The nation’s top infectious disease expert has warned Americans that even as cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise across the county, the worst is yet to come.
‘We don’t expect to see the full brunt of it [until] between two to three weeks following Thanksgiving,’ he told host Savannah Guthrie.
‘So I think we have not yet seen the post-Thanksgiving peak.’
It comes as new data from roadways and airports reveals that many Americans ignored the pleas of public health experts and traveled for the holiday, only slightly down from the year before.
Dr Anthony Fauci pictured) said, in an interview on TODAY, that the US has not yet seen the worst of the surge in coronavirus cases following Thanksgiving travel
He told host Savannah Guthrie (left) that he expects the peak to come between two and three weeks after the holiday, as people prepare for Christmas
It comes as millions of Americans did not heed warnings and traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday. Pictured: Amtrak commuters at New York Penn Station on November 23
Vehicle travel in early November was as much as 20 percent lower than a year earlier.
However, it surged around the holiday and peaked on Thanksgiving Day, meaning just five percent fewer people drove than during pandemic-free period in 2019, according to StreetLight Data, which provided an analysis to The Associated Press.
This would mean an estimated roughly 52 million traveled by car last week.
‘People were less willing to change their behavior than any other day during the pandemic,’ said Laura Schewel, founder of StreetLight Data.
Airports also saw some of their busiest days of the pandemic, though air travel was much lower than last year.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than one million passengers on four separate days during the Thanksgiving travel period.
At least seven million passed through TSA checkpoints between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday.
Since the pandemic gutted travel in March, there has been only one other day when the number of travelers topped one million people: October 18.
‘If only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, this can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another,’ Dr Cindy Friedman, chief of the travelers’ health branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters during a media call this week.
Wide swaths of the country saw a sudden influx of people arriving from university campuses in the days leading up to the holiday, according to a data visualization of anonymous cellphone data from a firm called Tectonix.
The CDC has urged people to stay home for the holidays, but officials acknowledged that many people would not heed that advice and advised them to get tested before and after trips.
Friedman said that this year’s holidays presented ‘tough choices’ for many families.
New data reveals road traffic around and on Thanksgiving Day was 5% less than the same time last year at 2019. Pictured: Travelers take to the roads ahead of Thanksgiving in Chicago, Illinois, November 24
Between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, at least 7 million passed through TSA checkpoints. Pictured: Airlines passengers at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, November 25
Some people say, however, they have no regrets about traveling.
Trananda Graves, who runs a travel-planning company in Keller, Texas – about 17 miles north of Fort Worth – took a Thanksgiving road trip with her family to Nashville, Tennessee.
It was a chance for her daughter to connect with relatives as they shared recipes, and Graves said everyone’s mood was uplifted.
‘It was just a break to get away from home. We work at home, we go to school at home,’ she told The Associated Press.
She decided to drive to meet extended family after seeing that flights were crowded and said her family followed guidance to avoid spreading infections.
But infections, even from small Thanksgiving gatherings, have begun to stream in.
‘This uptick here is really coming at a time when everyone’s exhausted,’ said Don Lehman, a spokesman for the Warren County Public Health Department in upstate New York.
The county concluded that Thanksgiving gatherings or travel likely caused 40 percent of the 22 cases it reported in the last two days.
That means contact tracers have to figure out where people came from or traveled to and contact health officials in those places.
Lehman said it adds ‘a lot of legwork’ to the contact-tracing process.
The nation’s unwillingness to tamp down on travel offered a warning in advance of Christmas and New Year’s as virus cases, deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs a week after Thanksgiving.
On Friday, the US recorded 217,664 new infections and 2,879 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, the highest numbers ever seen during the pandemic.
Additionally, hospitalizations reached six figures for the first time with 100,667 patients admitted to hospitals as of Friday, The COVID Tracking Project revealed.
On Thursday, officials reported 200,070 new cases and 2,804 new deaths.
‘That’s the concerning thing because the numbers in and of themselves are alarming and then you realize that it is likely we’ll see more of a surge as we get two to three weeks past the Thanksgiving holiday,’ Fauci said.
‘And the thing that concerns me is that abuts right on the Christmas holiday as people start to travel and shop and congregate.
‘So that’s the reason why we plead with them to please as best a you can, uniform wearing of masks, keep distance to the best possible way you can, avoid crowds and congregate settings, particularly indoors, and if you are indoors, always wear your mask.’