(Reuters) – Sunny days and warm weather are proving to be as challenging to manage as restaurants, hair salons and other businesses as about half of U.S. states partially reopen their economies after the coronavirus lockdown.
On Saturday, thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington to view a U.S. Navy flyover to honor healthcare workers and others battling the pandemic.
In New York City, the warmest weather yet this spring caused picnickers and sunbathers to flock to green spaces in Manhattan, including crowded conditions at Christopher Street Pier in Greenwich Village, according to photos on social media.
Last week, California ordered beaches in Orange County to close, after crowds defied public health guidelines to throng the popular shoreline. That prompted protests by demonstrators who accused the state’s Democratic governor of overreach.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said there are “some real issues” near the pier and police would increase patrols.
Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said on “Fox News Sunday” that massing on beaches was not safe unless people kept at least 6 feet apart. She also weighed in against allowing such businesses as beauty salons and spas to reopen in the first phase.
“We’ve made it clear that is not a good phase one activity,” she said, as the number of U.S. cases topped 1.1 million and the death toll rose to more than 67,000 on Sunday.
Protesters gathering, as they did last week in Michigan and other parts of the country to demonstrate against stay-at-home restrictions, poses a huge risk, she said.
“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.
Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said on Sunday the country was seeing a “mixed bag” of results from coronavirus mitigation efforts. He said there were about 20 states that are seeing a rising number of new cases including Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Virginia reported a record number of deaths on Sunday, up 44 for a total of 660.
“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,” he said on CBS’ “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.”
Even in the face of rising cases, some Americans are eager to return to socializing and large gatherings — including sports.
The National Football League said it will 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.
“We are planning on playing the 2020 NFL season as scheduled,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email, noting they will adjust to government regulations.
On the other side of the spectrum is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in Massachusetts, which has not begun reopening and is seeing coronavirus cases still climbing. Massachusetts also has issued a statewide order telling people to wear masks in public.
He said the rallies against coronavirus mitigation efforts were 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.
“If we’re not smart about the way we do things, those numbers could turn around and go right back up again.”
As Texas becomes one of the leading states pushing for its businesses to reopen, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said people appear to be obeying the new rules.
“People have not been rushing back into these restaurants and they have not been rushing back into the areas of the economy that the governor reopened on Friday,” he told CNN. “What we are seeing is people sort of putting their toe back in.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Daniel Wallis