HOLIDAY

Holiday Weekends Not Major Cause of COVID-19 Cases

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Smaller gatherings over the Labor Day weekend don’t appear to have had a major impact on COVID-19 cases. Ross Helen/Getty Images
  • COVID-19 cases in the United States have decreased during the past 2 weeks, although some states are becoming “hot spots.”
  • Experts say it doesn’t appear that travel and gatherings during the Labor Day weekend had a major impact on COVID-19 transmission.
  • They say low vaccination rates and large gatherings without mask mandates are bigger factors.

More National Guard troops are being dispatched to Kentucky hospitals this week as nearly 70 percent of the state’s 96 hospitals are facing severe staffing shortages after a sharp spike in COVID-19 admissions.

The state is considered a COVID-19 hotspot. New cases have averaged more than 4,000 per day the past week, with only about 51 percent of the state’s eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear urged residents to get vaccinated and not count on getting monoclonal antibody treatments. He said that the federal government is dealing with supply shortages because of extraordinary demand for the antibody treatment.

“What this shortage ought to tell you is that if you’re unvaccinated and you get really sick, not only might there not be a bed in the hospital for you because they are so full, but that monoclonal antibody treatment might not be there for you either,” Beshear said.

Due to the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that unvaccinated people in the United States stay home over the Labor Day weekend.

CDC officials added that even vaccinated people needed to consider the risk of holiday travel.

The number of new cases was growing so rapidly that hospitals in Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and Louisiana were running low on oxygen supplies.

But according to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker, the number of new cases nationally is down 12 percent the past 2 weeks.

“If you look at the U.S. case counts, I think you might be able to discern a small bump that could be from Labor Day weekend,” Dr. George Rutherford III, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California San Francisco, told Healthline.

“However, so far, it’s not very large and may just be a biological variation.”

The numbers are still trending up in some parts of the country, but Dr. Amesh Adalja, FIDSA, an infectious diseases specialist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, said that may be due to other reasons.

“There are some states where cases are increasing, such as Montana, Alaska, and West Virginia,” he told Healthline.

“But that is likely a reflection of low vaccination rates, a different delta timeline and high rates of social interaction among the unvaccinated. That’s irrespective of whether it’s a holiday weekend.”

Experts say it’s hard to distinguish the impact of the Labor Day weekend with so many other factors going on at the same time.

“There have been all kinds of football games, college and professional, that are going on. Add to that, children are going back to school, older kids are going to college,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee.

“There’s so much going on, I don’t know that we can attribute or anticipate a special surge due to Labor Day,” he told Healthline.

Schaffner said that there may be some small outbreaks that could be linked to a particular event, but most health departments don’t have the capacity to investigate them because they’re busy dealing with COVID-19 cases.

He noted that some areas of the country are seeing a plateau in the numbers of cases and hospitalizations.

“I think we may be seeing a convergence of two things,” he said. “Slowly but surely, more people are getting vaccinated. The other is more rapid. More and more of the unvaccinated are actually experiencing infection that results in protection,” Schaffner explained.

But he says there are still troubling hotspots.

“It’s really quite extraordinary. In parts of the country they are talking about triaging, rationing care,” he said.

In contrast to states like Kentucky, California now has the lowest COVID-19 case rate in the country for the past week, despite battling the highly contagious Delta variant.

Still, some hospitals in the state’s Central Valley are struggling with a surge of new cases. In that part of the state, far fewer residents are vaccinated.