MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thousands across the Mid-South are preparing to travel for the long Labor Day weekend.  The holiday comes at a time where Tennessee hit a grim milestone—the most new COVID cases by population of any state.

Holiday travel is in underway at Memphis International Airport. Over the next three days, the Transportation Security Administration is expected to screen roughly 17,500 passengers here at Memphis International Airport.

Travelers like Brenda Meloncon are not taking any chances of catching COVID-19.

“This is my hazmat suit,” she said. “I have on a hazmat suit my face shield, I’m doubled masked, and then I also have another shield under the mask.”

This week, the CDC recommended unvaccinated people not travel.

“The holidays could exasperate the rise in the number of cases,” said Dr. Manoj Jain, infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Like many health experts, Jain worries about the impact the holiday could have, given that cases are on the rise statewide. Locally, Shelby County is averaging 681 cases a day over the last week.

“I see those numbers as the main reason for where we are in the pandemic in our state, and having so many people in the hospital, so many people just having to wait in the emergency room, and not being able to get an ICU bed,” Jain said.

It’s a reality for hospitals across the country ahead of what will be an interesting Labor Day weekend.

The majority of the cases seen across the Mid-South are among the unvaccinated, which is why health leaders say don’t let your guard down this holiday weekend.

“Anything you can do to protect yourself please make sure you do this, because this is real,” said Meloncon.