In New York City and Washington, DC, people who’d been cooped up for weeks flocked to parks and open spaces on Saturday — and many of them appeared to be observing social distancing rules to combat Covid-19.
New Yorkers flooded Central Park as temperatures rose into the mid-70s. They spread blankets for sun bathing in Strawberry Fields and zoomed down paths on bikes.
The city government, knowing people would come out for the weather, put 1,000 officers on the street this weekend to enforce social distancing and also gave away free face masks.
Mayor Bill De Blasio told CNN on Saturday afternoon that its “totally understandable” that folks want to go out get some exercise and fresh air but adds the message has been “don’t linger too long, get back home” and “while you’re out there keep that face covering on, keep that social distance.”
He said enforcement numbers were “quite good,” while not going into specifics. “We expected this and we prepared for this,” he said.
The NYPD tweeted that “we’re pleased to find everyone properly equipped with PPE while also practicing social distancing” at John Jay Park on the Upper East Side.
In Washington, DC, residents crowded the National Mall to watch a flyover by the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds — despite pleas from the aerial teams that people stay home.
The crowds appeared to be in greater number on the mall between the US Capitol and Washington Monument, CNN reporters said. CNN’s Sarah Westwood said that about half the people she saw on the Mall wore masks.
The precision flying teams also flew over Baltimore and Atlanta to honor essential workers.
Eased restrictions in many states
It was a scene that played out elsewhere.
Some of those states have let stay-at-home orders expire, with caveats restricting what businesses can open and how. One such state, Georgia, still requires the elderly to stay home until June 12. Other states and counties will ease restrictions starting Monday.
Gyms and fitness centers will reopen in Arkansas on May 4, while hair salons will follow May 6. In Northern California’s Yuba and Sutter counties, restaurants, tattoo parlors and shopping malls will be allowed to open Monday, which will also be the first workday for many offices in Colorado, with operations limited to 50% capacity.
The changes come even as experts warn that lifting measures now could be deadly.
“You’re making a big mistake. It’s going to cost lives,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and disaster preparedness specialist at Columbia University Medical Center, told CNN Friday.
In a report, Redlener and Joseph Fair, a senior fellow in pandemic policy at Texas A&M University, said no city or state should begin to reduce restrictions until coronavirus infections have been steadily decreasing for 10 days to two weeks, and not until enough tests are available to track just how many people really are infected.
“We implore you to do everything in your power to make sure we have the testing and contact tracing we need to move forward safely. Until we get there, it is inappropriate and dangerous to reopen local businesses,” Redlener wrote in a letter accompanying the report.
More shopping in Georgia, and open parks in New Jersey
In Georgia, retail stores were allowed to reopen Friday, with distancing and sanitation caveats. In the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, shoppers ventured out to the Avalon outdoor mall, where about 20 of roughly 100 stores reopened.
While most of the open shops offered only curbside pickup or appointment shopping, Altar’d State, a women’s clothing store, allowed walk-in guests, though only 10 people inside at a time, including employees. Associates wore gloves and regularly sanitized fitting rooms.
Every article of clothing that a customer tried on but didn’t purchase was placed into a high-temperature steaming machine before being returned to racks.
Outside, retired nurse Kate Martin waited her turn to enter the store. She said she’d been eager to get out of her house for some fresh air — but she still had reservations about coming.
“I still think it might be a little too soon to come back out and be this close together. So, we’ll see,” she said. “Let’s hope the outcome is good.”
Mall workers distributed masks to guests, though not every guest chose to wear them.
Martin wore a mask. She hoped others would wear them, too.
“You might not get as sick, but (older people) will, and they will get it from you. Do it for your grandmother,” she said.
“I felt like I was let out of prison today,” Hoffman told the newspaper. “If they have to do this slowly, I’m OK with that. But we need to move forward.”
People still are going to a closed California beach
But dozens of people were on the shores of Huntington Beach Saturday morning– some surfing, some walking and some sitting or lying in the sand, generally spread out from each other.
“It felt a little targeted … on Orange County specifically because of what happened last weekend” one surfer, Greg Frank, told CNN at the beach Saturday.
He said he believed the beach last week was packed with people from counties that had tougher restrictions at the time — and that therefore Orange County was now paying an unfair price for hosting those visitors.
Later Saturday, most people had been cleared off the beach, CNN’s Paul Vercammen reported.
Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates told him the city felt it was unfair for the state to close Huntington Beach while allowing other beaches, such as those in San Diego County, to remain open.
Protests also were held Friday well to the north — in California’s capital, Sacramento — over Newsom’s larger stay-at-home order for the state. More than 30 people were arrested Friday during that demonstration, CNN affiliate KCRA reported.
More than 1,000 people had gathered in the Sacramento protest, some waving American flags and signs against the order.
“This disease doesn’t know if you’re a protester, a Democrat, a Republican,” the governor said Friday. “Protect yourself, protect your family, your kids, your parents, your grandparents, your neighbors.”
Newsom said the state is “days, not weeks” away from beginning to lift restrictions.
CDC: Summer will be critical in fight against virus
How the country fares in the next few months will be “critical” in the fight against coronavirus and how it will evolve in the fall, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
“The more we intensify the testing and expand the public health capacity and assure that our hospital capacity and material to support the hospitals is adequate or has excess, the better we’re going to be in the fall,” Schuchat said in an interview with JAMA Network.
“If by that time we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well,” he said. “If we don’t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.”
Fauci has also warned that lifting measures prematurely could lead to a rebound of the virus that could put the US in the “same boat that we were a few weeks ago.”
FDA approves remdesivir
This is the first authorized therapy for the virus in the country, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said.
“This is an important clinical advance that showed a statistically significant reduction in time to recovery for patients with Covid-19 and is the first authorized therapy for Covid-19.” Hahn said.
The drug was approved just days after researchers said it might help patients recover more quickly from the infection.
In an emergency-use authorization Friday, the agency said the benefits of using the drug outweighed the risks.
Here’s what else happened this week:
CNN’s Natasha Chen, Paul Vercammen, Josh Campbell, Jennifer Henderson, Maggie Fox, Gisela Crespo, Sarah Moon, Arman Azad and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.