Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest travel times of the year — and while the holidays are usually spent celebrating with friends and family, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a wrench in those plans for many. Any kind of holiday travel or exposure to others could mean exposure to the virus, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of the virus are growing exponentially. This is serious — so serious, in fact, that the CDC is begging you to stay home this year.
"In the last week, we've seen over a million new cases," Erin Sauber-Schatz, head of the CDC's Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, said on a call today, according to NBC News. "Thanksgiving is a week away."
While staying home is not a requirement, it's a strong recommendation, according to Henry Walke, MD, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager. "Right now, especially as we're seeing this sort of exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, it leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time," he said on the same call, according to NBC News.
The CDC's Thanksgiving guidelines were updated today, and they currently say that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. If you decide to ignore the recommendations of doctors and epidemiologists who study diseases for a living, then they're urging you to travel and gather as safely as possible for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays. Meaning: Taking a road trip over plane travel, strategically quarantine and test, social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands — the whole nine yards. And, if you're going to gather with people outside fo your household, the CDC recommends taking your celebrations outdoors. Even then, you should still be social distancing and wearing a mask.
It's not just the CDC asking you to take this deadly virus seriously, either. The American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and American Nurses Association came together to publish an open letter today, saying: "In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly. We are all weary and empathize with the desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but given the serious risks, we underscore how important it is to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, and wash your hands. Following these science-based, commonsense measures is the best way to prevent our health care systems and dedicated health care professionals from being overwhelmed by critically ill patients."
"This sucks," Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS, infectious disease epidemiologist and science communication lead at The COVID Tracking Project, previously told Refinery29. "Nobody is denying that this is horrible, and it should not have gotten this out of control and this bad. The fact that we are nearing 100,000 cases per day in November is bananas." And she's right. It's understandable that after a year as tumultuous and stressful as 2020, the upcoming holidays feel like a welcome reprieve — but realizing that your actions could potentially put someone else in danger should make you pause and reconsider your holiday plans.
With two new promising vaccines on the horizon and a new at-home testing kit gaining FDA-approval, things are looking up — and this won't last forever. Staying home and staying safe might sound like a bummer, but in the end, it could save lives. When you put that into perspective, spending Thanksgiving alone doesn't seem quite so bad.