COLORADO SPRINGS — According to AAA Colorado, travel declined dramatically over the Thanksgiving holiday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, they estimated 897,000 Coloradans traveled, with around 34,000 people choosing to fly.
AAA Colorado reports that it's still a sharp decline of around 45% in air travel when compared to 2019. The Colorado Springs Airport experienced similar decreases, with their busiest day on Sunday, November 29, seeing a 40% decline from normal trends. Their slowest day was Thanksgiving, which was a 60% decline from normal trends. The airport averaged around 1,200 incoming travelers going through the checkpoint every day during Thanksgiving week.
One of those who caught a flight to see family for Thanksgiving was Jayla Robinson. It was her first flight since the start of the pandemic, and she went to Alabama to surprise her family. Initially, she was nervous to fly, but said all of the social distancing and increased cleaning protocols set her mind at ease. "It brought tears to my eyes. I haven't seen them in a year, and just being there with them made me feel happy, and just less stressed about what's going on in the world," said Robinson.
Robinson also said she plans to take some precautions now that she's home in Colorado Springs. "We're going to get a COVID test, a screening. We're going to take our vitamins, and kind of stay in the house for a little while," said Robinson.
Joshua Ocampo was also at the airport, after flying home from North Carolina. He also said he plans to take a COVID-19 test. But until then, "I'm probably just going to stay home for now, keep myself isolated, and if my results come back negative, I'm just going to move on," said Ocampo.
Despite the drops in air travel numbers, those with El Paso County Public Health said they were hoping to see less people travel than did over the week of Thanksgiving. Medical Director Dr. Robin Johnson's first thought about the travel is another potential increase in cases. "Are we going to see another surge, on top of the surge that we're still engaged in?" said Dr. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson hopes those who did travel seriously consider self-isolating for 14 days. She said a COVID-19 test is not enough, because it is essentially a snapshot of a person's health on one day, but the virus can live inside a human for two weeks. "A negative test today doesn't mean that by the weekend I might not be coughing," said Dr. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson said we're still in the middle of this storm, and understands it's a difficult time emotionally. "It's not that we should live in fear, but we should live prudently. And we should live with consciousness as to the impact of our individual choices... One of the ways that we will have our family members, not only for this holiday but for the holidays to come, is by being patient," said Dr. Johnson.
She's one of many people who chose to spend the holiday away from family who do not live in her home. "As much as I missed my family over Thanksgiving, there's much more to be gained when I look toward the future and protecting not only my family, but those that are perhaps at risk of losing loved ones if we don't stop this virus... Remember the seasons do change, and spring will come, we just have a winter that feels like it's very long ahead of us. But we can do this together," said Dr. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson also pointed to the current restrictions in place in El Paso County, and said those rules are begging for citizens to pay attention.