© Provided by SlateTravelers retrieve their luggage at Newark International Airport on November 21, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. KENA BETANCUR/Getty Images
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called on Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving as the nation experiences as a surge in COVID-19 cases. Yet as the nation got close to reaching 200,000 new cases per day, it was clear that millions of Americans were ignoring that advice. On Friday and Saturday, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2 million flyers. TSA data shows 1,019,836 passengers were screened by TSA on Friday and an additional 984,369 were screened on Saturday.
The numbers are still less than half of what TSA reported in the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving last year but marks the second and third busiest days for traffic at U.S. airports since mid-March. The only day that beat Friday's numbers was October 18, when 1,031,505 passengers were screened by TSA. AAA forecasts almost 48 million people will travel by car over Thanksgiving, representing a 4.3 percent decline from last year.
On Thursday, the CDC called on Americans to spend Thanksgiving with those living in their households. But in a recognition that many would ignore that advice the CDC also spelled out ways that people could reduce their risks, including holding small gatherings outside. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease specialist, echoed the warning and said people need to think hard about the risks. "Please seriously consider decisions that you make," Fauci said on CBS News' Face the Nation. Even though planes themselves may not be that dangerous, crowds at airports raise concerns. "You're in a crowded airport, you're lining up, not everybody's wearing masks, that puts yourself at risk."
Fauci also warned that beyond the traveling, gatherings can also be risky, particularly indoors. "When you think of the holiday season and the congregating indoors at what are innocent, lovely functions, like meals with family and friends, you have got to at least think in terms of evaluating, do you have people in your family that are elderly, that might have underlying conditions, like someone on chemotherapy, or other things that weaken their immune system?" Fauci said on NBC's Meet the Press. "Do you really want to get a crowd of 10, 15, 20 people, many of whom are coming in from places where they have gone from crowded airports, to planes, getting into the house? I mean, those are the things that have been such joyous things in the past."