WASHINGTON – As coronavirus cases increase, public health officials are asking Americans to avoid large crowds and hold more Independence Day celebrations, but moderate ones are not the style of U.S. President Donald Trump, and he intended go big, promising a “special night” in Washington that could take tens of thousands to the National Mall.
Trump’s “Greetings to America” celebration on Saturday night would include a speech from the southern lawn of the White House that, he said, would celebrate American heritage, as well as a military overpass over the city and a huge fireworks display that could take people to the center.
The president started the holiday weekend by traveling to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, for a fireworks display on Friday night, near the George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt mountain sculptures. In his remarks, he accused protesters who pushed for racial justice to be involved in a “ruthless campaign to end our history”.
In a presidential message on Saturday, on the 244th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump acknowledged that “in recent months, the American spirit has undoubtedly been tested by many challenges”.
Their participation in large gatherings occurs when many communities decide to dismantle fireworks, parades and other party traditions. The goal is to try to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, which large meetings could stimulate. Confirmed cases are rising in 40 states, and the US set another record on Friday with 52,300 infections reported recently, according to the count maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
For the event in Mount Rushmore, GOP governor Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, insisted that social distance was not necessary and masks were optional. Trump spent little time in his Mount Rushmore speech reflecting on the pandemic, which killed more than 129,000 Americans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that mass meetings like the one scheduled for Washington present a high risk of spreading the virus.
Trump’s surgeon general Jerome Adams, who stepped up his request for Americans to wear a mask in public, avoided when asked during an interview on Friday whether he would alert a loved one to attend such large meetings. “It’s not a yes or no,” Adams told NBC’s Today Show. “Each person has to decide.”
Trump is eager to see the nation return to normal and is willing to push the envelope even further than many state mayors and big cities are willing to go.
Last month, he held his first campaign rally since the beginning of March in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is used to crowded crowds, but the BOK Center was only a third of the first rally from the coronavirus-era president. Days later, he headed to a crowded mega-church for a Students for Trump event in Arizona. Few participants in both events wore masks.
Interior officials said they would distribute 300,000 facial covers to spectators who gathered at the National Mall. Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said visitors will be encouraged to wear masks and keep a distance of five feet. There was no indication that this would be mandatory, despite recommendations from health authorities.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who said she had no right to interrupt the holiday show because it is on federal land, warned the federal government of the obvious dangers of such a large crowd. On Friday, she asked city residents to be smart about how they spend the holiday. “Just because someone invites you to a party doesn’t mean you have to go,” tweeted Bowser.
In other holiday weekend developments:
– The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, warned counties that they would risk losing state money if they did not enforce the health orders that were directed at the holiday weekend. He urged residents not to meet with people they did not live with and avoid crowds. Fireworks shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and elsewhere in the state have been canceled.
–Gov. JB Pritzker, D-Ill., Said he would not hesitate to close deals that do not meet capacity requirements and encouraged people to avoid large crowds.
Beach closures in prime locations are pandemic precipitation. Florida’s most populous county, Miami-Dade, was closing again, imposing a curfew and closing the sand. In California, beach closures moved from Los Angeles County to the north, through Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. South of Orange County, very popular beaches like Huntington and Newport have been affected.
– Even with large scrapped public festivities, sales of fireworks to consumers grew. Some officials are concerned about fires and injuries, with more pyrotechnics taking place in backyards and at street parties. At Casey’s Fireworks, Friday in Columbia, South Carolina, most of the masked shoppers passed through the halls. The store, like many across the country, has been an unexpected beneficiary as more Americans have decided to do their own shows. “This whole COVID thing has been really bad,” said Forest Casey, a fourth-generation fireworks vendor at the family-owned store. “But, for whatever reason, it makes people really want to buy fireworks.”
Q: Four cities on the East Coast should have their own airpower exhibits before the extensive US military air show over Washington. The “Salute to the Great Cities of the American Revolution” involves overflights in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
– About 150 preachers, rabbis and imams intended to frame holiday sermons around “What the slave is the fourth of July” on the 168th anniversary of black abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s speech. The ex-slave delivered his speech at a celebration of Independence Day on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York. The speech challenged the Founding Fathers and the hypocrisy of their ideals with the existence of slavery on American soil.
Associated Press writers Michelle Liu in Columbia, South Carolina and Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report.