CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, but the coronavirus pandemic has made this year very different.
The holiday comes as restrictions are being eased across the country, with businesses reopening, a lot of people are using the holiday as an excuse to get back out for the first time in months.
Top health officials insist that social distancing is still necessary to stop the spread of the virus but across the country there were major crowds.
A medical conference was held this past weekend at the Embassy Suites on Tryon Street. Pictures sent to WCNC Charlotte show people sitting close together in the lobby.
“They had a lot of different speakers and addressed a lot of different topics, some of them went into COVID-19,” says Rhonda Humphries.
Humphries drove up from Florida with her two kids to attend.
The manager of the hotel, Kevin Plucker, sent this statement to WCNC Charlotte:
“We were in constant touch with this professional organization about changing COVID guidelines leading up to their arrival, yet they still chose to have their group meeting and agreed to the terms about number of people allowed in each room. On Saturday, when it became clear their attendees were not respecting social distancing requirements, we called CMPD to help us enforce it, which they did. The safety of all hotel guests is always our priority, even more so during the COVID-19 crisis.”
But Humphries says she has no regrets.
“They moved the whole operation out to the lobby where everyone could stay apart if they wanted to be distant and feel safe," Humphries said. "So, we as a family sat together but we were far enough away from anyone else and if you chose to social distance you could and if you didn't want to you didn't have to."
Meanwhile, pools and beaches in the Carolinas were jam-packed with people.
In Elon, it looked like a "normal" race day at Ace Speedway. The stands were full, and many people were not wearing masks. There was hand sanitizer and signs reminding people to follow basic health precautions and the owner of the track says he followed the CDC guidelines.
It was a gloomy day in Charlotte, and breweries, which were able to reopen in Phase 2, saw an uptick in business.
“People seem to be keeping a distance. Everyone inside has masks on and they have gloves on and hand sanitizer. I think they’re doing everything they can while staying open,” says Alyssa Ackerman, who was sitting outside at Suffolk Punch. “It's been really nice to just be outside and see other people."
It's been over two months since restaurants and bars had to shut down.
“We’re doing it safely, but still having a good time," says Kyle Monroe. "It’s a great stress reliever."
For the first time in 20 years, AAA did not put out a holiday weekend travel forecast, predicting an all-time low for Memorial Day travel because of coronavirus.
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