TSA reports highest travel numbers since pandemic hit
The TSA on Saturday reported the most passengers screened during the Covid-19 pandemic, with travel surging for Memorial Day weekend amid rising vaccination rates and a decrease in infections.
The transportation agency reported over 1.95 million air travelers Friday, the most reported since March 2020 when the pandemic began to take hold in the U.S, and another 1.85 million travelers Thursday. TSA routinely saw more than 2 million passengers daily in 2019.
Air travel has slowly climbed in recent months, with more than 62 percent of American adults having gotten at least one vaccine dose and more than half of adults fully vaccinated as of Friday. Memorial Day weekend has been widely expected to mark a return to something more closely resembling normalcy for many, with Covid-19 cases falling significantly across the country in recent weeks.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday on Good Morning America that the TSA is “ready” but that travelers should expect lines.
“We’re very excited about the reemergence of travel, the chance for Americans to reunite with family and friends whom they haven’t seen for some time. … There’s going to be a tremendous amount of people traveling this weekend,” Mayorkas said. “Patience is required.”
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance saying that fully vaccinated Americans can safely gather unmasked in any type of group gathering, indoors or outdoors. AAA has said this month that more than 37 million people are expected to travel 50-plus miles over Memorial Day weekend, up more than 60 percent from 2020.
Gas prices on Memorial Day weekend are higher than they have been in seven years amid high demand and after the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline this month.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to put the prices in a more positive light in a statement Friday, saying that Americans are now “paying less in real terms for gas than they have on average over the last 15 years.”
“Across America, the pandemic is in retreat,” Psaki said. “As we continue to make progress, and our life returns to normal, Americans are eager to make up for lost time, and more people are traveling this Memorial Day weekend.”
The White House on Saturday touted the numbers in a news release, adding, “As traveling resumes, industries across the country – from transportation to hospitality – will reap the benefits.”
President Joe Biden has set a goal of having 70 percent of American adults receive at least one vaccine dose by July 4.
“If you are vaccinated, you are protected, and you can enjoy your Memorial Day,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this week. But she added that non-vaccinated people still need to mask and take precautions.
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