Air travel over prolonged spring break could lead to outbreaks

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans to continue to refrain from traveling, even if they are vaccinated. The agency is concerned that a spike in spring break travel will lead to a spike in COVID-19.

Indeed, 1.5 million air travelers took to the skies on Sunday, according to the TSA. That was the first time airlines reached that milestone in over a year. And just as importantly, it is part of a sustained increase that airport officials attribute to spring break and the wider availability of vaccines.

“We tend to believe it’s spring break right now. Spring break is broken up through different schools,” Andrew Gobeil of the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta Airport said. “Whether it is public schools, K-12, or colleges in the area as well. And we’re seeing that.”

With schools and states on different schedules, spring break air travel is expected to last for several more weeks. Many New York City schools go on break next week. Many New Jersey schools go on break the week after that.

Officials are hoping for an end to college spring breakers shunning rules meant to protect everyone, from social distance to wearing masks.

Meanwhile, non-spring break travelers are gearing up to fly and making plans for the summer. Now that Americans have had a year to discover locations domestically, they are clamoring for international travel, according to luxury travel expert Jack Ezon of Embark Beyond.

“It looks like Turkey, Greece and maybe Croatia may be open this summer,” Ezon said. “We already have hundreds of our customers calling us to try to book Greece now, before it’s too busy.”

Seeing the trend, federal health officials are asking Americans to avoid air travel for the time being, even for those who are vaccinated.

“I know this has been a long year. People are tired and they don’t want to hear this is going to take a while longer but it’s going to take us a while longer,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. “Our advice is clear: we are vaccinating really, really quickly and we’re just asking people to hang on a little while longer.”