Millions of Americans were home for the holidays, and a pandemic-record number took to the air to reach their destinations as COVID-19 infections continued to surge.
Despite the travel warnings, 1,284,599 airline passengers passed through the nation’s airports on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). Sunday’s volume topped any single-day number since March 15, before the pandemic took hold in the U.S.
The entire holiday season has seen a major uptick in passengers, largely ignoring experts’ requests not to travel, with the TSA reporting that more than 10 million people have flown since Dec. 18.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued warnings against travel over the holidays due to the threat of a continued coronavirus spread. “The best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager said in a news briefing early this month. “Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing. Deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase.”
Americans certainly feel the pandemic fatigue and, with uncertainty as to just how dangerous air travel really is, many believe they aren’t courting disaster.
Similar warnings were in place for Thanksgiving and, according to National Public Radio, it was unclear whether travel during that time caused a spike in cases. It reported that in some areas, there appeared to be a surge, while in others, there wasn’t.
The 2020 holiday season travel numbers are well below a typical year, with daily traffic usually between 2 and 3 million passengers per day at airport security checkpoints. Sunday’s figure is about half that number of fliers from the same day a year ago.