Tens of millions of Americans are ignoring the advice of public health experts and plan to travel for Thanksgiving, according to the latest updates.
“I have been stunned to see the reports of lines of travelers in airports,” Boston University professor Davidson Hamer said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory urging “postponing travel” plans as coronavirus cases surge.
Yet Sunday was the busiest day for air travel since the pandemic began, with 1.04 million travelers, according to the U.S. Transportation and Security Administration.
Though the numbers are still less than half those for travelers who flew last year for what’s traditionally the busiest travel season of the year, AAA predicts 50 million people will travel by plane, train or automobile this Thanksgiving. That’s down from 55 million last year.
Already travel volume is creeping up across New England. The region’s six airports, the largest of which is Boston Logan International Airport, have seen about 25,000 passengers per day since Friday. Air travel from the six airports spiked 23% on Friday, 71% on Saturday and 25% on Sunday. Monday was a lighter day with 20,000 passengers, according to the TSA.
Spokesman Daniel Velez said the agency expects “similar numbers” between Thanksgiving and Sunday.
A projected 10% dip in travelers is based on October metrics and is likely to be even bigger as Americans watch cases grow and heed warnings from public health officials, said Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs for AAA Northeast.
“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” she said.
On Friday the U.S. set a record, reporting 204,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. Massachusetts, too, is seeing a spike in cases. The number of new daily cases has consistently surpassed 2,000 per day over the past week, according to public health data.
“Right now, with the large amount of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in many communities, people need to be really cautious when traveling. The potential congestion that they may encounter waiting to board a plane, train or bus and the close proximity of seating — all of these things increase the likelihood of transmission,” said Hamer, an infectious disease specialist.
“And masks don’t 100% protect you,” he added.
Gov. Charlie Baker and local health officials are asking people to celebrate Thanksgiving with only the members of their household. In an effort to curb informal gatherings, which he has blamed for fueling the contagion in Massachusetts, the governor has capped indoor gatherings at 10 people.
Anyone traveling to Massachusetts, with the exception of people coming from Vermont or Hawaii, must either quarantine for 14 days or have a negative result on a COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours of their arrival, according to the state’s travel order.
The order also pertains to returning college students and Bay Staters coming back from their own holiday trips.
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