By Alfonso Fernandez
Washington, May 25 (efe-epa).- The traditional three-day weekend celebration of Memorial Day continued on Monday with concerns over images of huge crowds jamming beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic and controversial calls by President Donald Trump for Americans to resume their normal activities, even as virus deaths approach 100,000 and have not yet peaked in many parts of the US.
Early on Monday, Trump made the expected presidential visit to Arlington National Cemetery along with first lady Melania Trump to pay tribute to the US soldiers who have lost their lives in the country’s wars.
However, and despite supposedly being a day on which Americans unite in paying their respects to the war dead, Trump remained true to his aggressive nature on his Twitter account by threatening to move the Republican National Committee – scheduled for late August – from North Carolina to another state unless he is “guaranteed” that there will be a massive crowd at the event despite fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
“I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena,” wrote Trump on his Twitter account.
The Republican convention, the big event at which the party formally selects its presidential candidate with tens of thousands of GOP faithful, activists, organizers and officials on hand, is scheduled to be held in Charlotte on Aug. 24-27.
Trump demanded that the public “immediately (be) given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied.”
“If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site,” he tweeted.
For the great majority of the US, this weekend meant the beginning of the process to ease lockdown restrictions, including allowing people to meet in small groups and reopening public beaches and parks.
Trump has been in the vanguard of the campaign to reopen the country, and he spent Saturday playing golf, his favorite sport, at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, outside of Washington, his first visit to one of his properties since last March.
On Twitter, he hailed what he claimed was the “decline” in the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, despite the fact that the US continues to have the highest death toll in the world at almost 100,000 and by far the most confirmed cases.
The president urged state authorities around the country to move forward quickly with their reopening plans, saying that the schools, in particular, should open “as soon as possible.”
As of Sunday, the United States had detected 1,640,972 coronavirus cases and registered 97,679 deaths from Covid-19, according to the ongoing tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University.
With the lifting of restrictions and the good weather on Memorial Day weekend across most of the country, millions of Americans flocked to the beaches, with Memorial Day itself considered to be the informal start of summer in the US and an occasion to be with family or participate in open air activities.
However, the images of huge crowds at various public places around the nation set off alarms among health professionals, many of whom fear a resurgence in coronavirus cases as people emerge from lockdown and come in close contact with one another again.
The beaches in the states of New Jersey, Florida, Maryland, Georgia and Virginia all were jammed with large numbers of people enjoying the sunny weather – many of them not wearing facemasks – and similar numbers headed for the Gulf of Mexico beaches in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, a situation that made it extremely difficult to maintain proper social distancing, if anyone out and about was so inclined.
Stephen Hahn, the US Commissioner of Food and Drugs, took to the social networks to remind people that the coronavirus has not yet been brought under control in the US and that it is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community.
Also, Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the leaders of the White House coronavirus task force, noted the importance of using facemasks in public places and maintaining social distancing to help limit the spread of the highly infectious virus that causes the sometimes deadly Covid-19 pneumonia.