The number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in the United States has gone up by about 69,000, the third day in a row the country reported its highest daily new cases.
The rising numbers come amid a surge in new cases that has affected most of the 50 states in the US. As of Saturday, 3.18 million infections were recorded with more than 134,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Overall, coronavirus cases are rising in 44 states, according to a Reuters news agency analysis of cases for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks.
A total of nine states – Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin – also reached records for single-day infections on Friday.
At the same time, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the US has increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10. The rate is still well below the heights hit in April, but indicates a long feared uptick in fatalities accompanying the increase in cases.
Amid a spike in Texas that has pushed intensive care units to the brink, Governor Greg Abbott said he may impose new lockdowns if the state cannot stem its record-setting caseloads and hospitalisations through the wearing of masks and social distancing.
Texas is one of several states that had been criticised for reopening too soon.
“If we don’t adopt this best practice it could lead to a shutdown of business,” the Republican governor told local KLBK-TV in Lubbock.
Meanwhile, California announced on Friday the state will release up to 8,000 inmates early from prisons to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside the facilities.
At San Quentin State Prison, outside San Francisco, half of the facility’s roughly 3,300 prisoners have tested positive for the virus.
Florida hot spot
Meanwhile, in Florida, which remains one of the worst hot spots in the country, The Walt Disney Company said its theme parks in Orlando would open on Saturday to a limited number of guests, who, along with employees, would be required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. The park also cancelled parades, firework displays, and events that typically draw crowds.
Disney’s chief medical officer said earlier this week she believed the rules would allow guests to visit the park safely.
Roughly 19,000 people, including some theme park workers, signed a petition asking Disney to delay the reopening. The union representing 750 Walt Disney World performers filed a grievance against the company, claiming retaliation against members over a union demand that they be tested for COVID-19.
Other theme parks opened in Orlando in June, including Comcast Corp’s Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc’s SeaWorld.
On Thursday, the state reported a record 120 deaths and added another 92 on Friday. It recorded 11,433 new coronavirus cases on Friday, just short of the state’s record, and nearly 7,000 hospitalisations.
More than four dozen hospitals in Florida have reported their intensive care units were full.
This month, Florida has repeatedly reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country had at the height of their outbreaks.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, angered some residents and medical experts by calling the spike a “blip”.
On Friday, DeSantis said the state would receive more than 17,000 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir from the US government, adding: “That’ll be something that will hopefully help to improve patient outcomes.”
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump sparred with state and local officials and teachers unions over the reopening of schools and said on Friday the Treasury Department would re-examine the tax-exempt status and funding of those that remain closed.
Trump previously promised to cut federal funding to the schools and eject foreign students attending universities in the US unless their schools offer in-person classes. Most education funds come from state and local coffers.