As the US grapples with the third surge in the pandemic that has now killed a quarter of a million Americans, officials with the CDC are strongly recommending against travel for Thanksgiving, citing explosive growth in COVID-19 cases nationwide.
"[The] CDC is recommending against travel in the Thanksgiving period," said Henry Walke, the CDC's director of the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, on a preholiday briefing call with reporters Thursday. "This is a strong recommendation."
"It's a difficult conversation and sometimes a sad one," to tell people you are staying home, added Walke, noting people would put their families at risk by traveling to meet them.
The embattled federal public health agency also released updated guidelines for lowering the risks of transmitting the coronavirus at gatherings and safe travel for people who head for holiday gatherings despite the recommendation.
"Most important, wear a mask," said Walke, emphasizing the need to keep 6 feet away from other travelers and wash hands frequently. College students should consider returning home 14 days ahead of any gathering that will host elderly or ill guests at high risk of disease, and isolating themselves to limit the risks of transmitting the coronavirus.
The CDC guidelines also recommend limiting exposure, increasing ventilation with outdoor activities, and wearing masks among households that do travel to spend the holiday together. The recommendations include bringing your own food, staying masked indoors, and avoiding the kitchen for people who go to gatherings with people outside their own household.
"I haven't seen my parents since January. That's been difficult," said Walke. "I'm staying home."
COVID-19 is now killing more than 1,100 people every day nationwide. Case numbers are growing exponentially amid a nationwide surge in disease in most states.