Vice President Mike Pence penned an opinion editorial for Fox News to commemorate Memorial Day, writing that Americans have begun to “reclaim” their “freedom” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as states and municipalities reopen.
“From the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the American people have made great personal sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our nation,” the vice president wrote. “In a very real sense, the American people have been willing to voluntarily forfeit aspects of their personal freedom to protect the lives and safety of their family, their neighbors and people they’d never met.”
Pence noted that all 50 states have begun to reopen their economies and lift stringent lockdown measures put in place to curb the rapid spread of the novel virus.
“Even while continuing the practices that will keep our families and communities safe, we are going back to our places of work and worship. We are venturing out to stores, restaurants and the great outdoors,” he wrote. “After going without what we once took for granted for so long, we are beginning to reclaim our freedom, which may be what makes this Memorial Day that much more special.”
The vice president highlighted how Memorial Day began in the wake of the American Civil War, and has continued to the present day to honor the soldiers who have fought and died for the U.S.
“Their duty was to serve; our duty is to remember, and as our nation begins to safely and responsibly reclaim the freedoms at the heart of our way of life, let us all do our duty this day to remember and honor the memory of all who served and died for our country and our freedom,” he wrote.
Public health officials have urged Americans to remain vigilant and cautious as the country begins to reopen. Speaking to ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, reiterated that public gatherings should still remain small and people should follow social distancing guidelines in order to prevent future surges of COVID-19 infections.
“We’ve learned a lot about this virus, but we now need to translate that learning into real change behavior that stays with us so we can continue to drive down the number of cases,” Birx said. “This only works if we all follow the guidelines and protect one another.”
She also asserted that “we really made it clear that during this reopening social gatherings should not be more than 10 people, even if they’re outside.”
But many have raised concerns at images of crowded beaches in California, Florida and other parts of the country as Americans have gone out to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend. In Missouri, John Olivarri, the mayor of Osage Beach, expressed concern after videos of a crowded pool party by the Lake of the Ozarks circulated on social media.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has repeatedly urged the country to reopen quickly, despite concerns from doctors and public health experts.
“TRANSITION TO GREATNESS! Get ready, it is already happening again!,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.
Newsweek has reached out to the White House for further comment on this story.