PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) -- The pace is picking up at airports across the country. According to TSA, over the past 11 days, seven have topped one million passengers screened at security checkpoints.
Patricia Mancha, a spokesperson for TSA, says it is too early to say whether this is a sign that people are getting more comfortable with traveling, but adds the bigger numbers are not a surprise. Despite repeated CDC warnings to stay home, there was still a holiday rush.
"Depending on people’s schedules, depending on how far they’re going and such, is stretched out, whereas Thanksgiving is a very finite one weekend," Mancha said. "But during the Christmas holiday, we just see that expand."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, TSA has focused on following CDC guidelines, including mask wearing and social distancing. Nearly a year into the health crisis, Mancha says COVID-19 is still prompting changes at the nation's airports, including Sky Harbor International Airport.
The top 5 airports with the highest number of cases among TSA agents are Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), JFK (NYC), and Newark Liberty (EWR).
"We actually have a new position, and that’s a person who actually works to help maintain or encourage the six feet of distance, to ensure that our officers are wearing their protective equipment, to help passengers if they’re feeling insecure," Mancha said. "That position actually came about as a result of the pandemic."
Though passenger numbers are ticking up, they are still far below pre-pandemic levels. According to the latest data available from Sky Harbor, the number of passengers in and out of Phoenix in November was down 51% to 1.8 million.
While passenger numbers were down, cargo was up about 2%. In November 2019, 32,939 tons of cargo including freight and mail passed through Sky Harbor. At the same time in 2020, 33,543 tons of cargo was transported in and out of the Phoenix airport. Sky Harbor has not released December statistics.