December 29, 2020
After the CDC asked Americans to stay at home and avoid travel over the holidays we responded in typical fashion. As of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, nearly 7 million travelers had gone through TSA checkpoints the previous seven days. That is up 22% from the previous week. This compares to nearly 17 million people over the comparable seven-day period in 2019. More than 1.19 million people flew on December 23 and 1.28 million on Sunday. Sunday, December 27, set a record for the most people screened at TSA checkpoints since mid-March, when concerns about the spread of the coronavirus prompted stay-at-home orders and effectively stopped travel. While flying in the sanitized air systems of a plane are seen are relatively safe, getting through the airport and allowing infected (asymptomatic) people on the plane are still problematic.
With health and government officials stressing staying home as the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA anticipates at least a 10% drop in Thanksgiving travel, or 48 million driving. This is the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008. This is also a drop from 55 million in 2019. While driving allows you and your family to essentially quarantine in your car, you still interact with family and friends when you reach your destination. Driving means you will only infect those you love.
During Christmas we find another surge in travel. While AAA expects at least 34 million fewer travelers compared to last year’s holiday season, as many as 84.5 million Americans may still travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3, a decline in travel of at least 29%. Travel by vehicle is faced with another challenge, car accidents. The week between Christmas and New Years account for approximately 300 deaths annually, with 340 predicted for 2020. This seems to be a dangerous time to travel even without the added risk of the pandemic. Taken together, 90 million holiday travelers will head to destinations from Thanksgiving to New Years, despite the CDC’s recommendation to stay home.
Thoughts: When I opened my paper this morning the front-page news reported what to expect for travel in 2021. This touted the optimism of the travel industry for the coming year. One reason given by John Thompson at the insurance company Chubb, was the, “deeply human desire to connect, to socialize and collaborate, to maintain and strengthen family bonds – those underlying attributes have not gone anywhere.” Apparently, neither have our desire to only think of ourselves and ignore the health of those we “need” to see. Even with the vaccine, we are preparing for the triple threat of the holiday surges. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.