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TSA: U.S. airports see most air travelers since March 2020

The Transportation Security Administration screened 1.3 million travelers on Friday, its greatest total since March 15 of last year, despite warnings from health officials and concerns about COVID-19 variants. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
The Transportation Security Administration screened 1.3 million travelers on Friday, its greatest total since March 15 of last year, despite warnings from health officials and concerns about COVID-19 variants. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

March 14 (UPI) -- The Transportation Security Administration screened the most passengers in a single day since last year at the end of last week as spring break travel continues despite warnings from health officials.

On Friday the TSA screened 1,357,111 travelers, the most since March 15, 2020, less than a week after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

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The TSA reported its lowest travel volume of just 87,500 passengers on April 14, 2020, and air travel in 2020 fell 60% overall from the previous year to 324 million.

The record in air travel came just a day before the United States administered 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, fulfilling President Joe Biden's pledge to reach the milestone before the end of his first 100 days in office.

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However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for fully vaccinated people last week which warned that non-essential travel should still be avoided.

With spring break beginning in some areas the United States reported 76,178 new cases and 1,997 deaths on Saturday bringing its world-leading totals to 29,403,102 infections and 534,347 fatalities, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. The nation has also administered 107,060,274 vaccine doses including 69,784,210 who have received at least one dose and 37,459,269 that are fully vaccinated.

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Dan Gelber, the mayor of Miami Beach, Fla., told CNN he was concerned that beaches were already packed at the popular spring break destination.

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"We're seeing too much spring break activity, "Gelber said. "We've got a problem with too many people coming here, we've got a problem with too many people coming here to let loose."

Miami Beach Police on Sunday said about 100 people were arrested over the weekend.

While state law does not allow local jurisdictions to fine people for violating mask orders, the arrests involved drug and weapons seizures and one incident on Friday involving a large crowd which was "disorderly and surrounding officers."

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Florida ranks third in the nation with 1,976,808 total cases since the start of the pandemic and 32,255 resident deaths. The state on Sunday reported 30 new resident deaths, its lowest total since Nov. 15, along with 3,699 new cases, while 2,323,366 people in the state, or 10.8 have been fully vaccinated.

Undergraduate students at Duke University in Durham, N.C., were ordered to stay in place until March 21 in a letter sent out Saturday amid a breakout of the virus that caused the university to place more than 180 students in isolation after positive tests and another 200 to quarantine due to contact tracing practices.

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As part of the order all students living on campus are required to remain in their residence hall room or apartment except for essential food, health or safety activities and students living off-campus are not permitted at the campus except for testing, medical care or picking up food orders. Additionally, in-person courses have been shifted to remote-only with "VERY few" exceptions, cancelation of laboratory activities for a week

The university's men's basketball team also withdrew from the ACC tournament on Thursday following a positive COVID-19 test in the program and the women's basketball team announced Dec. 25 that it canceled the remainder of its 2020-21 season because of COVID-19 concerns.

North Carolina, where Duke is located, has reported 882,715 total cases and 11,691 deaths.

Health experts have also warned of the threat of COVID-19 variants including B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in Britain and has become prominent in some states throughout the country such as Florida and Texas and the B. 15.26 variant that was first discovered in New York which has exhibited the same mutation as the South African variant B.1.351, which has shown resistance to some vaccines.

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who sits on the board of vaccine maker Pfizer, told CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday that the next two weeks are likely to be critical for determining the effect of the variant on New York's recovery.

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"I would be cautious in New York because if 15.26 is partially explaining what's going on in New York City, that could be really concerning," Gottlieb said, adding, however, that rising cases could be due to a "backup" in reporting.

New York ranks fourth in the nation with 1,728,406 total cases after it reported 5,943 new infections on Sunday. The state also reported 63 new deaths Sunday for a total of 48,850 since the start of the pandemic, which is second.

New York has administered 6,577,070 vaccine doses and 11.3% of the state's population has completed their vaccine series.

California continues to lead the nation in both cases and deaths with 3,526,335 total infections after adding 2,772 on Sunday along with 140 deaths, bringing its toll to 55,235.

Texas ranks second with 2,345,024 cases after reporting 2,004 on Sunday. The state also added 69 deaths for a total of 45,543 deaths.

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