WASHINGTON/NEW YORK • Americans sunbathed on beaches, fished from boats and strolled on boardwalks this holiday weekend, but the occasional person wearing a mask was a constant reminder that the world is still battling the coronavirus pandemic.
The Memorial Day weekend that signals the start of the United States summer is normally a time when cemeteries across the nation are filled with American flags and ceremonies to remember those who died in wars.
This year’s holiday weekend roughly coincided with when the US death toll from Covid-19 was expected to exceed 100,000.
The New York Times filled its entire front page with the names and selected details of 1,000 victims on Sunday, seeking to illustrate the humanity of the lives lost.
“We were trying to capture that personal toll,” Mr Marc Lacey, the newspaper’s national editor, told Reuters. “We were trying to humanise these numbers which keep growing and have reached such unfathomable heights that they’re really hard to grasp any more…This is about everyday people. It’s about a death toll reaching a number that’s really just jaw-dropping.”
Among the victims, drawn from obituaries and death notices in hundreds of US newspapers: Lila Fenwick, 87, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law; Romi Cohn, 91, who saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo; and Hailey Herrera, 25, a budding therapist with a gift for empathy.
All 50 states have relaxed coronavirus restrictions to some degree.
In some states, like Illinois and New York, restaurants are still closed to in-person dining and hair salons remain shuttered. In many southern states, most businesses are open, with restrictions on capacity.
Last week, 11 states reported a record number of new Covid-19 cases: Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Maryland, Maine, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters tally.
It is not clear if the cases are increasing as a result of more testing or a second wave of infections.
Total US cases are over 1.6 million, the highest in the world, while forecast models for possible Covid-19 deaths predict the death toll will exceed 100,000 by June 1.
A plea by health officials and many state governors to wear masks in stores and in public is being met with protest and resistance from some Americans.
Social media is filled with videos of businesses turning away some angry customers who refuse to cover their mouths and noses.
We need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance. It’s really critically important… we have the scientific evidence of how important mask-wearing is to prevent those droplets from reaching others.
DR DEBORAH BIRX, response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, saying on Fox News Sunday.
“We need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance. It’s really critically important… we have the scientific evidence of how important mask-wearing is to prevent those droplets from reaching others,” Dr Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said on Fox News Sunday.
While Americans were largely adhering to warnings to maintain social distancing over the holiday weekend, there were notable exceptions.
President Donald Trump was seen golfing at his Trump National club in northern Virginia, his first golf outing since the White House declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak in March.
Some beaches were packed in Florida and other gulf states, forcing the authorities to break up large gatherings. Videos posted on social media showed parties in other states where people crowded into pools and clubs elbow-to-elbow.
One such party at a Houston club called Cle prompted the city’s Mayor Sylvester Turner on Sunday to order firefighters to enforce social distancing rules.
Last week, Mr Turner said the authorities would not forcibly make sure businesses were operating at capacity restrictions of 50 per cent for restaurants and 25 per cent for bars.
But he reversed course after more than 250 phone complaints were received by Sunday evening.