The US has for the first time recorded more than 70,000 new coronavirus infections in a single day, led by Texas and Florida which each tallied more than 10,000 cases.
The one-day record of 71,229 cases reported on Thursday was accompanied by an alarming rise in coronavirus-related fatalities. The 977 deaths recorded over the past 24 hours by the Covid Tracking Project was up from 855 on Wednesday and at a level not consistently seen since the tail-end of the earlier outbreak in the US north-east two months ago.
Both Florida, with 156 deaths, and Texas, with 129, reported single-day records, helping push the number of fatalities in southern states over 500 for the first time.
The continued spread of the outbreak in the American south and west has come despite moves by several states to reimpose strict social distancing measures. Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading infectious disease expert, called the uptick “quite disturbing”.
He said that while some of the new surge in cases is due to Americans ignoring social distancing protocols, he also blamed a handful of state authorities for dismissing federal guidelines on reopening local economies.
“There were some states that, when you look at what the guidelines were . . . some of then went too quickly,” Dr Fauci said in a Facebook interview with Mark Zuckerberg, its chief executive, adding that such “jumping over” federal guidance was “a recipe for getting into trouble”.
Dr Fauci did not single out any states for ignoring federal government guidelines.
Despite the continued surge in cases, President Donald Trump did not address the outbreak during a 45-minute White House appearance, where he touted his administration’s efforts to roll back business regulations.
Florida said it had 13,965 new Covid-19 cases, the second-biggest one-day increase for any state in the US, while an increase of 10,291 in Texas was among its biggest. A total of 14 states reported daily increases of more than 1,000 cases, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
Texas continued to see elevated levels of hospitalisations. It reported a record 3,169 coronavirus patients were now in ICUs across the state; the number of hospitalisations remained steady at about 10,500.
Dr Fauci said the US had been less successful than Europe in snuffing out the outbreak because European governments locked down “90 to 95 per cent of the country” and were able to bring their baseline to “handfuls of new cases, not hundreds and thousands”.
“[The US] never really went down to that baseline. We plateaued at around 20,000 cases a day before we got in to the resurgence,” he said, calling for a “timeout, [but] not necessarily a lockdown” to try and bring the domestic situation back under control.
Additional reporting by Courtney Weaver in Washington