If the number of flights over the U.S. two days before Thanksgiving are any indication, people aren’t taking the warnings against traveling during a dangerous period of the pandemic very seriously.
The Flightradar24 app, which tracks flight paths in real time from more than 1,200 airlines, reports that 6,972 flights were in the air over North America at noon Tuesday. That’s more than the number that were in the air on the same day—two days before Thanksgiving—two years ago, and only slightly less than the number last year.
The skies above North America at Noon ET on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) November 24, 2020
Many of these flights likely have fewer people on board, and some carriers still require that seats between passengers remain empty for social distancing.
Even so, the sheer number of flights is alarming, especially when combined with recent stats from the Transportation Security Administration. TSA said this week that about 1 million people went through security checkpoints at airports on Friday, with about 1 million more each day on Saturday and Sunday. While the numbers represent far fewer travelers than last year, they indicate that planes could be more crowded now than they have been since the beginning of the pandemic, according to NPR.
More than 80,000 Americans are now in the hospital with COVID-19. Almost 200,000 new cases are being reported every day, a jump of 15% over the past week.
On CBS News’s Face the Nation, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, said ignoring public health guidelines and traveling over the holiday “is going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”
The air traffic suggests that a horrifying number of people have disregarded that advice.
We reached out to United Airlines for actual passenger numbers relative to prior years but didn’t immediately hear back. We’ll update this story as we receive information.