The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently reported that over the New Year’s holiday weekend, over 3 million individuals were screened at various checkpoints as they moved closer to their final destinations.
The latest figures released by the security agency indicate that approximately 805,990 individuals traveled on New Year’s Eve, and that another 1.1 million took to the skies the following day. By the time Sunday was over, the agency had reported a further 1.3 million checkpoint screenings.
The tally recorded on Sunday marked the highest daily screening count since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically since around the time the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11.
Additionally, the agency noted that approximately 324 million passengers were screened through US checkpoints between January 1 and December 31 last year, just 39% of the TSA’s 2019 figures. The agency had reported 824 million total passengers screened at checkpoints in 2019.
The latest numbers also highlight that millions of Americans opted to travel nationwide and abroad despite repeated warnings from health officials that remote celebrations and gatherings should be the go-to option amid the pandemic.
Recent guidelines by the CDC state that “the safest way to celebrate the new year is to celebrate at home with the people who live with you or virtually with friends and family. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”
In November, ahead of the US’ Thanksgiving holiday, health officials made similar statements; however, they too were largely ignored as many individuals sought in-person family gatherings or destination celebrations. In fact, the November holiday weekend saw over 3.5 million individuals screened, according to TSA records.
At the time, officials stated the high-travel weekend saw the greatest number of globetrotters going through TSA checkpoints to date during the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who also serves as a member of the White House coronavirus task force, reiterated on Sunday that the pandemic “could and likely will” take a turn for the worse over the next few weeks as holiday season travels come to an end.
“This is what happens. It’s terrible, it’s unfortunate, but it was predictable,” Fauci, acknowledging how travel warnings were sidestepped, said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
With the US’ positivity ratio spiking past 13%, health officials are seeing devastating COVID-19 surges across the US, with the most severe case number increases being documented in California and in Arizona over the last two weeks.
As of Monday, California, Arizona, Texas, New York and Florida are the five states reporting the highest daily increases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In California, the situation has grown so dire that strict countermeasures have been reimposed, as swamped hospitals attempt to treat the growing number of COVID-19 patients.