State Department Update

With the recent announcement by the State Department of a new travel advisory, we wanted to share a few facts and figures for international travel.

Did the State Department just institute a travel ban?

No, the recent announcement was a travel advisory, not a ban. Thousands of people are traveling every day and continue to travel. Because of worldwide COVID case numbers and an overabundance of caution, the State Department decided to increase the number of countries they recommend not traveling to, and now this encompasses almost 80% of the globe. This was a blanket policy, not based on specific tourism locations (See below for more information on Mexico/Caribbean travel.)

Most notably, according to the State Department this update “does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country”.

Is Mexico now listed as a Level 4, highest level, with the CDC?

Mexico has been listed as a CDC Level 4 since March of last year, when the entire world went to Level 4. In November, the CDC broke their recommendations down to the country level, and Mexico remained at 4. This Level 4 CDC guidance is not a new alert or warning, rather the same CDC level that has been in place for over a year.

Is Mexico listed as one of the highest case numbers in the world?

On a macro scale, yes – Mexico as a country is in the Top 20 in number of cases. As of April 20th, they are listed as having 2.31 million cases, 14th most worldwide since the pandemic began. This compares to over 31 million in the United State alone, which is by far the world “leader”. But keep in mind, Mexico is a large country with a large population (just over 1/3 the size of the US), with a plurality of its citizens located in and around Mexico City, the 5th largest city in the world – almost 30% of the cases are from the Mexico City area. In the state of Quintana Roo (Cancun/Riviera Maya/Cozumel), just over 22,000 cases have been reported, about the same number as the state of Vermont.

Are Mexico’s cases growing?

Actually they are in a steady decline since a January 2021 peak. In mid-January, Mexico was reporting on average around 20,000-22,000 cases nationwide per day. As of mid-April, that is down to under 5,000, with a 7-day moving average of around 3,500 as of April 20th, out of a population of 128 million (far less than the United States, still averaging around 60,000-70,000 cases per day in a population of 328 million). In Quintana Roo, a state with a population of nearly 2 million people, only 866 cases total (not per day) have been reported over the two week period April 7-20. 

Isn’t Mexico restricting hotel capacity and facilities because of the virus?

Yes, but those restrictions have actually been easing over the past several months as the case numbers have declined. The state of Quintana Roo was in an “orange light” phase (hotels at 30% capacity) until March 1, 2021, when they downgraded the threat to a “yellow light” (one step below full green light capacity), allowing hotels 60% occupancy, golf courses to be 100% open, and tours & excursions to open to 60-70% capacity.  

What about the Dominican Republic?

The DR has reported 262,000 cases total in a country with a population of over 10 million people, or around 2.5%. By contrast, the United States is nearly 10% now (31.5 million cases out of 328 million people). And as with Mexico, a very large percentage of the country’s population is located in and around the largest city, Santo Domingo (3.4 million), where the majority of cases are, not the tourist areas of Punta Cana/La Romana. The DR is also seeing a steady decline in cases since a mid-January peak. The 7-day average in mid-January was around 2,000 cases per day; as of April it’s under 500. 

What about Jamaica?

Jamaica is an even smaller country than the DR (under 3 million), with nearly half of its citizens living in or around Kingston, not the tourist areas of MoBay/Ocho Rios/Negril. They have also seen a similar steady decline; mid-January averages were close to 700 per day, now down to under 200. Their percentage of cases to population is even lower than the DR, under 1.5%.

Is it safe to travel?

Regardless of an updated advisory, it is as safe to travel today as it was yesterday, and based on case numbers in our top destinations, safer than it was several months ago. With the continued rollout of vaccines for US travelers, the comprehensive sanitation and cleanliness protocols our hotel partners have instituted, and everyday common sense all travelers should be using, travel can be as safe as any other activity.

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