SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Ahead of Labor Day weekend, millions are predicted to travel, while some will opt-out as the Delta variant is driving up coronavirus cases. Health officials are concerned about holiday travel and its impact on communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging the unvaccinated to not travel and for the vaccinated, to weigh the risk, as COVID-19 cases are yet again surging across the country.
“We would say that people need to take their own — these risks into their own consideration as they think about traveling,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, during an Aug. 31 press briefing.
Data from Arrivalist reports Labor Day travel is predicted to be slightly down, but millions are still expected to head out of town, despite high transmission rates across the country.
“That is a concern and the more you travel, the more likely you are to come in contact with someone who is positive and may not know it,” said Charla Haley, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health.
In Utah, the seven-day rolling average for percent positivity of “people over people” is 14.5%, according to UDOH data.
“Many of our neighboring states have similar, if not increased transmission rates to us,” said Dr. Emily Spivak, who works at the University of Utah Health on the division of infectious diseases.
While many will travel across state lines, Dr. Spivak said traveling in the state can still be a risk.
“If you travel from Summit County to the Tri-County area or somewhere else, you’re going from a fairly highly vaccinated place to a relatively unvaccinated place,” she said.
To protect yourself and others, she encourages everyone to mask up – regardless of vaccination status.
“We just really need to all do this for each other,” Dr. Spivak said. “And so, as people travel, I’d really encourage them to mask, and if you haven’t made an appointment for a vaccine, make it; try and get one dose before you go, if not, when you get back.”
After every holiday since the pandemic began, Dr. Spivak said the number of people who get sick with COVID-19 always increases; but this Labor Day could lead to a much more rapid increase in cases because of the Delta variant’s high transmissibility.
An interactive map on the CDC’s website shows how many people are vaccinated by state, and what COVID-19 transmission looks like in every state and county.
Over the holiday weekend, road and air officials anticipate a large volume of travelers.
The Utah Department of Transportation is advising drivers to plan for delays Friday and Monday due to holiday traffic.
And at the Salt Lake City International Airport, a spokesperson told ABC4 News the airport is expecting more than 25,000 travelers coming through its doors on Friday, with numbers picking back up again Monday.
In 2020, the airport reports more than 11,000 travelers on Friday over the holiday weekend, while in 2019, more than 27,000 people traveled.