“The virus does not take a holiday,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement this week. “The bottom line is be vigilant and stay safe while enjoying some time outside.”
Guidance from state and local leaders is largely the same: The coronavirus crisis is far from over. An even higher spike in cases is at stake if people flock to beaches, pools and July 4th parties without taking precautions, like wearing masks, practice social distancing, keeping gatherings small and holding them outdoors, where the virus is transmitted less easily.
“As we talk about Fourth of July and independence, it’s important to understand that if we all wear these, we will actually have more independence and more freedom because more places will be able to stay open. We’ll have less spread of the disease,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Friday.
“The patriotic thing for us to do is to take care of our fellow Americans,” Washington state Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib said on Twitter.
“Lets help our neighbors and families and remain patriotic by wearing a mask for ourselves and others around us,” Florida Rep. Donna Shalala (D) wrote in a tweet.
In California, which has rolled back reopenings for bars and restaurants, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) launched a large, multilingual public awareness campaign around masks. “People can die. People like your mom,” says one video, showing a person struggling to breathe on a ventilator.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, issued an order shortly before the holiday instructing everyone in the state to wear a face covering, which came as a sharp reversal of his previous stance and one that indicates how bad the crisis has become there. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) warned July 1 that his state had already lost the ground it gained in the second half of June and risked even more COVID-19 cases if people do not wear masks. He even told Louisianans not to visit reopened businesses if they aren’t taking the appropriate precautions.
“I’m urging the general public: Don’t patronize businesses that are not conducting themselves in a safe manner,” Edwards said.
President Donald Trump ― who typically eschews face coverings even though officials say his wearing one could send a strong message to his supporters ― changed his tune on masks in the days before July 4th.
“I’m all for masks,” Trump said on Fox Business this week before going on to falsely predict the disease will just “disappear.”
The president is still averse to mask mandates ― worrying Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser due to the huge fireworks display he planned for the holiday weekend. Bowser, who lacks the authority to tell people what to do on federal land, where the display is taking place, urged people to practice social distancing and wear masks nonetheless.
While the efforts to contain the virus have been largely successful in areas that were hit hardest in the beginning of the crisis, other states that initially had few COVID-19 patients are seeing rapid increases in reported cases and hospitalizations as businesses have been allowed to reopen. Many Republican states have also shown reluctance to cross Trump, who has generally worked to downplay the threat of the virus.
Although messaging around mask use has varied around the country since the coronavirus crisis began, public health experts overwhelmingly agree that they are key to curbing the spread of COVID-19. When worn properly, masks intercept any tiny droplets ― which could contain the coronavirus ― that human beings expel from their mouths and noses when coughing or just simply talking. The droplets are now thought to be the primary way that the virus spreads.
People can start spreading virulent droplets in the days before they show symptoms, and many never experience symptoms at all, so the masks and distancing are important even if you feel fine.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control expanded the list of symptoms to look out for to include nausea, diarrhea and congestion or runny nose.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards as a Republican. He is a Democrat.
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus