Doctors keep urging caution as holiday travel increases

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Last Thanksgiving was one to forget for Marnee Revri.

"Unfortunately we got COVID and we spent Thanksgiving by ourselves and we cooked and we couldn't taste a thing or smell a thing, it was awful," said Revri.

Now recovered and fully vaccinated, Revri is looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with loved ones this year.

"We'll have a big Thanksgiving, and we're going to be inviting people who have no place to go," said Revri.

Being able to spend the holidays with others in-person is just one of the reasons Revri is thankful this year; an independent travel consultant for FROSCH Entertainment in Raleigh, Revri notes there's been a sharp increase in travel interest in 2021.

"Everyone's really ready to travel. We're even getting a lot of cold calls. People who just want to get out. They want to travel," said Revri, who also operates her own business, Sapphire Syndicate.

"Early on, of course we were seeing a lot of domestic travel. And I think now that Europe has opened up and other countries, we're really seeing people starting to get back out and go further afield with their travel and also staying longer in those destinations," said Maryneil Catlin, a travel agent with Maupin Travel.

Travel agents are stressing the importance of flexibility, especially with changing requirements and metrics both domestically and internationally.

"We keep up on the latest entry and exit requirements for the countries, and they're changing constantly too. Whether you need to have a COVID test, how many hours in advance you need to have it, do you need to be quarantined," added Catlin.

RDU anticipates a 129% increase in air travel during the week of Thanksgiving compared to the same time period last year, a sign of pent-up interest.

"Book as far (out) as you can, because there is such a high demand for travel right now that the prices are much higher than I've seen in a really, really long time and availability is selling out very fast, and rates are increasing very fast as well," said Revri.

The CDC reports 79.7% of Americans 12 years and older are at least partially vaccinated, and children 5 to 11 years old are now eligible to start receiving doses.

COVID-19 metrics have also improved compared to the same time period last year. In North Carolina, during the week of November 11th - November 17th 2020, there was an average of 2,865 new cases a day and 1,385 hospitalizations. This past week, there was an average of 1,773 new cases a day and 1,057 hospitalizations.

Still, there are reasons to remain cautious, as Monday and Tuesday saw the two highest positivity rates all month.

"We still have a large group of individuals that still need to be vaccinated who are susceptible. So we are definitely worried in the hospital to see a plateau, to see a small increase as we head into the winter season," said Dr. Emily Sickbert-Bennett, the Director of UNC Medical Center Prevention.

Warm weather has allowed for outdoor activities to continue for most of this month, though temperatures are anticipated to drop soon.

"The key features of COVID transmission have to do with people - how many people you're around. Time -- how much time you're spending with them. The space that you have to distance, and then the place. And just knowing that outdoors has more air changes and air flow and is better than indoor spaces," said Sickbert-Bennett.

"With this holiday season, you can't be prepared enough. Wear your masks, I just got back from traveling this past weekend across country, that is one thing you will notice - masks, masks, masks. Bring extras," said Catlin.

If outdoor activities are not possible, it's suggested you keep open a window to increase ventilation in the home. Sickbert-Bennett encouraged people to get tested if they do not feel well, a point especially important if you have plans to see others.
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