The CDC has strongly encouraged people to stay home and avoid travel over Thanksgiving weekend, but millions are still planning to travel. If you are planning to travel, here’s their guidance on how to protect yourself.
The CDC says stay home…but many won’t
Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID incident manager shared this comment in a recent news briefing, “…the tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members is coming to this family gathering and they could end up severely ill, hospitalized or dying. And we donât want that to happen.”
He further shared a stark recommendation noting that the agency is “recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period. We understand that people want to see their family and relatives and do it as theyâve always done it. But this year weâre asking them to limit their travel.”
Many will heed this warning, but many will still continue with their travel plans on what still promises to be a busy travel day – perhaps the busiest of the year (although likely well off prior year numbers). The CDC’s website provides additional guidance on how to stay safe while traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ve highlighted the key points to their methodology here.
It starts and ends with a face mask
A familiar refrain from nearly every health or medical professional is: wear a mask.
There’s a reason, of course. Wearing a mask is the single most effective measure you can take to reduce your chances of getting COVID-19, besides avoiding other people.
The coronavirus is transmitted primarily through aerosol droplets from infected parties.
At the top of the CDC’s Thanksgiving travel guidance is, unsurprisingly, wear a mask. Specifically, the CDC recommends wearing a 2-layer face mask or covering. And, more specifically, wear your mask whenever you are on public transportation and around others who do not live with you. That means wear it on the plane, the train, the rental car shuttle, the airport, bus station, the hotel lobby, and possibly indoors around your extended family and friends.
That last little bit is hard to stomach for many, but, yes, the CDC is indeed recommending, or implying at least, that you should wear your mask inside when around family members and friends who don’t live with you. Ouch, that’s not fun, but it could make a real difference, at least according to the CDC.
Be sure to wear it correctly, too. That means over the mouth and nose, and snugly on your face.
Other measures you can take to stay safe while traveling for Thanksgiving
The CDC’s remaining guidance for celebrating Thanksgiving this year where travel involved is also familiar to all of us: social distance, wash your hands, outside is better than inside, etc. There are a few unique twists to consider for the Thanksgiving meal itself.
Assuming you are having said meal with people not directly in your household (e.g. extended family, friends, etc), the CDC recommends a few important steps:
- Bring your own food and utensils
- Have the meal outdoors
- Limit the number of guests
- Clean & disinfect common or frequent use areas, frequently
- If celebrating indoors, try to keep windows or doors open
- Limit the number of people in food preparation areas
- If sharing food, try to use single use options like plastic utensils, sauce packets, etc
In other words, Thanksgiving may look nothing like any other year you’ve celebrated it. With all of the modifications, it starts to approach the point of asking the question: does it even make sense to attend or host such a meal? That’s pretty much what the CDC is going for here. Their preferred solution is for you to simply avoid all of that, stay home, and have a small simple meal with your immediate family, and perhaps do a virtual Thanksgiving via Zoom.
We aren’t going to wade into the societal or political discussion about these measures. This is the CDC guidance. It is what it is. Make your own choices.