CDC urges Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving

quarantine covid new york
A traffic sign reads, "quarantine for 14 days" above a road in Brooklyn on October 25, 2020 in New York City.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending against any travel, no matter how limited, for Thanksgiving this year.
  • The CDC recommended wearing masks and taking extra precautions if you're spending Thanksgiving with people you don't live with.
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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending against traveling — even a short distance — to have Thanksgiving with family and friends outside your household this year.

"We're alarmed," Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, said on a call with reporters on Thursday announcing the guidance cautioning against Thanksgiving travel. "COVID-19 is turning out to be quite a formidable foe."

The coronavirus is infecting tens of thousands of people across the country every day. Many areas are dealing with unprecedented COVID-19 case numbers and deaths. The disease, which often spreads quietly from people who show no symptoms, has killed more than 250,000 people across the US.

"CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period," Walke said. Acknowledging that many Americans would go ahead with their plans regardless, he urged them to follow "the same recommendations for everyday living during this pandemic," such as wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently.

There is no way for the CDC to mandate travel bans. The US's approach to limiting travel is patchwork, based on each state's rules.

Instead, the CDC is urging Americans to think carefully about what is the right thing to do.

"The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members, from coming together in this family gathering, actually could end up being hospitalized and severely ill and die," Walke said.

CDC: Do not invite people over

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The CDC said Thanksgiving dinners should be limited to single households only. If people haven't been living together already for two weeks, they should not be considered members of the same household on Thanksgiving.

If you do choose to dine with someone you haven't been living with this Thanksgiving, the CDC recommends taking extra precautions and adding more distance, ventilation, and masks.

College students heading home for the holidays and their families should be extra cautious, the public-health agency stressed. All travel is risky right now, as the virus is widespread in the country.

"What we're concerned about is not only the actual mode of travel, whether it's an airplane or a bus or a car ... but also it's the transportation hubs," Walke said. "When people are in lines or waiting to get on the bus or get on a plane, people tend to crowd together and can't maintain their distance."

The agency also suggested opening windows, designating one person to serve food, using single-use plastic utensils, and cutting down on the number of people in the kitchen.

"These times are tough," Walke said. "It's been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that. People want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they've always done it. But this year particularly we're asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel."

Read the CDC's updated Thanksgiving recommendations in full »

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