AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Two of the largest states in America have turned the course and once again set the bar in the country’s largest retreat, but the number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the US has reached a record high of 40,000.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered that all bars be closed on Friday, while Florida banned alcohol in such establishments. The two states joined a small but growing number that is either returning or putting a further reopening of their economies on hold due to a virus comeback, mainly in the south and west of the country.
Health experts have said that a disturbingly large number of cases are seen among young people who go out again, often without wearing masks or respecting other social distance rules.
“Obviously, the increase in business is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans gathering in bars,” said Abbott.
Abbott, a Republican who had pursued one of a governor’s most aggressive reopening schedules, has scaled back restaurant capacity, saying outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people required the approval of local officials.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez in the Miami-Dade province in Florida announced on Friday evening that he would be closing the beaches on the weekend of July 4. He said that cracking down on recreational activities is prudent, given the increasing number of infections among young adults.
Shares on Wall Street fell sharply again due to rising case numbers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 730 points, or nearly 3%.
Globally, China saw an increase in business, a day after authorities said they expected an outbreak in Beijing to be brought under control in the near future. The National Health Commission reported 18 new cases in the nation’s capital on Saturday, most in a week, under 21 nationwide.
South Korea, where a revival last month threatens to obliterate the country’s previous success, reported 51 new cases, including 35 in the Seoul metropolitan area. Officials concerned about the fragile economy have resisted calls to restore restrictions in April.
Australia braced itself for more imported issues when citizens return home. This weekend, approximately 300 people are expected to arrive from Mumbai, India, and others are expected to follow from South America and Indonesia. An official state health official said he is preparing for an infection of 5 to 10% of returnees, based on arrivals from Indonesia in other states.
In Florida, under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, the agency that regulates the bars acted after the daily number of new confirmed cases was close to 9,000, almost doubling the record set just two days earlier.
Colleen Corbett, a 30-year-old bartender in two places in Tampa, said she was disappointed and worried she would be unemployed again, but the restrictions are the right thing to do. Most customers did not wear masks, she said.
“It was as if they forgot that there was a pandemic or that they just didn’t care anymore,” said Corbett.
Some of the hardest-hit states, including Arizona and Arkansas, have Republican governors who oppose mask-wearing requirements and have largely echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to quickly reopen the economy amid warnings that the virus could storm back.
The White House coronavirus task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, held its first briefing in nearly two months and Pence assured that the US is “in a much better place” than it was two months ago.
He said the country has more medical supplies, a smaller proportion of patients are hospitalized, and deaths are much lower than in the spring.
The number of newly confirmed infections, supplied by Johns Hopkins University, eclipsed the previous peak of 36,400, set on April 24, during one of the deadliest stretches. Newly reported cases per day have risen by an average of about 60% in the past two weeks, according to an analysis by Associated Press.
While the increase is due in part to extensive testing, experts say there is ample evidence that the plague is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country and higher rates of tests that are returning positive for the virus.
During the task force briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, urged people to take responsibility for others: “A risk to you is not just isolated to you.”
Deaths from the coronavirus in the US run at around 600 a day, down from a peak at around 2,200 in mid-April. Some experts doubt that deaths will return to that level, due to advances in treatment and prevention, and because younger adults are more likely to survive than older people.
The virus is responsible for about 125,000 deaths and nearly 2.5 million confirmed infections across the country, according to Johns Hopkins. But health officials believe that the actual number of infections is about 10 times higher. The virus has claimed nearly half a million lives worldwide.
Louisiana reported its second one-day peak of over 1,300 cases per week. Rising numbers have led Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards to suspend further restrictions easing this week. Republican Governor Doug Ducey did the same in Arizona, where the number of cases exceeds 3,000 a day and 85% of hospital beds are occupied.
For the second time in a week, Tennessee reported its biggest one-day leap in confirmed infections, at over 1,400, but Republican Governor Bill Lee was reluctant to fix restrictions or ask for a masking mandate.
Conversely, New York said it provides equipment and other assistance to Arizona, Texas and Florida, noting that other states came to its aid when it was gripped by the deadliest outbreak in the nation this spring.
“We will never forget that grace and we will repay it in every possible way,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
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