The turbulence caused by the coronavirus pandemic didn’t deter more than 1 million people in the United States from traveling aboard planes on a single day ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

A whopping 1,019,836 people went on U.S. flights on Friday, data released by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows.

That’s the second-highest number of single-day travelers since mid-March, when the outbreak of COVID-19 began to cause shutdowns throughout the U.S. and devastated the air-travel industry.

The only day since then that’s seen more people travel by plane than last Friday was Oct. 18, when 1,031,505 passengers boarded U.S. flights.

Friday’s number of passengers was down from the 2,550,459 people who flew on U.S. flights on the same day last year, highlighting the stark contrast that the pandemic has caused.

Still, the eye-opening total on Friday came days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that “the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”

“People who do not currently live in your housing unit, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households,” the CDC said in an advisory last week ahead of the holiday.

“In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk.”

The CDC named airports — along with bus stations, gas stations, rest stops and other means of public transportation — as areas where people can be exposed to the virus.

Although the number of passengers on U.S. flights declined slightly after Friday’s total, Saturday still saw 984,369 people board planes, according to the TSA. Last Thursday, the TSA recorded 907,332 air travelers.

During the early weeks of the pandemic, the number of U.S. air travelers recorded by the TSA regularly hovered near or below 100,000 passengers. Those totals have increased considerably in the months since, despite the ongoing surges of coronavirus cases throughout the country.

The U.S. has recorded more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other country, with more than 12 million. It’s also suffered the most deaths of any country, with more than 255,000.

“Travel can increase the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC wrote in its Thanksgiving advisory. “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”


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