CDC Advises Against Thanksgiving Travel

An air traveler walks by a COVID-19 advisory in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

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In its first public briefing since August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday and to forgo plans to spend time with family outside of their households in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In a news briefing on Thursday, CDC officials said the new advisory was in response to the alarming surge of COVID-19 cases around the country over the past week, during which more than 160,000 new infections have been reported daily. The agency fears that the holidays could make that very bad situation even worse.

“Amid this critical phase, the CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” COVID-19 incident manager Dr. Henry Walke said. “What we’re concerned about is not only the actual mode of travel — whether it’s an airplane or bus or car, but also the transportation hubs we’re concerned about,” he noted, explaining that transmission of the virus is easier among people waiting in lines to get on planes, trains, and buses, when social distancing is more difficult.

“At the individual household level, what’s at stake is basically the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then being hospitalized and dying,” Walke added.

The new CDC advisory for the holiday now says that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year. Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.”

Previously, the agency had only noted the risk of holiday travel and stressed the need to take precautions.

The agency has also made a number of recommendations for holiday celebrants to consider if they do decide to host or attend a gathering, including reviewing the local infection and hospitalization rates, limiting the number of households involved, shifting the event outdoors (and perhaps using an open-air pop-up tent), increasing ventilation if indoors, requiring face masks, and avoiding loud music so guests are less likely to engage in higher transmission-risk activity like shouting or singing.

CDC Advises Against Thanksgiving Travel