The busiest air travel day of the coronavirus pandemic came on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, with 1,070,967 passengers clearing airport security.
It was the third time in one week that the Transportation Security Administration reported screening more than 1 million daily passengers — a milestone that airports have rarely seen since the pandemic slashed air travel in March.
“It’s the highest volume since March 16 and only the 4th time passenger throughput has topped 1 million since that date,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said in a tweet. The first million-passenger day since March occurred Oct. 18.
In the past week, covid-related hospitalizations in the United States rose by more than 12 percent, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health warning against Thanksgiving travel last week: “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.” Health experts such as Anthony S. Fauci have also reminded Americans about the risks of indoor gatherings and household mixing, and discouraged travel.
The number of travelers flying Wednesday was half of what it was on the day before Thanksgiving in 2019, before the coronavirus was a threat in the United States. Last year, 2,602,631 people were screened on Thanksgiving eve.
During the pandemic, the TSA has been installing plastic barriers and touch-free ID scanning technologies at security checkpoints to allow for better hygiene and distancing as airports become more crowded.
Thanksgiving eve crowds surpassed Sunday’s busy passenger levels by 23,000. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel day of the year, closely followed by the Sunday after the holiday.