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This Map Reveals Just How Much Thanksgiving Travel There Really Will Be

Are you traveling for Thanksgiving? Should you be?

New York Times

As families across the country prepare for a Thanksgiving celebration, the holiday might feel like a pregnant pause — and not, necessarily, a good one. Airports saw record traffic since the start of the COVID-19 this past weekend, and many public health experts are concerned that Thanksgiving travel could lead to a rise in coronavirus cases, which is especially troubling since COVID-19 is already surging practically everywhere in the U.S. 

Thanksgiving is typically a holiday celebrated indoors, with food and drink shared with lots of family and friends perched elbow-to-elbow, fork-to-fork, in front of the Cowboys football game. That is an environment that will absolutely encourage the spread COVID-19 if someone at the dinner is infected, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not. As COVID-19 has continued to spread uncontrollably across the country, epidemiologists, health care officials, and even lawmakers have urged Americans to limit their Thanksgiving travel, gatherings, and plans in order to keep themselves and others safe. Meanwhile, there are widespread concerns about the millions of people who hopped on flights this year — and what COVID-19 numbers could look like in the weeks to come. These are all valid concerns.

However, new survey results published in The New York Times, with data gathered by Dynata, reveal the potentially promising news that the majority of Americans have said that they are planning on staying home this Turkey Day. The Times reported that only 27% of Americans said that they are planning to attend a Thanksgiving celebration with folks outside of their immediate household. And while that is clearly not a small number, it’s certainly not the whopping travel load that many might have been led to believe will happen.

The Times created a map to show exactly where folks are planning on staying in and going out for the holiday. Louisiana and Oklahoma top the list of most survey responders saying that they will be attending a celebration with people they don’t live with, with 35% saying that they are intending to go out. On the opposite spectrum, Washington State and D.C. both have a record number of folks who plan on staying in: at around 20% and 15%, respectively. In addition to a geographical split between answers, there is also a political one as well. Republican, Libertarian, and Green Party voters were more likely to plan to go out during Thanksgiving. 

These survey results, however, may not paint the full picture of what Thanksgiving travel will look like, since some responders may be more likely to say that they’re staying in even if they don’t actually do that, and many people’s definitions of “household” may be nebulous, including folks in their COVID-19 bubble, but not necessarily those that they live with. In the end, we’ll have to wait and see what COVID-19 travel actually looks like. But a Zoom Thanksgiving, while less fun than an in-person one, is likely to be the safest way to celebrate the holiday for most people.