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Should you gather for Thanksgiving amid a pandemic? Experts weigh in

Should you gather for Thanksgiving amid a pandemic? Experts weigh in
Posted at 11:14 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 08:36:27-04

Is it safe to get together for the holidays? As Thanksgiving approaches, many people are having those discussions, and many are desperate to not only see family, but to travel.

Zane Kerby, President and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors said, “People are itching to get out there.”

The nonprofit organization represents 15,000 travel advisers across the U.S. They often poll consumers and recently learned that people are craving a change of scenery.

“People have said, 'You know what? I want to go five, six, seven hours away,'” Kerby said. “They want to do that aspirational trip that they’ve been thinking about before the pandemic and now they really want to do it.”

And they're talking about Thanksgiving and wondering whether they should drive or fly.

“We asked people point blank what are you going to do for Thanksgiving?” Kerby said. “We’re encouraged, only 15% who normally travel said they weren’t sure they were going to fly this year.

Kerby said that there is pent up demand for travel, and there is optimism in the industry.

But, if you're talking about getting together, doctors stress that you do so safely.

“All of these decisions are weighing risks and benefits and I wish I had a crystal ball,” said Dr. Beth Thielen, an assistant professor of pediatrics at The University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Thielen also is an infectious disease doctor. “I wish I could tell you what’s going to happen but I can’t, but I can tell you riskier things and safer things and appreciate that even the most precautions don’t eliminate your risk either.”

“I think identifying if you or someone you’re hoping to gather with has those underlying conditions, that you maybe need to be extra cautious about preventing exposures,” she added.

Of course, everyone wants to get together and realizes the importance of family.

Dr. Thielen advises to limit the number of people, assess your own risk and that of those whom you're considering visiting. She recommends thinking about limiting your exposure to other people in the weeks before you travel.

“All of these infections have an incubation period,” Thielen said. “You’re exposed to somebody with the infection taking root but not manifesting itself or detectable by testing for COVID. It’s a few days a week or so before that exposure happens.”

We're learning a lot about COVID-19. We know outside is better. Masks are important. And we now know it affects people differently.

Kerby said if you're considering flying, know that the industry is taking extreme precautions for travelers.

“Between the HEPA filters they use on planes, electrostatic and defogging they're doing after every flight, the air on an airplane is probably better than the air in your home,” Kerby said.

While there is a lot of discussion to be had about the holidays and travel, if you can do it safely, everyone wins.