Labor Day will look very different across metro this weekend as COVID-19 cancels large events

ATLANTA — Labor Day weekend across metro Atlanta is going to look very different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This weekend usually sends an infusion of people into downtown Atlanta for events like Dragon Con, Black Gay Pride and the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

But this year, the events are either canceled or have gone virtual.

There are fewer things to do, but experts warn there are still plenty of ways people can spread the virus this holiday weekend.

“Our state’s health and well-being rests on what Georgians choose to do over this Labor Day weekend,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday.

He is worried about Georgians letting their guard down against COVID-19 this holiday weekend. There’s been a drop in cases and hospitalizations for the virus, but we’ve been here before — right before Memorial Day and July 4th.

“It’s abundantly clear that case spikes, hospitalization rise and deaths have increased after holiday weekends. People forget that we are battling an invisible enemy,” Kemp said, right before he and first lady Marty Kemp got onto a plane and toured the state to spread his message.

Hospitals across Georgia also have fewer COVID-19 patients in critical care, but officials say they have been bracing for this weekend.

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“Labor Day is another sort of important date for us,” said Dr. Robert Jansen, chief medical officer of Grady Health System.

He told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that if there is a Labor Day spike, the goal is to avoid the one that saw a 38% increase in weekly cases following Independence Day.

“We have to be prepared that there may be some increases because it is difficult for people to maintain that vigilance. We can just hope that more people will do so for Labor Day than they did July 4,” Jansen said.

An executive order is still in place that bans large gatherings, and includes safety guidelines for businesses and a shelter-in-place for the medically fragile.

The group Get Georgia Well is urging people to “keep it small, keep it safe.” We will know in mid-September if Georgia avoids another surge in cases.

“It’s about a two-week lag after something like Labor Day before we see the rates really climbing. So by late September, early October, we should know where things are going to be, at least for the foreseeable future,” Jansen said.

Some people across the metro area may have received n emergency alert on their phone from their county Friday warning them about large gatherings this weekend.

“The point is to get their attention,” Clayton County Commissioner Jeff Turner said.

Turner said he helped push out the alerts in his county. He told Johnson that the message is too important for anyone to miss.

“Things can change in a blink of an eye. That’s why this weekend is so important that we put this message out,” Turner said.

Even colleges across the state are worried about this weekend and their students social distancing.

Kemp talked about college students Friday, saying that the spread among young people has been an eye opener for a lot of them.

Before, they had just heard about the virus, and now many of them have caught it.

Kemp said he’s hoping any kind of college parties this weekend are done outdoors and with a limited number of people.