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Rising cases, protests dampen US festivities

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-06 09:24

Attendees wait for US President Donald Trump to speak at the Independence Day celebrations at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, on Saturday. [TOM BRENNER/REUTERS]

Trump's Independence Day speech targets 'anarchists, agitators, looters'

WASHINGTON-United States President Donald Trump made an Independence Day speech from the White House on Saturday touting his country's "remarkable progress" in containing the COVID-19, despite a nationwide rise in cases.

Amid strong criticism of his handling of the pandemic, Trump said "99 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States were totally harmless", without giving evidence. In fact, many US states marked a record number of new cases over the weekend.

The US has the world's highest number of novel coronavirus deaths and infections, more than 2.8 million people having contracted the virus, with nearly 130,000 deaths. On Saturday, there were more than 45,300 new cases in the country, Johns Hopkins University said.

According to media reports, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr's girlfriend, had tested positive for coronavirus. She was reportedly tested in South Dakota before she was due to attend the Independence Day event.

The US has been marking the 244th anniversary of its independence against the backdrop of the pandemic, an economic downturn and a nationwide call for racial justice.

Much of the country canceled or scaled back traditional celebrations and events for the weekend as health experts warned US citizens to avoid large crowds as the country experiences a significant surge in infections.

Trump, under attack for his handling of the pandemic, insisted that the rise in cases is a result of expanded testing, a claim the White House's own public health experts have rejected.

"We've made a lot of progress. Our strategy is moving along well," Trump said in his speech.

But Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, said last week that the US was "not in total control" of the pandemic and warned that the situation "could get very bad" if the country fails to get the surge of cases under control.

'10 to 24 times' higher

A recent report said the severity of the outbreak in the US was greatly underestimated, health experts saying the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was likely to be"10 to 24 times" higher than figures suggest, because of the rapid resumption of economic activity across the country and the failure of many people to follow containment and quarantine measures.

In his speech Trump lambasted the "radical left" and US news media over the removal of controversial monuments following the killing by of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a death that provoked a national outcry against racial injustice and police brutality.

"We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing," Trump said, while criticizing US media outlets, saying they "falsely and consistently label their opponents as racists".

Tackling the divisive issue with a divisive speech, the president was trying to energize his conservative base four months before the general elections, analysts said.

Trump visited Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday with the same focus, accusing "angry mobs" of waging "a merciless campaign" to wipe out US history, and he pledged to establish a "National Garden of American Heroes" that will feature statues of "the greatest Americans to ever live".

However, protests against racial injustice continued across the country. Protesters held rallies, marches and sit-ins in Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and more than a dozen other cities and towns on Saturday, USA Today reported.

After Trump's July Fourth address, some protesters burned a US flag outside Lafayette Square near the White House in protest against racial injustice, local media reported. As the flag burned, protesters chanted "Slavery, genocide and war" and "America was never great".

In Baltimore a group of protesters tore down a statue of the explorer Christopher Columbus and threw it into the water on Saturday night.

"Over the past months the American spirit has undoubtedly been tested by many challenges," Trump said in his Independence Day speech.

Xinhua - Agencies

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