(CNN) – For the second week in a row, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not added a single new destination to the highest travel risk level 4 category.
The CDC classifies a destination as a “very high” risk level 4 if there have been more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. Level 3 risk category “high” refers to destinations with between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days.
On April 4, 14 destinations moved to level 3:
• Antigua and Barbuda
• Saint Lucia
All 14 locations were previously listed at Tier 4. The CDC recommends avoiding travel to Tier 4 countries.
The CDC thresholds for travel health notifications are based primarily on the number of Covid-19 cases at the destination.
Risk reduction is a bright spot on the travel landscape. However, on April 4, almost 100 destinations remained at level 4 — about 40% of the nearly 240 destinations that CDC covers.
Level 2, Level 1 and Unknown Status Changes
Botswana, where wildlife safaris in the Okavango Delta are a big tourist attraction, dropped to Tier 2 on Monday.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Destinations marked “Level 2: Moderate Covid-19” have reported between 50 and 99 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 28 days. Five new Tier 2 members on April 4th:
• South Africa
• Dominican Republic
All but Iraq were at level 3. Previously, Iraq was at level 4.
To qualify for “Tier 1: Low Covid-19”, the destination must have fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 28 days. Six locations moved up to Level 1 on Monday:
All six were at level 2. Level 1 is dominated by destinations in Africa. Only seven Tier 1 locations are outside of Africa.
Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk due to a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places, or places with incessant wars or unrest.
The CDC made three additions to the unknown category on Monday: French Guiana, Greenland as well as Ukraine.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has undoubtedly hampered the testing, treatment and data collection of Covid-19 cases.
The Azores, Cambodia, Macau and Tanzania are among the most visited places currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against traveling to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.
Medical expert weighs risk levels
According to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, transmission rates are “one benchmark” for travelers’ personal risk calculations.
We are in a “pandemic stage where people have to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said.
“You should interpret level 4 to mean that this is a place with high transmission of Covid-19 in the community. So if you go, there is a higher chance that you can get the coronavirus,” said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
According to Wen, some people will decide that the risk is too high for them. “Other people will say, ‘Because I’m vaccinated and boosted, I’m ready to take this risk.’
“So it really has to be a personal decision that people weigh, realizing that right now the CDC is categorizing different levels based on community transfer rates, and basically just that,” Wen said. “They don’t take individual circumstances into account.”
More Travel Considerations
There are other factors to consider besides transfer speed, Wen said.
“Transmission speed is one benchmark,” Wen said. “The other is what precautions are required and followed where you are going, and the third is what you plan to do when you get there.
“Are you planning to visit a lot of sights and visit indoor bars? It’s very different from going somewhere where you plan to lie on the beach all day and not talk to anyone else. It’s very different. very different levels of risk.”
Vaccination is the most important travel safety factor, Wen said, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and pass Covid-19 on to others.
And it’s also important to think about what you’ll do if you end up testing positive away from home. Where will you stay and how easy will it be to pass the test to return home?
Top image: Frontenac castle in Quebec. (Alice Chiche/AFP via Getty Images).