Why are travelers not following the CDC’s advice?

not following cdc advice

Many Americans are not following the CDC’s advice. Instead of staying home during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the government recommends, they’re going on vacation, according to the latest numbers.

This is what the CDC says: “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

But a lot of Americans appear to have ignored the warning. Just last week, CCC Information Services reported an uptick in auto insurance claims for November, suggesting more people are driving. Claims are still down 18% compared to a year ago, but up from October, when they were off by nearly 20%.

AAA’s forecast of 50 million Thanksgiving travelers now seems a little conservative. Its initial projections were just 5 million travelers below the 2019 levels. TSA screening numbers suggest many people are still flying.

So what’s going on?

  • Travelers are headed to Latin America as the weather gets colder.
  • They have pandemic fatigue and don’t trust the government.
  • The result could be more superspreader events and a further worsening of the COVID-19 crisis.

Americans are flying south for the winter

How are Americans not following the CDC advice? Leisure demand in Latin America drove a 70% capacity increase in Mexico, particularly to vacation destinations like Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and San Jose del Cabo, according to OAG.

“Some carriers such as American look like they will increase capacity in the weeks leading up to Christmas,” says John Grant, a senior analyst at OAG.

By the way, the CDC says you should avoid all travel to Mexico.

In the United States, travelers are also thumbing their noses at the CDC, at least in certain parts of the country.

Here’s daily foot traffic at U.S. airports in the last two months. It’s trending down, “but only slightly,” according to David Steinberg, co-founder and CEO of Zeta Global.

“The southeast has actually had increasing airport traffic over the last two weeks of November and this includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa and Atlanta specifically,” he says.

What about hotels? Well, overall occupancy fell to 36% during the last two weeks of November, its lowest level since May, according to Smith Travel Research.

But Fred Becker, an associate professor of hospitality management at York College of Pennsylvania, says that’s nothing to cheer about.

“This pattern is consistent with what we know about the visiting-friends-and-relatives travel market,” he says. “They spend less on travel than most other markets because these travelers stay with their friends and relatives.”

But travelers are also waiting until the last minute to book their holiday trips, according to research by hotelAVE, a hotel asset management company. This year, its domestic resorts have 25% to 55% of the rooms reserved but are projecting 75% to 85% because of the short-term booking trends.

And just in case you forgot, here’s where we’re headed, in terms of COVID-19 cases. It’s the other direction, according to analysts at Oliver Wyman.

Why are Americans traveling, anyway?

So why are travelers not following the CDC advice and taking a vacation, anyway?

“One size does not fit all,” says Dale Mellor, an accountant from Boulder City, Nev. He says he read and understood the CDC advisory, but that it doesn’t necessarily apply to him.

“If those in the high-risk category feel they are in danger, they should not travel. I understand and respect their decision. However, I have chosen to live my life without constant fear of getting sick. Just as I respect the opinions of the anti-travel group, I feel my belief system should also be respected,” he told me.

Lila Brown, a talent manager from Los Angeles, has traveled all over the world during the pandemic — to Sudan, Mexico, and around the country to Atlanta, Washington and New York.

“I feel as though the CDC advice can be safely ignored because I practice social distancing,” she says. “I wear two masks, one for medical and one for fashion. Both have been effective.”

Travel advisors are seeing increased demand for vacations, too.

“Some of our customers want to travel now,” John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Network and Leisure Group, told me earlier this week. “They want to go to the beach.”

Travel Leaders is about to unveil a new program called “Book With Confidence” that promises to give travelers information about COVID-19 with advice on how to stay safe before, during and after a trip. Here’s my exclusive interview with Lovell.

“Mad as hell”

Maybe there’s a medical explanation. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist based in Los Angeles, says people feel that they have good reason to disregard the government’s warnings. They’re wary of the at times contradictory advice coming from government and elected leaders. Despite all the precautions, the pandemic has only gotten worse. That’s confusing some travelers, she says.

“So, people are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” she says. “Traveling is the opposite of stay-at-home orders, so it seems like the perfect way to rebel.”

Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist in New York, says people are suffering from pandemic fatigue and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

“Travel during this time is compounded with a chronic enduring experience of trauma,” she says. “Our bodies are not built to withstand long-term trauma.”

How will this end?

So Americans are not following the CDC’s advice for travel. But how will this end? We can make an educated guess, based on what scientists have told us.

If you don’t believe COVID-19 exists or that this is a media conspiracy, there’s really nothing I can say that will change your mind. I have to assume you’re reading this for entertainment value.

It only takes a few people to spread COVID-19, and travel is believed to be one of the leading causes of superspreader events. That’s presumably why the CDC has issued its advisories — to stop the unchecked spread of COVID.

If people continue to travel and do not observe social distancing and mask rules, then the projections are dire. Here are the new infections projections from the CDC.

If Americans continue to ignore the CDC’s travel advice, it can’t end well. You remember the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last summer? Multiply that by a few thousand.

My advice hasn’t changed: Stay home if you can. Avoid all nonessential travel until you get the green light.

It won’t be long.

Posted in Smart Consumer Tagged ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by battleface

At battleface, we deliver insurance that doesn’t quit when circumstances change. We provide specialty travel insurance services and benefits to travelers visiting or working internationally, including in the world’s most hard to reach places. Currently selling in 54 countries and growing, our mission is to deliver simple solutions to travelers worldwide heading out on their next adventure.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Pomchies

Pomchies makes an array of functional products out of swimwear material -- from hair scrunchies to luggage tags to headbands and more. Forced to pivot in 2020, Pomchies started manufacturing masks and changed the entire trajectory of the business. With over 4 million masks in circulation and a strong demand, Pomchies is now one of the most popular mask companies in the United States. To view the entire product line or to learn more, visit Pomchies.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by World Nomads

World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials. Even if you run out of travel insurance or leave without it, World Nomads can cover you. We don't just keep you and your family protected, with us, you'll travel smarter and safer. Get more information at World Nomads.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.