Most SoCal residents expected to avoid year-end holiday travel amid COVID-19 concerns, AAA forecasts

It appears the majority of Southern California residents are heeding public health guidelines advising against holiday travel this year as the number of coronavirus cases continues to overwhelm the region’s health care system.

About 76% of the population will likely forego end-of-the-year getaways and stay home instead, according to AAA’s annual holiday travel forecast.

“Most people in Southern California are expected to skip year-end holiday trips due to concerns, as well as stay-at-home orders related to the pandemic,” Auto Club spokesman Doug Shupe said.

The number of Southern California travelers taking trips between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3 is anticipated to dip by at least 37% compared to last year, the forecast shows.

Air travel is predicted to drop more than 54%, while automobile travel may decrease by at least 34%. But the sharpest decline is expected to be seen in other modes of transportation like buses and trains, which could fall by some 87%, according to AAA.

The travel and insurance agency notes that a steady increase in coronavirus cases and warnings from public health officials could lead some to cancel their plans at the last minute, which is what happened in the days before Thanksgiving.

Up to 50 million had been expected to travel for that holiday based on travel forecast models from mid-October, according to AAA. That would’ve represented a drop of 10% from the previous year.

However, the decrease is expected to end up being closer to 15 to 20%, after a warning to avoid traveling for the Thanksgiving was issued just days before the holiday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The final Thanksgiving travel numbers have not yet to be released.

As the U.S. prepares for the winter holidays, the CDC “continues to recommend postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year,” according to the federal health agency’s website.

But for those who will be traveling for the year-end holidays, AAA provided a number of tips to minimize risk. They include:

Bringing enough personal protective equipment, as well as hand sanitizer, for each day of travel. Having a thermometer on hand to perform temperature checks. Bringing cleaning supplies that can be used to wipe down surfaces for places you stay overnight. Using gloves or plastic bags to open doors, get gas or when touching any other surfaces in public places. Having food, drinks and snacks on hand to minimize the number of travel stops. If you have to stop, utilize drive-through or curbside pickup when possible. Wear a face mask and practice physical distancing when interacting with family, friends and those outside your household.Remembering to wash your hands frequently. Knowing what COVID-19 restrictions are in place at your destination, as well as along the route you will be traveling. Those can be accessed at AAA.com/TripTik.

And for those who won’t be traveling because of the virus but are thinking about taking a trip in the future: AAA urges planning ahead.

“With health experts urging people to avoid travel to prevent spreading the coronavirus this holiday season, the Auto Club is encouraging would-be travelers to think about the future and start planning vacations in 2021 and 2022,” Shupe said. “Nearly all quality travel providers have cancelation policies in place that make it easy to plan for a future vacation that can be changed, delayed or canceled without penalty in most cases.”

Southern California is currently among the regions that are under state-ordered stay-at-home restrictions due to an increased number of cases combined with limited capacity in hospital intensive care units. As of Monday, ICU capacity remained at 0% in the region.

Consequently, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced the regional order would likely be extended beyond three weeks and past Dec. 28.

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