Millions traveled for Thanksgiving despite CDC warnings – here's what it looked like

  • The day before Thanksgiving was the biggest air travel day since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The CDC warned against any travel for the holiday.
  • About a third of Americans said that the CDC recommendation didn't affect their plans, according to an Insider survey.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

This year, the CDC warned Americans that traveling for Thanksgiving could be dangerous, and advised that, "the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with." Despite the guidance, the day before Thanksgiving was the biggest air travel day since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to an Insider survey, 37% of people did not plan to change how they celebrated Thanksgiving this year. They traveled on planes, trains, and buses around the country, despite pleas from the CDC. The US' infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned that airports and other travel would be a source of infection.

"That's what's going to get us into even more trouble," he said, warning Americans.

Take a look at what it was like traveling for Thanksgiving during a pandemic.

The TSA reported 1,070,967 travelers on November 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

Source: TSA

It was the busiest air travel day since March 16.

Last year, 2,624,250 passed through TSA checkpoints the day before Thanksgiving, so traffic was down about 40%.

Source: Business Insider

"CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period," Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, said on a call earlier in November.

Source: Business Insider

"Airports have constant traffic going through them with travelers coming to and from various locations around the globe…we cannot be sure everyone is using the same precautions as we are, nor if they have been advised to," emergency medicine physician and K Health's chief diagnosis office Neil Brown told Business Insider.

Source: Business Insider

The greatest risk in airports and in flying comes from interacting with people closely, more than infected surfaces.

Airports across the country implemented strategies to minimize potential infections.

Some airports, like Seattle-Tacoma International in Washington, removed many of the seats at gates to encourage distancing.

Source: Business Insider

Other airports added facial recognition technology to let passengers minimize human contact before boarding.

Source: Business Insider

Masks are mandatory in many airports and on all US airlines, and some have also reduced food and beverage service.

"What we're concerned about is not only the actual mode of travel, whether it's an airplane or a bus or a car … but also it's the transportation hubs," Walke said.

Source: Business Insider

People lining up to board trains, planes, and buses are often crowded, which can be dangerous, Walke said.

Source: Business Insider

Some travel hubs also became sites for rapid COVID testing.

Source: Gothamist

At Penn Station, travelers could self administer rapid tests.


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