Despite warnings, millions in the US travel for Thanksgiving

Despite warnings, millions in the US travel for Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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Millions of Americans took to the skies and hit the road ahead of Thanksgiving today at the risk of pouring gasoline on the novel coronavirus fire, disregarding increasingly dire warnings that they stay home and limit their holiday gatherings to members of their own household.

Those who are flying witnessed a distinctly 2020 landscape at the nation's airports during what is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year: Plexiglas barriers in front of the ID stations, rapid virus testing sites inside terminals, and paperwork asking them to quarantine upon arrival at their destination.

While the number of Americans travelling by air over the past several days was down dramatically from the same time last year, plenty of others pressed ahead with their holiday plans amid sky-rocketing deaths, hospitalisations and confirmed infections across the United States.

Many were tired of the more than eight months of social distancing and determined to spend time with loved ones.

“I think with the holidays and everything, it's so important right now, especially because people are so bummed out because of the whole pandemic,” said 25-year-old Cassidy Zerkle of Phoenix, who flew to Kansas City, Missouri, to visit family.

She brought snacks and her own hand sanitiser and said the flight was half-full. She had a row of seats to herself.

“As long as you're maintaining your distance, you're not touching stuff and you're sanitising your hands, people should see their families right now,” said Zerkle.

The novel coronavirus is blamed for more than 12.6 million confirmed infections and more than 269,000 deaths in the US.

More than 88,000 people in the US — an all-time high — were in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and new cases have soared to an average of over 174,000 per day, the highest level on record.

Deaths have surged to more than 1,600 per day, a mark last seen in May, when the crisis in the New York City area was easing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities have begged people not to travel and urged them to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations small.

“That'll make sure that your extended family is around to celebrate Christmas and to celebrate the holidays next year,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said.

About one million people per day passed through US airport checkpoints from Friday through Tuesday, a drop-off of around 60 per cent from the same time a year ago. Still, those have been the biggest crowds since the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the US in March.

Last year, a record 26 million passengers and crew passed through US airport screening in the 11-day period around Thanksgiving.

People tend to drive rather than fly during the holiday, but American Automobile Association( AAA) has projected those numbers also are likely to be lower this year. How much lower the auto club has not said.

Many states and cities have adopted precautions. Travellers to Los Angeles — either by plane or train — are being required to fill out an online form acknowledging California's request that people quarantine for two weeks after arrival in the state.

The resurgence of the virus and the refusal of many people to wear masks or keep their distance from others have caused despair among health care officials and front-line workers.

“I'll just to confess to you guys, I'm exhausted trying to convince folks to do stuff. It's just going nowhere,” said Dr Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi's state health officer.

Anne Moore, a 60-year-old woman from Chicago, flew to Albany, New York, to be with her daughter for the holiday. Her daughter is a senior at Dartmouth University, and Moore and her husband were worried about her driving back to Illinois by herself.

Before the spike, the family had planned to hold a Thanksgiving gathering of fewer than 10 people. But instead it will be just Moore, her husband and her daughter.

“I have friends who are alone. And I'm not inviting them. And I feel badly about that,” she said. “We'll take a walk or something instead. But yeah, the three of us are isolating.”

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