Thousands travel through RDU over Thanksgiving, but numbers plummet from last year

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Packed aircraft filled with holiday travelers have officials worried about how that will impact COVID-19 infection numbers in the near future. 
 
RDU Airport saw its busiest day of the holiday stretch on Sunday. 

With millions of people traveling nationwide, there are fears all that movement is going to have a delayed reaction with a huge increase coronavirus case numbers in the coming two weeks. 
 
“We’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country,”  Dr. Deborah Birx told CBS’s Face The Nation. “That’s what worries us the most.” 

Birx, a Coronavirus Task Force member added, “We saw what happened post-Memorial Day and now  we are deeply worried about what could happen post-Thanksgiving.” 

RDU was one of scores of airports inundated with holiday travelers, among them Kate Biegler, who said she was very concerned about flying during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I was concerned enough to keep my mask on the whole time,” she said. 
 
Although Sunday was RDU’s busiest day, the numbers were nothing compared to last year. 
 
The airport says 9,000 passengers used its facilities Sunday compared to 54,800 on the same day last year. 

Officials said an estimated 83,500 people – in total — used RDU this Thanksgiving week. 

CBS 17 wanted to know why people feel compelled to travel this holiday despite COVID-19 dangers. 
 
“We needed to be together this time, me and my sisters” said Kimberly Bowser.  

She said they wanted to see each other “due to the fact that we lost our mom to COVID. We needed to be together because she would not be with us this holiday time.” 

Holiday traveler Jonathan Stelter said,  “I had a couple of nieces I haven’t met yet. That’s a big reason.” 
 
The airport and TSA tried to make things safe by adding sanitation procedures including some changes at the checkpoints. 

“Approximately every 30 minutes, the entire checkpoint is sanitized including all surfaces a passenger would come in contact with are sanitized,” said Dennis Nelson of the TSA in Raleigh. 

 If COVID-19 infections accelerate significantly in mid-December that could impact Christmas air travel. 

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