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How Texans celebrated July Fourth during the coronavirus pandemic

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People watch a fireworks display from the parking lot of Church of the Springs in Dripping Springs. Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

If Memorial Day unofficially signals the start of summer in Texas, the Fourth of July confirms that it's here for the long haul. For many Texans, both holidays are about getting outside — hitting the beaches, going to parks, barbecuing, swimming — and on Independence Day, taking in a fireworks show and maybe setting a few off themselves.

But this Fourth of July was like no other. COVID-19 is surging across the state, and not just in the cities. Memorial Day weekend is now widely seen as a turning point, when people flocked to newly reopened bars and other businesses after the state had seemed to escape the worst of the pandemic’s early weeks.

Just over a month later, Texas is setting new records for new cases and hospitalizations nearly every day as hospitals across the state signal that they're straining or surpassing their capacity.

Four Texas Tribune photographers went out this July 4 to see how Texans are adapting to the news of soaring cases and the return of some restrictions — including a nearly statewide mask requirement — as the state struggles to balance the health of its citizens and a reeling economy. Here's a look at what they found.

Residents drive by a decorated house during the Allandale neighborhood’s reverse parade for the Fourth of July in Austin. The neighborhood decorated houses and invited neighbors to walk, bike or drive by to celebrate the holiday at a distance.

Residents drive by a decorated house during the Allandale neighborhood’s reverse parade for the Fourth of July in Austin. The neighborhood decorated houses and invited neighbors to walk, bike or drive by to celebrate the holiday at a distance. Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune

Rebecca Whittaker-Enzinger reads along with others at the annual Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Nueces County Court House in Corpus Christi.
Rebecca Whittaker-Enzinger reads along with others at the annual Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Nueces County Court House in Corpus Christi. Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

Jon West takes a photo of his daughter Emma, 5 at the annual Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Nueces County Court House in Corpus Christi.
Jon West takes a photo of his daughter Emma, 5 at the annual Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Nueces County Court House in Corpus Christi. Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

First: Rebecca Whittaker-Enzinger attends the annual Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Nueces County Courthouse in Corpus Christi. Last: Jon West takes a photo of his daughter Emma, 5, as the Declaration of Independence is read.

Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

Guests visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels.

Guests visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels. Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

North Padre Island beaches were closed to vehicular traffic July 4, but people still visited Padre Balli Park in Corpus Christi.

North Padre Island beaches were closed to vehicular traffic July 4, but people still visited Padre Balli Park in Corpus Christi. Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

Neighbors in East Austin have gotten together for over 100 days to chat, sing and dance.
Neighbors in East Austin have gotten together for over 100 days to chat, sing and dance. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Patriotic bunting lines a closed playground in the Lost Creek neighborhood of West Austin on July 4, 2020.
Patriotic bunting lines a closed playground in the Lost Creek neighborhood of West Austin on July 4, 2020. Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

First: Neighbors in East Austin gathered July 4 to chat, sing and dance. They've hosted socially distanced events for more than 100 days. Last: Patriotic bunting lines a closed playground in the Lost Creek neighborhood in West Austin.

Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune | Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

Families interact with a miniature horse at a decorated house as part of Allandale Neighborhoodís Reverse Parade for the Fourth of July on Saturday, July 4, 2020 in Austin. The neighborhood decorated houses and invited neighbors to walk, bike or drive by to celebrate the holiday at a social distance.
Families interact with a miniature horse at a decorated house as part of Allandale Neighborhoodís Reverse Parade for the Fourth of July on Saturday, July 4, 2020 in Austin. The neighborhood decorated houses and invited neighbors to walk, bike or drive by to celebrate the holiday at a social distance. Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune

A family tours the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi on the Fourth of July.  The aquarium reduced its capacity to no more than 25% on Friday; all visitors are required to wear masks.
A family tours the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi on the Fourth of July. The aquarium reduced its capacity to no more than 25% on Friday; all visitors are required to wear masks. Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

First: People interact with a miniature horse at a decorated house that's part of the Allandale neighborhood's Fourth of July event in Austin. Last: Visitors tour the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. The aquarium reduced its occupancy Friday to no more than 25%, and visitors are required to wear masks.

Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune | Eddie Seal for The The Texas Tribune

People stand in a socially-distanced line to buy fireworks at a fireworks stand in Buda on the Fourth of July.
People stand in a socially-distanced line to buy fireworks at a fireworks stand in Buda on the Fourth of July. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Families attend a fireworks show at Doc’s Drive-in Theatre in Buda to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. July 4, 2020.
Families attend a fireworks show at Doc’s Drive-in Theatre in Buda to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. July 4, 2020. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

First: People practice social distancing while waiting in line to buy fireworks at a stand in Buda. Last: People attend a fireworks show at Doc’s Drive In Theatre in Buda to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Boaters were out July 4 on Lady Bird Lake in Austin.

Boaters were out July 4 on Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

Two men kayak at Lady Bird Lake on Saturday, July 4, 2020 in Austin.
Two men kayak at Lady Bird Lake on Saturday, July 4, 2020 in Austin. Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune

Tubing in New Braunfels, TX on July 4, 2020.
Tubing in New Braunfels, TX on July 4, 2020. Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

First: Two men kayak on Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Last: People go tubing in New Braunfels.

Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune | Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

People attend a fireworks show at Doc’s Drive In Theatre in Buda to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.

People attend a fireworks show at Doc’s Drive In Theatre in Buda to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune