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Traveling for Thanksgiving is likely safe but people should know their ‘individual risk’

The 2021 holiday season will be the first time millions of Americans will be traveling in nearly two years.

With a large number of festivities canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many will be excited to return home to see their families for Thanksgiving this year.

The pandemic is not quite over yet, though, with an average of 1,000 Americans still dying from the virus every day and daily cases trending upwards nationwide.

Experts believe that people can safely travel for Thanksgiving, but they should understand they are taking a risk and should take simple actions to protect themselves. 

Advice includes wearing a well-fitted mask while traveling and wiping down seats before sitting on planes and trains.

Millions of Americans will be travelling for the first time in nearly two years this holiday season, and experts say it can be done safely with a few precautions. One expert says that people should identify their ‘individual risk’ before heading out for the holidays. Pictured: Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport in California

Experts recommend that travelers bring a well-fitting N95 mask with them while traveling, and to wipe down their seat before sitting on a plane or train. Pictured: People ride the subway in New York City, New York

Experts recommend that travelers bring a well-fitting N95 mask with them while traveling, and to wipe down their seat before sitting on a plane or train. Pictured: People ride the subway in New York City, New York

Dr Michael Blaivas, the chief medical officer at Anavasi Diagnostics, a Seattle, Washington based biotechnology company, told DailyMail.com that people traveling or gathering for the holidays would have to asses their ‘individual risk’ and decide what they want to do.

‘It’s an individualized question,’ Blaivas said.

‘[It] depends on who you are, where you’re going, and what you return to.’

Factors to consider are personal health, Covid situation in a person’s area, Covid situation in the area a person is traveling to, and the situations in places where other people they will interact with are coming from.

For example, a healthy 20-year old traveling from one area of low Covid transmission to another would not have much to worry about.

But, an elderly person who is immunocompromised traveling to an area of high transmission may be at severe risk of hospitalization or death from the virus if they travel.

Blaivas said that those who are hosting gatherings should talk to the people who plan to attend, and gather what their level of risk is.

‘Its probably good to have an open discussion beforehand about people’s individual risk,’ he said. 

‘Maybe get everyone tested if that makes them comfortable, especially if people are coming from an area of high transmission.’ 

More than anything, though, Blaivas recommends people get vaccinated to protect themselves and their family from the virus.

‘Being immunized really adjusts those odds for everybody,’ he said. 

Just the act of traveling to a gathering can be risky for some.

An expert says that, despite potential risks, 'we all deserve' to enjoy the holidays this year after the pandemic stole it from many last year (file photo)

An expert says that, despite potential risks, ‘we all deserve’ to enjoy the holidays this year after the pandemic stole it from many last year (file photo)

Millions of Americans will be boarding planes and trains this week en route to holiday festivities.

That means being stuck in a crowded area of unknown people – who could actively be carrying the virus – for an extended period of time.

A person traveling will also be surrounded by people in close quarters at the airport and train station, opening the risk of Covid transmission.

More than anything, Blaivas recommends people protect themselves and not assume that others are taking precautions. 

‘Take the responsibility of protecting yourself. Don’t think anyone is going to do it for you,’ he said.

He also suggests for people to wipe down their seat when they board, and to take a rapid response COVID-19 test before travel just to be safe. 

Dr Pavitra Roychoudhury, an infectious disease expert from the University of Washington, said a well-fitting N95 mask is a must-have for people traveling this holiday season.

She also recommends eligible people to get their booster shot as soon as they can.  

There are also actions a host can take to protect their family and friends at gatherings.  

‘What level of protection do [hosts] want to guarantee?’ she said. 

‘Do they want to have everybody tests prior to coming in? Do they want to ask for your vaccination status? Do they want to have everybody masked indoors?’

‘It really depends on how much the host wants to protect themselves.

Roychoudhury said that many will likely feel comfortable hosting these types of gatherings with limited restrictions, though, especially this deep into the pandemic. 

‘I think a lot of people have just become comfortable hosting unmasked, small gatherings with their friends and family who they know are at a similar level of risk,’ she said.

While that does come with some inherent risk, Roychoudhury believes the nation is in a better situation this year than last, and it should be okay to do so.

Because the vaccine is safe and effective, and booster shots are now available to the most vulnerable Americans much of the risk has been removed.

‘I think that if you’re vaccinated, then gathering with other vaccinated individuals means your risk is relatively low,’ she said. 

‘I think it’s good not to let our guard completely down, but I think that it’s possible to have an enjoyable gathering with family and friends. 

‘And I think we all deserve it, especially those who’ve been working really hard to keep ourselves and our families safe for so long.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk