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'Better To Have A Zoom Thanksgiving Than An ICU Christmas': Travelers Continue To Fly Despite COVID-19 Warnings

CHICAGO (CBS) --Chicago's top doctor Wednesday said more than one Chicagoan is diagnosed with COVID-19 every minute and reminded everyone it is not too late to change Thanksgiving plans.

"It's better to have a Zoom Thanksgiving than an ICU Christmas," said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. "It's true. And I want you to think about that as you're making your decisions not just for Thursday, but for Black Friday and during the whole time that Chicago remains under that stay at home advisory."

Travelers lines up at O'Hare International Airport Wednesday as similar scenes play out across the country ahead of Thanksgiving. O'Hare is taking extra steps to keep all those holiday travelers and Transportation Security Administration Employees safe.

A TSA spokesperson said nearly 1 million people around the country traveled Tuesday for Thanksgiving. That same day last year the number was 2.5 million.

Considering the pandemic it is still more travel than city and state leaders, who have been urging families to stay home, would like. But compared to Thanksgiving weeks of years past it would look empty.

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CBS 2's Marissa Parra spoke with a few families who were fresh from the airport. All of them were flying for Thanksgiving to see family and all said they didn't really have concerns about COVID spread through travel as long as they had masks on, which is why they decided to make the trek in the first place.

But everyone had different ideas on what the flights themselves were like.

"It hasn't been horrible at all," said Bonnie Lynn. "We had a nice flight from San Francisco to here."

"When I flew out here in the spring there was more space in between you, but today we were packed in like cattle," said Dustin Fowler from Oregon."

"I want to say about half of our flight was empty," said Jaron Dow, who flew in from San Francisco. "A lot of us had our own rows."

But for some, the concern is what happens while going through security. If you are going through TSA any time soon, you might see some new measures like plexiglass, officers in personal protective equipment, and even touchless scanners to reduce personal contact.

So far 145 TSA agents at O'Hare have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. That is the second highest of all airports around the country. The most recent case was Sunday.

At Chicago Midway International Airport 52 agents have tested positive so far. Starting Tuesday Midway will have a drive-up COVID-19 testing site available to the general public.

The City of Chicago is hoping to provide COVID tests for O'Hare and Midway passengers and employees soon, before the December holiday travel season officially starts.

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