6 Reasons The New Federal Warning Not To Travel To 80% Of World’s Countries Is Bizarre

The State Department announced a ‘do not travel’ recommendation for 80% of the world’s countries. They are explicit that this decision is not their assessment of risk for those countries, but a change meant to mirror what the CDC already says.

However this is the wrong direction for travel guidance, and it’s the CDC that should be updating risk assessment. Indeed the CDC’s current guidance does not match actual risk.

The State Department announced Monday that it would begin to update its travel advisories to more closely align with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a change that “will result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80% of countries worldwide.”

“This does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country, but rather reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on CDC’s existing epidemiological assessments,” the department said in a media note.

Six reasons immediately stand out why this is an odd move, and an especially odd move now:

  1. They are making this change now at what seems like the tail end of the pandemic? Or at least over a year into it, when many nations are closing than that to being out of it.

  2. Variants are already spreading in the US. Risk of contracting and spreading stems more from the activity you engage in wherever you are – even at home – than through travel itself (crowded poorly ventilated indoor spaces)

  3. The government isn’t recommending avoiding restaurants in this matter. A new federal grant program for restaurants is rolling out.

  4. Most states (not Oregon) are lifting mask mandates. This leaves travel as one of the only times and places masks will be required – but it is somehow less advisable than being maskless indoors at a bar or gym?

  5. The US isn’t trying to eradicate covid, just to control it. Places where it is spreading uncontained mean greater risk of virus mutation which is why a better policy to protect ourselves is to help vaccinate the world quickly… yet tens of millions of AstraZeneca doses sit stockpiled here.

  6. This guidance shouldn’t apply to those who have been vaccinated in any case since CDC guidelines now say you can travel internationally if vaccinated. Now that any American adult who wants a vaccine is eligible for one, and appointments are exceeding demand (and risk to young children who aren’t yet eligible for vaccination is generally lower than for vaccinated adults), seems like the strangest time to begin telling people not to travel.

N.B. You are “out of your lane” commenting on this analysis unless you’re able to compare levels of risk across time and types of activities.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It really teaches people that they should try to do their own assessment of the situation based on all the open sources out there; that is on top of its real objective of trying to discourage Americans from travel abroad at this point too in the pandemic.

    A lot of the vaccinated people have started behaving like they should get back to traveling like usual or more if they can. And along with them may go people who aren’t actually yet done with a vaccine regimen.

  2. I personally don’t pay attention to federal guidelines regarding travel. Does not surprise me about Oregon! That state is so far left it needs its own time zone.

  3. And to Bruce along with the rest of the sheep. You go ahead and stay home leaving more seats for the rest of us. Thanks!

  4. The thing people don’t seem to realize is there are many large employers who do not allow employees to travel to level 4 countries, particularly highly paid employees, that is how this achieves the goal of keeping cash here while being intellectually dishonest.

  5. Strange considering every country in the world has better COVID-19 standards and is a safer place to be than the United States. Seems like this is just pre-emptive to “forbid” travellers before the rest of the world forbids entry from US citizens.

  6. As I had noted earlier, the State Department was going to revise India to match the CDC noted level.

    India is now listed as Level 4 “Do not travel” on State.gov, so as to match the same level as CDC had it on CDC.gov.

    Stan Lee,

    The Covid-19 situation is less risky here in the US than it is in Sweden and India.

  7. “They are making this change now at what seems like the tail end of the pandemic?”

    Not wishing to be rude or provocative, but news reports of the past week suggest this is by no means the tail end of the pandemic; the rising numbers of infections, including of truly ghastly strains, are worrisome. And not just in Brazil and India but elsewhere.

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