On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, many stick to holiday travel plans despite COVID-19 warnings

Updated: November 25, 2020 12:58 PM
Created: November 25, 2020 06:35 AM

Despite warnings from health experts, millions of people are expected to travel this Thanksgiving holiday.

Typically, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days on the roads and at airports across the country.  

Health officials said taking a COVID-19 test right now will not solve problems this Thanksgiving, adding many may be currently contagious but that sometimes it takes a few days before the virus is detected.

“Testing is really important to identify if you are infected so you, yourself, can isolate, but is not a get-out-of-jail-free-card and it does not get us out of taking smart precautions which is especially important during this dial back period.” Dan Huff, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, said.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, the warnings from health officials have been clear: Don't travel and limit celebrating the holiday to only people in your household.

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However, many Americans are still taking the risk.

About 1 million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Tuesday, a drop-off of around 60% from the same time a year ago. Still, those have been the biggest crowds since the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the U.S. in March.

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

At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, officials said they expect to see about 30% to 40% of the volume they saw last year. In fact, a lot of passengers canceled their plans after the governor put in the latest round of restrictions last week.

Wednesday and Sunday are expected to be the busiest days at airports.

Meanwhile, AAA expects another 48 million people to drive to their holiday destination. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, weighed in on the dangers of leaving your home this Thanksgiving. He said there is a risk for another deadly spike in cases over Christmas.

"The travel, the congregate setting, not wearing masks, you will see a surge superimposed upon a surge,” Dr. Fauci said.

The coronavirus is blamed for more than 12.6 million confirmed infections and over 269,000 deaths in the U.S.

More than 88,000 people in the U.S. — an all-time high — were in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, pushing the health care system in many places to the breaking point, 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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