More than 3 million airline passengers passed through screening checkpoints at U.S. airports over the weekend, ignoring the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (C.D.C.) plea for Americans to avoid travelling for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Transportation Security Administration (T.S.A.) reported that the agency screened 1.019 million passengers on Friday, 984,389 on Saturday and 1.047 million on Sunday, which was the largest number of travellers since mid-March when the U.S. coronavirus outbreak began. However, the agency noted that screenings are down over 60% compared to this time last year. There have been just three days since mid-March were the number of T.S.A. screenings topped one million.
Last week, the C.D.C. recommended against travel for the holiday, which typically involves large family gatherings. The federal health agency was concerned that massive amounts of travellers meeting together in transportation hubs like bus stops or airports will only accelerate the nation's alarming trend of coronavirus infections.
"One of our concerns is that as people over the holiday season get together, they may actually be brining infections with them," said Dr. Henry Walke, the C.D.C.'s COVID-19 incident manager, in the agency's first briefing since August on Thursday. "From an individual household level, what's at stake is basically increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then hospitalized and dying."
Still, many Americans do not seem to be heading federal, state and local warnings against Thanksgiving gatherings, potentially ushering in another wave of coronavirus infections on top of the country's already record outbreak. The U.S. recorded over 180,000 new infections on Wednesday, with hospitalizations reaching an all time high of 89,959. As death rates typically lag behind infections due to the extended time the virus needs to run its full course, total deaths topped 2,200 on Tuesday and are expected to continue their upward trend.
This week, the C.D.C. revised its forecasts of COVID deaths to likely increase over the next for weeks, with 10,600 to 21,400 new deaths likely for the week ending December 19, 2020. The federal health agency also predicts that a total of 294,000 to 321,000 COVID deaths will be reported nationally by this date.
President-elect Joe Biden delivered a Thanksgiving address to the nation in Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday, asking Americans to hang on and continue to practice public health protocols ahead of the coronavirus vaccine.
"I know this country has grown weary of the fight. We need to remember--we're at war with the virus, not with one another," Biden stated to an almost empty auditorium, urging Americans to forgo big family celebrations this year.
"I know we can and we will beat this virus."