A federal health agency on Thursday recommended Americans not travel for Thanksgiving this year, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is "recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period," Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, told reporters during a telebriefing.
"The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members is coming to this family gathering and they could end up severely ill, hospitalized, or dying. And we don’t want that to happen. These times are tough, it’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months, and we understand people are tired," he said.
“We understand that people want to see their family and relatives and do it as they’ve always done it. But this year we’re asking them to limit their travel.”
Other health officials have advised virtual gatherings for the holiday.
"As we look ahead to Thanksgiving next week, I urge Americans to listen to guidance from their state and local governments, and consult CDC’s guidelines about how gatherings can be made as safe as possible," Health Secretary Alex Azar said during an event this week.
"The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people you live with and through virtual celebrations. Gathering indoors with people who aren’t members of your household is a high-risk activity for spreading the virus.
"Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu," the agency said.
People who are mulling travel for Thanksgiving should ask themselves if they, someone in their household, or someone they will be visiting are at increased risk of contracting the virus, according to the CDC. Those most at risk are the elderly and immune-compromised.
Prospective travelers should also look at whether the number of cases is high in their community or destination, whether hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in either place, and whether their mode of travel would make it hard to maintain six feet of distance from non-household members.
A number of governors have in recent days imposed harsh measures, citing the pandemic, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who imposed a 10-person limit on gatherings, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who ordered gatherings to include no more than three households.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday called such restrictions "Orwellian."
“The American people know how to protect their health. We’ve dealt with COVID for many months,” she said. “But it’s Orwellian in a place like Oregon to say if you gather in numbers more than six, we might come to your house and arrest you, and you get 30 days of jail time. That’s not the American way.”