Despite Covid-19 still running rampant across the country, many Americans are refusing to give up their holiday plans in order to help slow the spread.
With Thanksgiving just days away, fears are growing that the US, which is already dealing with a rapid rise in cases, could see a huge spike in coronavirus infections unless people cancel their holiday plans.
US government’s health protection agency has for the first time called on Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, which is on Thursday, stopping just short of issuing an outright ban on travel.
“We’re alarmed with the exponential increase in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths,” Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official Henry Walke said.
It is tradition for families to gather together on this holiday and share a meal, with many extended family members travelling from across the country to be together.
This year, the CDC has urged people to celebrate the holiday at home with the people they live with, warning gathering with people outside their homes increases the chances of spreading COVID-19.
But it appears these pleas may have fallen on deaf ears, with images of crowded airports already popping up online over the weekend, fuelling concerns the country could see an explosion of new cases in December.
The Transportation Security Administration said it was the “busiest weekend” US airports have seen since the start of the pandemic, with more than three million passengers passing through terminals across the country.
Global flight tracking service, Flightradar24, took a snapshot of flights being taken across North America on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving.
At 12pm on Tuesday there were 6972 active flights in the sky over North America, this is down only slightly from the 7630 flights being taken at the same time and date in 2019.
Surprisingly, this year there were more active flights in North America than there were at the same time in 2018.
The tracking service also provided the total of tracked worldwide flights that appeared in each snapshot for the past three years.
The 2018 flight tracking image consisted of 46 per cent of worldwide flights, with the 2019 image slightly higher at 49 per cent.
With flight numbers down globally due to the pandemic, the active flights captured in this year’s image made up a massive 65 per cent of flights being taken at that point across the world.
The US now has more than 12.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 259,000 deaths.
The country is now recording more than 100,000 new infections each day and the daily death count has been hovering between 1000 and 2000 in recent days.
With so many people appearing to ignore COVID safety advice, the country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has sought to lead by example, announcing that his three adult daughters would not be visiting him for Thanksgiving this year.
He said he would celebrate the holiday alone with his wife, contenting himself with “a glass of wine” while interacting with his children over Zoom.
Even President-elect Joe Biden has urged citizens to take precautions this year, asking indoor celebrations to be limited to 10 people, with social distancing and mask wearing also encouraged.
“I would strongly urge for the sake, not just for your sake, but for the sake of your children, your mother, your father, your sisters, your brothers, whoever you get together with for Thanksgiving – think about this. There should be no group more than 10 people in one room, at one time, inside the homes. That’s what they’re telling me,” he said.
“I just want to make sure that we’re able to be together next Thanksgiving, next Christmas. It is an international crisis. We’re at war with the virus.”
The majority of state governors have urged citizens not to visit their extended families this year and risk infecting their loved ones.
Other experts have added their voices to the growing calls for Americans to take the pandemic seriously.
“It’s not too late to change your plans,” Meghan McGinty, an expert in disaster prevention at Johns Hopkins University, said on Monday.
“Thanksgiving will be a pivotal moment in the control of the pandemic. If we don’t limit our celebration to just our households, we will undoubtably see cases and hospitalisations rise after Thanksgiving.”
Since March, when COVID-19 cases started to rise across the US, each holiday that has passed has triggered outbreaks across the country.
Health officials previously noted there were spikes in infections shortly after July 4, Labour Day in September and Halloween in October.
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