Lifestyle Health CDC Urges Americans to Stay Home for Thanksgiving with Cases at a 'Critical' Peak The federal health agency recommended against traveling for the holiday, telling Americans to instead keep celebrations within their households By Julie Mazziotta Julie Mazziotta Twitter Julie Mazziotta is the Sports Editor at PEOPLE, covering everything from the NFL to tennis to Simone Biles and Tom Brady. She was previously an Associate Editor for the Health vertical for six years, and prior to joining PEOPLE worked at Health Magazine. When not covering professional athletes, Julie spends her time as a (very) amateur athlete, training for marathons, long bike trips and hikes. People Editorial Guidelines Published on November 19, 2020 03:42 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Getty The Centers for Disease Control is urging Americans to stay home this Thanksgiving, with new cases of COVID-19 continuing to soar throughout the country and hospitals running out of space. In their first press briefing in several months, the CDC recommended against traveling for the holiday and advised Americans to keep their holiday celebrations to just the members of their household — those who have lived with them for at least 14 days prior to the holiday — in order to avoid further spread of the virus. Citing the “more than 1 million COVID-19 cases” reported in the U.S. over just the last week, the federal health agency advised Americans to avoid gathering with relatives outside their households. “The tragedy that could happen is one of your family members, from coming together in a family gathering, could wind up hospitalized and severely ill and could die. We don’t want to see that happen,” said Dr. Henry Walke, a COVID-19 incident manager at the CDC. “This year we’re asking people to be as safe as possible.” With COVID Surging ‘We Have to Modify’ Plans This Thanksgiving, Says Infectious Disease Expert Officials said that they are making this recommendation a week before Thanksgiving because they are “alarmed” about the staggering rise in new infections — in the last two weeks, cases have increased by 77 percent, and nearly 80,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. “Amid this critical phase, the CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” Walke said. RELATED VIDEO: One of the First Americans With COVID Spent 64 Days in a Hospital with '1% Chance of Survival' He added that they are particularly worried about people traveling, as it’s tougher to social distance while in line for buses or planes. “What we’re concerned about is not only the actual mode of travel — whether it’s an airplane or bus or car, but also the transportation hubs we’re concerned about, as well,” he said. The CDC added new guidelines specifically for Thanksgiving on their website, with warnings about travel and advice on how to safely spend the holiday. “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” reads the new guidance. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.” More Than a Quarter Million Americans Have Died from COVID They asked people to consider the case and hospitalization rates in their area, if they will be with high-risk family members and if they have been around people outside of their household. “If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ you should consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel,” the guidance says. “It’s important to talk with the people you live with and your family and friends about the risks of traveling.” If people are set on gathering for Thanksgiving, the CDC advises wearing a secure mask, staying six feet away from other people, holding the meal outdoors and having each household bring their own utensils, and even their own foods and drinks. They also suggest alternatives to the traditional gatherings — holding the meal virtually, dropping off foods at households and shopping online instead of heading out for crowded Black Friday sales. As of Thursday, more than 11,695,500 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 251,100 have died from the virus, according to The New York Times. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.