By Bilin Lin
BU News Service
BOSTON – With more than 190,000 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Nov. 20, the pandemic has hit record-breaking numbers in the United States. Massachusetts has also seen a rapid increase of cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
But despite the rise in cases and with the holidays around the corner, many travelers are not deterred by COVID-19.
The American Automobile Association predicts that 47.8 million people will travel by automobile this thanksgiving, which is only down by 4.3% from last year’s number of 49.9 million.
However, the report predicts a significant decrease in people traveling by plane and public transportation, projecting that air travel will be down by 47.5% – 2.4 million passengers compared to last year’s 4.58 million. Other traveling formats, including bus, train, and cruise, are down by 76.2% – 353,000 people compared to 1.5 million last year.
While the numbers are down from last year, the latest data from the Transportation Security Administration shows that over a million people travelled by plane on Nov. 20 – the highest number of daily travelers in the country since May. Adding people who traveled on Nov. 21, the total number of air travelers was just over 2 million.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is encouraging those who wish to travel for Thanksgiving to leave early and to anticipate a high volume of traffic on the highway and at Boston Logan International Airport on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We encourage all drivers to use caution along the roads, and for people traveling on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, we urge you to leave either after 8 p.m. or early in the morning,” said Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin on MassDOT’s blog.
MassDOT also said they will be adding additional services to the Silver Line and Boston Logan International Airport will be fully staffed during the Thanksgiving holidays.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave some advice on how to stay safe during the holiday season, including getting a flu shot before traveling, always wearing a mask, staying at least six feet apart from other people, and avoiding touching face masks, eyes, noses and mouths.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Dworkin from the University of Illinois at Chicago said the risk of infection would be lower if travelers can isolate themselves for days before the trip. If traveling by plane once on transportation, Dworkin said air travelers could turn on the air vent above them to get filtered air, and a face shield and gloves can offer additional protection. He also suggested avoiding using public restrooms and eating or drinking while on transportation.
Dr. Kevin Bakker, an epidemiology assistant research scientist from the University of Michigan, advised people to take a COVID-19 test before their departure and sanitize their hands as often as they can.
“We are always touching our face, but we don’t realize that,” he said. “Even if you have a mask on, you still want to be sanitizing pretty much every time you’ve touched something that’s not yours.”
When returning to Massachusetts, travelers will have to complete the Massachusetts Travel Form before entering the state and will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
Exceptions can be made if travelers possess a negative COVID test report within 72 hours of entry to the state, or are returning from a low-risk state such as Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, or Vermont.
Massachusetts quarantine requirements say travelers must stay in a place with a private bathroom, have food delivered to the door, and only leave if in need of urgent medical care. Failure to comply may lead to a $500 fine each day.