Covid Live Updates: U.S. Travel Near Pandemic Peak for Memorial Day


Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, D.C., on Friday. The Transportation Security Administration expects the daily number of people passing through U.S. airports to top two million over Memorial Day weekend.
Credit…Will Oliver/EPA, via Shutterstock

Memorial Day weekend is underway in the United States, and things are decidedly different for travelers than they were a year ago.

More than half of all adults in the United States have now been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A federal mandate requires travelers in airplanes or on public transportation to wear masks, though most airlines then were asking passengers to wear them. And many, many more people are likely to leave town for the holiday this year than in 2020.

Darby LaJoye, the acting administrator at the Transportation Security Administration, said that the number of travelers at U.S. airports has been increasing steadily during the spring, reaching nearly 1.9 million last Sunday, nearly eight times the figure for May 17, the comparable Sunday in 2020.

That number is likely to be exceeded over the holiday weekend, the latest crest in the recent waves of returning travelers, with the agency predicting that airports would probably see two million passengers in a day. Mr. LaJoye said that the increasing number of passengers could lead to longer wait times at security checkpoints.

AAA, the automobile owners group, predicted earlier this month that, all told, more than 37 million people would travel 50 miles or more from Thursday to Monday — a 60 percent increase from last year, though still 9 percent below 2019. A great majority will travel by car.

“We will continue to see a very steady increase as we approach the summer travel season,” Mr. LaJoye said. “As vaccinations continue to rise and confidence continues to build, the nation’s planes, trains, buses and roads are going to be heavily traveled.”

To help control the spread of the virus, the T.S.A. has erected acrylic barriers, installed new machines allowing some passengers to scan their own documents and adjusted the rules to allow passengers to have up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in their carry-on bags.

A year ago in the United States, there was no authorized coronavirus vaccine, mask requirements were left up to local officials and individual carriers and air traffic was sparse.

Now, people 12 or older can get vaccinated, and those who choose to travel have a sense of their own safety that even the boldest voyagers last year did not. (Still, traveling, and many other activities, can be complicated for younger children and their families).

“Thanks to vaccines, tens of millions of Americans are able to get back to something closer to normal, visiting friends and family,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., said this week at a news conference.

This year’s holiday falls at a time when parts of the world, like the United States and the European Union, are progressively reopening their borders and allowing tourism to restart. But the virus continues to ravage other areas, notably India, South America and Southeast Asia, where vaccine supplies are scarce and worrisome virus variants have been detected.

As it happens, the average number of new cases being reported in the U.S. is about the same now as it was around Memorial Day last year, about 23,000 a day, though testing was far scarcer as the pandemic initially hit. In each case, the figure had been declining from a recent peak in mid-April.

Last year, reports of revelers ignoring mask and social distancing rules over the holiday weekend were legion. Within weeks of some states reopening, virus cases were starting to surge to record levels. Jumps in virus cases have been seen after other holiday weekends, Dr. Walensky noted this week.

Now that many people have been vaccinated, any virus outbreaks in the United States after the holiday will probably look different, according to Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. She said she was concerned about “micro-epidemics” in vulnerable areas.

“We could potentially see these surges focused in specific communities, where there’s low vaccination rates and low masking rates,” Dr. El-Sadr said.

Global Roundup

The line at coronavirus testing center in Hong Kong’s business district in March.
Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

Hong Kong’s borders have been sealed for more than a year and its quarantine rules — which require compulsory hotel stays of up to three weeks — are among the strictest in the world.

Corporate executives, however, are now eligible for special treatment.

The city’s Securities and Futures Commission quietly published a notice on Friday saying that fully vaccinated “senior executives” from local companies or their international affiliates could apply for an exemption to skip quarantine when they visit or return to Hong Kong. It did not issue a news release, and the notice offered no explanation for the timing or justification for the measure.

Neither the Securities and Futures Commission nor Hong Kong’s Department of Health responded to requests for comment on Saturday.

The Chinese territory reported no new cases on Friday. Though densely populated, it has managed to avoid a full lockdown and has kept its coronavirus caseload low through aggressive social distancing rules and forced quarantine in government facilities for close contacts of Covid-19 patients, among other measures. Even vaccinated travelers must quarantine in hotels for one to two weeks, depending on where they fly in from.

The quarantine exemption announced on Friday is not the first for corporate executives in Hong Kong; a similar one was issued last year for executives from local companies re-entering the territory from the Chinese mainland. But it further illustrates how coronavirus policies in the Hong Kong, which has one of the biggest income inequality gaps in the world, do not apply evenly to all of its 7.5 million residents.

Officials have imposed lockdowns and mass testing after Covid-19 clusters were detected in poor neighborhoods, where many residents live in crowded tenements with faulty piping and poor ventilation. Critics have accused the government of allowing the conditions for outbreaks to fester, then imposing heavy-handed measures on a group that can least afford to bear them.

The government has also repeatedly accused the 370,000 or so migrant domestic workers who live in the city of violating social distancing restrictions, even though major outbreaks have revolved around clusters of expatriates and wealthy locals.

In early May, the government backtracked on a contentious order that would have required all migrant domestic workers to be vaccinated. But it still went ahead with a plan to subject them to a second round of compulsory coronavirus testing, despite the first round turning up just three positives among 340,000 people.

The government has said that its compulsory testing protocols are based solely on “risk assessment” and apply equally to anyone working in high-risk places, including nursing homes.

In other news around the world:

  • Malaysia reached 9,020 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the fifth straight day of record new infections in the country, according to Reuters. On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that a two-week nationwide lockdown would begin in June to fight the recent surge.

  • Saudi Arabia is lifting a ban…



Read More:Covid Live Updates: U.S. Travel Near Pandemic Peak for Memorial Day

Covid Live Updates: U.S. Travel Near Pandemic Peak for Memorial Day


Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, D.C., on Friday. The Transportation Security Administration expects the daily number of people passing through U.S. airports to top two million over Memorial Day weekend.
Credit…Will Oliver/EPA, via Shutterstock

Memorial Day weekend is underway in the United States, and things are decidedly different for travelers than they were a year ago.

More than half of all adults in the United States have now been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A federal mandate requires travelers in airplanes or on public transportation to wear masks, though most airlines then were asking passengers to wear them. And many, many more people are likely to leave town for the holiday this year than in 2020.

Darby LaJoye, the acting administrator at the Transportation Security Administration, said that the number of travelers at U.S. airports has been increasing steadily during the spring, reaching nearly 1.9 million last Sunday, nearly eight times the figure for May 17, the comparable Sunday in 2020.

That number is likely to be exceeded over the holiday weekend, the latest crest in the recent waves of returning travelers, with the agency predicting that airports would probably see two million passengers in a day. Mr. LaJoye said that the increasing number of passengers could lead to longer wait times at security checkpoints.

AAA, the automobile owners group, predicted earlier this month that, all told, more than 37 million people would travel 50 miles or more from Thursday to Monday — a 60 percent increase from last year, though still 9 percent below 2019. A great majority will travel by car.

“We will continue to see a very steady increase as we approach the summer travel season,” Mr. LaJoye said. “As vaccinations continue to rise and confidence continues to build, the nation’s planes, trains, buses and roads are going to be heavily traveled.”

To help control the spread of the virus, the T.S.A. has erected acrylic barriers, installed new machines allowing some passengers to scan their own documents and adjusted the rules to allow passengers to have up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in their carry-on bags.

A year ago in the United States, there was no authorized coronavirus vaccine, mask requirements were left up to local officials and individual carriers and air traffic was sparse.

Now, people 12 or older can get vaccinated, and those who choose to travel have a sense of their own safety that even the boldest voyagers last year did not. (Still, traveling, and many other activities, can be complicated for younger children and their families).

“Thanks to vaccines, tens of millions of Americans are able to get back to something closer to normal, visiting friends and family,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., said this week at a news conference.

This year’s holiday falls at a time when parts of the world, like the United States and the European Union, are progressively reopening their borders and allowing tourism to restart. But the virus continues to ravage other areas, notably India, South America and Southeast Asia, where vaccine supplies are scarce and worrisome virus variants have been detected.

As it happens, the average number of new cases being reported in the U.S. is about the same now as it was around Memorial Day last year, about 23,000 a day, though testing was far scarcer as the pandemic initially hit. In each case, the figure had been declining from a recent peak in mid-April.

Last year, reports of revelers ignoring mask and social distancing rules over the holiday weekend were legion. Within weeks of some states reopening, virus cases were starting to surge to record levels. Jumps in virus cases have been seen after other holiday weekends, Dr. Walensky noted this week.

Now that many people have been vaccinated, any virus outbreaks in the United States after the holiday will probably look different, according to Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. She said she was concerned about “micro-epidemics” in vulnerable areas.

“We could potentially see these surges focused in specific communities, where there’s low vaccination rates and low masking rates,” Dr. El-Sadr said.

Global Roundup

The line at coronavirus testing center in Hong Kong’s business district in March.
Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

Hong Kong’s borders have been sealed for more than a year and its quarantine rules — which require compulsory hotel stays of up to three weeks — are among the strictest in the world.

Corporate executives, however, are now eligible for special treatment.

The city’s Securities and Futures Commission quietly published a notice on Friday saying that fully vaccinated “senior executives” from local companies or their international affiliates could apply for an exemption to skip quarantine when they visit or return to Hong Kong. It did not issue a news release, and the notice offered no explanation for the timing or justification for the measure.

Neither the Securities and Futures Commission nor Hong Kong’s Department of Health responded to requests for comment on Saturday.

The Chinese territory reported no new cases on Friday. Though densely populated, it has managed to avoid a full lockdown and has kept its coronavirus caseload low through aggressive social distancing rules and forced quarantine in government facilities for close contacts of Covid-19 patients, among other measures. Even vaccinated travelers must quarantine in hotels for one to two weeks, depending on where they fly in from.

The quarantine exemption announced on Friday is not the first for corporate executives in Hong Kong; a similar one was issued last year for executives from local companies re-entering the territory from the Chinese mainland. But it further illustrates how coronavirus policies in the Hong Kong, which has one of the biggest income inequality gaps in the world, do not apply evenly to all of its 7.5 million residents.

Officials have imposed lockdowns and mass testing after Covid-19 clusters were detected in poor neighborhoods, where many residents live in crowded tenements with faulty piping and poor ventilation. Critics have accused the government of allowing the conditions for outbreaks to fester, then imposing heavy-handed measures on a group that can least afford to bear them.

The government has also repeatedly accused the 370,000 or so migrant domestic workers who live in the city of violating social distancing restrictions, even though major outbreaks have revolved around clusters of expatriates and wealthy locals.

In early May, the government backtracked on a contentious order that would have required all migrant domestic workers to be vaccinated. But it still went ahead with a plan to subject them to a second round of compulsory coronavirus testing, despite the first round turning up just three positives among 340,000 people.

The government has said that its compulsory testing protocols are based solely on “risk assessment” and apply equally to anyone working in high-risk places, including nursing homes.

In other news around the world:

  • Malaysia reached 9,020 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the fifth straight day of record new infections in the country, according to Reuters. On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that a two-week nationwide lockdown would begin in June to fight the recent surge.

  • Saudi Arabia is lifting a ban…



Read More:Covid Live Updates: U.S. Travel Near Pandemic Peak for Memorial Day