Roughly 1.3 million people traveled through American airports on Sunday, setting a new travel record since the coronavirus pandemic started more than ten months ago.
The new figure was reached despite fresh warnings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that called on Americans to stay at home to help curb rising coronavirus cases.
According to the Transportation Security Administration, airports screened on Sunday 1,284,599 people, many of whom were believed to be returning from Christmas holiday travel.
The previous record was set on December 23, when 1,191,123 were screened.
Sunday was also the sixth day of the Christmas holiday rush that registered screenings of more than one million within a twenty-four-hour period.
“The best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,” Dr. Henry Walke, the center’s COVID-19 incident manager, said in a news briefing earlier this month.
“Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing. Deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase.”
The center is now recommending that anyone who did travel to get tested for the coronavirus immediately. And those who did not get tested should reduce or stop nonessential activities for up to ten days after travel, the agency added.
Meanwhile, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned over the weekend that coronavirus infections and deaths could surge to even more dangerous levels in the weeks after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
“We very well might see a post-seasonal—in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s—surge, and as I’ve described it, as a surge upon a surge,” he said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.
The United States recorded an average of nearly 190,000 daily new coronavirus cases and 2,300 related deaths over the past week, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“When you are dealing with a baseline of 200,000 cases per day and 2,000 deaths per day, with the hospitalizations over 120,000, we are really at a very critical point,” Fauci said.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert added that “traveling and the likely congregating of people for the good warm purposes of being together for the holidays” have the potential to make the pandemic worse.
According to a new forecast by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, another 193,000 people could lose their lives due to the coronavirus over the next two months—meaning that 3,200 people could potentially die from the virus on a daily basis.
December already has been the nation’s deadliest month since the start of the pandemic, with more than 65,000 Americans dying from the disease. For comparison, November saw 36,964 deaths.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.