Trump hosts 4 July event at White House amid Covid-19 spike

US President Donald Trump is hosting an event at the White House to mark 4 July, as the country reels from a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The Independence Day gathering in Washington DC saw military flyovers, fireworks and a speech by Mr Trump.

The guests include hundreds of medics who have been working through the Covid-19 epidemic.

Thousands have gathered outside the White House, despite the city’s mayor highlighting the health risks.

Earlier, Mr Trump said the US was on its way to a “tremendous victory” over the “terrible plague from China”.

His upbeat assessment was at odds with the views of health officials, who have expressed concern about a recent spike in infections in western and southern states.

What’s the latest on the virus in the US?

The US daily tally of coronavirus infections hit a new record of 52,300 on Friday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Florida, where the outbreak is especially acute, recorded 11,458 new confirmed cases on Saturday.

Many 4 July events have been cancelled on public health grounds, with beaches in Florida and California closed, city parades cancelled and firework displays curtailed.

The number of cases is rising in 39 states, and at least five – Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, North Carolina and South Carolina – had single-day case records on Friday, the New York Times reports.

According to Johns Hopkins research, nearly 130,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US – the most of any country – and the US has 2.8 million confirmed cases.

Ahead of Mr Trump’s speech, Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside the White House – the scene of many recent anti-racism demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in police custody.

How is 4 July being marked?

In Washington, the White House has invited hundreds of paramedics, doctors and nurses to the 4 July party, despite the safety concerns of Washington DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser.

“We are giving DC residents the same message about any of their outings for the holiday weekend,” Ms Bowser told reporters. “Ask yourself, ‘Do you need to be there?'”

The fight against the pandemic is a theme of what the White House calls its Independence Day “Salute to America”. Thousands of people are expected to pack nearby streets to watch a military flypast and fireworks.

The US Department of the Interior plans to hand out 300,000 face masks to spectators who gather on the National Mall. They will also be urged to keep 6ft (1.8m) apart.

Joe Biden, the Democratic Party rival to Mr Trump in this year’s presidential election, tweeted that “this Fourth of July, one of the most patriotic things you can do is wear a mask”.

Firework displays are a traditional highlight of 4 July, but an estimated 80% of cities and towns have cancelled their shows.

New York City usually holds an hour-long extravaganza, but this year it was replaced by five-minute displays through the week, organised by Macy’s department store, with a final televised one on Saturday – all at undisclosed locations.

Major League Baseball cancelled its 2020 All-Star Game for the first time since World War Two.

Defying the health warnings, President Trump on Friday addressed a big crowd at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, condemning the “angry mobs” who had toppled statues in anti-racism protests.

The site, with its giant mountain carvings of former US presidents, was chosen to strengthen his claim that US heritage is under attack.

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Two of the presidents whose faces are carved into Mount Rushmore – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – were slave-owners.

Mr Trump, gearing up for a tough re-election battle, accused protesters of waging “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children”.

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BBC News – World

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