CDC adjusts destination risk assessment system for covid-19

(CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its new travel risk assessment system on Monday.

Many European countries are now considered at “high” risk for Covid-19, along with other iconic destinations around the world.

The new system classifies destinations into the following categories:

  • Level 3: high risk of covid-19
  • Level 2: moderate risk of covid-19
  • Level 1: low risk of covid-19
  • Unknown: there is not enough data to assess the risk

The big change comes at Level 4, which was typically used for places considered “very high” risk for travellers.

Level 4 will no longer be commonly used for this purpose. Instead, the level 4 warning is reserved, in the new system, only for exceptional circumstances.

These circumstances include “an extremely high number of cases, the emergence of a concerning new variant, or the collapse of healthcare infrastructure,” the CDC said. “Other factors that may be taken into account include information such as vaccination rate and hospitalization rate.”

On Monday, the CDC did not assign any destinations to Level 4, “Special Circumstances/Do Not Travel,” on its travel advisory website.

Levels 3, 2 and 1 will continue to be primarily determined by the old 28-day incidence or case count formula.

The review comes amid a backdrop of U.S. government agencies and the public continuing to respond and adapt to an ever-changing and sometimes strongly disagreeing pandemic.

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida overturned the Biden administration’s mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation, and an administration official said the order was no longer in effect while the decision was reconsidered. .

Level 3

On the island of Langkawi, Malaysia, currently at level 3, you can see the traditional and colorful Asian fishing boats.
1 credit: vasilygureev/Adobe Stock

Under the new system, the Tier 3 “high” risk category applies to destinations that have recorded more than 100 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days.

Among Tier 3 countries is Francewhich was the most visited country in the world in 2019 before the pandemic, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

But other classic destinations on the European tourist scene are also in the “high” risk category. April 18, including:

  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Portugal
  • UK
cdc destinations

An aerial view of London and the River Thames. The UK was at Level 3 (“high” risk) on April 18, 2022. Credit: Wayne H/Adobe Stock

Europe’s favorite destinations aren’t the only ones in this new list. Other popular destinations around the world that are also at level 3 are:

  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • South Korea
  • Egypt
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Thailand

In all, there were just over 120 destinations at level 3, late Monday afternoon. The CDC reports about 235 total locations.

The CDC advises you to be up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations before traveling to a Tier 3 destination. “Up-to-date” includes not only your initial vaccination schedule, but also any boosters for which you are eligible .

The CDC does not include the United States in its list of recommendations.

Level 2

CDC destinations

Mi Teleférico is a cable car in the city of La Paz, Bolivia. This South American country is at level 2.
Credit: saiko3p/Adobe Stock

Destinations in the “Level 2: Moderate risk of COVID-19” category are reporting between 50 and 100 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population in the past 28 days.

This Monday, it had only 11 destinations, spread all over the world. They stand out among them:

  • Bolivia
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Peru
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka

You can check the CDC’s risk levels for any global destination on their travel advice page.

In its broader travel guidelines, the CDC recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully immunized.

If you are concerned about a health situation unrelated to covid-19, consult here.

Level 1

CDC destinations

Looking to visit a country currently at level 1? Think Kenya. Here, elephants roam past Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park.
Credit: Dan/Adobe Stock

This level is dominated by destinations in Africa and had almost 55 entries in the first week under the new system.

To belong to “level 1: low risk of COVID-19”, a destination must have recorded 49 new cases or less per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 28 days.

Some of the highlights are:

  • Colombia
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • kenyan
  • Philippines
  • Dominican Republic
  • Senegal

A stranger

Finally, there are destinations that the CDC classifies in the “unknown” risk level, due to a lack of information. These are usually, but not always, small remote places or places where war or unrest is going on.

the Azores, Cambodia and Nicaragua are some of the places currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against traveling to these places precisely because the level of risk cannot be estimated.

Medical expert weighs in on risk levels

Transmission rates are “a benchmark” for estimating travelers’ personal risk, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“We are entering a phase of the pandemic where people have to make their own decisions based on their medical situation as well as their tolerance for the risk of contracting Covid-19,” Wen said in mid-February.

“Level 4 should be interpreted to mean that it is a place where there is a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go there, there is a higher chance that you can catch the coronavirus,” said said Wen, who is an emergency room doctor and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, Wen said. Other people will say, “Because I’m vaccinated and boosted, I’m willing to take that risk.”

“So it really has to be a personal decision that people make knowing that right now the CDC is categorizing the different tiers based on community transmission rates, and basically just that,” Wen said. “They don’t take into account individual circumstances.”

Travel Considerations

Transmission rates are important to consider when making travel decisions, but there are also other factors to weigh, according to Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, emergency physician and professor of politics and science. health management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

“Transmission rates are a guide,” Wen said. “Another is what precautions are needed and followed where you are going, and then the third is what you plan to do once you get there.

“Do you plan on visiting a lot of attractions and going to closed bars? It’s very different from going to a place where you plan to be on the beach all day and not interacting with anyone else. These are very different levels of risk.”

Vaccination is the most important safety factor for travel, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and transmit COVID-19 to others, Wen said.

He further stated that people should wear a high quality mask (N95, KN95 or KF94) whenever they are in crowded indoor environments with unknown vaccination status.

Before traveling, it’s also important to think about what you would do if you ended up testing positive away from home, Wen said. Where will you be staying and how easy will it be to get tested to return home?

— CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.

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