By MINA KAJI and AMANDA MAILE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning Americans against all travel to Mexico as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country.
In the past two weeks, Mexico surpassed 100,000 deaths due to the virus and reported over one million cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The agency assigned Mexico its highest advisory, saying travel there “may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.”
The warning comes as U.S. airlines bolster their winter schedules with flights to popular beach destinations in Mexico. Last month, Mexico was the “clear leader” for U.S.-International air travel, according to Airlines for America (A4A).
Data from travel itinerary app TripIt showed while air travel from the U.S. to Mexico in December is down overall, “the share of U.S.-origin flight reservations to the country have increased 179 percent year-over-year.”
One possible attraction is Mexico does not require U.S. citizens to present a negative COVID-19 test to enter, unlike other beach locales in Hawaii and the Caribbean.
Brittany Bamrick, 31, plans to take her first international trip in January since the pandemic began. Her company bought out a “remote” yoga retreat center in Todos Santos, Mexico, that allows a maximum of 30 guests.
“I feel that I know the situation I’m getting into and assume the risk,” she said. “It’s an optional retreat, so if anyone wants to cancel, they can, it’s what you feel comfortable with.”
Bamrick and a majority of the people headed to the yoga retreat live in San Diego, California.
“It’s like going into a neighboring state for us,” she said. “It’s a shorter flight than others I’ve taken, so I almost feel better going to Mexico.”
Ashley Lewis, 36, has traveled to Mexico three times since March.
“I felt more safe there than I would at a Target or market in Los Angeles,” Lewis told ABC News. “The resorts were secluded, they weren’t selling the hotels to 100 percent capacity, and everyone was wearing masks and abiding by the rules. So much in those areas are dependent on tourism, and you could tell they were working incredibly hard to make the guests feel safe.”
Lewis says she is trying to take advantage of being able to work from anywhere — also traveling to Hawaii, Turks and Caicos, and Las Vegas during the pandemic.
“When I come home from a trip I quarantine in my home for a week or week and a half,” Lewis explained. “Then I go get that test and that’s for peace of mind that I can see my family without the fear of being an asymptomatic spreader.”
She said the CDC’s travel advisory wouldn’t deter her from flying to Mexico a fourth time in January.
“I feel like I take all the necessary precautions and am smart about the type of things that I do,” Lewis said. “You wouldn’t find me close to a nightclub or anything like that, and so I feel like from what I’ve seen on my trips to Mexico I don’t believe that I’m at any more of a heightened risk.”
Health experts are still warning against all non-essential travel, especially during the holidays, as they worry a surge in travel could translate to a surge in cases.
“People that think they can escape the virus in Mexico are in for a potentially different scenario,” ABC News medical contributor Dr. Jay Bhatt said. “We’re in a time where the pandemic is getting worse, we’re setting records we don’t need to set, and it’s not getting better. If you’re going to a place that has higher prevalence, you’re more likely to be at higher risk for transmission.”
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.