CDC adds Puerto Rico, Switzerland, others to 'very high' COVID-19 travel risk list

Puerto Rico, Guam, St. Lucia and Switzerland are among the places travelers should avoid visiting, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newly updated travel advisories list. 

The CDC on Monday added seven destinations to its "Level 4: Covid-19 Very High" list, which states that individuals should avoid travel to those countries. The places include U.S. territories Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as Azerbaijan, Estonia, North Macedonia, Saint Lucia and Switzerland. 

The agency’s regularly updated travel advisory list ranges from Level 1 or "low" risk of COVID-19 transmission, to "very high."

Countries that fall under the CDC’s Level 4 category have reported more than 500 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days. The Level 3 designation is for destinations with between 100 to 500 new cases in that same timeframe.

The U.S. State Department also on Monday added Azerbaijan, Estonia, North Macedonia, Saint Lucia and Switzerland to its own "Level 4: Do Not Travel" list due to rising COVID-19 cases. It similarly urged individuals to "reconsider travel" to Canada, Germany, Bermuda, Indonesia and a number of other countries on its Level 3 list.

Crowds come back to airline travel

FILE - A family heads to the security check at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

For those who must travel to any high-risk destination, the CDC recommends that they be fully vaccinated before leaving. All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before. They can also show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before boarding a U.S.-bound flight.

The updated travel advisories come as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to circulate around the world. In the U.S., COVID-19 deaths are reaching more than 1,200 a day nationwide — the highest level since mid-March. New cases per day are averaging over 155,000, returning to where things were in January.

On Monday, the European Union recommended that its 27 nations reinstate restrictions on tourists from the U.S. because of rising COVID-19 infections, but can still allow fully vaccinated travelers if they want. 

The European Council’s decision reversed a recommendation made in June when the EU lifted restrictions on U.S. travelers ahead of the summer tourism season. The EU has also since faced rising infections this summer, driven by the delta variant.

Member countries still have the authority to decide whether or how they keep their borders open during the pandemic, meaning American tourists should expect a mixture of travel rules across the continent. Possible restrictions on U.S. travelers could include quarantines, further testing requirements upon arrival or even a total ban on all nonessential travel from the U.S.

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In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed Monday that the EU travel restrictions applied to the unvaccinated, adding that "the fastest path to reopening travel is for people to get vaccinated, to mask up and slow the spread of the deadly virus."

Paski told reporters that the U.S. government is working across federal agencies to develop its own policy for international travel, with the possibility of strengthening testing protocols and potentially ensuring that foreign visitors are fully vaccinated. But she said no final decision has been made yet.

Several international travelers are currently prohibited from entering the U.S., including those arriving from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, India, China, and a number of European nations: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.