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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added three island destinations to its “high” risk category for travelers on Tuesday.
To recap, the three destinations moved up to the “high” risk column on Tuesday are:
• Turks and Caicos
The CDC recently overhauled its ratings system for assessing Covid-19 risk for travelers.
The Level 3 “high” risk category is now the top rung in terms of risk level. Level 2 is considered “moderate” risk, and Level 1 is “low” risk.
Level 4, previously the highest risk category, is now reserved only for special circumstances, such as extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern or health care infrastructure collapse. Under the new system, no destinations have been placed at Level 4 so far.
Lesotho, a mountainous landlocked nation within South Africa, moved up from Level 1 on Monday. All the other places had been at Level 2.
Last week, only one new destination was placed in Level 3: the British Virgin Islands.
Overall, this week’s CDC travel risk update saw little in the way of the dramatic shifts in status that characterized this past winter and early spring during the original Omicron variant surge.
In the CDC’s new system, the “Level 3: Covid-19 High” category applies to countries that have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.
Many other popular travel destinations are also at Level 3.
• The Netherlands
• United Kingdom
It’s not just European favorites that find themselves at Level 3. Numerous notable travel destinations around the world are among those in the high risk category, including the following:
• Costa Rica
• South Korea
There are almost 110 destinations at Level 3 this week. Level 3 locations now account for nearly half of the roughly 235 places monitored by the CDC.
The CDC advises that you get up-to-date with your Covid-19 vaccines before traveling to a Level 3 destination. Being “up-to-date” means you have had not only the full initial vaccinations but any boosters for which you’re eligible.
The CDC does not include the United States in its list of advisories, but on its color-coded map of the world, the CDC had it at Level 3 on Monday.
Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation reported 50 to 100 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. Eight places were moved to this level on Tuesday:
• Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Dominican Republic
• Saint Kitts and Nevis
Dominican Republic, Guyana and Saint Kitts and Nevis all moved up from Level 1. The rest of the destinations moved down in risk level from Level 3.
You can view the CDC’s risk levels for any global destination on the agency’s travel recommendations page.
In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.
If you’re concerned about a travel-specific health situation not related to Covid-19, check here.
To be in “Level 1: Covid-19 Low,” a destination must have had 49 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days. Two destinations were added to the category on May 31:
All four nations had been at Level 2 last week.
Level 1 had more than 50 entries as of Tuesday.
Finally, there are destinations the CDC has deemed to be of “unknown” risk because of a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places with ongoing warfare or unrest.
The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown. Destinations in this category include French Polynesia, the Azores, Cambodia and Tanzania.
A medical expert weighs in on risk levels
Transmission rates are just “one guidepost” for travelers’ personal risk calculations, according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
We’ve moved into “a phase in the pandemic where people need to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
There are other factors to weigh in addition to transmission rates, according to Wen.
“Another is what precautions are required and followed in the place that you’re going and then the third is what are you planning to do once you’re there,” she said.
“Are you planning to visit a lot of attractions and go to indoor bars? That’s very different from you’re going somewhere where you’re planning to lie on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. That’s very different. Those are very different levels of risk.”
Vaccination is the most significant safety factor for travel, since unvaccinated travelers are more likely to become ill and transmit Covid-19 to others, Wen said.
And it’s also important to consider what you would do if you end up testing positive away from home. Where will you stay and how easy will it be to get a test to return home?
Top image: South Africa is renowned for stunning scenery such as Blyde River Canyon. (Lkpro/Adobe Stock)