More than 2 million airline passengers were screened by Transportation Security Administration personnel on Friday and Saturday, while Americans were supposed to be curbing Thanksgiving holiday travel to help stem the skyrocketing spread of COVID-19.
More than 1 million flyers were screened Friday, only the second day since March to hit a million airline passengers, according to the TSA.
The worrisome travel indicator emerged as the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on Sunday that people crowded at airports are “going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”
The real toll of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings won’t be known for weeks, but heedless Americans will further fuel the pandemic as it spirals further out of control heading into colder weather and the December holidays, Fauci said on “Face The Nation” on CBS.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this month that virtual holiday celebrations would be safest, especially as COVID-19 cases and deaths surge to new records. The agency issued an even stronger caution on Thursday, urging people to celebrate Thanksgiving at home with those who have been living in their households for at least 14 days.
“As we’re seeing exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said in a call with reporters.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN that he expects the busiest travel days are yet to come: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday afterward. Travel on Friday was 40% of the number of flyers the Friday before Thanksgiving last year ― but that was before COVID-19.
More than a quarter-million Americans have died of COVID-19. The nation hit a single-day record Friday, with nearly 200,000 new confirmed cases. It also reached a single-day record for hospitalization on Saturday, with more than 83,000 people checked into hospitals with COVID-19.
“I think these times are tough. It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired, and we understand that people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it,” Walke said. “But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible, and limit their travel.”