The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2 million people for the first time since the onset of the pandemic on Friday, a major milestone for the travel industry.
The agency screened 2,028,961 people that day, about four times the number screened on the same day in 2020 and 74% of the travel volume in 2019. Before the pandemic, the TSA screened 2 to 2.5 million people per day on average.
The number is a strong signal for the return of travel this summer, which has been one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic. Experts expect a healthy amount of leisure travel this summer as vaccination rates continue to climb in the U.S. and pent-up demand pushes Americans to book trips.
“The growing number of travelers demonstrates this country’s resilience and the high level of confidence in COVID-19 counter measures, to include ready access to vaccines,” TSA acting administrator Darby LaJoye said in a Saturday news release. “TSA stands ready to provide a safe and secure screening process as part of the overall travel experience.”
What we’ll miss about pandemic travel:Cheap tickets, empty middle seats, short TSA lines
About 52% of people in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot as of Friday, according to data compiled by USA TODAY. Nearly 43% of people are fully vaccinated. There were 13,450 new cases reported in the U.S. on Friday, a steep drop from the January peak that saw more than 300,000 cases were reported in one day.
The screening agency’s staff hasn’t been immune to the dangers of the virus. More than 8,000 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, and 16 have died after contracting the virus, according to the TSA’s website.
The lowest pandemic-era screening volume at the TSA was on April 13, 2020, when 87,534 people were screened. As travel picks up over the summer, the TSA advises passengers arrive at the airport “with sufficient time” to accommodate increased screening times, according to the release.