Is It Safe to Travel This Thanksgiving?
November 23, 2020
Historically, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel holidays of the year. Millions of Americans travel near and far to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. However, making holiday plans during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be difficult, confusing, and stressful. COVID-19 cases are starting to climb again in certain parts of the United States, owing in part to the cooler temperatures causing social gatherings to move inside. Health experts suggest that the safest thing to do is stay home and limit exposure to other people as much as possible. However, for those who do plan to travel and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family, there are proactive steps that people can take to stay safe and healthy, limit the exposure to COVID-19, and reduce the risk of transmission.
What Thanksgiving Activities Should You Avoid?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traveling over the holidays can increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Everyone has their own holiday traditions and customs, which often include some type of travel and congregating with large groups of people indoors. The CDC compiled a list of popular Thanksgiving activities and ranked them from low to high-risk, including the following:
Low-risk activities. Although some of these options may not be the ideal scenario, they prioritize safety and can curb the spread of COVID-19:
- Enjoy an intimate Thanksgiving dinner with immediate family only.
- Prepare Thanksgiving meals for family members who live nearby and deliver the meal in a way that does not involve direct contact.
- Schedule a time to have a virtual meal with friends and family.
- Watch the traditional sporting events, parades, and movies from home.
- Avoid shopping in person on Black Friday and complete as much holiday shopping online as possible.
Moderate-risk activities. Some of the most popular fall activities include apple picking, hayrides, and visiting pumpkin patches. The CDC considers these activities to be a moderate risk, but you can safely do them if you take the appropriate safety precautions, such as practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and using hand sanitizer. The following are additional examples of activities considered moderate risks by the CDC:
- Host a small, outdoor dinner with family and friends if weather permits.
- Attend outdoor sporting events, such as a football game, as long as all spectators wear a mask and practice social distancing.
High-risk activities. The CDC considers typical indoor holiday celebrations that involve large groups high-risk activities. The following are additional examples of high-risk activities:
- Attending Thanksgiving celebrations where there will be large groups of people congregating indoors
- Attending large, crowded parades
- Participating in a crowded race or attending a race as a spectator
- Going to crowded indoor shopping malls during the holiday season
- Drinking too much alcohol, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behavior
What Factors Increase the Risk of COVID-19 Exposure During Thanksgiving Gatherings?
The risk of exposure to COVID-19 or spreading the virus to a friend or family member over the holidays depends on several factors, including the following:
- Higher levels of COVID-19 in the community. If there are cases in the community, individuals should consider limiting their holiday celebration to immediate family only to avoid spreading the virus among attendees. You can find Information about the number of cases in a specific area on the state’s health department website.
- Indoor versus outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings pose a greater risk than outdoor gatherings, particularly if the home or restaurant has a poor ventilation system.
- Duration of the event. The longer the gathering lasts, particularly if it is indoors, the greater the risk that the virus can spread.
- Large crowds. The CDC does not limit gatherings to a specific number, but they do recommend keeping the size of crowds small, based on the size of the home, whether the event is in or outdoors, and if attendees are practicing social distancing. In addition, if friends or family are traveling from different states, this will increase the risk of spreading the virus to other guests, particularly if they are coming from areas with a high number of cases.
- Behaviors of the attendees. If friends or family members attending the Thanksgiving celebration do not practice social distancing, wear a mask, or follow other recommended prevention behaviors prior to the event, they could pose an increased risk of spreading the virus.
No one wants to miss Thanksgiving celebrations, particularly this year, when the pandemic has prevented people from seeing family and friends. However, in the interest of safety, the following people should not attend in-person holiday gatherings:
- Anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
- Those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, fatigue, or body aches
- Any friend or family member who is waiting for COVID-19 test results
- Anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days
- Individuals who are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19
What Travel Tips Should I Keep in Mind During the Pandemic?
Traveling over the Thanksgiving weekend under normal circumstances can be a stressful experience, considering how many people are traveling via planes, trains, and automobiles. However, traveling during one of the busiest holidays, while also dealing with a global pandemic is a different story. Travelers can have a healthy, safe, and stress-free Thanksgiving this year by keeping the following travel tips in mind:
- Avoid traveling the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the entire year. If travelers can be flexible and leave a day or two earlier, they can avoid a great deal of traffic and hassle. The same goes for the return trip home. Travelers should find out which days are the busiest for the return trip home and try to plan their return trip for a day or two after that. In addition to the increased traffic, travelers will encounter more people at rest stops, gas stations, and hotels.
- Take appropriate precautions. Safe travel means avoiding contact with other people and high touch surfaces as much as possible. Travelers should keep a supply of hand sanitizer in the car and use it every time they get in and out of the car. Also, they should keep disinfectant wipes in the car to wipe down door handles, gas pumps, and other objects that other people are likely to touch. When stopping for food or coffee, you should use the drive-through window whenever possible, and you should pay the order with a credit or debit card rather than cash. If there is no drive-through window, you should wear a mask when going inside a convenience store or restaurant.
- Maintain the vehicle before travel. Before a road trip, motorists should always make sure that their vehicle is in good working order. If your car needs repairs, do so before making the trip.
- Travel smart. Heavy traffic over the holidays can add hours to the trip. To avoid having to make multiple stops for food at busy rest stops, travelers should pack snacks, easy-to-pack meals, coffee, and drinks. If the trip involves staying in a hotel, the room should be booked ahead of time online to avoid interacting with more people than necessary. After checking into the hotel, travelers should wipe down all high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, counters, remote controls, telephones, drawer handles, light switches, and faucets.
- Make safe choices when traveling with children. The CDC recommends that children over the age of two wear masks when in public places. They should also wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Consider being tested for COVID-19. Testing is highly recommended, particularly if travelers will be spending the holiday with people considered at high risk, including the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems.
What Safety Tips Should Motorists Follow Over Thanksgiving Weekend?
In addition to the important steps people should take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 this holiday season, travelers should keep the following safety precautions in mind when driving during Thanksgiving weekend:
- Obey the speed limit. Accidents caused by speeding often result in more severe injuries because of the force of impact. Speeding is one of the top causes of motor vehicle fatalities.
- Wear a seat belt. In 2017, seat belts saved over 14,900 lives.
- Do not drink and drive. Many motorists attempt to drive after having too much to drink at a holiday gathering. In 2017, drunk driving accidents caused 10,974 fatalities, all of which could have been prevented if an impaired driver did not get behind the wheel.
- Avoid distracted driving. Texting, talking on the phone, and other distracted driving behavior is another common, yet preventable, cause of serious car accidents.
- Keep children safe. You must keep children in appropriate car seat based on their age and weight.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Victims of Car Accidents
If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident over the Thanksgiving holiday, contact the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP as soon as possible. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that we protect your legal rights. To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.