CDC Drops All Countries From Its Top-Level COVID-19 Category

CDC Drops All Countries From Its Top-Level COVID-19 Category
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky speaks during a hearing in Washington on Nov. 4, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Jack Phillips

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped all countries from its top COVID-19 travel advisory warning.

As of Monday, the agency's travel list showed that dozens of countries were dropped from its "Level 4: Special Circumstances/Do Not Travel" category.

"There are no Level 4 COVID-19 Travel Health Notices at this time," the CDC website reads. Up to 100 countries were deemed "Level 4" by the agency earlier this year.

Now, it appears that many countries that were labeled "Level 4" are designated as "Level 3: COVID-19 High" or "Level 2: COVID-19 Moderate."

It came days after the federal health agency said it would update its travel advisory system and said the highest-risk category will only be reserved for extreme scenarios.

“To help the public understand when the highest level of concern is most urgent, this new system will reserve Level 4 travel health notices for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, or healthcare infrastructure collapse,” the CDC said in a statement last week.

The three other warning levels will be determined primarily by the number of COVID-19 cases in a country over the past 28 days, the CDC said.

"With this new configuration, travelers will have a more actionable alert for when they should not travel to a certain destination (Level 4), regardless of vaccination status, until we have a clearer understanding of the COVID-19 situation at that destination,” its statement continued.

Several weeks ago, the U.S. Travel Association trade group called on the Biden administration to update its travel advisory policies.

“The CDC should ensure that Americans are not dissuaded from traveling to any place with COVID-19 case rates that are equal to, or less than, the case rates prevailing in the U.S.,” the group's letter read (pdf). “As conditions continue to improve, the CDC should end all ‘avoid travel’ advisories for vaccinated individuals.”

It added that in the future, the White House "should avoid the use of travel bans from specific countries, which are not recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and have proven to be an ineffective means of preventing the spread of COVID-19."

In a similar move, the CDC dropped cruise ships from its list of COVID-19 travel warnings. Since earlier 2020, the agency has implemented a color-coded notice system for individual cruise lines.

Also, a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC's mask requirement for airplanes, airports, trains, and other forms of travel. Within a few hours, most major airlines announced they would not require masks for customers and staff.
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
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