Covid-19 surges in 37 US states, Florida hits record 10,000 cases

Volunteers distribute test kits to residents living in Covid-19 zones on Wednesday in Miami. (AP pic)

FLORIDA: More than three dozen US states were seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases, according to a Reuters analysis on Thursday, the latest grim sign that the coronavirus pandemic, once thought to be waning, was again spreading rapidly.

Florida, among the states hardest hit by the June surge, reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, its largest spike so far.

California, another epicentre of the new outbreak, saw positive tests climb 37% with hospitalisations up 56% over the past two weeks.

New infections were rising in 37 out of 50 US states in the past 14 days compared with the two weeks prior in early June, according to a Reuters analysis.

The US has now reported more than 128,000 coronavirus-related deaths, nearly a quarter of the known global total.

The wave of new cases has many governors halting or back-pedalling on plans to reopen their states after months of strict lockdowns, closing beaches and cancelling fireworks displays over the upcoming US Independence Day weekend.

“We are not out of this crisis. We are still in the first wave of this crisis. It requires some level of personal responsibility,” California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said at a daily briefing on the pandemic.

In Texas, another state with an alarming acceleration in cases, Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday issued a statewide order that face masks must be worn in public in counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases.

Earlier on Thursday, Kansas joined several other states requiring face coverings after 46.1% spike in infections there last week.

The sweeping business shut-downs earlier in the pandemic devastated the US economy and threw millions of Americans out of work, leaving governors reluctant to take such draconian steps again, even if the lifting of restrictions may have touched off the new outbreak.

A US Labor Department report out Thursday showed the reopenings had a dramatic impact on hiring, with the US creating jobs at a record pace in June. Employment remains 14.7 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.

“Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back,” US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House, while calling his administration’s efforts to beat back the virus as “a historic thing”.

Biden slams trump

But the latest batch of high-frequency data assembled by Federal Reserve officials, economists and private sector companies suggests economic activity stalled in recent days as officials ordered new clampdowns.

“More than ever, we’re concerned about the worsening health situation and its impact on the burgeoning recovery. Rebounding mobility and poor use of protective equipment will make for a dangerous summer cocktail,” Oxford Economics analyst Gregory Daco wrote.

A strong economy is a key plank in Trump’s reelection campaign. Joe Biden, his expected Democratic opponent, slammed Trump’s comments on Thursday.

“Quit claiming victory with almost 15 million Americans still out of work because of the crisis. Quit ignoring the reality of this pandemic and the horrifying loss of American life,” Biden said in a speech.

“Act. Lead. Or get out of the way so others can, Mr President.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who attended a Trump rally last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been hospitalised with Covid-19, according to his Twitter account. The statement did not say where he was infected.

Eight members of the campaign’s staff who were in Tulsa for the June 20 rally have also tested positive.

Asked if the White House regretted encouraging states to reopen quickly, and if the move had backfired, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “Absolutely not … there is a safe way to reopen the economy and we are going to do that carefully.”

US Vice-President Mike Pence was in Florida on Thursday, where he met with Governor Ron DeSantis and expressed support for the governor’s “prudent steps” to slow the spread of the virus.

Earlier, Pence said he and Trump supported decisions to pause reopenings, but added that he saw no need for a national mandate for face coverings.

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