(WHTM) — Fourth of July weekend in 2022 will see more people traveling and bigger Independence Day celebrations. With that in mind, is COVID-19 still something people should worry about?

The short answer is not really. Most July 4th celebrations happen outside, which is safer, and most people have some immunity to the virus.

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There are still significant numbers of COVID cases in the Midstate, but UPMC infectious disease specialist Dr. John Goldman said the numbers are much lower than the peak of the winter season.

Goldman said if you are vaccinated and healthy, you’ll likely be okay even if you are exposed to COVID. However, there are some groups of people who need to be more careful.

“If you’re older, above the age of 70, if you’re not vaccinated at any age, or if you have one the medical conditions that puts you at higher risk,” Goldman said.

Another piece of good news is that hospitalizations are not keeping pace with cases. UPMC has just 21 COVID patients across the health system. Penn State Health has 39.

“Not one of them is on a ventilator,” Goldman said.

Goldman said just use a little common sense this holiday weekend.

“If you have a new cough, a new runny nose, a new sore throat, don’t go to the picnic,” he said.

Fourth of July celebrations are not a major cause for concern, since most of them happen outside where COVID-19 is harder to transmit.

“No one wants to avoid the Fourth of July barbecue, but try to keep that barbecue outdoors.” Goldman said.

However, if you are planning on traveling, Goldman said crowded airports and airplanes are places you should consider masking up.

“Been vaccinated, I’ve been boosted twice, and I wouldn’t get on a plane without a mask,” he said. “With the number of flights that people are missing, they may be [at the airport] for quite a while.”

Even though hospitalizations and deaths are way down, COVID is not quite as mild as the flu just yet.

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“It is unheard of to have 100,000 cases of the flu every day,” Goldman said.

Still, he said we are in the endemic phase of the disease.

“The virus is now with us,” he said. “I think we’re going to be living with this for the rest of our lives.”

Dr. Goldman did say he still expects to see a spike in cases this fall and winter, but it should be smaller than the last two winters. He also said it probably will not lead to similar surges in hospitalizations or deaths.