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Expert warns Labor Day behavior could lead to spike in COVID-19 cases

Local COVID-19 cases spiked after the July 4th holiday. Public health experts want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen this holiday weekend.

HOUSTON — It's normal to feel a bit of COVID-19 fatigue, but health officials are warning if people aren't careful this Labor Day, history could repeat itself with a spike in new cases. What you and your family choose to do this holiday weekend will impact all of us.

"This is not the time to screw around," said infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez. "Make sure to maintain social distancing. There's still a lot of transmission in the eastern half of Texas. I'm very concerned about how people behave over Labor Day. We know this is pretty fragile. It doesn't take a whole lot to bring back transmission to where it was."

The last time Americans were faced with a long holiday weekend over July 4th, beaches were crowded across the country. Too many people ignored the warnings and then weeks later cases spiked nationally and in the Houston area.

"Everyone said 'hey nothing happened' because they were oblivious to how it works," said Hotez. "It [COVID-19] doesn't start going up right away. There's a big lag before this thing catches fire. Then it started going up precipitously."

The good news is Houston area hospitalizations and ICU admissions are down, but the area is still averaging more than 800 new COVID-19 cases a day.

"Now it's already up here, so it'll go up much higher and maybe even faster if we try to reproduce what we did on July 4," said Hotez.

Experts even more concerned because fall is around the corner. That means flu season will pick up too and more schools are set to begin in-person classes.

"It's going to be important to have situational awareness as we head into the fall," said Hotez.

A reminder for if you do make plans for Labor Day, it's best to stay outside, avoid large groups and if around others not in your immediate household keep your mask on.