Minnesotans Travel for Thanksgiving Despite Walz Warning

Minnesota ranks as one of the most compliant states in the country when it comes to wearing protective masks with 93 percent of the public falling in line as measured in one national survey. But Gov. Tim Walz’s appeal for state residents to stay home on Thanksgiving because of the COVID-19 pandemic brought out their independent streak.

Many Minnesotans joined an estimated 50 million Americans in choosing to be with friends and family over going along with government warnings against traveling, according to the Star Tribune.

Traffic at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was occasionally brisk Wednesday as travelers hurried to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family — despite warnings from health officials to stay home as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread.

“I did go through a period where I wondered if I should travel or not, and I just came to peace with it,” said April Fenn of Victoria, who was headed to Cleveland to visit family.

While nowhere near close to the usual number of passengers at MSP for Thanksgiving, it was the heaviest flow of travelers at the airport since the virus decimated the airline industry.

This weekend, footage of packed airport terminals across the country — widely shared on social media — shocked some but caused others to shrug. MSP has initiated several safety measures, including a requirement that passengers wear masks.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nationally screened nearly 4 million passengers between Saturday and Tuesday, the highest level since last spring but far less than last year. The federal agency doesn’t release local data.

Many on the move were college students, eager to put mileage between themselves and a socially distanced fall semester they’d just as soon forget.

St. Olaf College sophomore Abdou Ghanim, who was heading home Wednesday to Egypt for winter break, said flying wasn’t any more worrisome than being at school.

“Back on campus everybody’s living together so I would have been worried about that, being in close encounters with everyone, and there is a much higher risk there, I think, contracting COVID than traveling,” Ghanim said.

The cautious yet deliberate decision of so many to put government travel warnings in perspective and make the decision to go home for Thanksgiving anyway may or may not mark a turning point. But at a minimum it points to a healthy skepticism among many Minnesotans toward Gov. Walz’s latest attempt to limit their lifestyle.