Holiday travel numbers expected to increase to near pre-pandemic levels



ELLSWORTH — Thanksgiving is almost here, and AAA is predicting travel numbers will rebound to near pre-pandemic levels. 

On Nov. 18, AAA released its travel projections for the Thanksgiving holiday, with a forecast of 53.4 million travelers – a figure that comes within 5 percent of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. 

Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 continue to surge statewide, and are approximately four times higher than last year’s case count at this time.  

At the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Nov. 17 briefing, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah spoke of the state’s bleak figures and how vaccination against COVID-19 is the best mitigation tool against the virus. 

Between last year and this year, “Things are bad. We’ve broken a ton of records,” Shah said. “But what differs now … we’ve got vaccines that are resoundingly effective.” 

Because of this, he said the risk of catching and suffering from the coronavirus has become somewhat elective. 

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the state is working with hospitals on adapting capacity models so that hospitals are staffed and can provide critical care. 

Additionally, Shah gave tips for what families could do to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 at holiday get-togethers. 

He said if gatherings are entirely comprised of people who are fully vaccinated, then they can occur in relative safety.  

“But most gatherings will not be that way,” he said, noting many will be “hybrid” and comprised of folks with varying vaccination and eligibility statuses. 

He suggested that some loved ones have “tough” conversations and ask those who are not vaccinated to start the vaccination process before getting together. 

Shah also suggested friends and family members take a rapid antigen test before jumping in the car, and to gather outside around a fire where there is as much ventilation as possible. When inside, Shah suggested opening windows. 

“Though no one likes to do it, wearing a mask might make sense,” he said. 

“COVID looms large,” Shah said, adding that popular aspects of holiday get-togethers, such as being inside, close together, for an extended amount of time, play into what spreads the virus.  

 

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]