The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans stay put for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and celebrate only with their immediate households to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said in a press conference Thursday. “For Americans who decide to travel, CDC recommends doing so as safely as possible by following the same recommendations for everyday living.”
The official announcement is a “strong recommendation” and not a mandate required by law, but aims to serve in the interest of public health at a time when cases are rising at an alarming pace across the country, hospitalizations are reaching new peaks, and the death toll surpassed 250,000 this week.
“From an individual household level, what’s at stake is basically an increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick, and then hospitalized, and dying,” Dr. Walke said. “We certainly don’t want to see that happen. These times are tough. It’s been a long outbreak.”
Thursday’s announcement is also stricter than the agency’s prior suggestions for group gatherings that were criticized by leading physicians, who felt the guidelines were unrealistic and lacked a definitive stance, therefore setting the country up for another massive case spike.
Dr. Dara Kass, associate professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, has been vocal about her opposition to those suggestions, saying they gave “permission for people to be exceptions to the rule,” rather than “hard stops” and a “clear case of rules that people need to follow.”
During the pandemic, Dr. Kass noted that the CDC has made a habit of rolling back its own suggestions regarding public health and safety. This latest announcement comes just a week before Thanksgiving and just before the travel rush kicks off.
“I don't have time to wait for a retraction,” Dr. Kass said.
For those who already made plans but are now reconsidering how to spend the holiday, there’s time to recoup some financial losses. Major U.S. airlines like American Airlines, Delta, and United are honoring refunds, free change fees, or providing customers credits for future travel. Amtrak is also waiving change fees for reservations booked by Dec. 31.