Since the beginning of the pandemic, holidays have been a source of anxiety for public health officials, who fear that gatherings will heighten the risk of people catching COVID-19. As the highly contagious Delta variant continues to surge—43 new deaths were reported Thursday in L.A. County—local officials are warning residents to be more cautious ahead of the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
During an online media briefing on Thursday, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned about the relatively high number of recent COVID-related deaths. As of Friday morning, the county’s death toll had reached 25,382.
“Our reported numbers yesterday and today are higher and we fear continued losses that are particularly difficult to bear because they are all just about preventable,” Ferrer said.
“It’s important to note we are seeing less transmission across the board in general, but because the delta variant is so capable of infecting lots of people, we still have very high numbers of people getting infected,” she said. “And while in L.A. County, you look at our numbers and say we have tons and tons of people vaccinated…but we also have tons and tons of people that are unvaccinated—a very good reservoir for highly infectious variants.”
Like most holidays, Labor Day weekend is a time when people are more likely to gather with individuals from outside their own households and ultimately put their guards down. While there may be significantly less risk that a fully vaccinated person will become infected while socializing outdoors with a small group of people who are also vaccinated, there are other factors to take into account, like whether someone has young, unvaccinated kids at home.
“Many of us do have some choices we can make about how we live our lives right now,” Ferrer said. “There is great power to protect ourselves and each other in those choices, and approaching them thoughtfully is our path through this together.”
Health officials say riskier gatherings include those that are crowded, are held indoors, and include groups of unmasked or unvaxxed people. Unvaccinated people are also more likely to be contagious for a longer period of time than vaccinated people, scientists say. The California Department of Public Health reports that a majority of recent COVID cases in California are among the unvaccinated, a population with a case rate that’s 571 percent higher than the vaccinated.
When it comes to indoor events, Ferrer advised that unvaccinated people “should really avoid gatherings that are indoors, unless it’s just with your household members, or it’s with everybody else who’s fully vaccinated.”
Health officials at both the state and federal levels are encouraging people who aren’t vaccinated to avoid traveling over the three-day weekend altogether to prevent possible spread.
“If gathering with family and friends, remember that spending time outside with others who are vaccinated will help to prevent transmission,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a media briefing this week, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that the vast majority of transmission takes place among unvaccinated people in closed, indoor settings.”
The L.A. County Department of Public Health agreed that unvaccinated people should take precautions not only during the labor weekend, but “every day.”
Heading into the holiday weekend and moving forward, Ferrer says, “We have to be super careful,” Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.