The Americans ignored the public health experts’ requests not to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday in the midst of the worst COVID 19 outbreak to date, as new data shows that car travel decreased by only 5 percent compared to last year.
Analysis by StreetLight Data, provided to the Associated Press, shows that car travel fell by about 20 percent in early November, but jumped towards the end of the month, peaking on the Thanksgiving holiday.
The analysis shows that only 5 percent fewer Americans traveled this year than in 2019, making it one of the busiest days of travel since the pandemic began.
“People were less willing to change their behavior than on any other day during the pandemic,” said Laura Schewel, founder of StreetLight Data.
Washington Newsday asked StreetLight Data for an additional comment.
Airports also saw an increase in travel during the holiday, with about 9.5 million people passing through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the ten days leading up to the holiday, the agency reported.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving was the busiest air travel day since March, when the agency searched 1,176,091 people.
With regard to these numbers, Dr. Cindy Friedman, an official at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned this week: “If only a small percentage of these travelers are asymptomatically infected, it could lead to hundreds of thousands of additional infections traveling from one community to another.
In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading expert on infectious diseases in the nations, predicted at the Harvest Festival that “there will almost certainly be an upward trend because of what has happened to the travelers.
“We may see one upswing after another. We don’t want to scare people, but that’s just the reality,” he added.
The United States is currently experiencing the worst increase in COVID-19 to date.
On Thursday, the country reported over 3,100 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest number of deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.
Hospital admissions and infections have also skyrocketed in recent weeks, with the number of Americans admitted to hospital exceeding 100,000 for the first time and the number of new daily cases this week exceeding 160,000.
In light of this record-breaking increase, public health experts continue to plead with Americans to avoid travel or meetings for the upcoming Christmas vacation.
By the end of December, experts predict that the number of deaths per day will be similar to that of September 11, and that 450,000 deaths may be expected by the end of January unless Americans begin to take precautions.
“What we do now is more likely to affect hospital admissions and deaths in January. There may still be an impact by the end of December, so it’s never too late to make a difference in the number of lives saved,” Manisha Juthani, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine, told Washington Newsday.
The U.S. is on the verge of procuring large-scale vaccination programs and is likely to introduce the first process in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, public health officials and the CDC have urged Americans to continue to take the necessary precautions, such as avoiding meetings or travel, wearing a mask in public, washing their hands regularly, and practicing social distancing.
Peter Drobac, a physician and specialist in infectious diseases and public health at Saïd Business School at Oxford University, UK, also said on Washington Newsday that this year it is “not about cancelling Christmas” but simply about celebrating it differently.
“Gather outdoors when you can, and on Zoom when you can’t. Celebrate a second celebration in the spring when it’s safer. Doesn’t a Thanksgiving barbecue in May sound wonderful? How about a New Year’s Eve fire on the summer solstice,” he said.
“Let’s be smart, all we have to do is get through the winter and it will be light already.