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Eastern Iowa Airport seeing uptick in Christmas travelers as doctors worry about an after-holiday surge

Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 6:19 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - People are still choosing to travel for the Christmas holiday during the pandemic, despite warnings from health officials. Monday is typically known as the busiest travel day ahead of the holiday, but for some Christmas travel started earlier.

“Travel for Christmas really started last week,” said Pamela Hinman, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Despite warnings to stay home, travelers are still boarding planes at the airport. Since last Thursday through the start of this week, the airport expects 1,000 passengers a day through security.

“For example, tomorrow during COVID times, there was about 300 people that go through checkpoints on an average on Tuesday. Tomorrow that’ll be just over 1000,” Hinman said.

Hinman says they’re doing all they can to make travel safe, and reminding people of the rules.

‘TSA is allowing additional amounts of hand sanitizer through the checkpoint, but one of the things that we always tell people during holiday time, if you’re bringing Christmas presents don’t wrap them because if TSA has to check them, they will have to unwrap them,” she added.

They do expect this trend in travel to be short lived. Even with the Iowa Hawkeye’s Bowl game at the end of the month, Hinman says they don’t expect to see a continued increase.

Aimee Langlas with Travel Leaders, Destinations Unlimited says they’ve made the decision not to organize a Bowl package this year because of low interest.

“We decided this also because there’s a potential concern that one or both of the teams might have so many COVID cases that they have to either postpone or cancel the game, and we didn’t want that to negatively impact travelers,” said Langlas.

However, Langlas says more people are reaching out now for help with future travel plans.

“With the announcements of the vaccines, we actually have seen quite an uptick in interest for travel into 2021, some Spring Break but mainly Summer and Fall,” she said.

Even with the vaccines, doctors are concerned about a post-Christmas surge. Dr. Tony Myers with Mercy Medical Center says the best thing to do is stay home.

“One of the problems we have with travel right now is that Iowa’s rate is less than a lot of places, and most places we would be going to or people would be coming from to our household and pod are places where the rate of COVID is much higher now so I’m very concerned,” Myers said.

Myers says even though we made it past Thanksgiving without a surge we’re not out of the woods yet.

“Even if we won’t be overwhelmed with hospitals, that’s not likely to happen even if there is a surge, but that’s more people getting sick, more people getting severely sick and some dying, that we can avoid,” said Myers.

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