AP

Americans risk traveling over Thanksgiving despite coronavirus warnings

Nov 26, 2020, 7:54 AM | Updated: 8:00 am
Americans Traveling Coronavirus...
Travelers wait in line at the ticket counter before traveling from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

UNITED STATES (AP)- Millions of Americans took to the skies and the highways ahead of Thanksgiving at the risk of pouring gasoline on the 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: plexiglass barriers in front of the ID stations, rapid virus testing sites inside terminals, masks in check-in areas and onboard planes, and paperwork asking passengers to quarantine on arrival at their destination.

Americans Thanksgiving Coronavirus

A traveler checks in before boarding a flight at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

While the number of Americans traveling by air over the past several days was down dramatically from the same time last year, many pressed ahead with their holiday plans amid skyrocketing deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed coronavirus infections across the U.S.

Some were tired of 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 during what is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

She brought snacks and her own hand sanitizer 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 sanitizing your hands, people should see their families right now,” she said.

Americans Thanksgiving Coronavirus

An airport worker sanitizes a walkway at Miami International Airport, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The U.S. has recorded more than 12.7 million coronavirus infections and over 262,000 deaths. The country is still missing about eight infections for every one counted, according to a new government report Wednesday. Many people don’t get tests, especially if they don’t have symptoms.

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 of the virus have been setting records, soaring to an average of over 174,000 per day.

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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities have begged Americans not to travel and are urging them, if they are traveling, to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations small to avoid coronavirus infection rates to rise. 

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

But even Denver Mayor Michael Hancock flew to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with his wife and youngest daughter despite sending messages on social media and to city staff asking them to avoid traveling for the holiday. He apologized, acknowledging that he went against his own public guidance.

“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head,” Hancock said.

About 900,000 to 1 million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Wednesday, a drop-off of around 60% from the same time a year ago. Still, those were some of the biggest crowds since the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the U.S. in March. On Wednesday, more than 1 million people screened at airports was the largest since the start of the pandemic.

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

More Americans drive than fly during the holiday, and AAA has projected those numbers are also likely to be lower this year. How much lower the auto club has not said.

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

Thea Zunick, 40, boarded a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Florida to see her 90-year-old grandmother and her parents.

“We’ve all kind of decided like it’s worth the risk,” Zunick said. “But I wanted to make sure that all the efforts that I’ve made to stay healthy isn’t undone by other people’s carelessness. And absolutely, I know that I’m taking a risk by flying. I know that, but sometimes it’s necessary.”

She isolated at home for days before the trip, got a COVID-19 test that came back negative and made sure to choose an early and direct flight. She also masked up and layered a face shield on top.

“I felt like an astronaut, to be honest,” Zunick said.

Once at the airport, Zunick said, she saw poor adherence to mask-wearing, loose enforcement of rules, long lines to check baggage and a disregard for social distancing in security lines.

Once she boarded her completely full flight, with middle seats occupied, she watched passengers eat and drink with their masks pulled down and sat next to a passenger wearing a loose bandanna, prompting her to call over a flight attendant, she said.

“I said to the stewardess, ‘Hey, the person next to me, is that permitted? Because it’s making me uncomfortable.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s fine.’ But it’s not,” Zunick said. “The bottom of it was open. And it was tied so loosely that it kept falling down throughout the flight and he kept messing with it and trying to make it tighter and pull it up.”

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

Today’s Top Stories

AP

In this undated photo released by Toyota Motor Corp., its bZ4X vehicle is shown during an online pr...
YURI KAGEYAMA AP Business Writer

Toyota recalls electric car for faulty wheel that may detach

The "bz" in the recalled model's name, as well as others in the works, stands for a "beyond zero" series, including sport-utility vehicles of all sizes, pickup trucks and sportscars, according to Toyota.
3 days ago
Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., gives opening remarks as the House select committ...
The Associated Press

Ginni Thomas responds to 1/6 panel, hearings stretch to July

The public hearings into the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol will stretch into July.
4 days ago
jan. 6 committee hearing...
ERIC TUCKER Associated Press

1/6 panel to hear of Trump’s pressure on Justice Department

The hearing Thursday is the fifth this month by the House committee investigating the run-up to the insurrection at the Capitol
4 days ago
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Justices rule religious schools must get Maine tuition aid

The most immediate effect of the court's ruling beyond Maine probably will be felt next door in Vermont, which has a similar program.
6 days ago
A video exhibit plays as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the C...
FARNOUSH AMIRI and LISA MASCARO Associated Press

1/6 panel to hear from Raffensperger, others Trump pushed

The public hearing, the fourth by the panel this month, stems from its yearlong investigation into Trump's unprecedented attempt to remain in power, a sprawling scheme that the chairman of the Jan. 6 committee has likened to an "attempted coup."
6 days ago
A Yellowstone National Park ranger is seen standing near a road wiped out by flooding along the Gar...
MATTHEW BROWN and AMY BETH HANSON

Yellowstone Park aims for quick reopening after floods

Most of Yellowstone National Park should reopen within the next two weeks — much faster than originally expected after record floods pounded the region last week and knocked out major roads, federal officials said.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Americans risk traveling over Thanksgiving despite coronavirus warnings