By Peter Szekely
NEW YORK (Reuters) – With half the country at least partially protected from the coronavirus, Americans came out of their pandemic slumber during a three-day holiday weekend that traditionally sparks the hunger to travel on the threshold of summer.
But Memorial Day, which falls on Monday, is also a solemn occasion to remember the country’s dead in wars, and many of this year’s military ceremonies continue to be held virtually.
The biggest commemoration, the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, which was presented entirely online last year as the virus raged, is returning to normal this year with a mix of face-to-face and virtual events, according to organizers.
Instead of a traditional parade on Constitution Avenue in front of 100,000 spectators, the march was filmed on May 3 in Washington without spectators and will be mixed with other performances recorded on a television special.
“We hope to get back to normal next year,” said Kenny Cunningham, spokesman for the Veterans Center of America.
A year after Memorial Day weekend travel was depressed by fears of the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, it is projected to increase 60%, with 37 million people moving to 80 kilometers or more from home, AAA Travel reported.
The 2021 total, which is still 13% lower than 2019, includes 34.4 million people traveling in cars, AAA said.
As of Sunday, 50.5% of Americans had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus cases has plummeted, from a seven-day average of more than 250,000 a day in early January to about 18,900 on Saturday, the lowest number since March 2020, according to the CDC.
Air travel is making a comeback as well, with nearly 1.96 million people passing through US airports on Friday, the most since March 7, 2020, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration.
(Report by Peter Szekely in New York; additional report by Barbara Goldberg; Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)