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Spectators ignore social distancing guidelines to watch Thunderbirds and Blue Angels flyover

Blue Angels & Thunderbirds salute essential workers
Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds give salute in the sky for essential workers 02:15

Military flyovers meant to honor health care workers and unify Americans during the coronavirus pandemic may have united people just a little too closely on Tuesday. Crowds in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania flocked outside to watch the show put on by the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds and Navy's Blue Angels. Some people stuck to social distancing guidelines — but others did not.

Photos and videos taken from various vantage points show people failing to stay six feet apart from one another, and some spectators were seen without masks. It is now required in New York that people wear a mask or other facial covering when social distancing isn't possible.

Blue Angels And Thunderbirds Do Flying Tribute To NYC COVID-19 Frontline Workers
Crowds arrive at the Brooklyn Promenade to watch the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds honor first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic by flying over New York City on April 28, 2020. Getty

Many felt the flyover display, although patriotic and uplifting, invited people to gather together to watch, defeating the purpose of social distancing guidelines. Some posted their thoughts on social media. 

"So am I wrong to be concerned about crowds gathering in Manhattan to watch a flyover?" wrote author Michele  W. Miller, who posted a video of people standing along the west side of Manhattan. 

"Sending Thunderbirds to the densest city in America is a great way to enforce social distancing," tweeted New York-based journalist Collier Meyerson, sharing a photo of group of people on a street corner.

"Very cool Blue Angels / Thunderbirds flyover, but, A) social distancing was ignored as people crowded sidewalks to watch, and B) at $60k per squadron per hour, probs could have found better practical use for that money mid-Pandemic than a symbolic tribute," wrote Dr. Nikhil Waingankar, who shared photos of medical staff watching the event. 

Numerous photos published by Getty Images show people crowding New York City waterfronts, hoping to catch a good view of the flyover.

People gather to watch the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds jets fly over New York to salute coronavirus health care workers, first responders and other essential workers on April 28, 2020, in New York City. Getty

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds also flew over Philadelphia, where residents were urged to watch the display from their homes. Some did not heed those warnings and did not remain a safe distance apart, CBS Philly reports.

City officials in Philadelphia had already criticized social distancing offenders after crowds of people flocked outside to enjoy the weekend. "It's deeply disappointing to see Philadelphians out socially and recreationally and not adhering to the city and state's social distancing guidelines," a city spokesperson said in a statement to CBS Philly on Saturday. "We understand it will get increasingly difficult as the weather improves, but we're at a critical period of this crisis."

While some people stood too close during the flyover, many others were able to see the flyover from their own backyards or kept a safe distance from others and wore masks. The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels were widely praised online for their salute to those helping fight the coronavirus pandemic.

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