Millions of Americans are traveling for Thanksgiving despite coronavirus surges across the U.S., although travel is still down significantly this year due to the pandemic.
About 1.04 million people passed through security checkpoints at airports on Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration said, marking the highest volume of travelers since mid-March. That number is still less than half the number of airport travelers from the same weekend in 2019.
The entire U.S. is seeing a seven-day average of more than 173,000 new coronavirus cases, and almost 86,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with the illness. The current outbreak is taking place largely in “micropolitan” areas, or small urban clusters, and rural areas.
Typically, more Americans travel for Thanksgiving than any other holiday, with over 50 million domestic travelers on last year’s Thanksgiving day alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against traveling this year to avoid contracting coronavirus.
“Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the agency warns. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”
However, Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, told reporters on Thursday that Americans are currently experiencing coronavirus “fatigue” and that a significant number would continue to travel for the holiday.
“Americans in our research are telling us they are tired of being at home,” Dow said, in comments reported by NPR. “They don’t want to give up taking trips, and they also want to see their friends and family.”
A number of states, including New York, Oregon, and Michigan have instituted a ten-person limit on private gatherings, and Oregon governor Kate Brown has encouraged the state’s residents to call the police on neighbors who they suspect are violating the limit.