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India Latest News USA

US Consulates in India to reopen slots for student visa interviews

Appointments for student visa interviews will open Monday across India, US Counselor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin, said on Thursday.

Students will be interviewed over July and August at consulates for their visa, for which they can book appointments on the designated website, when slots open on Monday morning. More slots will be added at a later date, said Heflin in a Facebook live session.

He said US consulates had cut back their services due to Covid-19, considering the health and safety of their staff, which affected their ability to provide appointments for student visa interviews.

Answering a query from a student visa applicant on quarantine and Covid-19 vaccination requirements, Heflin recommended checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for quarantine rules.

On vaccination, he said, “Nowhere in our rules for entry to the US does it take into account whether you have been vaccinated or not vaccinated. How you’re going to be treated in terms of what your vaccination means is up to your each individual school. There’s a problem, we all know about it, we all have read about it in the media, it’s something you talk about yourself — which of the Indian vaccines have not been recognized outside of India. So will your college or university accept it or will they require you to get one of the American vaccines? That will be up to the college or university.”

He added, “But you’re talking about going in July or August, maybe the Indian vaccines will get WHO recognition by then, I think there is a big push for that. The other thing that may happen is we may have more medical research that will tell us what the answer is if you have American vaccine on top of Indian vaccine — is that a problem or is it ok. I think there will be more facts coming out in this field.”

He said students enrolled in programs with a start date of August 1 or later can travel to the US on their valid student visa upto 30 days prior to the program start date — mentioned in their I-20 form. If the start date is before August 1, Heflin recommended that students contact their college or university to discuss their options.

He also said that another priority group of visa holders and applicants, besides students, will be those in the H1-B, H4 and J-1 categories. “Unfortunately, the presidential proclamation is clear about applicants for B1, B2, tourist and business visitor visas. Very few of these visas will be issued or receive an approved national interest exception,” said Heflin.

He added that they hope to begin opening appointments at visa application centers for those eligible for interview waiver or dropbox processing.

Answering a query from a parent of a student visa applicant, Heflin said, “We know that a lot of Indian parents are in the habit of taking their children to the US and perhaps stay a while to get them settled in — it’s not going to happen this year. It’s going to have to be the old fashioned way where you say goodbye to them at the airport.”

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Latest News USA

CDC relaxes advisory for 120 countries, not India

Washington: As more people get vaccinated and the spread of Covid-19 becomes more controlled, public health officials are issuing new travel advice for more than 120 countries.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its international travel guidance on Monday to give specific advice for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.

The update includes moving 33 countries, including Iceland, Israel and Singapore, into the lowest risk category.

The CDC’s threat levels are determined by the number of Covid-19 cases in a given country. At each level, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated, but its guidance for unvaccinated people varies by how severe the pandemic is in each country.

The CDC recommends avoiding travel to countries at level 4, the highest threat level, which have more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. Level 4 countries include Brazil, India and Iraq.

For countries at level 3, like Mexico, Russia, and Iran, the CDC recommends against nonessential travel for those who are unvaccinated.

At level 2, the agency recommends that unvaccinated travelers who are at severe risk for severe illness from Covid-19 should avoid visiting..

Finally, level 1 countries like Australia and New Zealand are considered the lowest risk destination.

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Latest News New York

NY to adopt CDC guidance for fully vaccinated, NYC advocates indoor masking

New York state will end mask mandates and adopt CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated beginning Wednesday, but New York City’s health commissioner is still recommending masks indoors.
Dr. Dave Chokshi said he will still wear a mask indoors — and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“I do recommend continued mask use in many indoor settings until even more people are vaccinated,” he said. “And personally, while I am fully vaccinated, I’ll be keeping my mask indoors in almost all settings. When I put it on, I will be thinking about the sense of community and the social norms, particularly around masking and distancing, that helped us get to this very hopeful stage of the pandemic.”

He and Mayor Bill de Blasio said more New York City residents still need to be vaccinated, and until that happens, steps to keep people safe should be taken.
“CDC guidance focuses on who has been vaccinated,” de Blasio said. “If you are sitting in a combined vaccinated people and unvaccinated people, you’ve to exercise caution. I think that’s what a lot of people are going to do. They are going to keep wearing masks any time it feels appropriate. I think a lot of different institutions will make their own decisions on what makes sense, but ultimately, we are going to watch the data.”

More than seven and a half million New Yorkers have been vaccinated, millions more and weeks sooner than the mayor’s original goal of five million by June.
The MTA held a press conference Tuesday encouraging people to return to mass transit and support local businesses at the same time. Masks will still be required in the transit system, indefinitely.
Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Monday, but said immunocompromised people and unvaccinated people should wear a mask and social distance.
“If you are vaccinated, you are safe, no masks, no social distancing,” he said. “We are also going to follow the CDCs guidelines that you will still have to wear a mask on public transportation in the subways, buses, nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools, health care facilities.”

The governor said the state has to reopen smart. “We have to reopen with a cautious eye, but we have to get back to life,” he said. “We have to get back to life and living. We have to do it the way New Yorkers do it, quickly and robustly.” 
(Source: abc7ny.com)

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Health Latest News

Largest nurses’ union calls for reversal of CDC guidance on masks

The country’s largest union of registered nurses is not happy with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Nurses United has condemned the CDC for its new guidance that says vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in most settings and has called for a reversal. “This newest CDC guidance is not based on science, does not protect public health, and threatens the lives of patients, nurses, and other frontline workers across the country,” National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a statement. “Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.”

In addition to hurting nurses and other frontline workers, the new guidance will also disproportionately affect people of color, the union said. “There has been so much inequity in the vaccine rollout and racial inequity in who is a frontline worker put most at risk by this guidance. The impact of the CDC’s guidance update will be felt disproportionately by workers of color and their families and communities,” NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said.

Although vaccination is important, it is hardly the only thing necessary to control the spread of COVID-19. “This is a huge blow to our efforts at confronting this virus and the pandemic,” Castillo said. “The mask is another lifesaving layer of protection for workers.” Jean Ross, who is also a president of NNU said that “if the CDC had fully recognized the science on how this deadly virus is transmitted, this new guidance would never have been issued.” The union, which represents some 170,000 nurses across the United States, pointed out that more than 35,000 new COVID-19 infections are detected daily, more than 600 people die every day from the virus, and there is increasing concern about variants “that are more transmissible, deadlier, and may already be or may become vaccine resistant.”

The union also criticized the CDC for other things, including its decision to stop tallying infections among those who have been vaccinated unless they result in hospitalization or death. That information is necessary “to understand whether vaccines prevent asymptomatic/mild infections, how long vaccine protection may last, and to understand how variants impact vaccine protection,” the union said.

The criticism from the union comes shortly after the CDC on Thursday surprised Americans with new recommendations saying that vaccinated people could go maskless in most settings. The CDC said the new recommendations don’t apply to health care facilities, public transportation, and other types of facilities, including homeless shelters and prisons. (Source: slate.com)

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Health Latest News

Time to go easy on indoor face mask mandates: Dr Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci says federal guidance on wearing face coverings indoors may change soon. When asked Sunday on ABC News, whether it’s time to start relaxing indoor masks requirements, Fauci replied, “I think so, and I think you’re going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated.”

CDC will be updating its guidance almost in real time, as more Americans get vaccinated, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The CDC relaxed its guidance last month on wearing masks outdoors, but advises both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to still wear masks in indoor public spaces, such as a mall, movie theater or museum.

“We do need to start being more liberal, as we get more people vaccinated,” he added.

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Latest News USA

10 Things the Fully Vaccinated Need to Know

The CDC has published some specific guidance about what the fully vaccinated can do and cannot do, and AARP has asked experts to answer other common questions about life after vaccination. Here are 10 things you should know now that you’ve been jabbed.

1. You still need to wear a mask

Even though COVID-19 cases are down from their peak in January, the coronavirus is still circulating in the U.S., and new and more contagious variants have emerged. So wearing masks and social distancing are still important in helping slow its spread until we can reach herd immunity.

Masking will also help slow the spread of coronavirus variants — and prevent the emergence of new ones — because the virus can’t mutate if it is not spreading.

2. You could still catch COVID-19

This is the other reason experts don’t want you to put aside your mask just yet. Although all three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. were found to be highly effective against severe disease and death from COVID-19, there’s still a chance you could get infected with the virus.

The whole point of a vaccine is that it prevents you from dying or ending up in the hospital, but you may still get sick.

3. You could infect someone else

There’s also a small chance that you could get infected with the virus and not even realize it, and then you could transmit it to someone who is not vaccinated.

Researchers are still studying whether the vaccines prevent the asymptomatic spread of the virus; early data indicates that they likely do. But the evidence is preliminary and more research is needed.

4. You can visit friends and family

Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with others who are also fully vaccinated, without wearing masks or physical distancing if you choose, the CDC says.

You can also spend time inside with unvaccinated people from a single household without wearing masks or physical distancing if you choose, the CDC says, as long as no one is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease and no one lives with somebody who’s at increased risk as well.

5. You don’t have to quarantine after exposure

You do not have to quarantine or get tested after an exposure to someone with the coronavirus, as long as you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, the CDC says. If you develop a cough, fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea or other symptoms of COVID-19, however, you should get tested.

6. You should keep your vaccine record card handy

In the future, you may need proof of vaccination to travel, work in certain industries or attend large events. Your card may also come in handy to confirm which vaccine you received, and when you received it, if a booster dose is required. 

7. Travel is still discouraged

Even though the number of airline passengers has been rising, the CDC continues to recommend against travel, even for those who are vaccinated. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said:

“In terms of travel, here’s what we know: Every time that there’s a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country. We know that many of our variants have emerged from international places, and we know that the travel corridor is a place where people are mixing a lot. We are really trying to restrain travel at this current period of time, and we’re hopeful that our next set of guidance will have more science around what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel being among them.”

8. It’s a good time to go to the doctor or dentist

Countless Americans put their health care on hold due to the pandemic. Now that you’re vaccinated, it’s time to schedule that colonoscopy, dental cleaning or elective surgery you’ve been putting off. 

The only screening you may want to hold off getting right away is your mammogram. Many women develop swelling in the lymph nodes in their underarm after vaccination, the CDC says. Therefore, some experts recommend waiting four to six weeks after you are fully vaccinated to get a mammogram.

9. You may need a booster shot

Researchers still don’t know how long immunity from the vaccines will last. The current vaccines should provide some protection against the coronavirus variants. The vaccine manufacturers are working to create booster shots or updated versions of their shots to improve protection against variants.

Chances are that we will have to get some kind of COVID-19 shot on a regular basis, perhaps once every three years or every year, like the flu shot.

10. A return to normal hinges on herd immunity

Before life can get totally back to normal, experts say that first we need to reach herd immunity — when enough Americans are vaccinated to significantly slow the spread of the virus. Estimates of when we will reach that point range from this summer to early 2022.

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Latest News USA

US advises its citizens to leave India amid Covid surge

New Delhi/Washington: As India’s healthcare system is finding it harder to cope with the rising Covid-19 cases due to the second wave of the pandemic, the American government has advised its nationals to return to the US.

The Department of State issued the highest level travel advisory asking US citizens “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.”

In its advisory, the government in Washington said, “Access to all types of medical care is becoming severely limited in India due to the surge in Covid-19 cases. US citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options now. Direct flights between India and the United States are offered daily, with additional flight options available to U.S. citizens via transfers in Paris and Frankfurt.

There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the U.S. and other services that connect through Europe, the department said.

The US urged its citizens to enroll with the embassy in order to receive critical information related to health and safety in India.

New cases and deaths from COVID-19 have risen sharply throughout India to record levels, the advisory said, adding that COVID-19 testing infrastructure is reportedly constrained in many locations. Hospitals are reporting shortages of supplies, oxygen, and beds for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related patients.

The advisory said that the US citizens are reporting being denied admittance to hospitals in some cities due to a lack of space. Some states-have enacted curfews-and other restrictions — that limit movement — and the operation of non-essential businesses.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level 4 travel health notice too.

Australia has already banned all flights from India. The UK has banned the entry of any visitor who was in India in the last 10 days.

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Latest News USA

CDC relaxes guidelines for mask wearing

Washington: President Biden and federal officials announced earlier this week that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outdoors in most situations. These include when walking, running, hiking or biking alone, or with members of their household; or if they attend small outdoor gatherings.

“Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends, in a park, going for a picnic,” Biden said, addressing reporters, “as long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without wearing a mask.”

The guidance, however, stopped short of saying Americans can shed their masks altogether. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there were still reasons to be cautious because of high caseloads in some parts of the country and the risk of still transmitting the virus after vaccination.

The agency also maintained that adults should continue to wear masks and social distance:

In large public spaces, like outdoor performances or sports events, indoor shopping malls and movie theaters, or when the space is crowded.
Where the vaccination and health status of others are unknown, like a social gathering where you don’t know everyone’s status.
Adults should still avoid medium and large gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces. And everyone should still wear a mask when doing almost anything indoors that involves contact with people who are not members of your household.

Some experts wondered whether the new directives were overly complicated, establishing different standards for those who are vaccinated and those who are not, even though it is impossible to know which category people are in.

“It’s not like you can go up to someone in public and say, ‘You don’t have a mask on — are you vaccinated?’” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. “Those who aren’t vaccinated will promptly take their mask off outdoors because no one can check.”

A growing body of research indicates that the risk of spreading the virus is far lower outdoors than it is indoors. Viral particles disperse quickly outdoors, experts say, meaning brief encounters with a passing walker or jogger pose very little risk of transmission.

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e-paper-stories Latest News

US asks citizens not to travel to India due to Covid-19

The US Department of State has raised Level 4 travel advisory asking citizens to cancel any travel to India due to COVID-19, crime, and terrorism.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for India due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in India.

Do not travel to:

  • The state of Jammu and Kashmir (except the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) due to terrorism and civil unrest.
  • Within 10 km of the India-Pakistan border due to the potential for armed conflict.

Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in rural areas from eastern Maharashtra and northern Telangana through western West Bengal as U.S. government employees must obtain special authorization to travel to these areas.

Read the country information page.

If you decide to travel to India:

 

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