Just as cases of COVID-19 were rising in 17 states, people could be seen packing closely in crowds over the Memorial Day weekend without masks and without social distancing, leading many to fear an uptick in cases.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. death toll to the coronavirus was just shy of 100,000, and the total number of cases stood at 1.7 million.
The 17 states with cases trending up included Georgia, Arkansas, California, and Alabama, according to CNN. In 20 states, the number of cases are decreasing, and 13 states appear to be holding steady.
But the decision on wearing a mask has sharply divided Americans, with many of those choosing not to wear one saying it infringes on their freedom. Those who wear masks point to medical research showing that an estimated 40% of COVID-19 transmission happens before a person shows symptoms.
Because of a shortage of masks that filter out airborne particles such as viruses, those have been mostly reserved for medical workers. Therefore members of the public have been advised to wear cloth masks in an effort to protect others, not themselves.
As a result, packed crowds at places such as those seen in a viral video at Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend not wearing masks at all have stirred concern of new outbreaks. Kansas City Health Director Sam Page told attendees to self quarantine.
Still, many weekend revelers were unconcerned.
"We're all just embracing it," Karen Lee in Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, said, according to CNN. "I could get killed by COVID today or I could get hit by a bus or a car tomorrow. I am practicing proper hand washing and hygiene."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization has warned against such attitudes.
"We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now that it's going to keep going down," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, told CNN. "We need to be also cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time."
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