The threat of COVID-19 has not deterred Americans from traveling during the holidays. Sunday was the busiest day for U.S. airports since March 15, when the Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 1.3 million people, according to The New York Times. The increase in holiday travel comes as coronavirus cases remain high and intensive care units in many hospitals are close to or at capacity.
In 11 days, between December 18 and 28, 11,331,113 people passed through airport checkpoints, according to TSA reports. That number, which represents 42.4% of 2019’s travel volume, is the highest airports have seen since the beginning of the pandemic. It surpasses a rush at Thanksgiving, normally the busiest time of year for air travel.
On Saturday, The Times reported that total infections in the U.S. exceeded 19 million, meaning that at least 1 in 17 people have caught the virus (which has killed 1 in every 1,000) over the course of the pandemic. On Sunday, six states—Alabama, California, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina—set records for the most COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with Texas numbers reaching an all-time high on Monday, according to CNN.
Because it is anticipated that fewer people will get tested during the holiday period, the ultimate effect of the travel may not be known until mid-January.
After a new highly contagious strain of the virus was detected in the U.K., U.S. officials announced that travelers from Britain will have to test negative for the virus before boarding a flight. Most states have had mixed results by implementing restrictions on incoming travelers or mandating quarantines.
This article was updated with information about COVID-19 records reached by several states.