Is it safe to travel for Thanksgiving during the pandemic?

Is it safe to travel for Thanksgiving COVID-19
Photo via Marco Verch Professional Photographer/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The holidays are right around the corner, prompting many Americans to wonder whether it’s safe to travel for Thanksgiving despite the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become the nation’s go-to coronavirus expert, recently admitted his own daughters won’t be home for Thanksgiving this year. Even with COVID-19 cases rising across the country, it will be difficult to stop Americans from celebrating Thanksgiving with their friends and families.

On Nov. 19, the CDC updated its guidelines and recommended people not travel during the Thanksgiving holiday. Since the new guidance came only a week before the holiday, it might be difficult to get people to change their plans.

“I think people are going to have to evaluate the level of risk that they want to take, particularly in families in which you have grandpa and grandma and elderly individuals who are going to be vulnerable,” Fauci told STAT News. “I’m not making any recommendation about what people should or should not do. The only thing I’m saying, it’s not going to be an easy decision.”

Instead, having a virtual celebration is one safe way to celebrate Thanksgiving without needing to travel.

“We have far too many examples where adult children with grandchildren came home for events over the course of the recent months when seven or eight days later, it’s clear there’s been SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy told STAT News. “And unfortunately, these events far too often end up with one of the people more at risk for severe disease dying. Grandma, mom or dad, aunts or uncles.”

“It’s happened with weddings. It’s happened with funerals. It’s happened with family reunions,” Osterholm said. “And the holiday season is probably going to be the height of it, because it’s a tradition that is almost sacred.”

Though experts recommend against traveling for the holidays, many recognize some travel is inevitable. If you know you’re traveling for Thanksgiving during COVID-19, there are some precautions you can take to protect yourself and others. If you can, eat outside and socially distanced with a small group of people. Also consider quarantining before and after traveling. Experts recommend travelers only get together with a small group of people who share a similar mindset about taking COVID-19 precautions to stay safe and avoid conflict.

The CDC recommends avoiding high-risk activities like Black Friday shopping, taking part in crowded parades, or attending large parties with people from outside your household. If you are planning on traveling this Thanksgiving, or going to a large gathering, it’s important to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and socially distance when possible.

Is it safe:

Sources: CDC, STAT News, NPR

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