Photos of packed US airports show how Americans are defying CDC guidance

Passengers wait to check in at Tom Bradley international terminal at LAX airport, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 23, 2020.

  • On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised Americans against traveling for Thanksgiving.
  • Despite this, the Transportation Security Administration recorded its busiest travel weekend since March with more than 3 million people traveling through US airports this past weekend.
  • While some experts say planes are relatively low-risk environments because of their air filters, crowded airports are also a point of concern.
  • Thanksgiving or not, the CDC warns that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised Americans against traveling for Thanksgiving, recommending that they stay home and celebrate with the people they live with instead.

The very next day, over 1 million people got on a plane.

In fact, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recorded its busiest travel weekend since March with more than 3 million people traveling through US airports this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

While this is still less than half of the number of travelers recorded in 2019, the US is struggling with a fall surge of the coronavirus and is the worst-affected country in the world with the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

There have been 12,613,248 coronavirus recorded in the US at the time of writing, and 260,065 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

As the photos below show, people are still traveling across the country for Thanksgiving, regardless of the CDC's advice.

Despite a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans are traveling for Thanksgiving. "Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19," the CDC advisory says. "Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

Source: CDC

However, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported more than 3 million travelers in US airports between Friday, November 20, and Sunday, November 22, flying in the face of CDC guidance.

Source: TSA

Per TSA data, 1,019,836 people traveled on Friday, 984,369 on Saturday, and 1,047,934 on Sunday.

Source: TSA

It was the busiest weekend for air travel in the US since March, when the coronavirus began to spread in the US.

That said, these numbers are still less than half the number of travelers the TSA recorded in 2019, when over 2 million people traveled on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Source: TSA

The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 55 million people will travel between Wednesday, November 25, and Sunday, November 29 (by car, train, and plane), which is only 5 million fewer people than last year.

Source: AAA

However, the AAA estimates that 49.3 million of those people will be traveling by car, the most since 2005 and almost 3% more than last year.

Source: AAA

While some experts say airplanes are relatively low-risk environments thanks to their HEPA air filters, crowded airports seem to be a greater concern.

Source: Insider

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told CBS News he's more worried about crowds in the airport rather than people being on a plane.

When asked by Margaret Brennan on CBS News' "Face the Nation" what he believes is riskier, planes or crowds at the airport, Fauci replied: "The crowd, clearly."

"Sometimes when you get a crowded plane, you're in a crowded airport, you're lining up, not everybody's wearing masks, that puts yourself at risk," he added.

A New York Times poll found that people in some states are more willing to mix households over Thanksgiving and defy CDC guidelines than others, with Louisiana and Oklahoma being the top two states where people plan to do so.

Source: The New York Times

Louisiana and Oklahoma were followed by Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, and Kansas, according to The New York Times poll.

These states were all won by Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, The New York Times noted.

President Trump has been widely criticized for his handling of the coronavirus.

Critics maintain that he did not sufficiently acknowledge the virus' existence and severity, and that he failed to encourage public health recommendations, mostly flouting them himself, according to CNN. 

Fauci also said in his "Face the Nation" interview that Thanksgiving air travel will "get us into even more trouble than we're in right now," adding that ignoring the public health recommendations could lead to an "exponential increase [in coronavirus cases] as you get into Christmas. And that's one of the things we're concerned about."

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