NEW YORK • Millions of Americans appeared to be shrugging off public health warnings and travelling ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, likely fuelling an alarming surge in Covid-19 infections.
Even as the US hits a record 168,000 new cases per day on average, people were flocking to airports against officials' advice. The long holiday weekend, which begins tomorrow, is traditionally the busiest travel period of the year.
About one million passengers passed through airport security on Sunday, the most since March. It was the second time in three days that US air travel screenings surpassed one million, said the Transportation Security Administration. The American Automobile Association forecast that 45 million to 50 million people will take to the highways over the holiday.
Soaring rates of coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalisations in the country have continued unabated. The seven-day rolling average number of Covid-19 deaths climbed for a 12th straight day, reaching 1,500 on Monday, while coronavirus hospitalisations nationally have surged nearly 50 per cent over the past two weeks.
State and local government officials have reimposed a host of restrictions in recent weeks.
Pleading with New Yorkers to stay home and avoid gatherings during the holiday, Governor Andrew Cuomo reminded them of the grim early days of the outbreak when as many as 800 people died in a single day across the state.
Still, the imperatives of family and fatigue over curbs have left many Americans defying health advice that could save their lives.
"We are not going to let Covid scare us," said construction worker Brian McDonough, 47, a diligent mask wearer who is spending Thanksgiving with his sister near his home in Worth, Illinois.
"We get tested, we are negative, so life goes on... Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving. Christmas is Christmas. New Year's is New Year's. If people die it's going to happen, and there's nothing we can do about it until we get a vaccine," he said.
Ms Edie Taylor, 29, a building design specialist in Oakland, California, was less sanguine as she prepared to board a flight to her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to attend a family gathering and then stay on through New Year's.
Number of new coronavirus cases per day on average in the United States.
"It's terrifying," said Ms Taylor, who said she would have changed her plans, but that after giving up her apartment in Oakland, "I didn't have anywhere to live".
Ms Donnalie Hope, 78, of Petersburg, West Virginia, will be spending the day with her visiting daughter and a neighbour. She said they would try to social distance.