Labor Day weekend celebrations could lead to spike in Covid-19 infections, top US experts urge caution

Scientists and officials worry that people not following safety rules could lead to a repeat of the national surge of Covid-19 infections that followed Memorial Day

                            Labor Day weekend celebrations could lead to spike in Covid-19 infections, top US experts urge caution
(Getty Images)

As people across the US head into the Labor Day weekend, which is one of the biggest social gathering holidays for Americans, health experts are worried that not following basic safety measures, such as social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away in public, wearing a mask, and washing hands, could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases. Public health officials and scientists, who fear that it could lead to a repeat of the national surge of coronavirus infections that followed Memorial Day, have urged caution. 

The first Monday of September — which falls on September 7 this year — is Labor Day. The worry is that social gatherings, parties, crowded beaches and bars, trips and backyard barbecues, among others, could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases across the US, which has reported over 6.2 million Covid-19 cases and more than 187,760 deaths as of September 5. 

“We opened up Memorial Day with 20,000 daily cases, 5.4% test positivity rate. We peaked around July 22, we had about 75,000 daily cases, nearly 9% positivity rate. As we enter Labor Day, we are at about 40,000 new cases, 6.3% positivity rate,” Dr Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health wrote on twitter. 


Dr Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus advisor, questioned, “I look upon the Labor Day weekend really as a critical point. Are we going to go in the right direction and continue the momentum downward, or are we going to have to step back a bit as we start another surge?”

Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told CNN, “We don’t want to see a repeat of the surges that we have seen following other holiday weekends.” The expert, however, said this does not imply that people should not enjoy and lock themselves in a room, but rather that they should follow safety rules. “(This includes) the wearing of the masks, the physical distancing and avoiding crowds, trying to keep gatherings outside much, much, much more preferable than indoors,” he said. Dr Fauci said that some states such as Montana, the Dakotas, Michigan, and Minnesota have recently seen a spike in the percentage of tests coming back positive, especially among young people in the 19 to 25 age group. “If they don’t do the kinds of things we’re talking about, we’re going to see a surge. It’s important for two reasons. We don’t want to see a surge under any circumstances, but particularly as we go on the other side of Labor Day and enter into the fall, we want to go into that with a running start in the right direction. We don’t want to go into that with another surge that we have to turn around again. So it really is an important weekend,” he cautioned. 

Dr Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus advisor, called it a critical weekend and urged people to follow safety rules.  (Getty Images)

During a press conference on Friday, President Donald Trump said that to keep making progress against the virus, “we ask all Americans to remain vigilant, especially over Labor Day.” “We need everybody to be careful, to apply common sense, and do all of the things that we’ve told you to do, as quickly, as much as you can: social distancing, wearing a mask whenever the distancing is not possible, and staying with a group that you know. Let’s just try and get through this one weekend, and I think we have a chance of doing,” he said.

Several state governors have also advised people to follow safety precautions. “Maryland’s key Covid-19 metrics remain low and stable, with a 7-day positivity rate of 3.48%. This Labor Day weekend, it’s critical for Marylanders to practice the basic habits that have kept us on the road to recovery: avoid large gatherings, wear a mask, and wash your hands,” tweeted Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. 


Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted, “Let’s help our businesses hire workers back by stopping the spread of Covid-19. Avoid large gatherings like backyard BBQs. Keep all interactions short and safe. Mask Up.” 


New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy urged people to keep doing “everything we’ve done over the past six months to crush the curves and put us in position to keep moving forward.” 


Stating that this is an ‘unusual’ Labor Day weekend for Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear wrote on twitter: “As we end another tough week Covid-19 cases, it’s vital we remain vigilant this weekend and follow the guidance. Have fun, but stay safe.” 


Colorado Governor Jared Polis also tweeted: “As we head into Labor Day weekend, it’s important to remember that the virus is still out there and although we can get together and have fun, we just have to be careful and responsible.” 


Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the more an individual interacts with people he or she does not live with and the closer and longer each interaction is, the higher the risk is of getting infected with Covid-19. If people want to host social gatherings, the agency encourages having them outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, it advises Americans to make sure the room or space is well-ventilated, besides wearing masks and following social distancing measures.

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here