Over 1M Americans traveled by plane a day after CDC advised against traveling amid surging Covid-19 cases
An estimated 50 million in the US are forecasted to travel for Thanksgiving, the biggest travel surge since the pandemic began
Despite warnings from health experts against traveling for Thanksgiving due to rising Covid-19 cases across the country, airports in the US have recorded a significant increase in passengers. More than 1 million Americans traveled by plane in the US on November 20, a day after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended against travel during the Thanksgiving holiday. This is the first time the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has screened that many people since mid-March.
Stating that gatherings with family and friends who one does not live with can increase the chances of getting or spreading Covid-19 or the flu, the CDC issued guidelines on November 19 which said that postponing travel and staying home is the “best way to protect yourself and others” this year. “One of our concerns is people over the holiday season get together, and they may actually be bringing infection with them to that gathering and not even know it...What’s at stake is basically the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick, and being hospitalized and dying,” explained CDC official Dr Henry Walke.
However, ignoring warnings, 1,019,836 passengers flew in the US on Friday, according to TSA. The number is 1.5 million less than on the same day in 2019. It is also the second-highest number of people to travel by air since the middle of March. On October 18, the TSA reported that 1,031,505 people boarded flights. On November 21, the number of people that passed through US airport checkpoints was 984,369, and it was 907,332 on November 19.
A video that has been circulating on social media showed a packed airport in Phoenix. “I’m an ER doctor in Arizona and our hospitals are being overwhelmed with Covid-19. 7.4 million people & only 174 ICU beds left with healthcare workers calling out sick. Our pleas for help have fallen on selfish deaf ears - this is Phoenix airport,” said a tweet.
I'm an ER doctor in Arizona and our hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID19. 7.4 million people & only 174 ICU beds left with healthcare workers calling out sick. Our pleas for help have fallen on selfish deaf ears - this is Phoenix airport @dougduceypic.twitter.com/7iLbngxHNp— Cleavon MD (@Cleavon_MD) November 21, 2020
While fewer will travel over Thanksgiving this year than a typical season, up to 50 million Americans could be traveling on roads and through airports in the US in 2020, according to AAA Travel, which is the biggest travel surge since the Covid-19 pandemic began. “With health and government officials stressing that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA anticipates at least a 10% drop in travel – the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008,” said the report.
The CDC’s Covid-19 tracker shows that as of November 22, 12,028,081 coronavirus infections have been reported to the agency, which includes over 184,591 new cases.
US in a very difficult situation
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, cautioned that the US was in a “very, very difficult situation at all levels” with infections rising dramatically. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said that Americans’ behavior over Thanksgiving will have critical implications for the coming weeks of the winter season.
“The airlines are trying their best with the way they get the airflow to prevent that. But sometimes when you get on a crowded plane, you’re in a crowded airport, you’re lining up, not everybody's wearing masks, that puts yourself at risk. One of the things we’re really concerned about is that as we get into this Thanksgiving season, you’re not going to see an increase until weeks later. Things lag,” Fauci told the CBS show ‘Face the Nation.’ He added, “So what you don’t want to see is another spike in cases as we get colder and colder into December and then you start dealing with the Christmas holiday. We can be in a very difficult situation. So, you want to tell people to please seriously consider the decisions that you make.”
Dr Fauci emphasized that people are eating and drinking, they have to take their mask off, and those are the kinds of situations that are leading to outbreaks. He suggested that families should do a risk-benefit determination. “If I have someone in my home who’s elderly, someone who has an underlying condition, do I really want to put that person at risk from someone who innocently or inadvertently could infect them? Because we know clearly that people who don’t have symptoms are clearly capable and are transmitting the infection. So just think about it for a moment, the risk now versus the long-range of what you can do if you continue to be healthy,” Dr Fauci explained.