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Nearly 9.5 million Americans traveled by air over 10-day period around Thanksgiving

Nearly 9.5 million Americans took to the skies over the Thanksgiving holiday despite health officials’ warnings that travel would dramatically exacerbate the country’s coronavirus crisis. 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported screening an average of 975,000 travelers per day in the 10-day period from Friday November 20, to Sunday November 29. 

Four days in that period saw more than one million travelers passing through TSA checkpoints with a peak of 1,176,091 on this past Sunday – the largest number since the pandemic took hold in the US in March. 

Over that same 10-day period the total number of confirmed US coronavirus cases rose by more than 1.6 million as experts warned that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings could cause America’s worst surge since the pandemic took hold nine months ago.  

In recent days officials have ramped up calls to avoid travel for Christmas and New Years, even though those same pleas appeared to fall on deaf ears over Thanksgiving. 

Nearly 9.5 million Americans took to the skies over the Thanksgiving holiday despite health officials’ warnings that travel would dramatically exacerbate the country’s coronavirus crisis. The graphic above shows number of passengers screen by the Transportation Security Administration per day between November 20 and November 29 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported screening an average of 975,000 travelers per day in the 10-day period from November 20 to 29. Pictured: Long lines formed at the Delta check in counters at New York's JFK airport on November 23

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported screening an average of 975,000 travelers per day in the 10-day period from November 20 to 29. Pictured: Long lines formed at the Delta check in counters at New York’s JFK airport on November 23 

Four days in that 10-day period saw more than one million travelers passing through TSA checkpoints with a peak of 1,176,091 on this past Sunday - the largest number since the pandemic took hold in the US in March. Pictured: Passengers queue up at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport on the eve of Thanksgiving

Four days in that 10-day period saw more than one million travelers passing through TSA checkpoints with a peak of 1,176,091 on this past Sunday – the largest number since the pandemic took hold in the US in March. Pictured: Passengers queue up at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport on the eve of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving travel was still less than half of what it was last year – with volumes ranging from 35 percent to 45 percent of 2019 volumes during the same 10-day time frame.  

US airlines had anticipated that the Thanksgiving travel period would be the busier than any other point this year, even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning against taking to the skies a week before the holiday.  

The nationwide seven-day rolling average for daily new cases stood at 1,495 on November 20, when the total number of cases and deaths to date were 11,749,127 and 245,704, respectively, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Two weeks later the average had risen to 1,654 on Wednesday, as US totals rose to 13,926,082 cases and 273,848 by Thursday morning.  

It is impossible to determine exactly how many of the 9.5 million people who traveled by air over Thanksgiving were infected at the time.  

However data reviewed by DailyMail.com suggests that it could have been as many as 87,300 infected passengers during that period – given that the rate of new cases in the general US population between November 10 and November 29 was about 0.9 percent. 

DailyMail.com looked at figures dating back to November 10 in light of the fact that the contagious period for COVID-19 is believed to be 10 days.  

It is important to note that the true number of infected passengers could be lower than that estimation, however, because people who show symptoms or have recently tested positive for the virus would be significantly less likely to travel.    

Thanksgiving travel was still less than half of what it was last year - with volumes ranging from 35 percent to 45 percent of 2019 volumes during the same 10-day time frame. Pictured: Crowds wait at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on November 25

Thanksgiving travel was still less than half of what it was last year – with volumes ranging from 35 percent to 45 percent of 2019 volumes during the same 10-day time frame. Pictured: Crowds wait at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on November 25

It is impossible to determine how many of the 9.5 million people who traveled by air over Thanksgiving were infected at the time. Pictured: Passengers arrive at a United gate at San Francisco International Airport on November 25

It is impossible to determine how many of the 9.5 million people who traveled by air over Thanksgiving were infected at the time. Pictured: Passengers arrive at a United gate at San Francisco International Airport on November 25 

The map above shows flights crossing the US two days before Thanksgiving

The map above shows flights crossing the US two days before Thanksgiving  

Experts say it will be a few weeks before the fallout from Thanksgiving travel becomes clear, as COVID-19 symptoms can appear up to two weeks after exposure.  

But they say a surge is likely based on trends from previous holidays including Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, which were each followed by spikes in new cases.  

David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin who has studied the role of travel in the pandemic, expects the same thing to happen after Thanksgiving and leading up to Christmas.

‘Travel is going to be contributing to a bigger surge. What we see in the next couple weeks will tell us a lot about what will happen after Christmas,’ David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin who has studied the role of travel in the pandemic, told the AP. 

‘We’re in the midst of a catastrophe as it is. You don’t need a surge for it to become horrible. The health care systems are already stretched.’ 

A number of leading experts raised alarm about the forthcoming surge over the weekend, including Dr Anthony Fauci, who warned on Sunday that the US could see a ‘surge upon a surge’ of cases in the coming weeks.  

Dr Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, made a similar prediction on Sunday as she advised anyone who traveled for Thanksgiving to assume that they were infected, isolate and get tested.  

The nationwide seven-day rolling average for daily new cases stood at 1,495 on November 20, when the total number of cases and deaths to date were 11,749,127 and 245,704, respectively, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Two weeks later the average had risen to 1,654 on Wednesday, as US totals rose to 13,926,082 cases and 273,848 by Thursday morning

The nationwide seven-day rolling average for daily new cases stood at 1,495 on November 20, when the total number of cases and deaths to date were 11,749,127 and 245,704, respectively, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Two weeks later the average had risen to 1,654 on Wednesday, as US totals rose to 13,926,082 cases and 273,848 by Thursday morning

It’s unclear whether the pleas of experts like Fauci and Birx had any effect on travel and large gatherings at Thanksgiving. 

Some airlines reported a pullback in bookings as virus cases grew in the days before the holiday.

Airlines say the risk of transmission during flights is very low if everyone on board wears a mask. 

Experts on epidemics say even if that is true, travelers can spread the virus once they get off the plane.

Before the latest surge in infections, airlines had added more flights for Thanksgiving, hoping for the same kind of boost in travel they saw over the July 4 and Labor Day holidays. 

They ended up canceling some of those flights, however, and demand is expected to fall back in early December before another potential pick-up in travel around Christmas.

Experts say it will be a few weeks before the fallout from Thanksgiving travel becomes clear, as COVID-19 symptoms can appear up to two weeks after exposure. But they say a surge is likely based on trends from previous holidays including Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, which were each followed by spikes in new cases

Experts say it will be a few weeks before the fallout from Thanksgiving travel becomes clear, as COVID-19 symptoms can appear up to two weeks after exposure. But they say a surge is likely based on trends from previous holidays including Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, which were each followed by spikes in new cases 

The White House coronavirus task force issued one of its strongest warnings yet in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday, writing in its latest situation report to states that ‘the COVID risk to all Americans is at an historic high’. 

‘We are in a very dangerous place,’ the task force said in the report, sent to states Tuesday, and obtained by NBC News. 

The report is sent every week to states and regularly paints a much darker picture of the US coronavirus crisis than is presented by the public faces of President Donald Trump’s task force. 

It warned that the post-Thanksgiving surge of infections and hospitalizations threatens to ‘compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall’. 

New cases per capita are shown on a map in the report, in which nearly the entire US appears as one giant hotspot, with 19 states including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and New Mexico, ranking as top areas of concern after reporting at least 500 new cases per every 100,000 residents last week. 

A second map shows 27 states, including the Dakota, New Mexico and Montana, suffered more than 100 deaths per 100,000 residents last week.  

It comes after Dr Scott Atlas, President Trump’s divisive appointee to the task force resigned on Monday – the same night that the president hosted the first of his 20 planned lavish Christmas parties, where Trump teased a 2024 election run in front of a crowd of mostly maskless guests. 

The White House task force went so far as to tell local health officials that they ‘must’ alert the public of the risk of coronavirus directly if state officials don’t enact policies and recommendations to protect people from coronavirus, effectively directing health officials to go over the heads of other government authorities. 

The White House coronavirus task force’s latest report warns that ‘the COVID threat to all Americans is at an historic high’ as it reveals that 19 US states saw more than 500 new cases for every 100,000 residents last week 

A second map from the White House report shows 27 states, including the Dakota, New Mexico and Montana, suffered more than 100 deaths per 100,000 residents last week

A second map from the White House report shows 27 states, including the Dakota, New Mexico and Montana, suffered more than 100 deaths per 100,000 residents last week 

On Tuesday, the US recorded its highest single-day death toll since April 30 with 2,597 fatalities, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. 

For the fourth day in a row, the number of Americans hospitalized for COVID-19 hit a record-high on Tuesday, with 98,691 people getting inpatient treatment, data from the Covid Tracking Project show.  

‘I have no doubt that we’re going to see a climbing death toll…and that’s a horrific and tragic place to be,’ Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the AP. 

‘It’s going to be a very dark couple of weeks.’ 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Robert Redfield issued a still more dire warning, said that winter could be ‘the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation’ on Wednesday. 

‘The reality is, December and January and February are going to be rough times.’  

Climbing deaths and hospitalizations in the US underscore the urgent need to get a coronavirus vaccine approved – but Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisors aren’t scheduled to decide whether to give emergency authorization to Pfizer’s jab until next week, despite the shot getting the green light from officials in the UK.

In the meantime, CDC officials shortened quarantine times for people who have been exposed to coronavirus from two weeks to seven days with a negative test or 10 days without a test – but warned Americans not to travel for the upcoming holidays in a feeble attempt to prevent another ‘superspreading’ event after Thanksgiving.  




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