With Thanksgiving a week away and coronavirus cases exploding across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended against traveling for the holiday, urging Americans to consider celebrating in their own households instead.
In the agency’s first news briefing in months, officials said they were alarmed to see 1 million new cases reported across the United States within the past week. They spoke of the risks of travel and gatherings in stark terms, warning that as families get together over the holidays, they could inadvertently bring the deadly disease with them.
“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,” said Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager.
Beyond that, he said, holiday-related infections could further spread through communities, reaching other vulnerable individuals.
The CDC had previously noted the risk of holiday travel and recommended that travelers take steps including checking local restrictions, wearing a mask, maintaining distance and getting a flu shot. The new guidance says that “postponing planned travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year” and offers a list of questions Americans should ask themselves before making a trip.
Among those questions: whether anyone included in Thanksgiving plans is at increased risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and whether cases are high or increasing or hospitals are overwhelmed in a traveler’s community or destination. Those wanting to travel should also consider whether they or those they plan to visit recently had contact with others and whether they would need to take a bus, train or airplane, where distancing could be more difficult, the CDC said.
“If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ you should consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel,” the new guidance says. “It’s important to talk with the people you live with and your family and friends about the risks of traveling.”
The Thanksgiving holiday comes as coronavirus cases have skyrocketed across the United States, with the seven-day average of new cases hovering at more than 160,000 on Thursday, according to Washington Post tracking. The nation’s death toll since the start of the pandemic reached 250,000 on Thursday, and on Wednesday alone, nearly 1,900 deaths were reported, marking the deadliest day since May.
The worsening national picture has heightened concerns about the impact of Thanksgiving, with public health experts fearful that travel and traditional gatherings could contribute to the surging infections.
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The Washington Post’s William Wan contributed to this report.