Health officials warn to heed with caution when traveling for the holidays amid pandemic


SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) In just two weeks, Americans will be stuffing their faces.

With surging COVID-19 cases, the question facing many is ‘should I travel to see family?’

AAA is predicting the largest one-year drop in Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday since the Great Recession in 2008.

It is anticipating a 10% decrease with an estimated 50 million Americans heading out on the road or to airports. This includes more than 1 million Tennesseans.

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel holidays.

Local health officials are advising travelers to protect themselves, as COVID-19 cases continue to reach record numbers, in the Tri-Cities.

Here is what you should know before you go.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress for many in various ways, local health officials are advising travelers to remember the current protocols when heading to their travel destination so that stress does not linger during the trip.

“Be aware of where you’re going. What’s the disease status in the community where you’re going,” Sullivan County Health Department regional medical director, Dr. Stephen May said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises anyone who is traveling to self-quarantine before and after traveling.

“We want to look at wearing our masks. Keep your distance, trying to avoid public transportation if at all possible,” Dr. May said.

While not traveling may not be the case for many, travel experts say it’s important to plan ahead, and not just from point A to point B.

AAA Tennessee public and government relations, Megan Cooper said, “You really want a good idea of what your trip looks like, not only traffic-wise but where will you be traveling through? Are there travel restrictions? Are there mask mandates?”

Cooper said the company has an app and interactive COVID-19 restrictions map to help travelers plan.

“This allows you to look at all of these options here to your left. You can look at travel restrictions, confirmed COVID cases, if there are any countywide or citywide travel restrictions. “So, for example, if you are traveling to Nashville, you would see that there are masks required. It will actually tell you the effective date of that mask mandate,” Cooper explained.

Tri-Cities Airport Authority executive director, Gene Cossey said, “We ask anybody, if you’re sick stay home. We know you want to travel but if you’re sick, postpone your travel plans and don’t come to the airport because we want everybody who is safe, who is well, we want them to be able to travel safely with no worries.”

Cossey said the airport has been consistent in sanitizing touch-points and aircrafts before and after each flight.

“Of course, we’re going to encourage everybody to wear masks when they come into the building. It is a requirement if you’re going to get on a flight, and we’re going to try to maintain social distancing because we do want to help keep from spreading around as much as possible,” Cossey said.

Dr. May added, “During the holidays, we need to use extra caution with pulling non-household members together in tight, inside indoor spaces. We don’t want to socially distance in that we don’t connect, but we do want to physically distance when we do get together.”

The News Channel 11 Twitter page has a poll asking whether or not you are planning to travel this Thanksgiving holiday.

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