This story was updated at 9:54 am ET on March 16, 2020.

What a difference a week makes. On March 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had flagged only a handful of countries as a “heightened risk assessment” for travel. Today, the revised risk assessment map sweeps across the entire world.

On March 7, only China, Iran, South Korea and Italy were flagged at Risk Assessment Level 3, meaning the CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel. Japan was at Risk Assessment Level 2, meaning the CDC recommends that older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions should consider postponing travel.

Today, the map looks very different. China, Iran, South Korea and all of Europe, including the United Kingdom and Ireland, is now at Level 3. The rest of the world, including the United States and the rest of North America, is now at Level 2, which indicates sustained community spread where travelers should practice enhanced precautions. Specifically, older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing travel and all travelers should practice a set of recommendations both during and after traveling.

This is extremely unusual. The CDC does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States. But these are unusual times: COVID-19 cases have now been reported in many states, and certain pockets are experiencing community spread of the disease. “Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19, if there are other travelers with COVID-19,” per the CDC website.

What it Means To Be at Level 2

At this level, the CDC’s coronavirus.org website recommends practicing social distancing, washing hands with soap and water and using sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoiding sick people.

Level 2 also means that all travelers should monitor their health and limit interactions with others for a period of 14 days after returning from travel within the U.S.

The CDC recommendations include: “If you travel, take the following steps:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Avoid traveling if you are sick.

If you have traveled to any destination during the past 14 days:

  • Monitor your health and practice social distancing. Social distancing means staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.
  • If you get sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing:
  • Seek medical advice. Call ahead before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room.
  • Tell your doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.”

If you’re still considering an upcoming trip, the CDC keeps a checklist of things to consider before traveling.

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