July 4 ‘Salute to America’ kicks off in DC with light crowd

D.C. is the focal point of celebrations for America’s 244th birthday Saturday, with a July 4 celebration featuring a speech from President Trump, flyovers and a fireworks show billed as “the biggest ever.”

Despite warnings from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to stay home during the holiday to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the National Mall opened for visitors and U.S. Park Police had 300,000 masks on hand for the event. More than 100 hand washing stations were also placed throughout the Mall. The Department of the Interior and National Park Service urged visitors to follow CDC guidelines for gatherings, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

the start of the flyover and less than four hours before the fireworks show — crowds were small on the Mall. Duffy said the largest crowd was gathered around the Lincoln Memorial and consisted of “several dozen or so.” Half the crowd appeared to be wearing masks, according to Duffy.

“I was definitely expecting to see some more people just because of the other events I’ve been to down here before,” Arlington resident William Klein who attended the event, said just before 6 p.m. “But it is early, so maybe they’ll be more later on.”

Klein compared the crowd at that point to that of an average Saturday or Sunday crowd on the Mall.

But Duffy reported one of the free masks stations that opened early in the afternoon had given out eight boxes of masks by around 4:15 p.m.

Among those gathered on the Mall early in the afternoon, Duffy spoke with people who traveled from Alabama, Tennessee and from as far as California for the event.

“If that virus is going to take me, it’s going to take me,” a visitor from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, told Duffy. “We’re taking all of our precautions, but I’m just here with my lady staying away from everybody just following the protocols.”

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