The top public health agency in the United States has recommended that US citizens do not travel during next week’s Thanksgiving holiday to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus as cases of COVID-19 spike around the country.
“Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in new guidelines published on its website on Thursday.
The travel advice is a “strong recommendation” but not a requirement, Henry Walke, a CDC official, said on a call with reporters.
The agency said it made the recommendation for the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26 after many states across the country experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
More than 11 million COVID-19 cases have been reported to date, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, and at least 250,000 people have died – the highest totals in the world.
Donald Trump has faced widespread criticism for his handling of the pandemic, with critics accusing the US president of downplaying the seriousness of the virus and failing to stem its spread.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who has criticised Trump for the high number of COVID-19 deaths and infections, said on Thursday that he had discussed a nationwide mask mandate with state governors.
Biden said wearing a mask is “not a political statement, it’s a patriotic duty” in the call with Democratic and Republican governors, Reuters news agency reported.
The CDC advised against gathering with anyone who has not lived in the same household for at least 14 days, the incubation period for COVID-19 infection.
For those Americans who choose to travel, the CDC recommended getting a flu shot before travelling, wearing a mask and washing their hands frequently, as well as maintaining at least 1.8 metres (6 feet) distance from other travellers.
While the agency recommended virtual Thanksgiving gatherings, the CDC said anyone who does gather in person should bring their own food and utensils, and celebrate outdoors if possible.
If celebrating indoors, the CDC recommends opening windows and putting fans in front of open windows to pull fresh air into the room where guests are sitting. It also suggests limiting the number of people near where food is being prepared.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travelling day of the year in the US, as Americans gather with friends and family around the country.
The AAA travel agency has said it anticipates at least a 10 percent drop in the number of travellers this Thanksgiving, the largest single-year drop since 2008.
Based on its October models, it forecasts 50 million Americans will travel for the holiday, compared with 55 million in 2019.