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America reemerges: TSA records highest daily number of airline passengers in more than a year

The pandemic might not be done with America but America increasingly is done with the pandemic.

Too soon, maybe? Yesterday CDC chief Rochelle Walensky begged people “to hang in there for just a little bit longer” with social distancing, fearing an “avoidable surge” of cases just as we hit our stride on vaccinations. If you want to see what she’s worried about, click here and scroll down a bit to the data on states where cases are trending higher lately. There are 21 states in all, with New Jersey and Michigan seeing especially sharp increases likely due to variants. Walensky’s looking to postpone the start of the national post-COVID block party for a few more weeks, knowing that we can get another 50+ million doses into people by mid-April while holding down cases if we do.

Some people can’t wait, though:

On Sunday, March 21, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 1.5 million travelers in a single day — the highest traveler throughput in over a year.

The following Monday, March 22, also marked the 12th consecutive day that TSA checkpoint volume exceeded over 1 million passengers per day, a milestone also not observed since March 2020…

Prior to this month’s numbers, the TSA’s longest consecutive streak of screening over 1 million passengers amid the pandemic lasted for five days during the busy holiday stretch between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30. The TSA also observed bumps in traffic in early January, just after New Year’s Day, and over the Valentine’s Day/Presidents Day weekend in February.

Some of the increase is attributable to spring break but the decline in cases nationally and growing population of vaccinated people eager to travel again must be contributing too. Even though, according to the CDC, those who have been vaccinated still shouldn’t be on planes.

America may be done listening to the CDC as well, to the extent it ever has.

Axios also has new data today showing greater inclination to socialize again:

An important footnote: A greater share of *unvaccinated* people reported seeing friends and family outside the home over the past week than vaccinated people did. The declining case counts (in most states) and happy talk from experts about the looming end of the pandemic has convinced some who are still at risk to let loose a little more. I wonder what the share of vaccinated versus unvaccinated air travelers is.

Another way to judge whether Americans are moving around more lately is to look at mobility data. Apple Maps provides this comparison, which is dramatic but easily explained:

Italy, Germany, and the UK are all in different stages of lockdowns right now, although Britain is beginning to reemerge after having crushed its curve with a combination of aggressive vaccination and social restrictions. Here’s how the data looks in the U.S. specifically:

This March is very different from last March, to put it mildly. In fact, the peak of growth in routing requests involving walking lately looks to be the highest it’s been in the last 15 months. Even transit use appears to be trending towards a post-pandemic high. Americans really are reemerging.

The Google mobility data shows signs of people moving about more as well:

Interest in parks is way up with the arrival of spring whereas residential, grocery, and workplace visits are mostly flat. But “retail and recreation” has reached its highest level of interaction since COVID arrived. We’re taking more unnecessary trips now as the threat of infection declines somewhat.

I’ll leave you with this, which has nothing to do with mobility but is certainly the most encouraging data in this post. The pandemic isn’t over for all of us, but it is for some of us.