PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s the day before Thanksgiving and millions of people are expected to travel for the holiday. But this year is unlike any other – it’s a pandemic Thanksgiving.
AAA estimates that 50 million people will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s a five-day stretch starting Wednesday and running through Sunday.
That number is a significant drop from last year – down from 55 million people.
Now, the vast majority of travelers will drive. AAA says 95% of people will go by car.
Coronavirus numbers are still surging and experts fear Thanksgiving gatherings will set off another surge that we could be dealing with around Christmas time.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley is concerned, and he issued a warning this week. He says getting a negative result from a COVID-19 test isn’t a sure sign you don’t have the virus since the incubation period for the infection lasts 14 days.
“If you test yourself during that period, you’ll get a negative test even though you have the virus and you’ll turn positive a few days later. So, if you happen to test negative now, then by Thanksgiving you may be positive and infecting your relatives,” Farley said. “Please, please celebrate Thanksgiving with members of your immediate household. You don’t want to spread COVID to your elderly grandmother or to that cousin of yours that has a chronic medical condition.”
Area and national health experts pleaded with people to avoid going anywhere in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
The traffic at the airport Wednesday was much heavier than it was at 30th Street Station.
People are certainly still traveling but those Eyewitness News spoke with say their Thanksgiving celebrations will be small.
Travel is down but traffic was heavy at the Philadelphia International Airport. Traditionally, 30th Street Station is packed the day before Thanksgiving but this year not so much.
One traveler from New York City described his ride over from the Big Apple.
“The train was very empty. In my car, it was four people leaving from New York City into Philadelphia. So as I got off in Philly there was only one left in my car,” traveler Gary Evans said.
Evans says his Thanksgiving will be much smaller this year. He’ll enjoy dinner with a special friend and take some time to see his loved ones safely.
“My family’s here, but I will just see my mother and just stand outside and speak to her from her window,” Evans said.
For much of the country, this Thanksgiving won’t be like in years past, but they’re in good health and for that, they’re thankful.
“We figured as long as we were just together and we were just seeing our families from a distance it would work,” one traveler said.
One traveler at 30th Street Station said, “I mean, we take precautions. We don’t put anyone in danger purposefully. I’m considerate of other people’s space and other people’s preferences for sure, but at the same time, I believe in freedom and I see a lot of this as the government taking the opportunity and capitalizing on this to take away some of the freedoms we’ve had for some time.”
Amtrak says it’s hard to predict holiday ridership given the unprecedented drop in ridership throughout the pandemic.
Overall, business is down about 25%.
State health officials are requiring those who are traveling from out of state to quarantine for 14 days or have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their arrival.
CBS3’s Jan Carbeo and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.
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