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‘Huge bummer’: July Fourth will test Americans’ discipline

  • A mannequin wears a face mask at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce, Calif., Thursday, July 2, 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday urged Californians to turn to their "better angels" and use common sense over the holiday weekend by wearing a mask and skipping traditional gatherings with family and friends. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Nurse Tanya Markos administers a coronavirus test on patient Juan Ozoria at a mobile COVID-19 testing unit, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Lawrence, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • CORRECTS TO BROADWALK, INSTEAD OF BOARDWALK A statue of a chef at Florio's of Little Italy restaurant wears a protective face mask on the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk during the new coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Hollywood, Fla. In hard-hit South Florida, beaches from Palm Beach to Key West will be shut down for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Restaurants and businesses along the Boardwalk will remain open. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Flags line the beach in Belmar, N.J., on June 28, 2020. With large crowds expected at the Jersey Shore for the July Fourth weekend, some are worried that a failure to heed mask-wearing and social distancing protocols could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

  • Women sunbathe on a strip of grass along Government Cut as a container ship passes by during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 3, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla. Beaches throughout South Florida are closed for the busy Fourth of July weekend to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • A sign is posted at a closed entrance to the beach during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 3, 2020, in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Fla. Beaches throughout South Florida are closed for the busy Fourth of July weekend to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • People sit on Hollywood Beach during the new coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Hollywood, Fla. In hard-hit South Florida, beaches from Palm Beach to Key West will be shut down for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • People wearing protective face masks stand at a closed entrance to the beach during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 3, 2020, in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Fla. Beaches throughout South Florida are closed for the busy Fourth of July weekend to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • A sign is posted at a closed entrance to the beach during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 3, 2020, in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Fla. Beaches throughout South Florida are closed for the busy Fourth of July weekend to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • A yacht cruises through the Manasquan Inlet as a large crowd fills the beach in Manasquan, N.J. on June 28, 2020. With large crowds expected at the Jersey Shore for the July Fourth weekend, some are worried that a failure to heed mask-wearing and social distancing protocols could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Associated Press
Published: 7/3/2020 9:26:55 PM
Modified: 7/3/2020 9:26:42 PM

The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.

With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors and local officials have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.

“This year is a huge bummer, to say the least,” said Ashley Peters, who for 14 years has hosted 150 friends and relatives at a pool party at her home in Manteca, Calif., complete with a DJ, bounce house, water slide and shaved-ice stand. This time, the guest list is down to just a few people.

Pulling the plug on the bash, she said, was a “no-brainer” because so many of those she knows are front-line workers, including her husband, a fire captain. “I woke up and told my husband I wish it was just July 5,” she said.

Health experts agree this will be a pivotal moment in determining whether the nation slides into a deeper mess. The fear is that a weekend of crowded pool parties, picnics and parades will fuel the surge.

“We’re not going to be arresting people for having gatherings, but we’re certainly going to discourage it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health director for Seattle and King County.

Those who decide they must gather with a small group of family members need to be careful, he said: “Don’t share utensils, don’t share objects, don’t pass them back and forth, because you’re passing that virus around as well.”

The warnings were sounded after a Memorial Day weekend that saw many people emerge from stay-at-home orders to go to the beach, restaurants and family gatherings. Since then, confirmed infections per day in the U.S. have rocketed to an all-time high, more than doubling.

The U.S. set another record on Friday with 52,300 newly reported cases, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have been hit especially hard.

Despite it all, there will still be fireworks and community events scattered across the nation, with many taking social distancing into account. In Ohio, Upper Arlington’s July Fourth parade will take a much longer route through its neighborhoods so residents can watch without crowding the streets.

“We’re calling it the front porch parade,” said organizer Sam Porter. “We can’t just not do something.”

Fireworks will be launched from four spots across Albuquerque, N.M., so that people can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ from home instead of gathering in a single place.

Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July Picnic will carry on at his Texas ranch outside Austin, but this year the concert portion will be virtual.

President Donald Trump planned to travel to South Dakota on Friday for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore before returning to the nation’s capital for military flyovers Saturday and a mile-long pyrotechnics display show on the National Mall that his administration promises will be the biggest in recent memory. Up to 300,000 face masks will be given away but not required.

The big party will go on over objections from Washington’s mayor.

“Ask yourself, do you need to be there? Ask yourself, can you anticipate or know who all is going to be around you? If you go downtown, do you know if you’re going to be able to social distance?” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.




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