Thanksgiving weekend travel poised to approach pre-Covid levels | US news

Thanksgiving holiday travel in the US is expected to reach near pre-pandemic levels, with industry insiders predicting that 53.4 million people will hit the road over the long weekend, compared with 47.1 million in 2020, the largest year-on-year increase since 2005.

The travel boom comes amid rising Covid cases, as public health authorities fear another winter surge.

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice-president with AAA Travel, adding that the increase was also fuelled by the recent easing of restrictions for international travelers who are fully vaccinated.

“Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday,” Twidale said.

According to AAA Travel, 48.3 million were expected to drive, 4.2 million were expected to fly, and 1 million were expected to use other means of transit, such as busses, trains or cruises. In 2019, 56 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving.

Transportation Security Administration data show a large increase: 1,382,230 people went through TSA checkpoints on 25 November, compared with 560,902 in 2020 and 1,591,158 in 2019. On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving – typically the busiest travel day each year – TSA screened 2,311,978 travelers, compared with 1,070,967 in 2020 and 2,624,250 in 2019.

Travelers have said they are willing to endure clogged roads and congested airports if it means taking a long-awaited chance to see family, as many feel more secure visiting relatives after having received the coronavirus vaccine.

One traveler, Ashley Summerville of Baltimore, told the Washington Post she would put up with the “hot mess” of driving to Brooklyn, in New York, where she was due to see around 10 relatives, some of whom she had not seen in more than two years.

“We were all being very, very safe about Covid,” Summerville said of how her family spent 2020. “This year, we’re all vaccinated and excited to see each other … We miss each other.”

Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, also saw shoppers turn out to seek traditional bargains in a retail sector subject to shortages and staff problems made worse by the pandemic.

In a statement, Marc Perrone, international president of UFCW, America’s largest retail union, called on shoppers to observe public health precautions meant to lessen the spread of Covid.

“We can all help keep each other safe and make a difference in the lives of others,” he said, “especially frontline workers who have already sacrificed so much. This holiday season we’re asking every American, no matter where they call home, to shop safe and give thanks.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease doctor and chief White House medical adviser, warned earlier this week that there was not much time left to stave off a “dangerous” new surge of coronavirus cases over the holiday season.

New cases have started to rise in recent weeks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 23 November indicated 100,636 new cases and a seven-day rolling average of 94,266.

“We still have about 60 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not been,” Fauci told CNN.

“That results in the dynamic of virus in the community that not only is dangerous and makes people who are unvaccinated vulnerable, but it also spills over into the vaccinated people.”

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