Traveling for Thanksgiving? Billings doctor gives tips to stay safe in pandemic

Posted at 9:58 PM, Nov 20, 2020

Whether by plane, train, or automobile, Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel holiday of the year. But 2020 is not typical in any way with the COVID pandemic raging.

“Preferably, if it all possible, all these households should stay at home and try to avoid travel if possible,” says Dr. Neil Ku, the lead epidemiologist at Billings Clinic.

Ku says of all the modes of transportation, travel by car carries the least risk. Traveling by plane is perhaps the most concerning, even though airlines have taken steps to disinfect planes.

“Certainly there’s a lot of anxiety being discussed about this because it usually involves going into a place that is crowded or very small confined areas,” he says.

That can make social distancing next to impossible and increase your risk of contracting COVID.

Ku says you should always wear a facemask in public and consider additional protection if flying.

“There are some discussions that suggest that wearing eye protection may be warranted because of the close proximity between passengers,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising people not to travel. But if you still decide to do so, you should take these questions into consideration before traveling this Thanksgiving.

  • Is someone in your household or someone you will be visiting at increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19? That would include the elderly, those with chronic diseases like cancer or diabetes, and obesity.
  • Are hospitals in your destination overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients?
  • Are there requirements or restrictions at your destination?
  • Also, are you traveling with people you don’t live with? Or have you been in close contact with people you don’t live with in the 14 days before travel?

The experts say the safest way to protect yourself and others this year is to stay home and not travel at all.