Nearly 48 million people plan to travel by car this Thanksgiving holiday leaving doctors concerned

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Data from AAA show nearly 48 million people plan to go on a road trip for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it will be the leading form of travel. In fact, driving will account for 95-percent of holiday travel.

On top of the nearly 48 million people who plan on driving this Thanksgiving holiday, AAA data show more than 350,000 people will also be taking other forms of ground transportation, like buses and trains.

“It’s a little troubling, we know that our local health departments and the CDC has recommended against traveling,” said David Crowley, Milwaukee County executive.

Area leaders and health officials say they’re concerned after hearing how many people will travel this Thanksgiving, car travel will only see a 4-percent decrease compared to last year.

“One aspect is the unknown of what Thanksgiving will bring, what those 47 million people in their cars to gatherings,” said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

“We’re not encouraging and promoting travel. We’re encouraging those people who need to travel, who are essential workers and who has some other good reason to travel,” said Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesperson.

Amtrak says Thanksgiving week has always been their busiest holiday, but they don’t want people traveling unless they absolutely have to. The company is running fewer trains from Milwaukee to Chicago and to the west coast.

According to AAA, travel by trains and buses will see a more than 76-percent decrease this year compared to last.

“The trend in travel we’ve been seeing is only about 20 to 25 percent of normal,” added Magliari.

“We’re stretched very thin for hospital beds, whether in Milwaukee County and in the rest of the state, and then we’re really just watching the numbers and understanding what Thanksgiving is going to bring,” said Dr. Weston.

Health experts say the safest thing to do is stay home with the people in your household, and do a virtual dinner with extended family if you want to see them.

“People test negative and they assume they’re out of the woods, well that negative test is a snapshot, it’s a good snapshot to have, but it’s simply a snapshot,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

“We have not yet in this pandemic experienced a time quite like this, with the cold weather, with the peaks that we’re seeing and with what could potentially be a large gathering event,” added Dr. Weston.

Dr. Weston says if someone is infected on Thanksgiving day, they’ll typically see data start to come in a week after that.

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