Know your family's 'acceptable risks' before traveling Labor Day weekend, epidemiologist urges

Vogt: 'We know these vaccines are very effective... but we have seen cases of vaccine breakthrough'
FILE - This Aug. 24, 2011 file photo shows beachgoers at Cape Hatteras. N.C. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Posted at 3:56 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 18:27:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- State and federal health officials are urging unvaccinated people to skip traveling this Labor Day weekend as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the country likely as a result of the delta variant.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that Americans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 should not travel over the holiday weekend f COVID-19 are driving up transmission rates around the country.

In fact, the CDC's website tracking transmission rates has all 50 states and Washington, D.C., listed as high transmission. And for Virginia, every county in the Commonwealth was listed as high Friday afternoon.

Marshall Vogt, an Virginia Department of Health epidemiologist, says the unvaccinated are at a higher risk of exposure, especially when in enclosed spaces like planes, trains or buses.

"And then going into staying with people that might have COVID-19, or doing things, if especially if they're going out with large groups and in poorly ventilated spaces where they're at a higher risk for getting COVID-19," Vogt explained. "And then, again, bringing that back with them after their trip."

Vogt said that unvaccinated people who do travel should plan to get tested before and after their trip.

At Richmond International Airport, where officials expect around 50,000 flyers over the holiday, those CBS 6 talked to Friday were all fully vaccinated and taking precautions.

"We'll of course wear the mask and not get too close to people we don't know," Jean Van Devere, who was catching a flight to Alaska, said.

Dominique, who was flying to Miami, said she was going to stay safe by masking up.

As of this week, the CDC reported that 203 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and a little more than half of the population is fully vaccinated.

Studies show the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be highly effective at reducing the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus, as well as hospitalization and death.

However, while Vogt said that the risk is lower for vaccinated people, the delta variant is more contagious, so he urged folks to continue taking precautions.

"Avoiding spaces with large crowds, wearing a mask if you're going out in public," Vogt said. "Because we know these vaccines are very effective, especially against severe illness and hospitalization. But we have seen cases of vaccine breakthrough. So... even if you're vaccinated, knowing what your risks are and what your acceptable risks are for you and your family -- and tailoring your decisions accordingly."

And Vogt said anyone who travels, regardless of vaccine status, should closely monitor their health when they return.

"And if you do get sick, if you have those symptoms, and you think maybe it's just too cold, maybe it's allergies," Vogt said. "Go ahead and get tested, just to make sure it's not COVID."

RELATED: CDC director says unvaccinated Americans shouldn't travel over Labor Day weekend

Mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway.

Virginians age 12+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer required, so go to Vaccine Finder to search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).

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Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
What you can and should not do once you have been fully vaccinated.

How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.