Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Air travel in the United States reached a new high during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday as the holiday season wrapped up, bringing new concerns about future COVID-19 infection levels.
The Transportation Security Administration said more than 1.3 million travelers passed through its checkpoints Sunday. The number is 55% below what the agency handled a year ago, but it was its highest volume since March 15, when travel lockdowns started to take full effect.
Sunday was the second consecutive day more than 1 million travelers passed through TSA checkpoints and the 11th time since Dec. 18. While those numbers are well off 2019 totals, they show a slow return to airports for passengers.
The United States recorded more deaths connected with the coronavirus during December than other times during the pandemic, with more than 74,000 deaths reported during the month, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading infectious disease expert, said the United States could return to normal by the fall if it reaches 1 million vaccinations per day. He said that rate could develop the widespread "herd immunity" needed among the population.
"It is totally going to depend on the uptake of vaccines," Fauci said. "If we get 70 to 85% of the population vaccinated. And we start, let me -- right now we're getting the people in the priority groups, by the time we get to the end of March, the beginning of April, I would have hoped that we would have taken care of all of those priorities and have what I call open season on vaccines."