Returning Thanksgiving travelers told to quarantine

VIDEO: Thousands of travelers return from Thanksgiving travel after plea to stay home

Thousands of travelers are returning from the Thanksgiving holiday despite pleas from health officials to stay home.

They are being greeted with a new restriction, to stay put for 14 days.

Many returning travelers at SEA International Airport say they factored the quarantine into their decision to fly.

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Still health officials believe even an airport less busy than usual means another steep rise in COVID-19 cases is just weeks away.

Robert Nakasone, Marysville, says he knew traveling for Thanksgiving was risky.

“About my own safety?” he asked. “Not so much. But when it came to my parents and stuff I recommended that they don’t travel. And they didn’t come to the Thanksgiving we were having in Indiana.”

After all, coronavirus has already taken seven members of his family. He felt he needed to visit the family who remain while he can.

“There’s pros and cons,” he said, with a shrug of his shoulders. “Too much to a consider.”

It was a consideration this University of Washington gymnast made, too, in deciding to fly back home to Allen, Texas.

“I felt really safe on the flight,” said Brenna Brooks, a UW Junior. “They wiped down everything. I had my sanitizer. I doubled up on masks when I was on the plane. So it was good for me. And I felt safe with everyone else.”

Even with those precautions, health officials predict just a few thousand people traveling will spread the virus, threatening the already strapped hospitals.

“Because winter is working against us,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, “and we’re seeing a surge of cases.”

Dr. Mokdad, a chief strategist at UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, shared some sobering national statistics from Saturday to make his case.

“So we have 91,000 people with COVID-19 in hospitals,” he said. “Eighteen thousand on ICUs yesterday, and 6,150 on ventilators.”

And even that grim number could double by early January, he says, if traveling continues through December.

Still those at SEA Airport say they are prepared to follow the Governor’s order to quarantine now that they are back home.

“Because I chose to go out,” said Nakasone, “to leave the state, I knew that I was going to have to quarantine when I came back here.”

In fact, it may not have to be for two weeks.

Dr. Mokdad says the CDC is expected to release new guidance in the next few days that travelers can quarantine for just seven days if they get a negative test at the end of that week.