Editorial: The best safety tip for Thanksgiving travel this year: Don't

For several weeks now, public health officials in Illinois have called on residents to forgo large Thanksgiving events and instead limit gather

ings to immediate family inside their home to minimize the exposure risk to rising cases of COVID-19.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control urged people to avoid travel for the holiday.

"At the individual household level, what's at stake is basically the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then being hospitalized and dying," said Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager.

Despite those warnings, many families plan to travel across the suburbs or across the country to celebrate the holiday. For those ready to hit the road or the skies, we strongly urge reconsidering - for your safety and that of family and friends and anyone you encounter with along the way. Those unable to do that must take precautions to protect themselves and others.

More than 600,000 cases in Illinois and more than 11,000 deaths underscore the fact that lives will be affected by that decision.

As anyone who has traveled during the holiday season knows, it can be difficult under the best circumstances - and what we have now is anything but ideal.

Add an easily spreadable respiratory virus to bustling airport terminals and airplanes packed with close-together seating, and crowded restrooms and dining areas at busy turnpike rest stops - including many people not wearing masks and not practicing social distancing - and the stage is set for potential super-spreader events that will launch the disease across state lines.

After eight months of seeing how COVID-19 has decimated businesses, the economy, families and lives, that's a frightening scenario. Syndicated columnist Connie Schultz laid out the stakes in her column this week: This is one year when we can best show our love for family and friends by avoiding them.

AAA - The Auto Club Group forecasts far fewer people will travel for Thanksgiving because of the pandemic. In all, 50.6 million Americans will travel, down from 56 million a year ago. Air travel volume will be nearly half of last year at 2.4 million nationally, the largest one-year decrease on record.

While those numbers represent steep declines, they still mean millions of chances for virus transmission.

"AAA acknowledges that the decision to travel is a personal one," said Molly Hart, spokesperson for AAA. "The CDC says staying at home is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. For those who still decide to travel, we urge you to take every precaution possible to protect yourself and others."

Those precautions include consistent use of face masks, combined with social distancing and regular hand-washing. Pack face masks, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to monitor your health. When flying, be sure to wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle and tray table using disinfecting wipes. In the car, pack water and extra snacks to reduce the need to stop.

To make family gatherings safer: host outside, if possible, or with some open windows; limit time without masks to actual dining; set up a socially distanced dining arrangement; shorten the get-together time; Zoom with out-of-town relatives and friends.

Take responsibility for reducing risks and keeping Thanksgiving safe for yourself and others.

This Thanksgiving, choose love

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