Going into Labor Day weekend, the U.S. coronavirus caseload is nearly double what it was during Memorial Day weekend. The virus has killed more than 187,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University, and one widely used model predicts the death toll could reach 410,000 by the end of the year.
Health experts advise it’s still a good idea for anyone heading to the beach this holiday weekend to wear a mask, especially if it’s crowded.
Some states across the country have been loosening restrictions. In New Jersey on Friday, restaurants were allowed to have indoor dining for the first time in six months, but at 25% capacity.
At the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, manager Debbie DeLisa said tables and chairs have been set 6 feet apart in preparation of their first inside diners since March.
“We try to be really safe when we set up our tables in here,” said DeLisa. “I think that the whole stigma of people being afraid to be indoors is sort of calming down right now.”
However, she said indoor dining might not be enough. When asked how the coronavirus has impacted the bar financially, DeLisa responded, “It’s impacted it severely. The numbers are astronomical of what we’re going to lose this year.”
As some restrictions loosen, health officials worry less social distancing will lead to more outbreaks at large gatherings – like the August motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, which is now linked to nearly 300 cases and at least one death.
“This virus tends to spread in clusters. What that means is if there are a large group of people together, then a large number of them can become infected,” said Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Bill Hanage. “We would expect the holiday weekend to produce at least a few of those.”
Two weeks ago, eight states were reporting increases in average new cases, and now 27 states are reporting increases in average new cases. COVID-19 cases are growing nationwide: nearly four times the number of states are reporting increases compared to two weeks ago.
There’s also confusion over when a vaccine will be available, after the Centers for Disease Control told states to prepare for distribution as soon as late October. Two Trump administration officials are now saying that may be ambitious.
“I think it’s extremely unlikely but not impossible, and therefore it’s the right thing to do to be prepared in case,” said chief adviser of Operation Warp Speed Dr. Moncef Slaoui.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows almost half of Americans say they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s first available, and almost one in four say they never want it.
There was some positive economic news on Friday, but it comes with a caveat. The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in August to 8.4% from the 10.2% reported the previous month. Economists said part of the sharp drop is because businesses are recalling workers, not creating new jobs.