Americans are hitting the road in record numbers despite government warnings that people should stay home during the Christmas holidays to limit the spread of COVID-19.
A fresh load of infections, hospitalizations and even deaths -- on top of an already devastating year -- has prompted a new round of travel bans and lockdown measures in some states.
There is no blanket restriction nationwide, though, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 1.1 million passengers at airline security checkpoints nationwide on Wednesday, the most since March 16.
Just a few days before that, TSA screened over 3.2 million passengers over a three-day span, with more than a million filing into airports on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was the first time that checkpoint volume surpassed one million for three consecutive days since the pandemic brought travel to a near standstill in March.
While AAA expects 34 million fewer travelers over the holidays compared with last year, analysts still estimated that as many as 84.5 million Americans will travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3.
The staggering numbers come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that Americans stay home and even cancel the holiday if they or someone they live with "is sick or has been near someone who thinks they have or has COVID-19."
"Travel may increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19," the CDC said, adding that it's "OK" to want to postpone or cancel your gathering, especially if it poses a risk to others.
The CDC's stance on travel has not wavered in recent months. Ahead of Thanksgiving, the agency also stressed that Americans should stay home to try and stem the surge in infections. However, millions still passed through airports in the days leading up to the big feast.