Vets return to Memorial Day traditions as pandemic eases

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This holiday weekend will feel something closer to Memorial Days of old, as COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted in many places.

“This Memorial Day almost has a different, better feeling to it,” said Craig DeOld, a 50-year-old retired captain in the Army Reserve, as he took a breather from his flag duties at the Fairview Cemetery earlier this week. “We’re breathing a sigh of relief that we’ve overcome another struggle, but we’re also now able to return to what this holiday is all about — remembering our fallen comrades.”

Around the nation, Americans will be able to pay tribute to fallen troops in ways that were impossible last year, when virus restrictions were in effect in many places. It will also be a time to remember the tens of thousands of veterans who died from COVID-19 and recommit to vaccinating those who remain reluctant.

More states are lifting COVID-19 restrictions amid rising vaccination rates and falling caseloads. Massachusetts lifted its facemask requirement Saturday, a day after New Jersey, while New York City and Chicago reopened public beaches. Officials celebrated the relaxed rules, even as they urged unvaccinated Americans to get immunized.

In other developments today:

  • Vietnam has discovered a new coronavirus variant that’s a hybrid of strains first found in India and the U.K., the Vietnamese health minister said.
  • Thousands of people, masked and tested for the coronavirus, packed inside a Paris arena for a concert as part of a public health experiment to prepare France to host big events again.
  • Lebanon’s health authorities have launched a daylong COVID-19 vaccination “marathon” to speed up inoculations around the country, including areas where turnout has so far been low.
  • The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou shut down a neighborhood and ordered its residents to stay home for door-to-door coronavirus testing following an upsurge in infections that has rattled authorities.