Americans across the country appeared to abandon social distancing guidelines as they sunbathed on beaches and gathered for pool parties on Memorial Day weekend.
The long weekend traditionally signals the start of the US summer, and despite the country’s Covid-19 death toll approaching 100,000, many revellers dismissed any safety concerns to celebrate.
At the Lake of the Ozarks, made famous by the television series with the same name, hundreds gathered for a pool party to enjoy the warm spring weather. Bar tables installed in the pool were filled with drinks, as people danced and apparently forgot that Covid-19 existed.
One tweet showing video of the event, said there were “no covid concerns”, to which another replied: “There will be in 14 days from now”.
Missouri, where the Ozarks are located, has had 686 deaths from Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The website of Governor Michael Parson encourages the state’s residents to maintain social distancing and practice good hygiene.
A pool party may be the source of an outbreak in another state, Arkansas. The state’s governor, Asa Hutchinson, said this weekend that residents faced a “second peak” of cases and some of those could be linked back to a high school party.
“A high school swim party that I’m sure everybody thought was harmless,” Hutchinson said. “They’re young, they’re swimming, they’re just having activity, and positive cases resulted from that.”
Police were called in Daytona Beach, Florida, after hundreds of people gathered on the boardwalk for a party, despite social distancing restrictions. CBS reported that officers attempted to disperse crowds.
“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.
US president Donald Trump came under fire for playing golf over the weekend, eschewing a mask, and shaking hands on a green. Public health experts have said that golf is an acceptable activity but that players should still be cautious when playing.
White House coronavirus taskforce member, Dr Deborah Birx recommended on Friday that golfers not touch flags on greens and added: “remember that that is your space, and that’s a space that you need to protect and ensure that you social distance for others.”
All 50 US 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, including Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Maryland, Maine, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. It is not clear if the cases are rising from more testing or a second wave of infections. Total US cases have passed 1.64 million, the highest in the world by a factor of four, with Brazil second on more than 363,000 cases.
A plea by health officials and many US state governors to wear masks in stores and in public is being met with protest and resistance from some Americans. Social media was filled with videos of businesses turning away a few 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,” said Birx on Sunday.
Associated Press contributed to this report
* This article has been amended to correct the name of the Missouri governor