Why No One Listens When The CDC Says ‘Don’t Go To Europe’

The CDC is telling Americans to “avoid travel” to Germany and Denmark in addition to Austria, the U.K. and other parts of Western Europe. No one is listening. And that’s the CDC’s fault. We haven’t failed the guidance, the guidance has failed us.

Let’s look at a warning to avoid travel to Germany,

  • The recommendation applies to everyone, heading anywhere in the country
  • That means the guidance is the same whether you’re vaccinated or not, and whether you’re boosted or not
  • It’s the same for those under 50 and those over 80
  • And it’s a warning that is the same for all of Germany, when the greatest spread is in the undervaxed former East Germany (and the easternmost part of the former West Germany)

These recommendations are too blunt to be useful. They also lack credibility because risk levels are different for different people traveling to different places. Transatlantic flights are full – bringing people both directions – while public health officials whistle in the wind.

The Director of the National Institutes of Health slowed down vaccine trials for political correctness, demanding Moderna balance out its clinical trials using racial classifications that had no scientific basis for influencing efficacy. The delay in Moderna vaccine availability cost lives. Indeed since Covid-19 was spreading fastest in minority populations at the time, it was precisely those lives most at risk from the delay.

One of the most useful voices during the pandemic has been Eric Topol, but he managed to pressure delay of Pfizer data until after the Presidential election and thus approval of the vaccine, also costing lives.

Today doctors can legally prescribe Ivermectin which doesn’t work but can’t yet prescribe Paxlovid which has been shown to reduce hospitalization when taken within 3 days of symptom onset by 89% in a phase 3 clinical trial.

The FDA prevented testing early in the pandemic, only permitting use of a CDC test that didn’t work. While situationally better than a year ago by far, the U.S. still lacks ubiquitous cheap self tests that would allow people to identify when they’re infectious – every day, before interacting with others.

We’ve even done social distancing exactly backwards in the U.S. And when it comes to boosters – convincing people who have gotten two shots to get a third probably has far greater public health bang for the buck than convincing those who have refused a vaccine entirely to get their first one – public health until the past few days has said it’s more important to vaccinate the world (when we are letting an eight figure number of doses expire in the U.S.) and to focus on the unvaccinated than to allow boosters… and so we find ourselves days from Thanksgiving gatherings without a coherent booster message like the one Israel has used to great effect.

So when we hear advice from experts, most Americans seem to ignore it. Somehow the remarkable innovation of vaccines has become political with too many people declining to get one as somehow a way of sticking it to elites and their ‘betters’ who seem to get everything wrong. That’s sad. And telling vaccinated and boosted people under 50 not to go to Europe is wasting credibility.

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. I disagree. The warning to Germany should be for all people. I don’t care if one is 25 years old, healthy, no contact with older relatives, no kids that are too young to vaccinated, and has been vaccinated as well as received a booster. Travel to Germany should not be done unless it is for either an urgent or essential reason. The CDC is right.

    People who have been vaccinated have added protection but they are not Superman. Urgent reason to go, ok. But to go for general tourism is bad judgment.

  2. @ Gary — The CDC lost all credibility when they lied and told us to use cloth masks, like 19 months ago. It is unfortunate that they lied right out of the gate. Now people won’t listen to reasonable advice, like getting vaccinated and wearing a mask, or unreasonable advice, like avoiding Germany.

  3. Have to say I agree the definition is to broad as to why I shouldn’t be traveling when I am 31 and have 3 jabs and actively monitor my precautions to make the trip as safe as possible (PCR before I leave regardless if needed and one 3 days after my return, high quality 3M N95s and KN95s, higher end hotels that are enacting a good covid safety policy, and I avoid crowds whenever I see them), and avoiding indoor dining at all cost and even crowded outdoors places (tend to just do room service or Uber eats in some places) but to be fair im also not traveling to go party in large crowds

    As to what Derek says above about going to Germany I don’t see the rational behind their post outside of just the general fact that they are on the hinge of a potential lockdown but haven’t actual closed things outside of a Christmas market (museums, shops, tours etc are all still running) while I wouldn’t be booking anything I also wouldn’t stop from going as I feel this wave is a lot different then last year just in respect to travel (last year if you were in Europe when it went into lock down you were pretty much stuck but now it seems travel is still operating so you could at least make it home or to a neighboring country to make it home). I just got back 2 weeks ago from Munich and the news makes it sound like a war zone when its not. Most people are following the rules from my experience except for masks outdoors but I dont think thats actually a real rule (One of my tour guide joked thats how he could tell I was an American from a mile away was that I had a mask on outdoors but everyone in shops, trains, museums etc all had masks on and no one was being a Karen about it)

    Frankly after spending alot of time in Europe this summer and heading back next week if things remain open in Prague Europe has managed covid precautions better than in the states. No Museums, no famous sites, no hotels, no restaurants if you dont have a covid vaccine/test pass compared to here in the states where they dont check anything and are actively removing mask mandates in places so your chances of sitting in a restaurant with someone actively infected and not caring they are spreading it is a lot higher here than in most of Europe.

  4. I’m surprised that anyone still gives a damn. I stopped caring long ago. I still travel. I still practice social distancing. And I still wear a mask. I am not going to do anything that will jeopardize my lifestyle and that means that I will fly around the world and I will cruise every other month. Thank God I finally can. The rest. Well they can just do what ever they like. Get infected. Who cares.

  5. @derek – if you are vaccinated and otherwise healthy there is more risk in driving to the airport than flying to German.

  6. As we say in Texas, the CDC couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if instructions were printed on the heel.

  7. A bit more of the letter I’ve been sending epidemiologists, who either somewhat agree or ignore it. The CDC waffled on it other than saying people should still distance and mask. Maybe nobody appreciates my comparing all their efforts to fighting the Afghanistan war against an enemy that cannot be defeated. Of course I got my shots immediately, but all this could end up like AIDS: People take reasonable precautions and the world goes on.

    We could reach what I call an “Alcatraz Moment,” when everybody just gives up. When the prison was built the inmates suffered enforced silence. One day they all just started talking and that was the end of that rule. If something similar happens with existing measures then governments will lose all control, unless there’s a plan in place for what can then be done. (In fact, we may be getting close to that. In the past few months I’ve traveled all over the country and seen a lot of signs for social distancing. But they were all ignored. And some areas of the U.S. are returning “to normal” no matter what the rates. Humans aren’t built for such controls.)

    I don’t know, maybe here in the developed countries we just got too used to being in a semi-sterile environment to remember that plagues are always lurking around. A quick look at history shows there’s no need for ridiculous conspiracy theories to explain that we’re part of nature, diseases included. But in any case going to the other extreme of hiding, or actively trying to push away reality with erratic measures doesn’t seem to be working either.

    None of this is a pleasant way to see things, and I know it is completely against your training. And no human being wants to see others needlessly suffer or die. But nothing on this scale has been seen in over a century and there is only so much that governments can do. Here policy may be as much an emotional as a scientific issue. At some point the fire has to be allowed to burn itself out. The question is when, and we could be just about there now.

  8. @Gary – As you get further into the article, you seem to be getting at that we need these boosters now.

    They are NOT as effective as getting someone even one vaccine dose (obv, two would be better!). For the individual, sure, get a booster! But from a public health standpoint, the holdouts are the issue right now.

    The folks truly benefitting from a booster were approved for them back in September. 65+ and those with health conditions, basically. Getting the boosters to those involved in public contact (e.g. public safety personnel like police or firefighters) isn’t really about their safety so much as reducing spread (read: public health)… because they come into contact with lots of people and may not be symptomatic, you want to keep their viral loads as low as possible.

    But public health officials aren’t concerned that a 22yo got the sniffles, they’re concerned about their 81yo grandparent. Not every state reports this data, so I can’t point to the CDC here, but Washington has a report updated weekly on COVID cases, hospitalization, and death, with breakdowns by vaccination status and age: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/data-tables/421-010-CasesInNotFullyVaccinated.pdf

    COVID death rates are 9x higher in the unvaccinated than the vaccinated amongst the 65+ crowd. COVID infection rates are only 5x higher in the unvaccinated than the vaccinated. It’s clear that while breakthrough cases are a real issue, your “bang for buck” argument doesn’t hold water.

    Public health officials absolutely should be focused on getting folks to take their first dose, as it is the most effective tool we have at reducing strain on our healthcare system, reducing spread, and improving individual outcomes.

    If you have another perspective backed up with some data, I’d love to learn something. 🙂

  9. Why should people seek medical advice from elites? Just because you’ve achieved elite status or better in an airline/hotel program or other non-medical field doesn’t necessarily mean you get everything right. I for one rely on credible opinions from my primary care physician. 😉

    Pick a lane.
    One of the most useful voices during the pandemic has been Eric Topol, but he managed to pressure delay of Pfizer data until after the Presidential election and thus approval of the vaccine, also costing lives.

  11. The CDC and Fauci and Birx and Biden and the whole lot of these worthless power-mad sonsabitches have lied to us so many g.d. times, we’d be idiots to listen to them.

    Is it too much to ask that our “elites” actually be elite?

  12. I personally ignore the CDC warnings or country ratings. They lost me when Iceland and Antarctica were listed as level 4.

    It is all advisory and doesn’t stop anyone from going. Also if you read the warning it says category 4 which means don’t travel there but then IMMEDIATELY states if you must travel make sure you are vaccinated so which way is it?

    The CDC has become a political tool (both ways). They need to just quit

  13. The CDC rankings are based on cases, which are no longer of interest – hospitalizations and deaths matter, and a very tiny percentage of them happen to the vaccinated/boostered. I can make risk judgments if I have good data available to me. The data show that it is safe for me to drive a car to work, to track rhinos in Uganda, to swim in the ocean and to visit Germany. I’ve done all but visit Germany in the past months, and I would not hesitate a bit to do the latter. Most countries in the world are now safer than the U.S., which has fallen out of the top 60 in vaccination rates and is populated by a high percentage of people who would rather believe conspiracy theories than science. I think Gary shows well the many critical mistakes that have been made right from the start, and continue to be made. Let’s get that Paxlovid out to people who need it already. Faster please!

  14. The Reason publication is less about objectivity than it is about providing and playing up right-wing talking points.

    Demanding that medical trials be more inclusive and ethnically diverse is not “political correctness”.

    Perhaps you need to consider that some diseases are more prevalent in some ethnic communities than others — and sometimes, but not always, it’s for genetic prevalence reasons. Or are you also going to claim that it’s political correctness if NIH were to demand that women be better represented in vaccination trials? Whether we like it or not, there are some genetic and epigenetic conditions that are more prevalent with some demographic segments than others and thus testing across a wider, more representative group does great things to more confidently assess the risks and benefits for more people. That’s not political correctness as much as it’s a correction to get a more scientifically comprehensive look at the risks and effectiveness of a medical intervention under review. And that also helps make it more likely that some communities don’t have as good grounds to complain “well you didn’t cover us, so I can’t trust the findings and approved medical intervention”.

  15. I’m in Europe now. I would never even think to see what the cdc has to say before I go anywhere. I’ll do what I want when I want. And I live in a mask mandated area and don’t wear a mask. Love the looks of horror people give me. Acting like it’s march 2020. Oh, and I’m triple vaxxed.

  16. Do you know who no one is listening to? Bloggers who use the word “elites.” Surprised you couldn’t shoehorn “woke” and “cancel culture” into your post. Scientists and medical experts have issued general guidelines. I adopt and adapt them based on my individual circumstances. I guess demonizing is good for clicks, but it’s bad for public health. What happens when we have the next pandemic or epidemic? Should we listen to bloggers, politicians and right-wing media or scientists? The answer is pretty simple and clear, if you’re not shadowboxing conspiracies.

  17. You mean the same cdc that told us not to wear a mask? That the cdc knew was a lie.
    Its only Just 2 years to stop the spread. Wear 3 masks wash your hands every 30 minutes don’t talk to your family

  18. CDC has been leading from behind during most of this. Only a fool would pay attention to them anymore.

  19. I leave for western Europe in a couple of weeks. If one of the countries I plan to visit goes into lockdown then I won’t go there, obviously.
    I’m not particularly concerned about the CDC guidance until the CDC starts applying the same criteria and guidance to US states and/or cities.
    I’m twice vaxxed and boosted. I live in Texas and work somewhere where mask wearing can’t be required. I doubt anywhere I’m looking to go in Europe is more dangerous than it is for me to go to work.

  20. @Gary (from comment above, not GL):

    19 months ago all you could get were cloth masks due to the ingenuity of apparel companies. China couldn’t produce enough of the surgical types. CDC simply wanted masks on people.

    Here in Spain our numbers have creeped up a bit but still low and hospitalizations are mostly nonvaxxers. But please stay home, Americans just can’t seem to be trusted nor are you wanted anymore.

  21. I trust the CDC more than I do some travel blogger. By the way here is a nice little quote from Germany’s Health minister: “By the end of this winter everyone in Germany will either be vaccinated, recovered or dead,”. Notice he doesn’t specific which parts of Germany instead he says EVERYONE in Germany. Sure doesn’t sound like the picture you are trying to paint of Germany at all. What kinda moron travels to a country in the middle of a pandemic and risks getting sick and taking up hospital space that a country does not have to spare in the name of tourism? In the past 24 hours, there have been 30,643 new infections in Germany – 7,000 more than a week ago. This is among the highest rates in the world.

  22. I am in Germany now and have visited both the East and the West. Here are a few points I would like to make. 1. COVID home test kits are available at any pharmacy here in Germany for 2-3 Euros ($2.30 to $3.45). They are plentiful, and they are sold to anyone – even Americans. 2. I was in Germany in July when it had one of the best COVID rates in the world. What I noticed then was the nearly 100% mask adherence (with the required FFP2 masks – i.e. KN 95’s or N95’s – not an OR surgical masks) everywhere both indoors and outdoors. I saw a guy thrown off a train for wearing an OR surgical mask instead of the higher quality FFP2. Now people have eased up tremendously on masking. Not everyone is wearing the required high quality mask, and almost no one is wearing a mask outdoors, even in crowded situations where you are elbow to elbow with others. And finally, if the CDC puts out warnings for Germany, why doesn’t it put out warnings for the parts of the US that are/were some of the worst COVID places on earth?? To have credibility, during the summer the CDC should have warned, “Don’t travel to FL” or at least don’t travel to certain counties in FL.

  23. Well said, Gary. The CDC lost me when they painted the entire world “do not travel,” despite many such nations posing less of an exposure risk than my weekly trip to the grocery store.

  24. Bill neglects to comprehend there might be people who have been vaccinated AND have recovered themselves (which is a huge chunk of us on here). It all goes back to personal risk assessment. Would I go to Germany now unvaccinated having not already had Covid? Hell No….. But that is not my risk profile.

  25. I am happy to see most people blowing off the CDC. I see we still have a few amateur infectious disease experts who actually trust them though.

    I will probably not think about that when I land in Munich in 15 hours on my way to Prague.

  26. CDC cannot be trusted. They are so politicalized that one defaults to questioning who their advice benefits. They lost all credibility when they touted the benefits of cloth masks almost two years ago.

  27. @Gary Leff –

    I have resisted commenting for the past few months whenever you post your BS about Covid, Vaccines, etc… I know you are familiar with the other side. But at every post you fail to mention it. So be it. Perhaps you have another reason, which I won’t speculate here.

    For those who follow you who want to remain open to the other side backed up by REAL science, facts, videos, stats, etc…. ​I suggest looking at NVIC dot Org on Telegram as a place to begin. You will see videos from around the world not on mainstream plus all the links to real studies that goes against the narrative.

    Geert Vanden Bossche, who is pro vax said back in March 2021 never ever introduce a vaccine in the middle of a pandemic or you will have a big mess. Geert’s latest video detailing the disaster about to happen to the children who get jabbed. Destroying their innate and natural immunity for something they don’t need!

    This is now a pandemic of the Vaccinated. Plus a pandemic of the recovery phase from Ivermectin and the entire FLCCC protocols being ignored, except by those aware who have seen first hand the dramatic recovery rates! Including doctors and countries all over the world!

    Gary you are dead wrong on Ivermectin!! I can post tons of research studies to counter the lame one you put up.

    “Among the most prominent examples include the Ivermectin areas of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Goa where cases dropped 98%, 97%, 94%, and 86%, respectively. By contrast, Tamil Nadu opted out of Ivermectin. As a result, their cases skyrocketed and rose to the highest in India. Tamil Nadu deaths increased ten-fold.”

    Or Japan which just went through Ivermectin where symptoms reduced dramatically.

    Or the many tens of people/families I have personally helped through doctor referrals that have prescribed the FLCCC protocols and all recovered quickly. All non-vaccinated. The same experience shared by others on non-mainstream.

    “Some articles you will see on Telegram NVIC plus the many others reporting like Alex Berenson on Substack….

    Ivermectin: enigmatic multifaceted ‘wonder’ drug continues to surprise and exceed expectations
    From Journal of Antibiotics

    American Heart Association Journal Publishes Data that UK Medical Doctor Claims are “Proof” that COVID-19 Vaccines are “Murder”

    Experts: Vaccine Immunity Waning, Signs Israel Facing Fifth COVID Wave

    As for Australia….it is a Nazi war zone. Ripping a baby out of the arms of a woman breastfeeding as she escaped to a retreat to avoid the jab. I’ve seen the video. Police abuse is going crazy from the authoritative policies dished out by the lawmakers. That country is a mess. You may not even make it out but have a nice visit…

    Keep writing your fiction and feeding into the narrative. One day maybe you will man up, admit your mistakes and realize the truth about Big Pharma, Gavi, WHO, FDA, law makers, etc… Perhaps that time comes when the real narrative makes it to mainstream. As for your travel info…. I keep reading that as you do know your stuff on that topic!

    Oh and by the way…..

    FDA Asks Court to Delay Full Release of Documents on Pfizer COVID Biologic for 55 Years! What is in their they don’t want us to know???

  28. @Stinky Pete
    “As we say in Texas, the CDC couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if instructions were printed on the heel.” – Love it – says it all!

  29. @Ken and Stinky Pete: no wonder everyone thinks Texans are morons. That is pure ignorance. But I guess you had to be there to see the humor.

    And believe me, I am not a CDC fan.

  30. “So when we hear advice from experts, most Americans seem to ignore it.”

    Perhaps because there are so many countries in the world, the situation changes / evolves daily in each country, and offering multiple forms of guidance for each country would be hopelessly complicated and hopelessly confusing?

    Just an apolitical thought there.

  31. I agree with jamesb2147, focus on unvaxed. Various “carrot” or encouragements have been offered that group. Pressure is starting to be applied, appropriately, to push compliance. It appears to working in some places, albeit slowly. Perhaps even tougher measures, esp with the winter season and holidays looming, such as health insur penalties for unvaxed, no preferential treatment in hospitals over those requiring significant procedures, no admission to any public event/venue, with or without test, no flying or cruising, with or without test, etc. I can hear the outcry already…and see some of the possible reaction here as well. So be it. It’s clear the CDC, fed govt and various state/local govts should have done better job…largely it was too eagerly politicized too early in the pandemic for anyone’s well being. But here we are. Clearly, the unvaxed are pose the greatest risk to Americans (and elsewhere): needless health risks on various communities whether vaxed, minority, those at risk due to undying conditions, etc; needless impacts on businesses and employers and employees; safety risks due to those resisting vax, masks, distancing over-reacting and fighting, being belligerent, etc; and the list goes on. We can blame CDC, govt, strict requirements, etc but st the end of the day, nearly 2 yrs into this, the real problem now the impact the unvaxed pose to the rest of us, business, travel, our overall cultural norms. Happy Thanksgiving…

  32. @Ray we Texans may be morons. But we’ve stolen many a company from California, from Oracle to Tesla. Meanwhile we have the most corporate relocations of anywhere and one of the biggest migrations from the so called “blue states”. Sooner or later we will own you too. As for the California migration to the lone star state, we welcome one and all, so long as they don’t track the cat sh!t of California politics across the clean carpets of Texas. And two major airlines are headquartered here, making this the hub of the USA aviation industry.

    Strange perspective…I’m vaxxed, have had Covid, confident in saying I pose a much greater risk as an asymptomatic carrier to the unvaccinated than they have on me. If you are vaxxed and believe in the efficacy of it than you have done your duty and the unvaxxed should not concern you beyond you being an unwitting carrier that might expose them. Time to get on with your life! Its a pandemic of the unvaccinated, you can’t dismiss that phrase when it’s convenient to you then invoke it seconds later.

  34. @DFWSteve:

    Corporations using you for your tax laws, sounds a bit like the exploitation they use for labor and costs in 3rd World countries. You think that lasts? It hasn’t in any other transition. But the bigger point you make is none of those corporations start there because you don’t have the brains. That will never change, even as those from blue states migrate there. Soon those that migrate vote, they don’t change voting patterns. You are already seeing it. Texans will be the woke state. jajaja (had to go there in honor of the Latinos that tolerate you rednecks)

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