Home Travel The U.S. State Department Just Turned Things Up To 11

The U.S. State Department Just Turned Things Up To 11

by joeheg

When things get bad, sometimes the only thing you have to get you through is comedy. As I was reading today that the U.S. Department of State raised the Global Health Advisory to Level 4, I knew things must be serious.

At the time, all I knew about Level 4 was it was one more than Level 3. I’d think it’s safe to say that none of us have ever seen this type of blanket warning about travel anywhere outside the U.S.

As Nigel told us in “This Is Spinal Tap,” when you’ve reached the top, there’s only one place to go. One number higher. If you’ve never seen Spinal Tap, add it to your playlist for when you’re stuck at home.

Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

As it turns out, there’s nothing past Level 4. This is serious as it gets. It’s one number higher than the highest number we’ve seen before. This is the State Department’s equivalent of turning it to 11.

To understand what this means, here are the descriptions of each of the U.S. State Department’s Global Health Advisory levels.

Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions

This is a level you’d previously expect if you were traveling to a major city anywhere else in the world. I’d expect this to be the level for when we’d go to London or Tokyo. Be aware of you’re surroundings, the same as if you were in Times Square or Los Angeles.

Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution

It would help if there was an explanation of increased caution, but there’s not much to go on. If you’re going somewhere on a Level 2 alert, it means you need to do a little more research before just jumping on a plane. Some areas may be less safe than others.

Politics can influence ratings, which could mean a rating is because the country in question has rated the U.S. as being an increased risk for travel, and this is our way of getting back at them.

Travel outside the US to most countries usually fall within these 2 categories.

On March 14th, the State Department increased the Global Health Advisory to Level 3. Things were getting real

Level 3 – Reconsider Travel

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.

Even more, they recalled those overseas who were in danger from COVID-19

On March 14, the Department of State authorized the departure from any diplomatic or consular post in the world of US personnel and family members who have been medically determined to be at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19.

How quickly things change in the face of a global pandemic, which is now spreading at home.


I can never remember a time when my own government was telling me not to travel anywhere outside of the United States, but that’s where we are.

We have officially turned the dial to 11.

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.  In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.  U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.  Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice.  Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips.  If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.

In short, if you’re in the USA, don’t leave. If you’re anywhere else in the world, get back as soon as you can or risk being stuck where you are for an indeterminate amount of time. Frankly, if you’re outside the US, it might already be too late because there may be no way for you to get back home.


Final Thoughts

We’re in a different world. Entire cities, and even states, are shutting down. The global travel industry is a memory, and domestic travel doesn’t look to be much far behind. The State Department has now said not to travel outside of the US. Several cities and entire states have put restrictions into place to try and #flattenthecurve.

Even those bloggers who were all gung-ho about keeping all of their international travel plans have been grounded. We’ve closed the beaches in Florida during Spring Break, so you know this is really serious.

I had an hour-long conversation with my dad, urging him to stop going out of the house unless it was absolutely necessary. I’ve only left the house to go to work (cause I’m essential personnel) and one trip to the supermarket.

From someone who writes about travel every day, I only have one thing to say.


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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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