On the roads again: Experts available for pandemic holiday season travel stories

Georgia Tech has experts who can help with your coverage of the holiday travel season in light of the ongoing pandemic.

They can talk about travel by air and roadway. They can also discuss a COVID-19 risk assessment map and how it can help people determine if their travel destination is safe.

Laurie Garrow – air travel demand, airline operations

Garrow can talk about these topics for the holiday travel season:

  • The Sunday after Thanksgiving will be less “peaked” or busy this year as many people do not need to be home to return to work or get their kids back to in-person school the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Essentially, people are “spreading out” the days they can leave for vacation or return home since many can now work and/or go to school “anywhere.”
  • Airlines are increasing flights for holiday period.
  • We are seeing higher fares on average than last year.

Michael Hunter – traffic, roadway travel for the holidays

Hunter says the uncertainty for transportation this holiday travel season is probably greater than ever:

  • We have two conflicting trends: In many areas roadway traffic has returned to, or is within a few percentage points, of pre-COVID levels. However, the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing, in many instances returning to the highs experienced last summer.
  • States do not seem to have the same appetite for shutdowns, at least at the level of last spring and summer. Among the general public, we’re also seeing a “pandemic fatigue.”
  • All of these factors mean it is likely we are going to have high levels of travel (at least roadway travel) combined with high rates of COVID-19 in the population.
  • We just don’t know what that will mean. My guess is that we will see high levels of travel over the holidays.
  • We need the medical experts to chime in and tell us if that will be followed by a new surge in COVID-1 cases or if mask-wearing, handwashing, and other precautions will be sufficient to control the spread.
  • Around Thanksgiving what really needs to happen is a major media education push for those who insist on traveling over the holidays about how to do it as safely as possible.

Clio Andris & Joshua Weitz – Local community COVID-19 risk assessment, quantitative biosciences, general risk inquiries

  • They created a COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Map that travelers can use to assess their exposure risk wherever they’re traveling in the United States.
  • The map is available here:  https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/
  • Andris specializes in geographic information science and technology. Weitz studies virus and disease dynamics and epidemiology.