Americans hit the road in near-record numbers at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, as their eagerness to break free from coronavirus confinement overcame higher prices for flights, gasoline and hotels, per the AP. More than 1.8 million people went through US airports on Thursday, and the number was widely expected to cross the 2 million threshold over the long holiday weekend. That would be the highest mark since early March 2020. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned travelers to expect long lines at airports. The rise in travel appears to be fueled by an increase in people vaccinated against COVID-19 and also by an improving economy. The US Commerce Department said consumer spending increased in April, although not as much as in March, providing more evidence that consumers are driving a recovery from last year's recession.
The unofficial start of summer coincides with some states eliminating their remaining pandemic restrictions amid improving case, hospitalization, and death numbers. The mask mandate in Massachusetts goes away Saturday, and Virginia is easing all distancing and capacity restrictions Friday. President Biden is traveling to Virginia, averaging only 360 cases a day, to celebrate its accomplishments in battling the virus. At Miami International Airport, officials are anticipating about 115,000 passengers per day over the six-day period that ends June 1, equal to pre-pandemic levels. It's a similar story in Orlando, where airport traffic is reaching 90% of pre-pandemic levels and people are flocking to theme parks. AAA expects a 60% jump in travel over the same holiday weekend last year, with 37 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles from home, most of them in cars.
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