September 4, 2020 at 8:35 PM EDT
Officials fear Labor Day weekend gatherings could lead to repeat of case surge following Memorial Day
By Meryl Kornfield, Hannah Denham and Jacqueline Dupree
Local officials and health experts fear that gatherings during Labor Day — the first long weekend for students who have returned to classrooms across the country — could lead to a repeat of the national surge of coronavirus infections that followed Memorial Day.
This comes as states in the West and Midwest — Montana, the Dakotas, Michigan and Minnesota — have seen an uptick since mid-June in positive coronavirus test results, which is predictive of increased cases, Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, told CNN on Thursday. Coastal states are also being watched as locals and tourists may flock to beach communities and businesses to commemorate the end of the summer — a bittersweet holiday for Americans returning to work.
This weekend also presents challenges that didn’t exist earlier this summer, including schools resuming and more infections, said Thomas Tsai, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who partnered with Google to publish a forecast model for infections.
“In some ways we’re entering Labor Day with a more volatile mix than we did before Memorial Day,” he said. “We have masks and treatment but we’re starting with a much higher base of cases and we’re still seeing new hot spots rise across the country.”
The rise in cases after Memorial Day weekend was due to several reasons: rushed reopening in Southern states where testing and contract tracing weren’t yet in place, inconsistent mask mandates and increased travel due to the holiday, Tsai told The Washington Post.
Experts typically look at several factors to forecast potential red flags. Fauci on Thursday warned of the positivity rate for coronavirus screening in the Midwest: 6 percent, which tails behind the South’s 9.4 percent rate, even after a 3 percent rise since mid-June, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of the surges that we have seen following the holiday weekends,” Fauci told CNN. “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.”
Many parts of the country also have restrictions in place that weren’t in place earlier this summer: Now, 34 states and the District of Columbia have universal mask mandates, up by 20 from Memorial Day weekend.