Long weekend puts US efforts to reopen to the test

Washington/Los Angeles, May 24 (efe-epa).- The long Memorial Day weekend is putting local plans around the US to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions to the test as various states allow the partially stir crazy public to gather on beaches and enjoy other outdoor activities ostensibly while continuing to adhere to social distancing and other protective measures and behavior.

At a time when the country is approaching the dire milestone of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths and is seeing cases and deaths in certain areas around the world increasing exponentially, Americans are preparing for the summer season, which is traditionally marked by the Memorial Day holiday to honor the country’s war dead.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump and several of his officials once again fired off verbal salvoes at the Chinese government over its handling of the pandemic.

Trump appeared on the program “Full Measure” to express his feelings about the fact that the coronavirus emerged in China and to insist that Beijing could have halted its spread then and there but incompetently failed to do so.

Also, White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien mentioned the issue in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying – without any apparent evidence – that China had unleashed the virus and then hid that fact.

“The cover-up that they did of the virus is going to go down in history, along with Chernobyl. We’ll see an HBO special about it 10 or 15 years from now,” he added, apparently suggesting that a television miniseries would be made about the matter.

O’Brien, who last September replaced the controversial John Bolton in the key national security post, said that the administration was considering imposing travel restrictions on people coming from Brazil and later in the day the administration confirmed the move, although it said that bilateral trade would not be affected by the travel ban.

Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the leaders of the White House working group on the coronavirus, insisted on Sunday that people must maintain social distancing, warning about the danger of the “asymptomatic spread” of the virus and recommending on “This Week” the use of facemasks in cases where social distancing could not be maintained.

Birx, who has appeared wearing a facemasks at some of the coronavirus press conferences held by Trump did not suggest that new quarantines would be imposed in the US, saying that it’s difficult to know whether they would be necessary.

However, she admitted that personal protective equipment and ventilators are being provided to various hospitals as the frantic search for a vaccine progresses in case the virus “returns” in a significant way in the coming weeks or months, the period during which every state is easing its lockdown restrictions and people are coming into greater contact with one another, a situation that many experts say will certainly result in a spike in new cases.

Although health authorities have recommended that facemasks are strongly recommended for all US residents when they go out in public, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have refused to wear masks under almost all conditions, but especially when they are in the public eye.

This weekend, California’s Los Angeles County took various measures to ease confinement restrictions, including opening up bike paths on local beaches, where since May 13 people have been allowed to swim, surf, run and walk, although gatherings and other events involving larger numbers of people have not been authorized.

Local authorities around the US also have been allowing stores located in shopping centers and malls to resume their activities, although often only for pickup services in established areas to guarantee that people maintain social distancing.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County on Saturday reported 41 new Covid-19 deaths and 1,032 newly confirmed coronavirus cases.

The Washington Post on Sunday posted a video on Twitter in which can be seen a large group of people congregating outdoors at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri without adhering to social distancing recommendations.

It also reported remarks by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, who said Saurday that a group of people participating in a high school’s pool party ended up becoming infected with the coronavirus although they evidently thought that they were taking part in an inoffensive activity.

He told “Fox News Sunday” that positive virus cases resulted directly from the pool party and recommended that people better manage the risk of such activities.

The US continues to be the country that has been hardest hit by the pandemic with 1,639,872 cases and 97,599 deaths, according to the unofficial tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University.


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