FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) – As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, South Florida travelers are cautiously taking to the skies, despite health officials’ concerns that heavy traffic could lead to an uptick in coronavirus cases that are already on the rise.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to refrain from traveling did not prevent flyers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport from taking off ahead of the holidays on Sunday and Monday.
However, AAA is anticipating the largest one-year drop in travel since 2008.
Some travelers said they’re not concerned about their risks of contracting the virus.
“Keep your mask on, keep your distance, and have a great Turkey Day,” said a traveler.
“I’m not worried about traveling,” said Morgan Pirkle. “There are spaces on the aircraft. You’re not sitting next to somebody. They require these masks.”
“Yeah, it’s fine, I mean, it is what it is,” said another traveler. “I gotta deal with it, I guess.”
“We felt pretty safe,” said another traveler at FLL. “We’re feeling pretty good.”
“We’re not worried. Not at all. We’re going home to be with our kids,” said a pair of travelers.
Over the weekend, more than three million people passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints around the U.S.
Miami International Airport is expecting 620,000 passengers over the next 12 days, which is the most they’ve seen since the pandemic began.
“It was never a doubt in our mind that we were going to travel this year,” said Trias Rios before traveling to Memphis. “The CDC also recommends that you do things outside, that you still limit your number of people that you’re dining with, and we’re doing that same thing just in a different location. We’ve done our best to stay safe during this time and we’re going to do that even as we travel.”
Travelers at Miami International Airport also gave an optimistic outlook but indicated they will adhere to safety guidelines.
“I’m gonna keep my mask on. I’m not gonna keep going to face to face with people and just make sure no one sneezes on me or whatever,” said a man.
“As long as you take the right precautions, you should be OK,” said a woman.
Meanwhile, FLL is expecting nearly half a million travelers this week.
For some families, like the Haydens from Houston, Texas, the no-travel request from the CDC didn’t get here in time.
“That came kind of late,” said Carlton Hayden.
“We made these plans probably back in March or April. Just kind of keeping our fingers crossed that things will kind of settle down by now,” said Carlton’s wife Felicia.
They haven’t, and most states are reporting increases.
“When numbers started rising, they were like ‘Don’t travel,’ but plans were confirmed and everything was paid for,” Felicia said.
The heavy airport traffic comes as Dr. Deborah Birx with the White House coronavirus task force is warning of the dangers of asymptomatic spread ahead of the busy travel season.
“Now we know that over 50% of the individuals, particularly among those under 35, many could be infected and unknowingly spreading the virus,” she said.
“And we figured we’re Texas. we’re in one hotspot and we came to Florida, which is another hotspot. We just do the same things we did in Texas as you do in Florida, and make the best of it,” Carlton said.
Health officials, meanwhile, said the number of coronavirus cases in the Sunshine State continues to rise. On Monday, the Florida Department of Health reported 6,331 new cases.
Of those cases, 1,499 are in Miami-Dade County, 688 are in Broward and 26 are in Monroe.
Officials said the number of people getting tested in the state is also on the rise. On Saturday, the site at the Hard Rock Stadium conducted 3,347 tests, the most tests done in one day since it opened.
Depending on their final destination or where they are coming from, officials said, travelers will likely need a test.
“We’re anticipating a busy day on Monday. That’s why we’re asking for everybody’s patience,” said Mike Jachles with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Officials are urging people to do their research and also figure out which test they need. While there are still a couple of days to get a rapid COVID-19 test, travelers are running out of time to get a PCR, or molecular test.
“Currently, it’s running one to two days right here at the Hard Rock site to turn those around,” said Jachles. “However, we’re anticipating increased demands, so we’re telling people to allow at least 3 days for those results.”
Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
For the CDC’s COVID-19 safety recommendations for holiday travel, click here.
For travel safety tips at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, click here.
For travel safety tips at Miami International Airport, click here.
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