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Western Europeans wilt in early summer heatwave, compounding climate change fears

A farmer pours water on his face as he works in a greenhouse in southern France on June 17 as western Europe struggles with a heatwave.

(Reuters)Spain is seeing its hottest early summer temperatures, one area of France banned outdoor events, and drought stalked Italian farmers as a heatwave sent Europeans hunting for shade and fretting over climate change.

Such was the heat that England’s upscale Royal Ascot Racecourse even saw a rare change of protocol: guests were allowed to shed hats and jackets once the royals had passed.
“Avoid over-exposing to the sun, hydrate and take care of the most vulnerable so they don’t suffer from heat stroke,” was the advice from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid during an event, fittingly, about desertification.
Temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Madrid on Friday, the national weather agency AEMET said. A level not seen so early in the year since 1981.
Northern Italian regions risk losing up to half their agricultural output due to a drought, a farm lobby said, as lakes and rivers start to run dangerously low, jeopardizing irrigation.
The federation of Italian utility companies, Utilitalia, warned this week that the country’s longest river, the Po, was experiencing its worst drought for 70 years, leaving many sections of the vast, northern waterway completely dried up.
The heatwave piled pressure on energy systems as demand for air-conditioning risks driving prices higher, adding to the challenge of building up stocks to protect against any further cuts to Russian gas supplies.
‘Health risk’
In France, the Gironde department around Bordeaux prohibited public events including concerts and those at indoor venues without air conditioning, a local official said.
“Everyone now faces a health risk,” Gironde prefect Fabienne Buccio told France Bleu radio.
Temperatures in many of France’s areas hit 40 Celsius for the first time this year on Thursday and were expected to peak on Saturday, climbing to 41-42 Celsius. A record night temperature for June, 26.8 Celsius, was recorded in Tarascon, southern France.
Fourteen administrative departments were on red alert, with schoolchildren told to stay at home in these areas. Speed limits were lowered in several regions, including around Paris, to limit exhaust emissions and a buildup of harmful smog.
Britain’s weather service said Friday was the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures above 32 Celsius in some parts of the southeast.
Parks, pools and beaches were packed, and while many enjoyed a day of fun and freedom after two years of periodic pandemic restrictions some were also worried.
“I’m from Cyprus and now in Cyprus it’s raining … and I’m boiling here, so something must change. We need to take precautions about the climate change sooner than later because undoubtedly it’s worrying for all of us,” said student Charlie Uksel, visiting Brighton, south of London.
“Now we are enjoying it, but for the long-term we might sacrifice.”
Mediterranean nations are more and more concerned about how climate change may affect their economies and lives.
“The Iberian peninsula is an increasingly dry area and our rivers’ flow is slower and slower,” Spanish leader Sanchez added.
Firefighters were battling wildfires in several parts of Spain, with Catalonia in eastern Spain and Zamora near the western border with Portugal the worst hit.
In Zamora, between 8,500 and 9,500 hectares turned to ashes.
The cloud of hot air was sparing Portugal on Friday, where temperatures were not as high as in other European nations, with Lisbon likely to reach 27 Celsius.
However, last month was the hottest May in 92 years, Portugal’s weather agency IPMA said. It warned that most of the territory is suffering from a severe drought.
Portugal’s reservoirs have low water levels, with the Bravura dam of the most affected at only 15% full.

COVID Cases Keep Falling

Benigno Enriquez, right, elbow-bumps Miami Mayor Francis Suarez as Suarez hands out masks to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, at a mask distribution event, Friday, June 26, 2020, in a COVID-19 hotspot of the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars Friday as its daily confirmed coronavirus cases neared 9,000, a new record that is almost double the previous mark set just two days ago.

The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the United States has plunged 57% since peaking on Sept. 1. Almost as encouraging as the magnitude of the decline is its breadth: Cases have been declining in every region.

Forecasting COVID’s future is extremely difficult, and it’s certainly possible that cases will rise again in the coming weeks. But the geographic breadth of the decline does offer reason for optimism.

Past COVID increases have generally brooks shoes started in one part of the country — like the South this summer or the New York region in early 2020 — and then gone national. Today, there is no regional surge that seems to have the makings of a nationwide surge.

Yes, there are some local hot spots, as has almost always been the case since the pandemic began. Several of the hot spots are in northern parts of the country, like Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and a few counties near the Canadian border in New Hampshire and Vermont. This pattern has led to some speculation that the onset of cold weather is causing the increases by moving more activity indoors — and that the entire country will soon experience a rise in caseloads.

That does not seem to be the most likely scenario, however. In most colder regions, including both Canada and the densely populated parts of the northern U.S., cases are still falling. The biggest problem for Alaska and the Mountain West is probably not the weather; it’s the vaccine skepticism. Idaho is the nation’s least vaccinated state, and several other Western states are only slightly ahead of it.

The CDC tracks a range of COVID forecasting models. On average, the models predict that new daily cases in the U.S. will fall roughly another 20% over the next three weeks.

The bottom line: There is no reason to expect another COVID surge anytime soon, but surges don’t always announce themselves in advance.

When the delta variant began spreading this summer, many people worried that it was both much more contagious than earlier versions of the virus and much more severe. Only one of those two fears seems to be true.

Delta is clearly more contagious, which is the main reason that every metric of the pandemic — cases, hospitalizations and deaths — soared this summer. But a typical COVID case during the delta wave was about as severe as a typical case during the earlier stages of the pandemic. During the wave in late 2020 and clarks shoes uk early this year, about 1.2% of positive cases led to death; during the delta wave, the share was 1.1%.

Scientific studies trying to answer the severity question more precisely have come to conflicting conclusions. Some have found delta to be more severe than other versions of the virus, and others have found that it is not. Until the research becomes clearer, the best guess may be that delta is modestly more severe, which could explain why hospitalizations and death rates have held steady even as vaccination rates have risen.

“Delta may be a little more serious, but not materially so,” Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said.

This pattern can influence how you think about your day-to-day activities. If you are vaccinated (and boosted, if eligible) and you were comfortable socializing indoors and without a mask last spring, you can probably feel comfortable doing so again, now or soon. Wachter adds: “Some older people or those with medical conditions may want to be sure that everybody else indoors with them is vaccinated before removing their mask.”

Despite all the encouraging news, one shadow still hangs over the U.S.: The pandemic does not need to be nearly as bad it is.

About 1,500 Americans have died of COVID every day over the past week. For older age groups, the virus remains a leading cause of death. And the main reason is that millions of Americans have chosen to remain unvaccinated. Many of them are older and have underlying medical conditions, leaving them vulnerable to severe versions of COVID.

For older people, the effects of vaccination are profound. In late August, near the height of the delta wave, 24 out of every 10,000 unvaccinated Americans 65 and above were hospitalized with COVID symptoms, according hey dude shoes to the CDC. Among fully vaccinated Americans 65 and above, the number was 1.5 per 10,000.

Even so, many Americans are saying no to a shot. Among affluent countries, the U.S. is one of the least vaccinated, trailing Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and others. Less vaccination means more death.

The low vaccination rate in the U.S. is another consequence of the country’s polarized politics and its high levels of socioeconomic inequality. Only 67% of American adults without a four-year college degree have received a shot, compared with 82% of college graduates, according to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. And only 58% of self-identified Republicans are vaccinated, compared with 90% of Democrats.

It is a triumph of misinformation: Offered a lifesaving vaccine to counteract a highly contagious virus, many Americans are instead choosing to take their chances.

For scientists, path to covid endgame remains uncertain

Tourists visit the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Aug. 18, 2021. The United States will begin administrating COVID-19 booster shots next month as new data shows that vaccine protection wanes over time, top U.S. health officials announced Wednesday.

It’s basically over already. It will end this October. Or maybe it won’t be over till next spring, or late next year, or two or three years down the road.

From the most respected epidemiologists to public health experts who have navigated past disease panics, from polemicists to political partisans, there are no definitive answers to the central question in American life: As a Drudge Report headline put it recently, “is it ever going to end?”

With children returning to classrooms, in many cases for the first time in 18 months, and as the highly contagious delta variant and spotty vaccination uptake send case numbers and deaths shooting upward, clarks shoes uk many Americans wonder what exactly has to happen before life can return to something that looks and feels like 2019.

The answers come in a kaleidoscopic cavalcade of scenarios, some suggested with utmost humility, others with mathematical confidence: The pandemic will end because deaths finally drop to about the same level we’re accustomed to seeing from the flu each year. Or it will end when most kids are vaccinated. Or it will end because Americans are finally exhausted by all the restrictions on daily life.

Innumerable predictions over the course of the pandemic have come up lame. Some scientists have sworn off soothsaying. But as they learn more about the coronavirus that bestowed covid-19 on mankind, they build models and make projections and describe the hurdles that remain before people can pull off the masks and go about their lives.

The good news is there is some fuel for optimism.

“I truly, truly think we are in the endgame,” said Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. “The cases will start plummeting in mid-to-late September and by mid-October, we will be in a manageable place, where the virus is a concern for health professionals, but not really for the general public.”

Gandhi bases her optimism on the fact that all previous epidemics of respiratory viruses have ended through the acquisition of immunity, whether by vaccination or natural infection. Although viruses do keep changing, potentially circumventing people’s defenses, “they mutate quickly, at a cost to themselves,” weakening over time. Gandhi said she believes the delta variant that has hit the United States so hard that this summer will mark the peak of this virus’s strength.

But Gandhi warns she has been wrong before: In February 2020, she said the United States would not tolerate a disease that killed 100 Americans a day; people would come together to do whatever it took to stop that. That didn’t happen.

The bad news is there is too much cause for doubt.

“We’re in a moment of uncertainty, and humans don’t do well with uncertainty,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “Telling people it’s going to be two or three more years of this is really hard, but I don’t think anyone can be comfortable hoka shoes with the current state, with a lot of kids ending up in the hospital and a thousand deaths a day. That’s not returning to normal.”

Emanuel, too, notes that his crystal ball has suffered occasional cloudiness: In March 2020, he said the country would get back to normal around November 2021. For that, his friends dubbed him “Mr. Pessimist.” Now, his message is at least as unwelcome: It’s going to be at least spring 2022 and possibly much longer before most people are ready to resume normal activities, because of the spread of the delta variant, continuing resistance to vaccines and widespread anxiety, especially about children who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated.

Despite the disparities in experts’ opinions, there is a consensus bottom line about the biggest question: Pandemics do end, sort of. (Though there are exceptions, such as malaria.) Only smallpox has been effectively eradicated by human intervention. But many pandemics become endemic, meaning they morph into something that is no longer an emergency, but rather an annoyance, an ugly, even painful fact of life that people simply learn to cope with, like the flu or common cold.

The question is when and how we get to that point.

Some of the nation’s most prominent epidemiologists and public health experts say we are already there – for different reasons.

“The emergency phase of the disease is over,” said Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine and health economist at Stanford University. “Now, we need to work very hard to undo the sense of emergency. We should be treating covid as one of 200 diseases that affect people.”

The pivotal engine driving a return to normal life for Bhattacharya has been the vaccines, “which really do protect against death,” he said. “It’s a miraculous development, and we should just be celebrating it.” By driving down deaths and hospitalizations, especially for the most vulnerable populations – the elderly and people with preexisting health problems – “we have greatly succeeded, and to me, that’s the endpoint of the epidemic because we really can’t do better than that.”

The virus will continue to mutate and there will continue to be outbreaks, both seasonal and in geographic clusters, but “panicking over case numbers is a recipe for continuing unwarranted panic,” he said.

Bhattacharya is ready to resume most pre-pandemic activities. He recently made his first overseas trip, to England, “and it was wonderful,” he said, “even with a mask.”

Gandhi, too, has concluded that as scary and dangerous as the delta variant has been, “we’re sort of at the peak of the pandemic because the delta variant is causing immunity like crazy. Delta comes in like a hurricane, dr martens boots but it leaves a lot of immunity in its wake.”

Although its rapid spread and severe impact on some people are scary, the delta version has a hidden benefit: It makes future variants less likely to be more lethal, Gandhi said.

Covid isn’t going away – “we’re going to get it,” Gandhi said – but as immunity increases, the virus will cause less harm. People will come to terms with it as they have with the common cold or the flu.

“Unless you just sit in your room, you’re going to get it in your nose,” she said, “but at least in this country, it will be manageable.”

The big problem now, Gandhi said, is fear, “excessive fear of the pandemic on both sides,” she said. “Democrats overestimate the death rate and Republicans underestimate it.”

That produces the psychological and political hurdles that are preventing a return to normal life, she said. Recent polling indicates most Americans’ perception of the pandemic has shifted markedly this summer, as the delta variant swept away the optimism of springtime. In NBC News polls in April and August, the percentage of Americans saying that the worst of the coronavirus is behind us collapsed from 61% to 37%.

Gandhi said the trouble lies with some Democrats resisting resuming activities they take part in during flu season without hesitation and some Republicans refusing to take the vaccine or wear masks in crowded indoor spaces.

“I live in the bluest city in one of the bluest states, and I see this profound fear of the virus leading to extraordinary acceptance of lockdowns and keeping schools closed,” she said. But Gandhi says those hesitations can melt away quickly as case numbers fall.

Julie Swann views Gandhi as overly optimistic about how and when normal life might return. “She’s wrong,” said Swann, a systems engineer at North Carolina State University who advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the H1N1 pandemic. “And I hope it takes longer than she’s saying because that will be much safer.”

Swann said Gandhi’s argument that the delta variant will create so much immunity that life can return to normal “is a really apocalyptic way of getting there. Do you want delta to burn through the population, creating immunity at a very high cost, or would you rather just wear a mask?”

The key factor for Swann as she creates models projecting how the virus is likely to play out is the role children play in spreading the disease. The path to normal life is through getting children vaccinated, she said, and that is not likely to happen in large numbers until early next year.

“Children transmit viruses to each other, to their families, to their communities,” Swann said. “The first step toward normalcy is getting children vaccinated, at least for ages 5 and up. Right now, unfortunately, what we’re seeing in Florida is many, many children getting infected.”

Swann sees several possible routes back to normal life, including letting the virus burn through the population, focusing on masking and hybrid schooling, or a return to lockdowns. But her preferred pathway is mass vaccination of children – which can only happen after the vaccines are approved for the 5-to-11 age group, a step that’s not expected until at least later this year – along with masking and increased testing.

Ten years from now, the coronavirus “will be like influenza – it can cause death, but nothing like what we see now,” Swann said. But in the next year or so, the best Americans can hope for is a partial return to normalcy, with hospitals no longer being crushed with covid patients and occasional surges of covid in communities with low vaccination rates.

“We are not New Zealand,” she said. “We neither have the will nor the ability to asics shoes control every case coming into our country. But if we can vaccinate most kids, we will get to a point where we no longer need masks in schools, and we’ll have a return to normalcy, though it will look different in different places.”

For now, Swann has started traveling again domestically, though she can’t imagine taking a foreign trip or going to a party until after her child has been vaccinated, probably around next February. “That changes the whole ballgame,” she said.

The wild card, as it has been for adults, is how quickly and widely children are vaccinated.

And the national divide over vaccines, masks and other such politicized public health measures could well end up being the reason the pandemic persists in the United States, said Alex Berenson, a novelist and former New York Times reporter. Berenson’s agitation against the vaccine has become a popular source of succor for many who have refused to get the shot, but it also got him permanently banned from Twitter for what the company called “repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules.”

“I don’t know how we get there politically,” Berenson said of the quest for an endgame. “We are at a very confused moment.”

He said his readers “are long done with covid. And personally, I have not worn a mask for months, and no one has challenged me anywhere about whether I am vaccinated or not.” (He’s not.)

But “obviously some large number of Americans feel differently,” he said. “They are happy to live under government strictures indefinitely. . . . These two populations cannot comfortably exist. This is not a medical problem. . . . This is a political and social problem and it will have to be resolved politically, I suppose.”

Berenson said he believes Americans can return to normal life right now, without mask mandates, contact tracing or vaccine passports. But “can” and “will” are different, and he expects it might be late 2023 or later – perhaps after the next presidential election – before any consensus might develop about returning to normal life.

Any consensus on ratcheting down the fear and anxiety that the virus has spawned is more likely to emerge from public health campaigns than political campaigns, said Bhattacharya, the Stanford professor. It’s up to public health officials to persuade Americans that if they are vaccinated, they can return to many pre-pandemic activities, he said.

Bhattacharya, for example, is looking forward to teaching in person this fall and said he will happily meet with students, as Stanford is requiring vaccinations for everyone on campus.

In contrast, as Emanuel returns to teach at Penn, “I’m nervous,” even with vaccination and mask mandates, he said. “I’ll be testing myself and students will be tested, and I’m bringing a HEPA [air] filter into the classroom, and I’m still a little nervous about long covid. We’re still unclear on the direction of this thing. It’s plausible that we’ve hit the peak, but it’s also plausible that other mutations will be even more efficient.”

Emanuel will know it’s time to resume normal behavior “when this thing looks like a flu, when the health-care system is operating normally, when my friends aren’t constantly asking me, ‘What can I do to stay safe?’ ”

That time will come only after there’s more data about how and when people get long covid, about what happens when people mix different vaccines, about the pace and character of the virus’s mutations.

“People are pretty burned out 18 months into this thing,” Emanuel said. “And the exhaustion has been made worse by the rapid seesaw we’re having – take your masks off, put them back on. It’s all very confusing, but we have to be honest: We don’t know when, we don’t know how. We don’t know.”

The USA men have one shot left to avoid historic Olympic track ignominy

At this time last summer, Cole Hocker had yet to run a meaningful race in college, let alone on the Olympic stage.

A year later, the promising but inexperienced 20-year-old is the U.S. men’s track team’s last hope of avoiding ignominy.

An American man has won gold in an individual running event at least once at every Olympics in which the U.S. has participated. Since 1896, the only exception is the 1980 Moscow Games that the U.S. famously boycotted.

That streak is on life support in Tokyo with nine of 10 men’s individual running hey dude shoes events already complete. The underachieving Americans have claimed four second-place finishes and a pair of third places so far in those races but have yet to produce a gold medalist.

Hocker’s presence in Saturday’s men’s 1,500 meters final offers the U.S. one last-gasp chance to preserve its gold-medal streak. The floppy-haired University of Oregon sophomore has evolved from prized recruit, to America’s fastest 1,500 runner, to Olympic medal hopeful in stunningly rapid fashion.

Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot is the favorite in the 1,500, though races at that distance have often produced upsets in the past. If the pace is slow early, that could bring Cole Hocker’s devastating final 200 meters into play. If the pace is quick from the start, Hocker must summon the strength to stay in striking distance of the leaders without weakening his signature final kick.

It’s a testament to how disappointing the U.S. men’s sprint corps has been that a gold-medal shutout is even a possibility. The Americans arrived in Tokyo with dreams of sweeping the sprint events with Usain Bolt retired and the Jamaicans struggling to develop a successor.

Trayvon Bromell and the United States men's track athletes have had a disappointing Olympics in terms of gold medals. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Trayvon Bromell and the United States men’s track athletes have had a disappointing Olympics in terms of gold medals. 

A converted long jumper from Italy winning gold in the men’s 100 was the first sign that the U.S. might be vulnerable. The absence of suspended 100m world champion Christian Coleman hurt the Americans, as did Trayvon Bromell failing to recapture the world-leading form he displayed this past June when he twice ran a 9.80 or better.

The performance of America’s most decorated sprinters in the 200 and 400 underwhelmed too. Neither Noah Lyles nor Michael Norman could even claim to be the fastest American in their signature events. Lyles, the reigning world champion, labored through ecco shoes the 200 heats and settled for bronze in the final. It was even worse for Norman, who looked vulnerable in the 400 heats and then went out too hard in the final and faded to fifth place.

Not all of the silver medals won by USA Track & Field were created equal either. Rai Benjamin’s should be the size of a dinner plate after he demolished Karsten Warholm’s old world record in the 400-meter hurdles, only to watch the indomitable Norwegian set a new one. Fred Kerley’s silver in the 100 was also a massive achievement, as was Kenny Bednarek emerging from the shadows of better known teammates to place second in the 200.

And yet Grant Holloway appeared ready to chuck his silver medal from the 110-meter hurdles in the nearest dumpster. Holloway, who missed the world record by one hundredth of a second at the U.S. Olympic Trials, led most of Thursday’s race but lost concentration over the final hurdle, struggled to reaccelerate and had to lean at the finish line just to hold onto second place.

That mistake wasn’t nearly as unforgivable as the bumbling 4×100-meter relay team extending the U.S.’s recent misery in an event that the Americans once owned. A U.S. team featuring three of the six fastest men in the world this year botched a baton pass, couldn’t recover and failed to qualify for the final.

Bromell called it “BS.”

Carl Lewis, tweeting from his home in Houston, described it as a “total embarrassment.”

Whatever you want to call it, the sight of four U.S. sprinters staring at the video board trying to figure out what went wrong was the ideal metaphor for this nightmare week for American men’s track.

There are a few theories that might help explain the U.S. men’s woes, but none fully stand up to closer scrutiny.

It certainly didn’t help that so many of the U.S.’s medal favorites either had no experience on a global stage or were making their Olympic debuts. Lyles, Norman and Holloway are each 24 or younger — and 17-year-old phenom Erriyon Knighton hasn’t even finished high school.

The lack of a full-fledged U.S. training camp due to COVID wasn’t ideal either, nor was a gap of less than a month between the U.S. Olympic Trials and the start of the Games. Americans typically face steep competition just to make the U.S. Olympic team and may not have had the time that brooks shoes they needed to rest and recover afterward.

At the same time, the U.S. women didn’t seem to have as many problems in similar conditions. While shot putter Ryan Crouser is the lone American male track and field athlete to win gold, four U.S. women have claimed gold medals, including 19-year-old Athing Mu in the 800.

These Olympics will go down as a disappointment for U.S. men’s track no matter what happens the next few days, but Hocker has a great chance to salvage some American pride.

Only three times in Olympic history has the U.S. even been held to even one gold in the men’s individual running events. The Americans don’t want this to be the first Olympics they leave with none.

Click image to see slideshow
Click image to see slideshow

Should you cancel your summer vacation? Crowds, high prices and variants have some travelers reconsidering

Los Angeles, CA – May 28: Amid a busy getaway travel day for the Memorial Day weekend and the first holiday since coronavirus pandemic restrictions have been relaxed, a crowd of travelers check in for their flights at LAX at Delta Airlines, Terminal 2 at LAX Friday, May 28, 2021. Officials say travelers should hey dude shoes arrive early for Memorial Day weekend flights. After months of Los Angeles International Airport looking like a ghost town, holiday crowds are back. Were seeing more travelers than weve seen in the last 14 months. We had over 75,000 people come through on Sunday alone to the TSA checkpoints, thats by far a record in 2021 for us, said LAX spokesperson Keith Montgomery. Photo taken in LAX on Friday, May 28, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.

Mike Gnitecki had an ambitious trip to Italy planned for this summer – a two-week tour of Rome, Milan and Florence. But halfway through booking his first getaway in more than a year, he decided to cancel it.

“Airline ticket prices are abnormally high,” says Gnitecki, who works for a fire department in Tyler, Texas. Flights in economy class from Dallas to Rome this summer are pushing the $2,000 mark, which is roughly twice as much as he is used to paying. Even though Italy recently announced it would allow tourists back, Gnitecki felt the timing was wrong.

Gnitecki isn’t alone. Andy Smith, a retired IT specialist from Charlottesville, Va., had mapped out an ambitious road trip for this summer to visit friends and relatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California. But high hotel prices and predictions of once-in-a-generation summer crowds gave him second thoughts. He decided to hold off for a few months.

“I’m waiting until after Labor Day, hoping things will have calmed down by then, as children return to school,” Smith says.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “Should I cancel my summer vacation?” “Travel is definitely a personal and private choice,” says John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group. “Each consumer makes their own decision.”

“There are so many variables to consider,” says Cathy Udovch, a ecco shoes travel counselor with TravelStore in Irvine, Calif. Crowds and high prices can be considerations, but she says most of her clients are worried about health – specifically, covid-19 infection rates.

“If there’s a spike in cases, or a new variant emerges that may make the vaccine less effective, that would be a reason to cancel,” she adds.

Experts say you should monitor the situation at your destination closely. If you are traveling domestically, check local covid-19 infection rates or state tourism websites. Internationally, consult the State Department website for reliable safety information.

And if you opt to cancel? “Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the company you booked with,” advises Guy Young, president of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold Vacations. “Many companies have been more flexible in allowing guests to reschedule their trips.”

Few travelers take the time to read the fine print on their tour agreement or cruise ticket contract, so they don’t find out what is in it until they want to cancel. That is a mistake. The contract spells out when you can cancel and whether you are entitled to a refund or a credit.

Carolyn Paddock, owner of the luxury travel advisory service In-Flight Insider, recommends making a cancellation decision as soon as possible, so you don’t lose your deposit. She has been keeping track of the time for one family with a scheduled tour of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Instead of canceling, she rescheduled the trip for 2022.

Also, beware of new cancellation fees.

“A number of hotels, airlines and vacation rentals have raised their cancellation fees because of the volume of cancellations and refunds they had to deal with in 2020,” says Andrew Williams, a travel adviser with Ovation Travel Group. “Make sure you check each vendor’s cancellation and refund policy before submitting your request.”

How do you ensure you don’t lose part or all of your trip if you decide to cancel your summer vacation? Careful planning can help, according brooks shoes to travel professionals.

“There are a wide variety of risks when traveling,” says Jeremy Murchland, president of the travel insurance company Seven Corners. “If you’re concerned about the potential need to cancel a trip this summer due to anything from sickness to restrictions or high prices, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place that will save you some of the expense.”

That means having an exit strategy before you book your vacation. If you think you might cancel this summer’s vacation, know whether you can rebook the same vacation next summer and potentially also keep your full credit.

Also, consider travel insurance. Most travel insurance covers named perils, which means it only applies in certain specific circumstances. A “cancel for any reason” policy, which costs about twice as much as named-perils insurance, removes most if not all restrictions on cancellation, but you would only recoup 50 to 75 percent of the cost of your trip.

If you’re not working with a travel agent, you may have to negotiate directly with the travel company for a credit or a refund.

“I recommend contacting properties and vendors and asking your questions directly,” says Marci-Beth Maple, a marketing manager for Zicasso, a site that matches travelers with travel advisers. “With so many variables in play and differences from state to state and country to country, go to the right source to get clear answers. One of the biggest mistakes I see is travelers comparing notes online, because individual circumstances are unique, and so are the right solutions for each traveler.”

If you like to avoid crowds and high prices, this may be the summer to cancel your vacation and reschedule for fall, winter or later. Most predictions are calling for the busiest summer for travel in years. And the situation remains unpredictable when it comes to covid-19.

But if you’re thinking of canceling your summer vacation, consider postponing instead of asking for a refund. Travel companies are far more willing to offer a credit than a refund, and will often do so without a penalty or a change fee. But getting a full refund is hard, especially now. You’re better off canceling your summer vacation when you’re still in the planning phase.

Here are the summer hotspots in the US where COVID-19 is resurging

COVID-19 hotspots are emerging across the country, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant and lagging vaccination rates, in California, Nevada, Missouri and Arkansas.

To combat summer spikes, the White House announced Thursday it will send out “surge response teams” to aid in nationwide vaccination efforts.

About 1,000 counties in the U.S. have vaccination coverage of less than 30%, and they’re concentrated ecco shoes primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak asked the federal government for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance in response to a wave of COVID-19 cases. The state currently has the highest weekly case rates per capita in the country, with 109 cases per 100,000 residents, according to CDC data.

Nevada reported 543 new cases, most from Clark County, and 11 new deaths on Thursday. The last time the state reported 11 deaths was near the end of April, per CBS affiliate KLAS.

PHOTO: People line up to receive vaccinations at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club on May 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: People line up to receive vaccinations at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club on May 21, 2021, in Las Vegas.
The Silver State has a 14-day test positivity rate of 5.8%, which is above the World Health Organization’s goal of 5%, and hospitalizations have doubled in the month of June, according to state data.So far, 45% of Nevada’s population has initiated vaccination and 38% of the population is fully vaccinated.

However, the state’s vaccination rate has steadily decreased throughout June to a 7-day moving average of 5,471 shots being administered, a drop from 25,000 administered in mid-April. The plunging rate comes in spite of incentive efforts like the state’s $1 million grand prize lottery for the vaccinated.

Now the state is scrambling to deploy mobile vaccine units, create new testing and hey dude shoes vaccination sites, and increase community outreach and education efforts.

MORE: Arkansas braces for 3rd COVID-19 surge as vaccination rate slows

“The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at reducing the severity of cases, hospitalization and deaths and we must continue to leverage resources at the federal, state and local level to increase access and confidence and get as many Nevadans protected from this deadly virus as possible,” Sisolak said in a press release Thursday.

Hospital admissions have increased significantly over the last two weeks in some states, up 79.3% in Arkansas and 104% in Nevada. Missouri has the country’s highest rates of inpatient and intensive care unit COVID-19 occupancy, with approximately 700 patients receiving care, according to the CDC.

PHOTO: St. Louis Firefighters load the casket of firefighter Rodney Heard, Sr. onto a parade pumper for a memorial service in St. Louis on Monday, June 28, 2021. Heard died in the line of duty from complications due to COVID-19 on June 15, 2021. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI/Shutterstock)
PHOTO: St. Louis Firefighters load the casket of firefighter Rodney Heard, Sr. onto a parade pumper for a memorial service in St. Louis on Monday, June 28, 2021. Heard died in the line of duty from complications due to COVID-19 on June 15, 2021.
Arkansas, which never issued an official stay-at-home order during the pandemic, reported 686 new probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday — the largest one-day increase in more than four months.In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson has asked for help from federal “surge response teams” ecco shoes to deal with the mounting number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Missouri follows Nevada with the second-highest weekly case rates per capita in the country, at 102 cases per 100,000 residents, per the CDC.

MORE: Missouri tracks spread of delta variant using wastewater

There were more than 115,000 new COVID-19 cases in Missouri in June alone, per state data. It’s a major reversal of the progress reported in May, which marked the first time the state recorded less than 10,000 new cases in a month since June 2020, NBC affiliate KSHB reported.

PHOTO: People walk and take photos on Hollywood Boulevard, June 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PHOTO: People walk and take photos on Hollywood Boulevard, June 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. 

St. Louis area

Three counties in the St. Louis region have issued public health advisories, citing the spread of new delta variant cases, urging the public to wear masks indoors, even if vaccinated. In their advisory, local health departments said to assume one in three people in any gathering may be unvaccinated.

Over the last two weeks, cases in Jefferson County increased 42%, with the highest number of cases in the 10- to 19-year-old age group.

“This is concerning since most of that age group is eligible for the vaccine, but only 10.82% have completed the full series of vaccination,” the county said in an advisory.

So far, 39.1% of the state population has completed the vaccine series and 44.5% have initiated vaccination, per state data.

Similar COVID-19 turmoil is brewing in Los Angeles County, California.

PHOTO: Customers wear face masks in an outdoor mall with closed business amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles, June 11, 2021. (Damian Dovarganes/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Customers wear face masks in an outdoor mall with closed business amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles, June 11, 2021. 

MORE: What the delta variant means for Americans this summer

Los Angeles County

The county reported 506 new cases on Thursday — the highest daily number since mid-April. That’s more than double the number reported on June 15, when the state and county lifted COVID-19 restrictions, according to the county’s coronavirus tracker.

Between last week and this week the number of delta variants sequenced doubled to a total of 245 cases — 47% of all sequences reported, health officials said Thursday. So far, among LA County residents 16 and up, 59% are fully vaccinated, according to county data.

County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a press conference Thursday the rise in COVID-19 infections and deaths is increasingly affecting communities of color, where vaccination rates remain the lowest.

She also said there’s concern among locals between 18 to 49, though vaccination is increasing slowly among that demographic.

The county has also rolled out its own incentives: offering tickets to Six Flags, the zoo and museums to vaccinated adults.

ABC News contributor John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, said it’s no surprise there are hotspots today.

“The rollout has not gone as well in every community. When you have under-vaccinated populations mixed with those who have maybe not experienced surges, you don’t have a combination of both vaccine-induced immunity and natural immunity, you’re going to see cases increase,” he said. “And because we have the most transmissible variant, the delta variant, it’s not unexpected that we’ll see increases in cases.”

Brownstein noted reasons for the surges include a lack of access to vaccine and vaccine confidence and the low vaccination rates among the young.

“On one hand those populations may not see the value of vaccine because they may think that they’re invincible or may not have a perceived risk of infection,” he said. “There’s also the challenge of making sure the parents are on board with vaccinating their kids — you have the consent issue.”

85 teens, staffers get coronavirus at summer camp that didn’t require masks or check vaccine status

More than 80 teens and adults have tested positive for the coronavirus after attending a central Illinois summer camp that didn’t check their vaccination status or require masks indoors, state health officials said.

All the campers and staffers at Crossing Camp in Rushville, Ill., were eligible for the shots, the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement this week, but officials knew of “only a handful of campers and staff receiving the vaccine.”

In total, 85 people who attended the summer camp in mid-June were infected, most of them teens, ecco shoes according to the health department. One unvaccinated young adult was hospitalized, officials said.

The spate of infections also appears to have spawned a secondary outbreak. Officials said some people from the camp attended a nearby conference, where 11 people subsequently tested positive.

The outbreak underscores the continued threat of the virus and its new, more transmissible variants as the nation’s mass immunization campaign has faltered and officials stress the urgency of getting more shots to young people. More than half of the U.S. population over 12 has received at least one shot, but the rolling average for daily shots has dropped to its lowest point since late winter, and vaccination rates have lagged in some parts of the country, according to The Washington Post’s tracking.

Illinois officials noted that the highly contagious delta variant of the novel coronavirus was an ongoing menace to youths and adults alike.

“The perceived risk to children may seem small, but even a mild case of covid-19 can cause long-term health issues,” said Ngozi Ezike, the health department’s director. “Additionally, infected youth who may not experience severe illness can still spread the virus to others, including those who are too young to be vaccinated or those who don’t build the strong expected immune response to the vaccine.”

A representative from Crossing Camp didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.

The camp acknowledged the outbreak in a statement on its website, saying camp leaders had made the “difficult decision” to postpone its program for fourth- and fifth-graders until mid-August.

“We were so looking forward to hey dude shoes spending time with your campers this weekend, but we believe the best way to value and love our students, difference makers, and staff is to delay camp until a safer time,” the statement read.

Crossing Camp describes itself as a “Christ-centered” camp created for K-12 youths whose “priority is to provide an opportunity to encounter Jesus – and have fun doing it.” Located next to a lake in rural Rushville, Ill., it features a multipurpose recreation center, a 500-seat auditorium, athletic fields and lodging for 350, according to its website.

Such superspreader events were common during last year’s surges in coronavirus cases, with weddings, choir rehearsals, house parties and even a White House ceremony giving rise to severe outbreaks. Vaccinations can help prevent clusters of infections from arising, but the risk remains high as new variants push out other less contagious versions of the virus.

This week, Los Angeles County public health authorities urged unvaccinated and vaccinated people alike to don masks again inside restaurants, stores and other public indoor spaces because of the growing threat posed by the delta variant. Countries around the world have revived public health protections over concerns that the variant could hamper global efforts to contain the pandemic.

The variant has already strained health-care systems in places with low vaccination rates, including rural Missouri, and states such as Arkansas, Nevada and Utah, where less than half the population has received one shot.

In Illinois’s Schuyler and Adams counties, where the outbreaks tied to the camp occurred, about 40% of the population is vaccinated, state health officials said. Statewide, about 55% of the population has received the shots.

The Schuyler County Health Department said in a statement last week that it was conducting contact tracing and working with the camp to “provide guidance and mitigate the situation.” Officials said they followed federal health guidance for disinfecting the facility and encouraged unvaccinated locals to wear face coverings “for the safety of the entire community.”

Health officials in Oregon recently reported a coronavirus outbreak almost equal in size. At least 74 people were infected after attending a church service in Salem, Ore., where maskless worshipers packed onto a stage and sang together for more than an hour. The church had previously sued to block pandemic public health measures enacted by Oregon’s governor.

Federal health officials have warned that young people are increasingly being hospitalized because of the coronavirus and ecco shoes have urged teens and 20-somethings to get vaccinated. The push is a cornerstone of the White House’s vaccination strategy going into summer.

President Joe Biden warned about the perils of the delta variant in a speech last week. “It’s a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier and particularly dangerous for young people,” he said.

Coronavirus outbreak killed two at Florida office, official says; a vaccinated employee was not infected

The Manatee County Administration Building had a recent coronavirus outbreak among unvaccinated employees.

A coronavirus outbreak at a Florida government building killed two people and hospitalized several others who were unvaccinated against the virus, a county official said.

The Manatee County Administration skechers outlet Building reopened Monday after the virus that causes covid-19 spread throughout the county’s IT department and forced the building to shut down last Friday. Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, an epidemiologist, said six unvaccinated employees, including five in the IT department, tested positive for the virus within a two-week period.

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The two IT employees who died last week were identified in local media and obituaries as Mary Knight, 58, and Alphonso Cox, 53.

Hopes said that the one IT employee, 23, exposed to the virus who was vaccinated did not get infected.

“This particular outbreak demonstrates the effectiveness, I believe, with the vaccine,” he said to reporters Monday. “All of the cases were non-vaccinated.” He added in a news release, “Individual employees in the IT Department who were known to be fully vaccinated and who were in close proximity of those who were infected did not contract covid-19.”

Despite the outbreak, masks will remain optional for staffers returning this week, with unvaccinated workers being “encouraged but not required, to follow covid-19 prevention measures.”

At a news conference, Hopes said he suspected the outbreak could have been because of the delta coronavirus variant, which spreads more easily. The Manatee County Health Department is working with epidemiologists in contact tracing and to confirm whether the variant was responsible. Hopes said that the high fatality rate from the hey dude IT department’s outbreak suggested “we are dealing with a variant unlike what we had last year.”

The delta variant has a chance to be the dominant strain in the United States this summer. First found in India, the highly contagious variant, which is accounting for 6% of new infections in the United States, “is more transmissible than the alpha variant,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said last week. Walensky noted that while she fears a new strain could prove resistant to vaccines, full vaccination protects against the delta variant.

“As worrisome as this delta strain is with regard to its hyper-transmissibility, our vaccines work,” she said in a recent interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The United States has fully vaccinated 150 million people against coronavirus, the White House said Monday, marking a major milestone even though the country is nowhere near the threshold necessary to snuff out the virus nationwide. Roughly 46% of U.S. residents have completed their vaccination schedule, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

Florida, which has fully vaccinated 44% of its eligible population, has seen a sharp decline in the number of total doses administered in the past week. Manatee County, located in southwest Florida, has fully vaccinated 43% of its eligible population.

The Manatee Board of County Commissioners repealed covid safety requirements last month and strongly recommended that people visiting the County Administration Building “use their best judgment” to protect themselves from a potential spread of the virus.

Then, covid spread throughout the IT skechers shoes department, killing and hospitalizing staffers. When the second employee died Thursday, the decision was made to shut down the building the next day so it could be disinfected.

“When you have that many cases, and you have a 40 percent fatality rate, you have to worry,” Hopes said to Florida Politics. “I would prefer not to have any more employee funerals.”

Yet the county announced over the weekend that “face masks will be optional for the public and employees inside the facility.”

“Visitors and employees who are fully vaccinated may return to work as usual,” Hopes said in a news release. “Unvaccinated individuals are encouraged, but not required, to follow covid-19 prevention measures, including use of N95 or equivalent masks, which will be available at each entrance, and social distancing.”

Hopes defended the decision Monday night on CNN, saying the focus was more on getting government employees vaccinated. The county is offering another vaccine clinic for employees at the Manatee County Administration Building on Friday.

“Clearly masks work, but the vaccine is more important at this point,” Hopes said.

Christopher Tittel, a spokesman with the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County, agreed that vaccination among government employees was needed to help prevent another outbreak.

“We really need everybody to get on board with this, whether it’s vaccination testing, prevention, all of it is so, so, so, so important,” Tittel told WTVT. “The vaccinations, they only work if people get vaccinated.”

Funerals and celebration-of-life events for Knight and Cox are scheduled for later this week.

Friends and co-workers remembered them both as loving community leaders.

Knight, an IT customer service center supervisor, was involved with Manatee County Women in Government and volunteered at local churches, according to her obituary. She’s survived by a large Italian family that includes her husband, six children and one granddaughter. Suzie McGuire, the acting IT director, wrote in an brooks shoes online message for Knight’s obituary that her close friend would be missed by many.

“She was a force beyond compare,” McGuire wrote. “Our hearts are broken.”

Cox, a senior systems analyst with Manatee County, was known in the area as a youth football coach with the Manatee Mustang Sports Academy for 20 years, reported the Bradenton Herald. The organization said on Facebook that Cox “personified dedication and selflessness,” and was “a father to the fatherless, a mentor to all, a hero in every aspect of the meaning, and a legend no less.” Reggie Bellamy, the organization’s commissioner, told the Herald that Cox impacted generations of young athletes.

“He had a lot of individuals that he touched, so it’s a very, very tough time,” Bellamy said.

Climate Change Batters the West Before Summer Even Begins

A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures have soared past 115 degrees this brooks shoes week and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt.

At Lake Mead, which supplies water for 25 million people in three southwestern states and Mexico, water levels have plunged to their lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s. In California, farmers are abandoning their thirstiest crops to save others, and communities are debating whether to ration tap water.

In Texas, electricity grids are under strain as residents crank their air-conditioners, with utilities begging customers to turn off appliances to help avert blackouts. In Arizona, Montana and Utah, wildfires are blazing.

And it’s not even summer yet.

“We’re still a long way out from the peak of the wildfire season and the peak of the dry season,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”

Global warming, driven by the burning skechers shoes of fossil fuels, has been heating up and drying out the American West for years. Now the region is broiling under a combination of a drought that is the worst in two decades and a record-breaking heat wave.

“The Southwest is getting hammered by climate change harder than almost any other part of the country, apart from perhaps coastal cities,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. “And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control.”

With temperatures expected to keep rising as nations struggle to rein in their planet-warming emissions, the Western United States will need to take difficult and costly measures to adapt. That includes redesigning cities to endure punishing heat, conserving water and engineering grids that don’t fail during extreme weather.

This month has offered glimpses of whether states and cities are up to that task and has shown they still have far to go.

From Montana to Southern California, much of the West is suffering from unusually high temperatures. Some 50 million Americans face heat-related warnings. Records have been tied or broken in places like Palm Springs, California, Salt Lake City and Billings, Montana.

As 115-degree temperatures cooked Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row Arts District on Tuesday, Timothy Medina, 58, was perched on a black metal platform 12 feet above hey dude the sidewalk, finishing the blue lettering of a sign for a coffee shop. “It’s brutal — that heat against the wall,” he said. “Let me take a quick swig of water.”

Construction workers, landscapers and outdoor painters like Medina have few options but to bear the heat. He wore jeans to avoid burning his skin, along with a long sleeve fluorescent yellow shirt and a $2 woven hat. But soon the heat was winning.

“I start feeling out of breath, fatigued,” he said.

Extreme heat is the clearest signal of global warming, and the most deadly. Last year, heat killed at least 323 people in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, a record by far.

Outdoor workers are particularly at risk, along with older people and anyone without adequate shelter or access to air conditioning.

Across the country, heat waves are becoming more frequent, lasting longer and occurring earlier in the year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Severe heat early in the spring can be especially dangerous because it catches people off guard, experts say.

Cities like Phoenix are struggling to keep up. While the city runs air-conditioned cooling centers, many were shut down last year amid the pandemic. And ensuring that the centers are accessible to everyone is a challenge.

Kayla and Richard Contreras, who sleep in a skechers outlet blue tent on a baking sidewalk in a homeless encampment near downtown Phoenix, said the cooling centers were not an option because they have a dog and they worried about leaving their belongings unattended in their tent.

They said they knew 10 homeless people who died in the heat last year.

Richard Contreras, 47, fills water bottles from the spigots of homes he walks by. Kayla Contreras, 56, said she saves food stamps to buy ice pops on the hottest days. “This is what keeps us alive,” she said, as she handed an orange pop to a friend. “I feel like I’m in hell.”

Sundown brings no relief. In Las Vegas, where the National Hockey League playoffs are taking place, forecasters expected the mercury to push past 100 degrees when the puck dropped Wednesday evening.

Last month, the Phoenix City Council approved $2.8 million in new climate spending, including creating a four-person Office of Heat Response and Mitigation.

“That’s a good start, but we’re clearly not doing enough yet,” said David Hondula, an Arizona State University scientist who studies heat’s consequences. Drastically reducing heat deaths would require adding trees and shade in underserved neighborhoods and increasing funding to help residents who need help with energy bills or who lack air conditioning, among other things, he said.

“Every one of these heat deaths should be preventable,” he said. “But it’s not just an engineering problem. It means tackling tough issues like poverty or homelessness. And the numbers suggest we’re moving in the wrong direction. Right now, heat deaths are increasing faster than population growth and aging.”

Severe heat waves also pose a challenge for power grids, particularly if operators don’t plan for them. Rising temperatures can reduce the efficiency of fossil-fuel generators, transmission lines and even solar panels at precisely the moment that demand soars.

This week, the Texas power grid was stretched near its limit as electricity demand set a June record just as several power plants were offline for repairs. golden goose sneakers Grid operators asked Texans to keep their thermostats at 78 degrees to conserve power.

Victor Puente, 47, stood Tuesday under the shade of the porch on his blue wooden home in Pueblo de Palmas, outside the border city of McAllen, Texas. He said he tries to shut off his air conditioner during the day to conserve energy, so that it might be available for sleeping.

“The last thing we need is to lose electricity for long stretches,” he said.

In California, where temperatures have hit 110 degrees, the grid operator has warned it may face challenges this summer, in part because droughts have reduced the capacity of the state’s hydroelectric dams.

Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, noted that strains on the grid illustrate the nonlinear effects of climate change. “Most people might not notice that it’s getting a bit hotter each year,” he said. “But then the temperature reaches a certain threshold and all of the sudden the grid goes down. There are a whole bunch of these thresholds built into our infrastructure.”

This spring, the American West has been ecco shoes in the grips of a severe drought that has been more widespread than at any point in at least 20 years, stretching from the Pacific Coast, across the Great Basin and desert Southwest, and up through the Rockies to the Northern Plains.

Droughts have long been a feature of the West. But global warming is making things worse, with rising temperatures drying out soils and depleting mountain snowpack that normally supply water during the spring and summer. Those parched soils, in turn, are amplifying this week’s heat wave, creating a blast more severe than it otherwise would be.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Swain of UCLA.

Dry conditions also suggest a potentially devastating fire season, coming a year after California, Oregon and Colorado saw unusually destructive blazes.

The drought has strained water supplies throughout the West, shriveling reservoirs. In one California lake, the water became so shallow that officials identified the wreckage of a plane that had crashed into the lake in 1986.

The Inverness Public Utility District in Marin County, California, will vote next week on whether to impose rationing for 1,100 customers, assigning each household a set amount of water. It would be a first for the town, which this past July asked residents to stop washing cars and filling swimming pools.

The drought has forced farmers to take drastic measures. Sheep and cattle ranchers are selling this year’s stock months early, and some dairy farmers are selling their cows rather than come up with the 50 gallons of water each animal needs per day. Farmers are planting fractions of their usual amount, or leaving part of their land fallow.

“We’ve been through droughts. This is one of the driest we can remember,” said Dan Errotabere, 66, whose family has grown fruits, vegetables and nuts near Fresno, California, for a century. He is keeping 1,800 acres fallow and cut back on garlic and tomatoes to divert water to almond and pistachio trees.

The effect on farms could cause supply issues and higher prices nationwide, said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. California produces two-thirds of the country’s fruit and one-third of its vegetables.

Many California farmers are already using micro-irrigation, drip hoses and other water conservation methods. “We’ve stretched every drop,” said Bill Diedrich, a fourth-generation farmer in Fresno County.

Agricultural communities are in peril if the crops and trees die without water.

“When you are operating a long-standing family farm, you don’t want to be the one to lose it,” said Eric Bream, the third generation in his family to hey dude shoes run a citrus farm in California’s Central Valley. Today he still has enough water. But “tomorrow everything could change on a dime.”

Elsewhere in the West, states are bracing for the prospect of further cutbacks.

Lake Mead, which was created when the Hoover Dam was finished in 1935, is at 36% capacity, as flows from the Colorado River have declined more quickly than expected. The federal government is expected to declare a shortage this summer, which would trigger a cut of about one-fifth of water deliveries to Arizona, and a much smaller reduction for Nevada, beginning next year.

Experts have long predicted this. The Colorado Basin has suffered through years of drought coupled with ever-increasing consumption, a result of population and economic growth as well as the expansion of agriculture, by far the largest user of water in the West.

“We need to stop thinking of drought as a temporary thing to get through,” said Felicia Marcus, a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Water in the West program, noting that global warming is expected to reduce the Colorado River’s flow even further.

Many cities have been preparing. Tucson, Arizona, is among the nation’s leaders in recycling wastewater, treating more than 30 million gallons per day for irrigation or firefighting. Cities and water districts in California are investing billions in infrastructure to store water during wet years to save for droughts.

Still, experts said, there’s a lot more that can be done, and it’s likely to be costly.

“The Colorado River basin is ground zero for climate-change impacts on water supplies in the U.S.,” said Kevin Moran at the Environmental Defense Fund. “We have to plan for the river that climate scientists tell us we’re probably gong to have, not the one we want.”

Europe’s borders reopen for ‘summer unlike any other’

Borders have opened up across Europe after three months of coronavirus closures that began so chaotically in March.

But many restrictions persist, it is unclear how keen Europeans will be to travel this summer and the continent is still closed to Americans, Asians and other international tourists.

Border checks for most Europeans were dropped overnight in Germany, France and elsewhere, nearly two weeks after Italy opened its frontiers.

The European Union’s 27 nations, as well as those in the Schengen passport-free travel area, which also includes a few non-EU nations such as Switzerland, are not expected to start opening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of next month, and possibly much later.

Italian customs officials talk to a woman at the border station Chiasso Brogeda between Switzerland and Italy in Chiasso, Switzerland

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Italian customs officials talk to a woman at the border station Chiasso Brogeda between Switzerland and Italy in Chiasso, Switzerland (Alessandro Crinari/Keystone via AP)

Announcing Monday’s reopening of borders and Paris restaurants, French President Emmanuel Macron said it is time “to turn the page of the first act of the crisis” and “rediscover our taste for freedom”.

But he warned: “This doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared and we can totally let down our guard. … The summer of 2020 will be a summer unlike any other.”

Even inside Europe, there is caution after more than 182,000 virus-linked deaths.

Europe has had more than two million of the world’s 7.9 million confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

“We have got the pandemic under control, (but) the reopening of our frontiers is a critical moment,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday as he announced that his hard-hit country is moving forward its opening to European travellers by 10 days to June 21.

“The threat is still real. The virus is still out there,” he said.

Still, the need to get Europe’s tourism industry up and running again is also urgent for countries such as Spain and Greece as the economic fallout of the crisis multiplies.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged that “a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination”.

In a trial run, Spain is allowing thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands starting on Monday – waiving its 14-day quarantine for the group.

People enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona, Spain

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People enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona, Spain (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

The idea is to test out best practices in the coronavirus era.

“This pilot programme will help us learn a lot for what lies ahead in the coming months,” Mr Sanchez said.

“We want our country, which is already known as a world-class tourist destination, to be recognised as also a secure destination.”

Europe’s reopening is not a repeat of the chaotic free-for-all in March, when panicked, unco-ordinated border closures caused traffic jams that stretched for miles.

Still, it is a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules, and not everyone is equally free to travel everywhere.

Several countries are not opening up yet to everyone.

Norway and Denmark, for example, are keeping their borders closed with Sweden, whose virus strategy avoided a lockdown but produced a relatively high per capita death rate.

Vehicles queue at the border crossing in Krusaa, Denmark, after Denmark reopened its borders to Germany

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Vehicles queue at the border crossing in Krusaa, Denmark, after Denmark reopened its borders to Germany (Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

Cars queued up on Monday morning at some crossings on the German border with Denmark, which is now letting in visitors from Germany but only if they have booked accommodation for at least six nights.

Britain, which left the EU in January but remains closely aligned with the bloc until the end of this year, only last week imposed a 14-day quarantine requirement for most arrivals, horrifying its tourism and aviation industries.

As a result, France is asking people coming from Britain to self-quarantine for two weeks and several other nations are not even letting British tourists come in during the first wave of reopenings.

With flights only gradually picking up, nervousness about new outbreaks abroad, uncertainty about social distancing at tourist venues and many people facing record unemployment or pay cuts, many Europeans may choose simply to stay home or explore their own countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are both planning to holiday in their homelands this year.

“The recommendation is still, if you want to be really safe, a holiday in Austria,” Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg told ORF television, recalling the scramble in March to bring home thousands of tourists as borders slammed shut.

“In Austria, you know that you don’t have to cross a border if you want to get home, and you know the infrastructure and the health system well,” he said.

The German government, which helped fly 240,000 people home as the pandemic grew exponentially, also has no desire to repeat that experience.

A face mask left on the floor of the Roemerberg square in Frankfurt, Germany
A face mask left on the floor of the Roemerberg square in Frankfurt, Germany (Michael Probst/AP)

“My appeal to all those who travel: enjoy your summer holiday – but enjoy it with caution and responsibility,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.

“In the summer holidays, we want to make it as difficult as possible for the virus to spread again in Europe.”

The Dutch government said its citizens can now visit 16 European nations, but urged caution.

“You can go abroad for your holiday again,” foreign minister Stef Blok said.

“But it won’t be as carefree as before the corona crisis. The virus is still among us and the situation remains uncertain.”