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CDC Ends Country-By-Country Covid-19 Travel Health Advisories

Forbes 10/4/2022 Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Forbes Staff
The CDC's move reflects an ongoing shift toward normalcy. getty © Provided by Forbes The CDC's move reflects an ongoing shift toward normalcy. getty

In yet another sign that the world is moving past the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no longer maintaining a country-by-country list of Covid-related travel advisories, the agency said Monday.

From here on out, the CDC will only issue a travel health notice for a country if there is a concerning Covid-19 variant or other situation that would affect the risk of traveling to that country. This change comes because “fewer countries are testing or reporting Covid-19 cases,” which has limited the agency’s ability to accurately assess the risk level for travelers, the agency said.

“The CDC is working with other countries to try to match the wastewater surveillance and other techniques so that even without that reliable testing that we've depended on, we have other ways of looking for an uptick around the world,” physician and former Obama health advisor Dr. Kavita Patel told MSNBC’s Jonathan Lemire.

Since spring of this year, the CDC has been ratcheting down its travel warnings.

In April, the agency made a sweeping change to its world map, moving from a four-level system for Covid-19 travel health notices and essentially eliminating the dreaded Level-4 risk, which came with a “Do Not Travel” advisory.

That left countries rated on a sliding scale from “high risk” at Level 3 to “moderate risk” at Level 2 to “low risk” at Level 1. As of last week, the vast majority of countries in the world were still at Level 3.

In July, the CDC ditched its Covid-19 program for cruise ships, saying that “cruise ships have access to guidance and tools to manage their own Covid-19 mitigation programs.”

The country-specific warnings have been replaced on the CDC’s website with more general recommendations on international travel during the pandemic. “Get up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines before you travel,” says the first bullet point. “Consider getting tested before travel,” says the next.

Being “up to date” with Covid-19 vaccines means having completed a Covid-19 vaccine primary series and received any boosters for which you are eligible, including the updated bivalent booster.

As of today, just over two thirds (67.9%) of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, but fewer than half of those who are booster-eligible have received a first booster dose, according to CDC data.

The U.S. is currently reporting 47 million active cases of Covid-19 on a rolling seven-day average, a decrease of 13% since the previous week, based on CDC data.

The numbers are “all trending in the right direction, but they're still pretty darn high,” said Dr. Patel.

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