By Sugam Pokharel, Aya Elamroussi and James Frater, CNN
The European Union recommended on Monday that Americans should be banned from nonessential travel to its member states after a rise in Covid-19 cases in the United States.
Countries within the 27-nation bloc, which includes France, Italy and Germany, have been advised to reinstate coronavirus-related restrictions and halt the arrival of tourists from the US and five other countries.
The guidance, which also now applies to Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia, is non-binding for EU member states. That means it remains up to each individual EU country to decide whether to allow “nonessential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travelers.”
Europe had begun opening up to US travelers in May with destinations dependent on tourism dollars from across the Atlantic eager to recoup heavy losses incurred during successive lockdowns.
The European Council, the EU’s governing body, recommended in June that the bloc lift restrictions on nonessential travel from 14 countries, including the United States.
However, Covid-19 cases in the US have surged in recent weeks, as the highly infectious Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated Americans. Covid-19 cases among children are also hitting levels not seen since winter.
“What is going on now is both entirely predictable, but entirely preventable. And you know we know we have the wherewithal with vaccines to turn this around,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious diseases expert. “We could turn this around and we could do it efficiently and quickly if we just get those people vaccinated.”
Nationally, 52.1% of the population was fully vaccinated as of Saturday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida on Saturday had the highest Covid-19 hospitalization rate in the country, with 75 patients per 100,000 residents in hospitals with the virus, according to data from federal health officials and Johns Hopkins University. It also reached yet another pandemic high of Covid-19 cases Friday, reporting 690.5 new cases per 100,000 people each day from August 20 to August 26, state data showed.
Fewer than 50% of people in South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas are fully vaccinated. Studies have shown that full vaccination is necessary for optimal protection against the Delta variant.
Several hospitals in those four states — Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana — are struggling with oxygen scarcity. Some are at risk of having to use their reserve supply or risk running out of oxygen imminently, according to state health officials and hospital consultants.
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CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne and Barry Neild contributed to this story.