Many in NC ignoring health advice against gathering with family for holidays ::

Many in NC ignoring health advice against gathering with family for holidays ::

— Despite the rising number of coronavirus cases and the pleas of public health leaders, many North Carolinians are traveling this holiday season.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials said Monday that they expect 104,000 people to fly through the airport this week and about the same number next week. Although that’s down about two-thirds compared with last year, it’s busier than RDU has been in months.

Nationwide, the Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than a million air passengers on both Friday and Saturday – the most since the start of the pandemic.

Health researchers across North Carolina surveying people about coronavirus guidelines have found that a lot of them aren’t listening to warnings not to travel or gather.

People at RDU on Monday said family is the No. 1 reason.

“His grandma lives here in town. This is his Christmas present. That’s all he wanted, so that’s what we decided to do,” said Emily Cohoon, who flew to the Triangle with her 5-year-old son, Zeke, from Illinois.

Cohoon is a nurse, so she’s very familiar with pandemic protocols.

“We’re already so exposed, so we take the precautions,” she said. “I wear a mask. He wears his. We have lots of hand sanitizer on us.”

Among North Carolinians, many aren’t being so careful. Out of 20,000 people who signed up for a survey with the COVID-19 Community Research Partnership, half said they traveled or gathered with people outside their household at Thanksgiving.

Among those, only 51 percent said they observed social distancing guidelines, only 37 percent said they wore masks and just 13 percent got tested for the virus beforehand.

The survey, conducted by WakeMed, Campbell University, Vidant Health in Greenville, New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem and Atrium Health in Charlotte, also found that younger people were more likely than older people to disregard the health guidance. White respondents were more likely to get together with people outside their households than people in the Black and Latino communities, according to the survey.

Ashley Rubio and her family went to RDU on Monday to pick up a cousin and her family flying in from Houston.

“They made the decision; we didn’t,” Rubio said. “We’re just trying to take as much precautions as we can.”

Austin Strickler said he wasn’t able to fly home to Salt Lake City last year because he was deployed to Korea. He said he wasn’t worried about the virus.

“I think that we’ve gotten it quite handled, compared to what it was in the earlier stages,” Strickler said.

Last week, North Carolina reported the highest number of new coronavirus infections in a single week since the pandemic began. The state also has set numerous one-day records for new cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.

Marco Sardela, a health care worker who was on his way to Illinois to see his parents, said he wasn’t worried about infecting them.

“I was able to get the vaccine, [and] I was able to get tested,” Sardela said. “They get tested very regularly since they work for the university, so I think we’re at a pretty low risk.”

Health experts said getting the first dose of coronavirus vaccine doesn’t offer full protection against the virus. People need to get both doses and then wait a week or two for maximum protection, they said.

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