Despite a bevy of warnings from health experts and federal agencies to avoid travel on Thanksgiving, nearly 1.2 million people were screened at airports Sunday — the largest recorded total since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in March.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 1,176,091 people at airport checkpoints Sunday, agency data shows, as holiday travelers returned home from across the country.
At least 1 million people were screened on four of the last 10 days through Sunday, according to TSA data, though that total still pales in comparison to last year’s numbers, when more than 2 million people were counted daily.
One week before Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued urgent recommendations to avoid traveling for the holiday.
“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” said the CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz at the time.
New coronavirus cases in the United States have surpassed 4 million in November alone, and hospitalizations — including on Staten Island — are surging across the country. Hospitalizations are five times higher in the borough compared to the beginning of the month, the Advance/SILive.com reported earlier today.
The rise in air travel comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Sunday that the U.S. could see “surge upon a surge” of coronavirus cases.
“Travel is going to be contributing to a bigger surge,” he said. “What we see in the next couple weeks will tell us a lot about what will happen after Christmas. We’re in the midst of a catastrophe as it is. You don’t need a surge for it to become horrible. The health care systems are already stretched.”
He said he does not expect travel recommendations to be relaxed by Christmas.
Studies have shown that air travel can be safer than other everyday activities, such as grocery shopping, as long as masks are worn consistently. However, it is unclear if the recommendations of health experts made any effect on large gatherings once travelers reached their destinations.
The United States has reported more than 13.5 million coronavirus cases since the onset of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s death toll exceeded 267,000 on Monday.
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