More than 1M people to fly through Atlanta’s airport this weekend amid pandemic

ATLANTA — Dori Rodriguez and Carlos Quinones made it back home to Atlanta in time for Thanksgiving with their children. They spent a few days in Puerto Rico and said they are traveling as safely as possible during the pandemic.

“I totally worry about the virus,” Rodriguez said. “Because it’s my birthday, I was like, ‘I’m going no matter what. I’m going to social distance because it’s just us.’ I don’t worry about everybody else, as long as I know I’m taking care of myself.”

More than 1 million people will travel through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this weekend for Thanksgiving.

Holiday travel is down about 40% compared to last year. But the foot traffic is back up to pre-pandemic levels.

“I think we’ve done everything we can to instill safety in our process. The airport is as clean as can be,” Hartsfield-Jackson general manager John Selden said.

Atlanta’s airport expanded its south security checkpoint in time for the holidays to speed screening and give people more space.

“Travel is safe if you do what you’re told and follow the CDC guidelines,” Selden said.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing during travel.

But the agency also stated travel “increases your chance of spreading COVID-19” and that “staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”

“Despite everybody masking, or what should be everybody masking at airports, I still worry that the risk is not 100% clear with that,” said Dr. Dhaval Desai, director of hospital medicine at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sandy Springs.

He told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that he’s worried about so many people traveling in confined spaces, going out of state and potentially spreading the virus.

“That’s just an easy vector to spread this infection from city to city, other family members, friends. So it potentially can create a very dangerous situation,” Desai said.

Randy Williams is the police chief in the city of Arcade.

“We’ll be, you know, wearing masks there in the church,” Williams said.

He told Johnson that he’s not traveling or having people at his house. A community church is letting them use the fellowship hall so that there’s enough space to socially distance.

“We’re going to continue to get together; we’re just doing it a little bit different,” Williams said.

Darrell Wagner is a pilot who said he often travels for the holidays. He said he hopes to see more people traveling over the next month and visiting family despite the threat of the virus.

“I don’t really worry about that. I’ve been working the entire time, flying the entire time. I haven’t gotten the virus yet,” Wagner said.

For Rodriguez, she told Johnson that she’s hopeful this is the last Thanksgiving where they travel with masks.

“If everybody is not doing the precautionary things, what’s going on will still keep happening,” Rodriguez said.

Delta confirmed to Channel 2 Action News that there were more than 80 flight cancellations on Wednesday.

It sent a statement, saying: “Delta teams are working diligently to prevent flight cancellations this week. A number of factors have pressured our ability to timely staff several dozen scheduled flights on Wednesday.”

Delta said most people are getting rebooked the same day, and it continues to make sure the middle seats stay empty on flights.

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