Traffic on Interstate 8 in Mission Valley. File photo by Chris Sone

Despite pleas from state and local officials urging residents not to travel for Thanksgiving due to the coronavirus, millions of Southern Californians are still expected to do just that.

The Automobile Club of Southern California estimated that 3.86 million Southern California residents will be traveling for the holiday weekend, a 13% drop from last year. Auto Club officials noted it’s the largest year-over year decline in travel since the 2008 recession.

The vast majority of travelers are expected to go by car, although about 269,000 are likely to fly, according to the Auto Club.

“This Thanksgiving will be different than in past years. Rather than spending time indoors with friends and family, many people may choose to spend the holiday with their own households or take road trips to enjoy time in the great outdoors,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services.

“Because so many destinations, tours and cruises are not available this year, members are contacting our travel agents to book trips in 2021 and 2022, when they anticipate they will be able to vacation more safely,” she added.

Still, many are traveling. Nationwide nearly 1 million passengers a day have been screened at airport security checkpoints for the past week, according to Reuters.

Health authorities have been recommending against travel this Thanksgiving due to surging COVID-19 cases. California has issued a travel advisory, urging people who do travel to quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged the public to grasp “the severity of the moment” and remain diligent in wearing face coverings, avoiding crowds and washing hands until newly developed therapeutic treatments and vaccines can be made widely available in the months ahead.

“We just need you, the American people, to hold on a little bit longer,” Adams told Fox News in an interview. He joined other health authorities to advise against holiday travel, and called for families to limit their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations on Thursday to small gatherings of immediate household members.

The Auto Club reminded people to pack protective gear, including hand sanitizer, masks, cleaning supplies and a thermometer. It also urged travelers to use gloves or plastic baggies to open doors, fill gas tanks or touch other surfaces. The Auto Club also recommended that people pack plenty of snacks and drinks to help minimize stops on their journey.

— From Staff and Wire Reports

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.