Utah (ABC4 News) — The popular term “Home for the Holidays” has taken on a new meaning in 2020.

The holidays are usually a time of year when Utahns pack up and head out to visit family and friends near and far. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has altered many of the year’s anticipated events. The winter holidays are no exception.

Nancy Volmer, Director of Communication and Marketing for the Salt Lake City International Airport, tells ABC4 that officials at the airport were preparing for low travel this holiday season but have seen more travelers than originally expected.

Volmer says there were more than 18,000 passengers coming through the airport Wednesday. “Which is the highest number since the pandemic,” Volmer shares.

Thursday, Christmas Eve, Volmer says the numbers are expected to drop back down to over 10,000 passengers.

The new Salt Lake City International Airport opened in late fall 2020. Numbers are nowhere near what the new airport was expecting for their first year of completion.

Volmer says there are two messages the airport wants to send out to travelers. She says she wants to remind passengers the new airport is open and visitors will need to plan for extra time “to navigate a larger facility.”

She also says all travelers will need to wear a mask, physical distance, and practice good hygiene when traveling through the SLC airport.

This year, the CDC says the safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is at home with the people you live with.

“This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe,” the CDC says.

Yes, it might feel strange staying put for the holidays this year, but the CDC says airports, public transport, gas stations, and train stations can all expose travelers to the virus.

Sgt. Nick Street with the Utah Highway Patrol says with statewide coronavirus guidelines are still in effect. They aren’t expecting much roadway holiday travel this year.

“However, we are preparing with additional enforcement throughout the state,” Sgt. Street says. The week leading up to Christmas and New Year’s, UHP troopers will work 125 extra shifts.

“Those shifts will target speed, seat belt use, impaired drivers, and other criminal violations the troopers encounter,” Sgt. Street adds.

The Utah Department of Health says Utah’s holiday guidelines fall in line with the CDCs. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year,” as stated by the CDC.

If you do plan to travel this season, the Utah Department of Health recommends you ask yourself the following questions before heading out.

  • Is COVID-19 spreading where you are going? You can get infected when you travel.
  • Is COVID-19 spreading in your community? Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can spread COVID-19 to others while traveling.
  • Will you, or people you travel with, be within 6 feet or 2 meters of other people during or after your trip? COVID-19 is mainly spread by close contact with someone who is sick. If you are within 6 feet or 2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) of other people you are more likely to get the virus.
  • Are you or people you are traveling with at higher-risk of getting very sick from COVID-19? Older adults and people of any age who have a serious underlying medical condition are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Do you live with someone who is at higher-risk of getting very sick from COVID-19? If you get infected while you travel you can spread COVID-19 to loved ones when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • Does the state or local government where you live or at your destination require you to stay home for 14 days after traveling? Some state and local governments may require people who have recently traveled to stay home for 14 days.
  • If you get sick with COVID-19, will you have to miss work or school? People with COVID-19 disease need to isolate at home until the health department says they will no longer spread the virus to other people.