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04 Dec 2020 | 11:53 AM UTC

US: As of December 4, officials update list of COVID-19-related risk assessment levels for travelers arriving from international destinations /update 16

As of Dec. 4, US health officials update risk assessment levels for travelers arriving from international destinations due to COVID-19.

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As of Dec. 4, US authorities have updated the risk assessment levels for travelers entering the country from international destinations as part of their efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Under the current guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses a four-level system to categorize the risk of COVID-19 in countries and territories worldwide based on the number of cases in the past 28 days.

Regardless of the level of the destination, authorities recommend the following steps for individuals in the US who plan to travel abroad:

  • Get a COVID-19 test between one to three days before traveling abroad, and to not travel if they are still waiting for the test result, tested positive, or are sick.

  • Get a COVID-19 test between one to three days before returning to the US.

Additionally, individuals in the US are advised to follow these recommendations, depending on the risk levels in the country they intend to travel to:

  • Level 4 - Very High: avoid all travel

  • Level 3 - High: avoid nonessential travel; those at higher risk of severe illness, avoid all travel

  • Level 2 - Moderate: those at higher risk of severe illness should avoid nonessential travel

  • Level 1 - Low: no limitations to travel

Recommendations for travelers entering the US from an international destination also change depending on the risk level of the country they are traveling from. Those traveling from destinations categorized as Level 4, Level 3, and Level 2 risk of COVID-19 are advised to get tested within three to five days upon arrival in the US and stay at home for seven days, or to stay at home for 10 days upon arrival if they do not get tested.

As of Dec. 4, most countries and territories around the world are at Level 4, including most of Europe, most of Latin America, and Canada. Only Saint Lucia is at Level 3, and there are 10 countries and territories at Level 2: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Mauritius, Saint Barthelemy, Seychelles, South Korea, and Uruguay.

For travelers entering from countries and territories categorized as Level 1 - Low risk of COVID-19, officials recommend mask-wearing and maintaining social distancing from others upon arrival in the US. If travelers recently participated in high-risk activities - such as attending a mass gathering, being in a large crowd at a restaurant or bar, or traveling on a cruise - at a country on Level 1, they are urged to get tested three to five days upon return and remain at home for seven days, or 10 days if they do not get tested. As of Dec. 4, there are 51 countries and territories at Level 1, including Australia, China, Ivory Coast, Mongolia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Other Travel Restrictions
US authorities continue to ban entry to most nonresident foreign nationals who have been in Brazil, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, UK, Ireland, and the European Schengen Area within the previous 14 days. US citizens and legal residents who have traveled to a country on the restricted list within 14 days prior to their return are allowed to enter the country but are urged to follow the CDC guidelines in place specific to the destination they are traveling from. Officials have added exceptions for nonresident foreign nationals entering from the Schengen Area, UK, or Ireland to enter the US. Business travelers, students, investors, academics, and journalists, among others, may qualify for a national interest exception but must contact US diplomatic offices in order to apply.

Additionally, authorities are maintaining the closure of the nation's land borders with Canada and Mexico to all nonessential travel through Dec. 21. The closures, initially implemented March 21, do not affect trade, movement of essential goods and workers, transport of food or medicine, or transit by cargo trucks. US citizens and legal residents returning to the country, as well as individuals traveling to attend educational institutions, are exempt from the ongoing border closures.

Authorities advise residents nationwide to avoid gatherings and crowded places, maintain a distance of at least 1.8 meters (6 feet) from others when in public, and wear protective facemasks that cover the mouth and nose. Persons 65 years of age or older and those with underlying health conditions are advised to remain at home whenever possible.

State and local authorities have taken measures stricter than those at the federal level. Several states have imposed additional travel restrictions, including for travelers entering from other US states, which in many cases involve a 14-day self-quarantine or proof of having tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival into a new state. Most states have some limitations on business activities, and many of them have further tightened the restrictions since mid-November due to increases in COVID-19 activity.

Authorities at the federal or local levels could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice, depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.

Context

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands).

Resources

WHO Coronavirus Knowledge Base

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - COVID-19 Updates

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Travel Guidelines

US Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs

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