Labor Day travelers face closures, restrictions and delays

Scores of pandemic-weary Southern Californians will take to the highways and skies this Labor Day weekend, even as U.S. health officials implore those who haven’t been vaccinated to stay home.

Even the vaccinated and those who are still wearing masks in public should consider the risks of coronavirus exposure, Rochelle Walensky, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier this week.

Warnings aside, an estimated 43 million Americans will hit the road over the holiday period, data firm Arrivalist says.

West Hills resident Jane Skeeter and her husband will be among the travelers, but they’re not going far and there are some COVID conditions.

“We plan to stick close to home,” she said.

Skeeter said their trip to Oxnard will focus on friends they haven’t seen since before the pandemic — and only those who are vaccinated.

In addition to keeping track of vaccinated friends and family, travelers will also have to keep tabs on their destinations. Limited hiring and wildfires across the state have forced some businesses to cut back on services. The U.S. Forest Service closed all of California’s national forests.

Those planning to fly should expect delays, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida continue to wreak havoc on air traffic in some regions. The flight-tracking site FlightAware posted 5,361 delays and 2,380 cancellations for flights going in and out of the U.S. early Thursday.

Air travel has also been impacted by flooding in the Northeast, with 38% of outgoing flights from Newark and 80% of flights originating out of New Orleans canceled as of Thursday morning.

Doug Shupe, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, figures people will still travel, despite all of the limitations. And most, he said, will be going by car.

“General speaking, this holiday weekend is the last time for people to celebrate the summer and go to the places they’ve been wanting to go to all year,” Shupe said. “But many of these people booked their plans earlier this year when things were looking better with COVID-19.”

Data from the California Department of Public Health show there have been more than 4.2 million coronavirus cases in California, including 65,430 deaths statewide.

Arrivalist predicts slightly lower travel volume this holiday due to the delta variant.

“Considering the increased case count, it’s surprising how resilient travel by private car has been,” company founder and CEO Cree Lawson said. “Americans are still hitting the road to have fun, see attractions and visit family and friends at the same rate as last year when cases were falling.”

Drivers may be resilient, but they’re going to pay plenty at the pump.

The average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded gas in Los Angeles County was $4.38 Thursday, up $1.17 from the same time a year ago, according to price tracker GasBuddy.

Orange County saw a year-over-year uptick of $1.16 per gallon, and the Inland Empire posted similar annual increases — up nearly $1.18 in San Bernardino County and $1.12 in Riverside County.

The Auto Club no longer provides Labor Day travel predictions. But if the agency’s July 4, 2021 holiday forecast is any indication, some of the top travel destinations for Southern Californians likely will be Las Vegas, San Diego, Zion/Bryce Canyon national parks and the Grand Canyon.

Shupe advises travelers to consult the latest updates on COVID-19 data and restrictions. Data at show, for example, that San Diego County has had a total of 352,000 COVID-19 cases with more than 3,900 pandemic-related deaths.

And if you’re going to San Diego, be prepared to wear a mask. Face coverings are required on public transit, including buses, trains, airplanes, taxis and other ride services. If you’re not vaccinated, you’ll also be required to wear one in stores, restaurants, theaters and family entertainment centers.

Skeeter said she’s taking all of the precautions this weekend.

“I’m alarmed and cautious,” she said. “But I think if we observe the regulations and do everything we’re supposed to do we can end this pandemic.”

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