Despite all the warnings, the advice to stay home, and the fact that the more we keep flying, the longer this COVID-19 pandemic will last, Americans have continued flying for the holidays. And our pre-Christmas spike in folks flying out to see their loved ones has been rivaling our pre-pandemic numbers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that people don’t travel for the holidays, instead spending time with the people who have already been in the house with them. If you really must travel, the CDC asked people to consider the impact of doing so, including overwhelming local hospitals and unintentionally bringing the disease to a previously unaffected home.
And yet, the day before Christmas Eve, 1,191,123 people boarded flights in the United States, NBC reports—the most since March, when the pandemic was still in its incipient stages in this country. A similar spike was seen during the Thanksgiving holiday season, but March 16 was the last day over 1.1 million people flew.
In the week leading up to the Christmas holiday, over three million people boarded flights. While those numbers are significantly smaller when compared to travel in, say, 2019, it’s still increasingly high.
After the Thanksgiving holiday, COVID-19 cases began to rise, likely as a result of both travel and close, maskless contact with people outside of one’s bubble. In the two weeks following Thanksgiving, COVID-19 cases among TSA agents jumped by a national average of 38 percent, Forbes reported.
A similar trend took place in Canada after the country celebrated its Thanksgiving in October. Ontario logged record-high numbers of cases two weeks after Thanksgiving, The Washington Post reported. The province responded with bans on indoor dining and other gathering restrictions.
The extended nature of the winter holidays is an extra cause for concern now, too, since this is generally not a one-day affair. Families get together for several days at a time, and there’s an emphasis on going out to visit as many relatives as possible. And that isn’t even taking into consideration the upcoming New Year celebrations, which will likely be their own can of worms.
How the travel spike impacts the country remains to be seen, but it doesn't sound like it's going to be promising.