Busiest travel day of the year underway amid COVID surge across Tri-State

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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- What's expected to be the busiest travel day of the year is underway amid a surge of COVID cases across the Tri-State region.

AAA predicts more than 109,000,000 people will travel for the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays.

That is up 34% from last year and more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

The majority of people will travel by car, with an additional 6,000,000 million by plane and another 3,000,000 by other modes of transportation.

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Of course, safety will be top of mind for so many people.

While international flights may require proof of vaccination and a negative test, domestic flights do not.

Experts say that means a high-quality mask is all the more important.

"You get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it's well over a five-hour flight," said Dr. Anthony Fauci. "Even though you have a good filtration system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do, and we should be doing it."

On a travel day like Thursday, bad weather could be disastrous. Some flight times been bumped around due to airline staff shortages, so a winter storm anywhere would just compound that.

Despite the omicron variant, The TSA says we are up to pre-pandemic travel volume.

More than 2 million passengers were screened Wednesday compared to a little less than 2 million people in 2019, obviously before COVID in the U.S.

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The agency expects to screen more than 30 million between December 20 & January 3, this week and next.

Travelers so far say things have been smooth and they're looking forward to being with friends or family for Christmas, trying their best to be safe.

Despite staffing issues, it's definitely all hands on deck at LaGuardia Airport, just about every desk at departures has an airline worker behind it to help the endless lines of travelers.

And if you're planning to hit the roads today, expect plenty of company.

AAA says the most traffic is expected between noon and 6 p.m.

"Even if you're staying local, if you're planning to be out on the roads, you might want to consider off peak travel," said Jana Tidwell of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The least amount of traffic is expected after 7 p.m.

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