Government Affairs Cuba travel advisory less severe By Johanna Jainchill / January 12, 2018 Share 1 Photo Credit: Florian Agustin/Shutterstock -- Under its new travel advisory system, the U.S. State Department appears to have softened its position on Cuba travel. In late September, the Department issued a travel warning for Cuba, advising U.S. citizens to not travel to the island nation following reports of U.S. embassy employees suffering mysterious health attacks. Symptoms reportedly included hearing loss, dizziness, headaches and cognitive issues, and the government evacuated many employees from the U.S. embassy in Havana.However, on its newly overhauled travel advisory system, the State Department ranks Cuba a level 3 nation, suggesting Americans "reconsider travel." The same ranking is given to Russia and Turkey. When asked by reporters to explain the change, Michelle Bernier-Toth, acting deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizen services, said that the department "routinely reviews previous travel warnings" and determined that level 3 was appropriate. She also said that part of the reason Cuba has a level 3 ranking is because the Department has significantly reduced its staffing at the embassy in Havana."Whenever we do that, traditionally we have always issued a travel warning," she said, adding that "we have a small footprint in our embassy in Havana. We have very limited consular resources and our ability to help people in an emergency is extremely limited."However, the advisory on the website says that the reason for the advisory is "due to health attacks directed at U.S. Embassy Havana employees." "Because our personnel's safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk," the advisory continues. "Attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and at Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri in Havana."It later adds that due to the drawdown in staff, "the U.S. Embassy in Havana has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens."Tour operators in September had decried the Department's earlier travel warning as without merit and based on political posturing by the Trump administration. "It was completely unfounded," said InsightCuba president Tom Popper in September. "We knew something was coming once the story broke about the symptoms that the embassy officials were experiencing."