Florida, Arizona and Nevada have all recorded daily highs for new coronavirus infections, highlighting the worsening spread of the outbreak in several southern and western states, which has prompting some local governments to roll back reopening plans.
Florida on Saturday morning reported 9,585 new infections in the last 24 hours, setting a record for new cases for a second-straight day. Meanwhile, Arizona recorded 3,591 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, matching its prior record on June 23, while Nevada disclosed 1,099 new cases, double its previous high.
The surge in cases has been most pronounced in a handful of southern and western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively than other states, serving as a warning to the potentially illusory nature of any perceived progress in controlling the virus.
The new numbers come after the US, on Friday, recorded its largest daily case count of the pandemic, while Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the government’s current strategy for finding and isolating infected people was “not working,” partly due to significant asymptomatic spread.
Changing geography of the outbreak
The worsening contagion in the south and west comes as northern states, notably New York and its neighbours, which were hit hardest initially, have reported declining cases and have begun to forge ahead with reopening plans.
Earlier this week New York, New Jersey and Connecticut imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine on travellers from states with high infection rates like Texas and Florida, where some 13 percent of those tested on Friday came back positive.
Florida officials told bar owners on Friday to immediately stop serving alcohol on their premises, after permitting bars to reopen in early June.
While Texas Governor Greg Abbott, in a reversal of his early moves to relax restrictions, on Friday ordered bars across the state to close and required restaurants to limit indoor seating capacity to 50 percent.
The announcement came as Texas continued a 15-day streak of record hospitalisations across the state for COVID-19, with more than 5,100 people being treated for the disease on Friday, according to the Texas Tribune.
In an interview broadcast on Friday night, Abbott expressed remorse for the initial pace of reopening bars, which began in phases on May 22.
“If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting,” Abbott told the KVIA news station in El Paso.
Taking executive action to contain the spread of #COVID19.
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) June 26, 2020
No statewide mandate
But despite the skyrocketing case numbers, both Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have refused to issue statewide mandates on mask-wearing, opting instead to leave that decision to local municipalities.
At a briefing on Friday, DeSantis blamed the spike in infections on young people interacting more in the last few weeks, adding that they faced a lower risk of dying than older people.
However, DeSantis acknowledged that those young people, even if they do not become hospitalised themselves, could transmit the virus to the elderly or people with conditions like diabetes which make them susceptible to severe outcomes with COVID-19.
Al Jazeera and news agencies