‘Mom’s Worth It’: US Holiday Travel Surges Despite Outbreak

Dec 23, 2020, 10:36 AM

Travelers wait in line to check in for a flight at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los An...

Travelers wait in line to check in for a flight at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) amid a COVID-19 surge in Southern California on December 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Some are elderly and figure they don’t have many Christmases left. Others are trying to keep long-distance romance alive. Some just yearn for the human connection that’s been absent for the past nine months.

Millions of Americans are traveling ahead of Christmas and New Year’s, despite pleas from public health experts that they stay home to avoid fueling the raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 320,000 nationwide.

Many people at airports this week thought long and hard about whether to go somewhere and found a way to rationalize it.

“My mom’s worth it. She needs my help,” said 34-year-old Jennifer Brownlee, a fisherman from Bayou La Batre, Alabama, who was waiting at the Tampa airport to fly to Oregon to see her mother, who just lost a leg. “I know that God’s got me. He’s not going to let me get sick.”

Brownlee said that she would wear a mask on the plane “out of respect” for other passengers but that her immune system and Jesus Christ would protect her.

More than 5 million people passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

That is down around 60% from the same time last year. But it amounts to around a million passengers per day, or about what the U.S. saw in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, when some Americans likewise disregarded warnings and ended up contributing to the surge in the U.S.

Michelle Lopez wondered if she made the right decision after flying from Houston to Norfolk, Virginia, where her boyfriend serves in the Navy.

“I didn’t want to go, but I haven’t seen him in so long,” said the 24-year-old, who last saw her boyfriend about five months ago and was trying to maintain their relationship.

Before flying, Lopez took a COVID-19 test that came back negative. But the two planes she took offered little room for social distancing. Some passengers removed their masks to eat or drink. And not everyone used wipes that airlines offer to sanitize armrests and trays.

Her layover at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was equally unsettling, she said. It was packed with people and felt hot from too many bodies. Some people wore their masks below their noses. In the bathrooms, not everyone washed their hands for at least 20 seconds, Lopez said.

She works as a medical assistant in a doctor’s office. She will have to quarantine for 10 days at home and get tested again before heading back to work.

Joan Crunk, 75, and her husband, Jim, 80, of Grandview, Missouri, were at the Kansas City airport Tuesday, waiting to pick up their daughter and son-in-law, who were flying in from Savannah, Georgia, and planned to stay with them until Jan. 2. It had been a year since they had seen each other.

Joan Crunk said they talked a lot about whether to gather.

“It is very hard, and we are older. My husband is 80. There is no guarantee from one year to the next,” she said as “Silver Bells” played over the airport speakers.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome encouraged people to celebrate only with people in their households, but added that if they can’t follow the guidance, they should take precautions, such as ensuring good home ventilation.

“We can’t let fatigue cause us to make poor decisions this holiday season that end up making us backtrack, especially when we are so incredibly close to getting ourselves and everyone else across the finish line,” he said, referring to the start of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Overall, the AAA projected that about 85 million people will travel between Wednesday and Jan. 3, most of them by car. That would be a drop of nearly a one-third from a year ago but still a big number in the middle of a pandemic.

Janeen Pierre was juggling a pile of luggage Tuesday and getting her two little girls to the bathroom at the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport before they boarded their flight to Orlando, Florida.

Pierre and her husband had planned to spend Christmas on a Disney cruise, but the pandemic changed their itinerary to ringing in the holidays at Disney’s theme parks instead.

“Disney refunded all of our money, but American Airlines did not. So we’re going to have a very Disney Christmas,” she said, adding that her girls could barely contain their excitement about visiting Cinderella’s Castle.

Still, she said, “With the new strains coming out, I don’t know if this is the smartest idea.”

Doreen Lindsay, a 48-year-old doctor, was on a layover in Atlanta, traveling home to Memphis, Tennessee, from the San Diego area, where she worked with COVID-19 patients in a field hospital. She planned to be with her son for the holidays.

“It’s my son and myself, really. It’s he and I. We’ve been through so much. And he’s excited. Can you believe it? An 18-year-old man happy to have his mom coming home,” she said.

Lindsey said workers at the field hospital were isolated when they completed the assignment and were tested regularly, including up to four times in a span of four days before leaving.

As for her travels, “it’s not just ‘oh, recreation.’ I’m getting back to my place. I’m not going to another,” she said. “The risk has to be worth the benefits.”


Associated Press reporters Alexandra Olson in New York; Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri; Sarah Blake Morgan in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Sophia Tulp in Atlanta contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live


Deer Creek Reservoir...

Alex Cabrero

State parks expecting another record visitation year, hiring more workers

It didn't matter how cold or snowy it was at Deer Creek State Park Friday afternoon. Nothing was going to stop Leonard Sawyer from taking his boat out to do a little fishing.

5 days ago

FILE —  Respiratory virus illness activity continues to increase across the US.
(Joe Burbank/Orl...

Emma Benson

‘Not viruses to mess around with’: Experts urge caution during ongoing ‘tripledemic’

Experts say though not as severe as last year, this winter we're seeing another "tripledemic" – rising cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV in Utah.

1 month ago

Skiers and snowboarders at the Beaver Mountain Resort...

Mike Anderson and Michael Houck, KSL TV

Ski resorts prepare for influx of snow and people

Many Utah ski resorts are finally getting the snow they waited all December for, just in time for another big storm.

1 month ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Emma Benson

‘The ICUs are full:’ Keep yourself and others healthy this holiday

It's time for holiday gatherings, but with more people around us comes a greater risk of getting sick.

2 months ago

Julianna Preece goes through the mountain of medical documents she's acquired for her health condit...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Herriman couple is suing CVS, says 5x Covid vaccine dose mistake caused health problems

A couple is suing a Utah CVS vaccination clinic, saying a nurse’s mistake led to the wife receiving five times the normal COVID-19 vaccine dose and caused serious health issues she’s still dealing with today.

3 months ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Associated Press

More free COVID-19 tests from the government are available for home delivery through the mail

Americans can order more free COVID-19 tests online for home delivery.

3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

‘Mom’s Worth It’: US Holiday Travel Surges Despite Outbreak