Travelers head out of town despite warnings from state health officials, CDC

Travelers head out of town despite warnings from state health officials, CDC Photo: KSTP.

Callan Gray
Updated: November 25, 2020 07:48 PM
Created: November 25, 2020 06:13 PM

Health experts say Thanksgiving travel and gatherings could create another surge of new cases of COVID-19, leading to a crisis.

"If we layer in travel and large indoor gatherings, which we know are drivers of transmission, we expect to see a massive surge on top of an already dire situation," Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor, said, warning that such a surge could result in a "humanitarian crisis."

Despite that warning, some people are keeping their holiday plans.

About 15,000 travelers were expected to pass through security on Wednesday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"There’s not as many travelers here as we expected so I think the risk is lower than we had even anticipated," said Jeff Behrens.

He and Kimberly Behrens, of St. Cloud, were heading to Reno to visit family members who were unable to travel home for the holiday.

"We planned this a while ago and we feel relatively safe about flying so we decided we would continue with our plan," Jeff Behrens said.

They plan to stay for five days.

"It’s just going to be a great trip for all of us that they can still be with family and we also get that getaway at the same time," Kimberly Behrens said. "Everyone has to use their own best judgment, what they’re comfortable with, what they’re safe with. It's really an individual preference."

They told us they are able to quarantine for 14 days when they get back because both of them work from home. The Minnesota Department of Health is asking all travelers to do so if they spend time out of state.

MDH has urged people to keep Thanksgiving to just their household. An executive order from Gov. Tim Walz bans social gatherings outside a single household.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also warning against travel.

"We know that there have been some cancellations," MSP Spokesperson Patrick Hogan said. "It certainly has had an impact in terms of people deciding whether or not they’re going to take the trip."

According to Hogan, MSP saw about 35,000 to 40,000 travelers on the peak Thanksgiving travel day last year. This year’s crowds are expected to be a fraction of that.

"The airport is definitely going to be busier than it has been in recent weeks," Hogan said. "We expect that Thanksgiving travel will actually be the busiest time we’ve had since MEA week."

During the peak of MEA week, he said MSP saw about 17,500 travelers pass through security.

"I personally feel totally fine," Keely Gelineau, of Duluth, said. "Flying, I think it's great. Everyone is seated far away, there aren’t too many people on the plane, they give you hand sanitizer when you first walk in so you can wipe everything down."

She's heading to Las Vegas and Phoenix for a vacation.

"We’re going to kind of stick to ourselves anyway," she said. "We'll probably see less people doing what we're doing than staying home with family."

Hogan is urging travelers to stay home if they don't feel well. Masks are also required, and the airport has more than 200 hand sanitizing stations.

"We’ve had, obviously, an emphasis on cleaning in the last several months, and one thing we have done anticipating larger crowds this week, we’ve increased those frequencies even more," Hogan said.


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