KEY POINTS

  • Millions are expected to venture outdoors for Memorial Day Weekend
  • Dr. Deborah Birx is reminding Americans of the risk of coronavirus when they go out
  • Beaches and outdoor sites across the U.S. will impose health precautions 

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, reminded Americans who will be going to beaches and cookouts or for getting fresh air during the Memorial Day Weekend, to observe health precautions and continue to practice social distancing. Her message also contained a chilling line on how dangerous and deceptive the coronavirus situation in the country is as people try to get back to normal — or as normal as it can get.

Birx's caution tempers the more aggressive approach of President Donald Trump, who said that the U.S. is "transitioning back to greatness" and showing signs of normalization as economies reopen.

"There are a lot of healthy people that look healthy with COVID [19],” Birx said during the press conference Friday (May 22). “You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart. But remember that is your space, and that is the space you need to protect to ensure you are socially distancing for others.”

49813656696_d1b61d1579_k White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Deborah Birx delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 23, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo: Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

The expert has repeatedly said that there are still spikes in COVID-19 cases in many states and the risk of transmission remains. Presenting a slideshow on the current data, Birx discussed that social gatherings are crucial to how outbreaks start.

"When you go out for this weekend, Memorial Day, and you want to do some kind of social gathering, it is important to maintain that six feet of distance," the doctor reiterated. "Have your mask with you in case a six-foot difference cannot be maintained."

The warning comes as Jersey Shore and several beaches and outdoor sites in Los Angeles and Florida expect a deluge of visitors for Memorial Day Weekend. To prepare for the crowds, some changes have been implemented in these public areas.

Jersey Shore has flashing billboard signs on the freeway to remind people to observe social distancing. The rides, arcades and playgrounds will be closed while the beaches will have limited capacity. Police and security presence will be very visible along with the lifeguards who will call out or whistle on people who don't observe the guidelines.

In Los Angeles, beachgoers are restricted from setting up blankets and chairs on the sand for sunbathing. Public facilities including the volleyball courts and other organized sports areas will be off-limits. Face masks are expected to be worn not just at the beach but also at the trails and parks that will reopen. Some golf courses will also reopen but its indoor facilities will be closed to guests.

Florida's beaches will also have social distancing restrictions enforced by lifeguards and "beach bouncers" to help the police.

As America prepares for the three-day weekend to mark the start of summer, Birx said that Washington, D.C.'s metro area, which includes Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland like Baltimore, Prince George and Montgomery, has the highest positivity rate for COVID-19 among all other cities in the U.S.

"These are the places where we have seen really a stalling or an increase of cases,” Birx said, adding, "there is still significant virus circulating."

Trump has plans to visit Baltimore for Memorial Day Weekend, however, Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young asked the president not to pursue non-essential travel to the city to set an example to the public.

As of May 23, the United States has 1,600,782 cases and 97,647 deaths from the coronavirus, per data compiled by athe Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.