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Warnings or Not, Millions Flew Over Holiday

Air travel was down from last year but higher than health experts wanted
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 30, 2020 2:51 PM CST

(Newser) – Nearly 1.2 million people passed through US airports Sunday, the largest number since the pandemic gripped the country in March, despite pleas from health experts for Americans to stay home over Thanksgiving. The Transportation Security Administration screened at least 1 million people on four of the last 10 days through Sunday, the AP reports. That's still half the crowd recorded last year at airports, when more than 2 million people were counted per day. With new reported cases of coronavirus spiking across the country, the CDC had issued a warning against Thanksgiving travel just a week before the holiday. The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the US has climbed to more than 160,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Public health experts believe others who are infected don't show signs of carrying the virus.

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Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day were followed by increases in new cases. David O'Connor, a University of Wisconsin virologist, expects the same thing to happen now. "Travel is going to be contributing to a bigger surge. What we see in the next couple weeks will tell us a lot about what will happen after Christmas," he said. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Sunday that the US could see a "surge upon a surge" of coronavirus cases, and he does not expect guidelines advising against travel to be relaxed before Christmas. It's unclear whether the pleas of experts had any effect on Thanksgiving travel. Some airlines reported a pullback in bookings as virus cases grew just before the holiday. Before the latest surge in infections, airlines had added flights for Thanksgiving, hoping for the same kind of boost they saw for earlier holidays. They later canceled some of those flights and expect demand to fall back in early December before possibly picking up for Christmas.

(Read more Thanksgiving travel stories.)

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