Just because you can go to the beach or bars doesn’t mean it’s time to let your guard down. In fact, some states are seeing new spikes in coronavirus cases.
“With the country starting to open up this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained,” said Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration.
“It is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community. Social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks protect us all.”
Many Americans have flocked to parks, restaurants and beaches to celebrate Memorial Day weekend.
In Alabama’s Gulf Shores, “there are literally thousands of people out here on the beach, and what I’m really pleased to see is that many of these folks, almost all of them, are doing a great job with social distancing,” beachgoer Steve Ricks told CNN affiliate WPMI.
But some ignored health warnings, despite new information that an estimated 40% of coronavirus transmissions occur before any symptoms.
Video from a pool party at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, showed a massive crowd of people crammed together both inside and outside the pool.
Scott Pasmore, an anchor for CNN affiliate KTVK, shot the video at Backwater Jacks Bar & Grill in Osage Beach on Saturday.
The gathering violates social distancing measures intended to limit the spread of Covid-19. As part of Missouri’s reopening plan announced earlier this month, state officials said restaurants may offer dining-in services but must adhere to social distancing and other precautionary public health measures.
Jodi Akins, from Blue Springs, told CNN in a message that she visited the bar with four friends for a pool party on Saturday.
“When we walked up my first words were ‘oh my gosh’ it was intense for sure!! Social distancing was nonexistent. However everyone was enjoying themselves. It was a very carefree environment but security was heavy!!” she wrote to CNN.
She said the bar took some safety precautions.
“They checked all of our temps and had thousands of little bottles of hand sanitizer!! They did a good job with what they had to work with!!” she wrote.
The bar posted on Facebook that this was its launch of a summer party called “Zero Ducks Given Pool Party.” It advertised several DJs and bands performing throughout the event.
“The venue has worked with and taken the advice of government officials and management teams and will be following social distancing guidelines. Extra precautions and safety measures will be taken to provide a safe environment for you to enjoy the event,” the bar said.
The bar said it would be operating at reduced capacity, attendants would be continually cleaning and sanitizing bathrooms and that there would be a paramedic on staff for the duration of the event.
Coronavirus is not likely to spread in water, the CDC says, but it does spread through people in close proximity. Staying at least 6 feet from others is particularly important at pools or beaches because masks are impractical in water.
For example, several people who attended a high school swim party in neighboring Arkansas contracted Covid-19, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Saturday.
Large turnout was expected
The Lake of the Ozarks expected a large turnout this weekend after getting a late start to the season because of the pandemic, according to CNN affiliate KTVI.
“It’s supposed to be one of the biggest Memorial Day weekends we’ve seen at the lake here in years,” Bill Morgan, manager of Robins Resort in Lake of the Ozarks, told KTVI earlier this week.
Adam Kirk lives in Osage Beach, Missouri, and shot a time-lapse drone video that shows the amount of boat traffic on the Lake of the Ozarks on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
“It definitely seems like more (traffic) than last year,” he said. “It seems like everyone is having the same idea, to come to the lake to enjoy summer, because you can social distance at the same time.”
About 11,800 people in Missouri have tested positive for coronavirus and about 680 have died from Covid-19 infection, according to state data.
Ed Yong, a writer at The Atlantic, cautioned that overcrowded pools may not represent the broader American public’s attitude toward social distancing.
“It’s much more compelling to show someone flocking out into a public space than to show, for example, me sitting at home and following guidelines,” he said. “Yet the latter is probably more reflective of what most Americans are actually doing.”
More than two-thirds of Americans are concerned about their respective states being reopened too quickly, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.
Covid-19 cases surge in some states
Saturday’s footage came the same day Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said several people who attended a swim party contracted Covid-19.
An aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa, harshly criticized a restaurant in Patchogue that eased restrictions on mask wearing and social distancing by allowing customers to come inside to pick up food on a rainy Friday night.
“That’s stupid — stupid for you, it’s stupid for your surrounding patrons, it’s stupid for the bar,” she said Sunday at a news briefing.
The Dublin Deck Tiki Bar and Grill posted an apology on Instagram, saying, “There are no excuses when it comes to public safety. We should not have allowed anybody inside whatsoever.”
Social distancing was forgotten in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Saturday when a man apparently making a rap video threw money from atop a car into the crowd on a main thoroughfare, authorities said. Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said officers are looking through aerial footage in an attempt to identify and arrest the man.
“Look at the numbers. You’ll see that on Thursday, more than 20,000 Americans were infected,” said Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former disease detective at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Friday, “that number went up, and there were more than 24,000 Americans newly diagnosed with Covid-19.”
Birx has a message for those refusing to wear masks
Wearing a face mask is critical to reducing the spread of coronavirus, especially since many carriers don’t even know they’re contagious, said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.
“There is clear scientific evidence now, by all the droplet experiments that happened and that others have done, to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others,” Birx told “Fox News Sunday.”
She offered a message to those who say they have a right not to wear a mask in public.
“Out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance,” she said.
In an interview with ABC, Birx said “there’s asymptomatic spread. And that means that people are spreading the virus unknowingly.”
“And this is unusual in the case of respiratory diseases,” Birx said. “So you don’t know who’s infected. And so we really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask.”
Several states see surges in coronavirus cases
States such as North Carolina and Arkansas are seeing major spikes, Yasmin said.
On Saturday, North Carolina reported its highest single-day increase of new coronavirus cases, just a day after the state rolled into its second phase of reopening.
In Arkansas, Gov. Hutchinson said the state seemed to be experiencing a “second peak.” He said that rise is due in part to more widespread testing.
And high numbers of new cases have emerged from Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Nebraska and Illinois, Birx said.
Houston mayor: ‘Too many people who are coming together’
Texas beaches also saw crowds over the weekend after bars were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.
Texas is one of a handful of southern states at risk of seeing a rapid surge of new coronavirus cases in some areas, according to a new projection model.
That model predicts that Harris County, which includes Houston, could see more than 2,000 new cases each day by June.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Sunday the city will enforce the 25% capacity rule in bars and clubs — two days after saying the rule would not be enforced. The city also will enforce the 50% rule for restraurants.
Speaking at a news conference livestreamed by CNN affiliate KPRC, Turner said he changed course after seeing social media photos of establishments clearly above their occupancy requirements.
“The reality is that there are too many people who are coming together,” Turner said. “No social distancing, no mask. And then after this Memorial Day weekend is over they’re going to be on somebody’s job or in close proximity to somebody else.”
The projection model also shows parts of South Florida and parts of Alabama and Tennessee are also poised for spikes in coronavirus cases.
A study leads to encouraging results
There’s a bit of good news when it comes to a possible therapy for Covid-19 patients.
A study appeared to show patients who received transfusions of antibody-filled convalescent plasma seemed to fare better. Convalescent plasma is derived from the blood of recovered coronavirus patients.
The study hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal, but researchers said the findings are a good sign for plasma therapy.
“We are encouraged that our initial assessment offers evidence in support of convalescent plasma as an effective intervention,” said Dr. Nicole Bouvier, an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a co-author on the study.
But more studies are needed to confirm the findings, the researchers said.