Apr 10, 2020 - Health

Easter poses major social distancing test

Coronavirus and Easter

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This Sunday will be America's biggest test yet for whether people can social distance long enough to flatten the coronavirus curve.

Why it matters: Glimmers of hope in New York and San Francisco aren't a license to mingle. For many families, the holiday could pit relative against relative over how seriously to take social distancing on one of the biggest family gathering days of the year.

The big picture: Thousands of Americans died from coronavirus this week, and New York has more cases than every country outside the U.S.

  • The city's first wave of infections appears to be flattening, and the nightmare scenarios have yet to play out in the U.S.
  • But lifting the lockdown "after just 30 days will lead to a dramatic infection spike this summer and death tolls that would rival doing nothing," the N.Y. Times reports, citing government projections.
  • Countries previously considered success stories have been forced to impose new lockdowns, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

Easter Sunday is a high-attendance day for Christian churches, and many other families plan gatherings around the secular edition.

  • Pews will be empty this year, and Easter egg hunts will be limited to parents and children.
  • Jewish families felt their own pain earlier this week, sparking a wave of virtual Passover Seders.

Between the lines: Group gatherings, including religious events and family celebrations, appear to be a major contributor to community spread, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

  • Local outbreaks stemmed from joyful celebrations among ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York, a quinceañera in central Nebraska and a 70s-themed party for local politicos at Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, the Washington Post reports.
  • Funerals in Chicago and Georgia have also been identified as the source of major outbreaks.

One indicator people may be keeping their distance: Customers have been buying less food for their family gatherings.

  • A restaurant owner in Rayne, Louisiana said the volume of crawfish sales have dramatically decreased for annual crawfish boils, The Advocate reports. 

The bottom line: Lockdowns won't lift "until we know this country is going to be healthy," President Trump said today.

  • "We don’t want to go back and start doing it over again, even though it would be in a smaller scale.” 
Go deeper