Tens of millions still expected to drive for Thanksgiving despite state, national COVID-19 warnings

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Thursday, November 26, 2020
Millions still expected to drive for Thanksgiving amid pandemic
AAA expects 50-million people will choose to travel for Thanksgiving. While still a lot, it's a significant drop from 2019, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Millions of people will be on the road for Thanksgiving and the remainder of the holiday weekend, despite what medical experts warn could cause a further surge in COVID-19 metrics.

At the busy I-95 corridor, which is a main hub for travelers trying to get to the northeast or Florida, one of the Cumberland County rest stops saw non-stop flow of traffic.

Eyewitness News spoke to Judy Morris at that location. She tells us she's been driving from Augusta, Georgia to Plymouth, North Carolina to see her mother for Thanksgiving. In addition to Thursday, Morris wants to be there for her mother's 88th birthday on Friday.

"I'm the only one who's going to be able to be there with her, so it means a lot," Morris said.

Morris is one of the estimated 50-million people choosing to travel for Thanksgiving, according to AAA. It's a significant drop from 2019, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

The CDC has also laid out guidelines and advised Americans to not travel by plane, stating it could lead to further spread. That's why Kelly Alderman and her daughter, Jillian, chose to make the more than 24-hour trek from Florida to Vermont by car.

"We'll just try to keep everyone on the down low, and we'll drive as much as we can. Then, when we get there, we'll get retested and do our quarantine," Alderman said.

RELATED: COVID-19 forcing some travelers to alter Thanksgiving plans

In what's generally the busiest travel day of the year, RDU Airport felt much slower than in years past. However, some brave travelers decided to venture out and catch a flight.

A sentiment of caution shared by Amber Brantley and Andrew Helo. The couple tells ABC 11 they had trouble finding an empty rest stop for most of their drive, so far, to New Jersey from Florida.

Brantley says they were in Florida for work and are trying to make it home by Thanksgiving to see their daughter.

"Nothing big. We're not, like, trying to get to any big celebration or anything. It'll just be us for Thanksgiving because of COVID," Brantley said.

AAA has offered Americans some ways to stay safe if they choose to travel by car this week.

  • Call ahead for hotels or car rentals to ask how they're keeping customers safe
  • Have an idea of the route your taking and what different restrictions could look like in different places
  • Always practice the 3 Ws: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, and Wait six feet apart

Morris says she'll be in Plymouth by Wednesday evening. She says she will do her due diligence to keep her mother safe and spend the rest of the week counting her blessings.

Law enforcement is also advising people to travel the speed limit, avoid texting and driving, and wear a seat belt.