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Is It Safe to Travel During Labor Day Weekend?

Union station in Washington D.C.

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • The CDC is urging unvaccinated people to avoid traveling this Labor Day weekend due to a nationwide COVID-19 surge.
  • Health officials advised vaccinated people to mask up during travel and in indoor public space.
  • CDC Director encouraged gathering outdoors to reduce the risk of transmission.

The Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking unvaccinated people to avoid traveling during the Labor Day weekend and that vaccinated people should take precautions against COVID-19.  

The upcoming three-day holiday is commonly celebrated as the unofficial end of summer with barbecues and get-togethers. As COVID-19 cases reached a daily average of 150,000 in the United States, health officials are urging caution. 

“First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing on Tuesday. 

The CDC has long recommended people to delay travel plans domestically and internationally until they’re fully vaccinated. Walensky said that while fully vaccinated people wearing masks can travel this weekend, they should consider COVID-19 risks “given where we are with disease transmission right now.” 

Unvaccinated people are hospitalized at a rate 16 times greater than vaccinated people, according to recent data presented by a CDC advisory panel.

The bottom line, officials said, is to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of getting sick with COVID-19 and transmitting it to others.  

“As people across the country prepare for Labor Day weekend, it’s critical that being vaccinated is part of their pre-holiday checklist,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters at the briefing yesterday. “Getting vaccinated is free.  It’s easy and convenient.  It’s safe and effective.  And it’s never, ever been more important.” 

Walensky added that all people should wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status, and that gatherings should take place outdoors to help lower the risk of transmission.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that the vast majority of transmission takes place among unvaccinated people in closed, indoor settings,” she said. 

There are other steps to stay safe, like traveling by cars with other individuals from the same household, checking the number of new COVID-19 cases at the destination, and avoiding crowded places. Additionally, pay attention to local vaccine and mask mandates.  

The European Union recommended this week that its member nations restrict non-essential travel from the U.S. due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. The announcement suggested that vaccinated travelers may continue to be allowed entry, though each country can set its own rules.

In the U.S., the beginning of the school year has seen a surge in cases among children as students resumed gathering in-person. COVID-19 positivity rates among children increased over five-fold in the past month, jumping from about 38,000 in the last week of July to nearly 204,000 in the last week of August, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What This Means For You

Vaccination remains the best tool to protect yourself from COVID-19. If you’re vaccinated, you can travel and gather with others with a reduced risk of serious health outcomes, but the CDC recommends wearing a mask to further minimize transmission and breakthrough infections.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker. Updated September 1, 2021.