Millions of Americans are ignoring the pleas from public health experts and officials to stay home for the holidays with coronavirus cases still surging following Thanksgiving travel and taking to the roads and skies ahead of Christmas and New Year’s.
“I don’t think there’s any restriction that anybody could put in place that would keep people from getting together with their families,” UMass Memorial President and CEO Dr. Eric Dickson told the Herald.
More than 5 million people passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration. That includes 133,688 air travelers who passed through New England’s six airports.
The increase in travel comes despite repeated pleas by Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the nation’s infectious disease chief Dr. Anthony Fauci for people to celebrate only with people in their households.
“We can’t let fatigue cause us to make poor decisions this holiday season that end up making us backtrack, especially when we are so incredibly close to getting ourselves and everyone else across the finish line,” Adams said, referring to the start of COVID-19 vaccinations.
While air travel is down 60% from the same time last year, it still amounts to around a million passengers per day — similar to what was seen in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
AAA is predicting about 84.5 million will travel — mostly by car but also by plane, train and bus — this holiday season from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3. That’s 29% fewer people than last year.
Despite the drop, they’re still big numbers that have public health experts worried.
Massachusetts saw cases spike and hospitalizations more than double in the 10 days after Thanksgiving. If that happens again, when the state still hasn’t recovered from the earlier surge, Dickson said the state’s health care system will be in trouble.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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