The Transportation Security Administration has screened more than 2 million people for the first time since the pandemic began on Friday, a major milestone for the travel industry.
The agency screened 2,028,961 people that day, roughly four times the number of people screened on the same day in 2020 and 74% of the travel volume in 2019. Before the pandemic, the TSA screened 2 to 2, 5 million people per day on average.
That number is a strong signal for the return of travel this summer, which has been one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Experts expect a fair amount of leisure travel this summer as vaccination rates continue to rise in the United States and pent-up demand drives Americans to book trips.
“The growing number of travelers demonstrates the resilience of this country and the high level of confidence in COVID-19 countermeasures, to include easy access to vaccines,” TSA Acting Administrator Darby LaJoye said, in a press release on Saturday. “TSA stands ready to provide a safe and secure screening process as part of the overall travel experience. “
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About 52% of people in the United States received at least one injection of COVID-19 on Friday, according to data compiled by USA TODAY. Almost 43% of people are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 13,450 new cases were reported in the United States, a sharp drop from the peak in January which saw more than 300,000 cases reported in one day.
Staff at the testing agency were not immune to the dangers of the virus. More than 8,000 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic, and 16 have died after contracting the virus, according to the TSA website.
The lowest TSA pandemic-era screening volume was April 13, 2020, when 87,534 people were screened. As travel resumes over the summer, the TSA advises passengers to arrive at the airport “with sufficient time” to accommodate the increased screening times, the statement said.