The Transportation Security Administration said more than 1.28 million people have passed through security checkpoints.
Meanwhile, more Americans were hospitalized last week than in any other week of the pandemic, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Six states set records Sunday for most hospitalized Covid-19 patients: Alabama, California, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Doctors say mass travel during the holidays will result in more patients – a huge problem because so many hospitals are already overstretched.
“It’s really frustrating, because if you look at the data over the past 10 days, it’s already starting to show some signs of light,” said Dr. Jonathan Rayner, professor of medicine at George Washington University.
“Places like the Midwest, with a decrease in the number of cases. Even in the Northeast. The US positive rate has decreased from around 12% to around 10%. These are really tangible signs of the crisis slowing down. And now there is almost certainly going to be another spike.”
And unlike previous holidays, the mix of Christmas and New Year extends over an entire week.
“We know that after every major holiday, there has been an increase in the number of cases,” said Emergency Medicine Doctor Lena Wayne.
“We saw this after Memorial Day, after the Fourth of July, after Labor Day. And those holidays were relatively short compared to Christmas and New Year.”
Patients are taking more and more intensive care beds
ICUs are often associated with heart attacks and car accidents, but an increasing number of ICU beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.
Last week, about 40% of all ICU patients in the United States were infected with Covid-19, according to a CNN analysis of data published Monday by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
That’s up from 16% in late September. 22% in late October; And 35% in late November.
More hospitalization inevitably precedes more deaths.
According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 63,000 Americans have died so far this month – the most in any month since the pandemic began.
Dr Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease specialist, said that a California hospital may soon have to rationing the limited number of intensive care beds and treatment equipment, which means some people will get treatment and others not.
At this rate, Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena is preparing for a “final triage.”
Since most Americans cannot get vaccinations until long after next year, the United States faces a “sudden surge” after vacation travel, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health.
“As we approach the next few weeks, things may actually get worse,” he said.
The new travel requirements come into effect on Monday
Airlines will be required to confirm testing prior to flight.
The companies behind the first two vaccines to obtain emergency clearance in the United States – Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna – are testing their vaccines to confirm whether they are effective against the new strain.
Shedding of the vaccine is slower than expected
About 2.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been given in the United States, according to the CDC. More than 11.4 million doses have been distributed.
When asked about the apparent slowdown in the introduction of vaccines, Fauci said that large and comprehensive vaccination programs with a new vaccine start slowly before gaining momentum.
“I am quite confident that as we gain more and more momentum, as we move from December to January and then from February to March, I think we will catch up with expectations,” he said.
Dr Esther Chu, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Oregon Health and Science, said distributing the vaccine is “just a very complicated thing”.
“In every step, there is complexity and there is the possibility of delays, whether it is individual country planning, allocation, training, vaccine supply or storage … there are a lot of factors at this stage,” Chu said.
“We need to be prepared for the fact that it will be a slow spread in many places and that it will not change our behavior or necessarily the course of the epidemic in this country in the short term,” Chu said.
With vaccines unlikely to be widely available until summer, experts urged Americans not to let their guard down. This means continuing to wear masks, washing hands frequently and social distancing.
Why herd immunity is a moving target
“The range will be somewhere between 70 and 85%,” Fauci said on Sunday.
He said that the reason he initially said from 70% to 75% and then raised the cap to 85% “was actually based on calculations and extrapolation purely from measles.”
“We have to realize that we must be humble and realize what we do not know,” he said. “These are pure estimates and the calculations I’ve made, 70 to 75%. It’s a range.”
Fauci said the measles vaccine is 98% effective. When less than 90% of the population is vaccinated against measles, progress against herd immunity begins, and people begin to get infected.
“So I calculated that Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, is not as transmissible as measles,” Fauci said.
“Measles is the most transmissible infection you can imagine. So I imagine you’re going to need something a little less than 90%, and this is where I got to the 85th.”
CNN’s Brandon Miller, John Bonnefield, Deidre Macphillips, Pete Montaigne, Christina Maxores, Naomi Thomas and Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.