It’s the first July 4 after a year of pandemic-induced shutdowns, and Americans are partying – and traveling – like it’s 1999.
An estimated 3.5 million travelers are expected to shuttle through US airports over the July 4 weekend, according to AAA. That makes it the busiest travel period since the start of the pandemic.
Air screening numbers have surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time, according to the Transportation Security Administration. AAA is expecting air travel this weekend to surge to 164% of its level during the same period in 2020.
The perennial regional holiday favorite, Las Vegas, is expecting crowds to rival the pre-shutdown era, as the Strip slowly crawls back to life.
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But not all is going smoothly for those travelers.
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At least 300 flights at JFK Airport were canceled or delayed over the Fourth of July weekend because of a water leak at the airport’s control tower. A Twitter message from the airport was issued on Saturday evening, as the FAA held departing flights bound for JFK for about an hour.
President Joe Biden will host around 1,000 people at the White House for burgers and fireworks.
“On Sunday, we’ll celebrate our independence as a nation, as well as our progress against the virus,” Biden said on Friday. “In the days ahead, we have a chance to make another beginning.”
In Los Angeles, mask requirements for indoor activities have returned. Regardless of vaccination status, authorities are recommending masks be worn for any close quarters activities. The Delta variant of COVID-19, which allegedly originated in India, is being blame for 20% of all new Covid-19 infections in the US, up from 10% a week ago.
Elsewhere in Southern California, sanitation workers began the long-delayed and arduous job of cleaning the homeless encampment that’s overtaken Venice Beach. Workers have bagged garbage and waste, and homeless residents were being offered relocation to area shelters, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The activity is part of a five-week plan to clean-up the location. Overnight camping will be prohibited there once the full area has been restored.
Even though many people are getting out, there’s still an uneasy fear that the Delta variant could cause a resurgence of Covid-19 across the nation.
Joe Biden’s prediction that 70% of nation would be partially or fully vaccinated by July 4 fell short, with an overall 67% percent reported. However, that figure varies from state to state, and some southern states are below 50% in vaccination rates.
Just 18 states and Washington, D.C. surpassed Biden’s goal. Vermont, Hawaii, and Massachusetts boasted the highest vaccination rates, with more than 80% of all adult residents at least partially inoculated, according to a tracker run by The New York Times.
But Mississippi, Louisiana, and Wyoming are below the 50% vaccination rate.
Still, the nation is getting on with life. The National Park Service will have fireworks for the nation’s big 245th birthday party.
PBS is returning its A Capitol Fourth concert, with Vanessa Williams hosting. It airs tonight at 8 PM ET, with Cynthia Erivo, Ali Stroker, Christopher Jackson, Laura Osnes, Auli’i Cravalho, Jennifer Nettles and the National Symphony Orchestra also participating. The televised concert will feature pre-recorded performances, then cut live to the Washington, DC fireworks.
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