It was thoughtful of them to wait until seven days before Thanksgiving, after plane tickets have been purchased and cars rented, to offer this advice.

Then again, anyone who was willing to risk COVID by traveling this year isn’t listening to the CDC anyway.

The timing of this announcement is even more interesting than the substance. The CDC has been a very minor player in the Trump administration’s public messaging on coronavirus. Now here it is, two weeks after an election that he lost, suddenly asserting itself. I wonder if our lame-duck president got a heads-up that it was planning to announce this or if it just did it knowing that there isn’t much he can do to stop it anymore. What’s he going to do, fire the whole agency? It’ll be rehired on January 20.

“[The] CDC is recommending against travel in the Thanksgiving period,” said Henry Walke, the CDC’s director of the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, on a pre-holiday briefing call with reporters Thursday. “This is a strong recommendation”

“It’s a difficult conversation and sometimes a sad one,” to tell people you are staying home, added Walke, noting people would put their families at risk by traveling to meet them…

“Most important, wear a mask,” said Walke, emphasizing the need to keep six feet away from other travelers and wash hands frequently. College students should consider returning home 14 days ahead of any gathering that will host elderly or ill guests at high risk of disease, and isolating themselves to limit the risks of transmitting coronavirus.

Again, Thanksgiving is seven days away.

A survey released last week showed nearly 40 percent of Americans plan to gather in groups of 10 or more on Thanksgiving this year. Despite the insane levels of infection across the U.S. right now, more than 10 percent of the population is expected to be in transit next week:

Last year, around 55 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving. AAA forecast a 10% decline in holiday travel this year, to 50.6 million. Air travel is expected to drop by half—but that still means about 2.4 million people making their way through airports.

“For the holidays, I do really worry that people just don’t understand how serious it is right now,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist and professor at George Mason University. “What we’re seeing in the U.S. is basically uncontrolled growth in cases.”…

If two households are going to celebrate together, Dr. Rutherford recommends they do so outside and at two separate tables. No buffets, either. And masks should go back on right after the final bite.

I don’t know, buddy. I don’t foresee too many outdoor meals in the northern half of the country in late November when the sun is going down at around 5 p.m.

Increasingly the public’s insistence on going ahead with Thanksgiving as usual despite the unfathomable damage it’ll do feels like Trump fans cheering on the president’s increasingly blatant attempt at a coup against the duly elected incoming administration. First, you think, “They’re not really going to let this happen.” Then you wait and wait, and you realize they really are going to let this happen, and there’s nothing that can be said to reason with them. The country’s on fire, and they’re going to back up a tanker truck full of gasoline to it and just open the hatch.

Deaths yesterday were the highest since May 7, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Last week, I flagged Trevor Bedford’s projection that we’ll reach 2,000 per day by early December, but that estimate now appears optimistic.

Note the dramatic difference in that image between the case curve and the death curve. Deaths lag cases by several weeks; if we’re seeing an incredibly steep rise in cases today, we should be seeing an incredibly steep rise in deaths three weeks or so from now. And that’s before we have a big national COVID pox party on Thanksgiving.

There’s no telling how bad things might be by mid-December. If I were a doctor, already stressed to the brink and knowing that much of the public was hellbent on making things worse because they can’t be bothered to miss a family get-together, I’d be tempted to quit. It’s one thing to face a crisis when everyone’s working together to limit it. When 40 percent of the population isn’t working to limit it, and in fact, is actively working to make it worse, why should you put yourself and your family at risk to help? If they don’t care, you’re under no obligation to care.

The reason the timing of today’s announcement is interesting is that, for the first time in more than six months, Trump’s COVID task force is giving a press briefing this afternoon.

I assume they’re doing that with the president’s authorization. I also assume that the head of the task force, Scott Atlas, will be there — which will make for some confused messaging since Atlas was last seen on Fox News a few days ago telling people that they *should* have grandma over for Thanksgiving. I can’t imagine how today’s CDC guidance will be reconciled with that at the briefing. And I wonder: Maybe the CDC can’t imagine it either. Maybe it rushed out its guidance on not traveling for the holiday because it’s worried that Atlas, in his malign focus on herd immunity, will give some terrible advice this afternoon. The only way it could mitigate it was by rushing out its own advice to the contrary so that the media will need to report on both. Stay tuned.