This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moved not one, not two, not three, but 22 destinations up to Level 4 on its Covid-19 Travel Recommendations. They didn’t do that just to commemorate the start of 2022. It reflects the fact that many countries are experiencing Covid-19 surges right now, fueled in part by the Omicron variant. The CDC has been advising everyone to avoid travelling to all Level 4 destinations. That’s everyone, regardless of vaccination status or how badly you want to play in a tennis tournament at that destination.
The CDC Covid-19 risk levels are like the number of times a ferret smacks you in the groin with a plunger. The higher the number, the worse. Level 4 is the highest of the CDC’s four Covid-19 risk levels, corresponding to a “very high” risk. Nineteen of the 22 destinations moved to Level 4 from Level 3 (”high Covid-19 risk”): Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bermuda, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Egypt, Guyana, Israel, Panama, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Uruguay. Grenada and São Tomé and Príncipe jumped up from Level 2 (”moderate Covid-19 risk”) while the British Virgin Islands leapt up from Level 1 (”low Covid-19 risk”).
So you may want to refrain from going to Turks as well as Caicos unless you absolutely have to do so. The same applies to Argentina, even if you really want to see the forest that’s shaped like a guitar. And if you are planning on invading Australia, based on what you may have heard from Candace Owens, don’t.
Of course, being at Level 4 doesn’t mean that a destination has “fallen” or is in bad Covid-19 shape. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that the destination’s Covid-19 situation is worse than that of the U.S. A destination’s CDC level depends solely on how many new Covid-19 cases have been occurring and not deaths, hospitalizations, or other measures. As I have described before for Forbes, a destination reaches Level 4 when it has 500 or more new reported Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days (or about 2.55 Scaramuccis). Some destinations now on Level 4 such as Australia (with over 78% of its population fully vaccinated) and Israel (with over 65% fully vaccinated) have higher vaccination rates than the U.S. (about 63.5% fully vaccinated). The impact of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may be considerably less among populations that have high vaccination coverage.
A destination is at Level 3 when the number of new reported Covid-19 cases over the past 28 days is between 100 and 499. There were 22 new additions to the CDC’s Level 3 as well. While two destinations, Malawi and Mozambique, fell from Level 4, the Covid-19 situations got worse for the 20 other new additions to Level 3. Costa Rica, Cuba, Gabon, Jamaica, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Togo, Fiji and Kuwait moved up from Level 2. Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Morocco, Uganda, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Sint Eustatius, Paraguay, and the Philippines jumped two levels from Level 1. This has left close to 60 destinations at Level 3.
Level 2 means that the destination has had 50 to 99 new reported Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days. Four destinations, Djibouti, India, Kosovo, and Montserrat, jumped up to Level 2 from Level 1. Level 1 destinations have had fewer than 50 new reported Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days.
In general, this may not be the best time to travel internationally. The U.S. and other countries have been experiencing Winter surges of Covid-19, further fueled by the Omicron variant. Moreover, the levels of different locations on the CDC’s Covid-19 Travel Recommendations list have shifting as frequently as fashion on a Kardashian. So unless everything is flexible and refundable, you may want to hold off on making travel plans for the rest of the Winter. In the third full week of 2022, the number was 22, as in 22 new destinations to Level 4 and 22 new destinations to Level 3 on the CDC Covid-19 Travel Recommendations. Who knows what the numbers will be in the coming weeks?