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After warnings about COVID-19 spread, fewer passengers were arriving at Bradley Friday; most Connecticut residents expected to stay home

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 11/26/2020 Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant
Jamie Laskow of Tolland greets his daughter as she returns home Wednesday at Bradley International Airport from college in South Carolina. \"Me, her and the turkey,\" said Laskow about how he was going to be celebrating Thanksgiving. © Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant/Hartford Courant/TNS Jamie Laskow of Tolland greets his daughter as she returns home Wednesday at Bradley International Airport from college in South Carolina. \"Me, her and the turkey,\" said Laskow about how he was going to be celebrating Thanksgiving.

Air passenger traffic was far lighter than usual Wednesday at Bradley International Airport a day ahead of Thanksgiving, but Jamie Laskow was still on the edge of his seat anticipating the arrival of his daughter, a student attending college in Charleston.

“We usually have a big holiday with everybody at my house,” Laskow, who lives in Tolland, said. “Everyone else canceled, she said she still wanted to come, so she’s coming. Me, her and the turkey.”

a woman sitting on a luggage bag: Quinnipiac grad student Chandlie Stratton sits in the Bradley terminal before boarding a flight home to Utah for Thanksgiving. © Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant/Hartford Courant/TNS Quinnipiac grad student Chandlie Stratton sits in the Bradley terminal before boarding a flight home to Utah for Thanksgiving.

Laskow said his daughter, Olivia, a sophomore in foreign studies at the College of Charleston, got a COVID-19 test at a CVS on Sunday, enough time to show a negative result and clear the way for her trip north.

“She’s done what she’s supposed to do,” Laskow said. “I’ve been in contact with her all the way. She found a little corner at Dulles where she was held over. Got her hand sanitizer, her mask on and she’s ready to go.”

Nationally, the number of Americans traveling by air over the past few days was done dramatically from the same time last year, but many pressed ahead with their holiday plans amid a surge in deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed infections across the U.S. Travel on highways and by rail was also expected to be significantly down over a year ago.

a person wearing a costume: Amherst student Zulimah Sawab, who was tested three times a week while at school, prepares to board a flight home to North Carolina from Bradley International Airport for Thanksgiving. She plans to finish remotely the reminder of her semester, with family. © Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant/Hartford Courant/TNS Amherst student Zulimah Sawab, who was tested three times a week while at school, prepares to board a flight home to North Carolina from Bradley International Airport for Thanksgiving. She plans to finish remotely the reminder of her semester, with family.

About 900,000 to 1 million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Tuesday, a drop-off of around 60% from the same time a year ago. Still, those were some of the biggest crowds since the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the U.S. in March.

a view of a car: COVID-19 testing began Monday at a drive-through site at Bradley International Airport. Testing will be provided daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. © Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant/Hartford Courant/TNS COVID-19 testing began Monday at a drive-through site at Bradley International Airport. Testing will be provided daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Last year, a record 26 million passengers and crew passed through U.S. airport screening in the 11-day period around Thanksgiving.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont has urged residents not to travel or gather in large groups this Thanksgiving as the state races to contain the coronavirus. Positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been steadily rising over the last month in Connecticut. Health experts fear that gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday will lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases in early December.

In general, there appeared to be fewer people on the go Wednesday in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Airport Authority, which oversees operations at Bradley, said it expects a 38% increase in air travel this Thanksgiving week from levels in October. But the number of travelers will still be down 65% from last Thanksgiving.

“This is the reality of the pandemic,” Kevin A. Dillon, the CAA’s executive director, said. “I think a lot of people are listening to a lot of people out there who are saying that you shouldn’t travel. So, I think this is a response to that.”

Dillon expects Bradley to see 56,000 passengers this Thanksgiving week, compared with 152,000 for the same week in 2019.

a person standing next to a window: Air passenger traffic at Bradley International Airport is expected to drop 65% during Thanksgiving week this year, compared with 2019. \"This is the reality of the pandemic,\" said Kevin A. Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority.\n\n\n\n\n\n © Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant/Hartford Courant/TNS Air passenger traffic at Bradley International Airport is expected to drop 65% during Thanksgiving week this year, compared with 2019. \"This is the reality of the pandemic,\" said Kevin A. Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority.\n\n\n\n\n\n

Bradley’s COVID testing site in the airport’s terminal offered to travelers has been averaging 600 tests a day, Dillon said. A drive-through testing site on an airport parking lot, which opened Monday and is also open to the general public, had a line of about 50 cars queued up late morning on Wednesday.

a group of people standing in front of a window: Travelers exit the disembarking area of Bradley International Airport on the day before Thanksgiving. © Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/Hartford Courant/TNS Travelers exit the disembarking area of Bradley International Airport on the day before Thanksgiving.

Zulimah Sawab, a junior at Amherst College, was nervous about flying home to Greensboro, N.C. because her mother is immuno-compromised,” putting her at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.

But Sawab said she had little choice since Amherst is sending students home for the next two months.

“Our school tests us three times a week, so I know I’m good – at least entering the airport – but I have to do my isolation for 14 days once I come home,” Sawab said.

Chandlie Stratton, a graduate student at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, hadn’t planned on going home to southern Utah until Christmas. But then Quinnipiac reverted to distance learning and there was no reason to stay, Stratton said.

“As long as you, like, wash your hands,” Stratton, who is pursuing a degree to become a pathologist assistant, said. “I brought my Clorox wipes to wipe down my seat, you don’t touch stuff, don’t use the bathroom on the plane.”

Stratton said she took an “exit” COVID-19 test offered by Quinnipiac that resulted in a negative test, clearing her to fly. But Stratton is skipping her family’s Thanksgiving gathering, even though it is being hosted out-of-doors.

“Just because I’m about to get on a plane,” Stratton said. “Maybe, I’ll drive by and wave. I don’t want to kill my grandmas. I would feel so bad if I contracted it on the flight. Better safe than sorry. I’ll quarantine the two weeks, then I will go and see them.”

On the state’s roads, AAA predicted that travel between Wednesday and Sunday could be the lightest since AAA began tracking Thanksgiving travel at least two decades ago.

“We’ll probably see some of the most travel that we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic, but relative to Thanksgiving in general, I don’t think we’ll see anything like we’ve seen in years past,” Amy Parmenter, a AAA spokeswoman, said.

A Connecticut survey released last week by AAA found that 90% of respondents planned to stay at home on Thanksgiving. Of the 10% that planned to travel, three-quarters said they would do so on the road.

Just after 11 a.m. Wednesday, Olivia Laskow walked into the terminal into the waiting arms of her father.

Laskow said her a plane appeared fully booked, but it didn’t bother her.

“It was fine,” she said. “I just slept, kept my mask on. I just ignored everyone.”

A report from the Associated Press was included in this story.

Contact Kenneth R. Gosselin at kgosselin@courant.com.

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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