Holiday amid pandemic: Americans divided on how to respond

NEW YORK — (AP) — President Donald Trump played golf at one of his courses Saturday during the Memorial Day weekend as he urged U.S. states to reopen after coronavirus-related lockdowns. Yet many Americans remained cautious as the number of confirmed cases nationwide passed 1.6 million.

In California, where many businesses and recreational activities are reopening, officials in Los Angeles County said they would maintain tight restrictions until July 4. Some religious leaders took issue with Trump’s declaration that houses of worship are “essential” and should resume in-person services this weekend.

“Being at the epicenter of this pandemic and in order to protect our flock, we advise that congregations remain closed until more accurate and uniform information is provided,” said Bishop Paul Egensteiner, who oversees the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s congregations in the hard-hit New York City region.

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Statewide, New York reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths — 84 — in many weeks in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described as a critical benchmark. The daily death tally peaked at 799 on April 8.

“For me, it’s a sign that we’re making real progress,” Cuomo said.

Rain dampened the start of the holiday weekend in the northeastern U.S., where newly reopened beaches were expected to attract throngs of people and test the effectiveness of social distancing rules. At Orchard Beach in the Bronx, which was crowded a weekend earlier, parking lots were mostly empty except for large puddles.

To the south, Trump played golf at one of his private clubs for the first time during the pandemic — the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. He has been pushing for state and local leaders to fully reopen after months of closures and tight restrictions.

Parts of New Orleans stirred to back life, with some restaurants and businesses opening for the first time in over two months. Some remained closed, especially in the French Quarter, which relies largely on tourist dollars.

At least a few out-of-towners trickled in. Greer Falls of Augusta, Georgia, wore a mask as he entered the Royal House restaurant for lunch. After weeks at home, he said he was ready for a change of scenery and didn’t want to miss a birthday celebration with friends he’s known for decades.

Some amusement parks, such as Mt. Olympus in the Wisconsin Dells and Lagoon amusement park in Farmington, Utah, opened for the first time in months. The Facebook sites for both parks were flooded with comments from visitors excited to ride go-karts or roller coasters, though some complained about Lagoon’s policy of requiring masks.

Andrew Young, 29, said Lagoon has been a lifelong summer staple and when he learned the park would be open Saturday, he went online immediately to make a reservation for himself, his wife and 2-year-old daughter. Because a limited number of people were allowed entry, they found short lines and there always seemed to be just one other family on each ride. There were also sanitation stations and other measures to keep people distanced and feeling safe.

“It was a lot of fun," Young said. "Finally going, having some feeling of normalcy. ... We had a very enjoyable morning."

Overseas, there was mixed news. New coronavirus cases reported in China were zero Saturday for the first time since the outbreak began but surged in India and overwhelmed hospitals across Latin America.

Many governments are easing restrictions as they face a political backlash and historic economic recessions. In just a few months, the pandemic has killed at least 340,000 people worldwide and infected about 5.3 million, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

As the United States closed in on 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, the New York Times devoted Sunday's entire, photo-less front page to a list of nearly 1,000 names of pandemic victims with a few words in memorial for each, culled from obituaries published around the country. “Continued on Page 12,” it read at bottom right.

Turkey, which has recorded over 155,000 infections, imposed its toughest lockdown measures yet for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Yemen’s Houthi rebels urged believers to use masks and stay inside, as authorities try to contain infections at a time usually marked by multigenerational feasting and collective prayer.

In Germany, which has drawn praise for its handling of the virus, seven people appear to have been infected at a restaurant in the northwest of the country. It would be the first such known case since restaurants started reopening two weeks ago.

And in Frankfurt, more than 40 people tested positive after a church service of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation May 10. A church leader said the congregation has canceled gatherings and is now holding services online.

Authorities in nearby Hanau called off Muslim prayers planned for a stadium Sunday as a precaution.

Religious events helped spread the virus early in the pandemic; resuming such gatherings is an especially thorny issue.

Mindful of evangelical Christians who are key to his base ahead of November’s election, Trump on Friday called houses of worship “essential” and urged governors to let them reopen this weekend. However, leaders of many denominations said they plan to move gradually and cautiously.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz said he is scrapping a 10-person limit on gatherings and letting houses of worship open at 25% occupancy if safety guidelines are met.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis welcomed the change but said priests should not reopen their churches if they can't comply with safety measures.

France allowed in-person services to resume Saturday after a legal challenge to a ban on gatherings in places of worship.

One of the world’s major pilgrimage sites is reopening Sunday: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

Latin America is the latest epicenter of the virus, and experts note the limitations of government action in a region where millions have informal jobs and many police forces are unable to enforce restrictions.

Brazil and Mexico reported record numbers of infections and deaths almost daily this week, fueling criticism of their presidents for limited lockdowns. But infections also rose and intensive care units were swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, all lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines.

Concerns are rising in India, where new cases showed another record jump Saturday, topping 6,000 for a second consecutive day as a two-month lockdown has eased.

While some countries are facing a second wave of infections, badly hit Russia is still struggling with its first and reported more than 9,000 new cases Saturday.

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Forliti reported from Minneapolis, and Moulson from Berlin. Associated Press writers around the world contributed.

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Hazel Roberts walks in a field of flags ahead of Memorial Day, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Cohasset, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Hazel Roberts walks in a field of flags ahead of Memorial Day, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Cohasset, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) (Michael Dwyer)
Kure Beach Ocean Rescue lifeguard Katy Kelly looks out from a stand at Kure Beach, N.C., Saturday, May 23, 2020. The town lifted the majority of beach restrictions related to the coronavirus on May 15. (Matt Born/The Star-News via AP)
Kure Beach Ocean Rescue lifeguard Katy Kelly looks out from a stand at Kure Beach, N.C., Saturday, May 23, 2020. The town lifted the majority of beach restrictions related to the coronavirus on May 15. (Matt Born/The Star-News via AP) (Matt Born)
Caution tape is wrapped around benches to discourage sitting at a nearly empty beach Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Ocean Grove, N.J., during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Caution tape is wrapped around benches to discourage sitting at a nearly empty beach Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Ocean Grove, N.J., during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (John Minchillo)
People ride the Roller Coaster at Lagoon Amusement Park Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Farmington, Utah. After a season break that was extended for months by COVID-19 restrictions, Utah's amusement park, Lagoon, reopened for business just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. Lagoon officials said a new reservation system is in place to help manage social distancing and avoid crowding at the park entrance, and capacity will be limited to about 15% of its usual maximum volume. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
People ride the Roller Coaster at Lagoon Amusement Park Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Farmington, Utah. After a season break that was extended for months by COVID-19 restrictions, Utah's amusement park, Lagoon, reopened for business just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. Lagoon officials said a new reservation system is in place to help manage social distancing and avoid crowding at the park entrance, and capacity will be limited to about 15% of its usual maximum volume. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (Rick Bowmer)
Bishop of Lyon Emmanuel Gobilliard leads mass, the first since lockdown restrictions were introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, at the Saint-Jean Cathedral, in Lyon, central France, Saturday, May 23, 2020. France allowed religious services to resume Saturday after a legal challenge to the government's ban on such gatherings. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Bishop of Lyon Emmanuel Gobilliard leads mass, the first since lockdown restrictions were introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, at the Saint-Jean Cathedral, in Lyon, central France, Saturday, May 23, 2020. France allowed religious services to resume Saturday after a legal challenge to the government's ban on such gatherings. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani) (Laurent Cipriani)
A Indiana National Guardsmen watches over the distribution of food at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 23, 2020. Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana expected to distribute boxes of fresh produce, lean meat, and dairy to more than 5,000 people at the event. The Speedway hosted the event on what would have been the eve of the Indianapolis 500 that was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
A Indiana National Guardsmen watches over the distribution of food at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 23, 2020. Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana expected to distribute boxes of fresh produce, lean meat, and dairy to more than 5,000 people at the event. The Speedway hosted the event on what would have been the eve of the Indianapolis 500 that was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) (Michael Conroy)
A woman wears a mask as she waits for the motorcade for President Donald Trump to go past, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Sterling, Va. Trump is en route to Trump National Golf Club. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A woman wears a mask as she waits for the motorcade for President Donald Trump to go past, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Sterling, Va. Trump is en route to Trump National Golf Club. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon)
People wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus walk, during the reopening of the Saturday market, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Saturday, May 23, 2020 as lockdown measures due to the coronavirus were eased. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)
People wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus walk, during the reopening of the Saturday market, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Saturday, May 23, 2020 as lockdown measures due to the coronavirus were eased. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP) (Laurent Gillieron)
A man jumps headfirst into the Oderteich dam in the Harz National Park near Oderbrueck, Germany, Saturday, May 23, 2020. After the easing of measures to contain the Corona pandemic, numerous tourists came to the Harz mountains at the weekend. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/dpa via AP)
A man jumps headfirst into the Oderteich dam in the Harz National Park near Oderbrueck, Germany, Saturday, May 23, 2020. After the easing of measures to contain the Corona pandemic, numerous tourists came to the Harz mountains at the weekend. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/dpa via AP) (Julian Stratenschulte)
A man wearing a facemask waits inside his car to be tested for COVID-19 as volunteers take registration information in Annandale, Va., Saturday, May 23, 2020. COVID-19 testing was available from Fairfax County at no cost and without a doctor's order. Hundreds of people had lined up in cars and on foot by 10am. Officials planned on testing about 1000 people from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Testing will be available at Bailey's Elementary on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A man wearing a facemask waits inside his car to be tested for COVID-19 as volunteers take registration information in Annandale, Va., Saturday, May 23, 2020. COVID-19 testing was available from Fairfax County at no cost and without a doctor's order. Hundreds of people had lined up in cars and on foot by 10am. Officials planned on testing about 1000 people from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Testing will be available at Bailey's Elementary on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin)
Cardboard pictures of fans are placed in the stands prior to the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Leverkusen, in Moenchengladbach, Germany, Saturday, May 23, 2020. (Ina Fassbender Pool Photo via AP)
Cardboard pictures of fans are placed in the stands prior to the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Leverkusen, in Moenchengladbach, Germany, Saturday, May 23, 2020. (Ina Fassbender Pool Photo via AP) (Ina Fassbender)
Cocoa Beach, Fla., is packed with Memorial Day beachgoers on Saturday, May 23, 202 The beaches are open for business again during the coronavirus epidemic. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Cocoa Beach, Fla., is packed with Memorial Day beachgoers on Saturday, May 23, 202 The beaches are open for business again during the coronavirus epidemic. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP) (Stephen M. Dowell)
A baby with a face shield waits to board a plane at an airport in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province Saturday, May 23, 2020. China on Saturday reported no new confirmed cases or deaths from the new coronavirus. (Kyodo News via AP)
A baby with a face shield waits to board a plane at an airport in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province Saturday, May 23, 2020. China on Saturday reported no new confirmed cases or deaths from the new coronavirus. (Kyodo News via AP) (Naohiko Hatta)
Migrant workers look out a train window before moving to their home states, at Hyderabad Railway Station in Hyderabad, India, Saturday, May 23, 2020. India's lockdown was imposed on March 25 and has been extended several times. On May 4, India eased lockdown rules and allowed migrant workers to travel back to their homes, a decision that has resulted in millions of people being on the move for the last two weeks. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
Migrant workers look out a train window before moving to their home states, at Hyderabad Railway Station in Hyderabad, India, Saturday, May 23, 2020. India's lockdown was imposed on March 25 and has been extended several times. On May 4, India eased lockdown rules and allowed migrant workers to travel back to their homes, a decision that has resulted in millions of people being on the move for the last two weeks. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.) (Mahesh Kumar A)
J.D. Madrid pauses for a moment at the grave of his father-in-law, Michael McBrien, in Fort Logan National Cemetery, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Sheridan, Colo. Both Madrid and his father-in-law served in the U.S. Navy. While traditional events such as placing flags at the foot of gravestones for service members and ceremonies to mark Memorial Day were cancelled because of coronavirus concerns, survivors came out in force to offer their own tributes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
J.D. Madrid pauses for a moment at the grave of his father-in-law, Michael McBrien, in Fort Logan National Cemetery, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Sheridan, Colo. Both Madrid and his father-in-law served in the U.S. Navy. While traditional events such as placing flags at the foot of gravestones for service members and ceremonies to mark Memorial Day were cancelled because of coronavirus concerns, survivors came out in force to offer their own tributes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (David Zalubowski)
Parisians sit in the sun along the Seine river banks in Paris, Saturday, May 23, 2020 as France gradually lifts its COVID-19 lockdown. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Parisians sit in the sun along the Seine river banks in Paris, Saturday, May 23, 2020 as France gradually lifts its COVID-19 lockdown. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) (Francois Mori)