Public health experts begged people to stay home and avoid big Thanksgiving gatherings. Still, about three million Americans packed airports and planes last weekend—even as coronavirus numbers surged across the United States and the world. Those crowds are expected to grow. Next Sunday could be the busiest day of the holiday period.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans not to travel or spend the holiday with people outside their household. That’s because new cases of the virus have rocketed, and deaths too have risen.
The nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CBS’ Face the Nation that people at airports “are going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”
Despite the weekend travel figures, the number of people flying for Thanksgiving is down by more than half from last year. However, the crowds at U.S. airports from Friday through Sunday marked the biggest since mid-March.
Many travelers are unwilling to miss out on seeing family. They’re convinced they can do so safely. Also, many colleges have ended their in-person classes, driving students to return home.
“I don’t want to unknowingly make anyone sick. But I also don’t want to miss this special event for my only daughter,” says Laurie Pearcy. She is flying to New Orleans to attend her daughter’s bridal shower and have a small Thanksgiving dinner with her son.
Stephen Browning, a retired executive from Arizona, will fly to Seattle for Thanksgiving with his sister. The celebration usually has up to 30 people. This year only 10 are coming, and everyone was asked to get a coronavirus test. He doesn’t plan on removing his mask on the flight.
“This is my first flight since December 2019, so yes, I have concerns,” he says.
Not everyone is hitting the road. Josh Holman and his family were planning to fly to Lake Tahoe. They intended to spend Thanksgiving with his brother, who lives in San Francisco, and his parents, who live in North Dakota. But they scrapped those plans.
“I see it as my civic duty not to spread this virus further,” says Holman, an assistant county prosecutor who lives outside Detroit.
More people tend to drive than fly over Thanksgiving, but even car travel is expected to see a drop-off, according to AAA.
Brad Carr and his wife are retirees in Georgia. They debated whether to drive 35 miles to his son’s house for Thanksgiving and eat at a separate table on the porch. After the CDC’s announcement, they decided to stay home. Carr’s son will deliver their meal “a la Uber Eats,” Carr says.
The CDC advises those who do gather to eat outdoors, wear masks, stay six feet apart, and have just one person serve the food.
That’s the plan for Juliana Walter’s family. Walter, a student in Texas, plans to get a coronavirus test and then drive home to Maryland. Her parents have rented tents and outdoor heaters and will host up to 30 masked family members for Thanksgiving dinner.
However—and whether—“We Gather Together,” God’s creatures should praise the one from whom all blessings flow at Thanksgiving and all the time! Those blessings include—among many others—life and breath as well as wisdom and discernment.
(Travelers at JKF International Airport on Friday, November 20, 2020, in New York City. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)