Doctors Expect COVID-19 Surge From Labor Day Gatherings

Labor Day weekend can often mean travel or gatherings, but during a pandemic, it also could mean a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Posted at 5:09 PM, Sep 04, 2020

Labor Day weekend can often mean travel or gatherings, but during a pandemic, it could also mean a spike in COVID-19 cases.

"There's always concern during holidays when people naturally again get together. There's always a risk for transmission. What we don't want to see is another increase in the number of cases," Dr. John Hammer, Infectious Disease Specialist at Rose Medical Center in Denver, told Newsy.

He says a surge could happen over the next two weeks. It happened before.

"What we saw around the state in Colorado in really starting in late June, but certainly picking up in July after the Fourth of July holiday was a gradual increase in the number of cases," he said. 

Both new COVID-19 cases and deaths surged nationally in the weeks following the 4th of July.  A Newsy analysis found new cases rose 36% in the two weeks after Independence day. Deaths were up 30 percent. 

"It's hard to exactly say this was the result of Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, rather than the result of stay-at-home orders being lifted and the weather getting better," Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Newsy.

Adalja tells Newsy it’s not all holiday socializing, but large mask-free gatherings that are to blame.

Just this week, a man who attended the Sturgis motorcycle rally died from COVID-19. He’s among more than 260 confirmed cases linked to the event.

Doctors say these gatherings this summer led COVID-19 infection patterns to shift where younger people were infected more, and then spread the illness to others more in danger of hospitalization or dying. 

"That's likely the pattern we're going to see as we move forward," Adalja said. "If you are going to do this, that you realize that the virus is going to be with you and that there are some simple measures that you can take that will decrease your risk of spreading or acquiring the virus. "

There are ways to lower risk this holiday. Things like holding small get-togethers outside, avoiding the barbeque or potluck by bringing your own food, and of course, wearing a mask and social distancing.