At LA airports, Thanksgiving travelers are hiding in the middle of COVID-19

Thanksgiving is at Los Angeles International Airport, and you can almost forget that an epidemic is raging, apart from the masks that cover travelers ’faces.

On Monday morning, people mingled in check-in rows less than six feet apart, grouped around the conveyor belts of their luggage, waiting for their bags. Their presence refuted both logic and health policies: governors and civil servants were he begged for weeks to keep people at home amid the rapid onset of coronavirus cases.

But for some, the temptation is too great to be with loved ones at the end of a year of testing fire, flood, politics, and plague.

“I considered my options and felt where I was going and with whom I would be safe,” said Kim Motz, who arrived on a southwest flight from San Antonio to visit her daughter and one-year-old granddaughter. .

Motz, 57, had planned to visit during Halloween, but was “upset and resigned,” he said. Not wanting to miss another opportunity to be with his family, he decided to move forward this time despite the risk.

– All week the news said, “If you travel for Thanksgiving, you die. You will have a funeral at Christmas, ”he said. – In the end, I just had to turn it off.

Jacquie Carney, 7, runs from San Antonio to hug her grandmother, Donna Vidrine of San Clemente, LAX.

Jacquie Carney, 7, of San Antonio, hugs her grandmother, Donna Vidrine of San Clemente, as she runs to arrive at LAX to celebrate Thanksgiving.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

An engineering firm’s office manager, Motz, has employees and friends who infected the virus, though none of them died. Her family plans to spend Thanksgiving by delivering food to health workers at the hospital, where she works as an emergency nurse.

He said everyone wore a mask on his flight and that he felt “very safe”.

Even though public health warnings avoid Thanksgiving travel by plane, some people take the risk.

Before one of the biggest celebrations of the year, airports around LA feel surreal, amidst seemingly normal oasis masks, hand sanitizer stations and social isolation rules that sometimes crash with the crowd as if a pandemic isn’t the right pull for tradition.

Travelers, after considering compromises, decided not to let 2020 throw up their vacation plans.

Some say they feel perfectly safe. Others are worried but unable to tolerate isolation and have prioritized the need to connect with family or friends.

Philip Carney was on the same flight from San Antonio as Motz. He said he also considered his options before deciding to fly with his daughter, 7-year-old Jacquie, to visit the family in San Clemente.

“We were a little worried, but not too much – we’re from Texas,” he said with a laugh.

His mother, Donna Vidrine, arrived at the sidewalk in front of Terminal 1 and took Jacquie in a big bear hug. It was the moment that many dream of, but still sacrifice this year.

Around them, the airport swirled with passengers doing similar calculations.

A traveler waits for a ride after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.

The traveler waits for the trip upon arrival in LAX. The airport was much less busy than usual this year, a spokesman said. So far in November, passenger traffic has fallen by about 30% over the same period last year.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“It was planned back in June and we still wanted to come,” Mike Fetalsana said, arriving from Dallas on a southwest flight.

Fetalsana said everyone wore a mask on his flight and took off his own mask only for quick sips. He said he works in the health care system and knows the risks better than most people.

“I know what I have to do and we all have to do it all the way through,” said Fetalsana, who is in her 40s. – Wash your hands and wear a mask.

In LA, Fetalsana resides in an Airbnb and limits her relationships to close family members. He said they would not examine COVID-19 while he was here, but he would do it when he got home.

Others were less worried. Lisa George flew from Las Vegas to LA and traveled back and forth between the two cities for months to care for her sick mother.

George said he was more concerned about “hotheads and gangbangs with guns” than the virus.

“I’m not afraid,” he said.

Face-worn travelers arrive at Los Angeles International Airport.

Starting Wednesday, passengers from the state to LAX, Van Nuys Airport or Union Station will be required to sign a form acknowledging the 14-day quarantine of the state of California.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

But not everyone was so carefree. Alberto, 44, who refused to give his last name, wore two masks in front of the Delta departure terminal.

He had a three-hour transition between his home in the Bay Area and his destination in Jalisco, Mexico, and said he preferred to stay outside where he felt safer.

He will fill his friends with Thanksgiving, but he said he is tormented by the decision and still questions whether it is right.

– What if I carry it [the virus] and I don’t know? he said. – I still feel terrible about it.

Alberto has spent the past seven months alone in his apartment, where he teaches college students using Zoom. In a pandemic, all of his human interactions were “transactional,” he said, and isolation began to weigh on him.

“It’s a choice between meeting your friends and nuts,” he said.

As he sat alone on the bench on the cool, foggy morning, a couple pulled up to the sidewalk in front of them and said a long goodbye behind them — a moment of normal.

Despite the plethora of travelers whose grounds for Monday’s flight were as varied as their destination, the airport was much less busy than usual this year, said LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery.

A pilot walks down the aisle at Los Angeles International Airport.

A pilot walks through LAX, where holidaymakers travel in check-in lines less than six meters apart and are grouped around conveyor belts waiting for their luggage.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

So far in November, passenger traffic has fallen by about 30% over the same period last year, he said.

LAX is likely to operate an average of 846 flights per day through Nov. 30, compared to 1,638 in 2019 during that period, he said.

Nevertheless, airlines fly more this week than in most of the pandemic. According to Montgomery, passenger traffic fell by 95% in March and has been growing slowly since then.

While the airport has been waiting for more travelers around both Thanksgiving and winter holidays, recently increase in coronavirus cases and recommendations against non-essential travel could predict a turnaround, Montgomery said.

Starting Wednesday, passengers from the state to LAX, Van Nuys Airport or Union Station will be required to sign a form acknowledging the 14-day quarantine of the state of California.

LAX was launched recently three coronavirus test sites, results return within $ 24 for $ 150. Next month, the airport plans to open a mobile testing unit that will deliver results in as little as three hours.

Existing test sites are busy and increasingly busy, said Elizabeth Cameros, one of the LAX health professionals.

Wearing a dress, face mask, and shield, Cameros handed a nasal cane to Angela Buckley and Wade Hopkins, who had just left Salt Lake City.

Elizabeth Cameros gives a deep nasal canal to traveler Wade Hopkins to study the coronavirus at LAX.

Healthcare worker Elizabeth Cameros delivers a nasal cane to Wade Hopkins, who arrived from Los Angeles International Airport at Salt Lake City, which recently launched three coronavirus testing sites.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

They both tested the two in their 30s so they could go on to Hawaii, meaning requires a negative COVID-19 test all travelers.

“The optics definitely seem to be more closed in LA than Salt Lake City,” Hopkins said after completing his test. “People still go to clubs and bars. It feels very different. “

Buckley, his girlfriend, said he knows people infected with the virus. But their symptoms were not severe, mostly “like a severe cold,” he said.

Because of his engineering work, he goes to the office, while Hopkins mostly works from home. None of them found the decision to fly to Hawaii for Thanksgiving too difficult.

“We don’t get in touch with too many people, so we have fun,” Hopkins said.

Buckley and Hopkins will be locked up in a hotel in Los Angeles until they receive their test results via email.

Travelers arrive at Long Beach Airport.

Long Beach Airport is preparing for a 25% increase in passengers during the holiday season, but passenger numbers will be much lower this year, the spokesman says.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

While LAX was buzzing, it was another scene at Long Beach Airport. Only a few travelers stood outdoors late Monday morning waiting for admission.

Leslie Freeman said her flight from Phoenix was “very pleasant” and that she had no worries about the trip when she jumped into a hail car and ran away.

Inside, the regional airport terminal was almost empty. Marlene Arrona, an airport spokeswoman, said there is typically an early morning rush and some break in the afternoon.

Long Beach is prepared for a 25% increase in travelers around the November and December holidays, but like LAX, the number of airports will be significantly lower this year, Arrona said.

The traveler wearing a mask passes through John Countyne Airport in Orange County.

The traveler wearing the mask passes John Wayne Airport in Orange County. The desire to be with loved ones at Thanksgiving carries its own risk, but it is too great for some air passengers to leave.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Hollywood’s Burbank Airport was similarly quiet.

The holidays could hit a slight blow, but overall airport bookings will fall significantly, from 525,000 passengers in November 2019 to 112,000 passengers forecast for 2020, airport spokeswoman Nerissa Sugars said.

Angela Velasco, who was waiting for her way home to Seattle, was one of the few travelers on Monday afternoon.

He said he visited Las Vegas and LA on a trip after Washington State restaurants, including an IHOP where he works as a server, shut down.

“I wanted to take advantage of this vacation,” said Velasco, 28, who stayed at a Marriott hotel in Santa Monica this week. He hopes his work will continue next month.

Once you return home, you will be quarantined at least until your COVID-19 test is negative, which means you will not be spending Thanksgiving with your family.

He doesn’t want to expose his older relatives to coronavirus risk, he said.

A traveler is drawn to John Wayne Airport in the afternoon sun and shadows.

A traveler at John Wayne Airport. While cases of the coronavirus have increased in the United States, some have chosen not to let 2020 throw up their vacation plans.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)