COVID-19 is on the rise across the United States. This week’s new cases have averaged at 162,816 per day, which represents a 77 percent increase from two weeks ago. On Thursday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised Americans to refrain from traveling for Thanksgiving next week, and urged all residents to strongly consider celebrating the holiday with members of their immediate household.
Earlier this month, the CDC issued guidance for the upcoming holiday with recommendations that Americans should carefully plan their celebrations, and take extra precautions like hosting outside gatherings and practicing social distancing and mask wearing. But the new recommendations are far more direct and clear: Don’t travel at all.
“The C.D.C. is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” Henry Walke, COVID-19 incident manager for the CDC, told reporters during a press conference on Thursday. He cited the recent spike in cases seen across the country as the main reason for this updated guidance. “We are alarmed with the exponential increase,” Walke said. And the CDC is not just concerned with the safety of various modes of travel, he added, but also with transportation hubs. “When people are in lines or waiting to get on a plane and can’t maintain their distance,” Walke said, they put themselves at risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Erin Sauber-Schatz, the Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force lead at the CDC, said that Americans should use this guidance to ask themselves tough questions: Have you actually been able to quarantine for the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and will you be able to continue quarantining for two weeks after? Is your planned gathering larger than it should be? Are any of the people you’re planning to interact with at an increased risk of suffering from severe COVID? There’s a big difference between flying across the country to attend a packed gathering of multiple households and driving to see one or two family members, but that doesn’t mean the CDC’s new warning shouldn’t give people with more conservative plans pause, too.
She added that the CDC has specific recommendations and tips for preventing transmission, like wearing a mask over your mouth and nose while socializing with others. You can read more detailed instructions on what precautions you should take for an in-person gathering here.
The public health agency also provided further clarification on what it means by celebrating only with members of your own household. This only includes people who have been living with you for the past 14 days. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, thousands of college students are expected to return home. From an epidemiological standpoint, students living on campus are not currently in the same “household” as their family members. Public health experts fear that young adults may unknowingly bring the virus with them. Wilke and Sauber-Schatz recommend that if families do have college students coming home, they make plans for the youngsters to maintain social distance and wear masks whenever possible.
The CDC officials noted that while they’re still investigating the recent COVID surge, they suspect that small social gatherings have a lot to do with the spike. “We are still looking into it,” Walke said at Thursday’s press conference, “but I would say based on what we know, we are very concerned about people who are coming together outside their house bubble.” Throughout the past nine months, the US has seen case counts rise after major holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Let’s not follow the same trend as Thanksgiving approaches.