U.S. Department of Defense and United Airlines conduct study and find the risk of exposure to coronavirus on commercial airlines is ‘virtually nonexistent’; Fox News correspondent Bryan Llenas reports.
Spring-breakers and holidaymakers are still taking to the skies, even despite the CDC’s continued guidance against non-essential air travel.
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On Sunday, March 21, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 1.5 million travelers in a single day — the highest traveler throughput in over a year.
The following Monday, March 22, also marked the 12th consecutive day that TSA checkpoint volume exceeded over 1 million passengers per day, a milestone also not observed since March 2020.
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A representative for the TSA confirmed to Fox News that the uptick, partially fueled by spring break travelers, was something the agency had prepared for in early March by upgrading checkpoint technology to reduce instances of physical contact, or stepping up vaccination efforts for officers, among other measures.
“What we have seen is an increase in travel volume this month in spite of the fact that the CDC does recommends avoiding non-essential travel,” a representative for the agency stated.
Prior to this month’s numbers, the TSA’s longest consecutive streak of screening over 1 million passengers amid the pandemic lasted for five days during the busy holiday stretch between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30. The TSA also observed bumps in traffic in early January, just after New Year’s Day, and over the Valentine’s Day/Presidents Day weekend in February.
Following the latter, a representative for the TSA told Fox News that while traffic may have increased, February’s numbers only represented “about 40% of pre-pandemic passenger volumes.”
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This isn’t the case when it comes to the past week of TSA throughput. On March 17, traffic exceeded that of the same date in 2020, and continued to do so through the Sunday, marking five days of increased year-over-year traffic. This, however, likely comes as no surprise to the TSA; traffic began plummeting during the same week in 2020 after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. (For reference, the TSA screened at least 2 million passengers per day — and often hundreds of thousands more — during the same week in 2019.)
Travelers arrive for flights at O’Hare international Airport on March 16, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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This week’s number’s, while likely a promising trend for the airline industry, come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend against unnecessary travel. In a February update, the CDC states that air travel, specifically, “requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.”
The agency further notes that social-distancing can be more difficult on commercial aircraft, “and sitting within 6 feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19,” even despite the in-flight circulation and filtration systems that make it difficult for viruses to spread on commercial aircraft.
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The TSA, meanwhile, is also reminding passengers of the CDC’s guidance, as well as their own continued policies for face masks and other coronavirus safety protocol.
“The federal mask mandate remains in effect in the transportation sectors across the country, even in states that have relaxed their own mask mandates,” a representative reiterated in a statement shared with Fox News.