Health News Digest

Holiday travel

November 30, 2020

Holiday Travel 2020

By Michael D. Shaw

With Thanksgiving now behind us in this annus horribilis of 2020, let’s examine how the rest of the holiday travel season will shape up. Travel is down compared to last year, but is higher than many observers expected. The AAA had forecast a ten percent overall decline in Thanksgiving travel compared with last year, the largest year-on-year drop since the recession of 2008. But the change is far smaller, around 4.3 percent, for those traveling by car, who make up a huge majority of those who plan to travel—roughly 47.8 million people.

Air travel was projected to drop by about one-half, compared to last holiday season. Still, if you compare this to the rest of the pandemic, the volume—as reflected by TSA security checks for the weekend preceding Thanksgiving—is the highest since mid-March. Notably, the airlines have touted studies showing that the onboard environment is quite safe, owing to enhanced air filtration, rigorous cleaning procedures, and mask-wearing.

A friend in her late 50s who traveled recently (before the Thanksgiving season) told me that she was impressed with the care taken by the airlines. She remarked that the oddest thing was just being in proximity with so many people, after having not done this for months.

Predictions for Christmas travel will be difficult, in that people are—to say the least—conflicted. The CDC says “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.” The agency also offers many recommendations on how to make gatherings safer.

We should inject some perspective here. A bad flu season can produce upwards of 80,000 deaths. Most of these deaths are confined to older individuals with comorbidities, and people who are immunocompromised. Flu death figures are surely more reliable than those for COVID-19.

After all, the Guidance for Certifying Deaths Due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) doesn’t even require a COVID test for that cause of death to be indicated. Moreover, hospitals and health systems are eligible to receive higher payments for complex COVID-19-related treatment under the CARES Act.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. And, there is no vaccine (yet) for COVID-19.

Let’s face it though, we do not like for our activities and freedom to be restricted, so many folks are quietly (or not so quietly) rebelling. Millions have noticed that “two weeks to flatten the curve” has morphed into a seemingly boundless array of rules, with no definable endpoint. The coming vaccine is one thing, but it will be months after that before everyone who wants it will have received it. And, there’s the conflict: Freedom and “security,” or at least the promise of being more secure.

Perhaps that’s why I’m seeing so many new faces at my parish, apparently known in the area for its less restrictive and more commonsense policies. Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD, President of the Ruth Institute, wryly observed that Thanksgiving regulations mark too many as rulers, not leaders. She also noted that totalitarians have always feared the family, since it can stand on its own. Morse reminds us that there is plenty of collateral damage associated with lockdowns and restrictions.

Columnist Eddie Scarry tells us why he traveled for Thanksgiving, and is not sorry. Chances are, after considering all the factors, you may decide to travel during the rest of this holiday season.

Which brings us to the Travel Safety Kit Collection from Refreshed Traveler. The kits feature carbon filter face masks, hand sanitizer, tissues, antibacterial wet wipes, and more, all in a TSA compliant clear bag. Just what you need to get to your next destination healthy and refreshed—especially in the era of COVID-19.

Founder and CEO Peter T. Cook told me that “Refreshed Traveler has been a pioneer in creating the world’s best safety and wellness kits since 2018, and SARS-CoV-2 has, of course, changed everything. Our passion is to keep you healthy on the go. Please try our products on your next trip.”