President Donald Trump is ordering all flags at the nation’s federal buildings to be flown at half-staff during the next three days to honor those who have died from the coronavirus.
As lockdowns ease across the United States, millions of Americans are set to take tentative steps outdoors to celebrate Memorial Day. But public health officials are still concerned that if people congregate in crowds or engage in other risky behavior, the long weekend could cause the coronavirus to come roaring back.
Medical experts warn the virus won’t take a holiday for the traditional start of summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that people stay home, avoid crowds and connect with family and friends by phone or video chat.
Dr. Seth Cohen, an infectious disease expert at the University of Washington Medical Center-Northwest in Seattle, advised people who celebrate to keep their distance from one another, wear masks and avoid sharing food and drinks.
Many long-running Memorial Day commemorations of the nation’s fallen military heroes have been canceled or downsized, including concerts and fireworks shows. Parks, beaches, campgrounds and swimming pools remain closed in much of the country.
In the absence of clear federal guidance, it’s largely been left to state and local officials to figure out how to celebrate the holiday safely. Social distancing rules and bans on mass gatherings remain in place throughout much of the country.
The quandary is faced by authorities around the globe. On the same weekend as Memorial Day, the Muslim world will mark Eid al-Fitr, the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” On Monday, U.K. residents get a bank holiday.
Beaches, hotels and restaurants remain largely shut down in South Florida, another popular holiday destination. The annual Urban Beach Week festival, which typically draws tens of thousands to Miami Beach for a series of hip-hop and reggae shows, was called off for this Memorial Day.
For a tourism and hospitality industry hit hard by the pandemic, there is modest hope that Memorial Day will mark the start of a return to something resembling recovery.
“This weekend is an early indicator as to how consumers feel about coming back and partaking in normal social behavior,” said Jason Guggenheim of Boston Consulting Group, which has surveyed consumers and sees pent-up demand for travel.
The data and consulting firm Tourism Economics projects that U.S. travelers will spend $4.2 billion this Memorial Day, compared with $12.3 billion spent during the weekend last year.
Airlines, meanwhile, have largely written off any hope of a quick rebound. Air travel in the U.S. remains down about 90% from a year ago, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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