Stay Home For The Holidays Or Get Tested Twice For Covid-19, CDC Urges

Topline

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising Americans to avoid holiday travel, or else take multiple Covid-19 tests and additional precautions, the agency said Wednesday, as coronavirus cases spike nationwide and are expected to climb even higher due to Thanksgiving gatherings.

Key Facts

While the CDC recommends that people don’t travel at all, those who do should be tested for Covid-19 one to three days before traveling, the agency said, and then tested again three to five days after they return.

Those who travel for the holidays should also avoid nonessential public activities for seven days after they return, or 10 days if the traveler does not get tested.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk” and is not as safe as staying home entirely, the CDC emphasized, but can make travel less dangerous when combined with other social distancing measures like self-isolating and mask wearing.

Crucial Quote

“Cases are rising, and the safest thing to do is to postpone holiday travel and stay home,” Cindy Friedman, who leads the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch, told reporters on a press call Wednesday. “Travel volume was high over Thanksgiving, and even if only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, this can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another.”

Key Background

The CDC’s holiday guidance is in line with the agency’s recommendations over Thanksgiving, which similarly encouraged Americans to spend the holiday only with people from their household or keep gatherings as small as possible. Many Americans appeared to ignore the agency’s recommendations, however, with a pre-Thanksgiving survey finding at least a quarter of Americans planned to travel and gather with other people despite the CDC guidelines. Data from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration also showed that air travel reached its highest levels since the pandemic began over the Thanksgiving holiday. 

What To Watch For

Health experts project that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings will lead to a perilous surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations nationwide, which are already at their highest levels since the pandemic began. Given Covid-19’s incubation period, infections that took place over Thanksgiving will likely take up to a few weeks to be reflected in the case counts, which health experts fear could give Americans a false sense of security when it comes to holiday travel. “People may think if Thanksgiving didn’t change how much spread there was, I’m safe to do Christmas,” Boston University epidemiologist Ellie Murray told the Guardian. “That’s almost certainly the wrong thing to think, but it may be really hard to convince people based on the data just because of the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Further Reading

Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings (CDC)

CDC recommends postponing holiday travel as Covid surges (Politico)

CDC Advises Americans Not To Travel For Thanksgiving, Mask Up And Bring Own Food If They Attend Gatherings (Forbes)

Poll: At Least A Quarter Of Americans Won’t Follow CDC’s Thanksgiving Guidelines (Forbes)

Air Travel Hit Highest Level Sunday Since March, TSA Says (Forbes)

White House Coronavirus Task Force Tells Public Health Officials To Bypass State Leaders In Dire Warning (Forbes)

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