Public health officials on Sunday urged Americans to continue exercising caution as photos and videos made the rounds on social media of crowded beaches, boardwalks and pools.
All 50 states are in some stage of reopening their economies but the images of people – many without masks and not social distancing – taking advantage of the holiday weekend alarmed many.
Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said that even as more Americans headed outside, it was vital to continue practicing safety measures.
“I think it’s our job as public health officials everyday to be informing the public of what puts them at risk,” Birx said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And we’ve made it clear that there’s asymptomatic spread. So we really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical,” she said. “And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask.”
Birx was clarifying comments she made at the White House last week, when she said people "can go out. You can be outside. You can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls. You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart. But remember that that is your space, and that's a space that you need to protect and ensure that you're social distanced for others.”
She said on “Fox News Sunday” she was “very concerned” about images of people who failed to maintain social distancing.
“We know have excellent scientific evidence of how far droplets go when we speak or just simply talking to one another. We know it’s important for people to socially interact, but we also know it’s very important for people to have masks on when they speak … we have to maintain that six-feet difference,” she said. “We know being outside does help, but that doesn’t change the fact that people need to be responsible and maintain that distance.”
Governors also urged caution.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) also stressed the need for masks in scenarios where social distancing was not possible.
“This is not about politics, this is not about whether you're liberal or conservative, left or right, Republican, Democrat. We wear the mask, and it's been very clear what the studies have shown, you wear the mask not to protect yourself so much as to protect others. And this is one time when we truly are all in this together,” DeWine said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The Ohio governor added that masks were not necessary at home or during solo activities like driving and hiking.
“But when you go out and interact directly with people, we're asking Ohioans to do this...it's not about politics, it's not about conservative or liberal. It's about helping other people,” he added.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), meanwhile, defended steps his state has taken to reopen even as it saw a single-day high in cases Thursday.
“We have to manage the risk,” Hutchinson said on “Fox News Sunday,” attributing the increased deaths to increased testing. “We take the virus very seriously, it’s a risk, it causes death, but you can’t cloister yourself at home, that is just contrary to the American spirit.”
While Arkansas never issued a formal stay-at-home order, it imposed a number of restrictions it is currently lifting.
Even as restrictions are lifted, the U.S. is on track to reach 100,000 deaths from the virus around Monday. Public health officials such as Anthony FauciAnthony FauciCDC director urges Americans to go outside, 'enjoy your trick-or-treating' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems eye legislative deal by the end of the week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Democrats inch closer to legislative deal MORE, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, have warned a resurgence of the virus in the fall is likely even if it abates over the summer.
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said while it was important to continue safety precautions, spread would likely abate somewhat with summer weather.
“This isn’t contained yet. That doesn’t mean we can’t go out and start doing things, get back to some semblance of a normal life,” Gottlieb said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But we need to do things differently, we need to define a new normal. So when we get back to work, we need to get back to work differently.”