The CDC "Strongly" Recommends That You Don't Travel for Thanksgiving

Smiling group of friends toasting during holiday meal together
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You might want to hold the turkey.

In light of the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging Americans to buckle down and stay put this Turkey Day.

"If you or someone in your household will be visiting someone with increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, we know through our data and studies that these people are more likely to be hospitalized, need a ventilator, or die. We are really asking people to be flexible in their plans for Thanksgiving," said Commander Erin Sauber-Schatz, lead of the CDC's Community Interventions and Critical Population Task Force," in a media briefing on Thursday, November 19. "In the last week, we have seen over a million new cases."

As of Nov. 19, these recent cases bring the total number of confirmed cases to 11.5 million in the U.S., with 250,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Despite recent studies that have hammered down on the fact that there is little risk of contracting COVID-19 while flying, Dr. Henry Walke, Incident Manager for the CDC's COVID-19 response, says there's more to it than that. "What we're concerned about is not only the actual mode of's the transportation hubs. When people are in lines or waiting to get on the bus or get on the plane, people tend to crowd together and can't maintain their distance.

Dr. Walke goes on to say that, based on what the CDC knows about asymptomatic transmission (30 to 40 percent of transmission is due to asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases), there is precedence for concern when multiple households come together, pointing to the spike in cases following Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"Around these holidays, we tend to get people from multiple generations: grandparents, parents, nieces, and nephews all come together in this celebration," said Dr. Walke. "What's really at stake is inadvertently someone is infected in that particular household or that larger family and then spreads it to others. They become infected, and then they go back to their own community. And then that infection is spread to someone else. And inadvertently, it could be to someone who has a serious underlying disease—diabetes or severe kidney disease, for example—and then that person could end up being hospitalized."

Commander Sauber-Schatz explained that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with people from your household. She clarifies, "[If] people have not been actively living with you for the 14 days before you're celebrating, they are not considered a member of your household."

Should college students or members of the military be returning home, the CDC affirms that "you need to take those extra precautions, even wearing masks within your own home" or quarantining for 14 days ahead of arrival.

For those still planning to host or attend a Thanksgiving gathering, the CDC has issued a set of guidelines so that you may celebrate as safely as possible. Guidelines for hosts include limiting the number of guests, placing chairs six feet apart, regularly disinfecting surfaces, and having only one person serving the food. Guests, on the other hand, are advised to bring their own plates and utensils and avoid the kitchen.

"There is reason for hope. We're all excited about the news regarding the vaccine—but it's not here yet," said Dr. Walke. "We know that ending 2020 with a holiday season spent more distant than together is not what we all want. Our hope is that the recommendations posted online today can help people celebrate as safely as possible."

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Transcript for CDC Telebriefing on COVID-19 Outbreak." November 19, 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Holiday Tips."