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U.S. Travel Numbers Hit Lowest Since July Following CDC Travel Warning

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently provided guidelines for celebrating the upcoming winter holidays, following the theme of Thanksgiving’s guidelines of avoiding all forms of travel. 

The warning, coupled with rising COVID-19 cases, saw the TSA report Tuesday to have the lowest number of travelers at airports since July 4th

The arrival of the second wave of COVID-19 in the US has left many Americans contemplating their choices for the remainder of the year.

The most recent data shows the US adding one million COVID-19 positive cases in a span of four days, with an average of 200,000 Americans testing positive each passing day. 

Medical experts and analysts have attributed the drastic rise in cases partly to the overflow of American travel over the Thanksgiving weekend last month, with its full effects still yet to appear. 

busy Denver airport during Covid

In foresight of what is happening now, the CDC had issued a stern warning to Americans, prior to Thanksgiving, to avoid all forms of travel, however, as we now know, it was to little avail. 

In an apparent shift since the recent surge, new TSA checkpoint data indicates that Americans are now heeding to the CDC’s warnings and becoming more restrained when it comes to traveling.

On Tuesday, TSA checkpoint data reveals that the total number of travelers that were screened are the lowest since July 4th, with just over 500,000 travelers passing through.

In contrast to the same time last year, there was 74% less traveler traffic on Tuesday, as the same weekday in 2019 saw 1.9 million travelers screened.

With Christmas around the corner, it seems that many Americans will be staying close to home.

CDC Warning for Winter Holiday Travel

Similar to their declaration before Thanksgiving, the CDC has recommended that the safest way to celebrate the upcoming holidays is by staying at home.

In a recent press release, the Incident Manager for the CDC’s COVID-19 Response, Henry Walke, stated:

“With the upcoming winter holidays, it is important for people to keep themselves and their families as safe as possible.  CDC recommends that the best way to protect yourself and others is to postpone travel and stay home.”

For those that wish to travel despite the CDC warning, the CDC has set guidelines for travel to mitigate risk. 

Travelers wearing masks social distancing

In the same press release, Walke advised travelers to consider getting tested 1-3 days before travel, and then re-tested 3-5 days after travel. The CDC further advised to combine the testing measures with the reduction of non-essential activities for a full 7 days after travel. 

While the CDC is only recommending travelers to get testing done, many states have imposed mandatory testing, while some US airlines carriers are providing testing services for travelers.

american airlines planes at airport

Despite the calls for testing, the CDC acknowledges that testing does not guarantee protection, stating: “Testing does not eliminate all risk, but it can help make travel safer.”

Airlines Expecting Reduced Travel

Although the holiday season is one which airlines look forward to most for their earnings, US carriers are cognizant of diminishing travelers this year.

passenger wearing mask

Speaking on NBC, Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, said that he expected travel demand for the end of the year to be at about a third of normal levels. 

While acknowledging this, Bastian was optimistic for the coming year, projecting the arrival of the vaccine, paired with the longing of unrestricted travel from consumers, to produce a tremendously profitable second quarter in 2021.  

Strong travel demand for 2021 is also being projected by various travel agencies, as they believe that many travelers will be looking to make up for all the lost travel in 2020. 

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


Thursday 10th of December 2020

Turn off your TV, then it's safe.