The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed day-to-day life for many people, but not as much as some experts had hoped. All week, photos have shown people continuing to gather in large groups in public spaces, including the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. People turned out in huge numbers to see the cherry blossoms bloom this weekend.
Photos from the Tidal Basin in the nation's capitol this weekend caused mass outrage on Twitter. The partially man-made reservoir is one of the most iconic sights in Washington, D.C. It is the sight of the National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring, though many of the festival's events were canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. That did not stop people from visiting, however.
I know peak bloom is beautiful and the weather couldn’t be any nicer, but can’t help thinking about social distancing when looking at these crowds. Let’s be safe!! #CherryBlossoms #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/EnkCeuW78l— Josh Rosenthal (@JoshRosenthalTV) March 20, 2020
The basin is the home of lovely Japanese cherry blossom trees, given as a gift to the city of Washington, D.C. They were transplanted in 1912 at the order of Tokyo City Mayor Yukio Ozaki, as a gesture of friendship between the U.S. and Japan.
The trees bloom together each spring, making for a magnificent sight in the city. This year, experts had hoped that most people would avoid the scene as a part of the ongoing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. That was not the case. Here is what Twitter has to say about the large crowds at the Washington, D.C. Tidal Basin this weekend.
EVERYONE. GO. THE FUCK. HOME. https://t.co/t835rg6uzB— Lee 🐣 Carter (@carterforva) March 21, 2020
Much of the response to photos of the Tidal Basin this weekend amounted to emphatic requests for the people there to "GO. THE F—. HOME." Many users wondered how the people there could possible walk into such a dense crowd without fearing for their health and safety at this point.
National Park Service's Statement
NEW: The @NatlParkService will not close the Tidal Basin in DC, despite the large crowds out to see the #CherryBlossoms. Full statement from National Mall and Memorial Parks Chief of Communications Mike Litterst: pic.twitter.com/RXaAGhsFIl— Josh Rosenthal (@JoshRosenthalTV) March 21, 2020
After the outrage mounted, the National Park Service did issue a statement on the large crowds at the Tidal Basin. They noted that "it is impractical to close" the site altogether, but that "the crowds are significantly smaller than in previous yeras."
"We ask people to consider this carefully as they contemplate a visit and to act responsibly with regards to CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Slowing the spread of novel coronavirus is everyone's responsibility," the statement concluded.
Photos posted throughout the weekend showed the large crowds around the reservoir from different angles. At certain vantage points, it was clear how full the area was.
Seen From a Distance
I just couldn’t miss the cherry blossoms this year...so hubby drove us around D.C. to take it all in. Thought you may want to enjoy the beauty too! ❤️🌸 #CherryBlossoms #DC #SocialDistancing pic.twitter.com/Dx2XYLBFJ1— Whitney Mrozinski (@wmwwheels) March 21, 2020
Some people did their best to maintain proper social distancing while still visiting the cherry blossoms this year. One popular technique was to view them through the window of a moving car on a slow Saturday drive.
Seriously, don't wait--the blooms won't look this good tomorrow after tonight's rain pic.twitter.com/orLEuaCnzG— SimonGeo98 (@SimonGeo98) March 20, 2020
Some people visiting the basin gave a different view, saying that they had made it out without really encountering large crowds. They felt that they were still practicing social distancing, as experts say fresh air and exercise are helpful where you can get them. According to a report by USA Today, they recommend doing outdoor activities only in places where you can remain 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds of 10 people or more.
Other users wrote that they were simply bending over backwards to maintain their 6-foot distance between other people at the Tidal Basin. However, detractors noted that this is just a guideline, and not a magic number.
Finally, some shared photos of the cherry blossoms blooming in years past, since they could not visit the basin this year. They took comfort in the cyclical nature of the seasons, looking forward to next year's festival.
For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.