Should Americans be traveling during Thanksgiving with COVID 19 still occurring?

Annebelle Fung, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is an important American holiday where families and friends gather together to celebrate and feast. It has been celebrated since before the foundation of the United States itself, and, according to AAA, around 51 million Americans traveled during Thanksgiving last year. This year’s Thanksgiving festivities, however, are shaping up quite differently, as the nation is in the midst of a global pandemic and many Americans are concerned about the health risks associated with COVID-19. In fact, as of press time, the CDC encouraged Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz imposed restrictions limiting social gatherings to those in one’s own household. 


Americans, however, are not well-known for staying home during Thanksgiving. Tripadvisor claims that 56 percent of Americans have traveled during Thanksgiving, and 11 percent of those people flew to their destination. In addition, the health risks associated with traveling en masse are exacerbated by the fact that most holiday gatherings will be held indoors. 

Dr. Larry Finkelstein, a professor of family medicine, stated that, “[indoor gatherings pose] more risk because it’s really difficult to keep at least six-feet of separation with social distancing, so there’s more of a chance. And to be honest, and forgetting COVID for a second, we are in the cold and flu season.” 


With cold weather and dry air, the COVID-19 rate of infection will increase significantly, as the weather conditions will easily dry up airway tissues, impairing the body’s ability to produce mucus and prevent viruses and invaders from infecting the body. 


Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at UC Irvine, similarly said, “I worry that interstate travel for Thanksgiving has the potential to synchronize the pandemic, so that we all have a winter wave at the same time.” 


Unfortunately, a large influx of new cases across the entire nation could prove disastrous and would put tremendous strain on the nation’s hospital capacities and medical resources. If medical supplies are stretched too thin, the lack of adequate resources would not only prevent COVID patients from being treated, but it could also cause hospitals to lack the resources needed to treat patients infected with severe illnesses other than the coronavirus.


Although health experts have advised people to cancel their holiday plans and remain socially isolated, the decision to call off Thanksgiving gatherings has been hard for many. For most Americans, this holiday is their only opportunity to connect with family members they haven’t seen all year. Spending time with family and friends is important during this holiday season, especially in a year as riddled with problems as 2020, but traveling during a global pandemic naturally comes with many risks. If even one person at an indoor gathering is infected with COVID, it’s very likely that they will spread the disease to multiple other family members. Ultimately, although it is important to see family and friends during the holidays, the high risk of disease transmission demands substantial precautions and smaller gathering sizes (or perhaps even both).


Charlotte Carney, ‘24, intends to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family this year and voiced her concerns about big gatherings during this holiday.


 “I think people should limit the size of their gatherings on Thanksgiving, ideally just with the people they live with,” she said. “I won’t see any of my grandparents because we want to keep them safe, I do understand though that people need their families right now.”