The Trump administration has resisted calls for requiring masks on all flights and at airports instead leaving it to individual airlines and airports, resulting in a piecemeal approach to rules and enforecement. In fact, The New York Times reports the Trump White House blocked a CDC plan to require masks. The Department of Transportation has rejected calls multiple times to require masks on commercial transportation. Politico reports Joe Biden pledged to make masks on all public transportation a requirement if he wins.

    Related: Why its clear a mask mandate is overdue

    National tracking and tracing program

     

    The Trump administration has largely left coronavirus policy to individual states. That would be a huge shift under a Biden administration which has plans for a national coordinated strategy to tackle COVID-19.

    Related: CDC cancels required quarantine

    A Biden presidency would see major changes in coronavirus policy. The most dramatic change would likely be a national tracking and tracing program which the Trump administration has not done. Biden wants to hire 100,000 Americans to do national contact tracing. The Biden campaign has also pushed for some $25 billion for national testing. The Biden campaign website says they would begin by:

    “Amending the Public Health Service Act to immediately cover all testing, treatment, and preventive services that are necessary to address a Public Health Emergency for an infectious disease. Once triggered by the HHS Secretary in consultation with the CDC, all commercial plans in all markets will be immediately required to cover such services as COVID-19 testing and any eventual vaccine with no copayments and deductibles, including for the visits themselves.”

    According the Biden campaign website, he would also roll out a national testing program including investing in new technologies and rapid tests.

    Biden also wants to “Invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.”

    Air bridges/ Travel bubbles

    The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump administration is pushing for a so-called ‘air bridge’ between New York and London. Politico reports testing would be required including two pre-departure tests for travel. Look for more of these types of arrangements under a Biden administration as well.

    Related: What is a travel bubble?

    Another big difference is the frequency of foreign trips. Fin Gomez from CBS told me that President Trump is, “not a big traveler abroad. Even when he was campaigning in 2016, he liked to go back to his own bed (after an event). Biden will be traveling abroad a lot more.”

     

    Control of COVID-19

     

    Many of the analysts TPG spoke to said the best hope for a rebound in travel and tourism is getting the coronavirus under control.

    Related: United Airlines worries travel recovery will stall until there?s a COVID vaccine

    Naveed Jamali is a national security expert and author of “How to Catch a Russian Spy.” He told TPG:

    “I haven?t been on a plane for 6 months. Trips for work and pleasure for many Americans have been not only curtailed but indefinitely suspended. So what?s the solution? Bringing the virus under control, period. Until that happens Americans will not likely resume air travel. So the question about saving the airline industry must look at which candidate will be the most effective in controlling the spread of the virus and overseeing its decline. It?s hard to see anyway in which Trump has handled this pandemic effectively or competently, so Biden is the best hope for airline industry, country, and the world. “

    Richard Fowler is a Fox News contributor and political analyst. “The (travel) industry is hurting. The only way we’re going to get to some type of recovery in the pandemic is by getting this virus under control or flattening the curve. If you look at both candidates and their plans or lack thereof. There’s only one candidate who is taking this pandemic seriously, and has been a follower of CDC guidelines ? former VP Joe Biden.”

    Divided government?

    CBS’s van Cleave brings up another important point when it comes to travel policy, “There?s also the question of who controls congress?  A divided congress has failed for months to reach an agreement on Covid Relief funding?including additional aid to the travel sector.  That legislative molasses seems likely to continue should different parties control the House and Senate.”

    He suggests democrats in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House could mean a boon for transportation spending:

    “In a scenario where Biden wins and you see a blue wave that takes the senate and maintains the house majority, industry analysts I?ve spoken with see very significant stimulus and infrastructure spending as likely.  As aid to the airlines, in particular, has bipartisan support it seems likely in a big stimulus they would not be forgotten.”

    Deregulation/ unions

    Van Cleave of CBS said, “A Biden Administration is more likely to be pro-union/labor which could slow any post-COVID consolidation of carriers.  We?d also likely see a move away from the aggressive deregulation efforts we?ve seen over the last four years?something like a mask mandate for air travel/Amtrak travel would be not be surprising, for example.”

    Cruise industry

    The Points Guy Cruise Reporter Gene Sloan said the most immediate impact to the cruise industry could be on the restart date for cruising in North America. Sloan said:

    “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a “no-sail” order for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters through the end of October. The agency reportedly had wanted to extend that order into February but was overruled by top Trump administration officials. It seems clear that the Trump administration wants to see cruise ships return to sailing in North America soon, perhaps as soon as December (most cruise lines already have canceled all North American sailings for November, so December is now the earliest we could see cruising in North America in a meaningful way). If Trump wins the election, my money is on the “no-sail” order being lifted in November and cruising resuming at least in a limited way in December. If Biden wins, we could see more deference to the scientists at the CDC, who have seemed leery of allowing cruising to resume anytime soon. My best guess is that a Biden administration would allow the CDC to extend its “no-sail” order for at least another couple months. The wildcard here is that even if Biden wins, a lame-duck Trump administration in November or December could overrule the CDC and allow cruising to resume.”

    Related: Trump Administration paves the way for return to cruising

    Trains

    Joe Biden's infrastructure plan says he wants to "spark the second great rail revolution."

    Here's what that might look like in a post-Covid world.

    Comments from top Biden transportation adviser John Porcari today pic.twitter.com/EZUOVXgGbf

    — Sam Mintz (@samjmintz) October 15, 2020

    President Trump is not known as a big fan of long-distance passenger train service. That contrasts sharply with Biden who is famous for his Amtrak commuting and his love of passenger rail.

    Related: Guide to Amtrak

    Back in February the president proposed cutting the budget for Amtrak in half for 2021.That budget proposal included a 13% cut to trains, airports, ports and other infrastructure spending overall. Congress has mostly rejected Trump White House calls for cuts to long-distance train travel during the Trump presidency. The president has also sparred with big city mayors asking for federal funds for big train projects. New York has been asking for major federal funding towards efforts to shore up the busy Northeast corridor and make improvements to tracks and stations.

    President Trump has instead suggested money would be better spent on short, intercity routes like the one connecting West Palm Beach to Miami.

    Related: New train route to Orlando

    A Biden White House would likely push through long-stalled infrastructure projects and fund projects already underway. As you can see from the Tweet above the Biden team is enthusiastic about trains (to say the least) with the campaign saying they want “to spark the second great rail revolution.”

     

    China policy

     

    CBS’s van Cleave told me, “There is also a sense a Biden Administration, even with a divided congress, would bring some stability and rules-based predictability to governing as well as to relations with China.  Better relations with China could be a win for American businesses and thus spur lucrative business travel.”

    Related: Washington ratchets down tensions with China

    Indeed, a second Trump term might see a continued deterioration in relations with China. Joe Biden has called President Trump’s China policies “erratic,” and has criticized trade sanctions and tariffs from the Trump White House.

    Still, Joe Biden might also be more confrontational over China’s policies towards Hong Kong, Taiwan and on human rights violations against the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province.

    Cuba policy

    One of the biggest policy differences is likely to be over Cuba. President Trump erased former President Barack Obama’s policies when it comes to Americans visiting Cuba. In fact, in June of 2019, the Trump administration made it almost impossible for Americans to visit when it banned visiting via cruise ships, private yachts or on group educational or cultural trips. This year, new sanctions were imposed on Cuba.

    Related: U.S. bans most flights to Cuba

    A Biden administration would likely mean a return to Obama-era Cuba policies including allowing U.S. investment and a return of air traffic and American tourism. Terry Ward is a freelance travel writer based in Florida. She told me, “My husband is Cuban and we usually try to get back twice a year to visit his family there. We generally feel a Biden presidency has the most promise of improving relations with the island and easing travel restrictions.”

    Related: You can still visit Cuba but there’s a catch

    TPGs cruise guy Gene Sloan agreed that a Biden White House might mean a return to cruising to Cuba:

    “The Obama Administration had loosened regulations surrounding travel to Cuba such that cruise lines were able to restart sailings from Florida to Cuba in 2016 (after decades of not being able to operate such voyages). But in June 2019, the Trump Administration abruptly shut down cruising from the U.S. to Cuba. Nobody in the industry as far as I know is talking about this now, but I would think there’s a possibility that a Biden Administration would resume the loosening of Cuba travel restrictions that the Obama Administration began, resulting in cruising to Cuba restarting.”

    Related: Hundreds of thousands impacted by ban on Cuba cruising

    What’s next for Airline industry no matter who wins?

    CBS’s van Cleave said, “As an industry, it continues struggling until there are widely available vaccines and therapeutics allowing people and businesses to feel comfortable traveling again. The biggest hurdles for the industry are apolitical ? When will a viable vaccine be widely available and how does its distribution go?”

    Darrell West is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Tech Innovation at the Brooking Institute. He told me, “Trump will keep the economy open as he doesn?t want to hurt it. Biden will allow people to travel but call for a national mandate on wearing masks in public. He will support airlines and hotels and try to keep them solvent.”

    No matter who you support, the travel industry is likely to benefit.

    Related
    Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industry [The Points Guy]
    Should cruise ships require masks, social distancing? Cruiser views are changing [The Points Guy]
    4 coronavirus tests and only 40 passengers: A firsthand account of cruising during the pandemic [Mommy Points]
    3 more major cruise lines cancel sailings until at least December [Mommy Points]
  • Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industry (18384 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 18:00:00 -0400Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industryThe Points Guy

    In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. presidential election is less than three weeks away, and travel is a very real campaign issue. Let’s take a closer look at the travel policies of both presidential candidates.

    Many of President Donald Trump’s views on travel and borders are likely familiar to you. They’ve become part of the news cycle throughout his presidency. Some of the most high-profile policies are temporary measures put in place by the Trump White House due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they especially impact international travel.

    Here’s a comparison of what a Joe Biden White House would look like versus a second Donald Trump term.

    Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more travel news

    TPG reached out to both campaigns with a list of questions, but did not hear back by press time.

    Support for the travel industry

    CBS News Transportation Correspondent Kris van Cleave told TPG that, “Regardless of who wins in November, the travel sector seems likely to have a supporter in the White House, it is too vital to the overall economy to be left to perpetually wither.”

    Fin Gomez echoed that sentiment. He is a White House producer for CBS News. He said it was hard to forecast a travel rebound because of the lack of visibility into when a vaccine might be available, but he also said each side knows how important travel is to the overall economy. Gomez said, “Both campaigns are aware of this massively important industry. As we can tell from the White House’s renewed interest in (a possible 2nd) bailout. People like to travel. Regardless of who wins, both know it’s good for business.”

    Kris van Cleave points out that President Trump is a big supporter of the travel industry as a whole:

    “A President Trump win would likely continue the status quo which includes the President?s shoot from the hip style which brings with it some uncertainty and unpredictability. That said Mr. Trump has remained sympathetic to the plight of the travel industry as it is one of the few singled out specifically as need(ing) additional aid.  It is also a sector he that is near and dear to him given his business holdings.”

    Another airline bailout?

     

    Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden have expressed support for a new, second bailout for the travel industry. Some 40,000 airline workers began to get furloughed beginning Oct. 1, 2020 as the $25 billion from the CARES Act ran out.

    Related: Is it a good idea for a CARES Act #2?

    Democrats in Congress passed a second bailout back in May that included money for the airlines (the HEROES Act), but it was never passed by the Senate. A second HEROES Act is under consideration, but without Senate cooperation it, too, is probably doomed. The Trump administration has pushed a so-called “skinny” bailout that would provide direct relief to the airlines.

    According to Politico, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters, “We’ve made very clear we want a skinny package. We’re for direct payments, we’re for extension of PPP, and we’d like to see an airline bailout, but not part of a larger package.”

    So far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ruled that out. She wants a bigger relief bill.

    A Biden administration would likely fast-track another major relief package that could include a second bailout for the airline industry.

    Travel bans

    Gio Benitez is ABC’s News Transportation Correspondent. He told TPG, ?In late January, President Trump restricted some travelers who had visited China from entering the U.S. (American citizens, green card holders, their families, and health care workers were exempt). Vice President Biden hasn?t specifically said what he would?ve done, but his campaign has said he supports travel bans guided by medical experts and public health officials.?

    Back in January, the Trump administration banned many visitors from China. On March 13, the White House expanded that ban to Europeans. Later, the U.K. was added to the list and eventually Brazil.

    Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told CNN in April that Biden supported some bans on foreign visitors. “Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy,” but it’s unclear if the bans currently in place would be kept in place under a Biden administration.

    We are trying to get both campaigns to explain their views on continued bans on international visitors, but have so far been unsuccessful.

    New safety protocols

    Tim Jue is a San Francisco-based reporter covering airlines and travel. He said, “Under a Biden administration, I expect the federal government to finally jump in and mandate a lot of the safety protocols we already see when traveling like mandatory masks on planes, trains, and buses. So far, it’s been a hodge-podge of rules devised by individual airlines, airports, train operators, and bus companies. The enforcement is inconsistent, and I expect a Biden Department of Transportation to step in with a sweeping set of guidelines for all U.S. operators.”

    The Trump Administration has rejected nationwide mandates of any kind on masks or other safety measures.

    Masks on planes and in airports

     

    The Trump administration has resisted calls for requiring masks on all flights and at airports instead leaving it to individual airlines and airports, resulting in a piecemeal approach to rules and enforecement. In fact, The New York Times reports the Trump White House blocked a CDC plan to require masks. The Department of Transportation has rejected calls multiple times to require masks on commercial transportation. Politico reports Joe Biden pledged to make masks on all public transportation a requirement if he wins.

    Related: Why its clear a mask mandate is overdue

    National tracking and tracing program

     

    The Trump administration has largely left coronavirus policy to individual states. That would be a huge shift under a Biden administration which has plans for a national coordinated strategy to tackle COVID-19.

    Related: CDC cancels required quarantine

    A Biden presidency would see major changes in coronavirus policy. The most dramatic change would likely be a national tracking and tracing program which the Trump administration has not done. Biden wants to hire 100,000 Americans to do national contact tracing. The Biden campaign has also pushed for some $25 billion for national testing. The Biden campaign website says they would begin by:

    “Amending the Public Health Service Act to immediately cover all testing, treatment, and preventive services that are necessary to address a Public Health Emergency for an infectious disease. Once triggered by the HHS Secretary in consultation with the CDC, all commercial plans in all markets will be immediately required to cover such services as COVID-19 testing and any eventual vaccine with no copayments and deductibles, including for the visits themselves.”

    According the Biden campaign website, he would also roll out a national testing program including investing in new technologies and rapid tests.

    Biden also wants to “Invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.”

    Air bridges/ Travel bubbles

    The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump administration is pushing for a so-called ‘air bridge’ between New York and London. Politico reports testing would be required including two pre-departure tests for travel. Look for more of these types of arrangements under a Biden administration as well.

    Related: What is a travel bubble?

    Another big difference is the frequency of foreign trips. Fin Gomez from CBS told me that President Trump is, “not a big traveler abroad. Even when he was campaigning in 2016, he liked to go back to his own bed (after an event). Biden will be traveling abroad a lot more.”

     

    Control of COVID-19

     

    Many of the analysts TPG spoke to said the best hope for a rebound in travel and tourism is getting the coronavirus under control.

    Related: United Airlines worries travel recovery will stall until there?s a COVID vaccine

    Naveed Jamali is a national security expert and author of “How to Catch a Russian Spy.” He told TPG:

    “I haven?t been on a plane for 6 months. Trips for work and pleasure for many Americans have been not only curtailed but indefinitely suspended. So what?s the solution? Bringing the virus under control, period. Until that happens Americans will not likely resume air travel. So the question about saving the airline industry must look at which candidate will be the most effective in controlling the spread of the virus and overseeing its decline. It?s hard to see anyway in which Trump has handled this pandemic effectively or competently, so Biden is the best hope for airline industry, country, and the world. “

    Richard Fowler is a Fox News contributor and political analyst. “The (travel) industry is hurting. The only way we’re going to get to some type of recovery in the pandemic is by getting this virus under control or flattening the curve. If you look at both candidates and their plans or lack thereof. There’s only one candidate who is taking this pandemic seriously, and has been a follower of CDC guidelines ? former VP Joe Biden.”

    Divided government?

    CBS’s van Cleave brings up another important point when it comes to travel policy, “There?s also the question of who controls congress?  A divided congress has failed for months to reach an agreement on Covid Relief funding?including additional aid to the travel sector.  That legislative molasses seems likely to continue should different parties control the House and Senate.”

    He suggests democrats in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House could mean a boon for transportation spending:

    “In a scenario where Biden wins and you see a blue wave that takes the senate and maintains the house majority, industry analysts I?ve spoken with see very significant stimulus and infrastructure spending as likely.  As aid to the airlines, in particular, has bipartisan support it seems likely in a big stimulus they would not be forgotten.”

    Deregulation/ unions

    Van Cleave of CBS said, “A Biden Administration is more likely to be pro-union/labor which could slow any post-COVID consolidation of carriers.  We?d also likely see a move away from the aggressive deregulation efforts we?ve seen over the last four years?something like a mask mandate for air travel/Amtrak travel would be not be surprising, for example.”

    Cruise industry

    The Points Guy Cruise Reporter Gene Sloan said the most immediate impact to the cruise industry could be on the restart date for cruising in North America. Sloan said:

    “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a “no-sail” order for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters through the end of October. The agency reportedly had wanted to extend that order into February but was overruled by top Trump administration officials. It seems clear that the Trump administration wants to see cruise ships return to sailing in North America soon, perhaps as soon as December (most cruise lines already have canceled all North American sailings for November, so December is now the earliest we could see cruising in North America in a meaningful way). If Trump wins the election, my money is on the “no-sail” order being lifted in November and cruising resuming at least in a limited way in December. If Biden wins, we could see more deference to the scientists at the CDC, who have seemed leery of allowing cruising to resume anytime soon. My best guess is that a Biden administration would allow the CDC to extend its “no-sail” order for at least another couple months. The wildcard here is that even if Biden wins, a lame-duck Trump administration in November or December could overrule the CDC and allow cruising to resume.”

    Related: Trump Administration paves the way for return to cruising

    Trains

    Joe Biden's infrastructure plan says he wants to "spark the second great rail revolution."

    Here's what that might look like in a post-Covid world.

    Comments from top Biden transportation adviser John Porcari today pic.twitter.com/EZUOVXgGbf

    — Sam Mintz (@samjmintz) October 15, 2020

    President Trump is not known as a big fan of long-distance passenger train service. That contrasts sharply with Biden who is famous for his Amtrak commuting and his love of passenger rail.

    Related: Guide to Amtrak

    Back in February the president proposed cutting the budget for Amtrak in half for 2021.That budget proposal included a 13% cut to trains, airports, ports and other infrastructure spending overall. Congress has mostly rejected Trump White House calls for cuts to long-distance train travel during the Trump presidency. The president has also sparred with big city mayors asking for federal funds for big train projects. New York has been asking for major federal funding towards efforts to shore up the busy Northeast corridor and make improvements to tracks and stations.

    President Trump has instead suggested money would be better spent on short, intercity routes like the one connecting West Palm Beach to Miami.

    Related: New train route to Orlando

    A Biden White House would likely push through long-stalled infrastructure projects and fund projects already underway. As you can see from the Tweet above the Biden team is enthusiastic about trains (to say the least) with the campaign saying they want “to spark the second great rail revolution.”

     

    China policy

     

    CBS’s van Cleave told me, “There is also a sense a Biden Administration, even with a divided congress, would bring some stability and rules-based predictability to governing as well as to relations with China.  Better relations with China could be a win for American businesses and thus spur lucrative business travel.”

    Related: Washington ratchets down tensions with China

    Indeed, a second Trump term might see a continued deterioration in relations with China. Joe Biden has called President Trump’s China policies “erratic,” and has criticized trade sanctions and tariffs from the Trump White House.

    Still, Joe Biden might also be more confrontational over China’s policies towards Hong Kong, Taiwan and on human rights violations against the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province.

    Cuba policy

    One of the biggest policy differences is likely to be over Cuba. President Trump erased former President Barack Obama’s policies when it comes to Americans visiting Cuba. In fact, in June of 2019, the Trump administration made it almost impossible for Americans to visit when it banned visiting via cruise ships, private yachts or on group educational or cultural trips. This year, new sanctions were imposed on Cuba.

    Related: U.S. bans most flights to Cuba

    A Biden administration would likely mean a return to Obama-era Cuba policies including allowing U.S. investment and a return of air traffic and American tourism. Terry Ward is a freelance travel writer based in Florida. She told me, “My husband is Cuban and we usually try to get back twice a year to visit his family there. We generally feel a Biden presidency has the most promise of improving relations with the island and easing travel restrictions.”

    Related: You can still visit Cuba but there’s a catch

    TPGs cruise guy Gene Sloan agreed that a Biden White House might mean a return to cruising to Cuba:

    “The Obama Administration had loosened regulations surrounding travel to Cuba such that cruise lines were able to restart sailings from Florida to Cuba in 2016 (after decades of not being able to operate such voyages). But in June 2019, the Trump Administration abruptly shut down cruising from the U.S. to Cuba. Nobody in the industry as far as I know is talking about this now, but I would think there’s a possibility that a Biden Administration would resume the loosening of Cuba travel restrictions that the Obama Administration began, resulting in cruising to Cuba restarting.”

    Related: Hundreds of thousands impacted by ban on Cuba cruising

    What’s next for Airline industry no matter who wins?

    CBS’s van Cleave said, “As an industry, it continues struggling until there are widely available vaccines and therapeutics allowing people and businesses to feel comfortable traveling again. The biggest hurdles for the industry are apolitical ? When will a viable vaccine be widely available and how does its distribution go?”

    Darrell West is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Tech Innovation at the Brooking Institute. He told me, “Trump will keep the economy open as he doesn?t want to hurt it. Biden will allow people to travel but call for a national mandate on wearing masks in public. He will support airlines and hotels and try to keep them solvent.”

    No matter who you support, the travel industry is likely to benefit.

    Related
    Should cruise ships require masks, social distancing? Cruiser views are changing [The Points Guy]
    4 coronavirus tests and only 40 passengers: A firsthand account of cruising during the pandemic [Mommy Points]
    3 more major cruise lines cancel sailings until at least December [Mommy Points]
    Biden versus Trump: How this election will change the travel industry [Mommy Points]
  • Four Quick Links for Friday Afternoon (921 characters)
  • These are the Central American countries US travelers can visit right now (15838 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 17:30:00 -0400These are the Central American countries US travelers can visit right nowMommy Points

    Editor’s note: This post was updated with new information on Guatemala

    Craving a getaway? Central America is nearby for U.S. travelers, and some popular destinations have reopened for travel.

    For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter.

    Here’s where you can go, and what you should know.

    Belize ? open, with PCR test requirements


    This popular tourist destination has
    reopened for foreign visitors after a false start earlier in the summer due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases worldwide. As of Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, Belize began welcoming tourists from all around the world.

    Related:

    The local economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and the nation of more than 383,000 residents has only had 2,619 cases of coronavirus ? a 0.7 percent infection rate ? as of mid-October 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers who have tracked global cases since the start of the worldwide pandemic.

    Travelers should expect the following protocols and requirements in place:

    Pre-departure

    On the plane

    • Wear a face mask while on the plane
    • Practice social distancing to the extent possible

    Upon arrival

    • Continue to wear face masks and practice physical distancing
    • Get a health screening
    • Check-in daily on health app

    Depending on the discretion of local health authorities, entering travelers may still be asked to take a second rapid test upon arrival in Belize, at the visitor’s expense. Travelers must stay within Belize’s approved ?safe corridors? for tourists to keep visitors isolated from most local residents for everyone’s safety.

    Costa Rica ? open, with PCR test requirements and some restrictions

    Costa Rica has been a tricky destination for U.S. travelers. Some people are allowed in, while others are subject to heightened scrutiny. It all depends on which state you come from, due to the vastly different health metrics, infection rates and safety protocols from state to state. This small country is one of the few in the world that has implemented guidelines governing visitors from individual U.S. states.

    But that all changes on Nov. 1, 2020, when Costa Rica will once again welcome visitors from all 50 states.

    Travelers from the following green-lit countries are allowed into Costa Rica on the following schedule:

    • United States: Residents of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wyoming, California and Ohio
      • By Oct. 15: Residents of Florida, Georgia and Texas
      • By Nov. 1: All U.S. citizens and residents
    • Canada: All citizens and residents
    • Mexico: All citizens and residents
    • The European Union Schengen Zone: All citizens and residents
    • United Kingdom: All citizens and residents
    • South America: Citizens and residents of Uruguay
    • The Caribbean: Citizens and residents of Jamaica
    • Asia: Citizens and residents of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and the People?s Republic of China
    • Oceania: Citizens and residents of Australia and New Zealand

    Related: Costa Rica will once again open to all U.S. tourists on Nov. 1

    Costa Rica has stringent criteria for all travelers entering the country?s three international airports: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport (LIR) and Tobías Bolaños Airport (SYQ).

    Travelers must complete the following requirements:

    • Fill out the electronic epidemiological health pass form before departure
    • Produce a negative RT-PCR diagnostic test with results dated within 72 hours of departure to Costa Rica
    • Show proof of traveler?s medical insurance, either purchased internationally or directly from Costa Rica through the National Insurance Institute or Sagicor.
    • For international insurance policies, tourists must request a certification from their insurance company, issued in English or Spanish, verifying at least the following three conditions:
      • Effectiveness of the policy during the visit to Costa Rica
      • Guaranteed coverage of medical expenses in the event of becoming ill with the pandemic COVID-19 virus while in Costa Rica, for at least $50,000
      • Includes minimum coverage of $2,000 for potential quarantine lodging expenses issued as a result of the pandemic
      • Note that any emergency medical or dental coverage provided by credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve will not meet this requirement.
    • Have remained for at least 14 days in one of the countries to which Costa Rica has opened its air border
    • Have no COVID-19 symptoms
    • Of course, you?ll still need a valid passport to enter, and proof of onward travel to exit Costa Rica to bypass tourist visa requirements for stays of 90 days or less

    Related reading: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

    El Salvador ? open, with PCR test requirements and other safety concerns

    The country of El Salvador reopened for commercial flights on Sept. 19, to Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (SAL) in San Salvador. The country had been closed to international visitors since mid-March when the pandemic spread worldwide.

    “Tourism is the industry that allows us to move around the world and we are focused on offering visitors the best destination experience, but above all, safe,” said Morena Valdez, El Salvador’s Minister of Tourism. “I invite you to cross borders and discover that El Salvador is an ideal place to visit, establish tourist operations, do business and live.”

    Along with a number of other countries, El Salvador recently qualified to use the world’s first global safety and hygiene stamp, which certifies that participating destinations around the world have adopted standardized global health and hygiene protocols to help tourists experience safe travels.

    The U.S. State Department maintains a Level 3: Reconsider Travel advisory for this small Central American country due to a heightened risk of kidnapping, terrorism and other violent crimes outside of COVID-19 concerns.

    Local businesses are open with no restrictions. According to COVID requirement-tracking app Dragon Slayer, entering visitors must adhere to the following guidelines:

    • Produce a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival
    • Wear face masks and practice social distancing in all public settings, including at the airport

    Guatemala ? open, with test requirement

    Guatemala reopened to neighbors Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize in mid-September, and according to the embassy, U.S. travelers are being allowed as of Oct. 5.

    The U.S. embassy in Guatemala says on their website that, “Arriving passengers age 10 and over must present a negative COVID-19 PCR or Antigen test conducted no earlier than 72 hours prior to arrival, and must also complete a Heath Pass, available at https://sre.gt.  Any non-resident foreigners presenting symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival may be denied entry to Guatemala.”

    Current protocols for entering travelers requires officials at borders to confirm the visitor’s negative coronavirus test result, conducted within 72 hours of travel time. Travelers arriving at La Aurora Airport (GUA) who cannot provide recent, negative test results must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine under supervision by authorities from the Ministries of Public Health and Social Assistance.

    Travelers must pass through health checkpoints upon entry, and soldiers are enforcing the mandatory use of masks, which has been the policy throughout Guatemala since the beginning of the pandemic.

     

    Honduras ? open, with PCR test requirements

    Honduras reopened for tourists from all countries on August 17. Entering visitors must complete a registration form from the government, and have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of travel time. They will also be required to sign an affidavit and complete customs. Masks are required in all public spaces.

    The local health authority maintains the right to grant or deny final approval for entry, based on their determination of risk of COVID-19 from any visiting travelers. Exiting travelers must also complete another pre-check form online, as well as complete a health surveillance form, affidavit of clean health and customs form.

    U.S. flights enter Roatan (RTB) via Miami and Dallas through American Airlines; Atlanta on Delta; Houston on United; Miami, Tampa, and New York on Cayman Airways.

    Mexico ? tourist destinations are open, with minimal restrictions

    Is Mexico open to U.S. travelers? It’s complicated. Many popular tourist destinations such as Cancun are wide open for tourists, with wildly discounted airfares available round trip, yet land borders between the U.S. and Mexico remain closed through at least Oct. 21.

    You won’t need a negative PCR test result to enter Cancun, although you will be asked to fill out additional health information and pass through a quick health checkpoint.

    While tourists are strongly encouraged to maintain their face masks in all social spaces, including on flights, firsthand accounts from TPG staff and travelers have reported that flight attendants occasionally struggle to enforce mask-wearing from recalcitrant passengers, and some vacationers go mask-free on beaches and in resorts. So until a vaccine is available, visitors to Mexico should calculate their own risk, speak with their doctors about potential exposure and health risks to themselves and others, and plan travel accordingly.

    Nicaragua ? open, with PCR test requirements

    Unlike many countries in the world, Nicaragua never really shut down over the coronavirus pandemic, drawing censure from humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch. Local reports claimed that the government actively discouraged Nicaraguans, including health workers, airport staff, and policemen, from wearing masks.

    The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua states that the Nicaraguan government has yet to officially impose any domestic travel restrictions or national quarantine policies as of Oct. 13. The embassy also states that U.S. travelers are allowed to enter Nicaragua, and a negative COVID-19 test result is required for entry. Travelers should also be prepared for additional health screenings although the embassy states that, officially, travelers are not required to produce any additional health documentation to enter or exit Nicaragua unless they are traveling from a country with known yellow fever risk.

    Panama ? open, with PCR or antigen test requirements

    Related: Panama is open to travelers ? here’s what you need to know

    Panama reopened to travelers on Oct. 12, 2020, along with one of the most comprehensive reopening guides. Local health precautions appear to be just as thorough.

    Rules and regulations in Panama

    Most of Panama?s requirements follow basic health protocols for COVID-19 prevention. Face masks are required on all forms of transportation, and travelers are encouraged to wash hands, sanitize belongings frequently, cover nose/mouth with the crook of their arms when sneezing or coughing, and so forth, and visitors should expect stringent enforcement of all compliance by local officials. Travelers are also encouraged to utilize electronic payment where possible, take advantage of free hand sanitizer stations, submit to temperature checks by businesses and tourism operators, and to use digital maps and menus where possible in order to avoid cross-contamination through paper.

    Additionally, many of Panama?s beaches remain closed to prevent crowding and spread of infection.

    Travelers are encouraged to stay within a ?social bubble? limited to their travel companions throughout the duration of their stay, as much as possible.

    Restaurants are encouraged to accept reservations ahead of time in order to avoid crowds, and all tables must be separated at a socially distanced metric of six feet in each direction. Condiments will be offered in individual package sizes, and no buffets will be open. Menus will either be offered in stand form or digitally through the use of QR codes, and hand sanitizer will be available at the table or in high-traffic areas.

    Related: How coronavirus could forever change the face of travel

    Tours and tour sites will be limited to 50 percent capacity in shared ground transportation vehicles such as cars and buses, and venues are limited to 30 percent capacity and a maximum four people per table. Capacity at the marina is reduced to 25 percent of full capacity to avoid crowds.

    Panama has implemented stringent protocols for hotel and public safety. All hotel reception areas will have physical separation barriers such as protective glass or acrylic sheets, while lobbies and waiting rooms will be cleaned three times per day and elevators must be cleaned and disinfected every two hours. Everyone must comply with the maximum capacity limits on elevators, and wait for the next car if the limit has been reached. Hotels can no longer serve food buffet-style; only a la carte in hotel restaurants or via room service.

    Travelers must comply with the following requirements:

    Related
    This lucky traveler was the only tourist allowed in Machu Picchu since March [Mommy Points]
    Deal alert: Flights to Peru from $190 round-trip through spring 2021 [The Points Guy]
    This lucky traveler was the only tourist allowed in Machu Picchu since March [The Points Guy]
    Panama reopens for US travelers — here’s what you need to know [The Points Guy]
    These are the Central American countries US travelers can visit right now [The Points Guy]
  • Boeing 737 Max Judged Safe To Fly By Europe's Aviation Regulator (890 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 17:30:00 -0400Boeing 737 Max Judged Safe To Fly By Europe's Aviation RegulatorSlashdot

    schwit1 shares a report from Bloomberg: Europe's top aviation regulator said he's satisfied that changes to Boeing Co.'s 737 Max have made the plane safe enough to return to the region's skies before 2020 is out, even as a further upgrade his agency demanded won't be ready for up to two years. After test flights conducted in September, EASA is performing final document reviews ahead of a draft airworthiness directive it expects to issue next month, said Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. That will be followed by four weeks of public comment, while the development of a so-called synthetic sensor to add redundancy will take 20 to 24 months, he said. The software-based solution will be required on the larger 737 Max 10 variant before its debut targeted for 2022, and retrofitted onto other versions.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • These are the Central American countries US travelers can visit right now (15354 characters)

    Fri, 16 Oct 2020 17:30:00 -0400These are the Central American countries US travelers can visit right nowThe Points Guy

    Craving a getaway? Central America is nearby for U.S. travelers, and some popular destinations have reopened for travel.

    For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter.

    Here’s where you can go, and what you should know.

    Belize ? open, with PCR test requirements


    This popular tourist destination has
    reopened for foreign visitors after a false start earlier in the summer due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases worldwide. As of Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, Belize began welcoming tourists from all around the world.

    Related:

    The local economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and the nation of more than 383,000 residents has only had 2,619 cases of coronavirus ? a 0.7 percent infection rate ? as of mid-October 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers who have tracked global cases since the start of the worldwide pandemic.

    Travelers should expect the following protocols and requirements in place:

    Pre-departure

    On the plane

    • Wear a face mask while on the plane
    • Practice social distancing to the extent possible

    Upon arrival

    • Continue to wear face masks and practice physical distancing
    • Get a health screening
    • Check-in daily on health app

    Depending on the discretion of local health authorities, entering travelers may still be asked to take a second rapid test upon arrival in Belize, at the visitor’s expense. Travelers must stay within Belize’s approved ?safe corridors? for tourists to keep visitors isolated from most local residents for everyone’s safety.

    Costa Rica ? open, with PCR test requirements and some restrictions

    Costa Rica has been a tricky destination for U.S. travelers. Some people are allowed in, while others are subject to heightened scrutiny. It all depends on which state you come from, due to the vastly different health metrics, infection rates and safety protocols from state to state. This small country is one of the few in the world that has implemented guidelines governing visitors from individual U.S. states.

    But that all changes on Nov. 1, 2020, when Costa Rica will once again welcome visitors from all 50 states.

    Travelers from the following green-lit countries are allowed into Costa Rica on the following schedule:

    • United States: Residents of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wyoming, California and Ohio
      • By Oct. 15: Residents of Florida, Georgia and Texas
      • By Nov. 1: All U.S. citizens and residents
    • Canada: All citizens and residents
    • Mexico: All citizens and residents
    • The European Union Schengen Zone: All citizens and residents
    • United Kingdom: All citizens and residents
    • South America: Citizens and residents of Uruguay
    • The Caribbean: Citizens and residents of Jamaica
    • Asia: Citizens and residents of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and the People?s Republic of China
    • Oceania: Citizens and residents of Australia and New Zealand

    Related: Costa Rica will once again open to all U.S. tourists on Nov. 1

    Costa Rica has stringent criteria for all travelers entering the country?s three international airports: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport (LIR) and Tobías Bolaños Airport (SYQ).

    Travelers must complete the following requirements:

    • Fill out the electronic epidemiological health pass form before departure
    • Produce a negative RT-PCR diagnostic test with results dated within 72 hours of departure to Costa Rica
    • Show proof of traveler?s medical insurance, either purchased internationally or directly from Costa Rica through the National Insurance Institute or Sagicor.
    • For international insurance policies, tourists must request a certification from their insurance company, issued in English or Spanish, verifying at least the following three conditions:
      • Effectiveness of the policy during the visit to Costa Rica
      • Guaranteed coverage of medical expenses in the event of becoming ill with the pandemic COVID-19 virus while in Costa Rica, for at least $50,000
      • Includes minimum coverage of $2,000 for potential quarantine lodging expenses issued as a result of the pandemic
      • Note that any emergency medical or dental coverage provided by credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve will not meet this requirement.
    • Have remained for at least 14 days in one of the countries to which Costa Rica has opened its air border
    • Have no COVID-19 symptoms
    • Of course, you?ll still need a valid passport to enter, and proof of onward travel to exit Costa Rica to bypass tourist visa requirements for stays of 90 days or less

    Related reading: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

    El Salvador ? open, with PCR test requirements and other safety concerns

    The country of El Salvador reopened for commercial flights on Sept. 19, to Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (SAL) in San Salvador. The country had been closed to international visitors since mid-March when the pandemic spread worldwide.

    “Tourism is the industry that allows us to move around the world and we are focused on offering visitors the best destination experience, but above all, safe,” said Morena Valdez, El Salvador’s Minister of Tourism. “I invite you to cross borders and discover that El Salvador is an ideal place to visit, establish tourist operations, do business and live.”

    Along with a number of other countries, El Salvador recently qualified to use the world’s first global safety and hygiene stamp, which certifies that participating destinations around the world have adopted standardized global health and hygiene protocols to help tourists experience safe travels.

    The U.S. State Department maintains a Level 3: Reconsider Travel advisory for this small Central American country due to a heightened risk of kidnapping, terrorism and other violent crimes outside of COVID-19 concerns.

    Local businesses are open with no restrictions. According to COVID requirement-tracking app Dragon Slayer, entering visitors must adhere to the following guidelines:

    • Produce a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival
    • Wear face masks and practice social distancing in all public settings, including at the airport

    Guatemala ? not yet open to U.S. travelers

    Guatemala reopened to neighbors Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize in mid-September, but U.S. travelers aren’t allowed in just yet.

    Current protocols for entering travelers requires officials at land borders to confirm the visitor’s negative coronavirus test result, conducted within 72 hours of travel time. Travelers arriving at La Aurora Airport (GUA) who cannot provide recent, negative test results must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine under supervision by authorities from the Ministries of Public Health and Social Assistance.

    Travelers must pass through health checkpoints upon entry, and soldiers are enforcing the mandatory use of masks, which has been the policy throughout Guatemala since the beginning of the pandemic.

    Honduras ? open, with PCR test requirements

    Honduras reopened for tourists from all countries on August 17. Entering visitors must complete a registration form from the government, and have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of travel time. They will also be required to sign an affidavit and complete customs. Masks are required in all public spaces.

    The local health authority maintains the right to grant or deny final approval for entry, based on their determination of risk of COVID-19 from any visiting travelers. Exiting travelers must also complete another pre-check form online, as well as complete a health surveillance form, affidavit of clean health and customs form.

    U.S. flights enter Roatan (RTB) via Miami and Dallas through American Airlines; Atlanta on Delta; Houston on United; Miami, Tampa, and New York on Cayman Airways.

    Mexico ? some tourist destinations are open, with minimal restrictions

    Is Mexico open to U.S. travelers? It’s complicated. Many popular tourist destinations such as Cancun are wide open for tourists, with wildly discounted airfares available round trip, yet land borders between the U.S. and Mexico remain closed through at least Oct. 21.

    You won’t need a negative PCR test result to enter Cancun, although you will be asked to fill out additional health information and pass through a quick health checkpoint.

    While tourists are strongly encouraged to maintain their face masks in all social spaces, including on flights, firsthand accounts from TPG staff and travelers have reported that flight attendants occasionally struggle to enforce mask-wearing from recalcitrant passengers, and some vacationers go mask-free on beaches and in resorts. So until a vaccine is available, visitors to Mexico should calculate their own risk, speak with their doctors about potential exposure and health risks to themselves and others, and plan travel accordingly.

    Nicaragua ? open, with PCR test requirements

    Unlike many countries in the world, Nicaragua never really shut down over the coronavirus pandemic, drawing censure from humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch. Local reports claimed that the government actively discouraged Nicaraguans, including health workers, airport staff, and policemen, from wearing masks.

    The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua states that the Nicaraguan government has yet to officially impose any domestic travel restrictions or national quarantine policies as of Oct. 13. The embassy also states that U.S. travelers are allowed to enter Nicaragua, and a negative COVID-19 test result is required for entry. Travelers should also be prepared for additional health screenings although the embassy states that, officially, travelers are not required to produce any additional health documentation to enter or exit Nicaragua unless they are traveling from a country with known yellow fever risk.

    Panama ? open, with PCR or antigen test requirements

    Related: Panama is open to travelers ? here’s what you need to know

    Panama reopened to travelers on Oct. 12, 2020, along with one of the most comprehensive reopening guides. Local health precautions appear to be just as thorough.

    Rules and regulations in Panama

    Most of Panama?s requirements follow basic health protocols for COVID-19 prevention. Face masks are required on all forms of transportation, and travelers are encouraged to wash hands, sanitize belongings frequently, cover nose/mouth with the crook of their arms when sneezing or coughing, and so forth, and visitors should expect stringent enforcement of all compliance by local officials. Travelers are also encouraged to utilize electronic payment where possible, take advantage of free hand sanitizer stations, submit to temperature checks by businesses and tourism operators, and to use digital maps and menus where possible in order to avoid cross-contamination through paper.

    Additionally, many of Panama?s beaches remain closed to prevent crowding and spread of infection.

    Travelers are encouraged to stay within a ?social bubble? limited to their travel companions throughout the duration of their stay, as much as possible.

    Restaurants are encouraged to accept reservations ahead of time in order to avoid crowds, and all tables must be separated at a socially distanced metric of six feet in each direction. Condiments will be offered in individual package sizes, and no buffets will be open. Menus will either be offered in stand form or digitally through the use of QR codes, and hand sanitizer will be available at the table or in high-traffic areas.

    Related: How coronavirus could forever change the face of travel

    Tours and tour sites will be limited to 50 percent capacity in shared ground transportation vehicles such as cars and buses, and venues are limited to 30 percent capacity and a maximum four people per table. Capacity at the marina is reduced to 25 percent of full capacity to avoid crowds.

    Panama has implemented stringent protocols for hotel and public safety. All hotel reception areas will have physical separation barriers such as protective glass or acrylic sheets, while lobbies and waiting rooms will be cleaned three times per day and elevators must be cleaned and disinfected every two hours. Everyone must comply with the maximum capacity limits on elevators, and wait for the next car if the limit has been reached. Hotels can no longer serve food buffet-style; only a la carte in hotel restaurants or via room service.

    Travelers must comply with the following requirements:

    Related
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