Millions of Americans are carrying on with their travel plans ahead of Thanksgiving weekend despite the CDC’s urgent warnings to stay home as the number of daily cases and hospitalizations in the country continue to hit record highs.
More than 193,000 new infections were recorded in the US on Friday – breaking the previous record for the largest single-day spike on Thursday – and over 82,000 patients are now hospitalized across the country.
Daily deaths also skyrocketed to 2,015, the highest number of fatalities per day since May during the initial peak of the virus, according to health data from Johns Hopkins University.
The alarming surge shows the nation is facing a second wave of the coronavirus this winter that could be more dangerous and widespread than the initial outbreak earlier this year.
‘When you look at what’s happening now, the rate of rise is dramatically different,’ White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr Deborah Birx told CNN. ‘This is faster. It’s broader. And what worries me, it could be longer.’
It has also sparked fears among health experts that Thanksgiving travel and holiday gatherings next week will only fuel the spread of the virus and prolong the length of the pandemic.
PHOENIX: In Arizona, travelers were seen crowding the gates at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor on Friday where one person described the scene ‘about as crowded as it was before COVID hit’
PHOENIX: Passenger Ed Westerfield shared footage of travelers at the terminal as he boarded a flight to Puerto Vallarta
PHOENIX: Some passengers said they weren’t even aware of the CDC’s recommendations while others said they planned to travel nonetheless
Fears of a Thanksgiving surge have prompted many states and cities to impose near-lockdowns or other restrictions ahead of the holiday – typically the busiest travel day of the year in the United States
With the holidays around the corner, Dr Birx said Americans should help mitigate the spread of infection by limiting their Thanksgiving gatherings to immediate family members, rather than a maximum number of people.
The CDC on Thursday also recommended people avoid traveling during the holiday and advised against gathering with anyone who has not lived in the same household for at least 14 days, the incubation period for the virus.
Despite experts’ warnings, millions of Americans are going forward with their travel plans, with photos showing large crowds at airports across the country ahead of the holiday weekend.
Long lines of passengers were seen snaking around terminals at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Friday with little social distancing practices observed.
In Arizona, travelers were seen crowding the gates at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor, where one described the scene ‘about as crowded as it was before COVID hit.’
‘This is just jam-packed,’ said passenger Ed Westerfield, who shared footage of travelers boarding a flight to Puerto Vallarta.
Some passengers told KTVK they weren’t even aware of the travel advice from the CDC, while others said they still planned to travel nonetheless.
Curt Vurpillat, who was flying to Chicago, said the recommendation amid the surge of cases didn’t ‘trouble him at all.’
‘Not that I don’t think it’s real, but I have a life to live and things to do, so we take necessary precautions,’ he told the news station.
Similar scenes unfolded earlier this week at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey where passengers were seen lining up at check-in counters without keeping the recommended six-foot distance from others.
It comes ahead the annual Thanksgiving rush on the day before the holiday which is typically the busiest travel day of the year in the United States.
CHICAGO: Long lines of passengers were seen snaking around terminals at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Friday with little social distancing practices observed
CHICAGO: The recent weeks’ soaring numbers of coronavirus cases in Illinois prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reimpose harsher restrictions on social interaction. Pictured: Travelers at Chicago O’Hare on Friday
CHICAGO: People walk through a terminal as other wait in line at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Friday
This year, shares in airlines and hotel companies have plummeted since the outbreak began as government officials have advised against unnecessary travel.
According to the AAA travel agency, the number of travelers this Thanksgiving is estimated to dip by at least 10 per cent – the largest single-year drop since 2008 – to 50million.
With the CDC new recommendations, it expects that number now to be even lower.
However, the travel advice however is only a ‘strong recommendation’ not a requirement, meaning there will be millions who will travel regardless.
‘Hopefully, they will put in place some common-sense measures to limit the damage the virus can cause,’ Dr Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said.
The agency estimates 47.8million Americans will still travel for the holiday by car and another 2.4million will fly.
NEW JERSEY: Little social distancing was seen among passengers lining up at Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday
LAX: Travelers wait to check baggage for an American Airlines flight during the Covid-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on November 18
PHILADELPHIA: Travelers make their way through the 30th Street Station ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Friday,
Health workers’ open letter urging Americans to scale back holiday gatherings amid COVID-19 surge
An open letter to the American people:
With Thanksgiving and the holiday season fast approaching and a deadly COVID-19 pandemic surging, we – the physicians, nurses, hospital and health system leaders and public health professionals on the front lines of this pandemic – strongly urge everyone throughout our country to celebrate responsibly, in a scaled-back fashion that limits the virus’s spread, to help reduce the risk of infecting friends, family and others you love.
Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 spread has followed a similar pattern around holidays and mass gatherings. Positive cases spiked after Memorial Day, after the Fourth of July, after Labor Day, and now – two weeks after Halloween.
The record-shattering surge underway is resulting in uncontrolled community spread and infection that has already overburdened health systems in some areas and will ultimately consume capacity of our health care system and may reduce the availability of care in many places in our country.
In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly. We are all weary and empathize with the desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but given the serious risks, we underscore how important it is to wear masks, maintain physical distancing and wash your hands.
Following these science-based, commonsense measures is the best way to prevent our health care systems and dedicated health care professionals from being overwhelmed by critically ill patients. We must protect the doctors, nurses and other caregivers who have tirelessly battled this virus for months. You can do your part to ensure they can continue to care for you and your loved ones.
We will get through this pandemic, but the only way out is to follow the science and adhere to the public health steps we know work.
American Hospital Association American Medical Association American Nurses Association
In New York, about 275,300 passengers are expected to fly out of JFK, 271,700 out of Newark, and 127,100 from LaGuardia as of Thursday between November 23 and 29, according to The New York Post.
The data by aviation analytics firm OAG shows more than 42,000 New Yorkers will fly to Orlando, while another 38,400 will travel to Ft Lauderdale; 33,200 to Atlanta; 27,700 to Los Angeles, and 25,000 to Miami.
On Thursday, health care workers with the American Medical Association (AMA), American Hospital Association (AHA), and the American Nurses Association (ANA) joined the CDC in their calls for the public to stay home with an open letter.
‘With Thanksgiving and the holiday season fast approaching and a deadly Covid-19 pandemic surging, we – the physicians, nurses, hospital and health system leaders and public health professionals on the front lines of this pandemic – strongly urge everyone throughout our country to celebrate responsibly, in a scaled-back fashion that limits the virus’s spread, to help reduce the risk of infecting friends, family and others you love,’ they said.
‘The record-shattering surge underway is resulting in uncontrolled community spread and infection that has already overburdened health systems in some areas and will ultimately consume capacity of our health care system and may reduce the availability of care in many places in our country.’
Fears of a Thanksgiving surge have also prompted many states and cities to impose near-lockdowns or other restrictions.
California ordered a 10pm-to-5am curfew starting Saturday, covering 94 per cent of the state’s 40 million residents.
In New Jersey, the mayor of Newark – the state’s largest city – announced this week he will impose a 10-day stay-at-home order for residents beginning the day before Thanksgiving.
Republican and Democratic governors from several Midwestern states also issued a joint video urging people to say home for Thanksgiving and wear masks to slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine is widely available.
Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, and his wife, Fran, cancelled their annual Thanksgiving gathering at their farm in southwestern Ohio, saying it would be too risky for Fran DeWine’s 94-year-old mother and two new grandchildren who are just days old.
Instead, they will celebrate with family via Zoom or FaceTime and deliver food or see family members from a distance as they pick up turkey, homemade rolls, pies and apple dumplings made by Fran DeWine.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, is urging people to limit Thanksgiving gatherings, saying, ‘We ought to love our loved ones enough to not want to expose them to the dangers of COVID.’
And Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who has weathered backlash from residents over business closures and mask orders, said she will spend time on Thanksgiving with extended family on Zoom rather than in-person, and urges others to do the same.
Still, some governors say they’re counting on residents to make up their own minds, even as cases in their states soar.
Daily deaths surged to 2,015 yesterday – the highest number of fatalities per day since back in May during the initial peak of the virus
The number of new cases surged to a record high of 193,000 yesterday and more than 82,000 patients are now hospitalized across the country
In South Dakota, coronavirus infections are ravaging the state where more than half of tests have come back positive for weeks.
Yet Governor Kristi Noem won’t require masks or take other measures to curb the spread, including urging families to limit Thanksgiving gatherings.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said he’ll attend a college football game over the weekend and spend the holiday with his parents, noting that, ‘Oklahomans should be with their loved ones over Thanksgiving.’
CDC ‘strongly’ advises Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving amid COVID-19 surge
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ‘strongly’ advising Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.
The recommendation from the nation’s top public health agency yesterday is some of the firmest guidance yet from the government on curtailing traditional gatherings to fight the outbreak.
With regard to those who do still decide to travel, the CDC recommends doing so ‘as safely as possible,’ which includes wearing a mask while in public, maintaining social distancing and washing hands often with soap and water.
Airlines say a record number of Americans are canceling flights following the CDC’s guidance.
New data from the Transportation Security Administration shows that just 907,332 people passed through checkpoints on Thursday. That’s down from 2,428,095 who did so at the same time last year – a 62 percent drop.
An estimated 2.4 million people are still expected to fly over the busiest days, but that’s half the number that did in 2019.
In a bid to curb the spread, the CDC is warning that large indoor household gatherings this holiday season could make the situation even worse.
The CDC has advised against gathering with anyone who has not lived in the same household for at least 14 days, the incubation period for the coronavirus.
If families do decide to include returning college students, military members or others for turkey and stuffing, the CDC is recommending that the hosts take added precautions: Gatherings should be outdoors if possible, with people keeping 6 feet apart and wearing masks and just one person serving the food.
And in Tennessee, where hospital beds are filling up and some hospitals struggle to find enough nurses, Republican Governor Bill Lee said he has no plans to impose restrictions, though he would ‘encourage Tennesseans to think hard’ about celebrating together.
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has ruled out another shutdown and singled out El Paso county leaders for not enforcing restrictions already in place.
The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, likened the county’s chief administrator to a ‘tyrant’ after Paxton won an appeals court ruling blocking local leaders from shutting down gyms and other nonessential businesses.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, also a Republican, failed to persuade leaders of the GOP-controlled legislature to reject a bill that would limit his administration’s power to deal with the crisis.
At issue is a Senate bill that would ban the state health department from issuing mandatory quarantine orders enforced against people who are not sick or exposed to disease – such as the order announced by the governor Tuesday setting a 10pm curfew.
DeWine said he will veto the bill when it reaches his desk. Republicans in both the House and Senate have enough votes to override the veto if they choose.
‘This bill is a disaster,’ DeWine said Thursday. ‘This is not a bill that can become law.’
In California, the curfew affects 41 of the state’s 58 counties. Its impact will depend heavily on voluntary compliance. Some county sheriffs said they won’t enforce the rules for people not on essential errands to stay home after 10pm.
The curfew is less strict than the near-total ban on nonessential business and travel that Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom imposed in March, which he credited with flattening the rate of COVID-19 cases.
In Arizona, four Democratic mayors urged Republican Governor Doug Ducey to impose a statewide requirement for people to wear masks in public.
The move came as health officials reported more than 4,000 additional COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day.
Ducey’s chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, pushed back on the request, saying the mayors are doing little to enforce their own mask ordinances or ensure that existing safety measures put in place by the governor are being enforced.
COVID-19 deaths in the US are at their highest level since late May, when the Northeast was emerging from the first wave of the crisis.
They peaked at about 2,200 a day in late April, when New York City was the epicenter and bodies were being loaded onto refrigerated trucks by forklift.
The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States has jumped nearly 50% in the past two weeks, with more than 80,000 people being treated for the disease in hospitals across the country as of November 18, data from the COVID Tracking Project shows
Dr Birx on Friday also cited a graphic that shows rising hospital rates across the country. It indicates that North Dakota and South Dakota are most affected with more than 20 percent of their hospitalizations currently COVID-19 patients. Other Midwestern states, including Montana, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin currently have between 10-20 percent of patients being treated for the virus
Among the newly infected was President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who a spokesman said Friday has no symptoms and has been quarantining since learning of his diagnosis earlier this week.
Amid the bleak new statistics, Pfizer said Friday it is asking US regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, setting in motion a process that could make the first, limited shots available as early as next month, with health care workers and other high-risk groups likely to get priority.
The application to the FDA comes just days after Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE reported final trial results that showed the vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 with no major safety concerns.
But it could take months before the vaccine becomes widely available.
Officials have said they hope to have about 20 million of Pfizer’s vaccine doses, which is enough to vaccinate 10 million Americans, by the end of the year.
Rival company Moderna is expected to be the next company to seek a emergency use nod for its COVID-19 vaccine. The US also expects to have 20 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine available to distribute next month.