As the United States heads for the Labor Day long weekend on Friday, public health officials warn not to make the same mistakes as on previous vacations.
The fear is that backyard parties, crowded bars and other gatherings could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases across the country, which has reported nearly 6.2 million cases of the virus and around 187,000 related deaths since the start. of the pandemic.
“I see the Labor Day weekend really as a tipping point,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s senior infectious disease specialist.
“Are we going to go in the right direction and continue our downward momentum, or are we going to have to pull back a bit as we start a new wave?” ”
The warnings came as a pattern widely cited by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation which predicted a worsening of the epidemic in the United States which will peak in early December at around 2,900 deaths per day, up from around 860. per day now, unless government officials take action.
Over the summer, the United States has seen an increase in infections, deaths and hospitalizations, mainly in the south and west, which was in part blamed on the reckless behavior of people during the Memorial Day holidays. and July Fourth in May and July, respectively.
The landscape has improved in recent weeks, with numbers moving in the right direction in hard-hit states like Florida, Arizona and Texas.
But there are some risk factors that could combine with Labor Day: kids are going back to school, college campuses are seeing an increase in cases, college football is starting, more businesses are starting. open and flu season is approaching.
US President Donald Trump also urged citizens on Friday to “remain vigilant” over the long weekend.
Trump said at a White House briefing that “we need everyone to be careful” and “apply common sense” in their interactions with each other.
Americans have been locked up for months and many seem more than ready to venture out and socialize – albeit with a few precautions.
In Cicero, Indiana, 40-year-old Matt McInnis plans to carry on the tradition by getting together with about 15 neighborhood friends for a barbecue.
“With the picnic outside, we feel we can have enough space, and with the fresh air we’re going to be safe by being outside and in wide open,” McInnis said.
In New York City, once the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, Jennifer Bolstad of Brooklyn collected the keys to a rented van with the intention of driving with her two children in Maryland this weekend. end to visit a family she hasn’t seen in a year.
“I’ve been monitoring the quarantine list pathologically, and it’s finally a place I can visit,” she said, referring to the list of states New York advised as safe to travel.
“I think a lot of people are going crazy and going somewhere this weekend and maybe not being as careful as they should be about bringing their germs with them. ”
Governors across the Northeast have discouraged people from traveling out of state this weekend. Visitors from 33 states and territories must quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut.
I really consider Labor Day weekend to be a critical point. Are we going to go in the right direction and continue our downward trend, or are we going to have to step back a bit to start a new wave?
Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
On Friday, the IHME model predicted that worsening epidemics in the northern hemisphere will lead to an additional 1.9 million deaths from COVID-19 in the remaining months of 2020 unless governments take action.
Mask warrants and social distancing could save hundreds of thousands of lives, but there is “enormous COVID fatigue” among world government leaders due to economic downturns, said Dr.Christopher Murray of the IHME.
Dr Albert Ko, an epidemiologist at Yale University, expressed concern that students will return to school across the country next week after returning from a vacation trip and a weekend end of social gatherings.
“Any transmission events happening here could be magnified unless we are careful,” Ko said. “Whether this is a perfect storm, I don’t think. People are aware of the risk, and people have taken social distances. But it is certainly a concern. “