WASHINGTON — Nearly 1.3 million people went through U.S. airports on Sunday, the highest level of air travel in more than nine months, despite fear that travel will lead to more cases of COVID-19.
The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1,284,599 on Sunday, the highest total since March 15. More than 10 million people have traveled by air since Dec. 18, including six days with at least 1 million people getting screened.
Figures on road trips aren’t available, but AAA predicted that about 85 million Americans would travel during the Christmas holiday season, most of them by car.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious disease, said that level of travel could lead to a further increase in COVID-19 cases. Fauci said crowded airports make it difficult to maintain social distance, and holiday gatherings combine people from different households.
“As much as we advise against it, nonetheless, it happens,” he said on CNN. “And that’s one of the reasons why we’re concerned about that being a real risk situation for the spread of infection.”
New cases of COVID-19 have been surging for about two months. There have been more than 330,000 reported deaths from the virus.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Trump has signed a massive COVID-19 relief bill for Americans but his foot-dragging has caused a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions.
— Virus deaths in Germany top 30,000; lockdown may be extended past Jan. 10.
— British hospitals are getting overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.
— A large study of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate made by Novavax Inc. is getting underway in the U.S.
— AstraZeneca’s chief says researchers believe its vaccine will be effective against a new variant of the virus driving a rapid surge in infections in Britain.
— China sentences former lawyer who reported virus news to four years in prison.
— Pacific islands work to counter virus-induced food shortages by promoting gardens.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has decided to extend its weeklong closure of all official ports of entry over fears of the new fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.
The kingdom’s Interior Ministry announced on Monday that borders will remain shut and international commercial flights suspended for at least another week. Cargo flights and shipping routes will not be affected.
The country sealed its ports last week, following the discovery of the more contagious virus strain in Britain. Starting on Sunday, non-citizens in the country were allowed to leave the kingdom despite the travel ban.
Although cases have declined in recent months, Saudi Arabia has struggled to stem a major outbreak that has infected over 362,000 people and killed more than 6,000.