Large crowds and long queues were spotted at O’Hare International Airport on Friday as travelers were ready to leave Chicago before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Photos showed that people were lined up in terminals, many within 6 feet with little social distance in effect.
According to the airport’s website, face clothing is required inside the airport, and “whenever possible, travelers should maintain a distance of 2 meters between individuals.” The Chicago Department of Aviation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the crowds.
“Safety, security, and well-being for the traveling public are our top priority, and the CDA works closely with our airport and public health partners to ensure the safest possible environment,”
In addition, the department said it worked with the TSA and airlines operating out of the airport to “ensure consistency across all terminals.” There are also volunteer “ambassadors” moving through terminals, distributing masks and encouraging social distance, officials said.
“We will continue this effort, but we will also remind travelers of their responsibility to follow public health guidelines, including wearing a mask and maintaining appropriate social distance,” the CDA said in a statement. “We all have a role to play.”
The lines and crowds come a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance urging Americans not to travel for the holidays.
Dr. Henry Walke, CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said he was concerned “about the transportation hubs.” He said he is concerned that people will not be able to maintain social distance while waiting in line for example on board buses and planes.
“We are concerned,” Walke said, adding that the country has recently seen an “exponential increase” in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. “One of our concerns is that when people meet during the holiday season, they can actually bring infections with them to the small collection and not even know it.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health expressed similar concerns, urging families to celebrate the holiday virtually instead.
“Just remember that a negative test does not give you a free pass to celebrate Thanksgiving in person,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike Thursday. “The surest way to celebrate with your loved ones and your beloved older relatives is to do it virtually.”
Ezike noted that exposure could lead to a positive test at any time within 14 days of exposure.
“It only works if you have not exposed yourself to anyone in the 14 days from the time you were tested to when you met with your friends and family,” she said. “When you are near 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 increases in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
More Illinois hospitals are now reporting more coronavirus patients than during the spring peak, as doctors warn to try months ahead, revealing information from more hospitals.
“Thanksgiving dinners have the potential to be super-spreading events,” said Dr. Robert Citronberg, Chief Medical Officer for Infectious Diseases and Prevention for Lawyer Aurora Health Hospital System, Monday. “It’s so critically important that we do not. The numbers are devastating right now. Our health care system cannot absorb doubling or tripling of those numbers. It can happen if we have many super-spreading events that occur because of Thanksgiving. “
Chicago and the suburb of Cook County are under in-home counseling, which takes effect Monday and continues for 30 days, urging residents to avoid gatherings with people who do not live in their homes. The Illinois Department of Public Health issued similar home-based recommendations across the country as the entire state supports increased Tier 3 cuts from Friday, shutting down several businesses and imposing new restrictions on others.
Chicago has also issued a travel order to almost the entire United States, requiring everyone who comes to the city after being in certain states to be quarantined for two weeks or, in some cases, given a negative test before arrival.
Some travelers said they were surprised by the number of people at the airport this week.
“No one is 6 meters apart. All are kind of 3 meters apart or 2 meters apart. It’s awful, “said O’Hare passenger Sidney Morgan.
Although AAA says nearly 15% fewer Illinoisans travel this year compared to last year, 2.4 million are still expected to make the holiday trip.
According to the group, most Americans are expected to travel by car, followed by flights.
Despite the CDC’s warning, some travelers said they were not worried.
“I feel safe flying,” said O’Hare passenger Ariel Brummel.
“Nearly one billion people have traveled by air, and only 44 cases of COVID have been associated with direct transmission on an airplane,” said Brian Kelly, “The Points Guy.”
When traveling, CDC reminds travelers of safety precautions.
Walke said there is “no more important time than now for every American to redouble our efforts to keep an eye on our distance, wash our hands and most importantly, wear a mask.”