Wed | Dec 1, 2021

On the road again: Travellers emerge in time for Thanksgiving

Published:Wednesday | November 24, 2021 | 9:43 AM
Travellers queue up at the south security checkpoint as traffic increases with the approach of the Thanksgiving Day holiday Tuesday, November 23, 2021, at Denver International Airport in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DALLAS (AP) — Determined to reclaim Thanksgiving traditions that were put on pause last year by the pandemic, millions of Americans will be loading up their cars or piling onto planes to gather again with friends and family.

The number of air travellers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, and auto club AAA predicts that 48.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday period, an increase of nearly four million over last year despite sharply higher gasoline prices.

Many feel emboldened by the fact that nearly 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.

But it also means brushing aside concerns about a resurgent virus at a time when the US is now averaging nearly 100,000 new infections a day and hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are seeing alarming increases in patients.

The seven-day daily average of new reported cases up nearly 30% in the last two weeks through Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says unvaccinated people should not travel, although it is unclear whether that recommendation is having any effect.

More than 2.2 million travellers streamed through airport checkpoints last Friday, the busiest day since the pandemic devastated travel early last year.

From Friday through Monday, the number of people flying in the US was more than double the same days last year and only 8% lower than the same days in 2019.

At Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Peter Titus, an engineer at the Princeton University plasma physics lab, was heading to visit extended family in Canada with his wife and adult son.

He carried a folder with printouts of their vaccination cards and negative COVID-19 tests needed to fly into Canada.

His son, Christian Titus, who works as a voice actor, says he's spent much of the pandemic inside but is willing to risk flying on a crowded airplane because he misses being around his family. He got a booster shot to increase his protection.

“My mental health does better by being around my family during these times,” he said.

“Yeah, it's dangerous. But you love these people, so you do what you can to stay safe around them.”

Meka Starling and her husband were excited for many members of their extended family to meet their 2-year-old son, Kaiden, for the first time at a big Thanksgiving gathering in Linden, New Jersey.

“We've put pictures on Facebook so a lot of them have seen pictures of him, but to get to actually touch him and talk to him, I'm excited about it,” said Starling, 44, of West Point, Mississippi, who will gather with nearly 40 family members, all of whom agreed to be vaccinated.

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