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CDC director shares Labor Day, back-to-school tips amid COVID surge

Dr. Walensky is urging those planning to gather in public indoor settings over Labor Day to wear a mask, regardless of your vaccination status.

WASHINGTON — The White House COVID-19 Response Team on Tuesday offered tips for safely celebrating Labor Day and called for more businesses to add vaccine requirements for their employees. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky encouraged people who are gathering with friends and family over the holiday weekend to spend time outside to help prevent transmission. 

Dr. Walensky urged those gathering in public indoor settings over Labor Day to wear a mask, regardless of your vaccination status.   

"Masks are not forever, but they are for now," Walensky explained, adding that wearing a face mask is the easiest way for anyone to help slow the spread of coronavirus infections. 

With many more kids heading back to the classroom after Labor Day, the CDC director also reiterated the agency's recommendations, saying it's "critically important" for students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear face masks in schools. 

Dr. Walensky made it clear that unvaccinated individuals should not be traveling.

"First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling, she said. "We have actually articulated that people who are fully vaccinated and who are wearing masks can travel.  Although given where we are with disease transmission right now, we would say that people need to take their own -- these risks into their own consideration as they think about traveling."

During Tuesday's briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients also said 14 million Americans received their first COVID-19 shots during August. 

Zients urged more businesses to require their employees to get vaccinated, declaring that "vaccination requirements work." 

He specifically noted that when Tyson Foods announced a vaccine requirement, only 45% of their employees had been vaccinated. But now, according to Zients, that number has risen to 72% of Tyson employees. 

Tuesday's briefing came amid a surge of cases and hospitalizations across the country due to the COVID-19 delta variant.

On Monday, the European Union recommended that its 27 nations reinstate restrictions on tourists from the U.S. because of rising coronavirus infections, but member countries will keep the option of allowing fully vaccinated U.S. travelers in.

The EU’s decision reflects growing anxiety that the rampant spread of the virus in the U.S. could jump to Europe at a time when Americans are allowed to travel to the continent. Both the EU and the U.S. have faced rising infections this summer, driven by the more contagious delta variant.