A new poll finds that a majority of Americans are curtailing their plans for Thanksgiving this year, due to the continued presence of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet millions still plan to travel across the country, flocking to airports and potentially spreading the virus even more than what has been seen in recent weeks, with governors of several states actually encouraging their residents to travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans last week not to travel for Thanksgiving, and to instead make plans to celebrate with loved ones virtually.
The agency created a checklist that included a number of questions for people to answer regarding their travel plans, such as asking if there was a surge of COVID-19 cases in the area they were planning to travel to, or if there were high case numbers in their home area. The CDC also asked would-be travelers to find out whether those they’d be visiting have been in contact with others outside their homes during the 14 days prior to the Thanksgiving meal.
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If the answer to any of those questions and others on the CDC checklist was “yes,” the agency said it was best to stay home this year instead of going to see family and potentially spreading or contracting coronavirus.
“It’s important to talk with the people you live with and your family and friends about the risks of traveling for Thanksgiving,” the CDC website also said.
Perhaps in response to those recommendations, many Americans are not planning to travel this week. According to an Axios/Ipsos poll conducted from November 20 to 23, 61 percent of Americans say they are staying home or are otherwise curtailing their original plans for Thanksgiving.
But a troublingly high number of Americans — nearly 40 percent, according to the poll — are still planning to go about their holiday plans without worrying about coronavirus..
Recent travel statistics from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) show that millions of Americans have already traveled this year, indicating that many more will likely do so in the next few days. According to the TSA’s numbers, more than a million flyers went through airport security checkpoints on Sunday, with close to the same number doing so on the Friday and Saturday preceding.
Those numbers are less than half of how many were recorded traveling across the country during the same time last year, but demonstrate that millions are still not planning to adhere to the CDC recommendations on Thanksgiving travel.
These increases in travel are the highest seen since the pandemic began, the TSA reported. Disturbingly, these higher travel volumes are happening as the pandemic is surging across the U.S.
More than 179,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday alone. On Friday, the number came close to 200,000 new cases being reported. And the seven-day average of daily deaths being reported is currently at 1,536 deaths per day, the highest that rate has been since May 12.
While many leaders are encouraging residents to listen to the CDC, several states’ governors are doing very little to discourage travel. In fact, some are outright encouraging people to go about things as if the pandemic was not happening.
Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced plans this weekend to attend a college football game and to visit his parents. “Oklahomans should be with their loved ones over Thanksgiving,” he advised his constituents.
“We won’t stop or discourage you from thanking God and spending time together this Thanksgiving,” Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, also a Republican, recently said.
And while Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds encouraged people to be “conscientious of [their] surroundings,” she stopped short of saying travel should be avoided where possible.
“Iowans know what to do. They’ll do the right thing. They’re responsible,” Reynolds said.
The numbers tell a different story.
Reynolds’s state has seen a huge surge of new cases in recent weeks, with the daily rate of hospitalizations going up dramatically over the past three months. As of November 23, the seven-day average of daily hospitalizations in Iowa stood at 1,441. Ninety days ago, that number was at 284 hospitalizations per day, on average.
Noem’s state is faring terribly when it comes to coronavirus, too, with the seven-day hospitalization daily average increasing by more than 10 times what was seen 90 days ago. The state is also considered one of the worst geographic regions in the world to be in right now, in terms of how prevalent the virus is.
President Donald Trump, whose focus has mainly been on the outcome of the presidential election, has also done little to discourage travel this holiday season. In fact, the White House itself is demonstrating through its actions that it doesn’t take the CDC warnings seriously, either.
A number of holiday gatherings are planned at the White House over the next two months, some of them indoors. First lady Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said that the White House will provide “the safest environment possible” for those events, including requiring masks to be worn during portions of the Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.
But previous events at White House have not enforced the wearing of masks. Some of those events, including a Rose Garden event for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, are widely believed to have been superspreader events for COVID-19.
As of Tuesday, more than 12.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with close to 260,000 having died from the virus so far.