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Health experts worry about holiday travel as COVID cases remain high

AAA is projecting that 84.5 million Americans will travel this holiday season.

TAMPA, Fla. — Christmas is around the corner, and many Americans will still travel this year. AAA expects 84.5 million Americans to travel this holiday. That is about a 29 percent decline from travel numbers this time last year.

Most who are making a trip for Christmas are expected to be traveling by car. While it is one of the safer ways to travel, public health experts warn that there are still things you want to watch out for.

"Remember to be very careful when you go inside rest stops, and restaurants just to wear your mask have things to wash your hands withavoid the crowds," said Jay Wolfson a public health expert at USF Health.  

Some families, like the Hoffs who normally go on a ski trip for Christmas, are skipping the travel all together.

"We are staying put, and going to be close to home," Jim Hoff said.

Wolfson agrees with this decision as he fears cases could continue to rise through the new year. 

"All of the projections we've seen indicate that by the second week of January through sometime in February, we could be heading up to 15,000 cases a day in Tampa Bay," Wolfson said. "Much of that is fueled by travel, people come to Florida for our wonderful weather."

The Hoff's are hoping to see some family outside of the home, but are trying to keep it safe.

"And my parents who are older, they're 80, we are going to try to get them over if they're comfortable, but only because we're in Florida living outside, I mean, or being outside," Kristina Hoff said. "And I told them, you know, we'll be at least 12 feet away from them."

Even though their parents will likely fall into group "1b," the second group of Floridians to be vaccinated, mass vaccination is still a ways away.

"And there's another concern I think we have and that is the vaccine has come out. And we're all very excited and very thankful for that. But it's going to be some months before it's available to all of us," Wolfson said. 

"We actually have to worry more right now. Because during this travel season, more people are congregating from different places and it creates more of a risk of community spread."

If you are deciding to travel this holiday season, health experts recommend you follow all the CDC guidelines like washing your hands, wearing your mask, and staying six feet apart. It is important to do this even with friends and family who do not live in your home.

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