As coronavirus cases spike across much of the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its holiday guidelines recommending that people refrain from traveling for Thanksgiving and wear masks around the dinner table.
"Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19," the agency says on its website. "Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."
Instead, Americans should "consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel."
For those not traveling but still planning to attend a gathering, health officials recommend that it be with only members of their immediate household — or those who have been living together already for at least two weeks.
If gathering with individuals outside one's household, the CDC advises wearing a mask and maintaining six feet of distance away from others.
"Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people who you don't live with,
the guidance continues. "Wear a mask and safely store your mask while eating and drinking."
During a news conference on Thursday, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, relayed a grim warning for those who may ignore the warnings and decide to travel.
"The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members, from coming together in this family gathering actually could end up being hospitalized and severely ill and die," he said. "CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period."
Health officials at the agency also urged families of college students who are returning home for the holiday to be extra cautious because they'll be gathering with people outside of their normal communities.
The updated guidance comes as COVID-19 cases and deaths are on the rise in the country. As of Wednesday evening, the virus' death toll in America officially surpassed 250,000. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. saw its highest daily death toll in more than six months, with at least 1,707 fatalities being reported on Tuesday.
"We're alarmed," Walke added in the news conference. "COVID-19 is turning out to be quite a formidable foe."