U.S. Borders Open, International Visitors Welcomed Back
By: REYNA IWAMOTO / MANAGING EDITOR
On Monday, November 8, 2021, President Biden lifted the pandemic travel ban after more than a year and a half of the order being in place. With nonessential travel into the U.S. open once again, fully vaccinated international travelers from over 30 countries, including the UK, EU, Mexico, and Canada, can now visit the U.S.
The lifted travel restrictions have allowed for many families and friends to reunite for the first time since COVID-19 emerged, and for international students at LIU, this announcement came as a relief, as their family and friends are now able to visit them in the U.S.
Jacqueline Grabowski, a senior on the LIU swim team from Brey, Germany, is looking forward to having her friends and family come to New York.
“I feel very excited,” Grabowski said. “All my family and friends are finally able to come visit me again. It also means things are getting back to normal which is really relieving.”
Grabowski said that right as the borders reopened, two of her closest friends visited her in New York.
“They were on the first tourist flight to NYC which was really exciting,” Grabowski said.
For Grabowski, having spent more than a year watching her American friends have loved ones visit them, the loosening of travel restrictions has been very meaningful to her.
“It was hard for me as an international student as no one from home could visit me,” Grabowski said. “Especially seeing the American families visiting my teammates here was sad to see for me.”
On the other hand, Grabowski added that the travel restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 made her feel much safer.
“COVID-19 cases in Europe were much higher most of the time, so the travel ban was the reason why we were able to live a much more normal and open life here in New York,” Grabowski said.
As the two-year marker since the pandemic began approaches, the world is slowly and joyously returning to “normal” – a change that may come at a price.
With the lifted travel ban came many scenes of reunited loved ones, but the policy change also highlights concerns regarding rising cases of COVID-19 in certain countries and a “potentially devastating” winter for Europeans.
According to data from Reuters, despite plummeting numbers of COVID-19 cases in Germany in early July, cases are currently at their peak and rising, with 314 infections per 100,000 people reported in the last seven days. Data from Reuters also shows that Germany has administered more than 114 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which, assuming every person received two, is enough to have vaccinated around 69% of the population.
While experts have raised health concerns regarding the influx in international travel, many have also welcomed the change, emphasizing that the move benefits families as well as the economy.
Grabowski is currently waiting for some members of her family to receive their COVID-19 booster shots, but she is eager to have others from her hometown come to the U.S. soon, especially for her upcoming graduation in May 2022.
Sophomore Itzy Gonzalez, from Mexico City, Mexico, is also planning on having family and friends visit her soon.
For Gonzalez, last school year was especially difficult as the travel ban was already in place when she had to travel to New York for her first semester in college.
“It was hard since it all happened before my freshman year, so my parents couldn’t come to help me move into college,” Gonzalez-Rojas said.
Gonzalez, also a member of the LIU swim team, had to spend her first year on a collegiate swim team with her family members watching her competitions from Mexico via live streams from the Northeast Conference (NEC).
This season however, Gonzalez is planning to have her parents come to the U.S. to watch her compete at the NEC Championships for swimming in February 2022.
Gonzalez is also eagerly anticipating having her friends, as well as her grandparents and cousins, travel to the U.S. soon.
Data, also gathered from Reuters, shows that COVID-19 cases in Mexico are falling, most recently reporting 14 infections per 100,000 people in the last seven days. It was also reported that Mexico has administered more than 129 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which, assuming every person received two, is enough to have vaccinated around 50% of the population.
“I’m excited!” Gonzalez said about the loosened restrictions. “It is starting to feel like we are going back to the ‘normal life’ that we were used to.”