Photo of couple on the beach.

With Delta Surging, Should You Travel Over Labor Day Weekend?

In All Health Watch, Coronavirus

Americans are not going to let the surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant spoil their Labor Day travel plans. Reservations for the long weekend are up 46% from 2019, according to the short-term rental property management company Guesty.

Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the end of summer. It’s a chance for many of us to travel and enjoy warm-weather activities for the last time before fall sets in.

But is it worth the risk?

Delta is raging out of control in some parts of the country. The U.S. is now averaging more than 160,000 COVID new cases a day, according to Johns Hopkins University.

COVID deaths are reaching levels not seen since the biggest wave of the pandemic last winter. Some states face serious shortages of ICU beds.

5 Ways to Stay Safe While Traveling Over Labor Day

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people who aren’t vaccinated to stay home during the holiday weekend. People who are unvaccinated are 16 times more likely to end up in the hospital with  COVID-19 than those who’ve been vaccinated.

If you do plan to travel, the tried-and-true methods of masking and distancing can lower your risk. But there are other things you can do to stay safe:

1. Avoid traveling to or within these seven states…

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Mississippi
  • Texas
  • Missouri
  • Louisiana

These states recently reported that they have reached 90% or more of capacity in their intensive care units. Alabama is actually operating beyond capacity at 102%. The national average is 68%.

If you are in one of these states and you get a severe case of COVID, there’s a chance you may have to be treated in a makeshift facility instead of a regular ICU.

2. Avoid large group gatherings.

A new case study published Tuesday is a cautionary tale. Researchers at the Illinois Department of Publish Health described how COVID spread at a five-day church camp in mid-June. The gathering included 530 people. It did not require vaccination or masks. Camp events were held both indoors and outside.

Attendees and staff members spread COVID among themselves. And when they left, they brought the virus home. Less than two months later, 180 COVID cases in four states were identified as having originated at the camp.

Dr. Chris Farnitano is health officer of Contra Costa County in California. “Being in groups of people who don’t live with you is risky,” he said.

3. Upgrade your mask.

There is no longer a shortage of medical-grade masks. If you plan to fly during the weekend, Dr. Amber Schmidtke suggests that you use a KN95 mask.

“I’ve upgraded all of my family’s masks to the KN95 mask,” she said. “If you’re fully vaccinated and planning to wear a mask, I think air travel can be very safe.”

KN95 and N95 masks filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. This makes them much more effective than other masks. They are widely in big box stores (Home Depot carries them) and online.

4. Take it outside.

Beaches and national parks are great choices right now, Dr. Schmidtke said. But don’t let your guard down.

“Anytime you have to go inside to use a restroom or go into a restaurant to pick up some food, that’s when you want to make sure you have your KN95 mask with you,” she said.

Dr. Schmidtke points to the recent Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota. It was largely outdoors. But attendees also packed into bars and restaurants.

South Dakota went from having three COVID patients in its ICUs before the event to having 77 afterward.

5. Be aware of vaccine mandates.

Unvaccinated travelers can still go on vacation. But in many destinations they may not be able to do much after arriving.

Some U.S. cities are making many indoor activities off limits to the unvaccinated. Producers of some concerts and other events are doing the same. Most cruises require passengers to have their shots.

At least three major U.S. cities now require proof of vaccination to enter bars and restaurants. They are:

  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • New Orleans

Individual business in other cities are also requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. So if you’ve gotten your shots, be sure to bring your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.

Please make sure that you enjoy Labor Day weekend while keeping yourself and those around you safe and healthy.

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