The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported screening 1.3 million passengers on Sunday, Dec. 27, more than any single day since the coronavirus pandemic began.
While the figure is down from the same day last year, the record comes despite warnings from health officials for Americans to limit holiday travel to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Sunday saw 1,284,599 travel through US airports, according to TSA’s checkpoint travel numbers. That number is a little less than half of the 2,575,985 million people who traveled through US airports on the same day in 2019.
This year, over 3.5 million people traveled in the three days following Christmas, less than half of the three-day total following last year’s holiday. Another 3 million-plus Americans traveled the weekend before Christmas, between Dec. 18-20.
The last time TSA saw such a high spike in travel numbers was in November, when 1,176,091 people traveled on the Friday following Thanksgiving.
Since March, the TSA has only recorded 11 days where over 1 million people passed through security checkpoints: one day in October, four days in November, and six days so far in December.
Last year, US airports typically saw upwards of 2.5 million travelers per day — this year, the last day TSA recorded over 2 million travelers was March 8, with 2,119,867 people passing through security checkpoints.
With more people potentially traveling around the New Year, some fear the winter surge predicted by Dr. Fauci and other experts may come to fruition.
Some states are already seeing a spike in COVID cases following the holiday travel.
On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Californians to brace for the effect of a “surge on top of a surge” due to holiday travel.
“As we move into this new phase, where we brace, where we prepare ourselves for what is inevitable now ... based on the travel we have just seen in the last week and the expectation of more of the same through the rest of the holiday season of a surge on top of a surge, arguably, on top of, again, another surge,” Newsom said Monday.
The current surge of cases across the state is due in large part to spikes in travel around Thanksgiving, when celebrations took place despite warnings from public health officials not to gather as the state was already in the midst of an exponential growth in cases.
On Tuesday, North Dakota state health officials said the rate of positive tests for the virus rose to nearly 13% in the last day after hovering between about 3% and 5% during the Christmas holiday. Over the past 24 hours alone, officials confirmed six new COVID-related deaths, bringing the state’s total fatalities to 1,276.
Across the country, over 19 million people have contracted the virus, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. At least 335,820 people have died from the disease in the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.