Why experts say this weekend is ‘make or break’ in battle against COVID-19 heading into fall

Threat of coronavirus looms over Labor Day weekend

The threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is looming over Labor Day weekend, and public health experts are saying this could be a “make or break” moment as we head into the fall.

Gatherings over Memorial Day and the Fourth of July both caused an increase in cases, and a repeat of that situation would be even worse with schools reopening and flu season just around the corner.

“Please, wear your mask,” Dr. Deborah Birx said. “When I say socially distance, it means at all times, including with family members you may not have seen for weeks, including with the neighbors down the street.”

Speaking in Detroit earlier this week, Birx said neighborhood events and backyard barbecues are currently among the primary spreaders of the virus.

“You cannot tell if a person has COVID-19, and frankly, that person themselves may be so asymptomatic or so mild of a case that they don’t know they have it.” Birx said.

That warning was echoed by Michigan infectious disease experts.

“This is not a time to let up,” an expert said. “Even though the cases are less, we’re still seeing cases, and the only cases I’ve seen in the last week were all from large social gatherings, either indoors or outdoors, getting infected.

“We also see young, healthy people who don’t think it’s their problem also getting sick and coming to the hospital, and there have been some deaths in those young, healthy groups.”

The concern is that an end-of-the-summer spike will hamper efforts to reopen schools and increase the risk of a “twin-demic” -- flu and COVID-19 cases rising simultaneously.

“Schools will strictly be a reflection of what’s happening in the community and what’s happening in that county,” an expert said. “Our job as citizens of that county is to ensure that we get that community spread down so that children do have the opportunity to go to school.”

Birx said anyone who has been socializing without a mask or taking other risks should avoid being around vulnerable family members or friends. If you have to see them, wear a mask and stay far apart, she said.

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