During a typical year, soon people would be double-checking their flight reservations or loading up their cars for the trek to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with their extended family.
Of course, this is anything but a typical year though.
With COVID-19 cases again skyrocketing throughout the nation, more people are opting to stay home, as travel agencies, airlines and rental car companies are bracing for the impact of these financial losses.
On Thursday, The Center for Disease Control urged families to reconsider traveling to convene with other family members.
“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC said on its website. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”
Dr. Henry Walke is the incident manager for CDC’s COVID response.
“We are in a tough time,” Walke said during a media briefing Thursday, the first in months for the organization. “Hospitalizations and deaths are increasing, so we want to share as much as we can what we’re learning and try to have (media members) help (CDC) communicate to the American public.”
Beginning on Nov. 13, Gov. Cooper lowered North Carolina’s indoor mass gathering limit to 10 people.
Prior to Thursday’s guidance from the CDC, some Burke residents told The News Herald they planned to drive to visit family.
“My family’s in Wilmington, and we haven’t seen them in a long time,” Torrey Annas said. “We’re going to visit them – just my dad. In preparation for going, we scheduled COVID tests for the afternoon before we leave, just to make sure that we’re not going to be taking any unwanted germs.”
On Wednesday, Mandy Olivieri said she also planned to have a small road trip to see family members.
“I’m going to head home to Florida and visit with my family,” Olivieri said. “It’s just going to be a small gathering – my mom, my stepfather and myself.”
The CDC recommends that if families are to travel to meet family members, they should check travel restrictions, get a flu shot before the trip, always wear a mask in public settings and when using public transportation, stay at least six feet apart from anyone who doesn’t live with you, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.
Effects on industry
Still, according to travel agencies, this holiday season could feature a historically low figure of people traveling.
On Nov. 12, AAA Public Relations Manager Julie Hall said AAA anticipates at least a 10% drop in travel, which would be the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.
“Based on mid-October forecast models, AAA would have expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving – a drop from 55 million in 2019,” Hall said. “However, as the holiday approaches and Americans monitor the public health landscape, including rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travels will be even lower.”
The drop in people choosing to fly is even more pronounced.
AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel volume to be down nearly 50 percent from 2019 – from 4.58 million to 2.4 million, according to information listed on its website.
Drake Castañeda works in Delta’s corporate communications department.
“Delta plans to operate 3,800 peak-day daily flights during Thanksgiving travel period – a reduction of about 40% to 45% compared to 2019,” Castañeda told The News Herald.
With airlines and travel-related businesses being among the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, these expectations are simply more discouraging news for these companies.
However, as Dr. Walke of the CDC said, the upcoming weeks and months are a critical point in the pandemic.
“We must unite in our efforts against this virus,” Walke said. “Now more than ever not let down our guard.”
Johnny Casey is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com or 828-432-8907.
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