SAN DIEGO– Health experts want to remind people during the Fourth of July holiday that COVID-19 is still with us, and we need to continue following safety protocols.

Most people have said they already have plans for the holiday.

“Usually we go to the beach and hang out from sun up to sundown,” said Logan Herrick, a San Diego County resident.

Melanie Cordero, another resident, said “I’m just going to enjoy being in town because it is really expensive to travel. So just going to try to be with family and what the local fireworks can offer.”

Locals are ready to celebrate the holiday, many with adjustments for COVID-19.

Herrick said he plans to keep his distance while at the beach. He said he does have COVID-19 in mind.

“I care, but also if we are on the beach all day, I think that’s probably best place to be,” Herrick said.

Whereas, Cordero said she is not concerned at all with COVID-19.

 “I feel like it’s just a flu. I know we have all the tools that we need,” Cordero said. “I think everyone should go out and live life to the fullest because we only live once.”

“I think it’s important that everybody just is cautious during their gatherings,” said Dr. Lucy Horton, infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego.

Dr. Horton said we need to keep safety protocols in mind, such as choosing an outdoor setting for gatherings, social distancing and testing before gathering. Horton said half of the cases in San Diego County now are from the mutated Omicron variant BA4 and BA5. Horton said the mutation is spreading quicker than any other strain.

“These seem to be much more immunovasive, meaning that they seem to escape immunity from either having had COVID-19 or vaccine, and it’s very transmissible,” Horton said.

Even with cases and hospitalizations reportedly rising in San Diego County, Dr. Horton said the numbers are not as high when compared to last Fourth of July with the Delta variant.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, that although we may see more new cases in the community this will not result in a big rise in hospitalizations for COVID,” Horton said.

Doctors are highly encouraging those eligible to get vaccinated and boosted. Health officials are also advising people to stock up on at-home rapid tests.