The United States reported more than 47,000 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday – the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic – as the government’s top infectious disease expert warned that number could soon double and deaths could reach a “disturbing” level.
California, Texas and Arizona have emerged as new epicentres of the pandemic, reporting record increases in COVID-19 cases.
“Clearly, we are not in total control right now,” Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a US Senate committee. “I am very concerned because it could get very bad.”
Fauci said the daily increase in new cases could reach 100,000 unless efforts to tackle the disease were stepped up. He called on Americans to abide by health guidelines, urging people to cover their faces when out in public and avoid crowded places.
“We can’t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk,” he said.
Fauci’s comments came as the daily death toll reached 1,199, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It is the first time it has risen above 1,000 since June 10. The US has recorded 127,322 deaths since the pandemic began, the highest in the world.
Fauci declined to predict the expected number of deaths from the pandemic, but said it was going to be “disturbing”.
COVID-19 cases more than doubled in June in at least 10 states, including Texas and Florida, a Reuters tally showed. In parts of Texas and Arizona, hospital intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients are in short supply.
More than 126,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and millions have lost their jobs as states and major cities ordered residents to stay home and businesses closed. The economy contracted sharply in the first quarter and is expected to crater in the second.
The European Union has excluded Americans from its “safe list” of countries from which the bloc will allow non-essential travel from Wednesday.
The fresh rise in cases and hospitalisations has dimmed hopes that the worst of the human and economic pain had passed, prompting renewed criticism of President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election on November 3.
His rival, Democrat Joe Biden, on Tuesday, said that Trump’s “historic mismanagement” of the pandemic had cost lives and inflicted more damage than necessary on the US economy.
“It didn’t have to be this way. Donald Trump failed us,” the 77-year-old former vice president said in a speech in Delaware, where he unveiled an updated plan to tackle the pandemic calling for more testing and the hiring of 100,000 contract tracers.
In the past week, California, Texas and Florida have moved to close recently reopened bars, which public health officials believe contributed to the recent spikes.
On Tuesday, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut added travellers from California and seven other states to those who must self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival. Texas and Florida were named last week.
South Carolina also has also emerged as a hot spot, reporting a record single-day increase of 1,755 cases on Tuesday.
In Texas, where the number of new cases jumped to a one-day record of 6,975 on Tuesday, Houston hospitals said beds were quickly filling up with COVID-19 patients.
Dr Marc Boom, chief executive of Houston Methodist Hospital, told CNN on Tuesday that his hospital beds had seen a “very significant” increase in COVID-19 patients, although the death rate had lowered.
Boom said he was worried about Independence Day celebrations this weekend, when Americans traditionally flock to beaches and campgrounds to watch fireworks displays.
“Frankly, it scares me,” he said.