Why you should get tested for COVID-19 after Thanksgiving

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The TSA reported more than one million people traveled by plane the day before Thanksgiving nationwide, and thousands more flew home after the holiday.

Augusto Bernal, spokesperson for the Houston Airport System, said Houston airports anticipated about 800,000 travelers leaving and arriving to Houston between Nov. 20 and Nov. 30 for the Thanksgiving holiday. That's roughly about half of the travelers that flew this same time last year.

"We're seeing a fair amount of activity at both Bush and Hobby airports, but really, it does not compare to what we saw pre-pandemic levels," Bernal said.

He said due to the pandemic, there are still different travel restrictions imposed on and from some countries as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase in the U.S. and around the world.

SEE RELATED STORY: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Houston

"I can tell you we're seeing our Mexico and Caribbean destinations increase their frequency, and some of the destinations are being added, so we're seeing that sector really recuperate faster than some other regions in the world," Bernal said.

He said as the Houston airports anticipate people will continue to travel throughout the holiday season, they are asking them to pack masks.

"We're really asking everybody to keep a healthy environment at the airport. Keep their social distance, wash their hands. We're really making it easy for the traveler," Bernal said. "You can bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer that you can go through security with, but if you can't bring it, we have installed quite a number of hand sanitization stations around our terminals."

Dr. Hana El Sahly, associate professor of molecular virology and microbiology and of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said regardless of if people traveled by air or on the road, they still came into contact with people who are not normally in their circle or household. Additionally, weather forced more people indoors.

"It seems like a whole lot of people traveled than what most health authorities have recommended," Dr. El Sahly said. "But, within in a week or two, the increase in the number of (COVID-19) cases is going to translate into the hospital admission unfortunately and severe complication, so these are the predictions based on the patterns we have seen before."

The CDC estimates about 40% of people who are infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which means they are not showing symptoms and could be spreading the virus without even knowing it.

If you were in a high exposure situation, it is recommended to get tested around 4 days after exposure. For those who celebrated during Thanksgiving, that would mean Tuesday, Dec. 1. If you are showing symptoms, contact your primary care provider and find a free COVID-19 testing site near you in Houston or Harris County.

"Limit the travel as much as feasible. Try to get creative on how to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Limit the exposures, especially to others with high-risk conditions," Dr. El Sahly said. "If at all necessary that they travel, self-isolate in advance of travel so that they don't expose others or acquire infections themselves."

Follow Roxie Bustamante on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.