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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.

Details: Fully vaccinated travelers will need to complete pre-departure testing within three days prior to their departure to the U.S. They will not be required to quarantine upon their arrival.

  • Zients said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine the definition of "fully vaccinated" and what vaccines qualify for this policy.
  • The CDC will issue a contact tracing order requiring airlines to collect current information from each U.S.-bound traveler, including a phone number and email address.
  • "This will enable the CDC and state and local public health officials to follow up with inbound travelers and those around them if someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19," Zients said.

What they're saying: "This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans and international air travel safe," Zients said.

  • "By requiring foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated in order to fly into the United States, and implementing additional strict safety protocols, we will protect Americans here at home and enhance the safety of international travel," he added.

The big picture: European officials had expressed serious frustrations at the Biden administration’s refusal to lift the EU travel ban, which was put in place under former President Trump in March 2020.

  • Those frustrations intensified after the EU surpassed the U.S. in vaccinations.
  • EU Home Commissioner Ylva Johansson told Axios earlier this month that she had received no explanation on why the ban remained from U.S. officials, and that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas simply told her it was “very complicated.”
  • The breakthrough comes just days after France recalled its ambassador to the U.S. over separate tensions regarding the U.S.-U.K.-Australia security partnership.
    • When asked if the decision was politically motivated due to the current tensions with France, Zients said the decision was "based on public health." He added it was also based on "individuals rather than on a country-based approach."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

Go deeper

Dec 28, 2021 - Sports

NBA cuts isolation time for some players who test positive for COVID

Crypto.com Arena. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA players and coaches who test positive for COVID-19 will now only have to isolate for six days instead of 10, so long as they are asymptomatic and meet other testing requirements, according to a memo seen by Axios.

Why it matters: The update comes as the league sees a surge in players and coaches entering safety protocols due to positive COVID-19 tests, per ESPN, which first reported the new isolation period.

Updated Dec 20, 2021 - Health

CDC: Omicron accounted for 23% of recent COVID-19 cases

People queue at a street-side COVID-19 testing booth in New York's Times Square on Dec. 20. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

The Omicron variant accounted for 22.5% of recent COVID-19 cases in the U.S. on the week that ended on Dec. 18 , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated estimate released on Dec. 28.

The latest: The revised data shows Omicron's share of COVID-19 infections nearly tripled in just one week.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

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