CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, also recommended that everyone wear a mask indoors, vaccinated or not, when gathering with others over the holiday weekend.

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Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory asking unvaccinated people to not travel at all during Labor Day weekend—and for those who are vaccinated to be careful about COVID-19 during the holiday.

"First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling," CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said August 31 during a White House briefing. Dr. Walensky also urged people who are fully vaccinated to be cautious, advising them that they consider their risk of developing COVID-19 when they make Labor Day weekend plans.

CDC Travel Advisory Over Labor Day: Should You Travel? One mature woman is standing on the air-stair of her plane with her boarding pass and has turned round to give one last look to her home before she goes travelling.
Credit: Getty Images

Walensky offered up more advice. "If gathering with family and friends, remember that spending time outside with others who are vaccinated will help to prevent transmission," she said. "Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that the vast majority of transmission takes place among unvaccinated people in closed, indoor settings."

She also urged people to wear masks inside. "When in public indoor settings, please wear a mask—vaccinated or unvaccinated," Walensky said.

COVID-19 cases in the country continue to skyrocket. On August 31, the day the CDC made the travel advisory, there were 153,728 new cases of the virus diagnosed, per CDC data.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients also urged people to get vaccinated before Labor Day weekend, saying that it's "critical that being vaccinated" be a part of peoples' "pre-holiday checklist."

It can be hard to take more generalized advice and apply it to your life and Labor Day plans, though. Here's what infectious disease experts recommend you keep in mind heading into Labor Day weekend.

Gathering outdoors is better than indoors

Experts overwhelmingly agree that outdoor picnics, bonfires, and beach gatherings are a better choice than getting together with others inside. "It gets back to the concept of how this virus spreads," John Sellick, DO, an infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo/SUNY, tells Health. "You're less likely to get COVID-19 if you're outside."

Avoid large groups

While it's generally safer to gather with people outside, large groups can be tricky, Dr. Sellick says. "If the crowd gets too big or if you're forced to go indoors because of the weather, the risk is going to go up—especially for the unvaccinated," he says.

Take a pass on indoor bars

You definitely want to avoid indoor gatherings where people are closely packed together, William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Health. "There are going to be a lot of people taking off masks, cheering, and having a good time," he says. "Those are going to be high-risk situations."

Stay off public transportation

Driving to a party or event in your own car is very different in terms of COVID-19 risk exposure from taking a crowded flight, train, or bus, Dr. Schaffner points out. "If you have to take public transportation, please wear your mask and stay as distant from other people as possible," he says.

Be aware of your personal risk, and the risk of those around you

It's important to be cautious if you have younger, unvaccinated children or if you're gathering with people who have underlying health conditions, Dr. Schaffner says. It's also crucial to be aware of how careful the people you're planning to spend time with are.

"Are those people usually pretty careful, or are they risky and they don't care?" Dr. Schaffner says. "That makes a difference in how risky it is to get together with a grandparent who may be high-risk for serious complications from COVID-19. …Maybe we don't invite Uncle Frank because he's unvaccinated and been playing poker with his buddies."

If you're not vaccinated, get tested—and re-tested

While the CDC recommends that you don't travel if you're not vaccinated against COVID-19, not everyone is going to follow that advice. If you plan to travel and you're not vaccinated, the CDC recommends that you do the following:

  • Get tested one to three days before your trip
  • Get tested three to five days after you travel
  • Self-quarantine for seven days after your trip and for 10 days if you don't get tested
  • Avoid being around high-risk people for 14 days after your trip
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms after you travel

Overall, Dr. Schaffner recommends keeping this advice in mind: "Use a little common sense—and be careful."

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