COLUMBIA, S.C. — Many people are hitting the road or flying to celebrate Thanksgiving during the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 is impacting the way people are celebrating the holidays as some people choose to fly and others are choosing to drive.
Some people have decided not to travel for Thanksgiving this year and to have a small gathering at home. Others are choosing to visit family who may live in different parts of the state, or even country.
"It is different, the pandemic has hit us all," said Mike Gula, the Executive Director of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). "It's every industry seeing it right now. It hit the airport and airline industry very, very tough."
Gula says in April they were down 97% in the number of people traveling.
"Definitely during the holiday season, we will see an impact. We will see an uptick," explained Gula. "Generally we would see about 1,800 to 2,000 passengers through a day. This year, it's obviously going to be less. We're down 57 percent as we sit here today."
For holiday travel, officials are now expecting there to be 1,000 to 1,200 people coming through the airport each day.
Around 70% of the travel CAE has seen deals with business. 20% is related to military. The remaining 10% is leisure.
"We want the traveling public to know we're doing everything that we possibly can. We're following all the CDC, DHEC guidelines," said Gula. "One thing that I did a little bit different than probably some of my counterparts, we actually have hire on some additional personnel to be out here visible doing cleaning routines."
The areas being cleaned often include high-touch points, restrooms and other areas.
Hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed around the terminals as well.
Another way CAE is trying to encourage people to fly is by bringing in a new airliner. The Executive Director says Silver Airways is a low cost airliner that will take people to Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. Flights begin December 17th.
Gula believes it's going to take three or four years to get back to the numbers they had in 2019. Last year was anticipated the best year CAE had ever seen.
Gula says he's ready for the public to come back and fly.
"I would tell the public now is probably the safest time ever to fly. We want your business back."
Some people are choosing to drive instead of fly this season.
Trooper David Jones with the South Carolina Highway Patrol says while they're not sure how the numbers will compare to years' past due to the pandemic, there will be an increase on the number of cars on the roadway than the last couple of months.
"The Highway Patrol still has a mission of saving lives. We're going to be out on our roadways whether it's through traffic enforcement, traffic education or reaching out to friends and loved ones in spreading the message," said Trooper Jones.
With the holidays coming, troopers will be seen all across the state to work to keep the roads safe for people traveling.
"Leading into Thanksgiving, the busiest time of the year for us and for a lot of people traveling on South Carolina roadways, as a result you're going to see many troopers out in full force," said Trooper Jones. "We're going to be out on our interstates, our secondary roadways."
Trooper Jones says they want people to have a good time, but too often they see people make poor decisions when they're traveling on the road.
"Even those this pandemic has affected a lot of people and a lot of people are staying home, I can promise you the South Carolina Highway patrol isn't staying home," said Trooper Jones. "We're going to be out in full-force and if you make those poor choices, we're going to be there to stop you."
The South Carolina Highway Patrol wants to remind people to watch their speed, wear their seatbelts and to get a designated driver if you plan on drinking.
"All too often around the holidays, we've become the barrier of bad news for many families who lose their loved ones on the roadways," explained Trooper Jones. "Don't have us knock on any more doors. Do your part. Let's all be thankful for each other and be blessed. Get a designated driver and do the right thing."