A large crowd and long queues were spotted at O’Hare International Airport on Friday as passengers were preparing to leave Chicago ahead of Thanksgiving.
The photos show people lined up in terminals, very far away from 6 feet with little social distance.
According to the airport’s website, coverings are required inside the airport and “whenever possible, passengers should maintain a distance of 6 feet or 2 meters between people”. The Chicago Department of Aviation did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the crowds.
“The safety, security and well-being of the traveling public is our highest priority and the CDA works closely with our airports and public health partners to ensure the safest possible environment,”
The department also said it was working with TSA and airlines operating outside the airport to “ensure the coherence of all terminals.” There are also volunteer “ambassadors” who move through terminals, distribute masks and encourage social distancing, officials said.
“We will continue these efforts, but we would also like to remind passengers of their responsibility to follow public health guidelines, including wearing a mask and maintaining an appropriate social distance,” the CDA said in a statement. “We all have a role to play.”
Queues and crowds come a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines urging Americans not to travel for the holiday.
Dr Henry Walk, CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said he was concerned about “transport centers”. He said he was worried that people would not be able to maintain social distance while waiting in line, for example to board buses and planes.
“We are worried,” Walk said, adding that there has been an “exponential increase” in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the country recently. “One of our worries is that when people get together during the holiday season, they can actually carry infections with that little get-together and not even know it.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health has expressed similar concerns, urging families to celebrate the holiday in practice.
“Just remember that a negative test doesn’t give you a free card to celebrate Thanksgiving in person,” Illinois Director of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday. “The safest way to celebrate with your loved ones and your favorite adult relatives is to do it virtually. ”
Ezike noted that exposure could result in a positive test at any time within 14 days of that exposure.
“It only works if you haven’t been exposed to anyone in the 14 days since you were tested until you met your friends and family,” she said. “When you’re around other people, you can be exposed to the virus at any time.”
Hospitals in the state are preparing for the potential that Thanksgiving and Christmas could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Several hospitals in Illinois now report more coronavirus patients than during the spring rush, as medical experts warn that they are trying months ahead, according to information provided by many hospitals.
“Thanksgiving evenings can be super distributors,” said Dr. Robert Zitronberg, executive medical director of infectious diseases and prevention at Advocate Aurora Health, on Monday. “It’s so critical that we don’t do this. The numbers are devastating right now. Our health care system can’t take the doubling or tripling of those numbers. “
Chicago and the suburbs of Cook County receive home-based advice, effective Monday and lasting 30 days, urging residents to avoid meeting people who do not live in their home. The Illinois Department of Public Health has issued similar recommendations for staying at home across the state as the entire state prepares for enhanced Level 3 mitigation measures, starting Friday, closing several businesses and imposing new restrictions on others.
Chicago has also issued travel orders for almost all of the United States, requiring anyone who comes to the city after being in certain states to be quarantined for two weeks or, in some cases, to take a negative test before arrival.
Some passengers said they were surprised by the number of people at the airport this week.
“No one is 6 feet away. Each is 3 feet apart or 2 feet apart. That’s awful, “said O’Hare passenger Sidney Morgan.
Although the AAA claims that nearly 15% fewer Illinois travel this year than last, 2.4 million are still expected to make the holiday trip.
Most Americans are expected to travel by car, followed by a plane, according to the group.
Despite the CDC warning, some passengers said they were not concerned.
“I feel safe to fly,” said O’Hare passenger Ariel Brumel.
“Nearly a billion people have traveled by air, and only 44 COVID cases involve live transmission,” said Brian Kelly, The Points Guy.
If you do travel, the CDC reminds passengers to take precautions.
Walk said that “there is no more important time than now for every American to redouble our efforts to observe our distance, to wash our hands and, most importantly, to wear a mask.”