While not as many Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving as usual, 56% of Americans are intending on traveling according to data from Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor says that this year's figures are down from an estimated 70% of Americans travelling in 2019.
Tripadvisor surveyed Americans from October 16 to 20, so it is possible increased travel restrictions associated with a rise in cases could scare off some from traveling by Thanksgiving. Many states are telling travelers to quarantine for two weeks before coming into contact with others.
The vast majority of those traveling, 76%, say they will drive to their Thanksgiving destination, compared to just 11% who say they will fly.
The survey found that 22% are staying in a hotel or vacation rental to practice social distancing from friends and family.
"Despite COVID-19 concerns, the majority of Americans are still traveling this Thanksgiving. The way in which consumers travel, however, will look very different from past years," said Christopher Hsi, Consumer Market Research Lead Analyst for Tripadvisor. "This year, we can expect shorter trips with smaller groups of people for more intimate, close knit gatherings. Many are taking day trips (24%) or spending one night at their destination. Americans are also continuing to avoid big cities, instead opting for warm weather and beach destinations in southern states. We do see, however, that Boomers are less likely to travel this year compared to last (29% vs. 51%)."
Whether Americans can safely travel for the holidays remains up for debate, as many public health experts warn that informal gatherings have contributed to the spread of the virus, which has been killing roughly 1,000 Americans per day in recent days.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 epidemic is worsening, and small household gatherings are an important contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases,” the CDC said.
The CDC issued guidance for holiday gatherings. Part of the recommendations say masks should be worn at holiday gatherings involving people who are not from the same household, and that guests stay 6 feet apart. The CDC also advises against handshakes and hugs.
One public health expert says following these guidelines is dependent on your risk tolerance.
“I am very risk tolerant,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said in August. “I am an infectious disease physician. I have taken care of people with the coronavirus. Both of my parents are physicians. I don’t take any special precautious with my parents. I don’t think they take any special precautious with me.
“I think physicians might be risk tolerant, but I have not changed my behaviors with people I see regularly, other than if they’re telling me they have a fever, and then I might say ‘stay away’ because I don’t want to be quarantined and not be able to work.”
Adalja agrees, however, that there is a risk in attending family gatherings, and while face coverings are effective, they're not a panacea.
If you ask Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, he is opting not to see extended relatives amid the pandemic.
“Personally, in our family, we will not have our family get together,” Murrays said about Thanksgiving. “I am particularly cautious. That would be our strategy. Certainly, we have avoided, on a personal level, we have avoided any indoor exposure to friends or family and have restricted any exposure at all to outdoor interaction where we can maintain 6 feet or more.”