More than 1 million people flew through USA airports on Friday, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration, fueling fears of even greater spread of the coronavirus.
Despite a record number of new Covid cases and the Centers for Disease Control recommending against traveling for Thanksgiving, Friday was the second busiest day at USA airports since the pandemic brought air travel to a near halt in March. Saturday's screenings fell just short of that mark, but were enough to bring the two-day total to 2 million. The number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases surged sharply and exceeded 10,000 in California in the past week.
That's still only 42% of the volume screened on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving a year ago, but it marks only the second- and third- busiest days for USA airport traffic since mid-March. The first time was on October 18.
Last week, the CDC cautioned against celebrating the upcoming holiday with people outside of the household, stating that the "safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with".
Meanwhile, many Americans are still expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, despite warnings from health officials. The airlines also insist passengers wear masks. COVID-19 cases are rising exponentially across the country and hospitals in parts of the Midwest and the West, in particular, are once again close to full capacity. The advisory has put the struggling airline and travel industry in the tough position of trying to assure the public of the safety of flying while trying not to openly encourage it.
"The virus is spreading at a rate we haven't seen since the beginning of this pandemic, and the next few days and weeks will be critical to halting the increase", said Gov. Gov. Gavin Newsom. "There's a variety of factors involved in that for each individual traveler".