Crowds flocked to parks and public places across the United States over the weekend, with some places defying local stay-at-home orders and others taking advantage of loosened restrictions.
In New York City, parks and green spaces bustled with picnickers and sunbathers despite the state’s ongoing lockdown and warnings from the city’s mayor. Photos from social media showed large crowds on lawns in Central Park and the Christopher Street Pier.
In Washington, thousands poured onto the National Mall to watch a flyover by the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels in honor of health care workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photos from the event show some people wearing protective masks although the density suggested that social distancing would be difficult to practice.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were “some real issues” near the pier and police would increase patrols. He had previously aired a public service announcement calling on New Yorkers to report their fellow residents who violate the social-distancing guidelines.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week ordered beaches in Orange County to close after crowds defied the state’s lockdown orders. Huntington Beach police said people were complying on May 3. At least one beach received the governor’s approval on May 4 for a phased reopening.
President Donald Trump didn’t extend the federal social-distancing guidelines at the end of April, leaving it up to individual governors to reopen states and restart their economies after shutdowns triggered by the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.
White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx on May 3 said that beach crowds are unsafe unless people keep six feet apart. She also noted that it was too soon to reopen some business, such as beauty spas and hair salons.
“We’ve made it clear that that is not a good phase-one activity,” Birx said.
The United States has more than 1.1 million confirmed CCP virus cases and more than 68,000 reported deaths as of April 3. Antibody testing studies in New York and elsewhere suggest the true number of people who have been infected may be several times higher.
Birx had also criticized protesters in Michigan and other states who gathered earlier last week to demonstrate against lockdown orders.
“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or a very—or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said.
In New York—the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak—the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has declined for three straight weeks. In other places, including Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the daily number of new cases continued to rise, according to Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Virginia reported a record number of 44 deaths on May 3.
“We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point. And we’re just not seeing that,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If we don’t snuff this out more and you have this slow burn of infection, it can ignite at any time.”
Despite the warnings, many Americans are eager to return to their jobs and classrooms.
In a town hall event hosted by Fox News on May 3, Trump said he understood people’s desire to go back to work and school and that he expected classrooms to reopen in September.
But he said more needed to be done to ease the economic hit of the pandemic and that more help was coming for people who were unemployed.
In sports, the National Football League stated it would announce its schedule for the upcoming season this week including its season-opening game on Sept. 10 and the Super Bowl, which is scheduled to be played in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 7, 2021.
“We are planning on playing the 2020 NFL season as scheduled,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email, noting that the most popular U.S. sports league would adjust to government regulations.
At the other end of the spectrum was Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in Massachusetts, which hasn’t begun reopening and is seeing CCP virus cases still climbing. Massachusetts also has issued a statewide order for people to wear masks in public.
Walsh said the rallies against CCP virus mitigation efforts are causing confusion and making his job harder.
“I don’t understand it. That makes messaging really confusing. … It’s the wrong message, because we’re still very much in the beginning days of coronavirus. Even if you’re a state that is seeing numbers go down,” Walsh said.
Reuters contributed to this report.