Office of Global Safety provides community resources amid COVID-19 travel advisory updates

Changes in federal agencies’ procedures for designating nations’ level of travel risk will allow Vanderbilt’s Office of Global Safety to better communicate those risks to potential travelers connected with the university.

On April 14, the Department of State announced it will decouple its Travel Advisory ratings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travel Health Notice ratings for the first time in more than two years.

Under the Department of State’s Travel Advisory system, each country of the world is issued a risk rating to help ensure traveler safety. The CDC uses Travel Health Notices to alert travelers to health threats around the world, using a four-level system to categorize international destinations.

Beginning this week, the Department of State’s Travel Advisory levels will no longer automatically correlate with the CDC’s Travel Health Notice levels. However, if the CDC raises a country’s Travel Health Notice to a Level 4, the Department of State’s Travel Advisory for that country also will be raised to a Level 4 due to COVID-19. With this change, approximately 10 percent of countries around the world will remain at a Level 4 designation for all risk indicators, including, but not limited to, COVID-19.

The Vanderbilt Travel Risk Assessment Committee is responsible for authorizing university-sponsored academic or service opportunities involving travel to high-risk locations where there is a significant health or safety concern. Currently, Vanderbilt requires VTRAC review for travel to locations with a Level 3 or Level 4 rating from either the Department of State or CDC. For locations below Level 3, Vanderbilt’s Office of Global Safety offers risk assessment resources for student organizations, student groups and faculty-led experiences. The recent shift in the Department of State’s travel advisory system will allow the Office of Global Safety to differentiate and better communicate the many risk factors that inform travel advisories, including the risks of civil unrest, crime, natural disasters, terrorism and other nuanced challenges.

An additional resource offered by the Office of Global Safety is comprehensive international medical insurance. Vanderbilt’s plan, GeoBlue, is required for all students and strongly recommended for faculty and staff who travel outside of the United States for education-related purposes or Vanderbilt University business. GeoBlue is low cost, now includes quarantine and isolation coverage, and is a reimbursable expense for faculty and staff.

All Vanderbilt faculty, staff and students who plan to travel internationally are encouraged to connect with to receive guidance and resources related to their travel needs.