Communities are finding creative ways to celebrate the traditional start of summer in the midst of social distancing and coronavirus alarm.
BOSTON — A sailboat race from Cape Cod to the island of Nantucket has marked the unofficial beginning of summer for the last 49 years. But the Figawi regatta, which raises money for veterans over Memorial Day weekend, will not involve any actual boats this year. Instead, organizers will host a virtual cocktail party from a boathouse, among other online events.
At first, regulars vowed to sail from Hyannis to Nantucket anyway, said Shelley Hill, executive director of Figawi Charities. “But as time went on and everybody learned more,” she said, “that idea has gone away.”
Crowded parades. Mobbed beaches. Congested public ceremonies. Jam-packed backyard barbecues. Memorial Day, which has come to mark the beginning of hot weather across much of the United States, typically brings millions of Americans shoulder to shoulder, towel to towel.
But this year these first rites of summer are taking place as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and cautiously emerges from two months of quarantine. Cooped-up Americans are eager for social interaction and fun. Yet public health officials warn that those impulses could result in an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Many traditional Memorial Day events have been canceled or replaced with socially distant formats. Elected officials and event organizers are struggling to bring back as much normalcy as possible without jeopardizing public health. The results have been hopeful, maddening and bewildering. But many Americans are pressing on, and trying to preserve what is important while letting go of what is not.
A Memorial Day parade from Vidalia, La., to the Natchez National Cemetery in Mississippi has roots going back to 1867. But instead of marching this time, people will motorcade in masks and gloves to let veterans know “that they have not been forgotten,” said Laura Ann Jackson, co-chair of the parade.
Although the Memorial Day ceremony in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is still on, organizers are begging the public not to come. Instead of filling 500 chairs, the solemn event honoring fallen veterans will be livestreamed into residents’ homes.
“It’s been really difficult for us to say, ‘We really don’t want you there,’” said Tom Rice, chairman of the committee that sponsors the event, which will feature the national anthem and a benediction from a priest. “So far, there’s been no blowback.”
The iconic boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., opened on May 9 to throngs of people, but signs reminded beachgoers that contagion is still afoot, and that groups of 10 or more were discouraged.
In Massachusetts, beaches will be allowed to reopen for swimming on Memorial Day, but volleyball is banned and sunbathers must place their towels 12 feet apart. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted to keep the city’s beaches closed over the weekend and even threatened to cordon them off with fencing, prompting elected officials on Long Island to try to ward off a flood of would-be beachgoers from the city by restricting access to local residents.
In California, where tens of thousands have flocked to beaches in recent weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom had announced that he was shutting beaches down to protect public health, but then backtracked and allowed them to open for “active use,” which does not include lounging on beach towels.
Mayor Will O’Neill of Newport Beach, Calif., said the city was unlikely to fine or arrest sunbathers on his city’s seven-mile stretch of beach.
“At a time when tens of thousands of people have been released from jails, why are we being told to arrest moms on beach blankets and seniors under umbrellas?” he asked. “There was no data or science supporting the decision.”
He estimated that about 40,000 people showed up in late April on the first warm weekend of the year, but he said that beachgoers have generally followed social-distancing rules and that neighborhood complaints have gone down since the beaches have been open.
At this stage of the pandemic, people are beginning to feel the negative health effects of social isolation, which Steve Cole, a social genomics researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, argued can increase the chances of chronic disease and other types of illnesses the longer it goes on. Over the summer, he is planning to take his children to the Grand Canyon as soon as logistically possible, and socialize in small groups with trusted friends.
“We should be able to find some equilibrium between those two extremes,” he said. “We don’t want to be packed like sardines in a crowd, but at the same time, a lone human being is a recipe for death.”
But across the country, many of the normal opportunities for fellowship and summer fun have been canceled or transformed beyond recognition.
On Lake Champlain in upstate New York, the cabins at Camp Dudley will be empty this summer for the first time since 1885. In neighboring Vermont, campgrounds will be allowed to open, but only at 25 percent capacity.
Both the Yarmouth Clam Festival and the Rockland Lobster Festival have been canceled in Maine, which relies heavily on tourism. But officials in Portland, the state’s largest city, are preparing to block off streets in June to give restaurants more space for outdoor dining, which is considered less risky than dining indoors.
“People who are looking to get out and about more are excited,” Mayor Kate Snyder of Portland said.
To protect the health of Mainers, state guidelines require out-of-state visitors to quarantine for two weeks before going out to eat.
“It’s confusing,” said Steve Hewins, president and chief executive of HospitalityMaine, which represents 1,300 hotels and restaurants. “Who is going to possibly come to Maine and quarantine for 14 days?”
Nonetheless, he said, his group is developing a special training program for front-line restaurant and hotel workers to handle the new coronavirus-related health requirements, as hope for some semblance of a summer season builds.
Perhaps nowhere has the decision about how to handle Memorial Day weekend caused more angst and heartbreak than in Ironton, Ohio, an Appalachian town of 11,000 people that holds the holiday parade at the core of its identity.
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.
The town has hosted a parade every year since 1868, and lays claim to being the site of the nation’s oldest continuous Memorial Day observance. Tens of thousands of people flock there every year, forming crowds that can get 10 people deep.
But this year, Gov. Mike DeWine asked local officials to adhere to social-distancing guidelines that make hosting a normal parade impossible. Members of the parade committee in Ironton agonized. They did not want to be the first in 152 years to cancel.
The parade will go on, they decided, but the number of vehicles on the route will be cut back drastically. Instead of marching, participants will stay inside their vehicles. The crowd has been asked to stay on porches or watch online.
The changes have sparked outrage among some who want to honor their military dead by marching, as well as parents who have waited for years to watch their children in the high school band.
“Some of them just can’t take it,” said David Lucas, a volunteer on the parade committee who serves as its spokesman. “Everybody’s tired of being quarantined. They are stunned that they couldn’t watch their children graduate from high school. They are afraid that the whole world is going to get canceled.”
He chalked up the anger about the parade to the general frustration of a population that is tired of being cooped up at home. In quarantine, people yearned for summer, but now that stay-at-home orders are being lifted, they are realizing it still will not be like summers past.
Little League in Ironton is starting up in June, but baseball players will have to stand six feet away from one another when they are waiting to bat, and they will not be allowed to give high-fives. The fate of the county fair has not yet been decided.
Mr. Lucas predicted that a few renegades might come to town on Memorial Day anyway but that most observers “will quietly watch the parade on the internet and wonder what the world has come to.”
News – The Country Enters a Memorial Day Weekend to Remember (or Forget)
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