The sea of Thanksgiving passengers had already started flying at the Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday as crowds of people were waiting for snakes, bags and curbs through the check-in lines.
Airport staff made periodic announcements about the Covid-19 guidelines, occasionally inviting passengers who were not wearing masks: “You are almost there, all around, nose, mouth and chin. “One said over the loudspeaker.
Thanksgiving is upon us, which means the holiday season is in full swing. According to LAX spokeswoman Heath Montgomery, this holiday season, an estimated 2 million people are expected to travel by LAX, more than double last year but still one million less than in 2019.
But growing crowds also pose new coronavirus risks. While cases are declining in California, officials are concerned about a possible winter surge as colder weather sends more people indoors and resumes holiday travel.
“This virus, this disease, is not taking a winter break,” Government Gavin News said this week, noting that “increasing the potential for stress on our system has led to an increase in cases of Covid-19.” Hopefully. ”
“I’m not saying this to warn people. I do not say this for any reason other than to equate people, ”he said.
“It’s still scary, but I’m fine,” said Maria Elena Sanchez, 21, who had been preparing to board a flight to visit her father in Kansas for two weeks. “Now that other people have been vaccinated, I feel better about traveling. “People are more cautious.”
Montgomery said Friday and Sunday are likely to be the busiest days before Thanksgiving, but Sunday is expected to be the busiest after the holiday, with 175,000 passengers.
“It’s still not the pre-epidemic level, but it’s definitely been the busiest since the beginning of 2020,” he said.
Despite last year’s disappointing travel numbers, California is still heading for a brutal and deadly winter surge of COVID-19, which accelerated shortly after Thanksgiving.
This year, the situation is different: according to the Times Tracker, more than 72% of Angelinos and more than 70% of California residents have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a medical epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, predicts that “modest growth, not something that can be great,” is due to increasing vaccines and past infections. Due to some resistance from.
But the potential for transmission remains high – especially for those vaccinated, Kim Farley said. Cold weather and spending too much time indoors can increase the risks. What’s more, LA county public health officials have warned that vaccine safety is declining for many people.
Kim Farley also noted that coronavirus transmission is not consistent and that some states and territories are seeing higher rates than others. For example, in recent weeks there has been a significant increase in admissions to Covid-19 hospitals in the Inner Empire and the Central Valley, which has created tensions in local healthcare systems.
“One thing that people need to be aware of is Where They are traveling, to be a little more careful if they are going to a place with high levels of communication, “said Kim Farley.
He added that more travel and vacation gatherings are expected in the coming weeks, “now is the time” for non-vaccinated people to consider taking their shots.
Already on Thursday, some parking spaces at LAX were filled. Airport officials said passengers planning to park for the holidays should consider booking places ahead of time.
Matthew Reed, 29, arrived from New Jersey on a pre-Thanksgiving trip with friends. The group thought it would be better to gather a week before the Thanksgiving extension, which would give them peace of mind to enjoy the holidays at home.
“We are planning to celebrate Light Thanksgiving because of Kovid-19. We agreed that it would be smart to keep things local, “he said.
Reed, a graduate student at Rutgers University, said he was still cautious about Covid-19 and generally followed the guidelines and kept assemblies short. But he and his friends have all been vaccinated, so it’s a different feeling than last year, when anxiety was so high.
“We were arrogant last year, especially since there was no vaccine. There was a lot of worry, “he said. “You haven’t seen anyone or gone anywhere.”
For those who have not been vaccinated, “living at home or living locally” means the most, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a news briefing Thursday.
“It simply came to our notice then. We urge travelers to travel only if they have been fully vaccinated. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. ”
Brassing is not the only place for Los Angeles passenger growth – and the potential growth of the Covid-19 – as traffic numbers are expected to grow across the country.
The Transportation Security Administration estimates that about 20 million passengers will fly during this year’s Thanksgiving holiday, more than double last year’s total. The numbers still won’t beat the all-time high – nearly 26 million flew during the Thanksgiving period in 2019 – but they do show a significant increase.
Even smaller airports, such as the Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino, are expecting the number of passengers to reach pre-epidemic levels, officials said this week.
And drivers will be busy too, with American Automobile SSN. It is estimated that 48.3 million Americans will be on the road for the November holidays, which is only 3% less than pre-epidemic levels.
Despite the dangers, experts say that during the holidays, people can take some steps to protect themselves and their loved ones, including simple measures such as hand washing, compliance with federal mask orders, compliance with local vaccine ordinances and the use of airplanes. Wipe the surface and other high-contact areas. Home-to-home Covid-19 tests, while not as reliable as lab tests, can provide peace of mind in a pinch.
Kerry Althoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said gatherings where all guests are vaccinated are safe, especially if the person eligible for a booster shot is vaccinated.
But getting together where some people are not vaccinated – either by choice or by age or other factors – is risky.
“It’s really important that if there are going to be vaccinators at the gathering, there should be some guards at the gathering, some safety precautions, so that other people can feel comfortable,” he said.
Some of these “guardrails” include small gatherings with fewer people, or gatherings focused on outdoor activities such as bonfires.
“We may find it a bit rusty, but just remember that you want your guests to feel comfortable, and that everyone has the option to politely decline the invitation,” Althoff added. .
He also recommended that anyone planning to attend holiday gatherings limit their activities and exposure to earlier days. People who meet more vulnerable people can also test faster on the same day.
For some, it’s worth the effort to get together this Thanksgiving.
“Last year, I was worried, I was scared. I didn’t travel, “said Sandra Villa, a La Pointe resident, as she waited to check in for a flight to Minneapolis.
He looked around to see everyone wearing masks and following COVID-19 safety rules. “It simply came to our notice then.
He is traveling for the first time in Minneapolis to see his daughter and three grandchildren, and it is a very important vacation after spending two years at home.
Villa took his booster shot last week, and although he had some safety concerns, he focused on what he would bring to Minnesota over the next three weeks: food, indoor family reunion and beautiful Seeing the snow.
Times Staff Writer Luke Money contributed to this report.