Post-holiday travelers have Oregon health care workers on edge

Coronavirus

Millions traveled for the Thanksgiving weekend throughout US

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Airports across the country saw their busiest travel weekend since the pandemic began as Thanksgiving travelers ignored the warnings and pleas from health officials to stay home and have a virtual holiday.

Health care workers in Oregon are worried about another uptick in cases on top of the surge that’s in progress.

Even though air travel at PDX is down about 65% compared to a year ago, Portland International Airport was busier this weekend than at any time in recent months.

It wasn’t just PDX that was busy. According to FlightAware, Atlanta was the busiest airport for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Officials with PDX said they’re doing everything they can to keep both travelers and employees safe. They’re cleaning more, have plexiglass dividers in several area and plenty of signs reminding people to maintain social distance.

A sign at PDX on Thanksgiving weekend, November 29, 2020 (KOIN)

As far as people driving for the holiday, AAA estimates more than 47 million people nationwide traveled by car for the Thanksgiving weekend. That’s down roughly 10% compared to 2019.

Erica Knepper, a long-term care facility nurse in Multnomah County, said it’s been difficult to get people to modify their behavior.

“It’s really a struggle both personally and professionally, and even more of a struggle with the way politics are going now,” Knepper told KOIN 6 News. “Even in my own family circle of children, I have some people that still to this day will say that it’s just being over exaggerated. And I’m like ‘Well, I’m seeing it firsthand.'”

And as she is required every day, Knepper spoke while wearing goggles and a mask during this Zoom interview. Keeping it on all day every day can be exhausting, she said.

Dr. David Zonies, OHSU’s Associate Chief Medical Officer for Critical Care, was even more direct.

“It’s unfortunate and quite honestly, it moves beyond disappointing to the point of frustration because we know the right things to do and we just have to convince people to do the right thing,” Zonies said.

Officials won’t know the full impact of the holiday on case numbers for about 2 weeks because of the time it takes for people to develop symptoms.

But the OHSU lead data scientist said he is hopeful the numbers from Thanksgiving may not be quite as bad as other holidays because it looks like more people followed the guidelines.

However more than 25% of the ICU beds in Oregon are already filled with COVID patients. Another increase in cases could really strain the entire health care system.

Travelers at PDX during the Thanksgiving weekend, November 29, 2020 (KOIN)

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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