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Warm weather draws crowds in some cities as parts of U.S. start easing coronavirus lockdowns

(Reuters) – Sunny days and warm weather are proving to be as challenging to manage as restaurants, hair salons and other businesses, as about half of U.S. states partially reopen their economies after the coronavirus lockdown.

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington to view a U.S. Navy flyover to honor healthcare workers and others battling the pandemic.

In New York City, the warmest weather yet this spring caused picnickers and sunbathers to flock to green spaces in Manhattan, including crowded conditions at the Christopher Street Pier in Greenwich Village, according to photos on social media.

Last week, California ordered beaches in Orange County to close, after crowds defied public health guidelines to throng the popular shoreline. Police in the county’s Huntington Beach said people were complying on Sunday.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were “some real issues” near the pier and police would increase patrols.

Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said on “Fox News Sunday” that massing on beaches was not safe unless people kept at least 6 feet (1.8 m) apart. She also weighed in against allowing such businesses as beauty salons and spas to reopen in the first phase.

“We’ve made it clear that that is not a good phase one activity,” she said, as the number of U.S. cases topped 1.1 million and the death toll rose to more than 67,000 on Sunday.

Protesters gathering, as they did last week in Michigan and other parts of the country to demonstrate against stay-at-home restrictions, posed a huge risk, she said.

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or a very – or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said.

Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said on Sunday the country was seeing a “mixed bag” of results from coronavirus mitigation efforts. He said there were about 20 states seeing a rising number of new cases including Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Virginia reported a record number of deaths on Sunday, up 44 for a total of 660.

“We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point. And we’re just not seeing that,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If we don’t snuff this out more and you have this slow burn of infection, it can ignite at any time.”

A seagull flies over beach goers after a state wide partial-reopening of the economy during the coronavirus disease (COVID -19) pandemic in Galveston, Texas, U.S., May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif‘PUTTING A TOE BACK IN’

Even in the face of rising cases, some Americans are eager to return to jobs, classrooms, socializing and large gatherings.

In a town hall event hosted by Fox News on Sunday night, President Donald Trump said he understood people’s desire to go back to work and school and that he expected classrooms to reopen in September.

But he said more needed to be done to ease the economic hit of the pandemic and that more help was coming for people who were unemployed.

In sports, the National Football League said it would announce its schedule for the upcoming season this week including its season-opening game on Sept. 10 and the Super Bowl, which is scheduled to be played in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 7.

“We are planning on playing the 2020 NFL season as scheduled,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email, noting that the most popular U.S sports league would adjust to government regulations.

On the other side of the spectrum was Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in Massachusetts, which has not begun reopening and is seeing coronavirus cases still climbing. Massachusetts also has issued a statewide order telling people to wear masks in public.

He said the rallies against coronavirus mitigation efforts were causing confusion and making his job harder.

Slideshow (10 Images)

“I don’t understand it. That makes messaging really confusing. … It’s the wrong message, because we’re still very much in the beginning days of coronavirus. Even if you’re a state that is seeing numbers go down,” Walsh said.

In New Mexico, where numbers have yet to see a sustained decline and Native Americans represent more than half of the cases, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham extended road closings into the city of Gallup to stem the state’s largest outbreak.

The shutdowns will continue until Thursday to slow infections in McKinley County, which is straddled by the Navajo Nation, an area suffering one of the highest per capita case rates in the country relative to U.S. states.

(GRAPHIC: Tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S. – here)

Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Andrew Hay; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Peter Cooney and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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