HOUSTON / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Five states hit record daily highs for coronavirus cases on Saturday, and Vice President Mike Pence canceled planned campaign events in affected areas when the virus emerged in the southern and western United States. , Stopping economic reopening plans.
The number of confirmed cases of the virus in the United States rose to more than 2.5 million on Saturday, according to a Reuters count. More than 125,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the highest known death toll in any country in the world.
Florida reported 9,585 new infections in the last 24 hours on Saturday morning, a record for a second day, while Arizona reported 3,591 new cases of COVID-19, which match its previous record on Tuesday.
Pence canceled planned events to campaign for President Donald Trump’s re-election next week in Florida and Arizona out of “a great deal of caution,” campaign officials told Reuters.
Meanwhile, Nevada on Saturday revealed 1,099 new cases, double its previous record, while South Carolina and Georgia reported 1,604 and 1,990 new infections, respectively, which also set new daily highs.
The increase in cases has been most pronounced in a handful of southern and western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively, serving as a warning to the potentially illusory nature of any perceived progress in virus control.
For the third day in a row, new cases in the United States increased by more than 40,000 on Saturday. The United States has seen 2.52 million cases since the pandemic began, according to the Reuters count.
Worsening contagion in some parts of the United States has created a split-screen effect, with New York and its northeastern neighboring states, which were most affected initially, reporting declining cases and moving forward with reopening plans.
Kami Kim, director of the University of South Florida Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine, said her state’s leaders claimed victory too soon after the blockades were lifted in early May, while issuing conflicting messages. on facial covers by not wearing masks. .
“It was a complete denial of a large swath of politicians,” he said, predicting that the state may need to close again. “Unfortunately, our community still doesn’t take it very seriously. People don’t wear masks. ”
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee said Saturday that his state would pause to move on to the next stages of opening up its economy as cases increase.
In Texas, a state that was at the forefront of allowing people to return to work, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered that bars be closed across the state and demanded that restaurants limit seating indoors, acknowledging that, in hindsight , had opened bars too soon.
Despite the numbers of cases that skyrocketed, both Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have not bowed to pressure to issue state mandates to wear masks, opting to leave that decision to local municipalities. Both Abbott and DeSantis are Republicans, the same party as Trump.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, Houston, said he fears that daily cases in the Houston area could triple to more than 4,000 in mid-July, becoming the main hotspot. worldwide by then.
“We need to implement more aggressive social distancing measures now,” said the renowned vaccine scientist.
In a briefing on Friday, DeSantis attributed the increase in infections to young people who interacted more in recent weeks, adding that they faced a lower risk of dying than older people. Lending support to that view, Florida reported an additional 24 deaths Saturday, peaking in April when the elderly accounted for a higher proportion of cases.
Reports by Gary McWilliams in Houston and James Oliphant in Washington; Additional reports from Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; and Sinead Carew in Maplewood, NJ; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Diane Craft, and Jonathan Oatis