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'Mitigate your risk': Health officials worried about Labor Day travel with hospital capacity strained

Experts are asking those who are traveling for Labor Day weekend to rethink their plans as COVID-19 rages on.

SEATTLE — Washington State health officials are asking people planning to travel for Labor Day weekend to rethink plans, whether vaccinated against COVID-19 or not, expressing concern for holiday travel amid the pandemic. 

"Anytime you have holidays and you still have a pandemic that's raging and people want to enjoy themselves, rightfully so. We just want to make sure people are doing it with the mindset that we are still in the pandemic," said Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah. 

Dr. Shah's main concern is the spread of the delta variant in Washington, which currently makes up 98% of all cases. But the concerns don't stop there. 

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Officials said while COVID-19 cases are starting to plateau, it's between 10-14 days after a big travel weekend that we see the impact on hospitals, which are nearing full capacity for the first time ever.

Acting Chief Science Officer Dr. Scott Lindquist said his biggest concern is the risk people take while on vacation.

"I don't know how to say this as clearly as possible. Please mitigate your risk this weekend. That means, for me, I'm not going away for the weekend, I'm not going water skiing," he said. "I'm not going to do things that are risky behaviors because that backup, that safety net is so strained right now."

Sea-Tac International Airport saw long lines at ticket counters Friday morning as people were heading out for the long weekend.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking unvaccinated people not to travel at all this weekend. 

For people that are traveling over the holidays and in the coming weeks, Shah said to rethink not just if you're going, but also where you're going. 

"If there are places where you are planning on traveling where you have seen an impact either because of the storms or the pandemic, we want to make sure you're thinking about your plans," he said.