Greenland is not that green during this time of the year. And it’s certainly not green on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Covid-19 Travel Recommendations map right now. In fact, Greenland is currently in the red, the dark red there. That’s because the CDC has just leveled up Greenland, Italy, and Mauritius when it comes to Covid-19 risk. On Monday, all three destinations went from Level 3, which is marked in red on the map, to Level 4, which is marked in dark red.
So you may want to postpone your plans to hand-deliver that package to Santa’s mailbox in Nuuk, Greenland, take in Galileo’s middle finger in Florence, Italy, or go underwater scootering with Santa in Mauritius. Level 4 means that the Covid-19 risk in those destinations is currently “very high” and that you should avoid all non-essential travel to such places, whether or not you’ve been fully vaccinated.
Now you may argue whether delivering pickles in person to Santa Claus is considered non-essential travel. Regardless, the Covid-19 situations for Greenland, Italy, and Mauritius have been getting worse. For example, the number of new reported Covid-19 cases per day has been steadily rising in Italy since mid-October. It’s gone from 2,729 on October 15 to 19,212 on December 12, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Italy has become a bit of a “green land” itself. In August, Italy instituted a “green pass” system to track who has either been vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19. In October, Italy made such “green passes” mandatory for workplaces. And December 6 brought the so-called “super green pass,” a green pass requirement for those wanting to enter theaters, gyms, clubs, stadiums, indoor bars and restaurants, and similar venues.
Of course, anytime you require people to do anything, you will get some people resisting, even when the requirement is for the public good. Not everyone quite understands the “help me, help you” quote from the movie Jerry Maguire. Italy has continued to have its share of vaccine hesitant folks as well as anti-vaxxer propaganda.
With close to 75% of its population fully vaccinated, Italy does have a higher vaccination coverage than the U.S., which so far has fully vaccinated 60.9% of its population. But beating the U.S. in vaccination coverage is like leading the Hulk in a pogo stick race. The U.S. hasn’t exactly been a picture of how to get a vaccination program done. Neither 75% nor 60.9% are high enough to surpass the herd immunity thresholds necessary to really interrupt transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
Recognizing that vaccination does not offer 100% protection like a full-body concrete condom, Italian authorities have been layering on other Covid-19 precautions as well. Many cities in Italy, such as Milan, Bologna, Padova, and Bergamo, now have face mask requirements for public areas both indoors and outdoors. So if you somehow believe that everyone else must see the bottom half of your beautiful, beautiful face at all times, sorry. Italy has implemented social distancing measures too, including on public transit.
Social distancing may be a bit easier in Greenland, which has only about 56,000 residents and an estimated 5,000 polar bears. Greenland, by the way, is not for sale. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has had 1,831 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with no deaths, based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Nevertheless, the destination experienced a record high 83 reported Covid-19 cases on December 8. Compared to other destinations with higher population densities and many more Covid-19 cases and deaths, Greenland may not seem to be a “hot spot” for the Covid-19 coronavirus. Nevertheless, the upward trend in cases has prompted the shift from Level 3 to Level 4.
And again, Level 4 is a “don’t go there” level. As I have covered previously for Forbes, the CDC has four risk levels for Covid-19. These CDC levels are like golf scores and the number of times your cat punches you in the groin. The higher the number, the worse things may be.
Level 4 is the worst, followed by Level 3, which corresponds to a “high” Covid-19 risk. For travel to Level 3 destinations, the CDC recommends that you first get fully vaccinated. If you are not yet vaccinated, then you should really avoid all nonessential travel to Level 3 destinations. A destination levels up from 3 to 4 when the number of reported Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days crosses the 500 threshold. A destination goes from Level 2 (moderate risk) to Level 3 when this number surpasses 100 and from Level 1 (low risk) to Level 2 when it goes over 50. Destinations at Level 2 appear in orange and those at Level 1 appear in yellow on the map.
Not all the CDC Covid-19 Travel Recommendations news on Monday was bad news. Malaysia moved down to Level 3 from Level 4 for the first time since June 2021. So it’s no longer in the dark, the dark red, that is. And three destinations, Jamaica, the Philippines, and the Republic of Congo, are the new orange, going from Level 3 to Level 2.
Of course, the CDC Covid-19 Travel Recommendation lists can be like the casts of the reality TV show The Bachelor, changing each and every week. The colder and drier weather in the Northern Hemisphere alone could soon take more destinations to a whole another level. Add to that the spread of the seemingly more transmissible Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2, and things could change in a hurry. So if you want to travel, stay flexible and keep checking for CDC travel updates as you might TikTok trends.
The next few months may not be the best time to travel internationally unless you happen to have your own blimp and island. There are other things that you can do for fun over this Holiday Season. And you could always mail Santa that package.