More than 5M people flew from airports in the US between Friday and Tuesday ahead of the holidays

Millions of Americans are set to travel ahead of Christmas and New Year’s despite pleas from public health experts to stay at home as the nation grapples with a troubling surge of coronavirus that saw it record its second deadliest day on record Tuesday.

More than 5 million people passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration – with millions more expect to travel in the days ahead.

Around 3.2 million of those passengers were screened across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each day recording more than a million air travelers apiece.

This broke the record for the most weekend travelers since the pandemic began in March, and the first time that more than a million passengers have passed through the nation’s airports on three consecutive days.

The influx in air travel ahead of the Christmas holiday is so far narrowly outpacing what the US saw in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, when some Americans likewise disregarded travel warnings that experts have since attributed to the nationwide surge in COVID cases.

Since March, there have been a total of eight days that saw more than 1 million passenger screened in airports: One occurred in October, four in November, and three have been recorded so far this month.

More than 5 million people passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday (Pictured: Travelers pass through O'Hare International Airport on December 23)

More than 5 million people passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday (Pictured: Travelers pass through O’Hare International Airport on December 23)

Around 3.2 million of those passengers were screened across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each day recording more than a million air travelers apiece (Pictured: Dallas Fort-Worth)

Around 3.2 million of those passengers were screened across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each day recording more than a million air travelers apiece (Pictured: Dallas Fort-Worth)

This broke the record for the most weekend travelers since the pandemic began in March (Pictured: LAX)

This broke the record for the most weekend travelers since the pandemic began in March (Pictured: LAX)

Millions more air travelers are anticipated in the days ahead, with current figures outpacing the build up to Thanksgiving (LAX)

Millions more air travelers are anticipated in the days ahead, with current figures outpacing the build up to Thanksgiving (LAX)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance last month that discouraged travel and urged those who need to travel to acquire coronavirus tests before and after their journey.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has also encouraged people to celebrate only with people in their households.

‘We can’t let fatigue cause us to make poor decisions this holiday season that end up making us backtrack, especially when we are so incredibly close to getting ourselves and everyone else across the finish line,’ he said, referring to the start of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Despite the warnings, the American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting as many as 85 million people will travel by either road or air between Wednesday and January 3, with the vast majority (96%) opting to drive.That would be a drop of nearly a one-third from a year ago but still a big number in the middle of a pandemic.

‘People feel more confident in your car. You can control the situation. You can plan your route. You can plan your stops,’ explained AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross. ‘It gives you more of an element of control particularly in the middle of a pandemic.’

It comes as an alarming new red wave map was released Wednesday that shows the majority of the United States to be one huge COVID-19 hotspot.

The map data, which is included in the latest community report from the White House COVID-19 Task Force, tracks areas of concern on a county level across the country based on recent cases and testing history.

It shows that every state currently has counties that fall into the ‘sustained hotspot’ category, which means the task force classifies them as communities that have a high number of cases and may be at an even higher risk of overwhelming their local hospitals.

North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, which were among the worst affected states just last month, are now largely considered to be areas with moderate COVID-19 activity, according to the map. Meanwhile hard-hit California, as well as large portions of the Midwest, Northeast and South, are sustained hotspots based on recent case growth, the data shows.

This map, which is included in the latest community report from the White House COVID-19 Task Force, tracks areas of concern on a county level across the country. The majority of counties currently fall into the 'sustained hotspot' category, which means they are communities that have a high number of cases and may be at an even higher risk of overwhelming their local hospitals

This map, which is included in the latest community report from the White House COVID-19 Task Force, tracks areas of concern on a county level across the country. The majority of counties currently fall into the ‘sustained hotspot’ category, which means they are communities that have a high number of cases and may be at an even higher risk of overwhelming their local hospitals

Cars wait for travelers outside a terminal at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

Cars wait for travelers outside a terminal at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

The influx in air travel ahead of the Christmas holiday is so far outpacing what the US saw in the days leading up to Thanksgiving (LAX)

The influx in air travel ahead of the Christmas holiday is so far outpacing what the US saw in the days leading up to Thanksgiving (LAX)

Since March, there have been a total of eight days that saw more than 1 million screenings: One occurred in October, four in November, and three have been recorded so far this month (Chicago)

Since March, there have been a total of eight days that saw more than 1 million screenings: One occurred in October, four in November, and three have been recorded so far this month (Chicago)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance last month that discouraged travel and urged those who need to travel to acquire coronavirus tests before and after their journey (Chicago)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance last month that discouraged travel and urged those who need to travel to acquire coronavirus tests before and after their journey (Chicago)

Flight attendants wait to check in luggage at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday

Flight attendants wait to check in luggage at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday

Hard-hit California, as well as large portions of the Midwest, Northeast and South, are considered sustained virus hotspots based on recent case growth (LAX)

Hard-hit California, as well as large portions of the Midwest, Northeast and South, are considered sustained virus hotspots based on recent case growth (LAX)

The United States also recorded its second deadliest day on record Tuesday, with 3,401 Americans dying from the virus. It marks the fifth time daily deaths have surpassed the 3,000 mark amid the pandemic – with all five occurring this month alone.

The nationwide seven-day average for daily deaths now stands at 2,702, which is the highest ever recorded.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus has also hit a new record with 117,777 patients currently being treated across the country. Hospitalizations have exceeded 100,000 every day this month.

Meanwhile, 195,033 new infections were recorded on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day rolling average for new cases to 214,000.

The rising number of deaths and hospitalizations, as well as the threat of a new UK strain of COVID that is thought to be already in the US, came as Biden warned the worst could still be yet to come.

‘Here is the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us,’ Biden said Wednesday. ‘’So we need to prepare ourselves, to steel our spines.’

More than 322,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 and there have been 18.2 million confirmed cases of the virus.

But with nearly ten months having passed since the pandemic began, a number of Americans told the Associated Press say they’ve decided to forgo the warnings and surge in cases to travel to see loved ones for the holidays.  

The United States also recorded its second deadliest day on record Tuesday, with 3,401 Americans dying from the virus (Chicago)

The United States also recorded its second deadliest day on record Tuesday, with 3,401 Americans dying from the virus (Chicago)

The nationwide seven-day average for daily COVID deaths now stands at 2,702, which is the highest ever recorded (LAX)

The nationwide seven-day average for daily COVID deaths now stands at 2,702, which is the highest ever recorded (LAX)

Millions of Americans are set to travel ahead of Christmas and New Year’s despite pleas from public health experts to stay at home (Chicago)

Millions of Americans are set to travel ahead of Christmas and New Year’s despite pleas from public health experts to stay at home (Chicago)

The rising number of deaths and hospitalizations, as well as the threat of a new UK strain of COVID that is thought to be already in the US, came as Biden warned the worst could still be yet to come (Chicago)

The rising number of deaths and hospitalizations, as well as the threat of a new UK strain of COVID that is thought to be already in the US, came as Biden warned the worst could still be yet to come (Chicago)

More than 322,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 and there have been 18.2 million confirmed cases of the virus (Chicago)

More than 322,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 and there have been 18.2 million confirmed cases of the virus (Chicago)

Travelers pass through O'Hare International Airport on December 23, 2020, as the Christmas holidays drew close

Travelers pass through O’Hare International Airport on December 23, 2020, as the Christmas holidays drew close

Some travelers were elderly and said they’d figured they didn’t have many Christmases left. Others said they’re trying to keep long-distance romance alive, while some just yearned for human connection that they say has been absent from their lives for the past nine months.

‘My mom’s worth it. She needs my help,’ said 34-year-old Jennifer Brownlee, a fisherman from Bayou La Batre, Alabama, who was waiting at the Tampa airport to fly to Oregon to see her mother, who just lost a leg. ‘I know that God’s got me. He’s not going to let me get sick.’

Brownlee said that she would wear a mask on the plane ‘out of respect’ for other passengers but that her immune system and Jesus Christ would protect her.

Michelle Lopez pondered whether she’d made the right decision after flying from Houston to Norfolk, Virginia, where her boyfriend serves in the Navy.

‘I didn’t want to go, but I haven’t seen him in so long,’ said the 24-year-old, adding that she and her partner had been apart for around five months.

Before flying, Lopez took a COVID-19 test that came back negative. But the two planes she took offered little room for social distancing. Some passengers removed their masks to eat or drink. And not everyone used wipes that airlines offer to sanitize armrests and trays.

Her layover at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was equally unsettling, she said. It was packed with people and felt hot from too many bodies. Some people wore their masks below their noses.

She works as a medical assistant in a doctor’s office. She will have to quarantine for 10 days at home and get tested again before heading back to work.

Some travelers were elderly and said they’d figured they didn’t have many Christmases left, other said they'd traveled to keep long distance romances alive (Pictured: A traveler says goodbye at O'Hare International Airport on December 23)

Some travelers were elderly and said they’d figured they didn’t have many Christmases left, other said they’d traveled to keep long distance romances alive (Pictured: A traveler says goodbye at O’Hare International Airport on December 23)

Other travelers said they just yearn for the human connection that’s been absent for the past nine months (Pictured: Travelers embrace in terminal at LAX)

Other travelers said they just yearn for the human connection that’s been absent for the past nine months (Pictured: Travelers embrace in terminal at LAX)

The American Automobile Association is predicting as many as 85 million people will travel between Wednesday and January 3, most of them by car

The American Automobile Association is predicting as many as 85 million people will travel between Wednesday and January 3, most of them by car

Janeen Pierre was juggling a pile of luggage Tuesday and getting her two little girls to the bathroom at the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport before they boarded their flight to Orlando, Florida.

Pierre and her husband had planned to spend Christmas on a Disney cruise, but the pandemic changed their itinerary to ringing in the holidays at Disney’s theme parks instead.

‘Disney refunded all of our money, but American Airlines did not. So we’re going to have a very Disney Christmas,’ she said. ‘With the new strains coming out, I don’t know if this is the smartest idea.’

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