Category: travel

Data show Americans couldn’t resist Thanksgiving travel

Americans couldn’t resist the urge to gather for Thanksgiving, driving only slightly less than a year ago and largely ignoring the pleas of public health experts, who begged them to forgo holiday travel to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic, data from roadways and airports show.

The nation’s unwillingness to tamp down on travel offered a warning in advance of Christmas and New Year’s as virus deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs a week after Thanksgiving. U.S. deaths from the outbreak eclipsed 3,100 on Thursday, obliterating the single-day record set last spring.

Vehicle travel in early November was as much as 20% lower than a year earlier, but it surged around the holiday and peaked on Thanksgiving Day at only about 5% less than the pandemic-free period in 2019, according to StreetLight Data, which provided an analysis to the Associated Press.

“People were less willing to change their behavior than any other day during the pandemic,” said Laura Schewel, founder of StreetLight Data.

Airports also saw some of their busiest days of the pandemic, though air travel was much lower than last year. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers on four separate days during the Thanksgiving travel period. Since the pandemic gutted travel in March, there has been only one other day when the number of travelers topped 1 million — Oct. 18.

“If only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, this can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another,” Dr. Cindy Friedman, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official, said this week during a briefing.

Wide swaths of the country saw a sudden influx of people arriving from university campuses in the days leading up to the holiday, according to a data visualization of anonymous cellphone data from a firm called Tectonix.

The CDC has urged people to stay home for the holidays, but officials acknowledged that many people would not heed that advice and advised them to get tested before and after trips. Friedman said that this year’s holidays presented “tough choices” for many families.

The travelers included some elected officials who preached against trips. The mayors of Denver and Austin, Texas, faced fierce backlashes for traveling after telling other people to stay home.

Others had no regrets. Trananda Graves, who runs a travel planning company in Keller, Texas, took a Thanksgiving road trip with her family to Nashville. It was a chance for her daughter to connect with relatives as they shared recipes, and Graves said everyone’s mood was uplifted.

“It was just a break to get away from home,” Graves said. “We work at home, we go to school at home.”

She decided to drive to meet extended family after seeing that flights were crowded and said her family followed guidance to avoid spreading infections.

But infections, even from small Thanksgiving gatherings, have begun to stream in around the country, adding another burden to health departments that are already overwhelmed.

“This uptick

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Data shows Americans couldn’t resist Thanksgiving travel

FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2020, file photo, air travelers line up to go through a a security checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Data from roadways and airports shows millions could not resist the urge to gather on Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic.

FILE – In this Nov. 25, 2020, file photo, air travelers line up to go through a a security checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Data from roadways and airports shows millions could not resist the urge to gather on Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic.

AP

Americans couldn’t resist the urge to gather for Thanksgiving, driving only slightly less than a year ago and largely ignoring the pleas of public health experts, who begged them to forgo holiday travel to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, data from roadways and airports shows.

The nation’s unwillingness to tamp down on travel offered a warning in advance of Christmas and New Year’s as virus deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs a week after Thanksgiving. U.S. deaths from the outbreak eclipsed 3,100 on Thursday, obliterating the single-day record set last spring.

Vehicle travel in early November was as much as 20% lower than a year earlier, but it surged around the holiday and peaked on Thanksgiving Day at only about 5% less than the pandemic-free period in 2019, according to StreetLight Data, which provided an analysis to The Associated Press.

“People were less willing to change their behavior than any other day during the pandemic,” said Laura Schewel, founder of StreetLight Data.

Airports also saw some of their busiest days of the pandemic, though air travel was much lower than last year. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers on four separate days during the Thanksgiving travel period. Since the pandemic gutted travel in March, there has been only one other day when the number of travelers topped 1 million — Oct. 18.

“If only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, this can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another,” Dr. Cindy Friedman, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official, said this week during a briefing.

Wide swaths of the country saw a sudden influx of people arriving from university campuses in the days leading up to the holiday, according to a data visualization of anonymous cellphone data from a firm called Tectonix.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged people to stay home for the holidays, but officials acknowledged that many people would not heed that advice and advised them to get tested before and after trips. Friedman said that this year’s holidays presented “tough choices” for many families.

The travelers included some elected officials who preached against trips. The mayors of Denver and Austin, Texas, faced fierce backlashes for traveling after telling other people to stay home.

Others had no regrets. Trananda Graves, who runs a travel-planning company in Keller, Texas, took a Thanksgiving road trip with her family to Nashville, Tennessee. It was a chance for her daughter to connect with relatives as they shared recipes, and Graves said everyone’s mood was uplifted.

“It was just a break to get away from home,” Graves said.

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Airlines try to thread the needle as CDC warns against holiday travel

The airline and travel industry are wrestling with how to promote their struggling sectors in the run-up to the usually-busy Thanksgiving holiday, against the backdrop of stern new CDC recommendations released Thursday warning to avoid travel as coronavirus cases spiral uncontrolled.



a group of people sitting at a airport: A passenger carries her luggage through a nearly deserted terminal at the Tampa International Airport in Florida.


© Chris O’Meara/AP Photo
A passenger carries her luggage through a nearly deserted terminal at the Tampa International Airport in Florida.

“CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said during a briefing Thursday, adding that the health agency is especially concerned about “transportation hubs.”

The agency’s recommendation lines up with a growing number of new state restrictions and warnings in response to record numbers of new cases and more than 250,000 U.S. deaths, as well as disease experts’ concerns that even small indoor gatherings of people from different locations could spread the virus further.

Thanksgiving is typically a banner time of year for the airline industry, which has seen rock bottom revenues in 2020. While the volume of travelers will be much less than in previous years, air carriers have still been hoping for a healthy uptick.

During a press conference held a week ago, Nick Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, said “I hope you’re flying somewhere” for Thanksgiving. “I am,” he continued.

“Flying is safe, I will state that categorically,” Calio said.

But by Thursday, as Covid cases and spread spiked ever higher, Calio had adopted a more cautious tone, though he still insisted the risk of being infected on board a plane is low. On a joint holiday travel call with TSA, Calio said airlines want travelers to “make an informed decision.”

He suggested they look to research like a recent Harvard study that found that with a layered approach — including social distancing, masks and air filtration — the risk of coronavirus transmission aboard a plane is low.

Several additional studies have found the same, although the science is far from settled and other researchers have found suspected cases of transmission on board planes.

The mood was more grim at a U.S. Travel Association press conference later in the day. “We’re in an unprecedented and dangerous time,” said Michael Parkinson, a doctor who serves on an advisory panel for the group.

Roger Dow, the association’s president, said “I’d rather have a little less travel now to come back more quickly down the road.” However, the 74-year-old Dow said he himself will be traveling from Florida to Maryland for Thanksgiving.

TSA chief David Pekoske repeatedly side-stepped questions about whether the agency would discourage holiday travel, saying travelers should “make their own decisions.”

“The decision to travel is up to the traveler,” he said. “And my best advice to the traveler is to consider the recommendations that the Centers for Disease Control have made, that their local public health officials have made and any consultations that they think are appropriate with their own physicians.”

TSA expects to see travel volumes that are consistent with the Columbus Day weekend,

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Buried trash at UTA construction site uncovers glimpse of 19th century rail travel

Buried trash at UTA construction site uncovers glimpse of 19th century rail travel

(Photo courtesy of Utah Transit Authority) Examples of artifacts found in a buried trash pile at the construction site of a new UTA facility offer a glimpse into what 19th century railroads used.

Finding a pile of trash on your property may not seem like reason for excitement. But discovery of one buried at the downtown Salt Lake City site of a new Utah Transit Authority bus maintenance facility is delighting archeologists.

Crews installing a storm drain unearthed a “midden” — a fancy word for trash pile — full of artifacts from trains used as long ago as the 19th century, when the site was a maintenance shop for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad between the mid-1880s to the late 1950s.
“I have a sneaking suspicion these are the contents of a passenger car,” said Christopher Merritt, historic preservation officer for the Utah Division of State History. They include fully intact bottles and ceramic pottery, plus plates and even a soap dish.

“Sort of like a movie theater, once the movie was over, the crew went in and cleaned out all the trash and these items were deposited. That’s really unique,” he said. “I can’t think of any other similar discovery in the United States of what a passenger experience would have been like on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in the 19th century.”

(Photo courtesy of Utah Transit Authority) Examples of artifacts found in a buried trash pile at the construction site of a new UTA facility that offer a glimpse into what 19th century railroads used.

UTA said in a news release that when Big D Construction crews made the find during work on its new Depot District Fuels Technology Center, they notified the state. Archeologists and crews have been mapping the area where the artifacts were deposited, nestled against a long concrete foundation with embedded rails.

“Several of the bottles were still corked and had contents in them, what looks like whiskey or other hard liquor in the bottles, which is kind of a cool time capsule in itself,” Merritt said.

He adds that it’s impossible to say whether the artifacts will be the only ones found on the construction.

(Photo courtesy of Utah Transit Authority) Historical photo of Denver & Rio Grande Western maintenance shop that once stood where a new UTA bus facility is being built.

“In this area we’re just learning about this really cool railroad history. What was it like to ride in a passenger train dining car in the 19th century? What were they drinking and eating? This kind of discovery is our only window into the past,” Merritt said.

He praised the construction crews who made the discovery.

“The operators on the ground are experienced. They’re highly skilled. They know what doesn’t feel right when they’re digging with a back hoe,”

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Data shows Americans couldn’t resist Thanksgiving travel

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Americans couldn’t resist the urge to gather for Thanksgiving, driving only slightly less than a year ago and largely ignoring the pleas of public health experts, who begged them to forgo holiday travel to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, data from roadways and airports shows.



FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2020, file photo, air travelers line up to go through a a security checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Data from roadways and airports shows millions could not resist the urge to gather on Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)


© Provided by Associated Press
FILE – In this Nov. 25, 2020, file photo, air travelers line up to go through a a security checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Data from roadways and airports shows millions could not resist the urge to gather on Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The nation’s unwillingness to tamp down on travel offered a warning in advance of Christmas and New Year’s as virus deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs a week after Thanksgiving. U.S. deaths from the outbreak eclipsed 3,100 on Thursday, obliterating the single-day record set last spring.

Vehicle travel in early November was as much as 20% lower than a year earlier, but it surged around the holiday and peaked on Thanksgiving Day at only about 5% less than the pandemic-free period in 2019, according to StreetLight Data, which provided an analysis to The Associated Press.

“People were less willing to change their behavior than any other day during the pandemic,” said Laura Schewel, founder of StreetLight Data.

Airports also saw some of their busiest days of the pandemic, though air travel was much lower than last year. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers on four separate days during the Thanksgiving travel period. Since the pandemic gutted travel in March, there has been only one other day when the number of travelers topped 1 million — Oct. 18.



FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, air travelers arriving at Midway Airport in Chicago are reminded of the city's COVID-19 travel orders. Data from roadways and airports shows millions could not resist the urge to gather on Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)


© Provided by Associated Press
FILE – In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, air travelers arriving at Midway Airport in Chicago are reminded of the city’s COVID-19 travel orders. Data from roadways and airports shows millions could not resist the urge to gather on Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

“If only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, this can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another,” Dr. Cindy Friedman, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official, said this week during a briefing.

Wide swaths of the country saw a sudden influx of people arriving from university campuses in the days leading up to the holiday, according to a data visualization of anonymous cellphone data from a firm called Tectonix.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged people to stay home for the holidays, but officials acknowledged that many people would not heed that advice and advised them to get tested before and after trips. Friedman said that this year’s holidays presented “tough choices” for many families.

The travelers included some elected officials who preached against trips. The mayors of Denver and Austin, Texas, faced fierce backlashes for traveling after telling other

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Italian Government Bans Christmas Travel, Prompting Regional Leaders to Call the Order ‘Crazy’

Italy’s government announced on Wednesday that citizens will not be able to travel throughout the country during Christmas, angering regional leaders who said the new effort to contain the coronavirus’s spread goes too far.



a man wearing a suit and tie: The Italian government issued a new decree on Wednesday, stating that citizens will be prohibited from traveling through Italy's 20 regions during Christmas. In this photo, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte holds a press conference to announce a new emergency decree on COVID restrictions, at Palazzo Chigi, on November 4, 2020 in Rome, Italy.


© Alessandro Serranò/Getty
The Italian government issued a new decree on Wednesday, stating that citizens will be prohibited from traveling through Italy’s 20 regions during Christmas. In this photo, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte holds a press conference to announce a new emergency decree on COVID restrictions, at Palazzo Chigi, on November 4, 2020 in Rome, Italy.

From December 21 to January 6, no Italian citizen will be able to travel among the country’s 20 regions except for work, medical reasons or emergencies, the government order said.

On Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, residents will not even be permitted to leave their specific towns. Those who live in small towns or villages within walking distance to the next will still be banned from leaving their own town limits.

COVID-19 Update: A Breakdown Of Coronavirus Vaccines In Late Stage Trials

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San Antonio to host air travel conference in early 2022

Good news: San Antonio has a major, in-person convention on the books.

In 2022.

In February of that year, San Antonio will host the Routes Americas conference, an event that connects airport officials and airline executives to discuss expanding routes and air service, city officials announced Thursday.

Event organizers say they expect the conference will bring a much-needed boost to the San Antonio hospitality and tourism industry that’s been battered this year by the pandemic. Long-term, the conference could bring more airlines and routes to the area, officials said.

“Air service development is a key priority for the city and (San Antonio Airport System),” said Jesus Saenz, San Antonio’s airport director. “Routes Americas is an unparalleled opportunity to showcase our great city directly to the decision makers as well as bring a much-needed boost to our hospitality community utilizing our world class convention center, hotel rooms, venues and restaurants.”

Last year, the Routes Americas conference was held in Indianapolis, and brought together 700 delegates representing 90 air carriers. In 2022, officials expect the event to bring 1,000 participants to San Antonio.

While air travel picked up at San Antonio International Airport over the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s still down sharply from 2019.

On ExpressNews.com: Holiday, diversions lure travelers into the skies

The passenger count at San Antonio International dropped by two-thirds in September compared with a year earlier. Airlines have at least temporarily eliminiated some routes while cutting the number of flights on other routes.

From Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, three million travelers passed through the airport, down 61 percent from the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, San Antonio’s hotels — magnets for conference visitors in the pre-pandemic era — saw their revenue fall by more than fifty percent from July through September compared with the same time span in 2019.

Hotel occupancy was at 41.6 percent over those three months, compared with an average rate of 65.9 percent in the summer of 2019.

On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio hotels weathered big revenue declines in third quarter

“As a city, we’re committed to the meetings and conventions industry,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, pointing to renovations of the River Walk and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. “As our meeting industry has evolved and innovated in a COVID-19 environment, one foundation that has only become stronger is the San Antonio spirit of hospitality and enrichment.”

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The Trump travel ban on Muslim-majority countries may be associated with preterm births among women, study says

The 2017 travel ban imposed by the Trump administration on seven Muslim-majority countries may be associated with an increase in preterm births among women from those countries residing in the United States, according to a new study.



a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Researchers found an increase in preterm birth rates among women from countries on the 2017 travel ban.


© Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
Researchers found an increase in preterm birth rates among women from countries on the 2017 travel ban.

The study, published last week in the journal Social Science and Medicine, analyzed preterm birth rates among women from countries impacted by the travel ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Researchers found an increase after the ban, with a preterm birth rate of 8.6% between February and September 2017. That percentage rose from 8.5% before the ban, between January 2009 and December 2016.

By comparison, US-born, non-Hispanic White women held a steady 8.6% preterm birth rate throughout the time frames.

The 0.1 percentage point increase may not seem dramatic, but it means that the odds of women from these countries having preterm births increased by 6.8%, according to lead author Goleen Samari, an assistant professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

“It’s a massive change when you think about a 6.8% increase,” Samurai told CNN. And because these women typically have better birth outcomes than non-Hispanic White women, Samari says, going from better to worse is significant.

Stress could be reason behind preterm births

To calculate the change, the team used a time series model to estimate the expected preterm birth numbers had the ban not been issued. They used data beginning in 2009 to see what the expected number of preterm births among women from the banned countries would be in 2017 and 2018, after the ban went into place. The team then compared the expected amount of preterm births to the actual amount, showing the elevated trend.

The researchers could not say why the policy led to a rise in preterm births. However, Samurai says that the researchers hypothesized that it was due to stress — either the initial acute stressful shock of the first order or chronic stress exposure as the ban continued to change and make headlines for its court filings or protests.

Another reason could be a decline of quality care, as some women may have avoided prenatal care because they may have felt like they were in a discriminatory environment, Samari says.

Researchers also noted some limitations in their analysis, notably that they did not use individual-level information in their analysis, like maternal facts, political ideology or gestational risk factors that may have contributed to preterm births.

The study stands out for its focus on women from the Middle East and North Africa, who tend to be overlooked as they are classified as non-Hispanic White in data, the researchers say. They add that no study had focused on the impact of a policy that is considered xenophobic and Islamophobic.

Preterm births and poor birth outcomes are “sensitive markers of temporally acute stressors from social and economic threats to

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California’s stay-at-home order allows essential travel only. What does that mean?



a body of water next to the rock: Big Sur is among the California tourism destinations that may be affected by Gov. Gavin Newsom's tightening of travel restrictions. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)


© (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Big Sur is among the California tourism destinations that may be affected by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s tightening of travel restrictions. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Stop traveling, the governor says.

With the “regional stay-at-home” order issued Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom is imploring Californians to stay home for the next three weeks and cinching already tight restrictions in areas where the COVID-19 pandemic has hospitals under the heaviest pressure.

Outlining the new restrictions, which include new capacity limits for retailers and other changes, state officials said hotels and other lodgings will be allowedto open for critical infrastructure support only.” But in the immediate aftermath of the governor’s announcement Thursday afternoon, details of the new travel restrictions remained unclear.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Service, said the state is effectively telling, not asking, Californians to stop all nonessential travel. That includes canceling holiday travel plans, he added.

“The message of the day is, as much as you can, be at home,” Ghaly said.

However, he and Newsom also stressed that parks and beaches would remain open and that Californians could boost their mental health by hiking, running, fishing, practicing yoga, skiing, snowboarding and otherwise savoring outdoor activities.

The new regional stay-at-home order, which officials said goes into effect within 48 hours of the announcement, applies in California regions where ICU availability is less than 15%. Among other things, the new order “prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail, and requires 100% masking and physical distancing in all others.” It is to remain in effect for at least three weeks.

The order’s regional grouping categorizes Los Angeles County within an 11-county area that also includes Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The 11 Southern California counties and 12 counties in the Central Valley could be required to implement the new restrictions on Friday, based on current projections of the rising number of patients who have been admitted to intensive care units.

VisitCalifornia.com, the state’s tourism website, puts the new rules in blunt terms: The state, it says, has “banned non-essential travel in most of the state beginning Dec. 4.”

In a widely circulated letter to industry professionals, Visit California President and Chief Executive Caroline Beteta wrote that in the 23 counties immediately affected, “hotels can remain open, although the order announced today bans non-essential travel statewide.”

She also noted that ski resorts can stay open (but must close their food and beverage services) and that campgrounds must close, along with wineries, breweries, museums, zoos, family entertainment centers and aquariums.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area spokesman Tim LeRoy confirmed the information about ski operations. California State Parks did not respond to questions about how the governor’s order would affect its campgrounds. As of Wednesday, 83 state campgrounds were at least partly open.

Other details of the state’s plan for enforcing the

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The 2017 travel ban may be associated with preterm births among women from the targeted countries, study says

The study, published last week in the journal Social Science and Medicine, analyzed preterm birth rates among women from countries impacted by the travel ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Researchers found an increase after the ban, with a preterm birth rate of 8.6% between February and September 2017. That percentage rose from 8.5% before the ban, between January 2009 and December 2016.

By comparison, US-born, non-Hispanic White women held a steady 8.6% preterm birth rate throughout the time frames.

The 0.1 percentage point increase may not seem dramatic, but it means that the odds of women from these countries having preterm births increased by 6.8%, according to lead author Goleen Samari, an assistant professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

“It’s a massive change when you think about a 6.8% increase,” Samurai told CNN. And because these women typically have better birth outcomes than non-Hispanic White women, Samari says, going from better to worse is significant.

Stress could be reason behind preterm births

To calculate the change, the team used a time series model to estimate the expected preterm birth numbers had the ban not been issued. They used data beginning in 2009 to see what the expected number of preterm births among women from the banned countries would be in 2017 and 2018, after the ban went into place. The team then compared the expected amount of preterm births to the actual amount, showing the elevated trend.

The researchers could not say why the policy led to a rise in preterm births. However, Samurai says that the researchers hypothesized that it was due to stress — either the initial acute stressful shock of the first order or chronic stress exposure as the ban continued to change and make headlines for its court filings or protests.

States are calling racism a public health crisis. Here's what that means

Another reason could be a decline of quality care, as some women may have avoided prenatal care because they may have felt like they were in a discriminatory environment, Samari says.

Researchers also noted some limitations in their analysis, notably that they did not use individual-level information in their analysis, like maternal facts, political ideology or gestational risk factors that may have contributed to preterm births.

The study stands out for its focus on women from the Middle East and North Africa, who tend to be overlooked as they are classified as non-Hispanic White in data, the researchers say. They add that no study had focused on the impact of a policy that is considered xenophobic and Islamophobic.

Preterm births and poor birth outcomes are “sensitive markers of temporally acute stressors from social and economic threats to war, hate crimes, and socioplitical threats,” the researchers wrote in their analysis.

Other studies have pointed to similar findings. After September 11, women with Arabic names were 34% more likely to have a low birthweight infant than before the attacks, according to a 2006 study. Another study, published in 2018, found the passage of a restrictive immigration law in Arizona
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