Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new data on Maine, Iowa and overall US Covid-19 cases.
Memorial Day came. We celebrated. We burst out of our suffocating homes with a damn-the-torpedoes surge, eager to see the places, family and friends we’d been yearning for during those smothering weeks of isolation.
Then we paid the price. Two or so weeks later, after the virus had incubated, cases of Covid-19 spiked, with 4 million more cumulative cases since Memorial Day. The surge ignited an upward trend we’ve been battling ever since.
The Fourth of July holiday didn’t help – that was another excuse to launch caution to the skies. By then, cities and states were also lifting restrictions. One mistake fed upon another, with tragic consequences.
As of Friday, September 4, there were at least 6,164,267 total cases and 187,052 deaths in the US overall.
“Americans love to travel, and people had pandemic fatigue,” said pediatrician Dr. David Rubin, who directs PolicyLab, a research and public policy center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that’s tracking Covid-19 cases in communities across the country.
“There were lax restrictions around the use of masks,” Rubin said. “All of it created a very hospitable environment for this virus to transmit.”
Will Labor Day be any different? That, experts say, depends entirely on us.
“I’m worried about Labor Day because people may have the impression that cases are coming down,” said epidemiologist Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
“Despite the fact that Covid-19 is now the third leading cause of death, people still doubt that we have a problem. They may think they are out of danger and behave as they did around Memorial Day,” said Mokdad, who manages a database tracking Covid-19 deaths, mask use and social distancing.
“We use Labor Day as a way to take the day off, but unfortunately the virus doesn’t,” said epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“The more we travel, the more we interact with people, the more opportunities there are for exposure,” said Nuzzo, who is the lead epidemiologist on the Covid-19 transmission tracker at Hopkins’s Coronavirus Resource Center.