CDC Is Revising Its Travel Health Notice System. Will That Affect How We Travel?

Teenage brunette girl dressed in black and wearing a cap wearing a surgical mask during a pandemic, sightseeing, taking photos of the beautiful sunset over the houses in Porto

Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia / Getty Images

Just days before the federal mask mandate was lifted, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a major change to its Travel Health Notice system. As of April 18, 2022, the public health agency will no longer be designating countries as Level 4 "high risk" due to COVID-19 cases.

"To help the public understand when the highest level of concern is most urgent, this new system will reserve Level 4 travel health notices for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, or healthcare infrastructure collapse,” the CDC said in a statement released on Wednesday, April 13.

Prior to the pandemic, the CDC used a three-level advisory system, only adding the fourth level in November 2020. As previously reported by TripSavvy, "Level 4" status was given to countries seeing "more than 500 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days." The CDC had named more than half of the world's destinations on its "very high risk" travel list in February, though that number dropped down to 89 before the new system went into effect.

Under the new configuration, Levels 1, 2, and 3 will be determined by "28-day incidence or case counts." There are currently zero destinations on the Level 4 list.

While "Level 4" travel advisories were at one point huge warning signs, the list seems to have been largely ignored in recent months. According to Euromonitor's Top 100 City Destination Index, the most-visited cities in 2021 included Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, and London, even though France, Spain, the Netherlands, and the U.K. were all Level 4 countries last year.

Travel advisors at Virtuoso, a global network of agencies that specialize in luxury travel and experiences, have also been seeing travelers booking trips to formerly high-risk countries like Italy, Greece, and Ireland. "The CDC advisories are having little impact," Misty Belles, vice president of global public relations for Virtuoso, told Forbes.

With their updated system, the CDC says U.S. travelers will have "a more actionable alert for when they should not travel."

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC Mask Order Remains in Effect and CDC Realigns Travel Health Notice System." April 13, 2022.

  2. Forbes. "The CDC Just Slashed 89 Countries From the 'Do Not Travel' List." April 18, 2022.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "COVID-19 Travel Recommendations." Accessed April 18, 2022.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC Mask Order Remains in Effect and CDC Realigns Travel Health Notice System." April 13, 2022.