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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans should not travel for Thanksgiving, and has posted updated guidelines for safely celebrating the holiday.

“CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, told reporters in a conference call.

“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads, to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time.”

“The reason that we made the update is that the fact that over the week we’ve seen over a million new cases in the country,” Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz, the CDC’s lead for Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force, said during the briefing.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States. More than 11.5 million people have been diagnosed with the virus and the United States has set several new daily records for hospitalizations.

It’s a life or death matter.

Keeping travel safe

“What is at stake is the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then being hospitalized and dying around the holidays,” Walke said.

People gather in multiple generations and someone in that get-together could have diabetes or kidney disease, or simply be older and more vulnerable, Walke said. Plus, 40% of infections are asymptomatic.

“One of our concerns is people over the holiday season will get together and they may actually be bringing infection with them to that small gathering and not even know it,” Walke said.

The CDC also provided more guidance about who counts as a household member.

“We received lots of questions from the American people about college students or people that were coming home for the holidays that are family members or are a household member, so further clarifying that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” Sauber-Schatz said.

“People who have not been living in your household for the 14 days before you are celebrating should not be considered members of your household and so you should take those extra precautions, even wearing masks within your own home.”

Families can also ask college students or other people who would normally be loosely considered household members to quarantine as much as possible for 14 days before arriving.

Safer gatherings can be held outside as much as possible, the CDC recommends. People can wear masks when together, and place chairs and furniture farther apart.

People who do travel should wear masks, keep their distance from others and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, the CDC said.

Travel is risky in no small part because of travel hubs, which bring people together from different places, and the lines that form that make it hard to keep a distance from others, the CDC said.

“You can get COVID-19 during your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others. You and your travel companions (including children) may spread COVID-19 to other people including your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus,” the CDC says in the updated guidelines.

“Don’t travel if you are sick or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Don’t travel with someone who is sick.”

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Walke said he is not visiting his own family. “I haven’t seen my parents since January. I’m staying home and that’s been difficult as I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children as well,” he said.

“It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that and people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it. But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”