‘Alarming’: Los Angeles records 2,903 new cases in record spike

A truck stops in front of a bar in Los Angeles on June 29. California ordered bars to close on Sunday. (AP pic)

LOS ANGELES: Los Angeles County recorded an “alarming” one-day record spike of 2,903 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, public health officials said, warning that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed, while several US states hit the brakes on reopening.

Los Angeles and neighbouring counties have become a new epicentre in the pandemic as coronavirus cases and hospitalisations have surged there despite California Governor Gavin Newsom’s strict order last week requiring masks in nearly all public spaces.

“The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalisations signals that we, as a community, need to take immediate action to slow the spread of Covid-19,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County, said in a statement announcing the sharp upswing.

“Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death,” Ferrer said.

Los Angeles County, with a population of 10 million, has recorded 100,000 cases of the coronavirus.

California, which on Sunday ordered bars in Los Angeles and six other counties to close, is among a number of US states including Florida, Texas and Arizona battling a new wave of infections as the nation emerges from weeks of clamp-downs on residents and businesses.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the closure of bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theatres and water parks for at least 30 days.

Ducey also delayed the start of public schools until at least Aug 17.

Vice-President Mike Pence will travel to Phoenix on Wednesday to meet with Ducey about efforts the state is taking to combat the coronavirus, Pence’s office said.

Texas and Florida ordered the closure of all their recently reopened bars on Friday.

New Jersey, Kansas take new steps

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Monday indoor dining will no longer resume on Thursday in the state as planned and would be postponed indefinitely.

In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly imposed a statewide mandate requiring residents to wear masks in public spaces, a move she said was necessary to avoid another shutdown.

Beaches in Florida’s Broward County and Palm Beach County will not open for the July 3-5 holiday weekend, officials said on Sunday, a blow to residents hoping to celebrate Independence Day there on Saturday.

Miami-Dade County had already announced beach closures for the holiday weekend.

AMC, the largest US movie theatre chain, on Monday said it was pushing back the reopening of its theatres to July 30 from July 15.

Arizona and Georgia were among states reporting record new cases this week.

Last week, a total of 15 US states reported records, according to a Reuters tally.

In June, 22 US states reported record increases in new cases, often multiple times, including Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah.

Face coverings have become a political issue, with some conservative politicians and many supporters of US President Donald Trump arguing that such mandates are unconstitutional.

The city of Jacksonville, Florida, venue for part of the Republican nominating convention in August, said on Twitter it would be requiring masks for all public locations starting later on Monday.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday that Trump “has no problem with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests”.

Pence on Sunday pressed Americans to adopt face masks during a trip to Texas and wore one himself, a sharp turnaround for the administration.

Other Republican politicians in hard-hit states also are now calling for masks.

The New York Times reported on Monday that 43% of US deaths from Covid-19 were linked to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The paper cited its own tracking database.

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