The coronavirus may have silenced traditional revelries for the Fourth of July, but officials and others still aim to celebrate the country’s birthday using creativity, technology and safety.
Macy’s, which historically has hosted the country’s biggest pyrotechnic show on Independence Day, will offer “Fireworks — Reimagined,” a display of five-minute bursts of brilliance from a platform floating along the rivers around every borough of New York.
“It will not be like the past, where there’s one big giant show,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, noting that the department store’s display will force residents to maintain social distancing. “We do not want a lot of people out watching. There’s not going to be a single focal point.”
In Philadelphia, officials have migrated their entire weeklong Wawa Welcome America 2020 festival online to skirt the coronavirus.
Michael DelBene, president and CEO of Welcome America, a public-private nonprofit that promotes Philadelphia, said his team realized in the spring that the pandemic would disrupt 10 months of planning, but organizers knew they had to do “something.”
“Philadelphia is such a city of strong tradition that we wanted to make sure that we upheld this 28-year tradition, because July Fourth in Philadelphia is very, very special,” Mr. DelBene said.
Meanwhile, official fireworks displays in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, New Orleans and many other cities have been canceled or altered in ways that prohibit mass gatherings.
Nonetheless, President Trump will be at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday for a fireworks extravaganza, which will be broadcast live on television and the internet.
The Department of the Interior has planned what it is calling the largest fireworks display “in recent memory” in Washington on Saturday, starting at 9:07 p.m.
But Washington’s annual Independence Day concert, “A Capitol Fourth,” will be a virtual affair on Facebook Live and PBS, hosted by John Stamos and Vanessa Williams.
Americans will be left to host their own July Fourth parties, and many are planning to do so in a big way.
“We are struggling to keep products on the shelves, we’re selling so many,” said Alex Ristovski, a manager at Dynamite Fireworks Store in Hammond, Illinois, near Chicago, which was open around the clock to satisfy the demand. “Sales have been big, big time, and without a doubt this is one of our biggest years in recent memory.”
Not everyone is happy with do-it-yourself fireworks displays. Across social media, people are shrilling with outrage over the noise. Boston media reported that complaint calls about fireworks in the first week of June rose to 1,455, compared with 22 last year.
The national party pooper is easy to spot: COVID-19.
“It’s counterintuitive for people to want to go and gather in large groups on the Mall and watch the fireworks when we know that we’re in the midst of this pandemic,” said Dr. Amanda Castel, a professor of epidemiology at George Washington University.
Dr. Castel said Americans should remember that the coronavirus won’t “pause” for their Fourth of July celebrations.
As of Thursday, more than 2.7 million people in the U.S. had contracted the respiratory disease and more than 128,000 have died from it this year, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
The coronavirus is raging across much of the country, and several states have paused or rolled back reopening plans.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, this week shuttered museums, zoos, theaters and indoor dining at restaurants and wineries. The shutdown follows Los Angeles County’s decision to not allow July Fourth beach outings.
COVID-19 also is spreading again in Louisiana, where daily new cases topped 2,000 on July 1. Consequently, the bombs that usually burst in the air over the Mississippi River will not.
“Reimagined” seems to be a theme to what urban celebrations will occur this July Fourth. In Houston, where the orchestra annually plays and the “Freedom Over Texas” fireworks illuminate the sky, the reimagination will feature the band and the firecrackers, but the only viewing will be on television.
Similarly, the Boston Pops will not hold its annual concert near the city’s harbor.
The spate of cancellations has sparked a kind of underground rebellion in the fireworks world, and complaints are pouring in. Social media is replete with people complaining about fireworks from Long Island to California.
Police departments across the country are reporting an increase in celebratory — and illegal — displays. In the last weekend in June, Clark County around Las Vegas fielded almost 2,400 complaints.
A Facebook page called “Omaha NE Fireworks Complaints” has launched, and right away mocked the city for its “‘enforcement’ last year.”
“Public officials only feel the pain if they receive lots of phone calls they have to answer,” the moderators wrote.