A mostly empty concourse at Long Beach Airport, Thursday, March 19, 2020. According to an airport spokesperson, Thursdays are usually heavy travel days. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Thanksgiving week is the busiest time of year at airports across the country. This year, as everyone knows by now, will be different.

Amid warnings and pleas against unnecessary travel, Long Beach Airport officials still expect their volume to tick up slightly by 25% in November and December. However, a 25% increase from the lowest passenger traffic on record still puts the airport well below last year’s numbers.

While some airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, have added additional safety measures this week to spurn the spread of the coronavirus, Long Beach Airport is staying the course with protocols that have already been in place.

“We continue to adhere to the state and local health orders to safeguard the welfare of all passengers and encourage travelers to stay informed about COVID-19 in Long Beach,” Marlene Arrona, a Long Beach airport spokesperson, said in an email.

Long Beach protocols include mask requirements for all employees, passengers and visitors while at the airport and aboard flights, encouraging physical distancing, plastic separators in high-traffic areas such as ticketing counters, frequent cleaning and disinfecting, hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the facility and working toward a completely touchless experience.

In addition to the standard requirements Long Beach is following, LAX officials announced Monday that out-of-state travelers will be required to sign a form acknowledging they are aware of the state’s 14-day quarantine advisory beginning Wednesday. Failure to sign the form could result in a fine of up to $500.

The larger airport has also instituted a number of other measures, including touchless technology, improvements to air quality inside the facility and the ability to buy COVID-19 tests on site.

Nationwide, the Transportation Security Administration screened just over 3.86 million passengers at its checkpoints Saturday through Tuesday, according to federal data. Total screenings were down significantly—about 41.9%—from last year, when nearly 9.21 million passengers went through checkpoints over the same four-day period.

Based on mid-October models, AAA Travel forecast a 10% overall decline in Thanksgiving travel compared with last year, the largest decrease since the Great Recession. While plane travel is down significantly, AAA estimates about 47.8 million people, the majority of holiday travelers, will travel by car—a decrease of only 4.3% from last year.

The Centers for Disease Control created a Thanksgiving travel page that encourages everyone to stay home and avoid large gatherings this holiday season. For those who still opt to travel, the CDC reinforced safety measures.

“Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the website reads. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.