In Brief

CDC urges Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving

People social distancing at an airport.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends against travel for Thanksgiving this year, as cases of COVID-19 soar throughout the country.

"We're alarmed with the exponential increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths" in the United States, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, said in a news briefing Thursday (Nov. 19). In just the last week, the country has logged more than 1 million COVID-19 cases.

"The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with," the agency said in new guidance posted Thursday on its website.

Related: Thanksgiving with family and friends is a bad idea, health experts warn

Travel is of particular concern because of "the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another," Walke said. In addition, there's concern about the spread of the virus not only on trains, buses and planes, but also in the transportation hubs where people tend to crowd together in lines or waiting areas, Walke said. And when people gather with family they do not live with, there is a risk of further spreading COVID-19.

"What's at stake is … the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick, being hospitalized and dying," Walke said.

If people do decide to travel, the CDC recommends that people always wear a mask in public settings, stay at least 6 feet apart from others and wash their hands often.

People should also check whether there are restrictions or entry requirements (such as a 14-day quarantine) in the areas they plan to travel to, the agency said.

The CDC's new guidance also clarifies the definition of a "household," which it defines as people who have lived with you for the last 14 days. People who have been living away from home, such as college students, would not be considered part of their parents' household. If you are hosting members from outside your household (such as college students), the CDC advises people to take extra precautions, such as wearing masks within their own home and having overnight guests use a separate bathroom, if possible. 

Walke acknowledged, "these times are tough."

"People want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they've always done it," Walke said. But this year, "we're asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel."

Originally published on Live Science.  

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.