Using lessons learned from Memorial Day and Independence Day where social gatherings led to the spread of COVID-19, health officials are offering tips to the public on how to stay safe over Labor Day weekend.
Following weddings, large birthday parties, family reunions or other large events, contact tracing has shown that many people likely became sick with COVID-19 after attending a party or picnic with friends and family. A common theme found by contact tracers was that people attended these gatherings despite showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing. There were also people who attended gatherings who didn’t know they had COVID-19 because they didn’t have any symptoms, but who later tested positive and infected others at the gathering.
Health officials discourage social gatherings with people who don’t live in your home because these get-togethers, even small ones, increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert is urging Americans to practice caution over Labor Day weekend in order to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to CNN on Thursday and implored Americans to wear masks, practice social distancing, and avoid large crowds over the coming holiday weekend.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of the surges that we have seen following other holiday weekends,” Fauci said. He went on to add that this doesn’t mean Americans can’t enjoy the weekend or must “lock yourself in a room,” but he stressed the need to follow health guidelines and emphasized that any gatherings should be kept outside, as this is “much, much, much more preferable” than having them indoors.
Noting there has recently been an uptick in COVID-19 test positivity especially among young people in certain states like Montana and Michigan, Fauci expressed concern about a potential surge if health guidelines are not followed, something that’s especially important to avoid ahead of the fall.
“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,” Fauci said. “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.”
Health officials offer the following tips for a safer celebration:
- Hang out with members of your household: Explore a new trail, picnic at a beautiful park, enjoy the beach early in the day.
- Outdoors is much safer than indoors: The risk of transmitting COVID-19 is higher indoors, especially in confined spaces where people may not be wearing face coverings or keeping their distance from others. At social gatherings, avoid being inside as much as possible, which includes being in the kitchen with others to prepare or get food or drinks. The host should be the only one in the kitchen; having guests in the kitchen increases the risk spreading the virus. So if you’re going to socialize, do it outdoors. Nonetheless, even if you are outside, you should still stay six feet apart and wear face coverings if you are around people you don’t live with.
- Wear a cloth face covering when outside of your home, in public and around others.
- If you’re feeling sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home: You may think that cough or sniffle is just allergies, but it’s not worth the risk of infecting friends and loved ones.
- Communicate beforehand: If you choose to gather with people outside of your household (e.g., members of your social bubble), discuss and agree on what protective measures they will have in place, such as plans for maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks as much as possible, and agreeing to hold each other accountable for the sake of group safety. Most of all, agree that invitees should not come if they feel ill in any way.
- Avoid Crowds: Be flexible with your plans and move to a different location if you cannot easily keep at least 6 feet (or more than three steps) away from others.
- Leave the party or gathering if someone seems sick: Don’t assume that someone coughing or sniffling has allergies and not COVID-19. Politely explain to the host that you are worried about getting infected and need to go. However, remember that people without symptoms can still have COVID-19 and infect others, which is why it’s best to keep on a mask, maintain physical distance, and stay outside as much as possible.
- Be extra cautious in the days before gathering with others: If you know you’re going to meet with people from outside your household, stay home as much as possible and limit public activities in the days before in order to reduce the chance of getting sick and infecting others at the gathering.
Some content from The Week, CNN, and Contra Costa Health Services