CDC's Thanksgiving guidance now warns against travel

Thanksgiving and the winter holidays may seem like the only bright spots in this end-of-year hellscape, but they also present a set of logistical challenges unique to 2020. In other words, is it really safe to go home for the holidays this year, considering that the epidemic is not over yet. This year, there's a bigger threat than your aunt's terrible sweet potato casserole from spreading COVID-19 to your community and your dinner table.

"Thanksgiving and Christmas will look very different this year, but our connection with friends and family is as important as ever," Dr. Gwen Murphy, director of epidemiology at home testing company LetsGetChecked, tells Bustle.

Is it safe to go home for the holidays?

For many, having a large family gathering for Thanksgiving just isn’t wise right now. "Ideally, we would all be staying home, celebrating with our own families and connecting virtually with the extended family and friends we normally spend the holidays with," Murphy said. Staying in your own bubble or hanging around during the holidays There's a lot to say in the cabin.

On November 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially updated its Thanksgiving guidance to prevent people from traveling or visiting people outside their household. "Postponing travel and staying home are the best ways to protect yourself and others this year," the new guidance states.

“Whether you plan to travel by car, plane, train or bus, if you are out and about and traveling from one location to another, you increase your risk of exposure to and spread of COVID-19,” says Dr. Robert Health & Safety Risk Mitigation Quigley MD, global medical director and senior vice president of the company International SOS, tells Bustle. He says you should carefully assess the risks of returning home for the holidays. Where does everyone come from? Are they or you in a state where cases are surging? Is anyone in your household at high risk for contracting the virus? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it's best to say "no" and stay home just in case you or any other guests are asymptomatic carriers. The CDC also has a similar list of questions in its Thanksgiving guidance.

How to stay safe when returning home for the holidays

If you do need to travel, Dr. Quigley recommends bringing enough essentials, including medications and clothing, to quarantine for a full two weeks upon arrival. Depending on state regulations, you may also need to quarantine when you return home or consider getting tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. Robert Mordkin, MD, chief medical officer at LetsGetChecked, recommends traveling by car if possible, but only with people in your circle. "Flying is OK as long as safety precautions are strictly followed, especially frequent use of masks and hand hygiene," he said. The CDC warns against traveling by bus, train or air, where it is impossible to travel with others. Stay six feet away from others.

Dr Quigley said anyone traveling should always wear an effective mask, wash their hands after touching surfaces and avoid touching their eyes and mouth. "Try to limit large gatherings, especially indoors with poor air circulation, continue to practice social distancing measures, eat outdoors with family members, and wear appropriate masks at all times," Dr. Modkin said. Yes, that could mean a You can spend Christmas wearing a mask throwing gifts to each other across the room or staying six feet apart around a backyard bonfire. But it's better than getting sick or endangering others.

The CDC recommends events be held outdoors if possible, with very limited guest lists, with masks and hand sanitizer available, and asking people to self-quarantine for 14 days in advance if necessary. They say you should stay for the shortest possible time and leave as quickly as possible if people aren't social distancing or wearing masks. Stay home if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, have symptoms, or are at higher risk for severe illness.

Also make medical preparations before departure. "The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones is get a flu shot," family and emergency physician Dr. Janette Nesheiwat tells Bustle. If you're traveling, she also recommends getting tested for COVID-19 before leaving to reduce the chance that you will be an asymptomatic carrier and spread COVID-19 to other household members.

How to celebrate the holidays safely if you're not traveling

Even if you're not traveling, it's important to make an effort to maintain your connection. “Spending time with family is mentally and emotionally beneficial for many Americans,” Dr. Neshevat said. "The holidays are a time of year when many sufferers suffer from depression and seasonal affective disorder, and these symptoms may be exacerbated if you are forced to spend the holidays alone." Regardless of your situation, plan to spend time with others during the holidays ( It’s a good idea to be together virtually or otherwise).

Proceeding with caution may be the best option. “We should celebrate virtually this year to make sure we’re all here celebrating next year,” Murphy said. The bottom line, Dr. Nesheiwat says, is to use common sense: Wear a mask, avoid crowds, keep hands and surfaces clean, and when in doubt, stick to shouting out the turkey recipe over Zoom.


Dr. Robert Modkin, MD

Gwen Murphy DMPH Ph.D.

Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, MD

Dr. Robert Quigley, MD