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Distant Memorial Day events as Georgians fill beaches, parks
memorial day

ATLANTA — It was a Memorial Day for distant ceremonies in Georgia, even as officials worked to contain crowds at parks and beaches amid concerns about the further spread of the coronavirus.

The Georgia Army National Guard continued a recent string of honorary flyovers with two featuring UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, one in metro Atlanta and one in coastal and southwest Georgia. The formations hovered over sites with military significance as well as large hospitals that have been treating people with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

"We will pause for a few moments this day to recognize the sacrifice of our service members and our families," Maj. Gen. Tom Carden said. "It is part of our culture to remember and to honor, and it is going to take more than a global pandemic to change that part of us."

Other ceremonies shifted online. In Augusta, the Military Order of World Wars created a video to honor those who lost their lives in war instead of hosting a ceremony downtown.

"On Memorial Day, we remember those who gave their lives, and it's very, very important for the families, and for military personnel to remember those who did lose their lives, and protecting our country," said David Titus of the Military Order of World Wars.

Other places including St. Simons Island, Dunwoody, Woodstock and the Andersonville National Historic Site in southwest Georgia also held online events.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose past 43,000 Monday, with the number of confirmed deaths reported at 1,830. 

Among the recent deaths was a 34-year-old Guatemalan detainee who is the second person reported to have died from the virus while in federal immigration custody. Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, who died Sunday, had been awaiting his voluntary departure to his native country, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a news release.

Baten-Oxlaj had been held inside Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, where at least 16 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19, according to ICE.

Over the holiday weekend, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources continued to report that it was limiting entrance at some state parks to reduce crowding and possible disease transmission. Local parks and beaches also reported a crowded weekend.

The throngs had fallen slightly at Tybee Island, where bumper-to-bumper traffic was reported entering the island for the long weekend. WTOC-TV reports 11,000 cars entered the island Friday, and more than 13,000 on Saturday. Some drivers reported spending an hour trying to find a spot.

"I've never seen crowds like this. Cars like this, too. All the way up the street," said Alex McCarthy, who was visiting the island.

The Georgia State Patrol said troopers asked some drivers who parked on private property to move and were patrolling for drunken drivers.

"We want them to have a good time, but just don't drink and drive. Just get a designated driver," Georgia State Patrol Capt. Thornell King said. 

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