“Around the holidays people tend to travel more, so we expect numbers to increase during those weekends,” said Daniel Velez, a TSA spokesman. Travel numbers are predicted to remain lower than those in 2019 due to the pandemic, he said.
The highest number of single-day travelers during Thanksgiving week in New England so far — 27,761 people — was seen on Saturday, Nov. 21, according to the TSA. Last year, Friday, Nov. 22, was the busiest travel day with just under 93,000 people.
At Logan International Airport, the number of passengers has consistently been down about 80 percent “for several months now,” according to Jennifer Mehigan, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
Before the pandemic, the airport regularly saw between 120,000 and 140,000 total travelers a day. Because there have been fewer passengers throughout the year, the airport staff was ready for the influx in passengers during Thanksgiving week, Mehigan said.
“Typically, the Thanksgiving holiday does tend to be a busy time at the airport, though nothing has been normal in this pandemic,” she said.
Data on the number of travelers during the holiday week at specific airports was not provided.
The risk of being on a plane isn’t what worries health experts, according to Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center.
Compared to the number of flights since the pandemic, there have been “relatively few” transmission events, she said.
“It’s the fact that people are moving around the country,” Doron said.
With different rates of infection in communities across the United States, Doron’s primary concern is that people who travel to areas where the virus is more prevalent may contract it and bring it back.
The same goes for people from Massachusetts who travel to areas where the virus is less prevalent, such as Vermont, putting those communities at risk.
“To me, that’s the main reason not to travel,” Doron said.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Doron said she was concerned to see long lines at testing facilities — “longer than we’ve ever seen before” — suggesting that people may be getting tested to meet travel restrictions or attend gatherings.
“Right now, we are looking at the real possibility of a second wave that could overwhelm our healthcare system,” Doron said.
Unlike the first wave of the virus in March and April, when many hospitals struggled to provide care for the surge in coronavirus patients, a second larger wave could prove too much for hospitals to handle.
“At this time, travel is not advised,” she said, emphasizing that travel outside of the state is discouraged “because we just don’t want to move that virus around more than we have to.”
Despite higher travel volumes during the holiday season, the overall decline in travel was expected among transportation officials, Velez said.
As predicted, however, Thanksgiving week proved to be the busiest of the year nationwide — by far.
“We have hit the 1 million passenger mark three times within the