Sunday Was Busiest Day For U.S. Air Travel Since March, Fueling COVID-19 Surge Fears
The TSA screened 1,176,091 individuals at security checkpoints on Sunday, the highest number since March 16 when 1,257,823 people were screened, according to data compiled by the agency.
The week of Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the busiest travel times of the year. By comparison, 2,882,915 people were screened the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019 ― the highest volume ever in TSA history.
Since March 16, TSA agents have screened a million passengers or more on only five days. Four of those days occurred within the last 10 days. (The fifth was on Oct. 18. ― the Sunday after Columbus Day.)
Millions of people traveled in the U.S. in the days ahead of Thanksgiving despite guidance from public health officials that urged Americans not to travel or gather in large groups to celebrate the holiday.
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been on the rise in recent months, with public health officials warning those numbers will get worse before they get better, citing “COVID fatigue” and holiday gatherings.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert on the White House’s coronavirus task force, predicted Sunday that there could be a “surge upon a surge” of COVID-19 cases as a result of millions of Americans traveling during the holiday season.
“There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what’s happened with the travel,” Fauci told ABC’s “This Week.” “We may see a surge upon a surge. We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s just the reality.”
The true effect of Thanksgiving travel likely won’t begin showing up in data until the second week of December. That’s because there are often delays in tracing and reporting the virus’s spread, and it can take time for symptoms to appear, for people to get tested and for them to receive results.
As of Monday, at least 3,338 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. At least 10 have died as a result of the virus, the TSA reported.
It’s unlikely the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will relax its holiday gathering guidelines ahead of Christmas, Fauci said Sunday.
He pleaded with Americans to “hang in there a bit longer” when it comes to COVID-19 mitigation measures, including wearing masks, avoiding crowds and washing hands.
“Help is on the way” in the form of efficacious vaccines, with the first doses expected to arrive in the next few weeks, he said.
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