(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The U.S. on Saturday surpassed another grim milestone — 12 million positive COVID-19 cases. As of late Sunday, that number has risen to 12,219,209 — according to Johns Hopkins University. 256,723 people have died.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are expected to increase over the winter months. In addition, health experts expressed concern over holiday travel with the nation heading into one of its largest challenges this week — Thanksgiving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already issued COVID-19 guidelines, which include celebrating with those from the household and not extended family and no unnecessary travel — saying the “safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”
Despite the guidelines, over one million Americans have already began making their way to their holiday destinations. On Friday, 1,019,836 people boarded planes — which is 1.5 million less than 2019’s numbers but still concerning to health officials.
This is the second highest number of people to fly by plane since March.
The CDC is warning those who are considering whether or not to visit family over the holidays that “travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”
In addition, travel could have been bolstered due to positive news from the race to find a cure for COVID-19, with Pfizer officially requesting emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration.
The vaccine is touted to have a 95 percent efficacy rate. However, experts say it is too soon for people to ask their doctors to administer the shot.
Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University School of Medicine, says, “Not every American will have a needle in their arm immediately following authorization…They’re going to start with first responders and medical personnel and elderly and people with comorbidities. The regular Joe is probably not going to receive a vaccine until July or August.”
Until the vaccine is widely available, the CDC and medical community ask Americans to remain patient, to continue practicing social distancing and to wear a mask in public.