(CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday placed three new destinations in the “high” risk category for Covid-19, including a North American travel behemoth.
The level 3 “high” risk category is now the highest step in terms of risk level. Level 2 is considered “moderate” risk. Level 1 is “low” risk.
Level 4, previously the highest risk category, is now only reserved for special circumstances, such as extremely high numbers of cases, the emergence of a new care variant or the collapse of the care infrastructure. No destinations have been placed at level 4 under the new system so far.
The “Level 3: Covid-19 High” category now applies to countries that have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days.
The three places joining Level 3 this week are:
• New Caledonia
• United Arab Emirates
Mexico, a favorite destination for American tourists, and the UAE, the glitzy hotspot of the Middle East, were at Level 2 last week.
New Caledonia, known to divers, was previously in the unknown category, meaning the CDC didn’t have enough data from the Pacific destination to assign a category.
As of June 13, there were nearly 115 Level 3 destinations. Level 3 locations account for nearly half of the approximately 235 places monitored by the CDC.
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A classic cityscape of Florence, Italy. The southern European country remains at level 3.
Mexico and the UAE are not the only travel favorites in the “high” risk category. Many other popular travel destinations are also on level 3.
Much of Europe has been stubbornly stuck there for months now that the summer travel season has begun. On June 13, the following popular European destinations were still at level 3:
• The Netherlands
• United Kingdom
It’s not just European favorites who are at level 3. Numerous notable travel destinations around the world belong to the ‘high’ risk category, including the following:
• Costa Rica
• South Korea
The Oak Ridge area of Roatan Island, Honduras, at sunrise. Honduras dropped to level 2 this week.
Wollwerth Imagery/Adobe Stock
Destinations labeled “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” reported 50 to 100 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days. On Monday, three places were moved to this level:
• Cape Verde
The move was good news for Honduras and the quiet Caribbean island of Saba, which had been on Level 3. Cape Verde, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, was on Level 1.
There were only 16 destinations listed in Level 2 on June 13.
Classic cars are part of the Old Havana scene. Cuba has been moved to level 1, which is considered “low” risk for Covid.
To be in “Level 1: Covid-19 Low”, a destination must have had 49 or fewer new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 28 days. On June 13, only two destinations were added to the category:
Both countries were at level 2.
Finally, there are the destinations that the CDC has deemed “unknown” risk due to a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places of ongoing war or unrest. This week, two places have been added to this category:
Both were at level 3 last week.
The CDC does not recommend traveling to these places precisely because the risks are unknown. Other destinations in this category include Cambodia, the Canary Islands, Macau and Tanzania.
A medical expert weighs in on risk levels
Transmission rates are just “one guideline” for travelers’ personal risk assessments, according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
We have entered “a phase in the pandemic where people must make their own decisions based on their medical conditions and their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” said Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management. at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
According to Wen, there are other factors to consider in addition to transmission speeds.
“Another is what precautions are required and followed where you go and the third is what you plan to do when you get there,” she said.
“Do you plan to visit a lot of attractions and go to indoor bars? That’s a lot different than going somewhere where you plan to lie on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. That’s a lot different. Those are very different levels of risk.”
Vaccination is the most important safety factor for travel, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and transmit Covid-19 to others, Wen said.
And it’s also important to consider what you would do if you tested positive outdoors.
Top image: A tropical beach on Isla Holbox in Mexico’s Quintana Roo state. (Zstock/Adobe stock)