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.’