August 9, 2023
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The Centers for Disease Control is also known as the CDC. This government agency has spent many months warning Americans to avoid any travel to a specific list of countries. This “Do Not Travel” list included many nations over concerns of COVID-19 levels being too high.
On Monday, the CDC pulled nearly 90 nations off of that list. They had previously all been listed with the Level 4 designation, which was the highest on the warning scale. Moving forward, the CDC says that the Level 4 warning will be only used for what they deem to be special circumstances. Examples of special circumstances that might warrant the designation could include new pandemic variants, the collapse of local health care infrastructure, or a hazardous rise in local positive cases.
At its highest peak, the list of Level 4 countries listed more than 100 different destinations. Suddenly, there are none whatsoever on the list.
While the Level 4 list had at one point included well over 100 destinations, now there are no Level 4 countries.
Classifications for Levels 1, 2, and 3 are going to remain largely the same. They are based on rolling 28-day periods of case counts and reported incidents of the pandemic.
A nation with a high level of pandemic is deemed to be Level 3. International travelers yet to be totally vaccinated should avoid traveling to such destinations. However, fully vaccinated travelers don’t need to heed this warning. Anyone who is immunocompromised should consult their physicians before making travel plans.
Nations with moderate pandemic levels fall under the Level 2 designations, while nations with low levels of COVID-19 are designated as Level 1. The CDC states that all travelers should be current with all available vaccines before visiting these places.
The new system of travel advisory is intended to provide better alerts for international travelers so they can better understand the urgency of high concern levels.
This update follows the news last week that the CDC planned to extend the mask mandate on public transportation and airlines through May 3. That decision did not last long, however. A legal challenge happened Monday when a Florida-based federal judge wound up voiding the mandate.
Another arm of the federal government, the State Department, has also announced adjustments to its own travel advisories. It had previously been correlating its guidance automatically with the travel health notices from the CDC. However, should the CDC put any destinations on the Level 4 warning list moving forward, the State Department would also make its travel advisory Level 4 for that destination as well.
At the time of writing, the Level 4 warning list from the State Department still had approximately 10% of all its total travel advisories. However, the State Department puts out advisories against travel to certain locations for numerous risks. The pandemic is only one of them.
The news of the public transportation federal mask mandate has been met with mixed reactions throughout the country. Several airlines have already dropped their own mandates as a result, and now there is a state- and a municipal-level patchwork of local mandates that citizens must contend with.
The White House may appeal the decision to a higher level of the federal court to see the mask mandate reinstated. However, such an effort would take time and might not succeed. The political debate is likely to continue into the near future about how many masks should be mandated in certain public spaces.