Despite officials and experts advising against it, some locals will still be traveling for Thanksgiving. And the region’s transportation agencies and companies are communicating a number of precautions and measures in hopes of keeping them healthy and safe from COVID-19 during what is typically the busiest travel period of the year.
At Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport (which are both run by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority), face coverings are required at all times and complementary masks are available at information counters. The airports also have “thousands of social distancing stickers” on the floor to remind folks about staying separated.
There are also more than 700 hand-sanitizing stations throughout both airports.
However, unlike a number of others across the country, regional airports currently do not have any testing sites.
Amtrak is partnering with the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health on safety measures. Face masks are required at Union Station as well onboard throughout a train trip.
The train station also has social distancing stickers and the Amtrak website says cleanings are being done using EPA-registered disinfecting wipes. Boarding times are extended and fewer seats are being sold in order to reduce crowding. Additionally, on all Amtrak trains there are filtration systems that generate a full fresh air exchange every four to five minutes.
A majority of bus companies with local routes — Greyhound, Megabus, and Washington Deluxe — run out of a hub at Union Station. All are requiring face masks when boarding and walking around the bus, limiting the number of tickets sold, enhancing cleaning, and touting their air filtration systems. Greyhound, however, specifically notes that if you are unable (or unwilling) to wear a face covering, including due to a medical condition, they “regret that you will not be able to travel on Greyhound at this time.”
The bus company is also advertising that they are now “ozonate” each bus, which is a sanitation process more often used to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases. While studies are ongoing, some have determined the process to be “potentially useful” against the coronavirus.
As this has been a year like no other, it’s difficult to predict how many people will travel for the holiday. During a normal Thanksgiving week, a lot of people come and go in the D.C. region. Last year, it was estimated that nearly 1.35 million left town. About 100,000 locals flew and more than 105,000 train trips came through Union Station.
This year, the number will drop significantly. Air travel is expected to decline by nearly half nationwide compared to last year, according to AAA estimates. The number of people traveling by bus, train, and cruise is estimated to drop by more than 75% from last year’s level, due to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser instituted a travel advisory requiring those who are visiting D.C. or