The 4th of July is the country’s most popular grilling day, and Americans aren’t letting the coronavirus pandemic interfere with their plans to barbecue.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans will attend or host a cookout this upcoming holiday weekend. This is up from 44% who grilled during the Father's Day weekend, but significantly lower than the 68% that typically grill on the 4th of July, according to Bank of America’s BBQ tracker. In comparison to other summer holidays, the 4th of July weekend generates the highest retail dollar spend for food and beverages during the summer
Bank of America surveyed 1,038 people on their food and beverage consumption plans ahead of the major grilling holidays — Memorial Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.
Families prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, which falls on a Saturday this year, as the virus continues to ravage the United States, where at least 126,000 people have died. As of late Thursday afternoon, the U.S. reported a record-setting 55,000 new coronavirus cases. The governor of Texas, one of the hardest hit states, reversed course and announced that masks would be required in any county with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases.
Of course, many of these 4th of July celebrations are happening outside, where air currents do minimize transmission.
“Even outdoors, however, it's important to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet and wear a mask, to reduce risk even further,” warn researchers at Harvard.
That’s why officials across cities like Los Angeles, Miami and San Antonio have shut down beaches and parks ahead of this weekend as people are tempted to socialize in groups.
Indeed, despite the data that shows the pandemic is as dire as ever, Americans are gathering in larger crowds, as many cities and states had started to loosen shelter-in-place orders and allow businesses to reopen. Thirty-two percent of consumers intending to celebrate the 4th of July holiday plan to do so with 10 to 25 people, compared to 30% during Father's Day and 24% during the Memorial Day weekend, according to Bank of America.
The aftermath of Memorial Day weekend should be a warning of the spike that is likely to come. Hospitalizations in at least nine states were up after the holiday weekend at the end of May as people couldn’t handle staying cooped up any longer.
“In our view, consumers are using warmer weather/more permissible outdoor social distancing as rationale to congregate in larger groups; however we question how prevalent this will be if cases continue to rise dramatically over the next few days...we expect a potential backslide in consumer activity as a result of rising COVID-19 outbreaks in several major U.S. states including Florida, Texas, California, Arizona and Georgia,” wrote analysts at Bank of America.
Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.