Traffic on Northbound 270 near Interstate 70.

As Maryland and much of the country see a rise in COVID-19 numbers and experts warn against large gatherings for Thanksgiving, holiday travel is expected to drop significantly, according to AAA.

The group expects at least a 10 percent decrease in travel from the 55 million Americans who travelled for the holiday in 2019, the largest drop since the Great Recession in 2008.

“It’s not a typical holiday. It really isn’t,” Ragina Ali, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said Friday.

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Even the numbers predicting the 10 percent drop were based on forecasts from the middle of October, before the rise in COVID cases that have alarmed officials including Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and County Executive Jan Gardner (D).

“The public health landscape has changed substantially during that time,” Ali said.

On Tuesday, Hogan announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants, citing the rise in cases in the state.

And on Thursday, with cases in the county expected to reach an all-time high, the Frederick County Board of Health set mask requirements and other regulations to help fight the rise in cases.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released recommendations for people traveling during the holidays, including limiting the number of people at a Thanksgiving gathering to allow people space to properly social distance.

Hogan and other experts have talked about how many cases have come from family gatherings and other small get-togethers, Ali said.

If people do decide to travel, they need to check things such as the number of cases, travel restrictions, and requirements for quarantining for both the state to which they’ll be traveling and their own state to which they’ll be returning, she said.

Time will tell how many families respond to the recommendations from Hogan and others, said John Fieseler, executive director of Visit Frederick.

He said the AAA estimate for reduced travel sounds like a safe bet, and he expects to see fewer large gatherings.

Thanksgiving is also the kick-off to many holiday events, which will probably also see smaller crowds than in normal years, Fieseler said.

That may just be a part of life in 2020.

“We all want the businesses to survive and to not see more restrictions. And to do that, we have to keep the numbers under control,” Fieseler said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at

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