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