HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Millions of people still plan on traveling this holiday season in spite of a Christmas travel warning, climbing COVID-19 cases and record-level hospitalizations.
William Bernstein flew from his home in Virginia Beach to Atlanta, Ga., Sunday to be with his mom and aunt for Christmas.
“My mom is getting older, and I wanted to spend time with her while I have her around,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein isn’t the only one hitting the skies or roads to gather with family for the holidays.
While AAA expects nearly 31% fewer Virginians to travel from Wednesday, Dec. 23 to Sunday, Jan. 3 compared to last year, as many as 84 million Americans could move forward with plans to get away.
Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver fears there could be an even bigger surge of COVID-19 cases and possibly more coronavirus-related deaths.
“It’s really important to recognize that the virus is still out there,” Dr. Oliver said.
Public health officials and the CDC are again urging people to stay home, not to travel this holiday and to avoid large gatherings. They warn it could increase a person’s chances of getting and spreading the virus.
“I want to underscore the importance of limiting that risk by not traveling, and if people do, they have to understand they’re putting themselves at high risk,” said Dr. Oliver.
Meantime, Bernstein said he took every precaution before flying to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the busiest passenger airports in the world.
He said he took several COVID tests leading up to the flight and always wore a mask.
“I was very encouraged by being on United Airlines,” he said. “Two and up have to have a mask. We weren’t side by side. The stewardess had gloves on; they were wonderful, very friendly, and cleaning down the seats when you came in. When I came onto the plane, United gave me a wipe to wipe down my seat, which I did many times.”
It’s been two years since Bernstein said he’s seen his mother and after cancelling his Thanksgiving travel plans to visit, he didn’t want to wait any longer.
Bernstein’s mother Aileen Toler said she’s happy to see her son.
“He loves his mom,” laughed Toler.
Though Toler is in a vulnerable population at the age of 78 and has a weakened immune system, she said she’s not worried about the virus.