US Covid-19 cases top 4m as deaths jump in Florida, California

The number of coronavirus cases in the US surpassed 4m on Thursday, as two states at the epicentre of the current surge in infections, California and Florida, saw a record increase in fatalities.

The sombre milestone comes barely two weeks after the US Covid-19 case count topped 3m, underscoring the speed with which the disease is spreading across the US, which has by far the largest number of infections globally.

The rapid escalation has been driven in part by a jump in cases in some of the most populous US states. California, which on Wednesday overtook New York as the US state with the highest case tally, reported a second straight day of more than 12,000 further infections. Deaths in the state rose by a record 157, pushing its total number of fatalities past 8,000.

Florida on Thursday revealed a record 173 deaths as well as more than 10,200 further cases, while Texas on Wednesday reported 197 fatalities, a one-day record.

All three sunbelt states have been part of a fresh wave of infections that have emerged in the past two months, dampening hopes of a quick reopening from lockdowns imposed as the disease first began spreading in the US earlier this year.

The US also looks set to pass another troubling milestone as the number of people in hospital nears the record high registered in April, when hospitalisations were concentrated in north-east states that were initially hardest-hit by the pandemic.

Column chart of Number of patients currently hospitalised with Covid-19 by region showing US coronavirus hospitalisations have reapproached peak levels

The number of current hospitalisations stood at 59,628 as of Wednesday, according to Covid Tracking Project data, 312 shy of the previous peak on April 15.

About 60 per cent of current hospitalisations are now in southern states and almost one-quarter are in the west, while just 5 per cent of the national total is in the north-east, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

In April, nearly 60 per cent of cases were in the north-east, compared with about 12 per cent in the south and 13 per cent in the west.