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Groups won't be allowed to place flags at Calverton National Cemetery

Staff Sgt. Charles Nassar of the Army National

Staff Sgt. Charles Nassar of the Army National Guard salutes the grave of a soldier at Calverton National Cemetery on May 29, 2017. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Calverton National Cemetery is suspending its tradition of allowing groups to place American flags at grave sites for Memorial Day because of the health risks posed by the coronavirus, officials said Monday.

The tradition began in 1995. The activity is a popular among community organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and many veterans’ groups. Last year, flags were placed at the cemetery’s 225,000 graves, Newsday previously reported.

Officials with the National Cemetery Administration, or NCA, representing the Calverton cemetery, said in a statement:

“NCA will not host any public Memorial Day events or ceremonies — including group placement of flags next to grave sites,” the statement read. “Traditionally these events are well attended and supported by the community. Unfortunately, hosting gatherings of these sizes is not advisable due to concerns about COVID-19.”

The cemetery has remained open for burials and visitations during the pandemic, but visitors are urged to follow social-distancing practices and recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cemetery will be open on Memorial Day weekend. Visitors will be allowed to place flowers or small American flags at their loved one’s grave site, authorities said.

Cemetery officials said other activities will continue there on Memorial Day such as a wreath-laying ceremony. The public is urged to tune in virtually via the Calverton National Cemetery’s livestream on its Facebook site, officials said.

Visitors to the cemetery, on Memorial Day or otherwise, are urged to first use the online National Gravesite locator at https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/ to encourage social distancing.

It was not clear Monday evening what the policy would be at Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn, for Memorial Day weekend.

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