Millions of Americans planning holiday travel could add to COVID-19 surge, experts warn


The Transportation Security Administration screened more people on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year than on any day in the agency’s history. This Thanksgiving weekend won’t be as busy but millions still plan to hit the road. Health experts say those travelers could add to the wave of infections now sweeping the country.

A.J. Dronkers hasn’t seen his mother in over a year but that’s about to change. He’s among the 56% of Americans planning to travel for Thanksgiving — after he gets a COVID-19 test.

“We decided last minute and I think that was part of weighing out all the risks, all the factors,” Dronkers told CBS News. “I really let my family drive that decision on their comfort level, and every time I called they said that they were perfectly comfortable. Also, the beauty of Southern California, we can eat outside.”

Airlines are expecting their busiest stretch of the pandemic. United Airlines is adding 1,400 flights, and American Airlines will fly more than 500 additional flights daily. But the number of travelers is expected to be far less than last year, and most will go by car — 76%, according to TripAdvisor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns even “small household gatherings are an important contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases.” The agency recommends getting a flu shot, hosting small gatherings outside, wearing a mask and staying out of tight spaces like kitchens.

“When people get together indoors, eating, drinking, talking, shouting, singing, that’s unfortunately how to spread a lot of COVID, especially when people are traveling around,” former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. 

“Please be more careful around Thanksgiving so that we can have a merry Christmas, otherwise there’s a real chance that we’re going to see explosive spread of COVID throughout December as a result of the Thanksgiving holidays,” Frieden continued.

Frieden downsized his own family’s Thanksgiving in light of COVID-19’s surge. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top disease expert, was forced to make the same decision

The CDC is encouraging people to limit gatherings to their own household or a small group of close contacts. The agency is also recommending people to wear masks indoors when they’re not eating, hold events outdoors, or even host a virtual Thanksgiving with family out of state. 

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