NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are still days to go until Thanksgiving, but holiday travel is already picking up.
The number of people passing through U.S. airports over the weekend reached levels not seen since before the pandemic. But as CBS2’s John Dias reports, a new vaccine mandate may slow down some travelers.
With holiday greetings on the way, so is the gridlock. From LaGuardia Airport, where lines to get through TSA were longer than usual, to John F. Kennedy International Airport, local transit hubs are already packed.
“It’s the holidays, it happens,” traveler Jon Case told CBS2.
“I just wanted to get here early. I’m taking an international flight,” traveler Emanuel Hugo said.
AAA predicts Thanksgiving travel overall will rebound to near pre-pandemic levels, with more than 53 million Americans traveling. Experts say the eastbound lanes of the Long Island Expressway will see the most congestion in our area on Thanksgiving eve.
“From 2:30 to 6:30 Wednesday, the day before the holiday, we are anticipating a 480% increase in traffic volumes,” said AAA Senior Manager of Public Affairs Robert Sinclair, Jr.
It comes as a new vaccine mandate for federal workers kicks in Monday, impacting TSA workers.
“If we are, they should be vaccinated,” said traveler Miguel Ortiz.
In October, 60% of TSA workers got at least one shot. But a spokesperson would not provide an updated number.
While the agency says it’s prepared, others worry it will lead to staffing shortages and extended wait times through security.
Brooklyn resident Erica Morris flew into Kennedy Airport from Charlotte, saying flying home was a hassle.
“It was way too long,” she said. “It didn’t look like there were a whole lot of people working. Not enough people at least.”
All this comes as new COVID cases are up nearly 54% in the last month nationwide. Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are among the hardest hit.
“With a daily average of now 92,000 cases, we’ve got to be careful,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CBS Mornings. “That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. We can be with our families if you’re vaccinated.”
Dr. Fauci said it’s a good idea to get a COVID test before celebrating indoors.
“It isn’t a firm requirement, but I think if you want to go that extra step, particularly when you’re in a region where there’s a lot of infection,” he said.
The TSA anticipates the Sunday after Thanksgiving will likely see the highest numbers of air travelers as people return home.
AAA experts say air travel has almost completely recovered from its dramatic fall during the pandemic. It’s up 80% over last year.