CDC Eliminates Country-by-country COVID-19 Classification System

Destinations had previously been classified as "Level 4" if there were more than 500 COVID-19 cases reported per 100,000 people over the last 28 days.

Tourists walking around in front of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy

Alessandra Amodio

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ended its practice of classifying international destinations based on their COVID-19 transmission rates.

The agency, which implemented the tiered warning system during the pandemic, will no longer issue travel health warnings based on COVID-19 for countries and territories, Reuters reported this week. The decision comes as it has become increasingly harder to accurately assess transmission rates since fewer countries reported enough data to do so.

The CDC told the wire service "as fewer countries are testing or reporting COVID-19 cases, CDC’s ability to accurately assess the COVID-19 (travel health notice) levels for most destinations that American travelers visit is limited."

This isn’t the first change to the classification system. Earlier this year, the CDC changed the way it warned against traveling to destinations and countries, relaxing its definition for "Level 4,” which it had previously used to warn Americans against "very high" levels of COVID-19 transmission and advise them to "avoid" traveling there.

In the past, destinations had been classified as "Level 4" if there were more than 500 COVID-19 cases reported per 100,000 people over the last 28 days.

Going forward, the agency told Reuters it would only issue a travel health notice "for a country if a situation, such as a concerning COVID-19 variant, is identified that changes CDC travel recommendations for that country."

Currently, the CDC recommends all international travelers get tested “as close to the time of departure as possible” and no more than three days before traveling as well as get tested within three to five days after arriving in the United States. The agency also recommends American travelers check country-specific requirements on the State Department’s website

Many other countries have dropped their own pandemic-related travel restrictions like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and more.

Overall, the U.S. dropped its pre-arrival testing rules in June, but still requires international travelers to show proof of being fully vaccinated before boarding a flight to the country.

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