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The spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant has been a significant step backward in the U.S.’s efforts to fight off the coronavirus pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations reached their highest levels since last winter and could rise again this winter, with large portions of the population still unvaccinated and fall’s cooler temperatures and indoor gatherings approaching.
In response, many jurisdictions returned to mask requirements, capacity restrictions, and other public health measures to slow the spread of the Delta variant, and individuals are rethinking their own behaviors and preferences to avoid the variant.
Delta’s spread has been particularly unwelcome news for segments of the economy that have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in summer of 2021, when vaccines were widely available, cases were on the decline, and mask requirements were lifted, sectors like travel and tourism, hospitality, and the arts were still hobbled, but a return to normal appeared to be in sight. Now, there is new uncertainty for these industries’ recovery.
Air travel provides one example. The TSA’s daily count of airport travelers plummeted to less than 100,000 per day at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and incrementally increased over the remainder of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. By the summer of 2021, the number of air travelers was back over 2,000,000 per day but still lagged behind pre-pandemic levels. However, a recent survey by Longwoods International found that nearly two thirds of travelers are changing trip plans in light of the coronavirus, with one in six postponing a trip until at least next year.