Determined to recover the traditions of the Thanksgiving Day, which were suspended last year due to the pandemic, millions of Americans packed their bags to travel by car or plane and meet again with family and friends.
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The number of people traveling by air this week is projected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels. The AAA Motorists Association predicted that 48.3 million people will drive at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from their homes during the holiday period, an increase of nearly 4 million from last year despite a sharp rise in the price of the gas.
Many are confident to travel due to the fact that nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, but concerns persist of a virus resurfacing as the United States averages nearly 100,000 new infections a day. Hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona report an alarming increase in patients.
The daily average of new cases reported over seven days increased nearly 30% in the past two weeks through Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that unvaccinated people should not travel, although it is not clear if that recommendation is having any effect.
More than 2.2 million people went through checkpoints at airports last Friday, the busiest day since the pandemic devastated travel early last year. From Friday to Monday, the number of people who flew in the United States was more than double that of the same days last year and only 8% lower than the same days of 2019.
At Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Peter Titus, an engineer in the plasma physics laboratory at Princeton University, was about to board a flight to Canada to visit his extended family, accompanied by his wife and an adult son. He was carrying a folder with prints of his vaccination certificates and negative COVID-19 tests, which are necessary to fly to Canada.
His son, Christian Titus, who works as a voice actor, said he spent much of the pandemic indoors but is willing to take the risk of flying on a crowded plane because he misses being with his family. To increase her protection, she got a booster shot.
“My mental health is better if I am surrounded by my family in these times,” he said. “Yes, it is dangerous, but I love these people, so you do what you can to stay safe around them.”
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