Post-Labor Day increase predicted
After a busy Labor Day Weekend, health officials in Santa Barbara County say the region will likely see an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the coming days and weeks.
Historically, the county has seen an uptick in cases following holidays due to larger groups of people gathering together in indoor settings, according to Dr. David Fisk, an infectious disease expert with Cottage Health and Sansum Clinic.
Dr. Fisk said the county even saw an uptick during this year’s Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, and he expects that the past Labor Day Holiday is likely to bring a similar surge.
“We think there certainly will be somewhat of a surge — particularly in unvaccinated persons — like there has been after so many of the other holiday weekends during the pandemic, particularly because fewer people are social distanced now and interacting more and gathering more in groups in indoor settings,” Dr. Fisk told the News-Press.
With many local schools returning to session in the last weeks of August, Dr. Fisk said health officials remain concerned about how Labor Day weekend may impact cases among children. He said the county expects to see an increase in cases among the unvaccinated population, a portion of which is composed of children not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Despite the likelihood of cases increasing after the holiday weekend, Dr. Fisk said he is hopeful that the upcoming surge will not be as high as past holidays due to increasing vaccine coverage in the county.
According to the county’s latest vaccination data, 74.6% of the county’s eligible 12 and older population has received at least one shot, and 65.9% of that same population is fully vaccinated.
The increasing vaccination rate is giving Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director, similar hopes as Dr. Fisk — that the post-Labor Day uptick may not be as high as previous holiday surges. She said data from the latter half of this week will likely be a good indicator of how case rates will be impacted in the aftermath of the holiday.
Dr. Do-Reynoso said despite the expected rise in cases, she’s proceeding with optimism. She said throughout the pandemic, the community has been adaptable with the everchanging COVID-19 precautions, and this has helped to lower the case rates in the aftermath of surges.
“I do think that we as a community have learned a lot, and I think that we are seeing slight upticks after major holidays, but not catastrophically like we did in the first year (of the pandemic),” Dr. Do-Reynoso told the News-Press. “I think us being vaccinated, (having) tools in our toolbox that we’re using, (the) masking, safeguarding distance, thinking twice about gathering — I think all of those contribute to us not seeing as high a spike as we previously have.”
For those who did travel during the holiday weekend, officials recommend keeping an eye out for classic symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle and body aches and headache. In addition, those who know they have been exposed to someone who tested positive should get tested and self isolate.
“If people over Labor Day weekend gathered in indoor groups of people other than their own household, they should monitor for symptoms, and any symptoms that we classically think of as a cold need to be thought of as potential COVID,” Dr. Fisk said.
He added that the best way to prevent the spread moving forward is getting vaccinated, noting that breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated individuals “are not a reason not to get vaccinated.”
“The breakthrough cases are milder and aren’t killing people like unvaccinated COVID, the chance and likelihood of someone breaking through and getting COVID is dramatically lower if they’re vaccinated than if not, and if everyone gets vaccinated, that’s going to make it harder for it to spread person to person,” Dr. Fisk said. “We have an opportunity to stop this pandemic, and that’s by getting your vaccine.”