Holidays are usually for gatherings but many get-togethers are complicated or canceled because of COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending against travel for Thanksgiving.
During a news briefing Thursday, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said the agency is “recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period.”
“The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members is coming to this family gathering and they could end up severely ill, hospitalized or dying. And we don’t want that to happen,” he said, as COVID-19 cases tick up across the country. “These times are tough, it’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months, and we understand people are tired.”
He continued: “We understand that people want to see their family and relatives and do it as they’ve always done it. But this year we’re asking them to limit their travel.”
Walke added that Americans who do decide to travel for the holiday should do so “as safely as possible by following the same recommendations for everyday living,” including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart and washing your hands.
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, an industry group, said he expects some people to heed the CDC’s recommendation but noted that AAA projects that 50 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving.
“We’re equally sure that many will chose to travel,” he said, adding, “If you travel, you must travel safely.”
As for specific Thanksgiving gathering safety tips, the CDC recommends:
- Bringing your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils
- Avoiding passing by areas where food is being prepared, such as the kitchen
- Using single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets
- Using disposable items like food containers, plates and utensils.
The holidays are coming: What experts say about even small family gatherings
If you plan to host a gathering, the CDC recommends keeping it outdoors, limiting the number of people and having guests bring their own food and drink. If food is being shared, the agency suggests having only one person serve the food.
Walke also warned about who should and shouldn’t be considered safe after traveling to the gathering.
“Anyone who has not lived in your household for the last 14 days should not be considered a member of your household,” he said. “Regardless of where they’ve been, if they’re coming home and they haven’t been living with you, you definitely need to take precautions. Having their own bathroom for someone who might be an overnight guest, for example.”
That guidance includes college students returning home, the CDC said when it released details. While colleges are pleading with students to get tested or quarantine before they return home, they remain at risk to develop COVID-19 after receiving a negative test or while traveling home.
The CDC’s warning is the latest and most high profile about the risks of traveling as coronavirus cases surge across the country.
Officials in states including California and Illinois have urged residents to avoid nonessential travel even as airlines tout holiday fare deals.
COVID-19 travel restrictions by state: What you need to know before you travel
On Wednesday, Los Angeles International Airport took the unusual step of issuing advice with its annual holiday travel tips.
“If you do not have to travel for the holidays, don’t,’’ the airport said in a tweet.
As recently as a few weeks ago, airlines said holiday bookings are relatively strong despite the spike in cases. In the past week, though, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have warned about a falloff in bookings and increase in cancellations.
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise, Dawn Gilbertson, Curtis Tate, USA TODAY
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Americans should ‘think twice’ about holiday travel plans
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