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Atlanta passengers say family is more important, despite COVID-19 travel warning, uptick

Officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said they have prepared for more holiday travelers amid COVID.

ATLANTA — Millions of people, like Rhonda Sheppard, are making the trek for Thanksgiving, either visiting family or going home to spend time with family and friends.

Sheppard decided to visit family in Florida, holding a small gathering while wearing masks.

"We’re all very conscientious of social distancing," Sheppard said. "We feel like having just a few people together ... it shouldn’t be really bad.”

Their trips go against guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advised people not to travel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With cases surging in Georgia and across the country, officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said they have prepared for more holiday travelers by requiring masks for passengers and staff, installing 400 hand sanitizing stations throughout the airport, and enhancing a touchless experience from check-in to security. 

“We want to maintain the highest level of security but also be focused on how we can make travel easier and make it a seamless and stress-free experience for our customers," said Matt Sparks, VP of airport customer services with Delta Airlines. 

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While Sheppard was tested before her flight and plans to get tested when she comes back to Atlanta, some passengers told 11Alive they would only get tested if they experienced symptoms. The CDC recommends that anyone who travels get tested before and after their trip. 

The airport recently announced it would expand the South terminal security checkpoint from four lanes to nine lanes. Officials reassured passengers that deep cleaning was still occurring in the airport and on planes.

The Transportation Security Administration had tracked nearly five million passengers nationally since Friday, with airports averaging about one million passengers per day. This is the largest number of passengers airports have seen since the onset of the pandemic in March.

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