U.S. international travel restrictions have been lifted for fully vaccinated visitors from 33 countries for the first time in 18 months. Airports across the U.S. saw emotional reunions among family members who have been kept apart during the pandemic.
“It has been like two years. My friend, my fiancée is here. I feel joy. Seriously, it's so good to be back,” one European visitor told reporters at Dulles International Airport.
Most foreign travelers are happy to be on U.S. soil after showing proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test within three days of traveling. Meanwhile, travelers from Mexico and Canada only need proof of vaccination.
The change comes as the White House continues to push its vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees. Over the weekend, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the mandate, citing grave statutory and constitutional issues. Still, the Biden administration is encouraging businesses to go ahead with enforcement.
"This is about keeping people safe in the workplace and it's critical and it's important to do and so that's the message we want to send out,” said Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
At least 27 states have sued the Biden administration over its sweeping vaccine mandate. The multi-state lawsuit is led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. "As the chief legal officer of Louisiana, I'm taking action to prevent the government from making your healthcare choices,” Landry said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is showing good signs, even though inflation is rising higher and higher. The federal reserve says the economy is coming back after the COVID recession. But there are concerns though this new mandate could hurt the economy. One reason is that the Biden administration pushed its deadline past Christmas.
"The whole idea [was] that this was an emergency action. That OSHA had to take this emergency action of the federal mandate because, you know, it's a virus, it's killing people. And then all of a sudden, we find out that the OSHA rules won't go into effect for a couple of months. If it's an emergency, why are we waiting a couple of months until January?
While the fight over vaccine mandates rages on, Pfizer's will reportedly seek FDA approval for booster shots for those 18 and older as soon as this week.