WebMD News Brief

Millions Traveled for Thanksgiving Holiday

crowded airport

November 30, 2020 -- Millions of Americans traveled through airports for Thanksgiving weekend, logging the highest numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared mid-March, according to checkpoint numbers reported by the Transportation Security Administration.

Almost 1.18 million people traveled Sunday, which marked the highest day since COVID-19 pandemic restrictions began. The second-highest day was November 25, the day before the holiday, with almost 1.07 million traveling.

Numbers dropped to half a million on Thanksgiving and jumped up again after that, hitting nearly 1 million on Saturday as travelers returned home.

Additionally, AAA had estimated that despite CDC warnings to stay home, 50 million Americans would hit the roads over the holidays, a decrease of just 10 percent from previous years.

At a time when 44 states are reporting record cases, public health officials are concerned about the travel and a potential surge in coronavirus cases as well as hospitalizations. Those who traveled for Thanksgiving should get tested, Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House testing chief and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Sunday.

“Just remember you’ve had an increased risk of being exposed, so you should decrease unnecessary activities for about a week, and if you can get tested in three or five days, that’s also a very good idea,” he said during CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Giroir added that he’s concerned that travelers may have let their guard down in their desire to share the holidays.

“There certainly can be a surge because of the travel and the mixing of people who have not been in their own little pods,” he said. “We are at a risky time because of the travel, and again, it’s not just the travel but it’s exposing people who have not been sort of in their own pods.”

COVID-19 numbers will likely rise in the coming weeks as cases and hospitalizations are reported, which could look like a “surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday.

The U.S. reported more than 100,000 coronavirus cases for 25 days in a row through Friday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Hospitalizations reached an all-time high on Saturday with more than 91,600 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the country.

“I don’t want to frighten people except to say it’s not too late at all for us to do something about this,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Fauci urged Americans to be careful while traveling home and when they arrive. Although the initial doses of vaccines may be available for health care workers and long-term care facilities by the end of December, he said, people need to become increasingly careful throughout the end of the year to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We are going to have to make decisions as a nation, state, city and family that we are in a very difficult time,” he said. “We’re going to have to do the kinds of restrictions of things we would have liked to have done, particularly in this holiday season, because we’re entering into what’s really a precarious situation.”

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Transportation Security Administration, “TSA checkpoint travel numbers for 2020 and 2019, updated Nov. 28, 2020.”
CNN, “White House testing czar says Americans who traveled during Thanksgiving should get tested
COVID Tracking Project, “U.S. historical data, updated Nov. 28, 2020.”
NBC News, “Fauci warns Thanksgiving travel could make current Covid surge worse.”
AAA Newsroom “Fewer Americans Traveling This Thanksgiving amid Pandemic”
 

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