This weekend marked the most air traffic seen in US airports since the start of the pandemic. While on the surface, it would seem that many are disregarding the advice of public health experts, but data shows many, if not most, are heeding advice set forth in recent weeks.
Last week, the CDC advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, and instead opt for virtual Thanksgiving gatherings, or limit celebrations to those within the same household. The guidance comes amid a record surge of COVID-19 throughout the United States, with an average of 1,400 coronavirus-related deaths per day in the US in the last week.
With hospitals already reaching capacity in many states, there are fears that holiday travel will cause hospitals to go over capacity.
According to TSA data 1,019,836 travelers passed through security checkpoints in US airports on Friday. While Friday was just the second day that air traffic surpassed 1 million domestically since March, the same day last year had 2.5 million travelers.
On Sunday, 1.05 million travelers passed through security checkpoints, the most since March, but the same day last year had over 2.3 million passengers. The data indicates that air travel is down at least 50% in the days leading up to Thanksgiving compared to years past.
While fewer travelers might mean airports are less crowded, that does not mean planes are less packed. A number of airlines have slashed the number of routes in an effort to save money. This has resulted in fewer options for passengers.
As there are still many Americans disregarding guidance to stay home this Thanksgiving, some are traveling for practical reasons. Many colleges and universities are not going to have in-person classes resume after Thanksgiving in hopes of reducing the spread of the virus on campuses.
Although not as many Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving as usual, 56% of Americans are intending on traveling according to data from Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor says that this year's figures are down from an estimated 70% of Americans traveling in 2019.
Tripadvisor surveyed Americans from October 16 to 20, so it is possible increased travel restrictions associated with a rise in cases could scare off some from traveling by Thanksgiving. Many states are telling travelers to quarantine for two weeks before coming into contact with others.
In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that if Americans don't follow common-sense public health measures over the Thanksgiving holiday, that it could exacerbate the current spike in cases. He said that within two or three weeks, the already steep spike in cases could become even steeper.
"The chances are that you will see a surge superimposed on a surge," Fauci said.