The Pacific nation was one of the few countries in the world that was still free of the coronavirus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday imposed a new round of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus as the infection rate climbed and hospital admissions soared in the state that was the epicentre of the outbreak in the United States its early stages.
Cuomo ordered bars, restaurants and gyms in the state to shut at 10pm (03:00 GMT) nightly and capped the number of people who could attend private parties at 10.
“We’re seeing a national and global COVID surge, and New York is a ship on the COVID tide,” the governor told reporters, adding that contact-tracing identified late-night gatherings at bars, restaurants and gyms as key virus spreaders in the state.
The new measures, which take effect on Friday, came a day after California and several states across the Midwest tightened restrictions on residents to try to curb the rapid spread of the virus.
“This is our LAST chance to stop a second wave,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on Wednesday, as he announced the city-wide seven-day average rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive had hit 2.52 percent.
The city’s public school system, the nation’s largest, would be shut to in-person learning if that figure reached 3 percent.
As COVID-19 infections, hospital admissions and deaths surge across the US, more signs emerged that a second wave could engulf areas of the Northeast, which had managed to bring the pandemic under control after being battered earlier this year.
The US as a whole reported more than 1,450 deaths on Tuesday, the highest single-day count since mid-August, according to a Reuters analysis.
US COVID-19 cases climbed for seven consecutive days to reach more than 136,000 as of late Tuesday, while admissions to hospital crossed 60,000 for the first time since the pandemic began, threatening to overwhelm systems in many parts of the country, according to Reuters news agency.
In New Jersey, one of the early US hotspots, a spike in cases in Newark – the state’s largest city – prompted Mayor Ras Baraka to implement aggressive measures, including a mandatory curfew for certain areas.
The rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Newark hovered at 19 percent, more than double the state’s 7.74 percent seven-day average, Baraka said in a statement on Tuesday. The World Health Organization has said anything over 5 percent is troubling.
“Stricter measures are required in the city’s hotspots in order to contain the virus and limit the spread,” he said.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday announced restrictions similar to those in New York in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state and outbreaks among bartenders.
In Maryland, where the rate of people testing positive stood at 5.6 percent on Wednesday, officials warned about rising numbers of patients with COVID-19 admitted to hospital.
More than 800 people were being treated for COVID-19 at state hospitals as of Wednesday, according to Mike Ricci, the communications director of Governor Larry Hogan. That is Maryland’s highest daily count since April.
A record number of people died of COVID-19 in several Midwest and western states on Tuesday, including in Alaska, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
“We are definitely seeing a rise in cases and large number of cases across the state,” Dr Chris Weaver, an emergency medicine physician and senior vice president of clinical effectiveness at Indiana University Health, told the Reuters news agency.
“We are in a good place now to manage all the patients that we have but, as volumes increase quickly, it’s going to fill up everything,” he added.
Texas on Wednesday became the first US state to record more than one million coronavirus cases, as sporting events were cancelled and the border city of El Paso added mobile morgues in anticipation of virus deaths overwhelming hospitals for weeks.
Texas leaders gave no indication of forthcoming restrictions as the state passed the grim milestone and recorded more than 10,800 new cases on Tuesday, which set a new daily record. The number of coronavirus infections is the highest since July.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Texas has recorded 1,010,364 coronavirus cases and more than 19,300 confirmed deaths since the pandemic began in early March. Only Illinois has averaged more new cases than Texas over the past two weeks.
In El Paso, where more than 1,000 virus patients have been hospitalised, local officials have shut down tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons and gyms — all steps that are beyond what Abbott has allowed. The state is fighting the move that Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton says is “oppressing” the border county of about 840,000 people, but local officials won a brief reprieve on Wednesday when the Texas Supreme Court refused to make an expedited ruling.
El Paso County officials this week announced plans to add four additional morgue trailers, bringing the total number there to 10.
Officials in states hardest-hit by the virus pleaded with residents to stay home as much as possible and heed the advice of experts by wearing masks, washing their hands and social distancing.
“It’s not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over, it’s just not safe. And it might not be safe for a while yet,” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said, as he issued new mitigation measures. “So, please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers and play dates at your home.”