Holiday travel causes Covid concerns and debate

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Annabella Bhote

Many families did not have the luxury of spending time with one another during this past Thanksgiving and may not for the next few holidays, as COVID-19 cases surge and hospital capacities continue to decrease. 

Oakton students have differing views when it comes to the subject of traveling during the holidays. Student Eva Shay usually travels out of the country to visit relatives, but is choosing to stay home this year. “It’s selfish to even think about flying right now,” Shay said. “I rarely get to see my extended family, and it breaks my heart that I can’t spend time with them this year, but I would rather put their health first than risk their well-being.”

Despite warnings from government officials, Thanksgiving travel only decreased by 5 percent, according to StreetLight Data, a source used for the US Department of Transportation. The amount of air travel has caused the CDC to report over one million new cases in the US over the last week, yet many Americans are still choosing to ignore stay at home orders. 

From Oct. 2 to Nov. 2, hospitalizations in the U.S. rose from 30,769 to 48,693, increasing by only 58 percent, as reported by Our World in Data based at the University of Oxford. During the month of Thanksgiving, Nov. 2 through Dec. 2, hospitalizations have more than doubled to 100,226, that being a 105 percent increase.

In the same amount of time, Illinois COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 70 percent.Meanwhile, student Amber Rowe did decide to travel, expressing that the pandemic will not stop her from living her life. “I’m done being afraid. My parents never forced me to social distance, and I’ve been fine this whole time,” said Rowe, recently back from a trip to Hawaii. “It is my right as an American to travel wherever I legally can,” adding that the current low airfares have made it, “even more encouraging” for her to travel.

As the number of cases accelerate, hospital room capacity has dropped to levels so dire that multiple states in the U.S. are again shutting down all non-essential activities and businesses and issuing stay at home orders in all areas where hospital capacity reaches 15 percent or less. 

While Illinois is currently above the 20 percent threshold, California’s official government website states that as of Dec. 3, all residents of said counties will be required to wear masks and social distance when in public, as well as postpone private gatherings of any size.For those who continue to travel over the upcoming holidays, the CDC has provided a list of precautions to take including wearing a mask in all public areas, getting a flu shot, and washing or sanitizing hands frequently.