Summer holiday weekends have led to coronavirus spikes, will Labor Day be different?

With Labor Day marking the unofficial end to summer, health experts are worried it could be the beginning of a new spike in COVID-19 cases.

With Western Washington in the 70s and 80s for Labor Day weekend, the weather was ripe for families looking for sun and sand on the holiday. Even the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he’d rather see people social distancing on a beach than inside a crowded bar this weekend. The decisions made this weekend will have ripple effects for weeks to come. 

While holidays have a way of bringing people together, in the lost summer of 2020, that can be a bad thing. Memorial Day weekend marked the beginning of a summer spike in COVID-19 cases in the state of Washington, a spike that reached its peak after the July 4th holiday. 

With the state now trending downward again, Fauci said he sees Labor Day weekend as a “critical point” in the country’s progress.

“Are we going to go in the right direction and continue the momentum downward, or are we going to have to step back a bit as we start another surge?” Fauci said.

The answer will become clear in the next two weeks, with coronavirus symptoms typically realized up to 14 days after transmission.

Across the Puget Sound over the holiday weekend, many families practiced social distancing and mask-wearing. While more people are wearing masks now than at the beginning of summer, University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says just about 44 percent of the state’s population say they always wear a mask in public.

Without universal mask wearing, IHME projects the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the state will more than double by the end of the year, reaching 5,400 lives lost in 2020. The state’s Department of Health reports nearly 2,000 coronavirus-related deaths so far this year.