(EFE) – Several California beaches seemed to be overflowing on Sunday after local authorities lifted some of the quarantine restrictions, although recommendations that people remain in home confinement are still in force in the state and elsewhere in the US, where the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread and the number of confirmed cases is approaching 1 million.

The beaches in Orange County, in Southern California, were filled with thousands of bathers, who flocked to the sand and surf starting on Friday during the current heat wave after local officials lifted various restrictions.

The beaches looked like they have on any summer weekend in past years.

According to the media, more than 40,000 people turned out on Saturday at certain beaches, including the one at Newport, and the crowd could be bigger on Sunday.

At the beginning of this past week, the Orange County commissioners voted to keep some beaches and open-air areas open, although local parking lots will remain closed for the time being.

In contrast, beaches in Los Angeles County, including the famous Santa Monica and Venice beaches, remain vacant at the insistence of local authorities who are not relaxing the quarantine measures yet and are keeping them closed to the public.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned in a message on Instagram and other social networks on Sunday: “We won’t let one weekend undo a month of progress. While the sun is tempting, we’re staying home to save lives.”

“The places we love – our beaches, hiking trails – will still be there when this is over. And by staying home, we’re making sure our loved ones will be, too,” the mayor added.

The US has been the country hardest hit by the coronavirus in absolute terms with 954,182 confirmed cases and 54,573 deaths, according to the ongoing tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University.

In light of how the pandemic is evolving, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House working group on Covid-19, said Sunday in an interview with the NBC television network that social distancing measures will be continued all summer despite the gradual “reopening” of the economy.

Although Birx said that information coming out of Louisiana and Detroit, where Covid-19 cases have possibly peaked, “gives us great hope” for hard-hit areas like New York City, she added that “social distancing will be with us through the summer, to really ensure that we protect one another.”

She said that she and other officials will continue monitoring the pandemic closely.

In recent days, several states have begun moving to lift social distancing measures and reactivate their economies, and it is expected that more than a dozen will lift such measures – at least partially – this coming week, including Alaska, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee, which have already begun opening some businesses such as hair salons, gymnasiums and bowling alleys.

In response to a question about whether she was afraid of losing what has been gained over the past six weeks of quarantine by reopening some states, Birx said that she had been holding talks with governors, adding that they understand the risks and are talking about gradually resuming more normal activities in their states rather than simply ending all measures at once.

Also commenting about resuming economic activities on Sunday was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who outlined the calendar for the recovery.

“I think as we begin to reopen the economy in May and June, you’re going to see the economy really bounce back in July, August, September,” Mnuchin told Fox News.

“We are putting an unprecedented amount of fiscal relief into the economy. You’re seeing trillions of dollars that’s making its way into the economy and I think this is going to have a significant impact,” he added.

US lawmakers have approved four economic rescue packages valued at almost $3 trillion, although the Congressional Budget Office projected on Friday that the country’s fiscal deficit will triple to $3.7 trillion and unemployment will reach 16 percent due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Mnuchin did not rule out future stimulus packages to assist states and cities, saying that if the government needs to spend the money then it will, but only with bipartisan congressional support.

Some governors such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who heads the state that has been the epicenter for the pandemic in the US, have criticized the federal government for not providing additional aid to state and local governments, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – a Republican – opposes rescue packages for the states and has suggested that they can simply declare bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, New York state on Sunday registered its lowest daily Covid-19 death toll so far this month as authorities are drawing up plans for a phased reopening of the state’s economy that could begin on May 15 in the least-affected parts of the economy, including construction and manufacturing companies.

Cuomo said Sunday at his daily press conference that 367 people had died in the past 24 hours, 70 fewer than during the previous day, and there have been declines in the numbers of hospitalizations, intubations and new confirmed coronavirus cases.

So far, according to The Johns Hopkins University, the state has experienced 288,000 confirmed virus cases and about 22,000 deaths, 17,000 of them in New York City.

© 2020 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.


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