While public health officials have warned against traveling this Thanksgiving, many Americans are going ahead with their plans. This could have deadly effects, possibly fueling a dangerous surge in coronavirus cases.
While this year’s number of travelers to pass through airport security is 60% lower than last year, TSA still saw 1 million passengers pass through security gates this past Sunday. This served as the second time in just three days that U.S. air travel screenings surpassed 1 million, the highest number seen since March.
Flying is not the only form of transportation that has seen an increase. 40 to 50 million will be driving over the holiday, according to the American Automobile Association. Last year at this time, 55 million travelers used highways.
While the lingering virus is a frightening thought to most, spending time with family is worth the risk to many.
“I’m really scared, but seeing family is very important to me,” said 18-year-old California State University Long Beach student Hannah Osnan, as he waited in line for a COVID-19 diagnostic test at Los Angeles International Airport.
As holiday travel continues to soar, so are COVID-19 cases. The United States is now seeing a record 168,000 new cases per day on average. Hospitalizations related to the virus have shot up nearly 50% in just a two-week span. More than 257,000 Americans have died from the lethal virus, with over 12 million having tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic.
Many travelers are feeling a sense of security due to coronavirus vaccines hitting the market in December. However, officials warn that now is not the time to do away with safety protocols, including quarantining and social distancing.
“There is so much community transmission all over the United States that the chances of you encountering somebody that has COVID-19 is actually very, very high, whether it’s on an airplane, at the airport or at a rest area,” said Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious-disease epidemiologist for New York City hospitals.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, echoed these sentiments during CBS’ “Face the Nation” saying that people at airports “are going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”