New daily coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 50,000 for the first time Wednesday, with some states ordering pubic venues closed to halt the spread.
The run-up in confirmed cases has been blamed in part on what’s been called “knucklehead behavior” by Americans not wearing masks or obeying social-distancing rules as economies reopened from coast to coast over the past two months.
Restaurants, bars and beaches in the world’s worst-hit nation closed from California to Florida, as states reeling from yet another surge in the deadly virus braced for Independence Day festivities.
With more than 52,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States alone in the past 24 hours, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, several US states imposed 14-day quarantines on visitors in the buildup to the long weekend’s July 4 celebrations.
California suspended indoor dining at restaurants in Los Angeles and several counties, while New York scrapped plans to allow restaurants to seat customers inside from next week.
Despite the resurgence of coronavirus across the US, President Donald Trump spoke Wednesday about the virus as if it were a nuisance he hopes will eventually just go away.
“I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus,” he said in an interview with Fox Business. “I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”
But the US leader, who has yet to be seen in public wearing a face mask during the pandemic, added he would have “no problem” doing so.
Spikes across southern and western states are driving a surge in national infections.
Texas, which again smashed its daily COVID-19 record with over 8,000 new cases, joined Florida and California in closing some beaches for the upcoming holiday weekend.
Apple announced it would close another 30 US stores on Thursday, half of them in California.
A further 700 deaths nationwide took the US past 128,000 deaths in total.
“The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in dramatically expanding the round of closings he announced over the weekend.
The shutdown announcement applies to 19 counties encompassing nearly three-quarters of California’s 40 million people, including Los Angeles County.
Confirmed cases in California have increased nearly 50% over the past two weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up 43%. Newsom reported nearly 5,900 new cases and 110 more deaths in 24 hours.
With one of the biggest weekends of the summer approaching, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to wear face coverings at the beach, though not in the water.
Meanwhile, a masked Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to Arizona, where cases have spiked since stay-at-home orders expired in mid-May. The state reported record single-day highs for new cases (almost 4,900), deaths (88), ER visits (close to 1,300) and the number of people in the hospital (nearly 2,900).
In Florida, the biggest hospital in the hardest-hit county, Miami’s Jackson Health System, scaled back elective surgeries and other procedures as it and others around the state braced for an influx of victims.
Florida recorded more than 6,500 new cases — down from around 9,000 on some days last week, but still alarming — and a running total of over 3,500 deaths. Counties in South Florida are closing beaches to fend off large July Fourth crowds that could spread the virus.
“Too many people were crowding into restaurants late at night, turning these establishments into breeding grounds for this deadly virus,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in forbidding restaurants with seating for more than eight people from serving customers inside from midnight to 6 a.m.
Louisiana saw its biggest daily spike since April, reporting 2,100 new cases in 24 hours. Georgia set a new daily record with nearly 3,000 new cases. T
Marilyn Rauth, a senior citizen in Punta Gorda, said Florida’s reopening was “too much too soon” and blamed Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“The sad thing is the COVID spread will probably go on for some time, though we could have flattened the curve with responsible leadership,” she said. “Experience now has shown most people won’t social distance at beaches, bars, etc. The governor evidently has no concern for the health of the state’s citizens.”
The soaring numbers across the Sunbelt have raised fears that many other states could see the same phenomenon if they reopen too, and that people from the South and West could spread the virus to other regions.
Some distant states and cities that seemed to have tamed their outbreaks, including Colorado, Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey, hit pause or backtracked on some of their reopening plans for bars and restaurants as they watched the crisis unfold from afar.
Also, New York and New Jersey are asking visitors from 16 states from the Carolinas to California to quarantine themselves for two weeks.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is delaying its resumption of indoor dining at restaurants, and not because of any rise in cases there.
“Even a week ago, honestly, I was hopeful we could. But the news we have gotten from around the country gets worse and worse all the time,” he said.
The number of confirmed cases in the US per day has roughly doubled over the past month, hitting 44,800 on Tuesday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. That is higher even than what the nation witnessed during the deadliest stretch of the crisis in mid-April through early May.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, warned on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that the rise across the South and West “puts the entire country at risk” and that new infections could reach 100,000 a day if people don’t start listening to public health authorities.
The virus in the US is blamed for more than 2.6 million confirmed cases and over 127,000 deaths, the highest toll in the world, by Johns Hopkins’ count. Worldwide, the number of infections is put at more than 10.6 million, with over a half-million deaths.
The real numbers in the US and globally are believed to be significantly higher, in part because of limited testing and mild cases that have gone unrecorded.
The number of deaths per day in the US has continued to drop over the past week and is down to an average of about 550, compared with a peak of around 2,200 a day in mid-April, according to an Associated Press analysis.
But experts note that deaths are a lagging indicator — it takes time for people to get sick and die — and they warn that the trend could reverse itself.
As global infections have hit their highest level in the past week, according to World Health Organization data, the European Union left the United States, Brazil and Russia off its final list of nations safe enough to allow residents to enter its borders.
The Pan American Health Organization warned that the death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean could quadruple to more than 400,000 by October without stricter public health measures.
The US government announced this week it had bought 92 percent of all remdesivir production — the first drug to be shown to be relatively effective in treating COVID-19.
Britain and Germany, however, said Wednesday they had sufficient stocks of the drug.