The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. State Department raised their travel alert levels for Jamaica due to the number of COVID-19 cases and other factors.

The CDC on Tuesday raised Jamaica to a level 4, which signifies “very high” COVID levels and means travelers should avoid travel to the popular Caribbean vacation destination. Those who must travel to Jamaica, the CDC travel health notice says, should be be fully vaccinated.

The State Department on Tuesday raised its travel advisory for Jamaica to level 4, which means do not travel, due to COVID cases and crime in certain areas of Kingston, Montego Bay and Spanish Town.

►International travel:European Union countries tightening COVID-19 restrictions for US tourists

►Travel test:Here’s what travelers should know about at-home COVID-19 tests

Plenty of other vacation destinations are rated level 4 by the CDC, including the Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands, France and the United Kingdom.

The CDC raised the alert levels last week for Puerto Rico, Guam, Saint Lucia and Switzerland to Guam, among other destinations, to level 4.

The CDC assesses COVID-19 risk based on each destination’s new cases and new case trajectory. The Travel Health Notice level can be raised if a large increase in COVID-19 cases is reported or a destination’s case count meets or exceeds the threshold for a higher level for 14 straight days. Level 4 destinations have more than 500 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days or more than 500 cases period if their population is smaller than 100,000.

Contributing: Eve Chen, USA TODAY 

The number of job openings in the U.S. economy jumped to more than 10 million in June, the highest on record, as the U.S. labor market continues a choppy recovery from last year’s economic shutdowns, the Labor Department said Monday.

There were 10.1 million open jobs on the final day of June, the report said, up from 9.2 million in May. Economist polled by Dow Jones were expecting 9.1 million openings. The jump came as the quits rate increased while the layoffs and discharges rate was unchanged, reflecting increased bargaining power and employment options for workers.

By industry, leisure and hospitality show one of the highest level of job openings at more than 1.6 million. Health care and social assistance has 1.5 million openings.

A ‘We’re Hiring!’ sign is posted at a Starbucks on August 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

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“Labor demand keeps getting stronger. This is the third straight month of record-breaking job openings,” Indeed Hiring Lab director of research Nick Bunker said in a note. “The quits rate is also close to its all-time high, which was set just two months ago in April. This wave of demand will eventually recede, but job seekers should ride it until then.”

Despite the unemployment rate remaining above 5% and the U.S. economy being millions of jobs short of pre-pandemic levels, many businesses have reported difficulty finding workers. Nominal wage gains, especially among non-management employees, also points to a tighter labor market.

The job openings survey was conducted before the July jobs report released last week which showed the economy adding 954,000 jobs. Hiring has accelerated during the summer after some disappointing results earlier in the year.

The Labor Department said in Friday’s jobs report there were 8.7 million Americans looking for work, meaning there were more open jobs than potential workers. To be sure, improving economies and tight labor markets can bring workers off of the sidelines and back into the labor force.

The high level of job openings comes even as some states have ended the extra unemployment benefits that were created during the pandemic in an effort to motivate Americans to return to work. The extra benefits are set to expire for the rest of the country next month.

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The State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging U.S. travelers not to travel to the Bahamas and several other countries, due to COVID-19 risks.  

On Monday, the State Department issued its highest travel alert, “Level 4 – Do Not Travel,” for the Bahamas, Kosovo, Lebanon, Morocco and Sint Maarten, which takes into account CDC travel health notices.

The CDC also lists the Bahamas as “Level 4: Very High” for COVID-19, according to an advisory updated Monday.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, there have been 3,134 confirmed COVID cases in the Bahamas in the last 28 days. That’s nearly a fifth of the small country’s total cases throughout the pandemic. Just over 14% of the population is vaccinated.

“Because of the current situation in the Bahamas, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the CDC said.

►Bahamas issues emergency order:Cruise passengers must show proof of vaccine at ports

►’Now is not the time to visit:Hawaii Gov. David Ige urges tourists to stay home amid COVID surge

The Bahamas issued an emergency order Thursday barring cruise ships from entering ports in the Bahamas with unvaccinated passengers 12 and older who don’t have medical excuses starting Sept. 3.

The CDC’s website said if you must visit Level 4 countries, “make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.”

The State Department regularly issues travel alerts for countries based on a variety of factors, including public health and safety risks. It’s issued a string of alerts over the past month, based on dynamically changing CDC travel health notices. 

Both the State Department and CDC recently downgraded their travel advisories for Canada, which reopened to U.S. tourists earlier in August. 

►Need to show proof of COVID vaccination? How to safely store vaccine info on your phone



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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of State are advising Americans not to travel to the Bahamas as of Aug. 23, due to COVID-19.

Both have issued Level 4 travel advisories: The State Department has upgraded its travel advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel while the CDC has raised its travel advisory to Level 4: Very High.

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Read more: Bahamas making it easier to visit; everything US citizens need to know

“Avoid travel to the Bahamas,” says the CDC. “If you must travel to the Bahamas, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel. Because of the current situation in the Bahamas, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

As of Monday, Aug. 23, there were 150 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Bahamas, down from just over 100 a week ago on Aug. 16, according to data from the World Health Organization. Reuters reports that the Bahamas is averaging almost 100 new cases daily.

On May 1, the Bahamas welcomed back fully vaccinated visitors, exempting them from testing requirements.

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

Featured photo of empty beach in Nassau, Bahamas, by Melissa Alcena/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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The department on Monday raised its travel advisory level for the UK to “Level 4: Do not travel” due to Covid-19. The decision, which aligns with a separate US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update, comes the same day that Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted most of England’s remaining pandemic-related restrictions.

Noting the CDC’s decision earlier Monday to raise its UK Risk Assessment Level for Covid-19 to “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High,” the department said in its updated travel advisory that there “are restrictions in place affecting US citizen entry into the United Kingdom.”

“Your risk of contracting Covid-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine,” the advisory continues. “Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.”

The department’s advisory level for the UK was most recently at “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” because of the pandemic.

While most of the UK’s adult population is now fully vaccinated, new cases are approaching 50,000 a day — the highest rate of infection since January — and hundreds of thousands more people have been told to isolate by a contact tracing app that tracks their possible exposure to someone who has been infected.

Despite Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland — the other, less populous, nations of the UK — being highly vaccinated, it is only England that moved to ease most restrictions on Monday.

Mandatory mask-wearing is gone, limits on the numbers of people who can mix indoor or outdoor have ended, social distancing will be limited to people who have tested positive for the virus and airports, and venues like nightclubs and sports stadiums are free to open at full capacity.

Meanwhile in the US, concerns over the highly transmissible Covid-19 Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy are increasing, with doctors in several states suffering from surges saying the variant is sending younger and previously healthy people — the vast majority of whom have not been vaccinated — to hospitals.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week.

CNN’s Luke McGee contributed to this report.

U.S. citizens should avoid travel to the United Kingdom because of a spike in coronavirus  cases, two government agencies said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department each raised the alert levels for the region to their highest levels.

The CDC raised the travel advisory for the U.K. to a level 4, meaning “avoid travel,” citing “very high” levels of coronavirus cases. The alert had been at level 3, which advised travelers to be fully vaccinated before travel to the U.K. and recommended that unvaccinated travelers avoid nonessential travel. The U.K. travel alert has been at level 3 since May.

“Because of the current situation in the United Kingdom, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the CDC said in its update.

‘Absolutely critical to both countries’:US, UK airlines urge lifting of travel restrictions

The United Kingdom, which encompasses England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, wasn’t alone in being raised to level 4 by the CDC. The British Virgin Islands, Fiji, Indonesia and Zimbabwe also saw alert levels increase. 

The State Department also raised its alert level on the U.K. to level 4, which means “do not travel,” to reflect the CDC’s designation. The State Department has been incorporating the CDC’s COVID-19 designations in its alerts since April.

The U.K. recorded more than 50,000 new cases in a day for the first time in six months, and the British government’s top medical adviser issued a dire warning as Britain eased more COVID-19 restrictions on Monday.

The heightened travel risk levels for the United Kingdom come as airlines and tourism boosters have been urging President Joe Biden to lift international travel restrictions to the United States from the U.K. and other countries, including those in the European Union. Several European countries have already reopened their borders to U.S. citizens this summer.

Last week, reports said Biden would have an update on the international travel restrictionsas early as this week.

Can U.S. citizens travel to the UK right now? 

U.S. citizens are allowed to travel to the U.K. but face travel restrictions, including coronavirus testing requirements and quarantine.

Travelers returning from the U.K. to the United States must also show a negative coronavirus  test or recent recovery from COVID-19 to board U.S.-bound international flights under a CDC requirement in place since January. The requirement applies to all U.S.-bound travelers on international flights, even those who are fully vaccinated.

The Charleston Fire Department is taking applications for firefighter trainees this month, and it’s a good deal.

Anyone who’s accepted is put on the city payroll while they go through a six-month academy that trains and certifies them not only to fight fires, but also to deliver emergency medical services. Because that’s a big part of what firefighters do these days.

Kevin Weeks, a 24-year fire department veteran who most recently served as a battalion chief on Daniel Island, wants to make sure everyone knows about this opportunity. And he means everyone.

“We want everybody to see somebody who looks like them in the department, to give everyone that hope and that encouragement that they could be a firefighter,” Weeks says.

He is in the perfect position to spread that message. Weeks was recently appointed the department’s first recruitment and diversity manager, and Charleston Fire Chief Dan Curia says he’s the right man for the job because of his tenure, experience and longtime recognition of the problem.

“Our fire department does fantastic work, and we have fantastic people,” Curia says. “But we don’t accurately reflect the community we serve. Every child who sees a firetruck going down the street, I want them to think I can do that, and they want me to do that.”

Curia says that’s not only the right thing to do; it builds better relations with residents. And that’s important, particularly among firefighters. Because their entire job is about saving the lives of those residents.

This focus on minority recruitment will no doubt be popular with Mayor John Tecklenburg, City Council and civil rights leaders — all of whom have lamented the fire department’s lack of diversity. More than 90% of the city’s firefighters are white men.

That’s a stark statistic, but it’s the norm in fire stations across the country. Nationwide, fewer than 8% of firefighters are African American; in the Charleston Fire Department, only 5% of firefighters are black. The same surveys find that women comprise less than 5% of firefighters nationally. In Charleston, only 4% of firefighters are female.

Curia says the department is committed to increasing diversity across the board — more women, more African Americans. He says the national struggle with firefighter diversity has historically come down to access. Many people simply don’t know the opportunities that are out there.

And that’s where Weeks comes in.

Get a weekly recap of South Carolina opinion and analysis from The Post and Courier in your inbox on Monday evenings.

The first step to addressing the disparity, Weeks says, is knowledge. He plans to spread the word, get information about how to become a firefighter out to the community — to let all people know that a lack of experience is no obstacle to a career in firefighting.

The average person has no idea how that works. Which is probably why, in the past, you so often saw one generation after another of the same families working in fire stations.

Weeks explains that anyone

The U.S. Department of Commerce will soon announce a $750 million investment in travel and tourism, according to Gina Raimondo, the department secretary, speaking on a virtual forum conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).

Also at the forum, Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, which promotes international tourism to the U.S., said the organization plans its first marketing campaign since the pandemic began to begin Aug. 1 with the message that this country is ready for tourists to visit.

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Raimondo said she is hopeful for a reasonably robust summer for leisure travel but added, “there’s a long way to go.” She said wants the federal money to be used flexibly “because tourism is local and has local needs” with some states perhaps spending it on convention centers, others on recreation and still others on marketing.

The secretary also said the administration is working very hard to get Congress to pass the American Jobs Plan, which she called “very relevant’ to travel as it involves infrastructure, jobs, training, parks and clean water – all very relevant to travel.

“I look forward to working with the industry,” said Raimondo. “I know better days are ahead for leisure and business travel.”

As for business travel, Raimondo said she is doing everything she can as an advocate to open key travel corridors to business travelers. She said there are safe ways to travel, particularly for those who are vaccinated.

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“I will do everything I can,” she said, “to revitalize domestic and international business travel through agencies that report to me.” She said easing travel restrictions is a top priority of hers and the administration and promises that “we are collaborating across the government to do everything we can to ease travel restrictions safely.”

Thompson said he is more optimistic than at any time since the start of the pandemic and “encouraged by some conversations I have had.” While he said many of the restrictions on travel to the U.S. from abroad are out of Brand USA’s control, he added that “things are happening.” While Europe outside the U.K. has lagged as far as dealing with the pandemic, Thompson said proof of vaccination will be critical and “we will have to settle on something standard on that front.”

When it does begin marketing, said Thompson, Brand USA will seek to show potential travelers in other countries that Americans themselves are getting out and about. “As international visitors see us traveling, “ he said, “they will see that it is safe to do so.” He said it is critical to get the land borders open to Mexico and Canada because 50% of the 80 million annual international visitors to the U.S. are from those two countries while the U.K. represents the largest long-haul market.

He said Brand USA will be inviting influencers from around the world to come in and experience the U.S., “something that can happen now.” He continued, “We want to fuel aspiration and dreams.” The domestic return

Seventeen students at The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky at WKU have been offered nationally-competitive National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarships for immersive, critical language study this summer. This marks the 11th consecutive year for Gatton Academy students to receive the scholarship.

NSLI-Y scholarships are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, funding summer and academic year programs in which participants study critical languages.

The programs are typically carried out through immersive study abroad, with participants taking intensive language courses, living with a host family, and visiting sites of cultural significance in their host nation. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most summer 2021 programs are occurring virtually through online summer intensives. Exceptions are programs in South Korea and Taiwan, which will include the traditional study abroad immersion this summer.

Whether virtual or in-person, this summer’s participants will engage in daily language learning, cultural learning, and intercultural understanding.

The Gatton Academy is home to special language tracks in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian called STEM + Critical Languages. These programs are carried out in partnership with the WKU Department of Modern Languages and the Chinese Language Flagship Program at WKU. Through these optional curricular tracks, students opt to pair progressively rigorous critical language study each semester alongside the classic STEM curriculum offered to all Gatton Academy students. Earlier this academic year, The Gatton Academy’s STEM + Critical Language program was nationally recognized by the America’s Languages Guide.

This summer’s recipients are noted below with their sending schools.

Anaya Ali (Pikeville HS)

Ali, a rising Gatton Academy senior, will continue Arabic study this summer through the virtual Center for Language and Culture program of Marrakesh, Morocco. Ali studies in the STEM + Arabic track with WKU Modern Languages. Ali said, “I applied for this scholarship as a way to help me achieve my life goal of being a polyglot!”

 

Christine Belance (Fairdale HS)

Belance, a Class of 2021 graduate, will continue Arabic study this summer. Belance completed the STEM + Arabic track with WKU Modern Languages. Belance said, “I plan to intertwine my desire to learn Arabic with my aspiration of becoming a forensic anthropologist in the Middle East.”

 

Morgan Burk (Franklin-Simpson HS)

Burk, a Class of 2021 graduate, will continue Russian study virtually this summer with American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Burk completed the STEM + Russian track with WKU Modern Languages. “I want to work in the international waste sustainability industry, and some of the most innovative waste handling technology is being developed in Russian-speaking countries,” Burk said. “I hope that my language skills can help me to be more successful in business and unite cultures.”

 

Sahil Chhabra (Bowling Green HS)

Chhabra, a rising Gatton Academy senior, will study Hindi virtually this summer. Asked what he anticipates, Chhabra said, “I am looking forward to meeting my fellow Hindi finalists, learning about them, and interacting with them throughout the program.”

 

Ty Gordon (Mercer Co. HS)

Gordon, a Class of 2021 graduate,

The State Department issued a travel advisory Monday warning against travel to Japan, where Covid-19 infection rates are rising about two months before Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympic Games.

The “Level 4: Do Not Travel” guidance does not specifically mention the Olympics, which were delayed last year and are set to begin July 23. Case numbers have been rising in Japan as the government has begun vaccinating health care workers and people ages 65 and up.

The country has had over 36,000 Covid-19 cases and 779 deaths in the last seven days and nearly 716,000 cases overall, according to an NBC News tally. Japan, where over 12,000 people have died overall, is also still under a state of emergency as it prepares to welcome 11,000 athletes from 200 nations and territories.

The State Department noted that travel for tourism and other short-term purposes is still not permitted in Japan. Visa-free travel is also suspended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also updated a travel advisory Monday warning against traveling to Japan.

“Travelers should avoid all travel to Japan,” the CDC said. “Because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan.”

The agency added, “If you must travel to Japan, get fully vaccinated before travel.”

NBC will broadcast the Tokyo Games, which were postponed last summer because of the pandemic.

John Coates, vice president of the International Olympic Committee, said Friday that the games will be safe.

“I can say it’s now clearer than ever these games would be safe for everyone participating and safe for the people of Japan,” Coates said in a virtual news conference, Reuters reported. “After eight years of hard work and planning, the finish line is within touching distance.”