Travelers flood Chicago airports, roads for Thanksgiving weekend, despite CDC travel advisory, surging COVID-19 cases

Sunday expected to be busiest travel day of the year; Gov. Pritzker urges Illinoisans to wear masks, distance

Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Travelers flood Chicago airports, roads despite warnings
Despite warnings from the CDC and public officials, O'Hare airport was buzzing with travelers feeling the pull of home on Thanksgiving Eve.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's the day before Thanksgiving, and officials are again urging people to be smart, and stay safe, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the warnings, Wednesday is expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the long holiday weekend.

The governor has urged people to do the right thing -- stay home and cancel plans.

But O'Hare was still seeing people buzz through Wednesday morning, making it hard for travelers to stay 6 feet apart.

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From the airports, to the roads, to the rails, millions of Americans are traveling for Thanksgiving, despite repeated warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay home to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. JB Pritzker is also asking people to change their plans if they intend to travel, but for those who must go, he's making this request.

"Please wear your mask, even when you go to someone else's house; wear your mask and keep your distance," he said.

Jim White from Rockford was headed to Mexico Wednesday.

"We feel if we take all the precautions, we'll be safe. And we're going to Mexico for a week," White said. "Been working so much I need a vacation."

Gary Garcia is a DePaul student heading home to Colorado, despite the risk.

"I'm just going to go home and stay with my immediate family so I'm not that fearful, but I will get a COVID test when I get home just to be sure," Garcia said.

Many travelers said the decision to be or not to be with family this year was very hard to make.

"I do worry about the safety of myself and my family, but I tested; I made sure I was negative before flying," Vick Shaholli said. "I wasn't going to fly if I was positive. And I'm also going to test again when I get home just to be safe."

RELATED: Illinois COVID-19 Update: IL reports 9,469 new coronavirus cases, 125 deaths

AAA is forecasting a 10% overall decline in Thanksgiving travel compared with last year, the largest year-on-year drop since the recession of 2008. But 50 million people will likely travel for the holiday this year.

About 1 million Americans a day packed airports and planes over the weekend, even as coronavirus deaths surged across the U.S.

And the crowds are only expected to grow. Next Sunday is likely to be the busiest day of the holiday period.

The Chicago Department of Aviation said safety is paramount, and we all have a role to play.

Pritzker said he thinks this is the only year he'll ask people to spend the holidays away from loved ones.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed his concern on Good Morning America.

"What we don't want to see is yet another surge superimposed upon the surge," Fauci said.

AAA is also predicting that almost 48 million Americans will hit the road over the Thanksgiving holiday, a 4.3% decline from last year, and Wednesday's weather is making road conditions miserable.