The weekend that was. Americans’ abilities to conform with stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines faced perhaps the toughest challenge yet as thousands across the country celebrated Memorial Day — traditionally, a long-awaited entree into summer and the good times to follow. But this year, things were different. Officials continued to stress the need for Americans to maintain social distance wherever possible and wear masks to help prevent further community spread of the virus. To be sure, many did comply and spent their weekend in close quarters with loved ones, sneaking in a bit of “normal” fun along the way.
But many Americans weren’t so careful. At Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, scores of revelers flocked to crowded restaurants and pool resorts. Social media erupted with photos and videos of folks packed like sardines into bars and pools, with no attention being paid to social distancing measures. Masks were nowhere to be seen. In fact, you wouldn’t have even known there was a pandemic from watching the footage. The scene at the Ozarks could easily be a microcosm of folks throughout the country doing much the same — rushing to public places in a desperate attempt to regain a sense of the normalcy.
But, for so many other Americans, these scenes are troubling. If we are all being implored to social distance and to wear masks — not just to protect ourselves, but to protect others, particularly the most vulnerable groups — it seems like a stab in the back from our fellow Americans. Are we “all in this together” or will a greater divide emerge between Americans who view attending a crowded bar as their “constitutional right” and the large swaths of Americans who are perhaps more health-conscious and more eager to take the recommended measures to protect the public health? We’re heading toward our new normal. But, as we learned over the weekend, how people are approaching this new phase of reopening will differ drastically across the country.