'There's No Place Like Home for The Holidays:' Travel and SARS-CoV-2 Test Positivity Following Thanksgiving Weekend


In the US, public health officials discouraged travel and social gatherings for Thanksgiving. Data suggests that many individuals did travel over the holidays, albeit in smaller numbers than previous years. Using an online panel survey of individuals across ten US states, we found that many individuals reported spending Thanksgiving outside of their home (25.9%) or at home with at least one non-household member (27.3%). Among those who were tested, those who had Thanksgiving outside their home were significantly more likely to self-report a positive PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 infection in the prior two weeks compared to those who had Thanksgiving at home with non-household members or with household members only (41.7% vs. 22.4% and 13.8%, respectively; p<0.001). Persons who had Thanksgiving outside their home and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 participated in a median 35 (IQR: 21 - 53). non-essential activities compared to those who had Thanksgiving at home and tested positive (median 3 activities, IQR 0-13). Notably, planned travel over the December holidays was most common among those who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the prior 2 weeks (66.5%) compared with 25.4% of those who tested negative in the prior 2 weeks and 11.0% among those who were not tested. While public health authorities should continue promoting messages to dissuade travel and social gatherings over the holidays, as supported by these data, it is equally important to promote messaging on how to get together in a ‘low-risk’ manner for those who travel and plan gatherings. In particular, it is critical that those who do travel or visit with others outside their household do so cautiously and avoid or significantly minimize all other activities where they may potentially acquire and transmit infection in the weeks prior to and after their visit.