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On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added five world countries to its 'Level 3: High' COVID-19 risk category warning list for travelers. Among them are a few perennially popular destinations for American tourists, such as The Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Montserrat in the Caribbean, as well as the Central American nation of Belize and the southern African nation of Eswatini.
According to CNN, four of these destinations were previously included in the 'Level 2: Moderate' COVID-19 risk category-The Bahamas, Belize, Eswatini, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines-before being bumped up a level this week. The British overseas territory of Montserrat, however, was moved up two levels from its previous 'Level 1: Low' risk status.
In mid-April, the CDC overhauled the format of its Travel Health Notice system for foreign destinations. Therefore, in terms of travelers' generalized risk of contracting COVID-19, Level 3 is now the highest label that's assigned to any given destination outside of special circumstances.
Whereas Level 4 used to represent 'Very High Risk' for COVID-19, that label is now reserved for 'Special Circumstances/Do Not Travel' warnings.
The CDC said examples might include, "rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, and healthcare infrastructure collapse. Other factors that may be considered include information such as vaccination rate and hospitalization rate." To date, no destination has received this particular designation.
Levels 1 through 3 continue to be primarily determined by rolling 28-day COVID-19 incidence rates or new case counts. 'Level 1: Low' destinations are those that have seen 49 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over the prior 28 days; 'Level 2: Moderate' ones are those that have reported between 50 and 100 new cases per 100,000; while countries categorized as 'Level 3: High' are those that have had over 100 new cases per 100,000 people over the same period.
Over the past four weeks, the CDC travel advisory level lists have been largely free of such dramatic shifts as were seen this past winter and in early spring, when the Omicron variant first was spreading swiftly around the globe.
As of Monday, May 23, around 115 of the world's nations were included under the 'Level 3: High' warning column (nearly half of the approximately 235 destinations that the CDC monitors). Currently, only 17 countries sit in the 'Level 2: Moderate' category, while the 'Level 1: Low' list contains 53. There's one more category labeled 'Level Unknown', which contains the remainder of those destinations (many of them remote, sparsely populated or relatively small) that the CDC continues to keep its eye on.
Laurie Baratti is a San Diego-based journalist whose work has previously appeared in publications like TravelAge West, SPACE,...
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