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America's Fourth of July weekend was marked with subdued celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic as public health officials warned that the holiday will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging outbreak.
Many parades and fireworks displays were cancelled with the notable exception of President Trump's fireworks show at Mount Rushmore on Friday. A number of beaches are off-limits, and bars and restaurants shuttered.
Florida’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by a record 11,458 on Saturday, according to the state’s health department, the second time in three days that the caseload has increased by more than 10,000.
The new record came a day after seven other states also reported record caseload rises of Covid-19. Southern and western states are seeing the greatest surge while confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states.
On Friday, new daily highs were registered in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Missouri, Idaho and Alabama. In Texas, there was a new peak for hospitalizations.
Public health and government officials urged caution this weekend, telling people to wear masks and practice social distancing. Many recommended that Americans mark Independence Day with small gatherings at home.
“We’re not going to be arresting people for having gatherings, but we’re certainly going to discourage it,” Dr Jeff Duchin, public health director for Seattle and King County, told Associated Press.
The overall daily US tally of cases stood at 53,483 on Friday, a decrease from the previous day’s record 55,405.
There were troubling signs across the country. In Arizona, hospitalisations for suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients went above 3,000 for the first time. Alabama has more than 1,700 new confirmed cases, its highest single-day count to date. In New York, which was hit with an onslaught of cases at the beginning of the outbreak, some 918 new cases have been recorded, the most in three weeks.
Although many major cities had cancelled fireworks displays and events, some were still taking place with measures for social distancing. In Upper Arlington, Ohio, the Fourth of July parade took a longer route to accommodate more neighbourhoods and to prevent large crowds in the street.
President Trump was in South Dakota on Friday for an appearance at Mount Rushmore where the state's GOP Governor Kristi Noem insisted social distancing wasn’t necessary and masks were optional.
Mr Trump used the event for a divisive speech dwelling on the "culture war" in America and spent little time reflecting on the pandemic which has claimed tens of thousands of American lives. There have been 2.7million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 128,000 deaths in the US, according to the World Health Organisation.
On Saturday, the president was to attend military flyovers on Saturday and a mile-long pyrotechnics display on the National Mall that his administration promises will be the biggest in recent memory. Up to 300,000 face masks will be given away - but not required.
This week, the European Union lifted its travel ban on 14 countries but confirmed restrictions will continue for citizens of the US and other nations still struggling to contain their coronavirus outbreaks.
Additional wire reporting