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Millions Travel for Thanksgiving despite COVID-19 Warning

MIAMI – Major airports in the United States have seen a dramatic increase in passengers in recent days even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving amid the surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The Transportation Safety Agency (TSA), which is responsible for security at US airports, said that 917,354 people went through checkpoints on Monday.

On Sunday, the TSA checkpoint count topped 1 million for only the third time since the pandemic took hold in the US in March.

Flying is down sharply from the levels of 2019, when more than 2.3 million travelers went through TSA security checks on the Friday before Thanksgiving, which is observed on the fourth Thursday in November.

But the absolute number of travelers remains high in light of the course of the pandemic, as the US leads the world in coronavirus deaths, 258,000, and cases, 12.5 million.

All but one of the 50 US states – Hawaii – is now dealing with uncontrolled spread of the virus, according to the website COVIDExitStrategy.org.

“More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days. As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC said last week.

Miami International Airport has seen an average of 62,000 passengers a day since last Friday and that figure is expected to reach 80,000 by the end of the four-day holiday weekend, spokesman Jack Varela.

Total passenger traffic this week is expected to be 621,000, or around half the level in 2019, he said.

Roughly 40,000 passengers a day flew in or out of Miami in October, compared with some 3,000 daily in March and April, Varela said.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that starting Wednesday, all arriving air passengers will be required to provide their personal information and sign forms pledging to quarantine for 14 days.

Videos of packed departure lounges at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport circulated on social media last weekend.

Analysts with the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimate that the combination of coronavirus worries and the economic dislocations caused by the pandemic will reduce the volume of holiday travel by at least 10 percent.

That would be the largest year-on-year drop since the Great Recession in 2008.

AAA said that it expects a maximum of 50 million people to travel for Thanksgiving, down from 55 million in 2019.

“The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement.

AAA’s forecast calls for the number of air travelers to plunge 47.5 percent compared with last year, while the volume of holiday motorists will slip by 4.3 percent.


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