At a glance, it may look like many Americans have forgotten about the dangers of coronavirus.
Crowds packed beaches in Florida, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and Indiana over the Memorial Day weekend — many venturing out without masks and others failing to keep their distance even as officials highlighted the continued importance of both in order to prevent another surge of infections.
It wasn’t just the beaches. Pictures posted on social media showed mostly unmasked people crowded together at Ace Speedway in Elon, North Carolina, on Saturday.
“We’re tired of being stuck in the house. I’m not afraid of this virus one bit,” spectator Becky Woosley told CNN affiliate WGHP.
Speedway co-owner Jason Turner told CNN affiliate WXII that 2,500 fans were admitted — half of the speedway capacity — and that staff encouraged but did not enforce social distancing.
“People have the right to choose where they go and what they do,” he said.
In Daytona Beach, people elbow-to-elbow jammed a main thoroughfare. Mayor Derrick Henry said there’s only so much police can do with a crowd that size.
“They were not practicing social distancing and they did not necessarily respond in a lot of ways that we wanted them to as it relates to the normal expectations of visitors,” he told CNN. “When … you got 300 to 500 people per law enforcement officer, it is a tough order.”
In Missouri, hundreds attended a pool party just days after a similar party in neighboring Arkansas caused a cluster of new coronavirus cases. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state is now experiencing a “second peak.”
Hutchinson said the first peak saw 160 cases in one day followed by a “deep dip.” On Saturday, there were 163 new cases of Covid-19 in Arkansas.
‘They’re willing to take the risk’
Coronavirus cases are trending upward in 18 states, including Alabama. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said Monday morning that he thinks the early easing of restrictions in his state has given people “a false sense of security.”
“What we’re seeing is kind of a split community where you have people who believe this is over and have decided they’re going to get back to their normal way of life and they’re willing to take the risk,” Reed said on CNN. “What they’re not considering is the risk they’re posing to others when they do not see some of the symptoms in themselves.”
As health officials warn the deadly virus isn’t yet contained, local leaders across the country are working to enforce regulations put in place for parks, stores, bars and restaurants that have reopened.
In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities will begin enforcing capacity limits for bars and restaurants after the city received hundreds of complaints alleging violations.
“One of my council members sent me some pictures and there were other pictures on Facebook and social media of people around swimming pools, no social distancing, no masks,” he said Monday on CNN. “I just said, we have to pump the brakes.”
Los Angeles County closed Eaton Canyon in Altadena, California, on Sunday after it attracted too many hikers, many of them not following coronavirus restrictions.
Cape May, New Jersey, didn’t have crowds this weekend because of the weather, but the city is looking ahead, Mayor Clarence Lear told CNN on Monday. “We’ve talked about limiting the number of daily tags so we can both visually and numerically know when we’re at what we consider capacity,” he said.
New Haven, Connecticut, Mayor Justin Elicker said the city has taken out picnic tables and banned cooking out to cut down on crowds.
“New Haven residents have been really good at following the social distancing guidelines but people also feel really cooped up and I think a lot of people are feeling frustrated,” he said.
Mayor Henry from Daytona Beach said enforcing the face mask rule is realistically impossible because of the sheer number of offenders.
“We don’t have enough facilities to harbor that many people who do not follow guidelines,” he said.
The California state government issued guidelines for religious services on Monday. Religious leaders are urged to discontinue singing and group recitation since the virus could be transmitted through exhaled droplets. They also suggest that people not share prayer books, prayer rugs and hymn books.
The commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration on Sunday urged Americans observing Memorial Day weekend to follow federal guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
“With the country starting to open up this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained. It is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community. Social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks protect us all,” Dr. Stephen Hahn wrote in a tweet.
So far, infections in the country top 1,653,000 with more than 97,900 deaths.
Spike of cases in Washington, DC
As Americans push to return to normal lifestyles and the country continues lifting coronavirus restrictions, experts say many parts of the country are still not heading in the right direction.
North Carolina recorded its highest single-day surge of new cases over the weekend and parts of Maryland, Virginia, Illinois and other states are still seeing a high number of infections, said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.
In Washington, DC, health officials are reporting a spike of new cases — an increase that could be a setback for the criteria officials are using to decide when the city will begin its first stage of reopening.
Until this weekend, Washington recorded 11 days of declining community spread of the coronavirus. The city said 14 days of decline were needed before they moved to reopen. Sunday would have marked the 13th day of decline. Instead there was a small spike over the last two days.
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