Millions of Americans plan to travel for Christmas and New Year, motivated by lower gas prices due to COVID-19

Millions of Americans plan to travel for Christmas and New Year, motivated by lower gas prices due to COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci may break with tradition by not spending Christmas
with his kids, but millions of Americans aren’t taking his lead.

Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, earlier this month told CBS News that he wasn’t spending the Christmas holidays with his daughters “for the first time in more than 30 years.”

His comments came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans against traveling for Hanukkah and Christmas amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

While fewer people are planning to hit the roads or take to the skies in the name of holiday cheer, millions are still planning on traveling. Roughly 84.5 million Americans are expected to travel from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, according to a report from AAA, which was formerly known as the American Automobile Association. That’s down some 34 million travelers from last year.

The vast majority are planning to drive (81.1 million) rather than fly (2.94 million) or take another form of transit such as bus, train or cruise (480,000), AAA reported.

A separate survey from GasBuddy found that over one third of Americans are planning to travel by car this holiday season — though people’s propensity to travel varies regionally. Folks in the Northeast are least likely to hit the road for the holidays, while people in the Rocky Mountain states are most likely to do so.

“Many Americans have deeply rooted traditions for the holiday and are unwilling to let them slip away like the rest of the year,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said in the report. “We’re expecting to see heightened driving activity across some of the most hard-hit areas of the coronavirus.”

And if Thanksgiving is any indication, these estimates for holiday travel are likely to pan out. Over 4 million people across the country left their homes for Thanksgiving, including more than 1.6 million who traveled out of state, according to data shared with CNN by the nonprofit Center for New Data. Other data suggests that as many as 50 million people visited friends and family for Thanksgiving.

Ironically, those who do decide to take a road trip to close
out 2020 will spend less to do so than in years past. GasBuddy projects that
the average price per gallon of gas this holiday season will be $2.19, which is
the lowest since 2015. Gas prices have fallen in the face of the reduction in
travel and economic complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’re expecting to see heightened driving activity across some of the most hard-hit areas of the coronavirus.

— Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy

All of the travel associated with the end-of-year holidays are stoking concerns about a surge in COVID-19 cases at a time when case counts nationwide are breaking records.

The U.S. topped another somber milestone in COVID-19 cases of 18 million on Tuesday, as the number of daily new cases and deaths went back to increasing after a brief period of declines. Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 has contributed to the deaths of more than 321,301 Americans.

The CDC is recommending that those who do travel for the December holidays should get tested for COVID-19 one to three days before their travel, and then tested again three to five days after their return.

Those who don’t want to get tested are being advised to avoid nonessential activities for 10 days after their travels.  Other health experts have previously recommended self-isolating for as long as possible prior to traveling and still engaging in safety protocols when visiting loved ones such as social distancing and mask wearing.

And it’s worth remembering that you can test negative for COVID-19 and still be infected and contagious, given the 2– to 14-day incubation period for the virus. Anyone who has come into contact with someone infected with the novel coronavirus is asked to quarantine for 10 days, or seven days after a negative COVID-test.

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