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US government recommends not traveling over Thanksgiving

November 19, 2020

US health authorities cautioned citizens on Thursday against traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday next week, as the coronavirus spreads out of control.

The recommendation was issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government’s health protection agency.

“CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” Henry Walke, a CDC doctor in charge of the day to day management of the agency’s pandemic response, told reporters.

“It’s not a requirement. It’s a strong recommendation.”

Walke said the CDC was “alarmed” by the recent surge in new daily cases — up more than 75 percent in 14 days — and hospitalizations and deaths (around 50 percent each).

In the past week alone there have been a million new cases of infection reported.

Thanksgiving is the busiest US holiday in terms of travel. As it falls on a Thursday, many US citizens take the Friday off work and make a long weekend of it to go see family in other states.

Walke said coronavirus cases rose sharply in the US after long holiday weekends for Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September.

“We saw these hikes in cases and so we wanted to get out now and talk about the upcoming holidays and warn people to be safe,” he said.

This year the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to stay home and be with the people in your household, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, another CDC official, in charge of making pandemic-related recommendations.

“If people have not been actively living with you for the 14 days before you’re celebrating, they are not considered a member of your household, and therefore you need to take those extra precautions, even wearing masks within your own home,” she said.

That applies to university students coming home for the holiday, Sauber-Schatz said.

Tourism impacts on Costa Rica

The CDC alert is only a “strong recommendation” and does not explicitly forbid international trips, including to Costa Rica.

Still, many US states discourage non-essential travel, and some have established quarantine requirements for returning residents, which could depress the amount of visitors from Costa Rica’s most important tourism market.

Among the state-by-state guidelines:

  • California recommends that returning residents quarantine for 14 days.
  • New York requires either a 14-day quarantine or two negative tests.
  • Illinois recommends avoiding travel to Costa Rica due to case counts.
  • Massachusetts requires a 14-day quarantine or a negative test.

Meanwhile, the Costa Rican authorities hope tourism will help revitalize the country’s economy. The Tourism Board is promoting the country at international tourism fairs, while the country’s primary airport has launched a “More Pura Vida than ever” advertising campaign.

In November 2019, Costa Rica welcomed 95,295 visitors from the United States, per Tourism Board data (PDF link). Costa Rica’s high season for tourism starts in December; last year, the country received 140,547 US visitors that month.

Costa Rica’s entry requirements for tourists are as follows:

  • Complete an online Health Pass.
  • Purchase qualifying health insurance.

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