US air traffic on Thanksgiving Eve was the highest it's been since the beginning of the pandemic

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Holiday travelers pass through Los Angeles international Airport on Thanksgiving eve as the COVID-19 spike worsens and stay-at-home restrictions are increased on November 25, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. Starting today, travelers arriving to Los Angeles by airplane or train are required to sign a form acknowledging California's recommendation of a 14-day self-quarantine. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has warned that the virus is "threatening to spiral out of control" in the region, and that at the current rate of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, there will not be enough hospital beds by Christmastime. Despite pleas from health officials to not gather with people outside of ones household, more than 2 million Americans are projected to fly for Thanksgiving. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Holiday travelers pass through Los Angeles International Airport on November 25, 2020. David McNew/Getty Images
  • US air traffic on Thanksgiving Eve was the highest it’s been since March, according to Transportation and Security Administration records.

  • More than 1,070,900 people passed TSA checkpoints on Wednesday, the agency found. The number was down just 40% from 2019’s numbers.

  • Health authorities had urged Americans not to travel for the holiday, but an Insider survey found that 37% of Americans said they planned to go about Thanksgiving as normal.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

US air traffic on Thanksgiving Eve was the highest it’s been since March, according to Transportation and Security Administration records.

On Wednesday, 1,070,967 people passed TSA checkpoints, according to the agency.

The last time that many people traveled by air was March 16, when 1,257,823 people passed TSA checkpoints. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.

Last Thanksgiving Eve, some 2,624,250 people traveled through TSA checkpoints, meaning this year’s figures were a 40% decrease.

The TSA checkpoint data does not reflect flight cancellations that may have taken place in recent days, CNN reported, citing an agency spokesman.

The high level of US air travel came despite multiple health authorities’, including the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, urging Americans to avoid travel for Thanksgiving, even if it’s a short distance.

Regardless, an Insider survey of 1,110 people found that 37% of Americans said they were not changing anything at all about how they go about Thanksgivings this year.

Thirty-one percent of respondents said they didn’t factor CDC advice into their plans, and 57% said they were planning to mix households at the dinner table.

thanksgiving travel 2020
Travelers at Miami International Airport on November 22, 2020. David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

On November 19, the CDC recommended that Americans not travel at all for Thanksgiving, and said holiday meals should only be with those they live with, or neighbors if they can dine outside.

The agency also acknowledged that some people might not follow its advice, adding that those who are spending Thanksgiving with people they don’t live with should wear a mask and wash their hands frequently.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, also warned on Sunday that airports specifically would be breeding grounds for the coronavirus.

“You are at a crowded airport, you are lining up, not everybody is wearing masks. That puts yourself at risk … that’s what’s going to get us into even more trouble,” he said.

Wednesday — the day that saw the most flights since March — also marked the day the US recorded its highest daily death toll since May.

That same day, the CDC predicted that the US will likely pass 300,000 deaths by December 19.

As of Friday morning, more than 12.8 million people in the US have tested positive for COVID-19 and 263,462 people have died, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.

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