The number of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus neared 100,000 on Monday, as Americans – some who decided to forgo social distancing – wrapped up their Memorial Day weekends.
As of Monday evening, the number of coronavirus-related deaths had reached 98,218, more than the number of US troops killed in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.
President Donald Trump commemorated Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery and at an event in Baltimore, where he added a tribute to the victims of the virus.
“As one nation, we mourn alongside every single family that has lost loved ones, including the families of our great veterans,” he said at the second event. “Together, we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and greater heights.”
At a glance, it looked this weekend like many Americans have forgotten about the dangers of coronavirus.
Crowds packed beaches in Florida, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and Indiana. Many people ventured out without masks and others failed to keep their distance even as officials highlighted the continued importance of both in order to prevent another surge of infections.
It wasn’t just the beaches. Pictures posted on social media showed mostly unmasked people crowded together at Ace Speedway in Elon, North Carolina, on Saturday.
“We’re tired of being stuck in the house. I’m not afraid of this virus one bit,” spectator Becky Woosley told CNN affiliate WGHP.
Speedway co-owner Jason Turner told CNN affiliate WXII that 2,500 fans were admitted – half of the speedway capacity – and that staff encouraged but did not enforce social distancing.
“People have the right to choose where they go and what they do,” he said.
In Daytona Beach, people elbow-to-elbow jammed a main thoroughfare. Mayor Derrick Henry said there’s only so much police can do with a crowd that size.
“They were not practicing social distancing and they did not necessarily respond in a lot of ways that we wanted them to as it relates to the normal expectations of visitors,” he told CNN. “When … you got 300 to 500 people per law enforcement officer, it is a tough order.”
In Missouri, hundreds attended a pool party just days after a similar party in neighboring Arkansas caused a cluster of new coronavirus cases. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state is now experiencing a “second peak.”
Hutchinson said the first peak saw 160 cases in one day followed by a “deep dip.” On Saturday, there were 163 new cases of Covid-19 in Arkansas.
But in Delaware, Gov. John Carney, who made a trip to Rehoboth Beach, said he was encouraged by what he saw.
“I saw not many people on the beaches,” Carney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “It wasn’t a great beach day in terms of the weather. But on the boardwalk, most of the people, I’d say 80%, were wearing masks as we require.”
Carney said he was impressed by the signage, the 6 foot separation markings and acrylic glass shields.
‘They’re willing to take the risk’
Coronavirus cases are trending upward in 18 states, including Alabama. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said Monday morning that he thinks the early easing of restrictions in his state has given people “a false sense of security.”
“What we’re seeing is kind of a split community where you have people who believe this is over and have decided they’re going to get back to their normal way of life and they’re willing to take the risk,” Reed said on CNN. “What they’re not considering is the risk they’re posing to others when they do not see some of the symptoms in themselves.”
As health officials warn the deadly virus isn’t yet contained, local leaders across the country are working to enforce regulations put in place for parks, stores, bars and restaurants that have reopened.
In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities will begin enforcing capacity limits for bars and restaurants after the city received hundreds of complaints alleging violations.
“One of my council members sent me some pictures and there were other pictures on Facebook and social media of people around swimming pools, no social distancing, no masks,” he said Monday on CNN. “I just said, we have to pump the brakes.”
Video from a pool party held at Clé nightclub in Houston, where many people without masks were seen crowded around the pool, helped prompt the decision, the mayor’s office said. CNN has reached out to the club.
New Haven, Connecticut, Mayor Justin Elicker said the city has taken out picnic tables and banned cooking out to cut down on crowds.
“New Haven residents have been really good at following the social distancing guidelines but people also feel really cooped up and I think a lot of people are feeling frustrated,” he said.
Mayor Henry from Daytona Beach said enforcing the face mask rule is realistically impossible because of the sheer number of offenders.
“We don’t have enough facilities to harbor that many people who do not follow guidelines,” he said.
Another vaccine candidate to be tested on humans
Maryland-based biotechnology company Novavax announced plans to begin enrolling about 130 people with an experimental vaccine. The company will become the 10th in the world to start a human trial of a potential vaccines against Covid-19.
The first volunteer is expected to be vaccinated Monday evening in Australia, where the initial phase of the trial is being conducted at two sites.
The vaccine produced high levels of neutralizing antibodies in pre-clinical testing, according to a company news release. The data has not been peer reviewed or published in a medical journal.
Spike of cases in Washington, DC
As Americans push to return to normal lifestyles and the country continues lifting coronavirus restrictions, experts say many parts of the country are still not heading in the right direction.
North Carolina recorded its highest single-day surge of new cases over the weekend and parts of Maryland, Virginia, Illinois and other states are still seeing a high number of infections, said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.
In Washington, DC, health officials are reporting a spike of new cases – an increase that could be a setback for the criteria officials are using to decide when the city will begin its first stage of reopening.
Until this weekend, Washington recorded 11 days of declining community spread of the coronavirus. The city said 14 days of decline were needed before they moved to reopen. Sunday would have marked the 13th day of decline. Instead there was a small spike over the last two days.
But because the spike was a small one, health officials say they’ll consider setting back to the 11th day of the decline instead of starting the count from the beginning.
“We don’t have to go to day zero,” Director of the DC Department of Health, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, said in a news conference call.
A 17-year-old dies in Georgia
In Georgia, one of the first states to begin reopening, officials reported Sunday the state’s youngest coronavirus death.
The victim was a 17-year-old boy, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. The boy had underlying medical conditions. The department didn’t offer any further details.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that while many young people who got coronavirus did not have serious problems, health experts are investigating a virus-related complication in children across the country, dubbed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.
White House rolls out travel restrictions
As US officials try to get a handle on the spread of the virus, the President announced Sunday he will be suspending travel into the US for people who had been to Brazil within the past two weeks.
Brazil is second to the US with the highest number of coronavirus cases, recording more than 363,200 infections, according to Johns Hopkins.
Over the weekend, the country recorded more than 15,000 new infections in just 24 hours.
CNN’s Ralph Ellis, Danielle Sills, Hollie Silverman, Nicky Robertson, Claudia Dominguez and Maija Ehlinger contributed to this report.