By CURT ANDERSON | May 24, 2020 at 5:39 AM EDT – Updated May 24 at 10:03 PM
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. meant big crowds at beaches and warnings from authorities Sunday about people disregarding the coronavirus social-distancing rules and risking a resurgence of the scourge that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.
Memorial Day weekend tests COVID lockdown
Meanwhile, the White House announced a ban on travel to the U.S. from Brazil, which has been hard hit by the pandemic.
Sheriff’s deputies and beach patrols tried to make sure people kept their distance from others as they soaked up the rays on the sand and at parks and other recreation sites around the country.
In the Tampa area along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the crowds were so big that authorities took the extraordinary step of closing parking lots because they were full.
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On the Sunday talk shows, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend.
“We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”
In Missouri, people packed bars and restaurants at the Lake of the Ozarks, a vacation spot popular with Chicagoans, over the weekend. One video showed a crammed pool where vacationers lounged close together without masks, St. Louis station KMOV-TV reported.
In Daytona Beach, Florida, gunfire erupted Saturday night along a beachside road where more than 200 people had gathered and were seen partying and dancing despite the restrictions. Several people were wounded and taken to the hospital, authorities said.
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“We got slammed. Disney is closed, Universal is closed. Everything is closed so where did everybody come with the first warm day with 50% opening? Everybody came to the beach,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said at a Sunday news conference, referring to crowds in the Daytona Beach area.
But officials in California said most people were covering their faces and keep their distance even as they ventured to beaches and parks. Many Southern California beaches were open only for swimming, running and other activities. Sunbathing and group activities such as volleyball were prohibited.
At New York’s Orchard Beach in the Bronx, kids played with toys, and people sat in folding chairs. Some wore winter coats on a cool and breezy day, and many wore masks and sat apart from others.
“Good to be outside. Fresh air. Just good to enjoy the outdoors,” said Danovan Clacken, whose face was covered.
The U.S. is on track to surpass 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the next few days, while Europe has seen over 169,000 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that almost certainly understates the toll. Worldwide, more than 5.3 million people have been infected and 342,000 have died.
The New York Times marked the horror by devoting Sunday’s entire front page to a long list of names of those who have died in the United States. The headline: “An Incalculable Loss.”
Holiday weekend tests Americans’ willingness to social distance as summer approaches
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, who went golfing for the second day in a row after not playing for weeks, said on the syndicated Sunday program “Full Measure With Sharyl Attkisson” that he is feeling fine after taking a two-week course of the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine and a zinc supplement.
The president has spent weeks pushing the drug against the advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. Hydroxychloroquine can have deadly side effects.
The issue of wearing masks in public and staying several feet apart has become fraught politically, with some Americans taking to the streets to protest such rules as a violation of their rights.
Repubican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who has been targeted by such demonstrations, insisted the precautions should not be a partisan issue.
“This is not about whether you are liberal or conservative, left or right, Republican or Democrat,” DeWine said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Its been very clear what the studies have shown, you wear the mask not to protect yourself so much as to protect others.”
Meanwhile, in Maryland, several state lawmakers, religious leaders and others are appealing a federal judge’s refusal to strike down a stay-at-home order and other restrictions that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan imposed.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opened a docket for the case on Friday after a federal judge denied an attempt to block Hogan’s order. The governor lifted the stay-at-home order effective May 15, but many hard-hit counties extended their own orders.
On Sunday, the Trump administration announced it was adding Brazil to the list of countries from which travel is banned. The ban applies to foreign nationals who have been in Brazil in the 14 days before seeking travel to the United States.
Holiday crowds largely ignore social distancing
Trump has already banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China.
Across Europe, meanwhile, a mishmash of travel restrictions appears to be on the horizon, often depending on what passports visitors carry.
Beginning Monday, France is relaxing its border restrictions, allowing in migrant workers and family visitors from other European countries. Italy, which plans to open regional and international borders on June 3 in a bid to boost tourism, is only now allowing locals back to beaches in their own regions with restrictions.
For the first time in months, the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional Sunday papal blessing, but they kept their distance from one another. Some 2,000 Muslims gathered for Eid al-Fitr prayers at a sports complex in a Paris suburb, spaced 1 meter (3 feet) apart and wearing masks.
Beachside communities in England urged Londoners and others to stay away after rules were eased to allow people to drive any distance for exercise or recreation. The southern coastal city of Brighton said: “Wish you were here — but not just yet.” Wales kept up its “Later” tourism campaign, reminding people that its hotels, restaurants and tourist sites are still closed.
Mahoney reported from New York. Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.
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