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Don't Travel This Thanksgiving Holiday (But If You Must, Here Are Some Tips For Doing It Safely)

The roads are eerily open. This is morning rush hour on March 19. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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As coronavirus cases surge around the country, California is among the states now urging people not to travel out of the state for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. If you do, you should quarantine for 14 days when you return.

The state health department issued the travel advisory Friday for all non-essential travel, urging Californians to stay home or in their region.

So what's non-essential travel? In a nutshell, that means anyone traveling for recreation and tourism or visiting family and friends.

"Every contact you have everywhere you go increases the number of people that you're in contact with, and those are all opportunities for transmission, increasing the risk of transmission, and increasing the number of cases," said Dr. Dean Blumberg, professor of medicine and chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

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Speaking to our public affairs show AirTalk on Friday, Blumberg continued:

"So if people think it's overkill, you know, people are dying from this. And our hospitals are filling up. And it's estimated that if things continue along the same lines that sometime at the end of January or in February, we're not going to have enough ICU beds in California. We're going to look like New York did in the spring."

California's test positivity rate is now 4% over the past 14-day period. That's up a full point from Oct. 29.

The governors of Washington and Oregon also signed on to the travel advisory.

So what about those who have to travel for work or other "essential" travel (which the health department defines as "work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security")?

Whether essential or non-essential, you can still expect an uptick in traffic compared to the usual (lack of) pandemic congestion.

AAA notes that people are expected to travel shorter distances and, therefore, more likely by car (95%) than by plane.

Airlines are expected to see about half the volume of prior years, down to 2.4 million travelers. Compare that with the 47.8 million people expected to travel by car. That's fewer cars on the road than in 2019, which saw 49.9 million people traveling by automobile — but it could still be a lot.

If you're one of those braving a flight, you're likely seeing lower fares than usual— the lowest in three years, according to AAA.

For everyone else planning to drive, the busiest travel corridor in the L.A. area during the Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 25-29) is expected to be the I-5 South from Colorado Street to I-5/605, AAA reports.

If you do plan to travel, AAA offers the following tips:

  • Plan ahead: Check with state and local authorities to find out what restrictions may be in place.
  • Follow public health guidance: Observing a social distance of at least 6 feet and wearing a face mask has been shown to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Play it safe.
  • Call the hotel before you go: Ask about what precautions they're taking for guests, what social distancing or mask policies you'll need to follow, and what amenities are available. For instance, will the hotel restaurant be open?
  • For car rentals: Call the rental agency to find out what they do to disinfect vehicles. Either way, wipe down all door handles, the steering wheel, shifter and control panels.
  • For air travelers: Wipe down your chair, armrests, belt buckle and tray table before use, just to be safe.
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