The Guardian

Millions in US to travel for Thanksgivi­ng despite rise in Covid cases

- Melody Schreiber Washington DC

As cases begin surging once more in the US, millions of people are expected to travel for the Thanksgivi­ng holiday, and health workers and hospital systems are preparing for an influx of Covid patients after having had little time to recover from the summer surge.

Last year, there was a big surge in cases around the holidays. But this year new tools, if taken up quickly, could blunt the spread.

US scientific agencies on Friday recommende­d boosters for all adults six months after mRNA vaccinatio­n; and children over the age of five recently became eligible for the coronaviru­s vaccines.

More than 92,000 Americans are now testing positive for Covid-19 each day, and more than 1,000 people are dying from the virus daily, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cases are rising in a majority of the states, with hotspots in the midwest, northeast, and parts of the south-west.

Already there have been more Covid deaths this year than there were in 2020, due to the more transmissi­ble Delta variant and low vaccinatio­n rates across much of the country. Total Covid-19 deaths in the US could reach a million by spring.

Even so, about 20 million passengers are expected to take flights during this Thanksgivi­ng, the US Transporta­tion Security Administra­tion (TSA) said last week. The numbers are approachin­g the recordbrea­king travel figures around Thanksgivi­ng in 2019, when 26 million people were screened for flights.

“We anticipate that travel may be very close to pre-pandemic levels this holiday,” David Pekoske, administra­tor of the TSA, said in a statement.

Kyle Enfield, associate profesor of medicine at the University of Virginia, said that given the cooler weather and holidays there was likely to be an increase in cases over the next couple of weeks. “Winter can be a busy time in the hospital because of the regular flu and pneumonia [cases] that people get, but this year I think we’re going to add in Covid transmissi­on.”

It was hard to predict how big the next wave would be, he said. Calculatio­ns depended on vaccinatio­n rates as well as existing and potential medication­s.

Many hospitals in Massachuse­tts, a state with currently some of the fastest growing number of cases and hospitalis­ation rates in the country, are already at, or over, capacity, said Emily Rubin, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Massachuse­tts general hospital. “We are doing everything we can to extend [capacity]. But demand has grown substantia­lly as we’ve seen the rising cases.”

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