Thanksgiving trips and family gatherings are likely to be smaller and curtailed this year as the nation’s governors issue travel warnings to dampen the spread of the coronavirus.

Normally holiday travel is punctuated by weather advisories and airline delays but in a year where the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 tops 250,000 and the number of those stricken in jurisdictions in states have skyrocketed lawmakers across the country are urging people to stay home.

John Townsend, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA-Mid-Atlantic, told The Washington Informer, “AAA is anticipating a 10 percent drop in Thanksgiving holiday travel in 2020. It the largest one-year decline since the Great Recession a dozen years ago. Thanksgiving air travel volume will be down by 47 percent of prior years — to 2.4 million travelers.”

“Thanksgiving is about family and friend and we know that most of the cases of coronavirus are coming up because of family gatherings such as Sunday dinner, game nights and sleepovers.” Townsend said. “We love our family but at this time seeing your family at Thanksgiving may be the last time you might see them in the land of the living.”

Historically, traveling South to the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and even Texas is a sacred tradition for so many African Americans but, Townsend said is important to read the travel warnings in the states as well as those who flock to the big cities of the Midwest like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and even Milwaukee.
“People must take precautions and follow protocol to their families and friends safe,” said Townsend adding “There are people in this world who really don’t think that they can get the virus just because they will travel over the river and through the woods to grandfathers house to get that sweet potato pie. But that maybe be recipe for family disaster.”

Here is a summary of the restrictions facing travelers in the coming holiday:

District of Columbia

Anyone visiting for more than 24 hours from a high-risk area must get a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours before their arrival. If staying in Washington for more than three days, they must have another test done three to five days after arriving.

The order excludes travelers from Maryland and Virginia but it applies to any jurisdiction with more than 10 positive cases per 100,000 people per day.


Visitors to Massachusetts from any of the states deemed to be high risk are required to fill out the Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantine for 14 days, or produce a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, according to the state’s guidelines. That includes anyone who’s coming from one of the low-risk states but stayed “for more than a transitory period of time in the last 14 days” in a higher-risk state.

Massachusetts’ full list of states deemed to be low risk as of Saturday now includes just four states: Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

To be included on Massachusetts’ list of low-risk states for travel, one must have fewer than 10 average daily cases per 100,000 people.


There are no statewide restrictions in Illinois. However, under an emergency travel order, Chicago has implemented a color-coded system to indicate whether visitors need to obtain a negative coronavirus test or quarantine.

Vermont, Chicago and Washington, D.C., also recently putting new regulations in place. People planning to travel outside of their home state should familiarize themselves with the virus rates where they plan to visit and assess the risk.


Gov. Gavin Newsom joined the governors of Washington and Oregon in issuing a travel advisory Nov. 13, urging against nonessential out-of-state travel as coronavirus cases surge. “Travel increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, and we must all collectively increase our efforts at this time to keep the virus at bay and save lives,” Newsom said in a statement.

In Los Angeles County, where there has been an uptick in coronavirus cases, released similar guidelines.

“We are threading the needle here, but I think it is appropriate for us to try to do some of the activities that people are desperate to be able to do, with absolute adherence to the guidance,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s public health department, said during a news conference last month.


COVID-19 risk in Georgia is high. CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Georgia.

As of Nov. 10, there were no statewide restrictions in Alabama.

As of Nov. 10, there were no statewide restrictions in Florida but county and city restrictions may apply.

Alabama and a number of Southern states don’t have orders but people arriving from most states for more than 24 hours must self-quarantine for 14 days and fill out a mandatory health form. (New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island are always exempt because they are so interconnected with Connecticut.)

There is also a color-coded system for travelers — red, orange and yellow — which is based on virus levels in the states.

Those traveling from a “red” state are asked to avoid travel, but if they visit Chicago, they must quarantine for 14 days, or the length of their stay, whichever is shorter. People from “orange” states are also asked to stay home, but should they visit, they can either quarantine or obtain a negative test result no more than 72 hours before their arrival.

Non-essential travel from the “yellow” states is discouraged, but there are no restrictions for travelers from these lower-risk areas.

The red classification applies to Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The orange classification applies to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

The yellow classification applies to California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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