CDC Travel Advice That Makes You Go Hmmm

The Maldives has opened to vaccinated tourists. 90% of tourism workers there have been vaccinated, along with a majority of the country. They have so much of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India that they plan to offer shots to tourists on arrival. New virus cases have been cut in half in the past two weeks.

Thailand appears likely to delay its re-opening to tourists given a fresh virus outbreak. They’re also behind the Maldives in vaccinations, and are primarily using the less effective Sinovac Coronavac vaccine (80% effective at preventing death)

I’ve covered both of these developments separate, but Drew J. points out that:

Once you arrive in the Male airport, where the immigration hall is vented with outside air, you’ll spend very little time indoors except in your own room with your immediate party. Nearly all activities are open air, including resort dining. The virus spreads primarily indoors in crowded poorly ventilated settings and the CDC now says the chance of surface transmission is 1 in 10,000.

Yet according to the CDC,

Travelers should avoid all travel to Maldives.

Because of the current situation in Maldives even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Maldives.

Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives

In fairness, while testing rates vary between Thailand and the Maldives, the Maldives is reporting higher per capita cases than Thailand (though both countries report fewer per capital cases than the United States). And the CDC’s ‘levels’ appear to be based on cases rather than actual risk (such as type of visitor environment). By the way the AstraZeneca vaccine significantly reduces asymptomatic infection, and thus people being carriers, not just symptomatic and severe Covid.

Still, CDC probably isn’t wrong to continue listing Thailand as low risk despite the uptick in cases. Don’t go to the bars, dine indoors or congregate in groups in other indoor settings after getting out of mandatory quarantine and indeed most life outside of Bangkok skews outdoors anyway.

However it seems as though no other institution should fall in relative status as a result of the pandemic than the once-gold standard CDC. At the start of the crisis they produced a test for the virus that did not work, and no other tests were legally permitted. The FDA said their lab was so contaminated that if it were private they’d shut it down. CDC bungled airport screening of passengers from high risk areas coming into the country, using faxes of incomplete data to local health departments and even shutting down their tracing operation telling officials not to bother while systems were being upgraded.

They’ve given bad advice about travel consistently, sure they would prefer that no one travel but miss that public health advice – to be useful – needs to be actionable, meeting people where they are. And despite political interference with the CDC (even during the Biden administration!) we haven’t seen officials resigning in protest.

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, 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. Senior health officials in the Biden administration had input on the CDC guidance. You know like the Covid 19 group? Your constant use of the term “Biden administration” is very misleading and makes it sound like politicians with no political background were behind this. This isn’t the prior administration.

  2. From the same people that tell me not to eat a rare hamburger, oysters, or raw sushi.

  3. I’m vaccinated, therefore I’m immune. Get off my ass.

    Thank God I moved to Florida 2 years ago.

  4. There goes Bill again, always seeing everything from his hyperpartisan lense! Missing the whole point of the article for the sake of defending his “team”!

  5. Doesn’t make me go ‘hmmm’ at all. I have zero interest in the unqualified ramblings of a credit card whore.

  6. It certainly is not in the interests of a travel blogger to undermine confidence in the CDC.

  7. @Miamiorbust Whatever. Variant cases in Florida are six times what they were in mid-march. Deaths are going back up. They just reported today the most new covid cases for a Sunday since January. Maybe opening up the way they did for tourism wasn’t the brightest move.

  8. There goes Bill again ranting and raving…. still missing the point of the article in his never ending tirade! When people warn of the psychological consequences of extended lockdowns one has no further to look than poor Bill here! Pray for Bill folks!

  9. Bill makes a very good point – politicians with no political background are not behind this. Biden and Harris have plenty of political background. That explains why Harris is not going to touch the third rail Biden is running down at the border and why Biden has no interest in reopening the cruise industry to benefit Florida. As for the CDC, they have become the Fool’s Gold Standard contradicting themselves on too many occasions – c’mon man, follow the science at The New Messiah tells us.

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