Illinois Tourism & Travel

Crazy About Travel

Opinion | Rethinking U.S. Rules on International Travel

To the Editor:

Re “Early Reports Signal Variant Is Less Severe” (front page, Dec. 7):

Well, now even more restrictions are being placed on international air travel into the United States, with testing no earlier than the day before departure being the latest requirement. What’s next — testing within 10 minutes of boarding?

Why isn’t proof of full vaccination with a booster, wearing a mask at all times and perhaps throwing in a temperature check at the airport good enough for a U.S. citizen to return home? The ultimate irony here is that domestic flights do not require vaccination, testing or a temperature check. So when a fully vaccinated person boards a domestic flight, he or she can be exposed to who knows how many anti-vaxxers.

Can’t the government see that by piling on international flight requirements it is doing two things: 1) killing international travel, and 2) downplaying the importance of being vaccinated, the very message it doesn’t want to send? Instead, the government should make a simple requirement for all air travel: In addition to wearing a mask, you must be fully vaccinated or have a legitimate medical reason not to be.

The pandemic will be with us until the government finds the guts to seriously reduce the pool of unvaccinated persons. This is Immunology 101. Vaccination mandates are the best tool we have for putting the brakes on the pandemic and should be extended to include all air travelers.

Michael Madigan
Murphysboro, Ill.
The writer is professor emeritus of microbiology at Southern Illinois University.

To the Editor:

While restricting entry into the United States from countries in southern Africa has been met with criticism both here and abroad, what is more important to consider is whether the U.S. policy as to the rest of the world to require only full vaccination and before-boarding negative tests will ever be as effective as China’s requirement that visitors not only be fully vaccinated and test negative, but then must quarantine for at least 14 days in a monitored hotel (at their own expense).

That China has had a little over 100,000 cases and fewer than 5,000 deaths — compared with nearly 50 million cases and 800,000 deaths in the United States — suggests that its strict policy is vastly superior to America’s.

Peter Flemming
West Caldwell, N.J.

To the Editor:

Re “Last Winter, Diners Froze. This Year, They Choose” (news article, Dec. 3):

I find a great misunderstanding of the concept of outdoor dining. Some of the photos accompanying this article show structures so enclosed as to be essentially indoors. In fact, New York City rules for restaurants would not classify many such structures as outdoors and would subject these places to indoor dining rules.

Sadly, a lack of enforcement, understanding and reporting has people eating in places where they think they are safe but very well may not be. I expect that in some cases, with vaccine card checks and professional ventilation, the indoor spaces of some restaurants may be safer than their additional outdoor structures.

Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

Especially with the Omicron variant emerging, New Yorkers need a better understanding of the risks of dining in these many poorly ventilated structures posing as outdoor space and inviting unvaccinated customers.

Four walls and a roof sounds like indoors to me.

Eric Scheer

To the Editor:

As a research scientist focused on early childhood education in New England, I greatly appreciated “The Solution to Poverty? Invest in Kids,” by David L. Kirp (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 5).

In that regard, Vermont is ahead of the curve thanks to an act by state legislators in 2014 to establish universal prekindergarten. Clearly there’s a push for similar action on a national level, because all children in this country deserve access to high-quality preschool education.

In the four years after the signing of Vermont’s universal pre-K into law, enrollment figures in publicly funded pre-K jumped 30 percent. It’s no wonder. Young learners thrive in such settings with guidance from dedicated professionals covering a variety of subjects, from social and emotional learning to math.

While there have been some transition challenges, Vermonters are committed to continuous improvement and proud to be on the right side of early education history.

Clare Waterman
Peacham, Vt.
The writer is a research scientist at the Education Development Center.

To the Editor:

It is ironic that the Supreme Court seems poised to decimate Roe (if not overturn it) so soon after your paper wrote about young couples who are deciding to remain childless because of the state of the environment, the country and the world (“In an Age Like This, Is It Still OK to Procreate?,” Sunday Styles, Nov. 21).

This discussion may be moot in light of the prospective decision from the nation’s highest court, which may be removing the possibility of that choice for these couples — and, in so doing, forcing them to raise families in precisely the world they feel is wrong for their children.

In fact, undoing Roe will do nothing but reinforce this worldview.

Naomi Segal Deitz
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

Re “Can a Machine Learn Morality?” (Business, Nov. 23):

The attempt at teaching ethics to an artificial intelligence system is a step toward an uncomfortable but inevitable realization: Any attempt at machine ethics involves codifying concepts that humans have never quite managed to make fully explicit for themselves.

Millenniums of brilliant minds in philosophy have not reached any one authoritative ethical system, and there is no particular reason to believe that they will ever do so.

Luckily, human beings are able to turn to our own innate sense of empathy and fairness, varying across cultures but ultimately derived from evolved tendencies geared toward social stability, to resolve the shortcomings of ethical guidelines. Machines do not have such instincts and thus cannot help but expose the gaps in any fixed set of moral principles.

No matter how well “instructed,” an A.I. can only be a repository of what humans have previously decided; it cannot tell us anything that we do not already know.

Rob Louis
Cazenovia, N.Y.
The writer is a Ph.D. student at UMass Amherst and teaches classes involving A.I., ethics and media.

To the Editor:

Re “Baseball Finally Gets Total Picture on Hodges,” by Tyler Kepner (On Baseball, Dec. 7):

I was glad to read that Gil Hodges was finally posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a player. I will never forget June of 1968 when he was manager of the New York Mets. I called the Mets office asking to speak to Mr. Hodges. I was surprised when he picked up the phone.

I told him I was from upstate New York and wanted to surprise my dad for his birthday with two tickets to an upcoming Mets game. I told him I was willing to pay for the tickets but asked if he could arrange really good seats. He took my name and told me the tickets would be at the Will Call window.

When we arrived at Shea Stadium I walked up to the window and was pleasantly surprised when I was told that Mr. Hodges had comped the tickets. And they were in the first row behind the Mets dugout.

With all of his attributes as a player and a manager who led the Mets to the World Series championship in 1969, he will be remembered by this former New Yorker as a kind man, a true mensch.

(Rabbi) Reuven H. Taff