Nearly 4 million people have passed through US airports in the last four days as Americans disregard calls to avoid Thanksgiving travel as COVID-19 deaths and cases surge across the country.
The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 917,354 people at airports across the country on Monday. While that figure is still down almost 60 percent than the same date last year, those numbers haven’t been seen consistently since coronavirus lockdowns hit in mid-March.
The number of travelers on Monday adds to the more than three million that passed through airports over the weekend.
It means an average of close to one million people have passed through airports per day since the CDC urged Americans not to travel or spend the holiday with people outside their household.
The crowds are only expected to grow with Thanksgiving just two days away.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to crack down on people who violate the mandatory travel quarantine orders when arriving in New York, saying there will be pre and post Thanksgiving blitzes and fines of up to $1,000 for those who violate it.
Large crowds were seen waiting to board flights in Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport on Monday despite calls to avoid Thanksgiving travel as COVID-19 deaths and cases surge across the country
The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 917,354 people at airports across the country on Monday. While that figure is still down almost 60 percent than the same date last year, those numbers haven’t been seen consistently since coronavirus lockdowns hit in mid-March
Under New York’s travel quarantine order, people arriving in the state need to have a negative COVID-19 test three days before arriving, isolate for three days and then test negative again. If they don’t have the two negative COVID-19 tests, they are required to quarantine for 14 days.
De Blasio also said there will be increased personnel confirming if travelers have filled out the out-of-state traveler forms at airports, train stations and bus stops across the city before and after Thanksgiving.
He said the sheriff will also conduct car and bus spot checks. Currently, the National Guard is helping to screen passengers arriving at the various airports by ensuring they all complete the traveler forms.
De Blasio said that people who are caught not quarantining or refuse to do so will be fined up to $1,000 for every day they break it.
It comes as long lines were spotted at check in counters at JFK airport in New York on Monday and large crowds were seen waiting to board flights in Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport.
Meanwhile, huge lines also continue to form outside health clinics across New York City as people wait to get tested ahead of Thanksgiving.
The CDC issued guidance late last week strongly recommending that Americans do not travel during the Thanksgiving holiday to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as cases, hospitalizations and death spike across the country.
Dr Anthony Fauci has again urged American to reconsider their Thanksgiving travel plans and gatherings.
‘You might want to reconsider travel plans, and certainly try as best as you can to keep congregate meetings indoors – as innocent and wonderful as they sound – to a minimal number of people, preferably just members of a household,’ Fauci told the Washington Post.
Travelers are spread out across the country with this large crowd seen waiting to board flights at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport on Monday
Long lines formed at the Delta check in counters at New York’s JFK airport on Monday
Passengers wait to check in at Tom Bradley international terminal at LAX airport on Monday
Long lines of cars were spotted outside Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday
‘I know this is a difficult thing to do, but we’re in a very difficult situation, so it’s better to be careful now and look forward to many, many more in the future, then either endangering yourself or a vulnerable member of your family or friends.’
As governors and mayors grapple with an out-of-control pandemic, they are ratcheting up mask mandates and imposing restrictions on small indoor gatherings across the country.
While many Americans are undoubtedly heeding public health advice – downsizing Thanksgiving plans, avoiding get-togethers, wearing masks when they’re around people who don’t live with them – it’s inevitable that a segment of the population will blow off new state and local restrictions.
Experts say that could put greater stress on overburdened hospitals and lead to an even bigger spike in sickness and death over the holidays.
It comes as the US recorded its biggest weekly rise in COVID-19 deaths since August, increasing 32 percent from the previous week to average about 1,500 people per day.
The number of new cases nationally, which have been surging for weeks, increased by 13 percent last week or an average of more than 168,000 per day.
In response, elected officials are imposing restrictions that, with some exceptions, fall short of the broad-based stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns seen in the spring.
Utah and Vermont have banned all social gatherings. So have local governments in Philadelphia and Dane County, Wisconsin. In Kentucky, no more than eight people from two households are permitted to get together; in Oregon, the gathering limit is six. California has imposed an overnight curfew.
More states are also requiring masks, including those with GOP governors who have long resisted them, including North Dakota.
People wait in line for a COVID-19 testing at a CitiMD health clinic in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Tuesday as people get tested before Thanksgiving
Huge lines continue to form outside health clinics across New York City as people wait to get tested ahead of Thanksgiving. Pictured is Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Tuesday
The current rolling seven-day average for deaths is currently 1,500, which is the highest since mid-May during the initial peak of the virus. If that trajectory continues, the US would reach 300,000 deaths in less than a month
More than 257,600 Americans have now died from COVID-19 and there have been 12.4 million infections across the country
As Thanksgiving approaches, many travelers are unwilling to miss out on seeing family and are convinced they can do it safely. Also, many colleges have ended their in-person classes, propelling students to return home.
Laurie Pearcy, director of administration for a Minneapolis law firm, is flying to New Orleans to attend her daughter’s bridal shower and have a small Thanksgiving dinner with her son.
‘I don’t want to unknowingly make anyone sick. But I also don’t want to miss this special event for my only daughter,’ she said.
Stephen Browning, a retired executive from Tucson, Arizona, will be flying to Seattle for Thanksgiving with his sister. The celebration usually has up to 30 people; this year only 10 are coming, and everyone was asked to get a coronavirus test. He doesn’t plan on removing his mask to eat or drink on the flight.
‘This is my first flight since December 2019, so yes, I have concerns,’ he said. ‘But I think most airlines are acting responsibly now and enforcing masks on all flights.’
Meanwhile, Josh Holman and his family were planning to fly to Lake Tahoe and spend Thanksgiving with his brother, who lives in San Francisco, and his parents, who live in North Dakota but they scrapped those plans.
‘I see it as my civic duty not to spread this virus further,’ said Holman, an assistant county prosecutor who lives outside Detroit.
More people tend to drive than fly over Thanksgiving, but even car travel is expected to see a drop-off, according to AAA. Based on surveys in mid-October, the association was expecting 47.8 million people to drive to Thanksgiving gatherings, down 4% from last year. But AAA said the drop could prove to be even bigger, given the worsening crisis.
Brad Carr and his wife, retirees who live in Griffin, Georgia, debated whether to drive 35 miles north to his son’s house for Thanksgiving and eat at a separate table on the porch. But after the CDC’s announcement, they decided to stay home. Carr’s son will deliver their meal ‘a la Uber Eats’ Carr said.