Texas on Wednesday became the first state with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and California closed in on that mark as a surge of coronavirus infections engulfs the country.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10 p.m. starting Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the U.S. that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago. He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.
Texas, the second-most populous state, has recorded 1.02 million coronavirus cases and over 19,000 deaths since the outbreak began in early March, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. California, the most populous state, has logged more than 995,000 cases.
The U.S. has recorded over 240,000 deaths and more than 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. Health experts have blamed the increase in part on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other precautions.
Cases per day are on the rise in 49 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 39. A month ago, the U.S. was seeing about 730 COVID-19 deaths per day on average; that has now surpassed 970.
Among the many health officials sounding the alarm was Dr. Julie Watson of Integris Health in Oklahoma.
“We are in trouble,” she said. “If nothing is done soon to slow the rise in cases, our hospitals will be more overwhelmed than they already are and we won’t be able to be there for all of those who need it.”
Oklahoma’s health department said Wednesday that 1,248 people were hospitalized for confirmed or probable coronavirus, shattering the previous one-day record of 1,055.
Texas reported 10,865 new cases on Tuesday, breaking a record set in mid-July. One of the hardest-hit places is the border city of El Paso; its county has nearly 28,000 active cases and has suffered more than 680 COVID-19 deaths.
The American Medical Association renewed its plea for mask-wearing, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.
“With the holidays quickly approaching, each of us must do everything possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” AMA President Susan Bailey said. “Failing to do our part will prolong the suffering and disruption to our lives and inevitably lead to more deaths of our friends, neighbours and loved ones.”
Meanwhile, many traditional Veterans Day celebrations gave way to sombre virtual gatherings Wednesday. Many veterans homes have barred visitors to protect their residents from the virus.
In New York City, a quiet parade of military vehicles, with no spectators, rolled through Manhattan to maintain the 101-year tradition of veterans marching on Fifth Avenue.
More than 4,200 veterans have died from COVID-19 at hospitals and homes run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nearly 85,000 have been infected, according to the department.
Around the country:
— The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings said it will close its remaining home games to fans, as the state blew past its record for new deaths in a day. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants and said he wishes the neighbouring Dakotas would take more aggressive steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He said this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was “absolutely unnecessary” and helped spread the virus beyond that state.
— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued new orders on mask enforcement at businesses, while threatening to close bars, restaurants and fitness centres if infections keep surging. The Republican governor shifted the authority over mask enforcement from the counties to the state. If a business receives more than one violation, it must close for 24 hours. He’s also requiring businesses to display ‘No Mask, No Service’ signs and refuse service to customers who don’t comply. But DeWine’s orders Wednesday were not as far-reaching as in March, when Ohio became one of the first states to go into lockdown.
— In Nebraska, which is setting records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, new restrictions took effect Wednesday. Those include a requirement to wear masks at businesses where employees have close contact with customers for more than 15 minutes, such as barbershops, and a limit on large indoor gatherings to 25% of a building’s capacity. Gov. Pete Ricketts and his wife have gone into quarantine after being exposed to someone with the virus.
— North Carolina reported its highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 3,119 people — 8% of those tested — testing positive for the virus.
— Kentucky posted a record daily high for new confirmed cases, at 2,700, as the governor implored people to wear masks to counter the accelerating outbreak.
— A group of Utah teachers is encouraging colleagues statewide to call in sick Thursday and use the day to get tested for the virus. Some teachers believe the action could prompt state officials to do more to increase classroom safety.
— In Sioux Falls, the largest city in hard-hit South Dakota, Mayor Paul TenHaken cast a tie-breaking vote that defeated a proposed mask mandate. Violations would have carried a $50 fine.
— North Dakota continues to have the most new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins data, with one in every 83 residents testing positive in the past week.
David Crary, The Associated Press