Memphis-area travelers flood airports, roads for Thanksgiving weekend, despite warnings from health officials

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Thanksgiving eve, airport officials are still expecting close to 10,000 passengers in and out of Memphis across the next few days, despite health experts urging families to avoid travel, as COVID cases surge.

We spent hours at the airport today, passengers told us, it still feels the same, but the number of people traveling is way down. There are many different reasons for people to be at the airport for the holidays, and they all had one thing in common

To some passengers, flying still feels safe.

“Just wear your mask and keep hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes,” Mareisha McDowell, who is flying to Orlando, said.

But that’s not normal and neither is the number of travelers.

Memphis airport officials said about 4,200 people were flying today, and about 3,200 are expected for Saturday and those are the two busiest days of the week. But the numbers are still down 50 percent compared to year’s past.

“You do what you’ve gotta do. But, you know what I mean, it’s a messed up situation,” Aaron Ashley, who is flying to Las Vegas, said.

We met the young family at the airport to reunite with their daughter, who’s been working as a nurse in Nebraska during the pandemic. Having her travel home felt almost as nerve-racking as her work on the frontlines.

“That made me very nervous. This made me a different nervous. You’re in an enclosed space with however many people,” Tracey Young, who is picking up her daughter from the airport, said.

Travelers we spoke with have seen the warnings and know of the risk, but the urge to see loved ones was too strong for some to resist.

We spoke with people that were about to get on planes, and people that were waiting on loved ones to land – they all had a pretty similar message.

Families are aware of the COVID-19 dangers, and they would not travel unless it was absolutely necessary, but for many people, getting to see loved ones and upholding family tradition was worth the risk.

“We just thought, it’s gonna be okay for our family. That’ll remain to be seen if it actually turns out that way, well we made that decision for ourselves and it was worth the risk for us,” Young said.

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