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Thanksgiving trip 2020: pandemic looms over every decision

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(CNN) In a year of constant uncertainty, where decisions are carefully considered and can be overturned, vacation travel is no exception.

Many tired Americans eager to join family and friends for Thanksgiving face yet another risk calculation as they weigh up scrapping their travel plans at the last minute or as cases of Covid-19 increase.

Gail Duilio, a retired public health nurse in Portland, Oregon, has canceled her flight to Minnesota for the holidays and her mother’s 93rd birthday.

“When making the arrangements a month ago, I felt the risks versus the benefits weighed in on leaving,” she told CNN. This week, the risks have tipped the scales the other way for her.

Travel organization AAA said it expects trips to drop by at least 10% on Thanksgiving due to increase in coronavirus cases, change in travel restrictions and calls from officials health and government to keep people at home.

Airline crew members and travelers at Washington Dulles International Airport on November 19, 2020.

Airline crew members and travelers at Washington Dulles International Airport on November 19, 2020.

Daniel Slim / AFP via Getty Images

AAA expects nearly 48 million travelers will travel to their destinations – representing a 4.3% drop from last year in the number of people traveling by car during the holiday period, which the AAA defines as Wednesday through Sunday.

Air travel is expected to experience its biggest drop in a year for Thanksgiving, a drop of nearly 48%, with just 2.4 million travelers expected to fly, according to the organization.

Julio Perez, a mechanical engineer from Palm Bay, Florida, expects to be among those who steal. He has a Delta flight to Atlanta on Monday to see his mother.

“I will take sanitary wipes in a zipper bag to clean the surfaces and not touch the door handles at the airport. I will also wear a mask all the time. Luckily the trip is only an hour and half flight, “he wrote in a message to CNN.

An ‘individual choice’

As the volume of air travel has been drained by the pandemic, aviation officials expect the holidays to set a passenger record during the time of the pandemic.

The Transportation Security Administration expects Thanksgiving numbers to be “relatively consistent” with the end of the Columbus Day long weekend when more than a million people flew on Sunday, October 18, marking the first time that the number of passengers has exceeded one million since March.

TSA administrator David Pekoske said he expected the busiest travel days to be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after.

Aviation executives called the Thanksgiving trip an “individual choice” during a briefing Thursday.

Passengers line up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on October 19, the day after the total number of passengers screened by the TSA in one day hit one million for the first time since March.

Passengers line up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on October 19, the day after the total number of passengers screened by the TSA in one day hit one million for the first time since March.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

“We don’t encourage people to travel. Do we want to see them travel? Yes, but only if it’s safe for them,” said Nick Calio, chief of the Airlines for America trade association. “There are a variety of factors involved in this for each individual traveler.”

Regardless of the mode of transportation, it is advisable to maintain a social distance of six feet whenever possible. Air travelers should wear masks throughout their journey and those traveling to their destinations should always mask themselves when getting out of the car or coming into contact with people outside of their immediate home.

Healthcare professionals are urging those who travel by car to minimize stops and opt for alfresco dining or drive-through meals to reduce interactions with others.

AAA urges travelers to follow CDC Guidelines around travel and to review national and local travel restrictions, including testing and quarantine requirements.
AAA expects 95% of travelers to travel by car this year.

AAA expects 95% of travelers to travel by car this year.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Tough decisions

For some Americans, the holidays are just one layer of travel during Thanksgiving.

Tim Hinchliff’s father died in Minneapolis on November 16.

“I may or may not go the 1,400 miles to get there for both the funeral and Thanksgiving,” said Hinchliff, who lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. “I’m thinking about driving, but it’s too far to drive straight ahead, so I would still have to stay in the hotel, eat out a few times, and refuel.

“I guess I could eat fast food, sleep in the car and wear gloves while gasping. I’m not sure at the moment,” he wrote in a message to CNN.

His father, John Hinchliff, was a decorated World War II paratrooper who died at age 99 after being in and out of the hospice. Plans were made for a funeral on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but new orders around gatherings in Minnesota have called those plans into question.

CNN contacted Hinchliff again after the CDC issued its guidelines recommending not to travel on Thanksgiving.

“I’m still a bit in limbo. If the CDC has recommended not traveling, I mean that’s usually enough for me, but it’s my dad’s funeral, and they probably will anyway. “, did he declare. “I have a very stubborn family.”

Hinchliff’s wife is scared and doesn’t want to go, but his siblings and relatives would like him to be there. Some of his family have been exposed to Covid-19 while visiting with his father, who tested positive before his death.

As Christmas approaches, travel decision making will also be a major concern next month.

Mary Church, a retiree from Seattle, plans to stick to her plan to fly to Arizona on December 20 to visit family during the holidays.

“We have agreed that we will all be tested more than once before our visit and after we get home,” she said. “I take every precaution to protect myself and others. I wear a mask, disinfect, etc.

“True or False, people are just fed up. We need something to look forward to.”

CNN’s Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace contributed to this report

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